Sunday, January 20, 2008
The Art of Making Bread
Overwhelmed by the administration and logistics of my planned shows in Australia, Japan and possibly Taiwan, later this year, I enlisted the help of an old friend who is an experienced management consultant. She is to take care of everyday business matters, working with my accountant to minimise my tax liabilities and invest my increasing income, as well as handle such such things as repaying my debts, optimising delivery of works to clients, negotiating rents, insurances, and so on. She'll also oversee the costs and logistics of shows I want to organise in larger, unconventional spaces, particularly in Europe and Asia.My friend is a very intelligent older women, with a deep experience of 'big business'. She is intrigued by my work as an artist and yet bemused that I find the financial aspects of it boring to the point of distraction. I'm also not too good with structure and rules. Unfortunately, I'm now too successful to ignore either, especially as it could lead to all kinds of nasty legal and financial problems.I invited my friend to lunch at my studio so she could see how I work. I don't usually have visitors here. I spent the morning cleaning and working out the timing for the food I wanted to prepare. Before she arrived, I picked up a fresh baguette and white friesias. I can see why most artists choose to be represented by a gallery, and manage their art career in a conventional way. Mostly, it's about wanting to be looked after and simplifying the marketing and sales of their work. The trouble is, many galleries, especially in the Australian market, don't have a clue about how to sell, let alone how to take care of the sometimes complex personal and financial requirements of a young artist. Galleries are little better than gift shops: you deliver them product, they hang it on the walls, and you all hope for the best. It's an unsophisticated process – inefficient, self-defeating, unresponsive to a market that, in general, demands personalised information and access, along with a sense of 'specialness' – a market, in other words, habituated to the instant gratification of the web. I guess I should be thankful for their incompetence. If I'd stayed within the traditional system, I wouldn't have been driven to evolve the more functional, independent, self-supportive, and profitable approach from which I've reaped unimaginable benefit for the past couple of years.