Saturday, December 19, 2009
Art Is Love
I left home at dawn on Friday to deliver an enamel painting to a collector in Bondi, east of Sydney. With the painting double wrapped in Cell-Aire and bubble wrap, and wedged between a duvet and pillows in the back of my van, my assistant and I drove across the city through heavy pre-Christmas, using an iPhone as a GPS. We carried the five-foot wide work into the collector's house then waited for the picture hanger. I hadn't seen the collector for a year. He made fresh coffee and we sat outside to watch the rain fall onto an unexpectedly green garden.When the picture hanger arrived, we unwrapped the work together. The collector had to explain to him, three times, that I was the artist. The hanger thought that I was an art dealer and my mute assistant – to whom I had been giving instructions – the artist. When he finally 'got' it, he looked surprised. As the hanger measured the wall, the collector gazed happily at the painting. I wanted to freeze that moment. The collector and I decided on the final position for the work as the hanger and my assistant held the painting up to the wall.Before I left, the collector walked me through the rest of the house. An intimate watercolour of mine – commissioned by his wife, as a gift for him – hung on the wall in the main bedroom. A smaller enamel, which I will deliver next week, will be hung at the top of the stairs. It occurred to me that had I persisted in the traditional gallery system, neither the collector nor I would have met like this. The gallery would have sent a staffer – if they had bothered to send anyone at all. And they, not I, would have gotten to see the work in its new environment and experience (and take credit for) the collector's happiness. I got back to my studio in the early afternoon to an email from Menzies Art Brands. Having auctioned two of my works, last week, they'd forwarded me (at his request) the email address of the collector who bought Buck. I wrote to thank him for his support of my work and to send him a link to a study Polaroid for his painting.Later, I called an overseas collector to discuss the details of recently commissioned paintings. We've corresponded and spoken about it regularly for the last two weeks. I also emailed several other collectors about delivery dates. A set of photographs arrived, showing the personal accessories of a high-powered female stockbroker who had asked me to try incorporate a selection into her commission.Today, my assistant is wrapping coffee-table books which feature my work. I have signed them in hot pink ink tonight and they'll be sent on Monday to collectors who don't yet have a copy. When I am done writing this blog, I'll sprawl across the studio daybed to address postcards wishing everyone in my address book a Happy New Year. (If you'd like to receive one, please send me your snail mail address). Keeping in touch with collectors and supporters of my work takes time. And yet making their ownership of my work a richer, more enjoyable experience is important to me and justifies my decision not to sell my art through a gallery. It's about so much more than just 'servicing clients' and 'taking care of business'. I make more personal connections with my collectors and are able to give them a deeper appreciation of my art and ideas. I get to see what happens to my work after it leaves my studio – and witness my collectors' first experience of it. What surprises me most, as I get to know the people most interested in my work, is just how much they care about it. It gives the lie to a former art dealer's comment that fine art is simply an elite form of interior decoration.