Monday, July 02, 2012
Seven Year Bitch
I've been out of the traditional gallery system for seven years now. However, I've still sold a small percentage of my output to – but not through – a handful of established art dealers. Sometimes they've bought for their own collections. Most times, they've bought to resell. My feelings about this are mixed. I like money as much as the next person but too many art dealers I know are inclined to undervalue their relationships with – and over-estimate their importance to – the artists they represent. So I've always dealt with them at arms length: when they called me, I accepted that, unlike collectors, they weren't really interested in what I was doing. They were all about what they could make off me. I was careful not to step into their bear traps or to provide them with too much fodder for gossip. I took as much of their money off them as I could.I looked on it as an uneasy truce. And then I got a call from an art dealer right after I'd posted a blog entry about being admitted to a private psychiatric clinic. He wasn't calling to tell me to get well soon. He just wanted to cut a deal."Would you be interested in doing an edition of prints of your early work?"He had approached me with this proposition before. It was not his idea, he said, but an anonymous business partner's. Together, they'd produce cheap giclée prints in large editions of all my early work. I'd be paid a small fee in exchange for the high resolution print-files and my time signing all the prints. He refused to tell me how they intended to market the prints. As he saw it, it wasn't my concern. I refused: "You've asked me this before and I said no. Nothing's changed.""I just thought you might have changed your mind," he said.It was only much later, I realised that the dealer had just read that I was in a psych' ward. He'd figured he'd try on this rancid, fast buck' idea again in the hope I'd commit to it while I was out of my mind. I should have seen it at the time. Whenever I've been ill or down or my luck, an art dealer has always appeared, as magically as a twisted fairy godmother, and tried to take advantage of the situation. Not long after I was first diagnosed with bipolar, I was offered a contract for long-term representation that would have made everyone except me a fast buck, while screwing my reputation and the collectors who supported me. You can read about it here. I've always said no to these kinds of deals. It's part of why my career has lasted this long. But I admit I have let such people continue to scavenge at the perimeter of my 'business'. Not anymore. Maybe it's my new-found sanity. Maybe it's a renewed care for my self and my art. But I am not taking calls from fuckwits like this ever again. I will save my energy – and limited resources of good grace – for the serious collectors who value my art (and me) beyond their estimate of its investment value.