All right, it’s late in the evening, you’re exhausted after working yourï¿½day job, and now you’re working your real job–your art.ï¿½ The phone rings, and some well-meaning dillettante on the other end wants you to donate a work of art to their School Auction, Public Television Auction, or some other kind of auction.ï¿½ They promise you great exposure, enhanced collectorship, and career advancement.ï¿½ Should you do it?ï¿½ No.
At least, don’t do it without setting the following rules:ï¿½
1)ï¿½ You set the minimum bid price, meaning that if the piece sells for $1000 on the retail market, it sells for no less at auction.ï¿½ If no one meets that price, it doesn’t sell.
2)ï¿½ You require that they pay you a percentage of the sale price, to cover your expenses (unless you’re already well-off; in which case, donate away).
3)ï¿½ You make certain the event is established and well-attended before consenting.
Look, these people mean well.ï¿½ What they don’t understand is how much damage they’re doing to the art world, to artist’s careers, and to the art market in general.ï¿½ How?ï¿½ Inevitably, in most of these auctions, they virtually give away the work, undermining the market, making you look like you don’t deserve real prices, and making artists in general look as though they don’t deserve any better.ï¿½ The exposure you typicallyï¿½get through this process is insignificant, counter-productive, andï¿½convinces everyone who attends that artists and their work are not to be valued.
Once you establish the ground rules,ï¿½these folks willï¿½respond accordingly.ï¿½ They’ll alsoï¿½begin to better appreciate the realities of your life, the sacrifices you have to make, and the difficulties you encounter on a daily basis.
Artists basically are among the last people in the world to ask a charitable donation of in terms of money, although they’re often generous with their time.ï¿½ The dillettantesï¿½want a donation?ï¿½ Let them go toï¿½a localï¿½car dealership, law firm, medical practice, furniture store, or congressman.ï¿½ In your case, if they can’t abide by the above-listed ethics, I advise you don’t participate–just beï¿½nice as you decline.ï¿½
In myï¿½gallery, the word went out long ago that our rules are as I’ve listed, hence I get few calls for these auctions any longer.ï¿½ Frankly that’s fine with me.ï¿½ I give away my share of money, and I sure donate a lot of time to causes and people I believe in.ï¿½ But this gig of perpetually demeaning artistsï¿½out of ignorance or indifference is something I’ll have no truck with.ï¿½ï¿½