Tips for Artists: Surviving the Recession?


Depression Mother, Dorothea Lange 

OK.  I’m not here to kid you any more than you are me, so let’s be straight up.

Has the recession been tough for my gallery?  Hell yes.  As tough as I thought it would be a year ago?  No.  Then I thought we might be headed for a depression.  What we got was bad enough,  but it’s not 25% unemployment and the market didn’t lose 80% of its value, as in the 1930s.

Am I pissed?  Very, especially over how the middle class is stuck with paying such enormous taxes relative to our income–and hence paying off this burden–while the upper class has, since the time of Reagan, received tax breaks that would never even be considered in Europe.  But then handguns are illegal there too, they have universal health care, and their educational standards make ours look laughable–along with tuition rates that are actually affordable.

I digress.  Is my gallery going to fail because of this recession?  Hell no, if only because failure is not an option.  Success has meant grindingly long hours and burnout so severe I’m crosseyed, but so what?  It beats the alternative.

What are our strategies?  Well I can’t go into that online, but I will tell you this: clients are looking for discounts of anywhere from 10% to 20% these days.  Now you can either sit tight and sell nothing, or you can swallow the discount.  I’ve discussed this with our artists, and they’ve agreed we need to sell work.  So we’re negotiating as I never have before.  You may have to do the same thing.

Now some art career coaches will advise you to never mark down your work.  These are normally people who, by the by, have never run a gallery.  Accepting discounts is a personal choice; I’m just telling you what’s become expected by collectors, and what you may have to do to survive financially.

So is the economy, and hence the art market, improving?  Yes, but very slowly.  So much damage has been done, especially from the incredible stupidity, selfishness and greed of the last eight years, that we’ll be a long time rebuilding.  It’s unfortunate how no prison  terms will be handed out for the people who legislated our livelihoods away, and into their back pockets, but those guys normally do get off–at least for now.

Bon Chance

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