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Consumerism in the Arts.

Art is being co-opted by consumerism. From the hijacking of the Hip to sell things to a new audience, to the billboardization of graphics for commercials it's all around us. This process of adopting yesterday's avant-garde for today's commercial tedium is nothing new.

True artistic expression is being throttled by regulation, permitting processes and the rule of money often in the service of corporate America.

Therefore it behooves us to showcase resources that allow artists to produce and share their work without these constraints. These pro-arts resources will come toward the end of this page. But first an analysis of why art has succumbed to consumerism.

This is best shown by using two extreme invented examples of artists and their work: 

Laura creates what she wants when she wants. She sells her work at a free stall in the farmers market in the park on weekends. She keeps 100% of the sale price of the art which is negotiable and thus allows her to sell to a diverse audience of buyers and respond to authentic local demand. This benefits her, her customers who pay a lower price for her more spontaneous art and her community. She is able to make a decent living through her art, raise a family and produce something unique and ever more beautiful as her talent is cultivated and grows. She pays a "Fair" portion of her income in taxes.

Hubert can only show his work in galleries that have the requisite business licenses, insurance, ADA compliance and which are located in the correct commercial zone of the city. To sell to the gallery, the artist must have a resale license, liability insurance, and most importantly of all for his success-the reputation as an artist which has been fomented in the press though favorable press releases, publicity and straight-out advertising that is controlled by others.

Licensed galleries will only handle his work if he signs exclusive contracts that guarantee a certain number of paintings to be delivered within a given time period. His fee for these paintings is either set at a fixed price or as a tiny portion of the sale price. He is not free to sell his work directly to the public or to any other gallery. He is for all intents and purposes an employee of the gallery owners but without an employee's security, a regular salary or benefits He must style his work to what they think is popular and will sell for the limited period of buzz that is generated by their publicists. He pays little in taxes to the community because of his miserly compensation. The gallery owner's corporation has many tax write offs such as advertising, rent, utilities, and the minor nuisance of the artist's pay, and so little tax is paid on the transactions because so much of the cream that they harvest is offset by tax loopholes. A small set of individuals benefit from Hubert's work - although Hubert is last in line.

How has this state of affairs come about?

The main engine of most "successful artists" today is not a quest for beauty or a desire to perfect talent but rather to produce commodities for speculation.

A young artist cannot build a reputation unless they are artificially assisted based on speculation. Thus a business model influences artistic styles and vice versa.

Who are the speculators? They are not artists-but rather-hustlers following a business driven model based on gambling, self-promotion and hype, similar to certain aspects of the stock market. These promoters add zero value to the art, but plenty of zeros to the price and parasitically skim profit from the work of the artist and gullibility of the buyer.

Just as consumerism promotes the value of the new and discards that of the old, so do these art promoters. True artistic talent is rare and by the time it is developed the artist is usually mature and experienced and less subject to, or willing to tolerate, victimization.

Therefore, to produce a large number of marketable artists, the promoter must turn to the young for the new and novel and standards must be lowered to accommodate them.

 Kitsch -- look-alike or parasitic art fills this need. This is true in all the plastic arts. Artists, even if they produce something new and unique become caricatures of themselves. Legions of others imitate what is commercially successful. It is within this environment that the parasitic promoter thrives.

 Talent is churned rather that allowed to slowly develop over many years--"what ever happened to ...." is often heard in the art world. The useful life span of the artist is whatever period of time that is needed by the promoter to maximize his profit from the artist's ongoing work and then move on before everyone realizes what a fraud the whole operation is.

There are many bottom feeders in the pool that is the world of the arts. Another manifestation of consumerism is found in the big city art schools that sell dreams to high school and college age students who as the school knows are more than willing to indebt themselves through student loans and credit card debt to pursue a career as an artist. One such school in The San Francisco Bay Area has rapidly expanded and now buys prime-time television advertising to appeal to the "rebels" and "individualists" out there, using the city as a branded background for their commercial exploitation. Student debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy and will follow these debtors to their grave.

The implied value in artwork does not spring from what it is but often from who sells it, who owns it or has owned it.

"This painting comes from the _______collection," whispered in a low voice, is often the supposed imprimatur of 'great art'. If it's so great why is it for sale and why isn't a reputable museum snapping it up?

The reason is that for the same reason that penny stocks or junk bonds have to be hyped to the less educated--because it's garbage that fits within the convenient label of "Modern Art".

Another implication of value is a painting having been part of a "Corporate Collection."

Large amounts of money are spent on 'art' that offers a tax write-off to the corporation, cash flow to the hucksters that take advantage of the 'artists' and then the 'appreciated' work is donated to a 'museum' for a huge write tax write-off as charitable giving along with all the press releases and fuzzy feel good community benefits that supposedly make up for the corporation's other actives like sucking billions out of the state or polluting the environment.

In San Francisco the billionaire founder of the GAP, Old Navy and Banana Republic clothing stores wants to build a new hideous and out of place 'museum' to house his 'art' collection in the middle of the city's oldest and most historic area, The Presidio. It's ugly in our opinion, although Not quite this bad though:

New museum proposed for The Czech Republic:

There are the additional cadres of appraisers, agents, authenticators, auctioneers, tax-experts, consultants and others who feed off the fees associated with all the above.

For this promotional scheme to work, it is essential that

traditional notions of what is considered Fine Art be destroyed.  There are only so many antiquarian paintings and sculptures out there. The market for fine art is static. Talent to produce fine art is rare and limited. New work must be created.

The high expectations of the manifestation of talent in an artist i.e. the ability to draw a face or hands before beginning a painting, the mastery of composition, history of art, color theory, art history, all these and many of the other liberal arts are replaced with an acceptance of whatever is new, revolutionary and shocking a process that has gone on for the better part of the last century.

For this to succeed, it is necessary to go beyond the production and promotion of merely "bad" art. What is needed is the production and sustaining of "Anti-Art". which is the current phase. Everything must be dumbed down.

A new value system can't be effective if the old system survives. So the old must be destroyed. To service the needs of the financial community taking over the arts a new artistic movement arose: Dada or Dadaism:

Dadaism is the very expansive assault on traditional art.

Its definition:

"Dada or Dadaism [French, from dada, child's word for a horse] Nihilistic movement in the arts

that flourished chiefly in France, Switzerland, and Germany from about 1916 to about 1920

[and later -ed.] and that was based on the principles of deliberate irrationality, anarchy, and

cynicism and the rejection of laws of beauty and social organization...."

Quoted from Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature

More on Dadaism.

The promoted popular cry becomes: "traditional art is exhausted-everything has to be new..."

 Modern Art is the catch-all phrase that covers everything that came after Dadaism. The lack of Art Education and the mantra that artists and all students for that matter should " express themselves" allows the charade to continue. You have to "Express Yourself" in the arts, but nobody has anything to say--because they have little or no formal art education and less knowledge of history, culture and civilization-the progenitors of the arts. What was once the highest manifestation of civilization and culture becomes a vicious circle of uncontrolled "self-expression" and doing your own thing-speculation-moving on, "self-expression"-speculation-ad infinitum.

How to test the validity of these statements above?

Either the old achievements and standards in the arts that were slowly built up after thousands of years are False

or, the lack of standards, Dadaism and Modern Art is a false creation. When one looks at a painting and marvels at its complexity, beauty and the talent of its creator -trust your instinct.

When one looks at a piece of Modern Art and stifles the urge to laugh out loud through self-censorship of your own emotions and you have the ephemeral thought--"I could have done that painting..." When one begins to dredge up all manner of recently memorized complex reasons why the work is 'profound' and "Socially Relevant", trust your instincts, you know its bad art.

There is much discussion of insanity in the arts, as though mental illness were a perquisite to being a great artist. Much of this must originate in the schizophrenia of knowing that something is ugly or ridiculous and forcing oneself to admire it or worse, to emulate it or even worse, pay millions for it. If a viewer can look at a toilet seat screwed to a black canvas in a gallery window bearing a $3,000 price tag and laugh out loud, then that person is healthy.

If one labors on for years immitating, creating discordance, directionless scribbling or marks on paper and dwells on the profound art within, they are not healthy. If one goes hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to pay for "schooling" on how to create this kind of dreck, then they are gullible.  

 Before we go on to resources for artists here are some sites that illustrate the commentary above.

A brilliant article quoted here for purposes of review from the New York Times:

By DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI Published: November 26, 2011

But Nobody Pays That

A Family's Billions, Artfully Sheltered

"...Mr. Lauder, an heir to the Estee Lauder fortune whose net worth is estimated at more than $3.1 billion, the evening went beyond social and cultural significance. As is often the case with his activities, just beneath the surface was a shrewd use of the United States tax code. By donating his art to his private foundation, Mr. Lauder has qualified for deductions worth tens of millions of dollars in federal income taxes over the years, savings that help defray the hundreds of millions he has spent creating one of New York City's cultural gems.

The charitable deductions generated by Mr. Lauder, whose donations have aided causes as varied as hospitals and efforts to rebuild Jewish identity in Eastern Europe, are just one facet of a sophisticated tax strategy used to preserve a fortune that Forbes magazine says makes him the world's 362nd wealthiest person. From offshore havens to a tax-sheltering stock deal so audacious that Congress later enacted a law forbidding the tactic, Mr. Lauder has for decades aggressively taken advantage of tax breaks that are useful only for the most affluent..."

An article quoted here for purposes of review from The Guardian:

December 7, 2011

Major British art collector launches attack on buyers, dealers, curators Guardian, Uk - Charles Saatchi, the most important British art collector of his generation, has launched an incendiary attack on the buyers, dealers and curators who populate the contemporary art world and concluded that many of them have little feeling for art and cannot tell a good artist from a bad one.

Writing in the Guardian, Saatchi paints a scathing picture of the contemporary art world and says that being a buyer these days "is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar". He says: "It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, hedgefundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard."

A Corporate Art Collection That's Aimed at Outrage and Enjoyment  

Nicholas Wilder On Being A Dealer

New art association wants wheeler-dealers only An invitation-only group of influential gallery owners aims to become

Portland's face to the outside art world


 After the diatribe against modern art above we think it only fair to mention that Amateur Art is praiseworthy as it allows the cultivation of budding talent and produces some interesting attractive work that may allow some folks to earn a living. And, it's a nice venue for social activism and community organizing.

 Here are some organizations that we think are worthy of mention: We like these groups and think that not only are they showcasing some true artists who are not selling out to commercialism, they go beyond that into anti-commercialism. If you have suggestions for others, please send them to us.

The Fourth Street Studio™ provides not only a great space to create, but also an interesting gathering place for the art community. In addition to easels and other art equipment, we offer sofas and chairs, coffee and tea, still life sets and live models, art classes, an art library and magazines to stimulate the creative muscles.


We've removed the link to the following gallery as it constantly crashes netscape browsers. Get you S* together folks and fix your website. Or, live with people who use Internet Explorer as their periscope to the world.

"Alan Nidle and Karen Boutet founded Zeitgeist in 1994 with the modest intention of running a traditional neighborhood gallery to showcase local artists, but their mission took a rapid swerve when the art space was immediately adopted as an autonomous zone for creative collaboration by eclectic musicians, artists, performers and filmmakers on the fringe who couldn¹t fit into mainstream venues. Boston and Cambridge were so oriented toward straight rock 'n roll and jazz, according to Alan, that there was no room for disconcerting and disorienting experimental noise/music, so electronic musicians and free improvisors made Zeitgeist their home, making it a locus for non-mainstream community culture. As did Radio-Free Cambridge pirate radio, which operated out of Zeitgeist from 1995 until it was busted by the FCC ..."

"The Cheap Art movement was launched in 1982 by the Bread and Puppet Theater in direct response to the business of art and its growing appropriation by the corporate sector. With this fact taken into account art becomes:

"political whether you like it or not…"

Cheap Art hopes to reestablish the appreciation of artistic creation by making it available to a wider audience and inspire anyone to revel in an art making process that is not subject to academic approval or curatorial acceptance..."


The Industrial Center Building. A great large collection of artists, some talented, in an old building in an interesting part of Sausalito, California at the southern tip of Marin County which is the most progressive, environmental and attractive county west of the Rockies.





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