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New Ways of Selling Art

There is always some entrepreneur trying some new idea to sell art. This year there is “Innovative Art” adverting on heavy rotation on late night TV. A company selling you art in your own home with 70% off works on canvas – no gallery space needed. The “art” in the advertisement looks like something from a mass production painting factory.

The current gallery system was established a century ago. It is time for more changes and radical experiments with new ways of selling art. Slight variations on the gallery model like a framing service or a bar/coffee shop, have helped some art galleries but have not addressed the real problems of providing access for artists, encouraging quality art and helping artists achieve the best financial return for their work.

The previous experiments of rental art spaces and artists-run spaces have not solved these problems. Many of these spaces have no effective control of the art that they exhibit and their reputation is only as good as the last exhibition, a situation that I experienced as part of the management committee at 69 Smith St. The rental art spaces and artist-run spaces put the financial risk on the artist. The artists have to pay two or three weeks rent for these spaces, as well as, publicity and wine for the opening making it a financially precarious proposition to exhibit.

Online art galleries have been around for over a decade now providing access for artists. Internet galleries of images have been instrumental in street art and the current wave of illustration. But online galleries have made little real impact on art sales.

After a few years of running Artholes as a rental space gallery in Fitzroy Tony Knolls had a radical vision. It was a radical vision best summed up as do the opposite of what every other gallery is doing. He has good reasons to try something different as the current gallery system is failing artists economically and in providing exhibition opportunities. Tony Knolls radical experiment was a one-week group exhibitions with the work sold by silent auction, letting the market establish the price rather than the artist guessing. Opening nights were out; closing nights were to be the event.

Exhibition at "The Yard"

Another experimental gallery space, “The Yard” at 696 was an outdoor gallery that only operates during the summer months. Shows at “The Yard” were only open for one night as most art in galleries sells at the opening.

Neither Artholes nor 696 are still operating in this way – the experiments did not last long. However, it is important that these radical experiments in art galleries are tried because the current system needs improvement.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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