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Street Art Against Money

“I wonder why people think that it is ok to sell your paintings from a gallery but as soon as someone gets a public commission its called selling out… I think it is kool that people can make a living off their art… artists need to help each other support each other… at the moment its like we are all pitted against each other… it should not be like that” – Adrian Doyle, artist (Facebook post)

Kranksy, Melbourne

Kranky, Melbourne

From time to time we all become concerned about money and when an artist is concerns about money it can take them in some strange directions. This gets even more warped when street artists get involved. I’m not surprised that street artists feeling worried about money as most are working for free and then suddenly finding themselves in a hot market. (see my post Hot Market Dealers).

Often responses of this anti-capitalist influence artists does not appears much different to the scene that the writer and social commentator, Tom Wolf archly describes:

“Now it was in the late 1960s, and the New Left was in high gear, and artists and theorists began to hail Earth Art and like as a blow against ‘the Uptown Museum-Gallery Complex,’ after the ‘military-industrial complex’ out in the world beyond. If the capitalists, the paternalists of the art world, can’t get their precious art objects into their drawing rooms or even into the bigger museums, they’ve had it. A few defiant notes like this, plus the signing of a few dozen manifestos against war and injustice – that was about as far as New York artists went into Left politics in the 1960s.” (Tom Wolfe, The Painted Word, Bantam Books, 1976, p.102)

Back to worrying about money and that feeling of being cheated and worrying about the effect of money on art. Are dodgy practices, fraud, forgery and other corruption in the art world? Yes, there is. Deanna Brown reports that “Art Fraud in Australia is relatively minor compared to that of international art markets; however it is believed to account for at least 10 percent of the Australian art market.”

Yes, but that is spare change compared to the corruption of the politicians in NSW or the corruption in sport. I am not going to start worrying about artists making money from their art until some artists regularly make more money than most company CEOs.

Following the money like watching the auction prices instead of the art. It follows the popular obsession with the money trail (and the monied) is totally out of perspective and distorts or ignores the other aspects of the institutions of the art world such as those highlighted by the Guerrilla Girls (for other examples see my post on National Galleries & Nationalism).

2014 was a bad year for this obsession amongst street artists with CDH’s torn-up cheque and Art vs Reality. I am very glad that both CDH and Peter Drew have found something better to do with their time this year. Peter Drew has been much more successful with his “Real Australian’s Say Welcome” meme.

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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

5 responses to “Street Art Against Money

  • CDH

    I’m often misrepresented on this. The article isn’t against artists making money from their art. It’s against vertical funding structures used by councils. Rather than recognizing the expertise of the artist, they get reduced to glorified sign writers. The original source can be found here:
    http://www.cdh-art.com/writing.html

    • Mark Holsworth

      I have changed the link to your source (I was looking for that this morning one your page but didn’t think to look under writing). Concerns over funding structures are still under the broader category of worrying about money and art.

    • CDH

      Obsessing over art prices can blind us to the art itself- instead of looking at a Damien Hirst work we begin to obsess over questions like ‘is it really worth that much?’ which detracts from the art and can confuse price and merit.
      There is a separate discussion about strategies to support artists. Topics like: the new center for artistic excellence, or graffiti laws, or your next blog post. These are important questions because they service the machine of cultural production and can tangibly improve conditions for artists. I think you’re conflating the 2 conversations as ‘money and art’.
      Sometimes I cringe when I re-read old papers. I took a lot of criticism for that torn cheque, but re-reading the paper now I still like it a lot. There are some underdeveloped ideas but overall I think it’s thematically rich and offers constructive pathways for street art growth.
      We should get coffee soon. I finished your book ages ago but we’ve never discussed it.

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