Artists Unite!


Click image for the downloadable pdf of the zine put out by the Artists of the 99%.  Along with contributions from Christian L. Frock, Julia Bryon Wilson, Elizabeth Sims, W.A.G.E, Art Workers Coalition, and the Beehive Collective (among others), Joseph del Pesco‘s State of the Arts posters are highlighted.




Nice Art! How Much?

David Kestenbaum (from one of our favorite podcasts: Planet Money) interviews Edward Winkleman about art pricing and how it’s done.

More Musings on Exposure as Payment

This article was pointed out to me by @maryanndevine on Twitter a while back but somehow I missed it.

Corwin Christie, writing for Technology in the Arts, has a really good article and has spawned quite a bit of conversation in her comparison of the Google scandal to standard Non-profit arts practices.

Last week I wrote about the indignation I feel when I see a company like Google wanting to use art without financially compensating the artists. The post and ensuing discussion on Facebook generated some interesting feedback, and many people expressed the concern that perhaps artists have set the bar low themselves.

This got me thinking about how it is that artists begin accepting less than they are worth–and I think, unfortunately, it is because of the close collaboration that artists have with non-profit arts organizations. And this is much more difficult to get irate about. As I rail against Google for devaluing the work that artists do, I can’t help but think back on the numerous non-profit arts organizations with which I have either been involved or encountered as an artist.

Non-profit organizations, those bastions of hope, those doers of good, whose belief in the arts propels us through the darkest hours of our economic crises, are they immune to the tirade I so readily unleashed on Google?

Click here to keep reading on Technology in the Arts

I’m glad to see people talking about this issue.  I too find it an almost impossible conundrum.  But discussion is good.  What about you, the great wide internet world?  Have you found any examples of nonprofits recognizing this issue and changing the way that they do things so that they start paying the artists they show?  Or does the answer lie outside of the non-profit world, in the shall we say, “no-profit” or “not-for-profit” world?  There are people rethinking, but most of what I have seen comes from this latter world.  There will also always people who want to get their work out for free for a time.  It’s like internships.  I never understood all the people who took a year after they finished college to do an internship.  I had to support myself as, I think, most people do once their schooling is finished.

Art is valuable and everyone knows it. But somehow we just think that it should also be free.

The latest in food-funding-art: Portland Stock


Stock is a monthly public dinner event and presentation series, which funds small to medium-sized artist projects. Hosted at Gallery Homeland in Portland, Oregon, diners pay a modest $10 for a dinner of homemade soup and other local delicacies and the chance to take part in deciding which artist proposal will receive the evening’s proceeds. In other words, the dinner’s profits immediately become an artists grant, which is awarded according to the choice of the diners. Winning artists will present their completed work at the following Stock dinner.

Posted via web from thepresentgroup’s posterous

The never-ending exposure as payment problem: Some Illustrators talk out against Google.

When Gary Taxali gave Google the finger (both in words and pictures) over 200 other illustrators and artists cheered him on.   Taxali wrote a post on Drawger that gained a lot of attention and apparently some legal threats as the post has now been taken down.  The New York Times today has reported on it here: Use Their Work Free? Artists Say No to Google.  And Reuters has an article with a bit more back story: Artists Give Google the Finger

Basically, it goes like this.  The economy is down, so people are trying to wring their freelancers for rights and free work.  This is such a common problem.  Don’t people realize that if enough people stop paying for work, eventually there won’t be anyone to do the work.  People have to make money at their work, whether it be illustration, art, architecture, floral design, catering, or any other service or product.

People have to hold their ground collectively, otherwise the whole field gets screwed. That’s not so easy to do though.

It needs to be said.

An artist can have a stable life and still make good art.

I was watching the Barbara Walters interviews after the Oscars last night and she was giving Anne Hathaway a hard time or just kept talking about how her parents were still together, how she had a loving family, and then saying things like, “it doesn’t seem like the right drama for an actor…where’s the angst, where’s the pain?”  Hathaway feels the need then to sortof defend her luck, saying that there were certainly bad things that were in her life too…. that she isn’t just a good girl… that she is really “debaucherous” sometimes.

Oliver and I have had this discussion many a time about how there is this huge cultural stigma, even within artist communities, that says you must suffer in order to make good work.  I just don’t think it is true.  And somebody’s got to start saying it.

Last week I was watching a video from the group W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy) when they took part in the Democracy in America show put on by Creative Time last fall.  The second speaker, K8 Hardy, addressed this idea.  She pointed out that the collectors in the art market like that artists are poor, and how this feeds into this whole system.  “They want to keep us on the edge because they stupidly think that it makes the work more interesting…. They want us to die poor.  That would make their collection more valuable… They romanticize our poverty and outsider status from some misinformed idea or opinion that it makes an artist better to suffer.”

Democracy in America: W.A.G.E. from Creative Time on Vimeo.

So let’s start talking about it. Let’s try to banish this stereotype.  Sure, some art is good and comes from suffering.  But that does not mean that it is the only way that good art comes about.

Art Market Money

via NPR:

On Ethics, Is Art Market Worse Than Stock Market?

panel_540Panelists for the Feb. 3 debate included (from left) Jerry Saltz, Amy Cappellazzo, Chuck Close and Adam Lindemann. Longview Photography

thanks Joseph

Pocket Project

More news on the art multiples on a quarterly basis (though not via subscription):

Though currently without a website, Pocket Projects is a curatorial initiative organized by Jason de Haan and Scott Rogers (both in Calgary, Canada). Pocket Projects commissions small editions of artist multiples on a quarterly basis. Justin Patterson‘s Hell’s Bells is the first project in this ongoing series.


Photo courtesy of Pocket Project

On Halloween night (Friday, October 31st) please join us for the inaugural launch of Hell’s Bells a limited edition artist multiple project by Calgary artist Justin Patterson.

The launch will begin at 8pm in the Other Gallery at the Banff Centre (just upstairs from the Walter Phillips Gallery). Some refreshments will be available during the launch. Hell’s Bells multiples will be available for purchase during and after the launch at a price of $4.00 each. With your purchase you will receive one Hell’s Bell and the colour publication which accompanies the project. Proceeds from the sale go directly to the artists.

**Full disclosure: Rodgers is a TPG submittee whose proposal we still have in the maybe pile.

UPDATE: Due to unforeseen circumstances we are POSTPONING the Hell’s Bells launch, which was previously scheduled to happen on Halloween night (today!)  All apologies for the mix up, but we will still be doing the launch it’s just going to be a little while longer. :) Sorry to anyone who had planned on attending the festivities in Banff.

The idea is taking off

Here’s another art subscription! When we first envisioned The Present Group, we thought that if we were sucessful, then other people would emulate us and there would be a ripple effect causing a whole wave of different art subscriptions- all with different interests and groups represented. Though I’m not sure we’re ready to call ourselves a complete sucess, or that we can take credit for an idea that surely is in the air, the idea of the art subscription does seem to be a catchy one.

Here’s the most recent one we’ve found:


Little Bird Limited

Their wording is a little familiar, I have to say, but all in all we’re excited to see the art world expanding to reach more people at a lower cost. Welcome Little bird!

UPDATE: Just got an email from Little Bird:

We noticed the present group on our analytics site and when we clicked the link we noticed your blog post.
We were mortified to read about the similarities. We actually pay a freelance local writer to write out our press and content for the Littlebird Limited. So we had no idea. We read all about your subscription and re read what we had written and there is no doubt that the person who wrote for us ,for sure borrowed your text. We apologize for this, truly. We are currently working to change our text . That was not our intention to start our press like this. Although the text is the same the idea is not as grand as yours and we hope maybe to get to that level and we hope you take no offense.


My sister sent me this video yesterday. Maybe this is a modern form of patronage. Rather than commissioning a work solely for oneself, funding is provided for a project to happen and the final results are available to all. This isn’t a new idea; think of orgainzations like Creative Time and Public Art Fund, who solicit donations and funding from a wide variety of sources, and then help fund artists projects for a wider public to experience. The only difference is that this is a single corporate sponsor.

The creator of this video, Matt Harding, has made three of these videos now. The first was all by himself, just a thing for his friends and family to laugh at. But somehow, in that mystery that every ad executive craves for, the video went viral and within a month his server was crashing from all the traffic (YouTube wasn’t around yet) and millions of viewers had seen his goofy dance. Then he got a proposal from Stride.

They didn’t want to be involved, all they wanted to do was sponsor Matt to do another video. So they did, two videos really. It is obvious that this is not a commercial for Stride Gum. With the sponsor recognized only after all the credits have rolled, it is pretty inconspicuous. Stride could make a commercial in the exact same way, but that might kill whatever it is that made these videos so appealing. Maybe because it would lose its sponteneity, or the viewer lose the direct connection between the creator and the product, or maybe just because ads turn people off, it’s safe to say an overt Stride Gum commercial wouldn’t get 5 million views in just a couple months. What’s so great about these videos is that, from the start, they were fueled by the desire to make something, by art. I have to say though, whatever Stride was looking for to happen, it worked on me. Though I don’t buy gum, I have a good feeling about Stride.

Anyways, I thought this was a good followup to yesterday’s post, figuring out how people do what they do.

More art via subscription!

Just learned about a group called These Birds Walk. They are a small publisher out of Oakland(!) whose goal is ‘to provide affordable art books that quietly exist somewhere between a discarded pamphlet on the street and a high end coffee table book’.

It’s a little bit hard to tell what the deal is from their website, but they do offer subscriptions to four photography books distributed throughout the year. I am not sure if you can only buy them in the four book sets or if you can subscribe and start your subscription at any time. The first year resulted in a series entitled ‘The Kin Series’(link no longer works 10/09). They are just starting on their second series.

It is neat to find similar ideas all burgeoning around the same time. It seems like their subscription series started right around the same time as ours.

Changing the way people enter and learn about the art market.

Here’s a list of some of the places (other than ours, of course) that we’ve found that are working towards breaking down some of the barriers towards entering the art market. Some of these have been mentioned on this blog previously. here and here. Most of them were mentioned in our talk, “Uncharted Waters: Understanding the Emerging Art Market.”

Working towards a more affordable entry to Collecting Art:

: A Jen Bekman project out of New York. She’s trying to “create a place for collectors and artists to meet”. Once a week they publish two archival editions, one photograph and one print reproduction of a work on paper.

Tiny Showcase: Each week they pick a new piece of tiny artwork and turn the works on paper into a limited-run archival print production. It has quickly become really popular and they often sell out within hours of posting the new works.

Artocracy: Artocracy is a digital marketplace for original art. They have an interesting model, in that you can order framed artwork or a print directly from them OR you can purchase a digital print (as a PDF!) to print out yourself.

Utilizing the Subscription-based model of distributing work:

Wholpin: A DVD magazine of rare and unseen short films, docs, instructional videos, foreign sitcoms, and other cinema hybrids 4 issues for $50

Fine Art Magazines are opening up project spaces for artists within their periodicals. They allow artists the opportunity to create “site specific” art using the medium of the magazine for the artwork. Arkitip and Esopus are two examples of this.

THE THING is a quarterly periodical in the form of an object. Each year, four artists, writers, musicians or filmmakers are invited to create an everyday object that somehow incorporates text. For $160 you receive four objects within the year.

Putting the surplus in the market to good use:

Fine art adoption network‘s goal is to engage art enthusiasts who never thought of themselves as art collectors, and to introduce them to the experience and pleasures of owning and caring for contemporary art. Adam Simon (founder FAAN) said “The system that we have for disseminating contemporary art, known as the art market, doesn’t manage to get a lot of art into a lot of homes.”

What can an emerging artist do to get their work out there? Do you have any specific advice?

Asked by Marianna Stark of the Stark Guide

The way that I answered this question was

1. do your research: the information is out there
2. make friends

But I think I can be a little more thorough here. I think what Eleanor Harwood added was important and a good place to start:

have a good package.

Make sure you have a complete package, including images, a cv, and an artist statement. I think, though, that it is also becoming more and more important these days to have a website. This site can be fairly simple. You can even use blogs, such as wordpress, livejournal, or blogger, which are very easy to use and have lots of free templates you can start off with. You can create categories or pages that will separate your different bodies of work. A website is a useful tool for the person viewing your work, in that everything is in one place, you aren’t clogging up email with lots of images, and one can view your growth over the years. Also, it helps increase your visibility as galleries can link to your site from theirs, allowing people to gain a better idea of who you are.

Also, going into the idea of making friends, it (a website) is also a good networking tool. You can trade links with people you like and you can keep in close contact with other artists who you respect. Making friends in the real world can be very difficult for some of us. It is very easy to say, “go make friends,” but that is sortof hard to actually accomplish sometimes. But online, it isn’t quite as hard. I am realizing more and more that the artworld is built on connections between people.

Davin Youngs, TPG artist #5, is a great example of this. He tries to update his livejournal with a new photo daily. He keeps up with friends and other artists by monitoring their RSS feeds and commenting on work he particularly likes. And he has found through this network some online projects that have well suited him. He is part of The Ones We Love,, and Anything.

And now for doing your research: The opportunities are out there, you just have to find ones that suit your work. It takes a good amount of time and energy to do this, but art as a career is just that. Find galleries that work with artists like you and approach them, see if they have an open submission policy. We do. Eleanor Harwood does. SoEx does.

Lastly, I thought it could be helpful if I shared the places that we’ve found that list open calls. The only ones that charges money for submitting an opportunity art NYFA and Art Week. Most of them are free to view: Arts Opportunities Monthly and The Art List both charge fees. I haven’t found a great resource for artists in the Bay Area; it seems as though there’s a hole since the shut down of Artist Resource. Many people look down on open calls, but it is a good way for artists to start establishing those all-important connections and getting their work out there.


A Singular Creation
Art Deadlines List
Arts Opportunities Monthly ($20 a year- sent via email monthly)
Art Source

Art Week
Chicago Artist Resource
Fecal Face (under forums: Calls for Artists) (with tags: /call_and_events, tag/opportunities)
Fjord (under “member news”)
Arts Opportunities
TheArtList ($15 a year to view)
PortlandArt (mostly has Oregon-only listings, but occaional national listings as well)

Recap: Uncharted Waters

Yesterday evening we had the honor of joining a panel of some really great people. It was a great experience for us, not only in the opportunity to spread the word about The Present Group, but also to discuss with a diverse audience what it is to be in the art market today and how that could be and does seem to be evolving or changing. We were asked some great questions, and because it is sometimes hard for me to answer them on the spot, Oliver and I are hoping to address some of these questions over the course of the next few weeks on the blog.

Thank you to everyone who came out and joined us!

Happy Monday.

Uncharted Waters: Understanding the Emerging Art Market

On May 4th, Oliver and I will be participating in a talk at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin. I think it will be a good discussion. And there will be a very delicious dinner afterwards for $20 using organic, local ingredients. Click here for more details. Come and cheer on my nervous self! Here’s the promo bit from their website:

Date: 5/4/2008 (Sunday)
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Headlands Center for the Arts

Ticket Info: $10 General Admission
FREE for Headlands Members

Eleanor Harwood, artist; Director, Eleanor Harwood Gallery
Julio Cesar Morales, artist; Co-director, Queen’s Nails Annex
Eleanor Hanson Wise, Co-director, The Present Group
Moderator: Natasha Boas, curator and art advisor

We all hear that the contemporary art market is booming with celebrity artists and star collectors, but what does that mean for the average person? We’ll talk to some Bay Area gallerists and art promoters who have established fresh approaches to the market, and take a look at how aspiring collectors can make informed choices about buying emerging art without breaking the bank. We’ll also talk about how artists can effectively participate in the market, in order to support themselves financially while remaining true to their ideals. Other topics of discussion will include approaches to curatorial practice in for-profit settings; how the art fair circuit contributes to buzz about regional scenes; and art practice and exhibition making as small business enterprises.

The Gift as Art, art as a gift

Richard Wittaker, editor of Works and Conversations, is someone I’ve admired since first coming across his magazine. Now even more so. After 15 years of publishing Works and Conversations on his own, never taking a penny for himself (sounds familiar), never using advertising, has partnered with Charity Focus.

Together, they are giving up any last remnant of a business model and have changed to a gift economy. Using a pay-it-forward mode, you can subscribe for free and are welcome to donate at any time to help someone else receive a free gift of this magazine. You can also subscribe for the newsletter, which will include links to the full content of the magazine.

As he says: “ours is a humble effort to be the change we wish to see in the world.”

The magaizine is made up of interviews with a wide range of artists and everyday heros.

New ways to buy art

I’ve been doing quite a bit of browsing today and found another site devoted to creating a new interface between collectors and artists. Called “the Beholder”


From it’s director, Suzanne Shade:

“I’ve been really inspired over the last few years not only by what artists are creating, but how many people are first-time buyers of original art. I know there are many more of you out there who have yet to take the plunge, and I hope you enjoy looking and learning as much as I do. Please don’t hesitate to call or write with questions… a big part of the fun is learning about how art is created, how pricing works, and what makes it special to others.”

Old News, New News, TPG5 is Out!

Maybe we’re just behind, but we just found out that we were mentioned on the Readymade blog in January!

Thanks Readymade! (Click on image for Link to post)

Readymade blog

Also mentioned in the article was a project that is new to me, called 20×200– a la Tiny Showcase fame– it sells prints from artists at pretty darn reasonable prices. The editions are in runs of 200, 20, and 2, with bigger=better=shorter run=a lot more expensive as the main equation. The small ones are only $20, so it’s a pretty sweet entry point.

It is interesting to see how all these projects, businesses, organizations are popping up to figure out ways to support more and more artists while aiming at generating more interest in collecting art at affordable levels. I listed many of these organizations back in the fall (here) when the Collective Foundation brought us all together at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for a little discussion. Are we helping to create a new and different market for art? Or will art become more designy to satisfy the designsponge crowd that wants to fill up its walls? Is that so bad? I am starting to think about all these ideas as I slowly slowly start to prep for a talk I’ll be giving at the Headlands Center for the Arts in May. More about that later.

In other news, this morning we sent off TPG5 out of our home and into the great big United States Postal System. So soon they’ll arrive in your homes. Hip hip hooray!

Web hosting that supports artists.


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Lego Hello World
I wish all my printers were made of legos.

LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Images from Life Magazine going back to 1860′s, hosted by Google

Coming Face To Face With The President
Well crafted story about an under-heard point of view.

In California, Pot Is Now an Art Patron
A new funding source for the arts – reaping big rewards and funding many projects.  It’s pot.

Notes on Portraiture in the Facebook Age

Celebrity Book Club: A List to End All Lists
Because, well, it’s sortof awesome.

Are "Artists' Statements" Really Necessary?
The pros and cons about that nemesis for most artists.

This to That
You tell it what you’ve got and it’ll tell you what to glue them together with.

Work of art: Online store for buyers, sellers
Not the TV show!  Kelly Lynn Jones from Little Paper Planes is interviewed on her project, gives us a cheat sheet to local affordable art resources.

How to make a Daft Punk helmet in 17 months