The Cultural Rise of Chelsea & New York’s Place in the Art Market

History of Chelsea and the NY Scene

The first gallery district developed in lower Manhattan in the early 1880s, and consisted of a few galleries set around City Hall. These were all for wealthy clients and housed primarily European work. Work was always shipped over from Europe, with the exception of the Babcock Gallery, which was the first to solely exhibit American Artists.

The Galleries followed the movement of the rich upper classes to Greenwich Village, then upwards to Madison Square Park before moving on to the 50s, away from the increasing migrant populations. This pattern continued, with the Galleries following their clients.

At the turn of the century, wealthy families continued to move, this time to the Upper East Side, and the Galleries followed once again. The New Art Centre along 5th Avenue became a foundational base for the neighbourhood, and one that would develop into an area that contains some of the most respected Art Institutions and Museums in the World. The relationship between Galleries and Collectors began to change as the demographic altered to accommodate for the rising wealthy middle classes.

The Great Depression completely demoralised the Art scene, and around only 30 Galleries survived. Those that did were all characterised by the fact that they sold European Masters and famous and established American Artists. Post War New York saw huge upward movements from an influx of money and European Artists. In 1945 there were roughly 90 Galleries. This figure grew to 406 Galleries in 1960, then rose steeply to 761 by 1975.

Attention spread into the East Village, before moving to Lower East Side, West Chelsea and into the Neighbourhoods of Williamsburg and DUMBO. Chelsea grew into the creative and cultural hub that it is today, and was helped along by the fact that it still had many affordable spaces for Artists to work in and Galleries to exhibit. By the 2000s, Chelsea was home to more than 300 galleries. Today it flourishes as an inventive and innovative area for creativity.

Nancy Rubins sculpture called “Our Friend Fluid Metal”.

New York’s Place in the International Art World

The rise of Abstract Expresisonism was the crowning point on a huge shift of focus of cultural attention onto New York. Big hitting Artists such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Mark Rothko captured the international Artworld’s attention, and the type of Art that they created looked to break free from that of the past and open it up into new spaces and grand, expressive terrains. The second generation of these Artists, people such as Robert Raushenberg and Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, continued to generate significant waves of influence throughout the Art World that are still felt today.

Prior to this, Paris had held the position of artistic and cultural capital of the Western world for quite some time. The age of the Salon, Gustav Courbet, Paul Gauguin and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec had given way for Braque and Pablo Picasso. This time had also been hugely popular for writers and poets, and is exemplified in Ernest Hemingway’s book ‘A Moveable Feast’. James Joyce, F Scott Fitzgerald, T S Eliot, Gertrude Stein and many others mingled with these Artists to create an electrifying atmosphere of creativity that has been romanticised by historical nostalgia ever since.

New York represented a break from these European traditions. It was the New World, and even it’s architecture laid down a confident and unapologetic newer form of aesthetics and artistic interests. With the Atlantic Ocean separating these two cities, it became easier for the American Artists to step outside of the long and rich tradition of European Painting, which has run continuously since the work of Duccio and others in the Proto-Renaissance.

In Phaidon’s Interesting book ‘Art Cities of the Future’, it looks at the emerging Avant Garde scenes from around the world. Cities such as Beirut, Bogotá, Cluj, Delhi, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Lagos, San Juan, São Paulo, Seoul, Singapore and Vancouver are all explored in depth, by a curator from each respective city. There is no doubt that in an interconnected world, the activity of Artists from all across the globe are easier to report upon, and other places that have traditionally been seen as less influential on the Western Art Market are continuing to rise. However, this has done little to draw influence away from the importance of New York’s Power and cultural clout as an Art Scene, and it remains one of the most importance and relevant places in the world when it comes to understanding and interpreting the currents and ideas that shape the contemporary Art scene.

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Inequality within the Art Market

Tiers within the Artworld

Firstly, it is important to understand that there are many alternative tiers within the Artworld. These are the various different subsets and networks that consist of Artists, buyers, collectors, gallerists, curators and consultants.

From the Artist selling paintings for $1000 each and making a successful living, right through to celebrity living Artists that have achieved an infamous, cult like status (such as Damien Hirst), these are examples of the markers that can be used to draw lines and distinguish between these different tiers. Within this article we will concentrate on the very upper end of the spectrum.

The Continuing Boom of Sales

In 2012, Edvard Munch’s iconic painting ‘The Scream’ sold for around $120 million at auction. Many prophesized that this was the pinnacle of an Art Market bubble, one that was destined to crash, yet less that a week later, the Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko’s artwork ‘Orange, Red, Yellow’ sold for nearly $87 million.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The prices for Artworks at this end of the spectrum are astronomical, yet according to Sergey Skaterschikov, a man who publishes an influential art-investment report; no painting bought at $30 million or more has ever been re-sold at a profit. At this level, cultural prestige and the ability to signal wealth are just a couple of the defining factors for sales. One would hope that a deep and profound love for Art, and the historical value of a work is also a motivating desire for these buyers as well.

Art as an asset for a small subset of super wealthy individuals

Benjamin Madel is an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and studies the Art Market because ‘it’s a great way to study asset price valuations.’ In his opinion, Fine Art (at this price level) is, in a sense separated from the rest of the global economy because it is in fact part of an economy for a small subset of the super rich. These people are often referred to as Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI). From Mandel’s research he concluded that for their economy, Fine Art has retained solid stability over the years.

The rise of UHNWIs in Brazil, China and India has also provided an influx of new individuals interested in the purchasing of high end Artworks for exceptionally large prices. This movement also places even greater emphasis on the Artists from these countries, and resurgences in esoteric styles that had previously been largely ignored by this market are becoming more and more popular as collectors, consultants, gallerists, dealers and institutions look further for new talent. Or more accurately, search for talent that will become even more successful later. This happened for Korean Minimalism, as well as a newfound interest in older Scandinavian Landscape Painting for example.

To demonstrate the rise in investment from these wealthy collectors, in 2003, at Christie’s in Hong Kong, sales came to around $98 million, whilst in 2011, they has risen to $836 million.

Art Auction

What this means for the Artists

Gerhart Richter, the prominent German Painter was recently cited as commenting on how odd and abstract he found these high prices. As an Artist himself, he wanted to remind people that it was generally after an Artwork had been sold (for which an Artist normally receives 50% of the sale and the Gallery takes the other half) and then consequently resold, that the value tended to inflate. In his eyes some kind of crash is inevitable when people are dealing with money and value in these extremes.

Art Funds and insider trading

There are also Art Investment funds that operate much like hedge fund or asset management firm. The ‘Fine Art Fund’ work on a minimum investment of $500,000, and their managers use industry connections and Art expertise to buy Art cheaply, at the right time, before selling it on at a much higher price and returning the profit to the investors. The Art Market isn’t regulated like financial securities, so this kind of insider trading isn’t illegal.

Art and value

With the rise of the UHNWIs, there are many more willing global buyers, and this continues to push up prices. Art is completely unique in the way that it is valued because its fiscal value is directly linked to a network of wealthy collectors, dealers, institutions and gallery owners. Working out the cultural value of a completely unique Picasso, Munch or Van Gogh painting in financial terms is an incredibly complex process. And at the end of the day, if there is a willing buyer ready to part with a spare $120 million, then the sale will probably go right ahead.

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Important Ideas that Changed Art Forever – Abstract Expressionism

What is Abstract Expressionism?

Abstract Expressionism is a form of painting that championed individual self-expression as the central driving force for creating a work of art. It developed in the 1940’s and 1950’s in the US, and is easily recognisable for its large-scale canvases and gestural brushwork.

In most examples, the artworks were created by wildly emotive actions, with the representation of a certain mood or emotional state as the chief aim of the artist. Most Abstract Expressionist Artworks contained no recognisable subject matter, so the emotional mood was, in itself, the content of the work. Religious or mythic ideas were also explored in some cases. It was also seen as an exploration of sorts, each artwork became a method and a language to examine, describe or uncover a certain emotion.

The Movement can be divided into two subdivisions: the action painters, such as Pollock and De Kooning, and the painters that worked with expansive areas of colour and form like Rothko and Newman.

The action painters furiously worked and re-worked their canvases, building up many layers of passionately applied colour and marks. Pollock described this process in the following way: ‘The modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.’

The second grouping of artists chose to use simple palettes and huge areas of colour, filling their canvases with powerful, minimal compositions. These paintings are much calmer, but no less evocative than the action painters. From this branch of Abstract Expressionism, colour field painting developed, which turned away from including any mythical or religious ideas and feelings within the work. This subsequent movement also became known as post painterly abstraction.

Mark Rothko - No14

Abstract Expressionism and scale

One characteristic trait of many Abstract Expressionist artists was that they worked on a grand scale. Critics were outspoken in their beliefs that this came from delusions of grandeur and self-importance, which in some cases may have had some truth to it, but this was done generally to increase the power of the impact of the artwork. In the case of Rothko, he wanted to evoke powerful and meditative ideas and experiences through his paintings. He stated:

‘I paint very large pictures. I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them however is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereotypical view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it.’

Painting in new ways

Jackson Pollock often laid his canvases on the floor, and dripped and flung the paint across his compositions. This was an important moment in the long and rich history of painting. When the paintings dried, and were hung on gallery walls, the movement of the artist and the physical process of painting could be clearly seen and understood. The ‘act’ of painting because an incredibly important part of each artwork, and lines and marks that stretched across entire canvases, very simply represented basic and profound instances of subjective human expression. In his own words, he claimed:

‘On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.’

This concept opened painting up into new realms. The importance of the action of the artist during the creation of an artwork (the artist being ‘in’ the painting) was also heavily influential for performance art, as it focused attention onto what they did, and how that resulted in an artwork.

Political Dimensions

Although many of the Abstract Expressionist artists were outspoken critics of the US government, the movement later became funded and popularized in part by the C.I.A. With the tense political atmosphere between the US and Russia, and the subsequent Cold War, the artworks became a symbolic way to demonstrate the free and culturally advanced society that free market capitalism supposedly represented. In Russia, Social Realism was the artistic style of the age, depicted figures and icons of Communism in heroic, allegorical stories. The opposing governments adopted these differing artistic styles as subtle and sophisticated forms of propaganda, and on this stage, they clashed.

Abstract Expressionism, when removed from this context, had no real political agenda, so it is ironic that is was used in this way. As a general idea in Art, this movement had a huge and undeniable impact on painting, and on many other artistic disciplines. As a visual language, it has been widely appropriated by general mainstream culture, and its influence can be seen on everything from advertising to theatre.

Key Artists: Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still

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An Interview with Doug Bloodworth

Doug Bloodworth is a well-respected and highly renowned photorealist Artist. He delights in depicting such beloved and familiar touchstones of Americana as Keebler fudge stripe cookies, M&Ms candies, Coke bottles, Monopoly games, Batman comics, and The New York Times crossword—in mid-attempt—all blown up to large 4-foot-by-5-foot canvases.

The hyper-real depictions of the pop culture flotsam and jetsam of our lives is a major part of the artist’s appeal, according to David Miller, who is the president and curator of Photorealism, a Boca Raton–based dealer that work solely with photorealistic art. On the success and quality of Bloodworth’s work, Miller States that:

‘It’s a combination of two things. Number one, the actual technical skill involved in the works. I’ve been in his studio and sat there for three hours watching him complete three square inches of a candy wrapper. Watching it appear from a white canvas is totally amazing. Then you have the addition of nostalgia. When one sees the actual works, it takes you back to another time.’

Internationally exhibited and acclaimed, we talked to the Artist himself to gain more insight into remarkable artworks, and how it feels to sell an artwork to Lil Wayne.

Why do you paint and why do you work in a photorealistic style?

For me, it is a challenge.  Can I do this?  Can I paint in oil paint to look like a Crayola mark on a coloring book?  Can I paint a newspaper to look like a newspaper?  Or plastic to look like plastic?

One question I hear from people that see a photorealism painting is ‘what is the point, why not just blow up a photo’ and I think to myself, if I could just explain my process then they would clearly understand the difference. I want each painting to play with the idea that it can be confused with a photograph, but to me it is so much more than simply trying to replicate a photographic image in oil paint.

Pecan Pie Kid Cowboy

Which Artists have influenced you?

I draw inspiration from a great deal of artists but here is a short list of some of my favourites. These are people that have helped to shape my work, and I enjoy making references to them in my own work.

Harold Zabady: Harold is a master of streetscapes.  Every time I see one of Harold’s paintings, I feel like I am right back in New York City.

Jim Jackson: Jim’s matchbook series is a masterpiece of photorealism.  But just as importantly, it brings the viewer back to their honeymoon, to a special anniversary or graduation meal or to a family vacation.

Johannes Wessmark: I love the relationship Johannes has with wine and all things wine.  His Corkhenge series, in which he blends the wonder of Stonehenge with wine corks, is truly his piece de resistance.

Mark Schiff: Mark is the mentor we photorealists all look up to.  He has been the guide for all of us who are trying to portray flotsam and jetsam in oil paint.  Mark’s most famous works include the theater candy counters and the series of scenes from the Brooklyn-based seltzer man.

Ralph Stearns: The word I use to describe Ralph is exactitude.  Ralph does not go for the soft edges; he brings hard lines into his work in an exact way.  I am most impressed with his Las Vegas series of paintings of blackjack.  I especially love the casino chips.

Rich Conley: Many curators ask me why I am obsessed with caricature.  I love caricature because I believe that it is the polar opposite of photorealism, and yet the talents required are so similar.  Rich Conley, I believe, is one of the great caricaturists in the USA today.

Is there a single Artwork that stands out as having a profound effect on your personal and artistic life?

My idol was Duane Hanson. He was a Florida sculptor who produced sculptures of people so life-like that they fooled the eye.  When his security guard sculpture was on display at Van de Weghe Gallery in New York, thousands, myself included, went up to him and asked him where the rest rooms were. It was truly uncanny. I will never forget that experience.

Duane Hanson - Supermarket Shopper

How did you become an Artist?

My main objective in life was always to be a fine artist.  I approach my work very seriously.  Even though the ideas are whimsical, when it comes down to the technical part of producing these things, I am very serious and I take my art extremely seriously.

I graduated with a degree in Commercial Art, and then apprenticed with Marv Gunderson, the renowned billboard painter. I worked under Marv for several years, painting outdoor billboards half the size of an Olympic pool. Most of the billboards were for Marlboro brand of cigarettes.  Each billboard took a whole team of us about two weeks to complete. However, after three months or so of being in view, the billboards were whitewashed to make space for a new ad for a new client.

After this time I moved on to painting murals, before developing the style that I am known for today. These experiences were tremendously useful and formative for me. I think that in a way, all artists are influenced by all the small details of their lives and that these kinds of jobs will always have some kind of impact.

Why and how do you choose the subjects in your paintings?

Television influenced me so much, especially early on.  The very first sketch that I did was Popeye and Olive Oil that my mother found under the sofa.  I still paint cartoons and comics that I remember from back then.  Once those things are ingrained into you, I don’t think that you ever forget them.  The Monopoly car came out at that time.  I also did Wonder Woman and some chocolates.  And the Spidey and the Oreos: I intentionally put it where the web is shooting out and he is trying to grab the Oreo cookie.

I love what I paint, and in fact, I have to have a personal attachment to whatever it is I am painting, or I don’t feel like I could do it. I think that is true of any artist.  I think you have to understand whatever it is you’re painting, and have a personal attachment to it.  You can’t just paint something because you think it might sell. Integrity is a vital aspect of painting, you have to be driven by passion, or else the work will lack a certain unexplainable quality.

Spidey Oreos

Can you go into more depth about the technical side of your paintings?

I add linseed oil to my paint and apply it in thin and smooth layers at first. I use a blender to remove all brushstrokes, as this really helps give the colour great depth. As the painting progresses, the paint becomes thicker. The final stage is to apply the white highlights and sometimes I leave them very thick…like icing on the cake.

Glazes are important as well, especially in the shadows. Each painting is different in the way that I use the glazes, some require more layer than others, but I enjoy adding this extra dimension.

How do you organize your compositions and develop your paintings?

My wife Karen and I have fun setting up the still life compositions and lighting them as dramatically as possible. We usually take 50 to 100 photos, moving things around, adjusting, readjusting and tinkering with the lighting. It seems like in every case one particular photo stands out from all the rest and says ‘hey! It’s me…paint me!’

Using that photo to make my initial drawing, the painting process begins. At this point I look back at some of the other photos and use parts and pieces from them in areas where the lighting might enhance a particular object.

The main point that I would try to make without rambling too much would be this:

I take all the information that I get from the photograph and process it through my brain. I enhance things that I believe improve the composition, or completely leave out things that I feel take something away from the final painting.

I want my painting to be a representation of, and not an exact duplicate, of the photo. Even though I realize that the final painting looks to most viewers exactly like a photo, I like this alteration in understanding. I am totally fine with that, and when it comes down to it, I really LOVE the whole process from beginning to end.

Can you tell us more about your exhibitions?

I feel really lucky to have had the opportunities to exhibit in some great galleries. I was shown by Ron Hoy in his Hoypoloi Gallery (and its sister, Pop Gallery), which is located smack in the middle of Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida, over half a million people walk by the door every week. They are introducing my artwork to a myriad of collectors, and I am so grateful for it. Over Labor Day weekend, I painted live at the Pop Gallery and there was a line up around the corner to get postcards signed. What a great scene it was.

It was also an incredible and humbling experience to be on the walls of the Russeck Gallery on Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue and in Soho, New York City—where the other works hanging there are by Picasso, Miro, Calder, Kandinsky, and the like.

My first five fine-art paintings were shown at Art Basel in Miami in 2011 and I was lucky enough to sell them all. I also exhibit at Effusion Gallery, next door to the Versace Mansion. Recently, Lil Wayne came in and bought my New York Times painting. I was so honored, and it is always such a special feeling when anyone connects with my artworks and chooses to buy a painting, it is always humbling.

How do people react to your paintings? 

I always enjoy overhearing what visitors to my shows have to say. Whether it’s in galleries in Zurich, Key West, South Beach or even Disney World, it is always amazing to hear people saying that they ‘love the photos’. When corrected, and told that they are looking at oil paintings, their look of incredulity is such a pleasure to watch. Many people stare at the paintings for a very long time. I always wonder what they are thinking about.

I also enjoy evoking feelings of nostalgia amongst the viewers. At Zimmermann + Heitmann Gallery in Dusseldorf, I overheard a family looking at my Monopoly painting.  One said, ‘I was always the dog’; another said, ‘I was the iron’.  At Atlas Galleries in Chicago, I heard a patron exclaim, ‘Wow!  Look at the Kid Cowboy.  I had exactly that book when I was a little boy.  And the edges of the book were frayed just like it is in the painting’.

I’m so happy because I’m doing what I love, and people also love it, so I mean, how can life get any better than that?

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Important Ideas that Changed Art Forever – Minimalism

Key Artists: Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt

What is Minimalism?

In New York City in the Mid 1960’s, artists such as Donald Judd and Dan Flavin were beginning to become disillusioned with the principles of abstract expressionism. Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, artists at the forefront of this movement, had relied on singular subjective expression as the main impetus for creating artworks. They created (often) huge canvases covered with wild gestural brushwork and huge painterly areas of form and color.

‘I am not interested in the kind of expression that you have when you paint a painting with brush strokes. It’s all right, but it’s already done and I want to do something new.’ Donald Judd

Minimalism emerged partly in rejection of these ideas, and in favor of creating a democratic, stripped down approach to art making that also reflected the giant leaps that had been made in the industrial industries. Minimalist artists avoided emotional content and symbolism, instead creating paintings and sculptures that concentrated on the real, physical properties of the materials they used, rather than trying to create illusion or use metaphor and allegory.

Take Richard Serra for example. At college, he had worked at a ship building steelworks, and this material became a signature for his work. He bent and manipulated gigantic single sheets of steel into new shapes and forms that were free standing, and carved the spaces of the galleries and public areas in which they were placed in new and exciting ways. They interacted with their environments, and the audience had to walk around and through these works in order for them to be experienced. Serra stated that ‘the subject of the work is your experience, your walking…I consider space to be a material’

Minimalist sculptors concentrated on the intrinsic qualities of materials, and these were in turn used to concentrate attention on the spaces on the world around us, and how we interact with them. Donald Judd fabricated a series of ‘Stack’ sculptures that were rectangular slabs of steel and light attached to the walls of galleries like rungs on a ladder. Each gap between the slabs was exactly the same dimensions as one of the slabs itself. These negative spaces became important parts of each sculpture. Judd was shaping not only the physical properties of the artwork, but also the space around it.

Dan Flavin

Minimalism was less about the expressive mind or action of the artist, and more about a collective experience, and a show of possibility for the potential of materials. This mirrored industrial principles and simplicity was favored in the name of stripping away any sense of personal biography, or unnecessary and superfluous influences. Milled steel, fabricated copper, brass, aluminium, wood and bricks were all used, and industrial fabrication was preferred because it removed any traces of the individual human hand.

Minimalism also sought to destroy a great deal of the distinctions between painting and sculpture. Clemens Greenberg, a renowned art critic, had many formalist concepts, especially regarding painting, that the minimalists rejected. This in turn helped to forge the identity of their principles and aesthetic choices. Donald Judd was also a great writer, and many of the ideas behind the movement were well articulated in his texts. These became reference points for many critics and collectors, and also helped to solidify the intentions and direction of Minimalism within the context of art history.


By the late 1970’s, Minimalism was a worldwide phenomenon.

With Minimalism, painting had changed from being a window to another world. Works in the minimalist style instead emphasized the flatness of the canvas and the literal qualities of the paint, how it could be used as a material in it’s own right, rather than concentrating on its ability to create an illusion of space, light and emotional expression. Piet Mondrian, The Bauhaus, Russian Constructivism and the work of Constantin Branscusi, with his simple yet elegant sculptural forms, were all inspirations on the aesthetics and concepts that helped to form Minimalism.

Cultural Influence

Minimalism, its style and principles have had a huge impact on the worlds of design, architecture and fashion. You can walk into high end flagship fashion stores today, and the way that many of them have been decorated in a simplistic, ascetic fashion steals a great deal from the advances that minimalism made.

The Bauhaus movement was built around utility and the employment of simplistic color palettes and geometric forms, and with artists such as Judd and Stella adding their own take through their own artworks, these influences can be felt in almost all contemporary design in some form or another.

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Why is Art such a Valuable Investment?

According to the 2015 TEFAF art market report, the international art market is now worth more than 51 Billion Euros.

In 2015, Pablo Picasso’s ‘Women of Algiers’ (Version O) was sold for $179,365,000 at Christie’s auction house. The painting had been expected to exceed $140 million, but the final price was far higher than anticipated due to fierce and competitive bidding between competitors.

Previously, the most that any painting had been sold for at Christie’s had been $142.4m in 2013 for a triptych by Francis Bacon of the painter Lucian Freud (and in case you were wondering, yes, he is a relative of Sigmund).

In the same auction, Alberto Giacometti’s life-size sculpture ‘Pointing Man’ sold for $141.3m, earning it the title of the world’s most expensive sculpture ever sold at an auction.

Most of us don’t have a spare $180 million lying around to invest in a single painting, but these incredible figures do show us just how valuable an investment in art can be. These numbers are from one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world, and the collectors are themselves, incredibly wealthy individuals who understand both the financial worth, and the intrinsic value of great art.

Tefaf Art Fair - 2013

But you don’t have to buy at this level in order to make an intelligent and rewarding investment. Art is valuable at every one of its different tiers, throughout its varied and distinctive genres. It is a unique market because value is subjective in a way that is almost impossible with any other type of artifact, service or commodity. The objective value placed on a work of art by the Market can rapidly escalate according to the individual tastes and sensibilities of collectors and dealers. We all see, feel and think about different things when we experience a work of art, and this subjective angle is an important part of ascribing value to each artwork.

The exact purpose of art within society is ambiguous. It can be used as a record and reflection of a time, a culture or an event in history. Art can be created to display wealth and prestige, act as an acerbic form of cultural and institutional critique, or exist as a means for pure and free emotional expression. Art is many things to many different people. Because its function within society is not dictated and fixed (as is the role of education, infrastructure, the welfare system etc), it is free to occupy these weird and wonderful realms. This is part of the reason that it maintains such a subjective and special quality, and also this is an aspect of why it can become so valuable.

Investing in the Art that is valuable to you

Sounds obvious, but when choosing an artwork, pick something that speaks to you personally. Living with a work of art, you will find new layers, meanings and elements to each work all the time. Experiencing an artwork for 20 minutes in a gallery is very different to living with a painting for 20 years, and seeing it every day on your wall. Over time, you will go deeper into the brushstrokes, marks and pencil lines. You will both consciously and unconsciously learn more about its color palette, composition, technical touches and subtleties in meaning and style.

If you are a huge fan of photorealism, geometric abstraction or photography, then invest in artworks from these genres. Choose a piece that you can hang on your wall and enjoy for its aesthetic, technical, though provoking, and unique intrinsic qualities. There is no right or wrong reason for you to choose the artworks that you wish to invest in. But you can be sure that you are making a sound financial investment that you can take pleasure in for many ways for years to come.

Intrinsic Value

Another reason why art is so valuable is because it can be totally unique. Picasso’s ‘Women of Algiers’ (Version O) is taken from a series of 15 paintings on the subject, lettered from A – O. It is a totally original work of art, created at a time in history that can never be repeated, by a man who can never paint another canvas again, because he is no longer alive. Timing and context are exceptionally important in works of art, and all great artists are aware of this fact. An artwork is tied to the point in history in which it was created, whether it acts as a commentary on the events and circumstances, is ahead of it’s time, or is making its best efforts to appear ahistorical.

If you also add the artistic achievements and cultural prestige of Picasso, one of the worlds most respected, favored and influential artists, then you can begin to grasp how the bidders arrived at this astronomical price. Art is, and will continue to be, a highly valuable and rewarding investment.

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Ideas that Changed Art Forever – Land Art

Bored with the confines of traditional mediums, a selection of Artists in the 60s, 70s (and beyond) turned towards the vast and untamed places that existed beyond the confines of the gallery walls and the city limits to create Land Art. They began to travel into the vast deserts and expansive wild places across America. These epic places opened up a new sense of scale and possibility within art that had never been possible before. It was not that they loved man the less – they often still worked in gallery settings – just nature more.

This time period had been a time for massive societal and cultural upheaval and change in the arts, and the Land Artists continued these values. They reflected the growing ecology movement, and the changes and sense of optimism that pervaded the world at the time. As Hunter S Thompson, an important and infamous voice of the time wrote: ‘I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top.’ Land Art brought new ideas about working in harmony with our natural environments, and to the role of monumentality within sculpture, to completely new standards, and changed the discourse of Art forever.

The works that these Artists produced became huge international projects that required extensive management in order to realise their creative visions. Millions of tons of earth would be excavated, blown up, reformed, and sculpted into wondrous and though provoking artworks. These are closer in form and scale to ancient phenomenon such as the Nazca lines in Peru, rather than to the paintings and other sculptures that occupied the galleries of the time.

Land Art works with concepts of geological time, light, perspective, the natural landscape and our place within it. It asks the big questions about time, humanity and experience, and provides us with fitting settings to contemplate the answers that we find.

To give you an indication of the scale and magnitude of these artworks, here are a few of the most inspired examples.

Walter De Maria: Lightning Field

Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field, 1977
Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York. Photo: John Cliett.

De Maria found a plot out in Western New Mexico where he planted hundreds of conducting steel rods into a huge grid structure. By day, the work is static and minimal, but in the right weather conditions, it comes alive and crackles with colour and fire as it conducts the lightening strikes during powerful storms. It is a spectacle that is designed to work in perfect harmony with the natural elements, and is memorable, unique and captivating in its results.

Nancy Holt: Sun Tunnels

A photo posted by Kinga (@kinga_rajzak) on Dec 15, 2015 at 10:49am PST


To look at Holt’s Sun Tunnels from a distance, they would seem like 4 derelict concrete tubes cast haphazard into the desert, punctuated by lazily fired bullet holes. Each one is 18 ft long and 9ft high, large enough for a human to comfortable walk through. They are positioned in a cross shape, and in reality, exist as a way to place yourself amongst the sun and stars. The holes that are drilled into the side focus the shafts of sunshine into points that gradually move across the insides of the tunnel over the course of the sunrises, sunsets and seasons. Each tunnel is carefully positioned to align with certain events in the astrological calender: comets, eclipses and important seasonal events will change the way that the light falls on the tunnels, and they are positioned to react with these changes in different ways. They frame the landscape and the changing light, and force you to look at the environment in an original way.

Holt uses functional industrial objects to create poetic, meditative and humbling experiences in the Utah Desert.

James Turrell: Sky Crater

Turrell is hugely famous for his works with light. He builds observation decks, viewing platforms and other ingenious types of artistic apparatus that allow us as viewers to look at the sky and the scenery around us in completely new ways.

A photo posted by James Turrell (@rodencrater) on Nov 17, 2015 at 1:31pm PST

Sky Crater is an art project that began in the 70s, and is still under progress. Turrell excavated an extinct volcano, adding passages, openings and tunnels that each frames the desert sky in a different way. He also flattened the rim, so that when you stand inside the Crater itself, the sky appears as a perfect dome above.

‘My desire is to set up a situation to which I take you and let you see. It becomes your experience.’

Turrell is also a fully qualified pilot and spends a great deal of time flying through the US skies, looking for places to create artworks, and often thinks of the plane cockpit as a studio of sorts.

Richard Long

South Bank Circle - Richard Long

Richard Long built on the idea of sculpture in the expanded field with his progressive walks through landscapes. The journey itself, the experience and the physical presence, the trace of a line became the work itself. Trekking through places like the Himalayas and Scottish Highlands, he would create temporary stone sculptures, in lines, circles and spirals. These would often be photographed and then displayed in this format in his gallery exhibitions.

He thought of this ancient and human activity, walking through a landscape, like him drawing a line, making a mark, on the landscape itself.

Land Art combines disciplines of geology, archaeology and ecology, and assimilates their expansive sense of scale, time and perspective into the artworks it creates.

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Art Fairs: Reflecting and Shaping the Market

What are They?

The major art fairs are huge dates in the international calendar of the Art World.  Prestigious occasions such as Art Basel, TEFAF (the European Fine Art Fair) Art Miami, dOCUMENTA and Frieze bring together artists, galleries, curators, critics, collectors and art enthusiasts from all around the world.

They are opportunities for galleries and art institutions to showcase the work of the artists that they represent, to sell the work, and for the world to take a look at the themes, ideologies, techniques and aesthetics that are shaping the current discourses of art. They show who is making what, why, and how it lines up against all the rest of the work that is being produced at that point in time.

Who Attends?

Art fairs are a convergence of everyone that has some kind of connection with the art market. Artists, gallery owners, curators, writers, critics, collectors, art fans and a wide spectrum of other groups and individuals all attend in a mix of styles, backgrounds, attitudes and motivations. This incredibly diverse crowd creates an eclectic and exciting atmosphere. Often talks, discussions and presentations take place, and they are a great place to network, learn and engage in the Art of the moment.

art fair

The History.

The history of Art fairs is long, varied and rich. Traditional 2 and 3 dimensional mediums such as painting, drawing and sculpture have always needed a setting to be showcased and sold.

The Académie des Beaux-Arts opened their first Salon exhibition in Paris, 1667. This displayed their chosen artists, the roster of individuals who were deemed by the institution to be the best at the time. If you were a painter or a sculptor that wished to exhibit work, there was a rigorous application procedure, and of course, nepotism and institutional motivations played their significant parts in the shadows behind the scene.

This event was one of the most important displays of visual culture of its day. From 1748 – 1890 it played a huge role in determining the developments of Western art, both in accordance and in opposition to its declared values and tastes on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ work. You will find that many of the artists that you love interacted with the Salon at some point during their careers: Painters such as Jacques David, Gustav Courbet and Edouard Manet for example.

In England, The Royal Academy (founded in 1768) also held regular exhibitions known as summer shows. These events became a way to display and sell artworks by the artists that were affiliated with the Academy. Like the Académie des Beaux-Arts, the Royal Academy held a supremely powerful position within English culture, and almost dictated public opinion on what Art should be, how it should be judged and the aesthetic values it should uphold.

In many ways the contemporary Art fairs owe a debt to this model. They are certainly influenced, in a historical sense, by the way that these institutions functioned within, and influenced, the cultural tastes and values of the societies that they were a part of.

What effect they have on the Art Market?

From this background, it is clear to see how the largest art fairs have become institutions in their own right. Art Basel recently titled their fair ‘Art Basel in Basel’, an odd and slightly pretentious act, but one that does demonstrate just how the event has grown to become a cultural symbol in its own right.

Art fairs exert a huge influence over what it bought, sold and seen in the international art market.

What do they Mean?

Art fairs are a reflection of the Art world at any one particular time. The themes that run through them in turn demonstrate the wider opinions and tastes of contemporary trends.

What is great about art fairs is that they are so varied. We have looked at a few of the most prestigious and famous examples, but they are many different varieties all across the world. Fairs that specialize in certain mediums or locations are popular, and every art fair is always an interesting affair. The Internet has rapidly changed the way that Art is discovered, shown and sold, but Art fairs remain hugely influential and important within the global Art sphere.

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10 reasons why you need creativity in your life

Creativity is a vital and essential aspect of progress, innovation and success. As Einstein said ‘Creativity is seeing what others see, and thinking what no-one else has ever thought.’ Here is why developing your creativity will benefit you in everyday life.

Cathartic qualities

A creative pursuit can become a great outlet for venting steam in a positive and cathartic manner. It is an important life skill to develop in yourself a way to exercise the negative and destructive emotions and forces that build up in each and every one of us. Finding a way to turn these potentially damaging sentiments into something positive can have a hugely productive influence in your life. Any creative pursuit can utilize these negative emotions, and use them to influence and inspire paintings, songs, poems, books and poems. From Proust to Goya, the list of creative individuals throughout history who have made use of this technique is endless.

Helps the way you think

Being creative forces you to adopt new ways of thinking. You have to challenge what you think you know, experiment with what you already do, and the results are often incredible. Through one creative task, such as taking a single photograph of a tree every day for a month, you may realize that you have developed a new idea or perspective on a subject, such as a rekindled love of the natural world. Creativity is a tool that allows you to look at the world with fresh eyes, something that we all need to do from time to time.

Be Creative

More energy and better moods

When you become entwined in a creative project, it draws you in and you will suddenly find new reserves of energy to work with. The story you are writing, or the short film you are making, become projects that make you wish for more hours in the day, just so you can work on your creative pursuit. When was the last time you woke up genuinely excited about what you were going to make / create / build that day? Well then, time to start a new project!

Linked to innovation

Innovation comes from turning away from the accepted norms of the time. Copernicus, Newton, More, Einstein, Da Vinci, Smithson, Warhol, Courbet and Picasso are all names that have been immortalized by history. They were all individual and creative thinkers, and used their abilities to help make huge innovative leaps in human progression. Perhaps you yourself might not reinvent the way we understand the universe, but becoming more creative will improve your personal ability to come up with innovative and exciting solutions to problems.

Desirable attribute in modern business

Innovation is a vital aspect within any business. In your career, odds are that an ability to think with creative intelligence will serve you well. It is a characteristic that can be difficult to convey through a resume or an interview, but even the act of making a concerted effort to develop your creative abilities will make this task easier in itself. Creativity can be applied within any profession, looking for new opportunity, seeing processes from different angles in order to improve them, or even the ability to empathise with other people are a few examples of the positive impacts that creativity can improve.

Helps you to see opportunity

Failure is a large part of any creative process. The rules of any creative process are never set in stone, and it is part of their appeal, they are often ambiguous and changeable. Musicians, artists, writers and anyone with a sincere involvement with creativity must understand that failure is part of the game. To be creative, you have to accept that your experimentations will often not work out, but that you must keep on experimenting until you find that perfect colour or ideal sentence.

You start to realize that this is applicable to life. That when events don’t work out in your favour, you can instead draw out the new opportunities that have been presented to you. As James Joyce said ‘mistakes are the portals of discovery’.


Always learning

You can never ‘complete’ creativity. You can always get better, change direction or try something new, and this way of thinking encourages a thirst for knowledge and learning. Teaching yourself a new creative skill will affect your whole life, as well as being highly rewarding. Photography forces you to learn technical skills, and look at the world through a lens for example. Learning to carve teaches you about the properties of materials. Reading books about the way that other people think will reveal new insights about your own thoughts and feelings. In short, creativity encourages your personal desire to learn and discover new things in the world.

Helps you to focus

Creativity will focus your mind. When painting or drawing, you must block out everything and concentrate solely on what you are doing. It is a skill that requires patience and time, and one that most of us don’t practice that much of the time, as the demands of contemporary life and work normally require us to multitask. To cultivate this skill will help to improve your concentration and ability to focus intently, to commit you completely to the present.

Teaches dedication

Natural talent of course plays a role, but it is not a case of either being creative or not. Creative thinking, like everything else, needs to be cultivated through dedicated effort. This takes time, it is not easy, but it rewards the people who endure in many ways.

Tangible results

If you decide to start painting for example, after working, learning, experimenting, failing, repeating and struggling, you will eventually create a tangible image. The painting will exist as the result of all your hard work and newly developed skills. This is incredibly satisfying, and a cycle that becomes self-perpetuating: as you paint the next few paintings, your technical expertise and ability to express your ideas and emotions will improve, and your creativity will augment itself.

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How to See More in an Artwork

Understand the Context

Art is always a reflection of its times. Taking time to think about the political, social and economic events of the period when it was produced will give you a wider scope to comprehend what the artwork is trying to achieve, and why it was made in the way that is was.

Historical context will give you a greater understanding of the purpose of a painting. Picasso’s Guernica for example: A gigantic modernist masterpiece containing huge semi abstracted figures and writhing animals cannot fail to impress when you see it for the first time. Once you know that it is a depiction of the brutal aerial bombing of the Basque town of the same name in 1937, during the Spanish civil war, our understanding will change. As we know this, we gain insight into the artwork, and can comprehend how and why this canvas has toured the world, and earned its reputation as one of the most significant and iconic anti-war images within human history.

Research the Artist

We all know the expression that ‘knowledge is power’, so if you want to see more in an artwork, then it makes sense to research about the artist that produced the artwork you are looking at. This will help you to think about their personality, motivations and the events within their lives that may have shaped the way that they felt about certain subjects.

Joseph Beuys, the German Artist, was shot down in an Airplane during the Second World War on the Crimean Front. The story goes, that a local Tartar tribe, who found him close to death in the snowy woodland, took him back to their settlement and saved his life. Supposedly, they smothered him in fat and wrapped him in felt to keep him warm. These unconventional materials became influential within his own sculptures, and unless you knew their story and relevance to his life, then they would be shrouded in mystery.

Joseph Beuys

Empathise with the conditions of the time

There is a phenomenon called shifting baseline syndrome, which basically means that as humans, we automatically assume that the conditions of our live are the norm, because it is what we are used to. Although we attempt to comprehend how it must have been for the general population 100 or 200 years ago, it is very difficult for us to imagine with any validity. For example, a large portion of the world now owns a mobile phone. 10 year old children in the developed world will grow up with the idea that this is the accepted norm, and if they have used and owned a mobile since this age, then the idea of not having one and not being connected to the internet all the time will seem foreign to them. For anyone older than 25, we can all perfectly well remember a time when mobile phone use was not ubiquitous.

In the same vein, try to think about this when you look at Artworks. Oil paint for example, is now sold readily and easily in tubes. This was not always the case, these paints used to be sold as raw material that had to be ground by the artists, or the assistants, and mixed in a hugely time consuming process. The next time you look at a Dutch still life painting, think about how the artist will have spent days just creating the paint, a task that nowadays takes an artist a second to simply squeeze out of the tube.

Listen to your Heart

Art means many different things to many different people, and its motivations and aims vary tremendously. The vast majority of artworks begin as a way to express an idea, feeling, or as some kind of social commentary. Cezanne said ‘that a work of Art that does not begin in emotion is not a work of art’, and this is a good quote to keep in mind when you observe and experience an artwork.

Art Expo

There always exists a wealth of academic ideas, interpretations and individual opinions on almost all aspects of art, but it is important to remember to trust your gut and listen to your heart. If you feel something when you look at an artwork, if it stirs any kind of strong emotional reaction in you, then you must listen to that feeling and follow it to wherever it takes you. Your personal impression of an artwork, the way that it connects with you, is just as important as any lofty and widely accepted view of the most cultured art critics around. It is also ok to be unable to articulate this feeling, so don’t worry about it.

Suspend your own judgment

We all have preconceptions and we all judge. Unfortunately it is part of being human, but when you see an artwork for the first time, it is a good idea if you can try to suspend any opinions that you may already hold. A great artwork will show you the world in a new way. If you have already decided in advance that you are going to hate a certain artwork, or that everything created by another artist is complete genius, then you will miss the idiosyncrasies that make artworks special. Even the greatest artists occasionally made bad paintings, if they didn’t, then they were not trying to be innovative and continually develop their style.

It is very difficult to try to forget what we already know, or to ignore opinions that have already been formed, but if you can, it makes looking at artworks much more rewarding.

Listen to your Head

What do you think the artist is trying to achieve? We all have preferences and different tastes. What may constitute excellence in one field of art could be the mark of bad taste in another. Take the contrast between photorealism and abstract expressionism for example. When you look at an artwork, it is very important to think, for yourself, about what you feel the artist is trying to achieve. If a portrait does not ‘look’ exactly the way that that person would appear physically according to a photograph, it is not because the artist was unable to create such a rendition, but because they chose to depict that person in a new way, and emphasise a certain aspect of their character. This is well explained by James Baldwin, and should always be kept in mind if you want to see more in an artwork.

“The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.”

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