You Are Not a Real Artist If You Sell Your Art

Have you heard this one? Or maybe had it said to you? Or worse still, maybe you’ve said it! True art must be separate from earning money or it’s just commercial art…. right?

Look, there are a few schools of thought on what it takes to be an artist. There’s the one where true art is for the elite. The educated. The high brow upper class who understand that a goat playing a violin is more than just a goat playing a violin.

They buy art that is deep, meaningful and will last through the ages.

*cough cough*

Sorry, I was choking there for a second on the sheer amount of bull I had just written.

Here’s the thing: the art world isn’t there for you. It’s a giant behemoth designed to line the pockets of the people who continue to tout its validity to the artists who eat that shit up.

Dealers who represent artists and take a cut.

Galleries who show off art and take a cut.

Printers who only print on gold lined, ethically sourced butterfly eyelids so of course the artist must pay for that kind of quality (and there’s the cut).

And so on.

The well heeled don’t buy art for its intrinsic meaning or perceived depth, and they certainly don’t buy art because they like it, they buy it because the artist’s name has value attached to it. And that value gets attached because of the galleries and dealers creating a market.

It’s a false economy.

In order to keep this false economy going, and to make artists clamber for these limited spaces of incredibly high selling art and prestige, they tell you that you won’t be qualified to be in this fun clique if you sell your art because that means you aren’t devoted to your art.

Money means your art has become commercial art and that’s a terrible offence.

It’s an offence because if you go around them, they aren’t taking their cut.

Also, if you go around them, their pool of artists diminishes and the market will eventually switch from being a buyer’s market (ie the galleries etc having all the power) to a seller’s market (meaning the artists wander off and suddenly the power has shifted).

Ask yourself where you got your belief that real art can’t be sold (or made to be sold) for money.

This is important because when you trace where these ideas come from, it becomes clear that it’s a form of propaganda that starts with the very people who benefit from it.

Ask yourself how you would define real art. And why you would define it that way.

We can eliminate craft and decorative arts from this, but for the rest, what is art? Where do you draw the line?

And finally, ask yourself if it’s more noble to suffer to create art or to create art from a place of strength? Is it really better to have to have a day job or struggle to make ends meet because selling art is so ignoble it must be avoided at all costs?

Van Gogh didn’t sell so he must have been great, right? But imagine if he had sold. If he suffered less so he could have made more art. If his life hadn’t ended too early. What pieces did we lose out on because of this?

You know, it’s ok to change your mind and beliefs. It’s, in fact, fucking important to take a good look at what is considered a hard and fast truth. Right now is the time when artists can declare bullshit on the things we’ve been told to hold dear, and actually claim their own place in their own way without the lies and deceit present in the art world.

It’s starting to happen. You can be a part of it. But the first thing you need to do is let go of the idea that money and art can’t go hand in hand.

They can. They do. And, hidden behind the scenes in the art world, they always have. Or there wouldn’t be an art world in the first place.

Paula Mould

Paula Mould

Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula.

She also swears, mostly on purpose.

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