When I first began painting and had finally created a few things that I felt were worthy of a price tag, I joined an artist co-op in Baltimore, Maryland. The Art Gallery of Fells Point was located on Thames Avenue in Fells Point and had a membership of about 60 artists; all of whom had to be juried into membership. I was thrilled! Even more thrilling was that I immediately began to sell my artwork. Barely a month went by when I didn't sell at least one painting and often it was more than that. That was in 1999. And for two years things were great! Then, along came 9/11.
After that, art sales dropped, rose again, then dropped, dropped, dropped, kept on dropping and then became almost non-existent. It was frustrating because I knew that my artwork was getting better and better. And from talking with other artists, I knew I wasn't the only one. Then the galleries began to close their doors.
At last I was left with no gallery representation and I endeavored to represent myself. I read the trade magazines that all proclaimed that the era of brick and mortar galleries was over and all sales would have to be made online. Artists should interface with the public by having a website at the barest minimum. But, even better to have a blog and maintain it daily. Better than that, was to promote your website and blog by keeping a Facebook personality.
So, I tried it all.
Then, when that still wasn't working I attempted the outdoor sales and invested money in a canopy and all the other necessary equipment. Things were better, but only a little.
Fortunately, I found the art fairs to be fun, but very frustrating; especially if I happened to get placed between two jewelry booths.
Over the past 10 years it has become increasingly noticeable that sales of fine art have declined. But usable, wearable art is very, very popular.
I have my own theories about this, but the "why's" don't really matter. I just wonder if fine art will ever again be appreciated by the masses. I know that wealthy, cultured people still purchase fine art; usually not less than four digits in the price tag (that's four digits to the left of the decimal point). So sure, I could add digits to my price tags, too. But getting accepted by galleries where these fine collectors shop (or their personal buyer or decorator shops) is a whole different story.
Artists who appeal to the mainstream, like myself, are competing with Target and Walmart for wall art. We're competing with China and mass produced, lower quality prints. It's tough.
I don't have an answer. I love creating fine art to hang on the wall. I love jewelry, but I have no desire to make it, and the same goes for pottery.
For now, I will continue to create my mixed media paintings and attempt to sell them, but I'll also put my images on t-shirts, license tags and coasters, too, in the hope of generating some sort of income with which I can purchase more art supplies. It's a vicious cycle.
But, I know this... I'd hate to live in a world where original fine art ceases to exist. What a sad, gray world this would be.