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Tuesday, 06 December 2011 08:31

Art in a Time of Economic Downturn

Written by Izzy Woods
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With the state of the U.S. economy hardly booming, how have Los Angeles' art galleries weathered the storm, and how has the credit crunch affected the rest of the country's and the world's art communities as a whole? When consumers see their pay checks having to stretch further than ever before, it's hardly surprising those little extras we might usually splash out on fall by the wayside. Perhaps you now make your coffee for the commute at home instead of popping into Starbucks - every little counts, after all. So if we're all tightening our purse strings on even the smallest of items, those higher-priced pieces like artwork that we'll occasionally buy must really be suffering.

 



Art Attacked
Due to the recession, it's true that many Los Angeles galleries have certainly scaled back on the number of new works they're acquiring - and this can only mean one thing - that artists themselves are finding it harder than ever to get their work on show. As a result, artists are now turning their attention to other areas like New Mexico and Arizona in order to draw consumers.

It's also become apparent that much of art's more affordable middle market has dwindled rapidly. This is down to the fact that people on an average income who might buy art purely because they like it as opposed to it being a real investment piece simply can't afford to splurge on unnecessary items in this uncertain economic climate. g
Rationality takes precedence
Ultimately, for many, art is an extravagant purchase - even if a well-known artist has not created it and is comparatively cheap in the art world, most people these days can't justify spending a few hundred dollars on something just because they like the look of it.

However, as Mark Steven Greenfield, Director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery told localartla.com:

"What I see happening is a return to work that has a basis in skill and craft. The thing I've been telling people is that as bad as the economy is, it's probably the best time to be marketing art, because your motivations are really clean."

By that Greenfield means that true artists are not concerned with raking in the money, but instead they're concerned with creating works with meaning. It's therefore easy to determine the true artists from the frauds as if money is their only motivation, in this current climate they won't be compelled to create, as they'll see no reason to bother as people are much less likely to buy. If an artist who simply 'has' to create because that is what they do, then it's irrelevant to them what the economy is currently doing.

But while the actual buying and selling of artworks might be down, the thirst for art certainly is not, as The Art Newspaper can testify with its survey on museum attendance.

According to The Art Newspaper who surveyed 20 major institutions, the actual number of visitors going to art museums is up. In fact, two thirds of these 20 establishments saw a rise in visitors.This is the case with New York's Museum of Modern Art which had its best year ever in terms of visitors through its doors in 2008-2009 (at the start of the recession). Further afield, the UK is experiencing the same increase in visitors to its museums. For instance, in 2010, Tate Modern had a total number of visits of 5,061,172 (up 7%), while Tate Britain saw an 11% rise in its visitor figures to 1,665,291. In Liverpool, meanwhile, things are looking very rosy indeed for the Walker Art Gallery which had 251,543 visitors - up by 17%.

But back to the LA scene - and according to Van der Schueren of LA Voila! art gallery it's all about having a gallery that showcases a diverse range of art. Diverse in subject and diverse in price - so that art lovers from all walks of life will feel compelled to step foot inside the door. For instance, while it might not be considered fine art, the steampunk movement which re-works once useable 19th century objects into artwork, is particularly popular in the city.

To conclude, it seems, as with many other sectors in the economy, the art world is not without its casualties. However, artists are naturally creative so this time of economic downturn should only serve for them to be even more resourceful in getting their work out there. The LA art scene can continue to thrive, but it'll need to stay savvy.

-- Izzy Woods is an art fan and freelance travel writer who pens features for numerous culture and travel publications. She loves freebies and vouchers, and her writing often documents the good-value galleries she visits on her adventures.

Read 4666 times Last modified on Monday, 12 December 2011 03:27

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