The New Definition of Owning Art

The New Definition of Owning Art

I recently read about how the current DSLR camera upgrade path, with incremental increases in image quality, is driven by the over 50 year old photographers who learned shooting film and tweaked their camera settings along with their choice of film to give them maximum image quality. Compare that to the younger camera wielding photographers of today who think in terms of web sized images for social media. For them, the current crop of digital cameras is all the quality they'll ever need, maybe upgrading because the new features will make it easier for them to connect and share images.

I read about a photographer who, at the request of his friends, photographed them at a Halloween party. A week after Halloween, his friends were upset because he hadn't given them the pictures yet because he was too busy. His friends "expected" the pictures as soon as they were taken so they could be posted to social media. For them, the moment needed to be shared as it was happening, and a day or two later, it was forgotten.

The convenience of the cell phone camera, which doesn't produce enough detail or dynamic range, does produce images that are in the here and now and for most people it's enough. In today's world it's about the moment, not about image quailty.

I read about a National Geographic photographer who documented a trip using his iPhone and posting to social media so everyone could share the experience as it happened. In response he did get a few people who complained that the image quality was not up to National Geographic standards, but the few people who complained totally missed the point. Everyone else appreciated that it was about being with the photographer on the trip; sharing the moment.

This explains why people come into our booths and take pictures of our artwork. They share and enjoy the immediacy of the pictures with their friends on a computer or cell phone screen instead of enjoying the actual art. For them it's the new definition of owning.

Artists are struggling trying to keep up with the past. The value of art, or more specifically the value of owning art has changed. It's time to reverse the trend by trying to bring art buyers and collectors back to the art shows instead of people who live their lives in social media.

 A representative of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (at the ZAPP conference) stated that art museums are giving away digital images of the artwork on the museum's web site to increase attendance. But this is contrary to art shows, where the public can actually meet the artist who created the art work. Art shows need to promote art as something rare and treasured so that when people attend, they actually consider owning something that will bring richness or add value to their lives.

Larry Berman

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  • I had been interesting to test my view of the younger generation is correct. I Think that most young people want to enjoy life and not ready to set roots. I see more people having kids in 30's or even 40's. Where what you need is more important that what I want. Also keep in mind that biggest challenge is to create a product that people will appreciate for years to come and break the now factor.  I will be interesting to see those comment as well as you Geoff Coe.

  • This is a really great post, Larry.  I read it right away but it is filled with so many implications for our business and for society that it has been difficult to process everything and craft a coherent response. 

    I don't know that I have one yet.  But I think you are on to something when you mention getting art collectors back in our booths, while we all still have booths to bring them back to.  I can point to a couple of culprits:
    * De-emphasis of arts education in our schools
    * Poor job prospects, and therefore lack of home ownership among Millenials leads to having no walls to decorate in many cases.  But among those who do have jobs and are renting, I wonder how they are decorating their walls?  When our generation was in college and in our mid-20s, we bought posters.  Are posters still selling to Milennials? Are the proliferation of labs that can print poster-sized prints of snapshots (a technology that didn't exist in our salad days) driving the creation of an alternative way of decorating?  Or are walls going blank? 

    If anyone has done research on decorating trends among this group, or knows an interior designer who works with Millenials, that would be an interesting comment to read. 

  • Larry, you are right on about a place for everybody.  We need to keep in mind that "Art" is a looked at differently by each of us.  You can take a dozen photographers or painters to the same location and tell them to create a piece of art.  You will get back a dozen different versions of art.  If this occurs with artists why would we not expect it of the general population.

    I would bet that you take more than 10 prints to any show.  That's because you do not know what the public wants.  You take multiple prints and in my case various venues and hope someone recognizes the creative work that went into a piece and are willing to part with some cash so they can enjoy that "Art"

  • As a photographer monitoring the trends on some of the photography forums, I've seen the complaining and decline of the wedding photographer. In actuality, most photographers who call themselves professional are probably wedding photographers. They went from charging for the traditional shooting/editing and then selling albums/prints to selling a CD with the images at a much lower price, in order to continue in what really is a dying business. But the super star wedding photographer are working non stop and charging through the roof for their services and also teaching or running workshops.

    This correlates to what you touched on about creating art and selling selling digital files in a way the younger "owner" would like to display or use them.

    I think really good artists will survive and thrive. But what makes a really good artist or how do you define what one is. And more importantly, how do we get the art shows to promote the rarity of the artist instead of creating the party atmosphere that draws the younger attendee that is more interested in social media than displaying original art on their walls.

    Art shows are a tough market. There are great artists who are pushing the limits of their mediums, and artists who are just getting by doing minimal work that the masses will buy. But as tough a market as art shows are, there is a place for everybody at whatever artistic skill and marketing level they are at. Not everyone needs to do a top ten show like Cherry Creek. There are a million options of shows to choose from.

    Larry Berman

  • I agree with you Larry. Not much more I can comment as you and other's have pretty much summed it up. I guess the questions begs, how do we turn things around? Is print a dead style of displaying anything? Seems that is the case for newspapers and some magazines. Will it be for artwork as well?

    If they can't get it on their PC's, phones or pads, it seems they just don't care. I don't think my kids even watch the local news on television. They want everything from their phones and internet. As far as prints or hanging things on their walls, I hate to admit, my kids wall's are bare. I have made prints for them, and they lean them against the wall.

    So do artists throw in the towel, or adapt to meet the challenges? In a small way, and because I lack the actual talent to paint my stuff traditionally, I have adapted to technology and do my paintings in digital format. I do compose my images by trying to capture on digital film what my mind envisions, and then convert this to photo and onto digital painting. This now has given me two options, (1) I can print out my work using archival inks and media for traditional hanging on walls, or (2) I could sell these images as files, for web, or other electronic formats and displays.

    Granted this will not work for every type of art, especially 3D artists. As one mentioned, a photo isn't going to work as a table. For those that work in 3D, I think their dilemma is not in social media, but cheap and often foreign made knock-offs of works in their particular style of art. Much the same as for painters that deal with assembly line paintings coming from overseas.

    The problem when pinpointed seems to me to be a simple lack of appreciation for the love and labor that is poured into the work by artist.

    I know that some view photography and what I do (digital painting) as something that one can do with a simple push of a button. But this simply isn't true, I spend many hours; searching for that perfect shot; photographing it and editing it; then digitally painting and printing, framing and canvas mounting, just to create one image. It may be hard to compete with someone that takes the same shot and only wishes to post it on their social media site or view it on a screen. I can only hope that viewing the final image hanging on a wall will sway those to buy the piece. And it could be the demographics. My kids are 23 and 20. They rent as of now, and don't wish to punch holes in their rented walls. They don't have home phones, only cell phones, and they are more mobile and unstable in comparison with previous generations. My house has more family photos hanging than their age group may ever have. I take a lot of photos of family and put them on digital media or social media, but I still hold an appreciation of printed media. I guess I am a what-if person. What if the drive fails and I lose those priceless images, or the social media site closes or goes away, what becomes of my images? On the other hand, what if I rely solely on printed media and the house burns down? Having embraced both technology and traditional formats, I have a chance at recovering my images.

    I don't have a solution to the issue, change with the times or give up?

  • I have the feeling that when photography was first invented and began to become popular with the public portrait artists (in particular) had the same complaints.

  • My view is that I create Photographic Art for my own pleasure.  I sell my Photographic Art to those who recognize it's value.

    I know we all want to sell so we can continue to put beans on the table and to continue to create our own art.  If we need the sale of art to be more important than our own pleasure then we need to be aware of how to sell that "art".  If it means selling CD's of our work so be it.  If it means selling screen savers so be it.  Whatever it takes to make the sale. 

    Problem is we can't look at a person and judge if he wants "cheap" art or is willing to pay because he/she recognizes value in your art.

    Larry I think this is a good discussion to have.


  • So the new market will be selling DVDs of rotating images, all in wide screen format for 2 minute interval viewing on those monster sets every one is now buying? That's gets the variety and satisfies the new short attention spans of the younger folks. I suppose if you're technically inclined you can use the software that does the "Ken Burns Zoom" to spiff it up. It'll at least make for an easy booth installation, nothing to sell but DVDs. Hang a bunch of sample posters on the wall and you're set to go. Until somebody ups the ante and starts schlepping in a bunch of flat panels sets and hangs them on the walls like an AV shop with boatloads of different DVDs playing at the same time. If that's the future, count me out and I'm done.

  • I wonder if the demise of wall art is linked to the increasing number of televisions hung on walls.

  • This is what I call "word art".


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