Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The best artist is a dead artist.

It’s Sunday night and we just feasted for Mother’s Day and blew our calorie count with fried snickers for dessert. I preface this blog thought with my eating habits because it’s quickly getting me closer to the dead artist.

I have been told this little fact more than once by gallery owners. Not sure if I should take this as an insult or a goal. I do a quick assessment of my art history classes and recount the more famous artists, the ones that are selling for high dollars at auction houses or don’t even hit the market because they are in museums. Then it occurs to me. It’s a business model. Art becomes a commodity. Once the artist is dead, the commodity becomes limited. As long as I am still alive and kicking I’m making stuff.

Take Van Gogh for instance. Everyone has heard the story about how he never sold anything while he was alive. Once dead he could no longer make the stuff, so his sister in law takes the reigns and starts shopping his art around. I’m sure with a little marketing, a little luck, and a limited quantity she could create a demand. Everyone knows how the story ends. He is everywhere, on umbrellas, totes, handbags, and even has a line of vodka.

Then I think of Patrick Nagel. Believe me it isn’t that great of a leap. He is an artist that captured the epitome of the 80’s. Every Miami Vice viewing house had at least one hanging over their black leather sofa adjacent to the black lacquered side table. He did tons of prints and editions, but I never saw an original. Can’t really say they are hanging in museums. So I googled him and lo and behold he died in 1983 just at the beginning of the 80’s and the end of his career. Now I’m wondering if he has a sister in law or family member that is business and marketing savvy.

I could go on with examples of dead artists. Even artists that created tons of stuff like Warhol. Everyone wants a Marilyn painting or a print now. I’d be happy with a Indian Head Nickel or Kachina Dolls print.

What does this have to do with my artwork and career… nothing. It’s inevitable, I’m going to eat more fried snickers and I’m going to have to pay more taxes


  1. Check out "Is He Dead" by Mark Twain...It's a satire on this very subject! Let's stay alive to pay those taxes!

  2. @ Rob - funny thing with that is it wasn't published and perused until Mark Twain was dead.