Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't Listen To The Artist!

In the latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine there is an article about Van Gogh and his night paintings. One point that stood out for me was where it mentioned how horribly disappointed he was with his painting, Starry Night. He thought it was a total failure. It reminded me of my own experiences with my art and dealing with other artists. I find, pretty consistently, that the public reacts much differently to art than the artists would predict. Often my least favorite piece is the one that people tend to react to and like the best. I have to hold my tongue. I'd like to say, "What? You like that one!?! But it really isn't any good." I don't know why this is. I haven't found that it has to do with how much experience a viewer has with art, they could be a seasoned collector or a novice. It might have to do with the extra work that goes into the failures. I can spend twice as long working on a piece that I don't like in order to try and save it and then finally give up when I realize there is nothing left I can do. I think it may also have to do with how artist will fixate on one minor part of a piece that doesn't feel right where as the viewer never notices or cares about the details, they react to the piece as a whole. As a gallery owner, I see the same thing with other artists. It isn't unusual to see someone's least favorite piece be the first to sell. The bottom line is that artists are often the worst judges of their own work.


  1. I agree with you on this. There have been times I thought, when I get this piece back from the gallery I'm going to dismantle it...then it sells!

  2. I think sometimes this phenomenon is an artifact of commerce. I often price something I'm not fond of lower than the things I like. Then it sells beause it is relatively cheap.

    I'm in Washington DC and have been museum-hopping. What a treat!

  3. Pricing hasn't been the cause of my observations though, because I try to price work consistently, apart from personal preferences. This discussion is actually a clear reason for consistent pricing, artists are not good judges of how the public will react to their work. It is true, you can under price work and have it move quicker, but that can be counter productive in the long run if people start waiting around for artist discounts. It also causes confusion for the public as to what something is worth.