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Old 04-25-2012, 04:05 PM
downriver downriver is offline
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Speaking of donated art

Donated Art Auctions have created a question in my mind for quite awhile.

Every household only has so much discretionary income, and everyone’s art purchases are budgeted out of discretionary money.

But, charity events corner and control a huge portion of this money. For instance; if a household attends 2-3 events a year and spends $1,500.00 between theevents, purchasing 2- 3 paintings, they may have spent all they can afford for art. They will not look in galleries;they will not spend more money on art.

Our area has a local art guild which has a huge auction every year. We are all expected to donate 2-3 pieces. The community shows up and bids on the art. It does keep the gallery open, but no one ever buys anything in the gallery. We would be better off paying higher dues, I think.

I raise this issue occasionally, as it seems so self-defeating for artists to keep donating art, “flooding” their local market, then to agonize that they can’t find buyers or buyers don’t have any money.

Am I missing something?

Last edited by downriver : 04-25-2012 at 04:08 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:16 PM
AllisonR AllisonR is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Nope, in a small local area, you are not missing anything. I think though, to actually do something PRODUCTIVE about it, you are going to have to get organized. No long winded speeches - what you wrote here is simple, clear and to the point. What I would do is have some sort of event - a group show with every artist allowed show one painting - for sale. Get the word out, so you get as many local artists as possible to attend. If a show event is not possible, have a coffe-tea and cookies meeting at your house. And have a meeting. If you can do the show, then say they all have to drop off work at the place on X date from 1 to 3 pm. Then they are all there, a captive audience. Have them all sit down and have this discussion, Short and sweet. And then offer alternatives. 1. you could set up a show yourselves for once or twice a year. 2. YOu could all agree to each give only 1 painting per year to whichever charity event you want. 3. Something else. Think about it.
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:02 PM
downriver downriver is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Let me add that I'm as guilty of this as everyone else.

My walls are full of Art from Ducks Unlimited, The Boys and Girls Club Auction, Public Television's Fundraiser, The Local Chamber of Commerce Wine and Gift Auction.

Would I have bought most of these pieces in a gallery? No. But it did keep me from shopping freely for what I want and like.
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Old 04-25-2012, 07:57 PM
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Diane Cutter Diane Cutter is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

This year I decided I would no longer give a piece of work to our Guild fundraiser. Yes, I was a co-founder and, yes, the money raised is used to pay instructors for Guild run workshops (which I benefit from financially), so why am I against it.

The auction is held right across the street from the gallery where my work hangs. It doesn't bring buyers to the gallery and friends look forward to getting a 'Cutter' for pennies at the auction. I finally had to assess what this was worth to me. The upshot is... I will no longer donate art, instead I gave the Guild a check to go toward the fundraiser. I say win-win because I'm not hurting my market and I'm still donating to the guild.

There has to be a better way to work out the charity thing for your group. Allison raises some excellent points. If I were in your shoes, I'd rather pay more in dues. What about a fund-raiser where a 10% discount is given on anything sold in the store...

Diane

Last edited by Diane Cutter : 04-25-2012 at 07:59 PM.
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Old 04-25-2012, 09:21 PM
downriver downriver is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Thanks for commenting, Allison and Dianne.

I see this as a larger problem than just my local art group. Any charity/non-profit event seems to offer a tremendous amount of art as prizes for drawings and raffles, silent or outcry auctions.

As artists, if we continue to donate works of art to random organization fundraisers, we allow the charity to compete for the discretionary money that might be spent on art.

I don't know how the art community let themselves get in a position that they are the backbone of the donations that create competition for their own markets. Very few seem to question it. I don't see the rationale in "looking at as "it keeps my name out there."

The travel industry also finds themselves in this predicament. There isn't any easy solution at this point, but it is something that should be questioned more.
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Old 04-25-2012, 10:54 PM
moebean moebean is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Personally I am sick of being asked to donate. Why don't they purchase a piece and then have the auction and take whatever profit?

Sorry...I just get asked so many times a year and they don't seem to take into account the time and effort I dedicate to my pieces. It would essentially be the same as asking someone who works a 40 hr work week who makes minimum wage to take a vacation but then asks them come work for them for free during their time off. It's insulting.
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Old 04-26-2012, 04:18 AM
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Would I have bought most of these pieces in a gallery? No. But it did keep me from shopping freely for what I want and like.
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How has it stopped you shopping freely? I don't quite get that. You have no obligation to buy things at charity auctions, no one does. Just as no artist is obligated to donate to art auctions either. You wanted art and went to a venue within the system that had art.

I donate maybe one painting a year, if that. Often it's a larger one. I donate and don't worry about if it's keeping people from galleries. I don't think it is. I donate because the value the organisation puts on my work (I always determine this) is an amount of money I could never actually donate to a cause I feel very strongly about. And I would never donate so much as to saturate my local market, I have to say 'no' after a certain point.

I also don't understand the "random organization fundraisers" comment. Why is it random? We should be extremely selective in who we donate our work to. Just say 'no' if the donation wouldn't fit your business plan, if you don't at least get the contact information of your buyer, and if the charity is not important to you. (the test: would you donate the painting's value as cash if you had it? would you actually volunteer to work for this group if you could?)

None of this is forced. If you feel donating to charity takes away from your potential market, don't donate. I don't feel a charity auction (which should have prices similar to retail anyway, if done properly) removes people from the gallery system. Rather, the charity auction system is just another part of the auction/charity/studio/gallery system. It brings people TO art, doesn't remove them from it.

For the specific problem here - it sounds more like a problem of an artist organisation not run well enough as a business, rather than the charity auction being the issue. I think if you're being told to donate to support an artist group then break down the numbers to make sure it is worthwhile. If not then voice that. Show the numbers! But remember that if you yourself say you bought at auction but wouldn't go to a gallery, that the people buying at *your* auction may also still never go into the gallery even if there wasn't an auction. That's something that must be considered. Do these buyers never come in the gallery at all? ALL of them? Do you contact the people who have bought your work to invite them to see new pieces? To see new exhibitions at the gallery? It could be time either to move on or to suggest a new operating structure to make it a well-promoted business.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:11 AM
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Greg Long Greg Long is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

I don't donate work. I will donate money, I'd rather donate the costs of the work rather than a painting for one simple reason;
Charity fundraisers have one purpose only, to raise money. If they can only get a $20 offer for a painting they will take it, after all $20 is better than nothing. All too often auctions devalue work. I have found that reserve prices are very rarely adhered to by the auctioneer or organisers. Consequently for a long time the only charity events my work goes to are exhibitions where the commission is paid to the organisation rather than to a gallery. This way we both win, they earn, I earn and often I find new buyers who wouldn't buy in a gallery.
Yes, I have bought art at charity fundraisers. I have bought quite expensive art for less than the price of the frame, the work of artists I couldn't afford elsewhere, so no, I wouldn't have bought in a gallery situation. Again it boils down to too many organisations not valueing the work of artists.
The only time I have seen a charity auction run in an artist friendly way was one where the auctioneer was a professional from a fine-art auction house who noticing that an art dealer was trying to buy many works for a very low opening bid refused to sell anything below about 40% of retail value, much to the annoyance of the dealer who was extremely vocal in her protestations, having been used to buying up art at knock-down prices.
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Old 04-26-2012, 08:13 AM
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Re: Speaking of donated art

People are buying art from the auction, not from the artist/gallery. I can see that this is a double edged issue.

First, the artists and galleries are not being paid for the art. This undercuts their ability to stay in business. Even artists who choose not to sell their art incur some costs for production.

Second, the perceived value of the art drops. Greg mentions the case of an art dealer who was scooping up art at cut rate prices. This applies to general buyers as well. Diane mentions people looking to pick up a "Cutter" for pennies at the auction rather thn paying full price.

The charities probably love to get the art. Art is a classy incentive to give generously. Many people buying at a fundraising auction are more concerned with making a charitable gift than they are with scoring a great deal, especially the ones making sizable donations. The incentive gift just provides a justification for a larger gift. These are the potential customers the artist/gallery is losing. They have the money for art, likely have the sophistication, but they already got the art at the auction, they may not want or need another. The people who are bargain hunting are likely not going to be regular customers at full retail price in any case.

It has been mentioned that donations to fund raisers do not bring customers back to the artists/galleries. This has been my experience. When I opened my shop I began almost immediately to get hit up for raffle prizes, fundraiser donations, etc. At first I put together well thought out gift baskets show casing my products. It ddidn't take long to realize that this was adding up to a significant cost. So, I switched to giving gift certificates, usually in a moderately low denomination. Enough to buy something small or make a significant payment, but not so much I would incurr substantial loss. I have seen only a handful of those gift certificates come back. The ones that came back were always cashed in by existing customers.

I do not think that donations to fund raisers are an effective means of advertising. If you want to support the cause without opening your own pocketbook then by all means donate a piece of art. But do not expect it to bring you business down the road.
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Old 04-26-2012, 11:40 AM
downriver downriver is offline
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Timelady, Thanks for joining in the discussion. Let me clarifiy a couple of my points for you, perhaps I didn't express them well.

In my explanation and examples, we should forget that I paint, or have an artist interest in the discussion. And set aside my example of the local art group for a minute.

Like many households, mine only has so much budgeted for charity and homedecor or art. If I go to events and spend that portion of my budget, then I have something to hang on my wall, and I've spent my alloted budget funds.

Did I shop for just what I wanted and like at any gallery? No, I limited my selection to what was available at the events.

Did any of the money trickle in to the art community, supporting artists? No, only to the charity.

I only started painting again 3-4 years ago, I paint to humor myself. I am not trying to support myself with my art, but I am surrounded by people that are. I was in business and very active in the community. I headed up many fundraisers and participated in many; chamber of commerce, political events, youth organizations, etc. The people that attend these events are a huge part of the potential artist marketplace. There is no "trickle down" effect in the money. It all stops with the charity, it doesn't fund the artist.

Because I understand business, I always see the charity art donations as the direct competition for sales or money which the art community desires to have in their pocket.

Changing the thought and mindset on this must begin within the art community.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:07 PM
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Re: Speaking of donated art

Then perhaps you need to look at the other side of the coin.

In business there are venues and events - but the other side is the customers. Both need to be defined. Define the target market as who would buy your artwork. So if some people go to charity auctions and not galleries, then are they genuinely your (or another artist's) target market? Each artist has to decide that and then aim their activities and promotional efforts at their target market.

You say these groups are a huge potential for the art market - but there is no proof they are. If they were then at least some of that potential would trickle through from a smaller proporation of the buyers - and we'd see customers after charity auctions. They would show that they are still interested in art beyond just the auctions. Since the general consensus is that we *don't* see them aftewards, then it's unlikely they would actually be a significant market for direct purchases of art. It's far more likely that they are simply strong supporters of charitable and community causes.

These buyers are, for the majority, buying art for secondary reasons. The art is the secondary motivation, with charity or community being the primary motivation. So these are not my primary market to aim for. So I'm not going to worry about them, or the charity industry that gives them the product and experience they are shopping for.

Tina.
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