Ultra contemporary art annual report

There is a free but quite serious report on that at https://www.artprice.com/artmarketinsight/the-ultra-contemporary-art-market-annual-report

Not that I am going to look up the names mentioned there, but just in case someone will...


  • Someone asked on an older thread. "...so is art just a business? "

  • If art were just a business, then the vast majority of artists would have downed tools and closed shop long ago. But there's more to art than that. And it's that "more" that keeps us painting.
  • @Suez thanks for taking the hit! I was suspicious of that "art", you have confirmed it! Sure there will be few artists worth looking at.

    I disagree with @KingstonFineArt and 100% agree with  @tassieguy. One cannot say better.
  • I am not demeaning people who paint and choose not to be in the market. 
    When does the student become an artist? I don't know but I'll take a guess. 

    There are many marketplace to work in. From doing local shows, teaching classes, donating art to good causes... to selling your work in a NYC gallery or having a sidewalk show in any big city. Of course the internet reaches several billion people every day. 

    If an artist chooses to be an art hermit and not get out into the world. Are they an artists? If I say I'm an outdoor writer and haven't published anything. All I've done is outline some stories. Am I a writer?
    Many of the people I come in touch with are great at their craft. But never venture into the public eye. I don't know why. 

    Once you jump the creek and enter a a group show where your art must be for sale... you're in the business. If you sell stuff even more so. There's sales or vat tax. Local and state income tax.  You may even get some commissions. Real ones from people you don't even know! That's being in a business. People will be seeing your work and may even buy it. 

    I feel that art is a two way street. You paint with feeling and emotion. For those feeling to be expressed they have to be experienced by other human beings. Maybe even critical human beings. Without that our works are unfulfilled. Even a good website gives a place for our art to be appreciated. It's the interaction that make art business. It may not be financial transactio... but it is human transaction.

    Why is business seem to be such a crass term to some? Is it because our previous lives in corporate life were so bad? Is putting paint on canvas some sort of spiritual fulfillment? It can be I guess. But it's really just a lot of work, hard work, practice and learning. Oh and I forgot ... Fun!


  • If an artist chooses to be an art hermit and not get out into the world. Are they an artists? If I say I'm an outdoor writer and haven't published anything. All I've done is outline some stories. Am I a writer?
    Emily Dickinson is considered 'one of the most important figures in American poetry'. Never attempted to publish a thing - her sister found her poems after she died and that's how the world discovered them. When did she become an artist? I would venture to say when she found her voice to express what was within her, not when she was published.
  • @Suez
    If only it were so simple the have others to your business. 

    Your father was right. Art school taught nothing about the practical business side of things. Most still don't. I taught a course on the business of illustration 40 years ago. From self promotion to bookkeeping, presentation and even managing a checkbook. Most were indifferent but a few smart ones become successful.

    Click on the link in the initial post in the thread. Dig into it. This is secondary or even lower tier of 'fine art' markets. The big money is dead artists. 

    How do you think of the interaction process. Is it just cold buy 'n sell. Is it a bargaining process. Is it an emotional as well financial fulfilling. Do you, everyone, just wait and hope someone will come along and buy you art or ask you to do a formal portrait of the local Judge?

    For us to get seen, known, desired we gotta be out there. It's hard. Harder than painting.   

  • @Abstraction

     Dig into the  https://www.artprice.com/artmarketinsight/the-ultra-contemporary-art-market-annual-report in the first posting here.

    No Emily Dickinson would not fit into the Ultra Contemporary Art Market

    I guess the question is why do we paint? Why?

    I paint to connect with an audience. 

  • I guess the question is why do we paint? Why?

    I paint to connect with an audience. 
    An audience, yes, there is that. Most artists, whether musicians, actors, dancers, writers or painters want applause. And for that, they need an audience. Therefore, painters need to somehow get their work out there if they want an audience. 

    Then there is the financial aspect. If we are not wealthy, we'd like to be able to at least cover our costs. Again, we need to get our work before the public in some way if we want to do that.

    But applause and money are only part of the story. I think most serious painters soldier on without these simply because they love it; they have a passion for it. I think I'd paint on even if I had no audience and wasn't making anything from it - partly because I can (I'm retired and have my superannuation/pension fund to live on) but, more importantly, because it keeps me interested in life. It's why I get up in the morning. I reluctantly down tools late at night when I'm too tired to go on, and I can't wait till morning to get back to my easel. Painting provides intellectual and physical stimulation. It's the perfect retirement pastime if it interests you. And, most of all, I have a passion for creating beauty that will, hopefully, resonate with others, even if that happens after I'm dead. Which, as far as I can see, is the only eventuality that will ever stop me painting. So, it's not entirely about an audience and making money. For me, it's as much about having a reason to get up in the morning and pursuing a passion.
  • edited October 15
    My post directly responded to a specific point you made that went beyond the contemporary art market into broader philosophical questions that asks questions around:
    What is art? When does a student become an 'artist'? You made the point that they are only 'great at their craft' and implied do not become an artist until they, 'venture into the public eye.'
    I responded with my view that a person can be an artist without selling or even wanting a audience. I made my point rather well and it stands. Like Emily Dickenson some artists of any genre seek to express something beyond words that they find within them as the primary reason they create, and when their work is good it constitutes art. In terms of 'what is art' and 'what makes someone an artist' it matters not that other people want to either sell or connect with an audience as part of their motivation when great art can be created without these two things.
    And the reason I chose a writer to respond to your question was based on your own statement:
    "If I say I'm an outdoor writer and haven't published anything. All I've done is outline some stories. Am I a writer?" The answer is, yes. Emily Dickinson was a writer, poet and artist of the highest calibre before dying and being published.
  • It's like the tree falling in the woods thing. Only the luck of Emily's sister publishing her poems makes it an issue. 

    It's my feeling that being seen is important. I'm not alone on this. I would imaging it's a driving force within many artist's.

    When I talk about audience I don't mean applause. Hopefully there's a dialog where I may find different insight into my work. The painting creates that not me. The appreciation and critique be viewers is certainly enlightening. But even negative or contrary response is almost always as enlightening. It's not theater. It's hopefully more personal.

    I can't show anymore except in large group shows. Time takes it toll. The venues I showed in didn't make it through covid in tack. But the world and markets are always changing. I pretty much had a blast doing all the different things I did and all the hits and misses. I

    If hadn't leveraged art school connections I would not have made others. I worked on Madison Avenue by using a leverage I didn't know I had. I worked at the Wall Street Journal indirectly from the earlier art school connection and at Bloomberg News from an accomplishment at WSJ.

    I made myself available. That's the most important thing. Not cutting off opportunity or serendipity. Allowing things to happen without fear or resentment.

    That's me. I someone wants to sequester with their art so be it. You don't know what you're missing.

  • I have no desire to sequester my art and for most artists this is true. I was only philosophically exploring what art and an artist is because you explored an interesting question.
    ART AS EXPRESSION: I conclude that, often before the desire to sell or become famous, there is something deep inside that wants to express, create beauty, to get in touch with a part of you that is difficult to put into words (even for a writer who can often only express these things to a level that feels more complete through a serious work*). Even at that level, in my view if you succeed you are an artist and your work is art. You heard the tree fall and feel a level of authentication of what was inside you. If I climbed a tree and nobody saw it, did I really climb a tree. Yes, you did. If I yell from the top of the tree as it's falling and no-one else heard it, did I really yell? Yes, you did.
    ART AS COMMUNICATION: I would suggest a second common impulse, for most or vast majority of artists as you suggest and I agree, is that someone else would see it and think and feel things that were moving you. For many, selling the work is less about money and more that someone else felt something from what prompted you to create and saw the value in it.
    ART BUSINESS: Beyond those two points I suspect that selling is not really about art. It's about a) Pragmatics of making a living - doing something you love; b) Personal authentication and validation - which are very human needs, nothing wrong with them, but I don't classify these aspects as the art; c) Pure business - including artists who manage their image and reputation in order to make more money, or create things that sell that fall short of the artist's , etc. Sure, we can call this business 'art' but for me this is simply the adjective and the noun is business. But if in making their living they still fulfil the first two to me it is art. Implicit is a high level of skill 
    * Art often expresses things inside us difficult to articulate: Someone once asked Anna Pavlova what she was expressing through a dance she had just completed. She looked at the person blankly for a moment, then said, 'Let me dance it again.' My literature lecturer told me this story long ago to help us understand art.
  • edited October 16
    I think you covered the artistic, philosophical and commercial ground nicely with the above post, @Abstraction. For serious artists, art is not primarily a business. It's much more than that. And selling, although perhaps important for some, is not really about art. Selling is business. Art is art. 
  • How the 'official' art world views what is an artist.

    I do not share this point of view. Today you can't teach at a community college without a MFA and well established CV. But this is the truth. The accepted 'world view'. Episode 6 is very interesting. It's about Artist websites.

    I encourage you to watch these videos. This is the establishment view. Even if you want to even be in the NFT market. A bit insane but you can't practice medicine, law, architecture, teaching, sell stocks and a host of other disciplines without a 'credentialing'. 
  • edited October 16
    Is there such a thing as the "official"" art world"? Where is its head office? Who are its functionaries? Under whose auspices did it become "official"? Should we care?
  • @tassieguy
    It starts in academia. Big galleries in major art centers like NY, London, etc. The big auction houses. Even mid tier galleries. It's like sports. You need to be viewed through the academic spectrum to be drafted. They're agreeing on standards even down to CV formats. For a very long time now. 

    Even outsider art is sanctioning by the 'establishment'. Sutherby's, Christies's, networks of accepted galleries, etc. The structure starts in undergraduate. No conspiracy theories here.

    If you want to be in the investment grade art markets. You have to follow their guidelines. Just to pay off the $250,000 tuition bill for your masters that allows you to get a $50,000 a year art teaching job.

    To answer "should we care?'. The DMP we? No. Unless you think your work belongs in a vault somewhere. 
  • edited October 16

    If you want to be in the investment grade art markets. You have to follow their guidelines. 
    Well, that's a big "IF". I imagine most painters working today couldn't give a fig about the big auction houses and investment. Most just want to paint and, if possible, make a living out of it. Sotheby's et al are basically for dead artists. Who gives a s*&t about their guidelines? The investment market is not why most of us paint. I can only speak for myself, but I imagine that, for most of us, Sotheby's never enters our head. All we care about is the painting. If our work sells, that's great. If not, we'd continue to paint anyway and drive an Uber to pay the rent. Business, investment and the big multinational auction houses have nothing to do with why most of us paint.
  • @KingstonFineArt. Episode 6?  I didn’t see how to get to that.

  • There are so many things that I like about painting.  I like the quiet time and the opportunity to be away from the demands of “life”.  I like it when the painting goes smoothly and I have all the right brushes and tools that make it go that way.  (@dencals suggestion for keeping brushes in an oil “jar” has helped in that respect 🙏). 
    There are some paintings that are a challenge and others that practically paint themselves.  Some paintings feel like a friend that I and getting to know as I paint it.  Other paintings that are not so “friendly 😂
    As far as the business side of art.  I just enter juried exhibits.  Some I get into. Some I don’t.  Some I get an award or sale.  Some I don’t.  I don’t worry about it.  I see it more like an opportunity to meet other artists and get some paintings on view.  If it ever develops beyond that, that would be great.  If it doesn’t I would still paint and send work to shows.  
    I do think it’s good to get your artwork “out there”.  It can inspire you to keep painting and it can expand your art horizons.  
  • Thanks @KingstonFineArt. I will check it out.
  • @KingstonFineArt thanks again for posting the link about “getting your out out there” et. al.
    I found all of those episodes very much worth watching.  Each episode sort of builds upon the previous ones.
    His comments about developing your vision, consistency in your work and developing your work within that vision is something worthy of consideration. 
    Standing out from the crowd is important too.  I see a lot of the same kinds of works in many of the shows I’ve been to.  And I rarely see any further development in many of the artists over time.
    His video on pricing fits in with what I personally have experienced.
    His video about getting involved in the art community is a good one.  It does create opportunities and, I think, helps one grow as an artist as as a person contributing to the art community.  

  • edited October 18
    I, too, thought the video was very informative. Well-presented and well worth watching.
  • edited October 18
    I leafed through few of them, not even listening, just to make a picture of the content. It looks well prepared but watching all of them would be a lot of time.  @KingstonFineArt and others who watched,  let me ask a simple question: who are those speakers there? They all are really young, some are in their early twenties. Can they really be an authority, such as to give advice? What are their achievements for that? I know mine are almost none but why should I listen to someone who can just talk nicely? This world's supply of prophets is unlimited anyway.
  • @outremer. It sounds like you listened to a different set of videos.  
    This is the ones I listened to.  
    You can pretty much skip the first minute of each video but after that it’s good information.

  • @GTO no, I looked at the right set. To me they look like colege graduates. But @Suez posted a good hint above. No successful enterpreneur will be begging for donations on Patreon.

    I accept the fact that some may like motivational speeches. But I spent most of my career working for large organizations with numerous "soft skills" workshops and I have an allergy for that. Why should I listen to that bs? Very likely they just have collected all what they say from recommendations of others, what else if they are just new in business? I'd listen happily to guys like Richard Schmid or someone living today of that caliber. Got few books from "by himself" series (like "Cezanne by himself") to peek into what real artists thought and said.
  • It' easy to miss the point. It all starts in academia. Moves up through the 'appoved' galleries. Then the approved auctions houses. It's the world of finance. Art as asset. Everything as assets. 
    HBO made a documentary on the evolution of the 'financialization' of art.
    The Price of Everything available on Prime rent for about $4.00. 

    It isn't unique to Art. 
  • I have to agree with @KingstonFineArt
    He’s strictly speaking about the financial aspects of art, not so much about the philosophical, spiritual, expression, technical, etc. aspects.  
    Take what you can from it for whatever works for you.  If none of it seems of use, that’s cool too.  I just found a lot of useful information that jibes with what I have experienced so far over the last three years or so.  
    There’s plenty of room for both personal exploration and expression within that framework.  
  • Selling our art is business. But the practice of creating our art is not business. My work gets sold through a gallery which is a business, but I don't consider myself as being in business. I take care of the art. The gallery takes care of the selling, of the business. But selling is not why I paint. I don't think everything is reducible to commerce. Not everything is transactional. If I wasn't making a cent out of it, I'd still paint. So, I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to say, @KingstonFineArt. I don't care about the "official" system you say the art world operates under. And I would say that most working artists don't either. I'm sure you are right in saying that the big money in art goes through this official system that deals mainly in dead artists' work. But most of us working artists ain't dead and don't deal with Sotheby's. 
  • For most of my working life. As an illustrator, art director and painter I was teaching at some level. Giving demos in high schools, teaching Illustration and life drawing art art school. Teaching desktop publishing at SVA. At Pratt Institute in Brooklyn I taught senior thesis for interactive design in the late 90's. I went to an applied art school. No Degree. Today I can't teach at a community college. You need an MFA. This is a result of the collaboration of Academia, the gallery system that has evolved and finance.

    Over the past 25 years the unofficial galleries in NYC have evaporated. Even even where we now life the galleries are mostly shuttered. The last one in our little town just closed. The internet force much of the closures but the consolidation of the 'official' art market was as big a influence. 

    There are areas in my traveling sphere, the Berkshires and Maine where there's lots of tourism are gallery rich. Sort of specific markets. There are of course regional markets where independent Galleries thrive. Especially where demographics are good.  

  • edited October 20
    I agree that without formal qualifications it's getting harder and harder to make a living in any field these days. And the sort of jobs that were once available to ordinary folk have now been taken over by automation and AI.  Things are changing so fast. There's no such thing as a steady job for life now. This means we have to keep reinventing ourselves. The old certainties are no more. But maybe life is now more interesting, even if more stressful. But I think there will always be a market for fine art, for original, hand-made human paintings. That hasn't changed and won't even if we use AI as another tool in our kit. It's different in illustration/commercial art. That can be automated and done completely by AI. But not fine art. So, I guess fine art is a good "business" to be in. 
  • Three years ago there was a gallery in town that I really wanted to be part of.  I thought if I had put some effort into my work I might have something of enough quality and interest that might be shown in that gallery.  
    Now three years later the gallery has closed and the owner now shows work at the Miami Basel event.  He also has a gallery in Miami and LA.  
    There were a number of reasons for his decision but a primary reason was the local interest had dwindled. I have heard the same feedback by other artists in the area.  It is  very difficult to get traffic into local galleries.  At least here. 
    But I think there are still opportunities available.  That’s why I continue to enter exhibitions and attend shows.
  • What on Earth does Ultra-Contemporary mean - in art or in any other context? I get the 'ultra' bit in terms of meaning, but 'contemporary' is simply an umbrella term for what is going on currently, alongside other things going on at the time. Beyond that the expression is empty and meaningless.
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another umbrella term, and AI doesn't even exist. But as a term it does serve as a receptacle for specific subsets of computer technologies such as Machine Learning; Deep Learning; Natural Language Processing, and Computer Vision. All of which, together, will one day seek to entice you to trust your life to a driverless car. Tricky stuff, AI. Mind it doesn't steal your paintbrushes out of your hand.
    'Ultra-Contemporary' seems to me to smack of opportunist attempts at legitimising something that has no intrinsic credibility - beyond perhaps being a playground for risk-taking investors and gamblers. Big money changing hands, yes. An alternative economy, maybe. Think NFTs - whatever they are - I've never been able to quite work it out.
    Nonetheless, Damien Hirst has very recently been quite present in UK news media by creating NFTs and then ritually consigning the original works (small sheets of paper) to the flames. Quite nice, however, to see him moving forward from a pickled shark in one tank of formaldehyde, and a pickled calf in another. Would have been kinder, more efficient and more sensible perhaps to have put them both in the same tank. That way his admiring public would have had to scratch their heads only the once.
    So as painters, what about each of you? Most of you have contributed at some length and in depth to this conversation. What motives/ambitions fired you into doing what you do, as painters? I'm not actually looking for answers because each of you has in some way provided those above - as well as in commentaries attached to the various pictorial works posted otherwise to this forum, and many of which works I appreciate as being quite excellent.
    Regards developing an income stream from your paintings. Why not? Painters often invest heavily in developing their skills and abilities, so why not, and if you can somehow arrive to there without squandering any of the craftsman disciplines and ethics that have kept you buoyant to date, then all the better. My own position is rather simpler. I've traded as a craftsman all my working life, and all I've ever looked to achieve from painting is to develop my own technical skills. And that's probably just as well, because I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to buy one of my paintings!
    I think if needing to put myself somewhere in the quite wide picture of this topic I'd grasp tenaciously on Mr Kingston's comment (above) and would place myself quite happily as an “art hermit”. Or rather, a 'hermit painter', perhaps. I've always liked to keep my horizons near to me; I don't trust distant horizons at all, they often appear obscure (due to aerial perspective, you understand) and I'm fearful they might seduce me into going there.
    Best rgds to all, Duncan
  • @MoleMan if your paintings are anything like your commentary I think they would be flying off the easels into the hands of anxious collectors.   :)
  • @MoleMan
    I have an English Setter named Duncan. A regal beast. But he can't paint.
  • edited October 20
    outremer said:
    @GTO no, I looked at the right set. To me they look like colege graduates. But @Suez posted a good hint above. No successful enterpreneur will be begging for donations on Patreon.

    I accept the fact that some may like motivational speeches. But I spent most of my career working for large organizations with numerous "soft skills" workshops and I have an allergy for that. Why should I listen to that bs? Very likely they just have collected all what they say from recommendations of others, what else if they are just new in business? I'd listen happily to guys like Richard Schmid or someone living today of that caliber. Got few books from "by himself" series (like "Cezanne by himself") to peek into what real artists thought and said.
    @outremer, you're probably right, but I think the video is a well-presented synthesis, albeit of information that would be already available elsewhere. 

    I agree about getting good information by working artists of the caliber of Richard Schmidt. You can't go wrong with him. As you know, I'm into landscape and Schmid's landscapes are just beautiful.   I find his books inspirational and a very useful resource.  :)
  • Ah, historians... No need for Youtube. There is an undisputable authority, I mean John Rewald. His books tell you about all the same things, academia, protest against that, working the galleries, marketing, unfair practices, money, poverty. I've read them long before buying my first paint. I mean, they do not help me to paint but help to realize how tough and risky a full time artist career is (guaranteed). Want less facts and more emotions? Zola's L'Oeuvre.

    Look: the best speakers and storytellers are dead, just like the best artists.
  • edited October 20
    @outremer, I've enjoyed reading Zola. Thanks for reminding me of him. The first I read in Les Rougon-Macquart  series was L'Assommoir. It affected me greatly. Charles Dickens is like an English version of Zola. They both wrote novels on contemporary issues.  I find Zola more "realist" whereas Dickens is more "caricature".   I have not yet read L'Œuvre but will do so now you have reminded me of Zola. I read him i(in French) while studying French at university many years ago. I still have the paperback novels in my bookshelf. I can't wait to read his take on Cezanne in  L'Œuvre. 
  • @Suez , Rewald is about Impressionism. Those guys went against the mainstream and were the first who did that. Their fate or fight or whatever you name it is covered in great great depths in Rewald books. I was also impressed reading Monet's letters in "Monet by himself" (not Rewald's). He was begging for money everywhere in the first half of his career, but he did not go to paint whatever could easily sell. Tough life. Don't know if US artists of the Great Depression had it tougher.
  • @tassieguy Yes, it's a must read. If you have an e-reader you can get the original French version for free, got mine at Amazon to practice my French too. Careful, there is no happy end in the story. It's as depressive as it can be.
  • Cheers, @outremer. John Rewald is now also on my to-read list.  :)
  • I see your points, @KingstonFineArt, but I do see things from a different perspective.

    I used to crochet excessively.  Developed into a real skill and I was able to design and write and compute my own patterns for garments, pillows, you name it, for 5 different clothing sizes.  Started IG and Youtube and grew them.  At some point I hated what I was doing.  It was all about the numbers and not about the art of crochet.

    Personally, I'm never turning a beautiful, pure hobby into a business again if I can help it. (Purely an individual desire and choice; we're all different.)  My audience in painting is much like Dickenson's... It's for something in myself that wants to see what I can achieve on canvas, and it's for my family to have something to be proud of, and it's gifts for friends that will mean more than a starbucks giftcard ever will.  It's to expound upon stretched linen the wonders of the world, of life, of what God did and made.  I'm an artist, and it's not just because I "identify" as one, but I'm not NOT an artist because I have no desire to enter a market. 

    It's because I've spent countless hours drawing, mixing, painting, and studying, all for art.

    Ars Gratia Artis
  • edited October 20
    @Suez oh, thanks, I really misunderstood. I associate that period in US not with painting but rather with that known photo, "Migrant mother". I also read a  biography of Ansel Adams, but don't remember how he did during those years. But  he certainly was not making easy money with family portraits.  PS. Look how much we all learned from all that! :)
  • GTO said:
    @MoleMan if your paintings are anything like your commentary I think they would be flying off the easels into the hands of anxious collectors.   :)
    You are very kind @GTO, but sadly, I have to be content with merely getting the paint off the brush and (hopefully) it sticking to the canvas. Any collector would be anxious to not own one of my paintings.
  • @MoleMan
    I have an English Setter named Duncan. A regal beast. But he can't paint.
    And fine fellow he looks too @KingstonFineArt. Much better looking than me. I recall enjoying the painting you uploaded a while ago.
    I too have a dog. Can't say exactly what breed he is, Kerbside I suppose. Youngest daughter called him in from the internet to fill the vacancy created when the previous incumbent went to her reward.
    The family decided to name him Riley, but I call him Rommel. Reason for 'Rommel' being because when he arrived to here he was a bit light at the back end, so to save his blushes I like to give the impression they'd got shot off during the German army's retreat from Tobruk.
  • Suez said:
    @MoleMan, You ask “What on Earth does Ultra-Contemporary mean - in art or in any other context?”

    The brander of the term says it refers to artwork by artists who were born after 1974 - who would be familiar with the gaming term “Ultra” and know what it means in the context of that generation. This would be similar to the earlier generation’s understanding, in context, of something going to “11”.

    For those of earlier generations who are unaware of the term, or it’s context, of going to 11 …

    Very nicely said, and thank you.  :) 
    The fog has lifted and all now becomes clear. The YouTube vid you pointed to explains clearly the method and the thinking - and perhaps the strategy.
    Best regards, Duncan
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