One of the things I really miss about Canada is the art community. In Canada, I believe the art community is democratized, where many galleries primarily make money through selling artists’ work. There are pros and cons to this approach. It might limit what the galleries show, only exhibiting what is currently trendy or commercially viable (like Hong Kong galleries, in my opinion). But it also puts all artists in an even playing field, where making and exhibiting art is not a rich man’s hobby.
In the second day of my trip, I visited quite a few galleries in Winnipeg. Many of them were open to new artists looking to exhibit. Reading through some of the bios, I see a lot of people who were self-taught and many who were exhibiting for the first time after (or in the midst of) careers in other fields. The galleries, like many I apply to in North America, will screen works, review proposals, then work with artists. I’m not sure to what degree sales fit in the equation, but as an artist, I don’t see a big financial investment on my part outside of the money spent framing and shipping works to galleries.
Now maybe it’s just my limited experience as a foreigner, or perhaps my lack of Korean language skills, but from what I see in Korea, galleries tend to make their money off the artist first. Selling the artists’ works is just a secondary thought. With real estate prices skyrocketing, galleries in Korea would cover their expenses first by billing artists exorbitant gallery rental fees. The fees don’t cover promotion. Like many galleries in North America, it is usually up to the artist to drum up audiences for their shows. (I don’t think many gallery owners cared about my CV.) Now, the advantage of such an approach is that as long as the gallery fees are covered, the artist is free to explore new ideas. This makes the scene rife for Dadaist approaches like Marcel Duchamp’s fountain. If anything in the gallery space is considered art (as long as the gallery fees are paid), does that not make any object a possible art piece and any person a possible artist? Rent a gallery, challenge the system, and go crazy. Explore!
I would like to think that that is what’s happening in Korea, but sadly, it doesn’t work that way. From what I’ve seen, art here is a rich man’s game. Many people don’t live off of their art. They’re often independently wealthy and art is a hobby they can afford to pursue. I remember a friend of mine who met an artist whose works were currently being exhibited in the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art. They became friendly and he bought one of the artist’s works. It was a small and affordable painting, not like the ones he had in the gallery. To his surprise, the artist got a bit teary-eyed and was touched by the gesture. He said that he was the first person to ever buy one of his works. He was the first person to buy the artist’s works.
Now how could a living person be in the Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art and not even sell one piece?
Our guess is you go through the art school/scene in Korea, rent galleries for a few shows, know a few people, then hopefully build enough of a reputation to get yourself in a major gallery. Building up a CV would require a lot of money in this country, something that most artists cannot do.
In Canada, or in North America, it’s much different. Sure, a person can throw money at galleries and have their works shown, but there’s also a more honest, albeit harder and more humbling approach: apply to galleries, listen to their recommendations, apply again, and keep on applying until someone finally pays attention. I’m not saying the Korean system does not exist in Canada. I’m sure it does, and I’m sure that’s how many galleries work, but what I don’t see in Korea too often are galleries willing to take a chance on artists and not have a massive pay wall to have their works shown.
I found this in my sister’s basement. A bit of a blast from the past. I miss art school. I miss lugging around a tackle box full of art supplies and being surrounded by artists. To my surprise, some of the paint is still good! The whole thing is now donated for other artists to use. Supplies are expensive. Recycle or donate your art supplies, folks.
Another blogger who loves Winnipeg. http://straightondetour.com/how-i-fell-in-love-with-winnipeg/