Saturday, April 27, 2013

Using Nature as Inspiration

Artists have always been inspired by nature. Sometimes this inspiration shows up quite literally in photography or artworks depicting realistic landscapes, animals, waterscapes or other standards of the natural world. Sometimes nature is represented more abstractly in textures, colors, or shapes. In a Nature Conservancy interview with Todd Wilkinson, founder/editor of, an online magazine devoted to the global celebration of art in nature, Todd says, "I think for most artists, interpreting nature heightens the bond of connection. … Oftentimes when we think about nature, there is an ambiance that lingers in our memory. Artists are important interpreters and translators of that. How many times have you stood before a great painting or sculpture and been staggered by its impact, the same way that we’re left awestruck by a mountain, herd of elk trailing single file across a foothill or a warming sunrise?"
Try these tips and venues to gain some inspiration from your natural surroundings.
Your own backyard 
Okay, maybe you live in an apartment or townhouse or in some other place that doesn't offer a backyard, per se, but a great place to gain inspiration from nature is right at home. If you do have a backyard, take some time to observe: the birds, insects, squirrels, trees, your neighbor's cat. Watch how various things interact. Pay attention to light and shadows. Look at the textures: the soft moss, the rough tree bark, the wispy blades of grass. And if you don't have a backyard, why not take some time to set up a still life of fruit or simply watch your pets for a while? You know you've always wanted to sketch your betta fish.
Art in the park
Yeah, we know we just suggested this recently for an Artist Date, but it holds equally true for natural inspiration. Take your sketch pad or even your easel out to a local park and draw or paint what you see. A full landscape, a single tree, some ducks on the lake, all such possibilities are open to pens, pencils, charcoal, and an array of paints and brushes. You might even take some clay to mold your own sculpture of what you see.
Take a hike
This offers such a great array of all nature's bounty. Depending on your location, you can see plants big and small, animals, insects, rocks, rivers or streams, the sky and clouds, and so much more. You can get very close for an intimate view or perhaps you can hike to a particular vista that offers long views. Take a few photos with your camera phone of the things that catch your attention so you can incorporate them into your works later.
Go camping
If a few hours of communing with nature just isn't quite enough, a weekend camping adventure can do wonders to put you at one with your natural surroundings. A great aspect of this plan is that you can take lots of art supplies with you. Stuff a backpack or a plastic container full of supplies and use the time to work on whatever medium interests you. Obviously, photography is a natural choice for a camping trip but you can also take all the supplies that we mentioned previously in the "art in the park" entry. You can relax and be productive at the same time!
Vacation time
We all need to get away on occasion. As you are planning your next vacation, though, think of some possibilities that offer surroundings that are different than your daily experiences. If you live in the mountains, go to the beach. If you live near the beach try a trip to the Midwest. If you already live amid flat cornfields, go somewhere with a rocky coastline. Have you ever been to a tropical locale? What about a desert? Shake things up. Try something new. And, of course, take plenty of photos and take your art supplies along with you.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iranian-born collector plans to build contemporary art museum in Dubai

By Gareth Harris. Web only

Ramin Salsali in his private museum in Dubai
An Iranian-born entrepreneur hopes to build a museum of contemporary art in the heart of Dubai. Ramin Salsali has announced ambitious plans to launch the Dubai Museum of Contemporary Art (DMOCA) in the downtown Burj Khalifa district.
The first phase, to be launched next year, involves constructing exhibition halls measuring 30,000 sq. ft where temporary exhibitions will go on show drawn from private collections. Dubai citizens and residents, rather than the local government, will be invited to invest in the planned museum, which will also house a library and a sculpture garden.

The new building will have a distinctive fa├žade comprising hundreds of illuminated cube-like structures, while different parts of the museum will be designed by a range of design practices from the United Arab Emirates (the masterplan will be overseen by the Dubai-based designer Alia Dawood).

Salsali says he will donate part of his holdings to the new institution, a move designed to help build a permanent collection. He owns works by artists such as Yto Barrada, Reza Bangiz and Louise Bourgeois.

The collector opened his non-profit, 900 sq. m Salsali Private Museum in late 2011 in the Al Quoz industrial district of Dubai where he displays works from private collections worldwide, including his own. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Are you making these 10 common mistakes when pricing your art?

Are you making these 10 common mistakes when pricing your art?
Alright: pricing. We all know that pricing is what separates business owners from hobbyists. If you tag a price on your art, it means you’re selling, and it means you’re in business. Adding a price also means you’re adding a certain value to your work – and you should be careful not to assign the wrong value to a piece. Sounds like a big deal? It is – but it doesn’t have to be hard. Listed below are some common mistakes that you should avoid to make sure your prices are always spot on.
Mistake #1: Ignoring your competition
If you haven’t done your homework and you’re not regularly looking around at what your competitors are doing, you have no comparison at all regarding what you could charge for your work. Check out what artists with similar experience and materials are charging, but always make sure to look at what they’ve sold, since this gives you a good indication of what people are buying and what they’re willing to pay for it.
Mistake #2: Not knowing who your buyers are
With no clue on what your specific audience is, knowing their experience and budget will be based on guessing and hoping, and that is certainly not what you would want to do. Check out the demographics of the visitors in your local art gallery, your current client database, your personal network and who the visitors on your blog or website are.
Mistake #3: Forgetting where you are
Are you selling your art through an art gallery, selling it yourself on an online marketplace or putting them up for auction at eBay? Every venue has a different approach with a completely different audience and marketplace. Take the factors of your surroundings in consideration when pricing your art and you won’t make the mistake of over- or underpricing.
Mistake #4: Limiting your collection to a certain size and medium
Artists who broaden their horizon by offering small prints of big artworks and different sizes with different pricetags will not only build a larger client database, but they also create a chance for them selves to connect with people with a small budget, who could possibly become serious collectors later on.
Mistake #5: Selling too early in your career
When you’ve just started out as an artist, don’t be too eager to sell too soon in your artistic career. When your work isn’t quite ready yet for the public and you feel your prices are getting too low before they eventually sell, just wait around for a while until you have the experience and confidence to price your work professionally.
Mistake #6: Charging the same amounts for commissions
It is flattering to get a request for a customized piece of art, but when you take into account the time that is spent on discussing the work and having it match the taste of your client, the price of a commission should be higher than your regular works. Don’t be afraid to charge more; most people will be willing to pay more for customized work.
Mistake #7: Hurting your hourly rate by working ineffectively
Taking a close look at your workflow and determining where you could add some improvements to save yourself some time, will increase your hourly rate since it will take you less time to finish a piece than before.
Mistake #8: Undervaluing your work in order to sell more
No matter how badly your sales have stalled, always think twice about lowering your prices and therefore undervaluing your work. Not only will the value of your artwork decrease, you will also upset your current client database and collectors by showing them your work is going down in value instead of up. To solve the problem of a sudden lack in sales, try adding more value to the work by taking a second look at it or increase your marketing efforts.
Mistake #9: Offering too many discounts
While offering a discount on your prices is a good substitute for permanently lowering them, offering too many discounts may hurt your business because of the expectations people will start to have. Why buy a piece from you now when they can wait a while until a new offer comes around? Having your buyers wait around before buying is never a good idea – they often will get on with their lives and forget about the purchase at all.
Mistake #10: Being too emotionally attached to your work
Don’t overprice a piece of art because you don’t really want to let go of it. Becoming too emotionally attached to a piece can mess with your pricing system as it will confuse your audience and yourself. Don’t be afraid to let go of your work – there will be a new favorite in your collection soon.

God Bless America!

All of us here at Contemporary Masters, Inc would like to take a moment to extends our condolences to those in West Texas and Boston. You are in our thoughts and prayers. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Not a black-and-white issue
Museums are buying African-American art to make their collections more representative, but the market remains lukewarm—for now

Swann’s earnings from its auctions of African-American art have been rising steadily since 2007, but prices for most artists remain relatively low. The top lot in the February sale was Barkley Hendricks’s The Hawk, Blah, Blah, Blah, 1970, which sold for $132,000 (est $75,000-$100,000)
Major US museums are increasingly focusing on African-American art when it comes to making acquisitions, despite the fact that this area is still overlooked by the market.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has been “making an effort to increase the number of works by African-Americans”, says Ann Temkin, the chief curator in the museum’s department of painting and sculpture. “In the past decade, it has become a curatorial priority to look at whether our holdings are reflecting the history of art made by African-Americans.” The museum recently acquired 12 works by six African-American artists, including David Hammons’s sculpture Untitled (Night Train), 1989 (donated by A.C. Hudgins, one of the museum’s trustees), John Outterbridge’s assemblage Broken Dance, Ethnic Heritage Series, 1978-82, and Melvin Edwards’s The Lifted X, 1965 (both of which were bought). Half of the works were included in the exhibition “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-80”, which travelled from the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles to MoMA PS1 last year. The show “introduced us to a number of artists on the West Coast, many of whom we had not heard of before”, Temkin says.

In 2002, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore set up a $1m fund to buy African-American art from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Board members and the local African-American philanthropists Eddie and C. Sylvia Brown made a donation of $500,000, which the museum then matched. Before this, “there were no African-American works in the collection”, says the museum’s director, Gary Vikan. The number of African-American visitors to the museum has tripled since 2006, and now comprises 20% of the annual attendance figure. “We take our relationship with the community in which we live very seriously,” Vikan says.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, had just three works by African-American artists in 2001, but now has 108, says Elliot Davis, the chair of the museum’s art of the Americas department. The number of African-American visitors “has increased dramatically since 2010”, when the art of the Americas wing opened, Davis says, adding that the addition of more work by African-American artists has created “a sense of greater welcoming”.

Collectors say they appreciate the effort. Walter Evans, a retired surgeon from Savannah, Georgia, began collecting in the mid-1970s because he felt that museums were not properly representing African-American art. “I had young daughters, and I liked taking them to museums, but African-American art was lacking,” he says. “I realised that the only way my daughters would know these artists existed was to buy their work myself.”

The auction houses and dealers are not paying particular attention to the area, however. “The market isn’t broad enough and the price point isn’t high enough,” says Debra Force, formerly the head of American paintings at Christie’s and now a private dealer in New York. Peter Rathbone, formerly the director of the American art department at Sotheby’s, has acted as a consultant to the department since retiring in 2008. He says that the auction house has not “actively looked for African-American material… I’m not familiar with many of the artists. I’ve never handled them before.” Leslie Hindman, the owner of the eponymous Chicago-based auctioneers, says it is “a nice, fun category”. Hindman held two small sales of African-American art in 2012. These totalled $96,343 and $201,250, with most works selling for three- or four-figure sums.

Seemingly, the only auction house dedicated to expanding the area is Swann Auction Galleries, which has been holding biannual auctions of African-American art since 2007. Nigel Freeman, the director of the firm’s African-American art department, says: “We were the first auction house to sell any of their work, and we continue to get consignments of important works by these and other artists based on those successes.”

Swann’s earnings from its auctions of African-American art have been rising steadily since 2007, ranging from $900,000 to the $1.6m total achieved at its 147-lot auction in February. But prices for most artists remain relatively low. The top lot in the February sale was Barkley Hendricks’s painting The Hawk, Blah, Blah, Blah, 1970, which sold for $132,000 (est $75,000-$100,000).

For the market to really motor, galleries need to play a bigger role in promoting African-American art, says George N’Namdi, whose galleries in Chicago, Detroit and Miami regularly stage exhibitions focusing on African-American art. “The goal of auction houses isn’t to create value, but to get things out the door,” he says. “A large part of what I do is educate people about a group of artists they may not have heard of.”

Others say that there should be less separation from the mainstream. Elisabeth Sann, the associate director of New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery, which represents African-American artists including Hendricks and Kerry James Marshall, says: “Our goal is to erase the line between contemporary and African-American art.”

MoMA recently acquired 12 works by African-American artists, half of whic

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Contemporary Masters, Inc. extends our condolences to Stella Jones and family for their loss. Harry Wade Jones (1939-2013) co-director of Stella Jones Gallery a New Orleans gallery devoted to African-American art, transitioned on March 30, 2013, at his New Orleans home. He was 74.

Stella and Harry Jones

Monday, April 1, 2013

Frank Frazier Sr. and Garbo Hearne. Photo credit Roger Robinson

Frank has a show up currently at Hearne fine art. During his path as an artist, many of Frank Frazier's works have been interpretations of and responses to the Civil Rights movement. Mr. Frazier feels it's important that the visual arts serve as a vehicle to preserve the struggle for our children, ourselves and the future. Artistic expression is Frazier's contribution to the remembrance of the strength and tenacity of the race. Works like The Little Rock Nine, The Sit In, and The Million Man March are all a part of his latest series which is done with shoe polish and a mixture of ink.