No one has any money, right? People are cutting costs, paring down their budgets and ditching everything that isn't absolutely necessary. Or at least that's what the more honest among us are doing in these straightened times. But I've been hearing more and more tales of unscrupulous scammers preying on the unwary just to keep their own pockets lined. And sadly the unwary at the moment seem to be artists.
Take for example the magazine reporter who turns up at a gallery's private view and photographs the event. A lovely spread of pictures then appears in a local publication, and as there has never been any mention of payment, the gallery is overjoyed with the free publicity. But wait... that's not the end of the tale. Years later the reporter has a change of heart and issues an invoice for payment threatening court action, conveniently coinciding with the credit crunch. Could it be that this reporter is now short of cash and preying on what is perceived as an easy target? Without documented proof of any agreement and against a tough gallery owner there's surely no way that the reporter will win here, but the threat of legal action could easily push the gallery to the point of caving in and paying the invoice out of fear just to make the problem go away.
In another such example the emerging artist is struggling to sell enough work to make ends meet. Desperate for publicity and with no spare cash he ends up being given a page in some crummy local paper in exchange for some of his best paintings. He is told the space is worth thousands and he's getting a GOOD DEAL. The advert generates nothing. He now has no paintings to sell as well as no money. The paper who now has the artwork is laughing. No way was the advertising space ever worth that much.
So who's at fault here? The scammers for sure, but the artworld must also wise up! Sure it can be hard making money sometimes, and I've had my fair share of feeling desperation in the past, but come on guys this is the real world. There really is no such thing as a free lunch, and one day you may find your 'freebies' coming back to bite you. Stand up for yourself, and if something seems too good to be true, well, it probably is. I think many artists are seen as easy targets. Business advice in art college is non existant so we have to make it up as we go along and try to hold our own in a tough commercial world. It's time to learn how to be tough, how to say no, how to avoid being pushed around. Don't give your work away for a promise; it's so much more valuable than that!