Monday, March 17, 2008

An Artist at An Auction

The Mutual Gallery recently organized an auction of art by contemporary and/or emerging artists. This was a bold move by Gilou Bauer, the gallery's curator, as auctions in Jamaica have mainly been a haven for collectors of established artists. The auctioneer, William Tavares-Finson said it was his first auction for younger artists in his orientation talk. I suppose the art market in Jamaica, like several other places, needs stability and surety as works while being enjoyable also seem to be viewed as investments. The curator, auctioneer and artists involved where not certain the outcome and one of the concerns that arose was whether artists would be in attendance. As generally auctions proved to be unnerving experiences. Even highly saleable artists such as Damien Hirst stay away from auctions of their work. In the sale of his recent participation in the RED auction of contemporary art, he spoke of worrying whether it would at least make the 20 million dollar mark. While in Jamaica, we are far off from worrying about sums as large as this I was interested to find out how one artist who attended the auction handled it. The artist I have asked to speak about her experience is Stacy-Ann Hyde, a past winner of the JCDC Studio Prize Award. Her report follows:

"This was the first auction of any kind that I was attending so I was pretty anxious. The fact that I had work in the auction was very exciting but also made me a little nervous as I was not sure what to expect.

I saw work after work going up and coming down. Some works were not bid on at all, while some stayed on bid for quite a while. As they got closer to my works, I became a little tense as I did not consider my works as typical.

Unfortunately I had another engagement that same evening (pantomime) and I was already running behind. I had to leave before they got to my works however my bf was there and he stayed behind to give me the low down.

No one bid on my work...aaawww. I guess it was better for me not to have been there as I felt quite disappointed. My bf tried to reassure me that persons expressed interest even though no one bid. It was hard to stay in good spirit.

Some of the works which were bid on were by well known and not so well known artist, some of who were also at the auction. I enjoyed the experience I must say and didn't feel too bad after awhile. One of my works was bought after the auction

All in all I had a great experience and as this auction was the first of its kind at Mutual Gallery, I was glad to share in the experience and look forward to doing it again.

The auction process I think is great for artist as it gives us a "feel" of what investors are looking for, what we can push and what we should reconsider (if any at all). I would definitely subject myself to this process again."

On a closing note, this auction of contemporary art has come to function in a perhaps unintended or intended way. Persons attending the auction seemed to have come to the auction to see a display of available work and their reserve prices. Being shrewd Jamaican collectors the majority chose not to bid but came after the auction to purchase the work at the reserve price thus securing fixed prices at the low-level. As a new phenomenon within the arts scene I am interested to see what changes this will lead to. Will artists respond in turn and raise their reserve prices, will this become an annual contemporary art market setting values for the rest of the year or will it lead to the flourishing of the currently rare-breed, the contemporary art collector.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Thanks for creating this blog!

    A few things have struck me on different occasions, and now again on reading this blog:

    Ja. artists seem far too self-involved and hyper-conscious of themselves as Artists producing Art, rather than as Artists engaged in the process of exploring ideas which may (or may not) lead to something that is bigger than the Artist. With few exceptions, I am finding a lot of the work being shown to be dull, decorative and imitative, trying to be something (yes, Art) that the Artist imagines the art world - especially so-called collectors - needs, and which would serve to legitimize the maker's status as Artist.

    In a way, the blog seems to echo a similarly weird "please take me seriously as art" tone, which totally undermines what I think you're trying to do. IMHO, just stop trying to predict what people want to hear/see, and get on with the work you set out to do already!

    Related to that is the really narrow analytic scope and vocabulary used by Ja. artists themselves and the reading/viewing audience to talk about the work. I think people really, really need to read more -- not simply or only about Art per se, but about ideas that might, do (and should) be expressed artistically, and which bear on one's ability to do art. This auction thing is a great jumping off point. How (in all the ways that one can answer this question) does the concept of an "auction" translate in a Jamaican context? What exactly is being "auctioned"? Just reading one person's description raises a few red flags for me. How affect how artists think of themselves, their work, etc. etc. Bits and pieces of this conversation has been taking place; maybe a larger forum would be useful?

    Perhaps it would be worthwhile to create programs and working relationships which generate dialogue that is not about art directly, but rather offer a way for viewers, artists and Artists to think aloud and together.

    Consider linking to Ja. bloggers as well.

    Walk good.

  3. ART:Jamaica is very much in support of the diversity and raising the intelligence and dialogue about Jamaican artists. In beginning this blog there have been difficulties in getting persons to comment, read and write posts for this blog. Our intention was never to write a one-sided journal as this undoubtedly poses limitations. Each post wirtten or participated in by an artist has been the result of months of coaxing the few persons interested in writing. From the beginning there has been an open invitation for artists and interested persons to participate and contribute. We want open intelligent, critical, honest ongoing discussion. We want artists to write and speak out. We thank those who have done so thus far. We are convinced that this kind of dialogue is already taking place in studios, classrooms, offices, restaurants, backrooms etc., but we once again issue an invitation for persons to participate in this blog. Without participation there is no dialogue.

    This is one of the few free platforms for Jamaican art which has an increasing viewership, please use and support us. We thank you for your comments, longbench and invite you to lend some of your insights to the blog by contributing to the posts that we put.

    Thanks again for your comments and obvious support.

  4. so nice!
    Maravilhoso blogue!

  5. Great blog!!

    I was just wondering if this was advertised to the public? I missed it I guess or how do you get invited to these things?

  6. Thanks for your support. This blog is run on zero budget and therefore we don't have the staff or funding to do large-scale public advertising. This is something we are hoping to change soon. So far it has been word of mouth within the arts community and through our e-newsletter. If you wish to recieve our e-newsletter or participate please send us an email to We welcome all forms of participation.

  7. yeah this blog needs to get out there publicly.

  8. "This blog is run on zero budget and therefore we don't have the staff or funding to do large-scale public advertising."

    Hello? Sweat, time and creativity are needed, not even, or simply money!! Why do we insist on thinking that if we are not being paid then we don't have to work as hard to produce something useful?

    Blogs tend to "publicize" themselves, first, by dealing with issues that people, especially other bloggers, will come to read about, and second, by being interesting enough that bloggers will then go on to promote via the links etc. Blogs also become more visible by being linked to other online publications or to organizations. Blogs that make money are ones that have proven themselves (in terms of quality of content) and/or are the web 'arm' of an organizational entity. Please don't get enamoured with blogging if you are not committed to sustaining it. I certainly appreciate its existence, don't get me wrong.

    I just think the issue here is not of funding but of strategy and commitment: who do you want to read and interact with this blog? What are you doing to bring those persons here? I strongly suggest building content, and it makes everything else much easier. Please crawl before you walk.


Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts.