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.