Wednesdays. For most they signify the halfway point to the week's ultimate goal, the weekend. For me, it marked a halfway point through my stay in Estonia. It's amazing how quickly the past few days have gone. But today was packed full of events.
The first being the completion of "The Woolhandler" painting. As mentioned in yesterday's blog, over the course of morning I finished the portrait of one of the workers in the wool and sheepskin factory. An hour or so later, as I sat at the wooden taken in the kitchen (as it was the "read my Marian Keyes book" part of the day) Siiri popped her head into the room to announce another visitor. Siiri had spoken to me earlier about one of the daughters of the women in the wool factory wanted to stop by. I was then introduced to Iris, a 13 year old young girl who upon first introduction seemed a bit shy.
As the three of us made our way upstairs towards my studio, Iris explained that she loved to draw and was interested in art school. When we reached the loft area Iris pulled out a small sketchbook of her works, but prefaced our viewing by saying "I get a bit embarrassed to show people my work." Without any further hesitation she dove straight into the first page of images. The square pages of the sketchbook were filled corner to corner of anime (Japanese cartoon style) drawings and sketches. She didn't seem the least embarrassed but rather in the thick of her element talking about drawing techniques and characters she'd made up. She was practically bouncing in her seat with excitement. All of her drawings were great and it was obvious she is very talented. After the showing Siiri left for downstairs and I began talking to Iris about pursuing art at college and to research performing arts high schools here in Estonia. Given her interests in anime, I showed her images of Roy Lichtenstein and other Pop artist dealing with illustrative works. After an hour or so, Iris was off with a promise to return the next day. It was a great time.
Later on this afternoon Evelyn, Moks' Lead Artist and Co-founder, arrived. I have only heard stories of Evelyn from Siiri and the other artists. I began to question her existence as she never materialized, more like a myth than a being. Though she was not here, I have been able to admire her work as her larger-than-life graphite drawings hang on the walls of the upstairs common space. Unintentionally, the more I learned about her and the more delayed our meeting she began to become this mysterious figure in my mind. When we finally did meet she lived up to all expectations, walking in the room with a warm smile and friendly banter. She happens to be an excellent cook with green chick curry on the menu for dinner. Dinner tonight was an unconventional but excellent combination of Thai and vegan bolognese pasta (made with Soya). The conversation began with the niceties of introductions since Katri and Dennis have just joined, but quickly turned to a discussion on the purpose and validity of art.
What I always like to keep in mind is Art like Politics can be a sensitive subject. Plus, I more than anyone, love to debate as everyone would soon realize.
The conversation dealt with two classical "Art Debates," art for art's sake vs. art for monetary gain AND what validates the "value of art?" personal preference or the art market.
Coming from a business background, I appreciate the fact that all art, at some level, requires an art market- those willing to buy, exchange and sell artwork. Though I do not believe the purchase price of a work validates it's "worth" from a conceptual level. But the existence of an art market is without question necessary for the sustainment of artists. That is, artists must rely on the demand (regardless of size) in order to sell their art. If an artist's intention is indeed communication of their ideas portrayed through art then they require a demand, a purchaser, an investor to spread their image, thereby spreading/communicating their views.
Unless, however, the objective of art-making is solely for the personal self- expression/reflection. If having an audience is not the purpose of art, then conversely it's purpose of the creation is purely to be consumed by the artist himself? Is art really art if it is not viewed by and communicated to the external society? Why produce it at all? If art's purpose is solely an internal experience not meant to be shared then why are there not more Vincent Van Goghs or Emily Dickinsons? Complete recluses who have no motive to show or publicize their work? (I guess thats a moot point as we wouldn't know about them if they were recluses).
That's why I believe we need an art market. But Sergei goes on to essentially ask "Is art qualified by money?"
I think he intended it as a rhetorical question. Regardless, I happily answered.
"Yes," I state simply, "in the sense of an art market it does. In the sense of the artist, no."
Bewildered he retorted, "Since when?"
"Since the beginning of time." I responded. It sounded right and ambiguous enough.
"Beginning of time? Give me a date. Give me a date for the establishment of an art market." He pressed.
However, when I returned the question back to him, "Sergei, can you give me a time for the establishment of the art market?"
Firmly, he stated "The 1800s."
The 1800s... Right...
Public Opinion: Didn't the first exchange of art and currency predate Christ. Maybe 1800 BC?
The other artists, agreed and disagreed throughout the conversation. It was great to hear Dennis and Katri's perspectives as well. As the conversation continued it shifted to a discussion regarding the next movements in the art world and motivating youths in art.
All and all it was a wonderful discussion and what I have concluded is there are various views on the validation of art and the necessity of an art market. No one person is right as it will never be determined how to define "value." BUT, the one with the Art Blog always gets the last word, like a true debater ;-)