Guest post by Josh Kaplan
I often ask Lonnie (to her unending annoyance) why a Jackson Pollock canvas can sell for millions of dollars, while a piece she did to show some students the method Pollack used, is worth nothing. I point out, the two paintings look pretty much the same. She always explains, that Pollack created a new dimension to modern art, a new genre, something that had never been done before, and therefore had an intrinsic value that copycat work could never match.
It’s a reasoned argument. It makes perfect sense, but to me it has a degree of mysticism attached to it, if not a degree of hogwash. Which is why I noted with glee the experience that some New Yorkers had over the past month. The infamous graffiti artist Bansky, trying to prove whatever latest point he was trying to prove, set up a stand in Central Park selling some of his original works. He also arranged for a cameraman to record the whole thing.
For those of you who follow art, you know that Banksy’s work fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each. He had his representative sitting there with 40 originals priced at 60 bucks apiece. They looked like Banksys, the sign guaranteed they were original Banksys, but at the end of a long day, the poor guy sitting there had sold 7 pieces. Total. $420 bucks.
Once the story got out, and all those New Yorkers realized they had blown their chance to make a financial killing, there was the expected hand wringing. So no big surprise that a week later, three artists opened up a booth selling admittedly bogus Banksys. Fakes. Replicas of the 40 originals that no one wanted the week before. Each painting even came with a “Certificate of Inauthenticity.” They sold out. Fast. The artists said they did it to complete Banksy’s point about the nature of hype and art.
So what is the moral of the story? There really isn’t one, except perhaps this. As I have seen with Lonnie over and over again, anyone involved in an artistic venture faces a powerful temptation to allow a critic, or potential buyer determine for you the worth of your creation. That is often a heartbreaking proposition. It’s hard not to take it personally, but the next time it happens to you, try to remember, you are selling an original masterpiece, but your audience may have their heart set on a cheap imitation.