How Art Gets Lost In Money

Today I was mulling around the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Amongst the empty frames from the most prolific art theft of recent history, was some pretty incredible and meaningful art. During my visit I caught myself thinking about the amount of money the theft is advertised as (north of $500 million).

There I am, in the presence of some of the most brilliant works of art in history and I can't help but wonder what all the rest of this work is worth.

That has nothing to do with the creation or intention of the art and I imagine none of the artists could ever imagine the price now attached to their works.

Money and art. The two go hand in hand. Whereas many people consider artists to be creating for the love of it, money is just about always involved. And for good reason. If a painter wants to be a professional artist, then the artist would hope to sell around $4-5,000 worth of art per month.

And sadly, for most artists, those are high numbers. A successful art career carries with it the assumption that there is a major demand for the artwork.

And for those part-time artists who dream of becoming a professional artist, it is difficult to be found in a vast sea of creative people.

For those lucky enough to break through and make a living at their art, the money begins to blur the work. The teeter-totter between trying to earn enough to do it full-time and keeping artistic integrity can be tortuous.

In an attempt to do what they love full-time, the artist becomes obsessed with success and with sales. The work begins to become more tailored to previous buyers likes or dislikes.

The art lacks creativity and passion, instead it becomes an outlet for receiving payment. A means to an end.

The fact is, there is a fine line between wanting to make money and wanting to make art. Ideally, all of us artists would have some savvy business person making all of our sales and handing us a fat check every week.

Unfortunately, we don't live in a surrealist painting. Art is a lifelong grind and the line between monetary intention and artistic intention needs to be drawn with ink.

If you do need to pay the bills, create some works here or there that you know can sell. I see no shame or degradation in that. Artists need to eat too.

However, do not let it define you or control you. And do not let it drawn away from your natural creativity, that is priceless. Honor your art.