This is the last of our posts on the upside of the recession. (You can read our scene-setting post here.) The first is from Howard Greive and we have given the last word to artist Hye Rim Lee.
I was reading an economics paper the other day discussing the merits of a 'cash back' offer over a 'discount' of the same value.
Example: if you were to buy a car priced at $30,000 and are offered a discount of $3,000, reducing the price to $27,000 as opposed to paying $30,000 and receiving a $3,000 cash back you will inevitably take the cash.
The reason is about mitigating loss. You perceive a $30,000 purchase as a big loss. So $27,000 is still a big loss. However while $30,000 is a big loss, cash in the hand is perceived as a reasonable gain. So the gain mitigates the loss better than the discount.
There is no logic to this. I only mention it to illustrate an obvious point. Economics is not about empirical evidence. It is governed by human behaviour. While capitalism and the free market may be the vehicle that propels us forward, the fuel that drives it is confidence.
What has this to do with art? Everything and nothing. The art market, like all markets, is consumed by confidence or a lack of it. An artist has to ignore it, as if it is nothing and carry on. Perhaps when it comes to a recession, we should all behave like artists.
Howard Greive is a collector, a member of the team behind et al. the fundamental practice at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and a former trustee of Artspace, Auckland
Hye Rim Lee:
There has been an upside for me as an artist, but it's not easy to gloss over the past twelve months. My sales have dropped, partly because art fairs have fallen on hard times, and I've had to move from the West Village where I could walk to Chelsea, Soho and downtown. Now I'm living New Jersey, traveling most days to Manhattan. But no one ever said it was easy being an artist so I have just got on with making art, albeit with less money and a lot more stress. I've found I have friends, colleagues and collectors in the art world who have been there for me during tough times – and that's been a source of comfort and joy. I'm still living within commuter distance of Manhattan and able to travel regularly to Europe where there is growing interest in my work. The exhibitions I have made and others I have been represented in (like Glasstress, showing in the collateral events programme of the 53rd Venice Biennale) have opened up further opportunities. Perhaps most importantly for me, the last year has shown that, whatever the circumstances, artists have to continue making their art, putting it out there for curators and collectors to see, hoping that the next big exhibition invitation or sale is just around the corner. Perhaps not much has changed after all.
Hye Rim Lee is a Korean-born, New Zealand artist who divides her time between New York and Auckland. She is represented by Starkwhite (Auckland) and Kukje (Seoul)
Image: Arturo Di Modica, Charging Bull, Bowling Green park (near Wall Street), NY