From the palaces to your living room, or how art became affordable.

From the palaces to your living room, or how art became affordable.

Throughout history, Art, and more precisely owning an original piece of art, has been a privilege of the upper-class. It was a sign of wealth and artworks were only showcased in luxury homes or palaces. The walls of the various royal houses were decorated with paintings of their dynasty. They had their own “court painters” draw all the significant moments of their lives and immortalize the key moments of the kingdom. Museums are filled with ancient paintings designed to document and commemorate the lives of those who could afford it.


With the invention of the camera though, the art world took a turn. Painters and sculptors were no longer the only players in the art world. Photographers joined the field and changed the game. Because of the camera's ability to capture moments with a quick click, drawing for the sake of documentation was not needed anymore. People eventually ran out of patience to wait until the painting was ready, and, moreover, pictures could be reproduced indefinitely and spread across the family or the country. This had 2 consequences: first, whereas the original painting was not accessible to everyone, owning a photograph was; and secondly, painters and sculptors were forced to reinvent themselves.


The second “revolution” came in the late 1950s when artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Richard Hamilton introduced pop art to the world. The name pop art came from the word popular, common. This movement reflected the culture of consumption, marketing, and economics. Art started being presented as a consumer product. The various emerging printing techniques helped duplicate and distribute art. They were kind of the equivalent of the arrival of the camera to the painter. 


Andy Warhol was a groundbreaking artist who took the replication technique one step further and turned his studio into a factory, "The Factory". He changed the perception of the people and made the art of printing and reproduction a legitimate and widespread art. He simply became the best-selling artist ever. 


As a result of this breakthrough, many renowned artists started trying to make their art accessible to the general public and not just the top-decile audience. Today artists want to reach as many people as possible and they understand that in order to do so they need to change tactics. Over the years they kept on thinking about creative ways to “produce” their artwork, in order to be able to offer pieces in a wide price range. 

Rachel Ehrenhalt, Oil on canvas, 60 x 50 cm
 

Prints

The most obvious advantage of printing is that it allows for (mass) reproduction of the artwork. Nowadays there are many techniques of printing: silk screen printing, digital printing, linoleum printing,... You always have an original and duplicates though. It is customary to number the duplicates and to mention the edition. Also in the world of sculpture, it is customary to mention the edition for sculptures created from a template. 

The more copies and editions you have, both in painting and sculpture, the more affordable the work becomes. And of course, low-copy editions will usually have a higher value, as they are rare. 

Tommy Shenkar, Digital print, 42 x 29cm

 

Preparatory studies

Artists often do small-scale sketches/works on a daily basis. They are an integral part of every artist's creative process in all areas of art and have a magic that cannot be found in the finished large scale works. In these preparatory studies, you can see the artist's research, they capture a "moment" from the artist's thinking. 

Some artists want to keep this experience to themselves, while others want to share with their audience. Soon galleries and art collectors also saw the interest of those pieces and a new trade opportunity was born. Small sketches and preparatory works started selling. Not only are they special, but they are also more affordable than the final work on canvas or sculpture. 

 
Missing, "it's ok dog", acrylic on paper, 42x29 cm

Advanced technology

Today, many technologies are available to reproduce art installations and sculptures. One of these is laser cutting. It works on precise heat waves that can cut the material - metal, fabric, plastic, stone,...  - accurately and with a perfect finish. It’s already used in various fields, like the fashion industry for example. It allows artists to produce their artwork in larger numbers for a very reasonable cost. Which also means they can be more flexible in the pricing of their art.

Tzuki, "Musical Heart", steel, 35 x 36 x 5 cm

 

The value of art

Of course, buying art is always foremost an emotional purchase. But it would be foolish to deny the economical value of art. Buying art has always somehow been some type of investment. And some kind of bet. Usually, people with an average income would only be able to invest in young and emerging artists that are still in the early stages of their career and sell their works at lower costs compared to established artists. The financial value of an artist can change over time, but no one can guarantee that this will really happen. This being said, if you love a piece, buy it anyways! Think of it as an investment in the artist's work, a push in the back. And who knows, maybe one day it will pay off.
Kadishman, "Sheep", acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 cm