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  • Writer's pictureDKH Gallery

Livelihood and Paper Mediums

The signature is the money maker in the Art World. You have a catalogue signed by Andy Warhol? That's money, money, money. Without the signature its just a vintage catalogue that can garner 100 bucks on Ebay. Now don't get me wrong its still money but that's not the point right. Lithography, screen printing, a signed poster and other print medium only generates money with a signature. The problem then lies in what is that signature worth? That signature usually only matters if you have oil painting or popular street art that has created buzz and popular interest. That then leads back to what is Fine Art, traditional mediums that transcend the current trend taking on new and refreshing interpretations that influence mass populations. The odd thing about all of that is how important paper mediums are. So, the real issue is, you can only gain popularity and fame through traditional mediums that are accepted by the art critics and large art corporations of the world (including Sotheby's and Christie's).

The problem with that though is distribution to the wider public. So because a few set of people approve of art and deem it fine art then you can mass produce it and gain some hard earned moo-la? Somehow I find that a backwards practice since popular media from social media to print media is catered for mass distribution that specifically targets the mass popular culture demographics. I have problems with this issue because print media is an absolute art that allows the average person to own a piece of work that is portable, beautiful and vibrant that is affordable. On the flip side, it is a medium that not only garners exposure for the artist, but it also fills the purse strings allowing for more art to be produced by incredible creative spirits.

The absolute control that art academics and critics have over the tastes of popular culture is astounding. Andy Warhol was a great disrupter that has now been capitalised in every way by these academics. Whether you are a disrupter or not, the few individuals with this power take advantage of a business opportunity and that is what it comes down to it. The art world is a corporation that is unchecked filled with businesses that have little to no accountability. The problem with that is print medium is a way for artists to get exposure and to make a living, yet to be a serious artist you have to please the few in order to get where you need in order to make a decent living and career. The system is broken and thankfully social media is starting to disrupt that broken system, yet the print medium as a commodity not fine art is prevalent. For example, Mourlet was a well-known fine art printmaker that worked with artists such as Matisse, Gilot and Picasso as well as well-known magazine establishments including Verve. Yet, Mourlet is not widely known to the mass public despite his art pieces dorned thousands of buildings for decades with his quality French Posters. In fact, his work has created a "French Poster" aesthetic that persists today. If anyone knows of Francoise Gilot, she is a master lithograph artist who worked on monotypes, lithographs with Mourlet (the master printer) and more to create a series of works that are treasured by Middle America (I will talk more about Gilot at another time as frankly she deserves an article on her own). Yet, she is known for her long-term relationship with Picasso rather than her work. Her fine art career is dominated by print work but the Holy Grail for her like other artists rest in her oil work despite her quality prints and illustrations have hands down created a culture and an influence on their own.

I personally have loved the poster more than anything else. Reason being it usually has a date, a location, gives information on the image on the poster and is a time capsule of information of a slice of time for a particular artist. It is more reliable than guessing on if the artist really had his hand in creating that piece or if the signature is real. You know for sure that poster was created by either the artist or his team and that he/she had a hand in it. It may be a marketing product but it is a very valuable one. In fact, I have a few leo castelli posters that are signed by Robert Rauschenberg. The great thing about these posters are they are printed on quality paper, signed with a famous work by Rauschenberg with the date and the name of the exhibition. Not only does it have this information but it has the information of the person who originally purchased the poster. It has provenance, the printers information, the patron (Castelli), the artists name and his work and the exhibition information. That is all the paperwork you need to prove its authenticity. That is, what I believe, is more valuable than a possible Warhol. The biggest issue I have with art now is the depreciation of print medium for not only the consumer but the artist. It is a valuable medium that allows for mass distribution, exposure and a way to create revenue for the artist. 

Something needs to change where lithography and other print medium including posters are recognised for their artistic contribution to popular culture. Posters adorn walls of the home, the exterior of a building or even a gift shop. They are meant to be seen, distributed and appreciated by the mass public. Because of this, the poster needs to have an aesthetic that's pleasing to the eye, informative or embraces a theme or topic. I pose a question, why is this not more than a graphic art exercise but a Fine Art piece? The same amount of work is involved and would bring in more comments and opinions. Yet, painting and traditional mediums of sculpture and painting still dominate as the Holy Grail for many artists. The few pieces that define them as an artist, although other forms of art are looked down upon and are just part of a career not defining. I find that a big issue and a bit confusing to be honest. Academia needs to change and see its relevance, there are great artists like Shepherd Fairey and Pose that are attacking this misconception with their lithography and pricing it according to the quality (in terms of art and material). I hope this becomes a trend, but alas, until then we will work within the confines of "accepted fine art" that neither assists the artist in distribution, livelihood or mindset.

*Please be aware this piece is an opinion piece not based in fact but on observation.

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