Tuesday, October 05, 2010

How much does an artist earn in New Orleans?

Ah! Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA!
I neglected to mention that we attended the "Art for Art's Sake" event this past Saturday.  Galleries were open in the Warehouse District around Julia Street and Magazine and further down Magazine, around the 3000 addresses, between roughly Louisiana and Napoleon Avenues.

We spent our time Uptown on Magazine Street, figuring Julia Street would be too crowded.  We walked over on White Linen Night and it was just too congested.  Magazine Street was a pleasure and not just because of the weather and the crowds and the musicians.  It wasn't just because we wandered into welcoming shops that we haven't wandered into before either.  We saw some really nice art.  That's always refreshing and it got me thinking about the city's art scene anew, not that I've been losing sleep worrying over it.

What we saw was top-notch.  It wasn't as esoteric and conceptually generic as that displayed in the Julia Street galleries.  It was a cut above the art for sale at the Riverbend Art Market (no offense intended to those professionals).  It was a little rougher, perhaps, than what you'll find in the tourist galleries on Royal Street, but it had a little more flavor too.

What struck me most about the shows was the prices for the artwork.  This was good, solid work in many media but no price tag seemed unreasonable.  In fact, a savvy collector could snatch up a museum-worthy roomful at a bargain.  For the effort that obviously went into some of these pieces, I was surprised for what they were selling for.

I don't know what this says about New Orleans' art market.  I know Julia Street galleries have a reputation to build and they charge accordingly.  I didn't see much there during White Linen Night to catch my fancy.  I know the artists in Jackson Square make their living moving product and they have low overhead costs; some of the work down there exceeds the Warehouse District's wares.  The galleries on Magazine Street are showing local art removed from critical acclaim and the tourist trade.  What I saw on Saturday was outside the standards of both of these and better both as an aesthetic pleasure and an investment.

It was art for art's sake.  Ars longa, vita brevis.  I was talking to a Jackson Square artist the other day.  He said, "I make a little as a bartender and I make a little as a painter.  It's a hard life."  I think the law of supply and demand may be at play here but I need more time to test the waters and hold my finger in the prevailing wind.

A tip of the fedora to New Orleans painters, sculptors and sketchers,

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