Monday, September 29, 2008

. . . were still dopey

but feeling much more resigned to it. I will probably continue to be a dope in some matters, but we'll chalk this up to experience and call it done.

After two days of stressing over one of my problems, I just decided yesterday that I was not going to waste another nanosecond of my life worrying about it and I would just let it go. . . and I did, and I feel better. The problem revolved around a dispute concerning my compensation for painting furniture. I had thought that we had an agreement in place at one time on how I was to be paid, based somewhat on artists' arrangements with galleries, a modified 50-50 split, modified in his favor; however, apparently there was a misunderstanding (and I'm being charitable here in calling it a "misunderstanding"). On Friday, the guy gave me a partial list of what he expected to pay me for the work I had done. The amounts were, at least to me, ludicrously low. For instance, for my favorite piece, the blue dresser, he offered me $40. The replacement knobs cost that alone. He could have tripled the amounts and it still would not have been up to what I thought had been our agreement.

After venting my feelings in a three-page letter to the guy (never going to be sent, just a private rant) and getting all insulted and puffed up with righteous indignation, and wondering how I was going to be reimbursed for my time and expenses in a manner that would suit us both, I just decided to let it all go. There are complications in our relationship that I won't go into here, involving various members of our respective families, which made everything even more difficult. I went to the store, picked up all my supplies and equipment, told the guy that I couldn't continue to paint the furniture at the prices he offered, and told him to pay me what he thought was fair. That was something we used to do at the law firm. . . in fee disagreements, my boss would never ever argue; he would just say, pay what you think is fair. Sometimes it worked out okay, sometimes we got screwed. I guess there's something to be said for maintaining your dignity.

I know that part of this was my fault. . . I should have been clearer on my expectations and his expectations, and obtained some kind of explicit understanding instead of burying my head in the sand and thinking that because we were friends, everything would turn out all right. Now, I'm out dollars and friends, but at least I don't have to stress about it.

My art rep showed up as promised this weekend, check in hand. . . another load off my mind. He took 14 new canvases. If you were wondering what effect the current financial crisis is having on the art market, he told me that since the "bail-out" mess started, he had not sold one painting. Not one. That's after he sold 15 of mine in a week, and the remaining paintings in a little over a month. He told me that even people with lots of money have less of it now (it's all a matter of degree, isn't it?) and that everyone is scared, and that no one was buying anything, least of all art. I have a feeling that those 14 new canvases will be sitting around for a while. . .

The rep told me that because my resume is so skimpy (seriously, one show in KC) my prices will remain relatively low. If he can land a show for me, he says it will increase my prices. He tries to market art as an investment; right now, he tells me my art is decorative. No argument there.


Gina said...

This is all so awful, Mary! We like to think people can be trusted but that isn’t always so. Unfortunately, the quiet and undemanding people are the first to get picked on. But, congratulations for your art representative coming through--hope you made a bundle!

Mary Buek said...

Yeah, Gina, it seemed pretty awful at the time, but I'm so glad I got past it. Lesson learned.

Mary Buek said...
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Martha Marshall said...

Well Mary, that's a tough thing to swallow where friends are involved, but in the long run you will be better off and will have learned something from the experience. We all go through these. Hopefully it makes us wiser. I think it just makes me older.

Maybe the gallery guy is a good indicator of what's going on in the larger art market. But art-as-investment is only a small part of the art business.

Mary Buek said...

Martha: Art as investment. . . could you explain? Could this be a topic for a post on your blog?