After art school I wasn’t getting anywhere in the New York gallery world. Rather than let my frustration destroy me, I started an Etsy store. Seven years later, I am making a comfortable living selling my art to buyers all over the world, and it brings me joy to create art that makes people happy. Many of my snobby peers are still grinding away on the scene. They scoff at me as if I’m not a real artist anymore. Meanwhile, I’m supporting myself and doing way better than almost all of them financially. Why do artists prioritize the elitist world of galleries when they could be making actual sales in other venues?
The myth of the brilliant, starving artist actually reflects a commonplace reality, whereas the story of the artist who finds overnight success is the true fairy tale. This is because we live in a world where art is rarely measured in terms of quality, content, form, or process. Increasingly, what gets discussed and reported on most is how much a work costs, who bought it, and what cultural institution will receive it as part of a tax dodge.
It’s hardly shocking to hear that your friends are condescending pricks, considering that they went to art school, where it’s taught that success necessitates landing a gallery and following the prescribed route to fame and glory. These pals are ragging on you to justify the miserable career slog that they have committed to pursuing. They wait to get slotted for a show every two years, competing with the other artists on the roster for the sacred attention of their gallerists and collectors, while propping up antiquated business models that demand participation in a broken marketplace. Those who can’t catch a break are haunted by the lack of dealers or collectors to stress over. This contingent is likely jealous of the economic and artistic freedom that you enjoy while they continue to demean themselves by lingering at openings until everyone avoids them.
Artists selling on Etsy are charged 5 percent for every sale, whereas a gallery typically splits income fifty-fifty. You seem content with knowing that your work isn’t museum-level. You’ve accepted that self-sufficiency doesn’t mean giving up, it means running out of your available stock. Selling directly connects you with your clients, gets you paid without middlemen, earns you five-star reviews, and proves that a wide base of patrons enjoy your work as something more than a longshot investment. Your art may not be hanging in the Louvre anytime soon, but at least it won’t be languishing in free ports.
As a real estate agent in the North Fork of Long Island, I’m feeling the energy of artists looking to move into my market. I know about the rich history of artists living here that spans back to the 1950s and love that this landscape still inspires people. I believe that I can provide summer homes and year-round studios to the next wave, but could use some pointers on what features will attract high-end artists.
Yesteryear’s drunken artists may have passed out hungry every night in cold-water flats, but the current crop of cocaine-addled superstars are so busy with their art-auction activism that they rarely have time to sleep. Besides ocean views and acreage, today’s wealthy artists need guest rooms to host coquettish curators, cuckolding collectors, groping gallerists, sultry socialites, sycophantic sidekicks, amorous arms dealers, decadent drug traffickers, wicked wellness gurus, and, well, orgies. High ceilings and good light are ideal for both studio space and ritual blood sacrifices.