Moving Art

Is a nightmare. It was exciting to participate in CollisionCollective’s show, but even getting a 4x1x1 foot sculpture from New York to Boston is troublesome. Getting it back can be an even greater headache.

Certainly, there have been many occasions where I have had to move my work. In school, space was not consistent. While I could keep small items in a locker, larger items had to be schlepped from my 6th floor walk up in Chinatown to the Village in a little handcart I bought at Home Depot. I maintain that that handcart was the best $30 investment I’ve ever made.

Even after school, I possess the seemingly singular inability to stay in any one place for more than a year. For my art, this means that my tools, materials, and works in progress reside in cardboard boxes whenever I am not using them.

And, on very rare occasions, I actually get to show my work and have to magic it to the venue.

Boston isn’t the first time I have tangled with art shipping. A few years ago, the Life Dress was in a show in Barcelona. The dress is fragile. Every time I have worn it for a photo shoot or placed it on a mannequin for display, it has always come out a little worse for wear. Yet, here I was, placing my dress in a box to spend a year in a country that even I have yet to visit.

To my point, however, in that case, all the shipping considerations were handled by the show organizers. Professional shippers arrived at my door, brought a cardboard box up to my place, where I loaded in the piece, and took it away. As convenient as it was, it was, unfortunately, imperfect, as my piece did not operate properly on arrival and I was in no place to come and fix it.

As for Boston, well, it’s not close enough for me to walk with a handcart, nor was it sending shippers to my door. Rather, I rented a car and drove it up. I was able to ensure the piece was calibrated properly for the space it would be appearing and then I left it.

Once the show was over, and calibration was not a concern, the drive became far less feasible. I’ve been terribly busy. So, I thought: “What about shippers?” And so the google quest began… In vain. After reaching out to several art shippers, the quotes were coming back: in the range of $500. I’m not made of money. I have a day job. For some people, shipping fine art that is bought as an investment, professional shippers with insurance is the way to go. As the artist, it is a luxury I cannot justify.

It is a strange dichotomy: the tools, materials, and services revolving around the artist. So many are at a premium. Having the right paints, the perfect piece of marble, or well lit studio space can make a world of difference to the end art piece, it also creates a barrier to entry that is often overlooked in the larger calculations of how much income a beginning artist stands to make in this competitive landscape. It is no wonder that artists must constantly seek grants, stipends, and residencies when basic operating costs are so high and returns are so uncertain.

I will not pretend to present a solution but just offer the observation: not only do you stand to make very little money as an artist, you stand to loose quite a bit. It is more apt to view an artist as any small business owner, with a working space, operating costs, and the need to drive new business.* The age of the romantics is over, welcome the economists.

* The notable divergence is the willingness for faceless individuals and organizations to give you money in the abstract name of “The Arts.”

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