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:: Thursday, April 09, 2009 ::

Value (from Banksy to Dark Daze)

It has never been easy to value art, in any sense. The value it represents in terms of artistic merit will be different to the value it holds to a community (and between communities) and will be different from its financial value, which is of course what someone is willing to pay for it.

This was highlighted recently by the vandalism of Banksy's Mild Wild West piece in Stokes Croft. Someone called Appropriate Media claimed responsibility for this and posted a manifesto on the gentrification of the area and the meaning of art on The Cube website. This ill thought through manifestos (complete with un-credited anti-Banksy sentiment stolen from a 2006 Charlie Brooker column) has since been removed from the website and replaced with the response emails it elicited. The work itself has been cleaned up by the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft although now shows blood red battle scars in the mortar between the bricks, so it isn’t returned to its former glory but can now show off its war wounds with pride.

This Hijack thread documents the unfolding public outrage at this attack on a work that the community has embraced, voting it the top Alternative Landmark for Bristol in a BBC pole last year. However, the 10 pages of vitriol it produced should be read with great care as it quickly turns into a vigilante mob chasing the wrong suspects. Quite how highly valued this piece is by the community I think has come as a shock to those who sought to deface it in the name of art (and self-publicity). They couldn't have picked a worse target what with Banksy's unusual standing in Bristol where his works are protected by the city council whilst all other graffiti in the city is, hypocritically, still persecuted as vandalism.

This community ascribed value to usually transient street art lies in sharp contract to the financial value ascribed to most other art. The value here is dictated by what someone is willing to pay for it, in some cases as a cynical investment into something they believe will increase in financial value in the future. I am as guilty as many of buying limited editions of music releases or prints because, if I like it and I'm going to buy it anyway, I'll always choose the fancier presentation and perceived exclusiveness over the mass produced version.

But why? I know full well that this is often an equally cynical attempt by the artist (or their publisher) to limit supply to increase value. Sometime I wonder who this benefits as the original artist sees no increased income from future resale value. Shifting larger numbers at smaller profit may earn you more but loses you artistic credibility.

From personal experience I know that even tiny production numbers do not automatically make something more desirable. Gusset's first two self-released EPs were hand crafted by our good selves and produced in numbered limited editions of 40 of each. Even so it took us three years to sale the bastards. And we now have 600 remaining copies of the 1,000 disk run of Ask Dr Kim collecting dust. Now obviously this isn't a great example as I'm a nobody peddling substandard wares to a tiny and increasing saturated underground minority.

Music is one of the most difficult art forms to attempt to make money out of as it is so easily copied and distributed and is almost impossible to intentionally limit quantities of without attaching it to another more physical form of artwork, the packaging.

Due to either misguided artistic integrity or innate stupidity on my part my other chosen field of expression is photography. Arguably one of the most personal of all art forms with low barriers to entry in terms of skill and equipment (compared to music). Why buy someone's photo of x when you could take one yourself? OK, so yours may not to be to the same standard, but it is yours. You created it. You were there. You can talk about it if you hang it on your wall. The alternative, "Yeah, I got that in Ikeal. You have it too you say?"

With this in mind I was intrigued to see Dark Daze selling this frankly stunning Sally F**cking Reynolds motel print in a blind auction in a limited edition of just 10. The nine highest blind bidders get copies with one presumably reserved themselves. (They are a couple incidentally.)

But what's to stop him deciding to print more copies at some point in the future? Just his promise? Or will all other copies be destroyed like Jarre's Music for Supermarkets?

I'm intrigued what sort of prices are going to be offered for these prints. It's clearly an amazing photo that I would happily pay for, although the hinted started bid of a hundred quid (the price of his non-limited prints of the same size go for) already puts it beyond my budget.

Dark Daze, if you read this, I'd love to know what figures you get in the end. Would you be prepared to publish either the highest bid, 9th highest bid, or perhaps the nearest miss?

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:: Dan 9.4.09 [Arc] [2 comments] [links to this post] ::
hi there,

this was pretty interesting. I get what you mean about assigning value. With my limited editions it does what it says on the tin, 10 prints produced to order from that master only. There is a difference between what I print myself and what the gallery produces, which sells the shot before this- if i was to release this image again in the future it would only be as a different format, size, c-type etc. Having worked as a professional Studio Manager for several years I know a lot of artists that have sold there number1 edition over and over again. I think that kind of behaviour is disgusting but not surprising.

the blind price is just that, the £100 is a guide as a lot of people actually think my images are gonna be more expensive... so it gives a rough idea. I have a lot of students etc that are into my work and I'd like to keep the price reasonable- but am open to offers.

I'd be very surprised if I sold more than a couple tho, but I thought it would be nice to offer something more personal printwise to the people who follow my blog. If anyone wants a cheaper image, the non limited prints in the gallery start at £4.50 (i wont link it tho as not trying to tout business) and include everything from postcards to custom prints. Its an independent gallery, I have been asked to sell elsewhere (at a much better cut) but want to keep loyal to the peeps that first showed my work. As far as this image its not a print that was aimed as commercial, just a shoot that happened one morning so it means something more to me and sally.

Thanks for the post anyways, glad that you like the image, really appreciate it in fact, its always good to hear.

Take it easy, DD
Thanks for the response, Kevin. Interesting that you say you don't expect to sell them all, I imaged you would shift them without problem. I may make an offer afterall! As I said, I'm most interested to know what other people decide they think it is worth. If I put in a bid I'll hopefully find out. Cheers.
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