Business of Art

Cheap Art Manifesto

peace_sign_shadow-illusMany years ago during the hippie era, we dreamed of a free society where everyone had access to what’s important in life… including art.

The following flyer, distributed by the Bread & Puppet Theater, is a classic example of our dreams. The date on this flyer is (ironically?) 1984 — when the hippie movement was reacting to the self-serving 1980s — but the sentiments are timeless.

I wholly support this manifesto. This is one reason why I put free art online for you to print out at home, as often as I can. It’s why, in 2004, I cut my workshop prices in half, and then taught a series of entirely free art classes, too.

It’s why I protest when anyone is making an immoral profit from art and/or artists. And, it’s why those who are making immoral profits won’t like what I’m doing… though they’ll use other excuses.

However, there is one line in the manifesto that may confuse you as a professional artist: “Art is not business!”

In the hippie context, and as Bread & Puppet said, the Cheap Art movement was launched “in direct response to the business of art and its growing appropriation by the corporate sector.”

That is, it’s a mistake to treat original art like any/every other commodity. Business cannot control it. Art is unique, by definition. When it loses its originality, it’s something else; that’s a discussion for another day and another webpage.

The point is, if you try to make a fortune off art, particularly at the expense of others, you drive prices into a range where the average person can no longer afford them. And, in my opinion, that is immoral.

Even as a highly successful artist whose works regularly sell in four- and five-figure ranges, you have to make some art available to everyone regardless of their incomes or budgets.

Here is the Cheap Art Manifesto. Feel free to copy it, print it, put it at your own website, and share the message with others.

(Though the footer on all of my webpages automatically says “copyright…,” any time I say that it’s okay to copy or print something, it is.  The Cheap Art Manifesto has no copyright.)

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