“The art one chooses to collect becomes a self-portrait” Dennis Heckler
Stand me in any suburban homemaker centre, and my face will reflect a mix of horror and fatigue. Partly that will be due to screaming children and slow walkers, but mostly it will be the result of watching shopping trolleys glide by with generic wall art therein. If as the quote says, your art choices reflect the person you are, then I wonder what it says about society that the market for mass-produced prints and sculptures continues to exist while so many artists struggle to sell original work?
Art as a status symbol has really buggered the market for original art. At some point art ownership stopped being about connecting with an artwork and became about connecting with your accountant, which is a real bitch when you consider how the constant focus on art as investment has virtually made redundant the idea that art should be bought for pleasure. By encouraging the perception that original art is a luxury afforded a select few, the art world builds a barrier between itself and art lovers who see art as too expensive and too elite for them to break into. And so…the mass-produced print market continues to thrive while many artists and would-be collectors miss out.
That the art world still has the capacity to exclude and intimidate new generations of art appreciators is a motivating factor for Brisbane artist Amanda van Gils, who juggles her own career with seeking out opportunities to connect living artists with prospective entry level collectors. Fed up with seeing potential art patrons spend the same amount of money on a framed poster as they could an original piece of art, she founded online gallery ART500 as a way of supporting early and mid-career artists.
“Ask an art lover why they haven’t yet become an art collector, and they always cite the same reasons” says van Gils. “The high sale prices in commercial galleries, the elitism, and their own perception that they don’t know enough about art to make a smart purchase are always mentioned.”
Launched last year, ART500 is perhaps less a gallery than it is an online art collective, in that it wouldn’t work without the dedication of the creatives involved. Specifically designed to give art lovers the confidence to become art owners, renowned artists are given a brief to create work with a maximum sale price of $500.00 exclusively for ART500 customers. Each artist boasts an established career and strong exhibition history, with names like Archibald Prize finalist Kym Leutwyler, legendary printmaker Wayne Viney, and multiple award winners Carolyn V Watson, Deb Mostert and Robert Fenton included in the current listings.
The thinking behind ART500 is astute. Without the physical and financial constraints of a traditional gallery space, there is the flexibility to offer both entry level pricing and a wide variety of artistic styles and practices, meaning visitors to the site can explore and compare photography, oil and watercolour paintings, drawing, sculpture, and monotypes at their leisure. Without the pressure of gallerists and high pricing, customers can peruse the work, research the artists, and possibly purchase knowing their level of commitment is finite.
For Amanda van Gils, ART500 was never about breaking the Sotheby’s auction record. Rather, it was a response to having worked across both the corporate and art worlds, and realising that for every person with the income but not the impetus to buy original art, there was a professional artist struggling to connect with an audience of buyers.
“ART500 is really about bringing together two parallel worlds that rarely intersect. I’d love to remove those barriers, and have more people enjoy the many benefits that come with owning original art and supporting the development of creative practice in Australia.”
Visit the ART500 website HERE.