The boundaries between an artist and a craftsperson can often be wafer-thin. Indeed for most of history, they’ve been almost invisible. And it’s even more confusing if you are a tattoo artist.
The never-ending debate on which category tattoo belongs to, generates frustrations and sorrow in the tattooing field. From tattooists to tattoo enthusiastic, tattoo practice is without a doubt a significant art form. However, tattoos are still challenging to be accepted as a modern form of self-expression and a career for people outside of that specific domain.
A better understanding of the tattoo know-how will benefit the tattooing sphere to be acknowledged at its rightful place. To do so, tattoo contributors must also have some perspective and comprehend the larger ecosystem they choose to evolve into.
The following offers to help tattoo artists and tattoo enthusiasts extend their knowledge. We gather the essence of the art market to provide some outlook and awareness for the tattoo industry members of all kinds.
It’s only since the renaissance that the role of creating art for art’s sake has been separated from those who craft their work for functional purposes.
Today, the creative world is governed by strict, well-established rules that are sometimes misunderstood even by its participants. The art market, or the capitalist investment vehicle of the arts, has had a considerable impact on the perception of the value of art and artists as we experience it today. In many respects, an artist and a craftsman share many similarities. What distinguishes a handmade product, a temporal creation, from what our society today calls art is the timelessness and durability of the material used.
This perception excludes all temporal visual performances such as the circus, street music, or tattooing from the art market. Many have defined art as a product that can be valued and sold on a market that will increase over time. That is why paintings and sculptures have become the most prized possessions by the financial players who dominate the art market.
So how does this market work, and what other ways can create products or performances be valued?
Most governments want to influence their countries’ economic and cultural development in most modern societies. So they incentivize their citizens and foreign players to use their financial resources and create value through investment. They do this through public communications policies and financial incentives like tax exemption to encourage us to go beyond pure savings.
Investment categories include stimulating jobs growth and rising living standards by encouraging and nurturing successful companies, enriching and building the value of their real estate, and through the financial markets, another form of financing companies that have become public.
Politics and government have a slightly narrowed and outdated idea of what is and what is not contributing to a country’s culture. As you can imagine, the tattoo scene isn’t part of their scope yet, as it is for many other creative forms of artistry.
Alongside these main investment mechanisms, the art market offers investors its unique approach. It deals exclusively with the acquisition and sale of art pieces that will last the test of time. And although it is reductive and perhaps even antithetical to limit a creative work to its investment value, the art market as a financial exchange has an undeniable role in our modern society.
It allows artists to live and prosper from their talent and their work. And it requires a level of understanding and respect. Investing in paintings and sculptures brings together, above all, profiles of buyers and intermediaries who are passionate about the history of art and the fantastic contributions of its creators.
It is also understandable if an artist chooses to invest entirely or partially in the dynamics of the market or if, on the contrary, they refuse to engage and stay outside of the marketplace altogether.
For instance, tattoos, such as other performances, are not considered productions that can last the test of time. Therefore, tattoos cannot be valued in the marketplace or traded. The ownership of the tattoo belongs to the tattooist or the client wearing it. The ownership of the tattooed piece isn’t transferable, and as the skin age, it will not be exposed in a museum at any point of the life of the tattoo.
However, tattoos are an incredibly visual art form, and tattoo creators keep a visible trace of their tattoo work captured on camera. We hope for a future where the market will consider the lifetime contribution of tattoo artists based on the tangible photos they collect over time.
Many recognized artistic contributions, including tattooing, are not part of this market-based system. These creative contributions are known, acknowledged, and have been part of our cultural heritage since antiquity. Examples include theatre, circus, music, tattoos, and live performance. And, especially in all its forms and levels of excellence, fashion and handicrafts are also significant contributors to our cultural wealth and heritage.
The art market limits the use of techniques and mediums, while it is the intrinsic nature of the artist to test and push the limits of what’s possible. Artists not only want to experiment and develop their skills, but they also want to express their vision of the world as closely as possible to their abilities. Tattoos are a modern form of creative expression chosen by talents from diverse nationalities and backgrounds.
Moreover, the logic that governs this market tends to discourage some creators whose contribution brings a tangible value to their community. The art market functions like any other market, managed by the dynamics of supply and demand and the principle of scarcity. The more unique or original it is, the more valuable the creation. And conversely, the more easily reproduced something is, the more its value decreases.
Although it is necessary to understand the logic of the art market as a wealth creation vehicle, it is equally as important to know how to detach from it and gain other perspectives to find your own way and at your own pace as an artist.
Just as many companies provide exceptional services and products that allow employees and freelancers to grow and work without the need to be listed on the stock market, so too do artists.
Only a minority of them enter or choose to enter this arena, and many work in between.
The industry evolved to function in the world of capitalism. The value of an artistic piece varies greatly depending on the medium of expression. It is possible to categorize these mediums into two prominent families: the tangible and the intangible.
Of course, the art market has its peculiarities, but how it functions is still rooted in capital acquisition. Thus it needs tangibility to appreciate the value of artistic work. This tangibility is expressed by the investment value of a creative piece. And in turn, the value is dependent on three general factors:
There is a strong opposition between mass distribution and the scarcity-based sales model or the single work for many artists. More often than not, a lack of understanding of the dynamics of mass distribution and the fear of being devalued leads many performers to shy away from opportunities that will potentially benefit their careers.
However, mass distributors, big brands, and multinationals work exceptionally closely with exceptional creators and individual artists of renown. We often see a lot of successful collaborations that mix mass distribution with unique artistic creation, and each time the creator and his reputation are enhanced.
Too often, artists struggle to balance the need for artistic growth with customers commissions and being financially responsible. They feel strongly that money shouldn’t influence their practice and seek to be recognized and accepted for themselves and not as artistic products.
A misunderstanding of the market and its dynamics may deepen the bridge between the artist and its audience. When the artists understand that the market’s financial side is initiated mainly by passionate buyers who deeply support the artistic creation, things become more accessible.
When done well and with respect to the artist, they can balance their financials with their creative lives without sacrificing their work or personal values. And everybody in our societies benefits from their artistic creations.
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