Occasionally I get asked to donate a piece of my work for a charity auction. I usually say yes, especially when I am being asked by a friend and the cause is something that I would like to support.
With the recent tragic disaster in Japan, Aline Smithson, a fantastic photographer and an extraordinary human being organized two different auctions to raise money for relief.
Wall Space Gallery is doing an ongoing fundraiser, Life Support Japan, all prints are 8×10″, $50 each, in limited edition of 10. I have offered up “Club Ed, 2006” for the fundraiser and is available on Wall Space’s website. ALL proceeds will go to either Habit for Humanity and or Direct Relief International. *
Jennifer Schwartz Gallery in Atlanta hosted a silent auction is past weekend and the proceeds are will be for the same two charities, “National Palace, DF, Mexico, 2009” is what I send down for the silent auction.*
A lot of my photographer friends are participating in these fund raisers while another friend Todd Squires (mixed media artist) just made a special piece and is donating it for an auction benefiting the Venice Family Clinic.
All of these auctions and fund raisers made me think about the value of art and if artists giving art away is a good business practice or not.
I brought up the issue of donating art for auction to a friend and she expressed a certain amount of fatigue in being constantly asked, about all the hard work that goes into creating the work and that a lot of artists really cannot afford to give art away because the artists are broke and need the inventory. Further more the IRS will only allow artists to take a deduction on the cost of materials for the art in question and not on the market value or the auction value of the work. I understand the place where she is coming from and she is not wrong. We both agree that there should be a minimum price set for the work in question and that there will always be special circumstances where you throw the rule book out the window.
We all work very hard to create our art and often we feel under valued and under appreciated. Because non-artists don’t have a strong grasp on what it takes to give birth to the work, the constant, casual inquiry can exacerbate the feeling of being undervalued. “What do you mean you want my art for free?! Don’t you know the blood, sweat and tears it took for me to make that?” I think if an artist is reluctant in donating the source of the hesitancy is from about something else and not because they don’t want to help.
One of the consistent thought I have is, “I wish I could do more.”
I wish I could do more to alleviate the suffering of women and children who are forced to go without, who do not have access, who are terrorized and live in fear. I wish I could more for the revolution in ____ (where ever) and help bring about change, peace and justice. I simply wish I could do more. So when I am asked to participate, I tend to say YES!
I will give what I can within reason and I will do so happily. I have seen suffering and poverty. If giving a little something today will enrich the lives of those who purchase the work and bring a little relief to those who are in need, then I am willing to set aside the question of market value for my art and simply give.
And if you must do a calculation on if it is good business practice or not, you can think about how the auction will expose your work to new audience and it is good marketing. However, if your only concern is how will it benefit you in the end, then you should call your therapist and schedule an appointment ASAP.
*Both of these images are also available in limited edition on B-Side