The Red Dot Retort with Derek Erdman

Recently I stumbled upon Chicago Now's Red Dot Report, a weekly report of what art has sold from what Chicago galleries.  So far only one report.  The red dot reference is of course to the highly coveted red sticker affixed to a sold work.  What's the goal of this report?  Authors, Stephanie Burke and Jeriah Hildwine blog in their own words...

First we want to [let] artists to know work is being sold. Sometimes Chicago can be a bit of a dim art market, so it's good to know that art work is selling. Second, we want buyers to know what's selling, and where it's selling. Third, we want to help artists with pricing their work. Pricing is a complicated process, and hopefully the Red Dot Report can be a place for artists to see what types of work are selling for what prices.

Chicago is a dim market?  We in Seattle would be so lucky.  So to enumerate...
1. Hey artist, stuff really does sell!
2. Hey buyer, this is what others are buying.
3. Hey artist, here's what sold work looks like.

Kind of a noble idea: to help artists stay encouraged, because "See art is selling!"  And if it isn't yours - then here's what your art can look like.  Let's take a look at the red hot, red dot magnets in Chicago.

Left Frame Above (Sold)
Collage, 2006, Kelli Connell
collage, unique, 2 1/4"x2 3/4", $1,200

Left Frame Below (Sold)
Contact Sheet, 2006, Kelli Connell
chromogenic print, no edition, 10 1/2"x9", $800

Right Frame (Not sold)
The Valley (2006) Kelli Connell
chromogenic prints, edition of 6 with 3 AP's, 30 x 40" 36 x 48", $3500 to $7500, Catherine Edelman Gallery

Meat Me In..., Arman Mabry (Rabid Rabbit/Galactic Inmate),

A wide range of prices.  My question isn't what or why stuff sells, but are we supposed to make art that sells in order to get press?  Perhaps I'm reaching too far into the "report", but I've noticed that most of the art publicized in newspapers, glossies and blogs is already selling well.Maybe lend a hand to an artist who needs some publicity?  Hype, bandwagon frenzy, viral marketing ... all these buzz words come to mind.  And the reality is that art that is for sale is a product.  It's taxable. And it's prone to the same marketing techniques as any other product.  And let's face it, most of the publications that float up first in the newstand and on your search engine are moving some kind of product.

* Note:  So if I had a blog would I write about work that is already popular?  That's the antithesis of what I'm trying to do with Meaning in Art.

I called up Catherine Edelman Gallery and spoke with a nice gentleman named Trevor Power, the Gallery Manager.  He knew about the Red Dot Report but noted that it isn't necessarily representative of gallery sales, since many sales are done from inventory.  He added he didn't feel that sales would be affected by the Red Dot Report.

*Note: I'm not getting down on the Red Dot Report, it's just that... aw hell yes I am getting down on the Red Dot Report.  I mean really do I need a Kmart update on art sales?  I can see the frickin dots for myself.

What do artists think of the Red Dot Report?  Does it help them price their work?  Let's ask a Chicago artist.  When asked what he thought of the Red Dot Report, Chicago artist Derek Erdman said, "It looks totally dumb."  Amen. 

Tragedy In Dessert City, 2009, Derek Erdman
acrylic on canvas, 31"x31", $200 (shipping included)

Derek is soon moving from Chicago to Seattle and he says he isn't bringing any of his artwork. So he's selling it all - no ploys, no hiding behind mechanisms or pretending it's imbued with magical artist jizm. Just straight up sales. Derek is transparent about all of this - so it works. The following is a interview with him via g-mail about marketing your art.

-----The Interview-----
Lucas asks: This is kind of a would-you-rather question: Say, an artist can't sell their work, would you help them sell the kind of work they already make or help them make work that will sell?
DE says:  You know what sells really well? Awesome shit. If your art isn't selling, it might not be awesome. There's a chance that it's overpriced, but there's usually a goon somewhere who will pay for something good. Maybe you don't want to sell the things that you make. That's great too, people should do things because they like to. But don't put things up in coffee shops and try to charge $300 for them. Just make things that you would want on your own walls. If you have taste like other people, you'll sell the shit out of it. If you don't have the same taste as anybody else, you'll have a bunch of art on your walls that you like. It's a win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win-win situation.

Lucas asks: There's a predicted 1,000 works in your upcoming show. Some work is purportedly going for $6. Why not one big artwork going for $6,000?
DE says: Oh man, there's not going to be 1,000 paintings there. That would be crazy! Sometimes you just have to tell people things to get them to go to a place. 1,000 paintings, really. GIVE ME A BREAK, I'M DANCING AS FAST AS I CAN. There will be 238 paintings there. At my early art shows here in Chicago, I used to make up that bands would be playing. I'd be like: ART SHOW, TONIGHT, LABRADFORD IS PLAYING. Those were the early 2000s, really dire times. So really, if you're having an art show, say that Shelley Long will be there. Tell people you're giving away $400 gift certificates to Zappos. Then when they get there, just say you ran out or the cops stopped you or your father just died in a terrible car accident. Really though, nobody has $6,000. Ever. In the history of the world.

Lucas asks: Marketing ploys are used to move all kinds of merchandise from shoes to cars to Shake-weights. How do you get your work out there? Tactics? Coupons and punchcards?
DE says: I just made so many things that it couldn't be ignored. Really, I forced this stuff on people. If you make 12 cookies, people will eat them and forget. If you make 999,999,999 cookies, you will become the cookie person. If you're going to do something, do it gigantic. Yell at the top of your lungs with your brain. Dale Carnegie said, "You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you." That's it, RIGHT THERE FOR YOU TO READ.


We are ready for you here in Seattle, Derek.  Send me a Red Dot Report from your show tonight.

James Garner for Big Red, 2009,
Acrylic on wood, 18"x24", $125 (shipping included)