From Zero to Hero: How Publicity Can Make an Artist Famous
The structure of the art market means that an artist’s career can be propelled by publicity and exposure even if their talent is disproportionate to the amount of publicity they are getting. Any publicity for an artist whether it be good or bad seems to have a positive effect on their career even if it is only for a short period of time. As an example, an Australian artist by the name of Craig Ruddy won the Archibald price for portraiture in 2004 which is Australia’s most prestigious art prize. Soon after the prize was awarded to Ruddy there were complaints by other artists that entered the prize that Ruddy’s work did not confirm to the guidelines for the type of works allowed to enter. One of the complainants ended up taking Ruddy to court which resulted in a two year court battle which Ruddy eventually won. During this period Ruddy and his work was given extensive press coverage which in turn gave his profile a huge boost.
Craig Ruddy with his portrait of David Gulpilil
After the court battle had ended Ruddy decided to sell the portrait that had won the Archibald and caused all the controversy. In August of 2006 the artwork was sold at auction for AU$260,000 which was a far cry from the few thousand dollars he was receiving for other works.
Although winning the Archibald prize and the resulting controversy did improve his career it did not improve it to the point where all his works will now be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The AU$260,000 paid for the portrait was not proportionate to his career status and over all value of his work. In an instance like this an artists work my spike in price for a short period of time followed by a fall in price back to a realistic level.
Unwary art investors can get caught up in this type of hype during which time dealers may take advantage of buyers by charging disproportionately large premiums for the particular artists work while the artist is in the spotlight which can leave investors with a work worth much less than they paid when the hype dies down and the artists prices level out.
The moral of this story is make informed and well thought out decisions when purchasing art for investment
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.