Art Comment Quarterly
Pity the Nation
"Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion. Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press. Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful. Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening. Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block. Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking. Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again. Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle. Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation."
Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
A Broader PerspectiveArt Comment is presently being sent to about 10,000 people involved in all aspects of art: academics, galleries, collectors, media, artists, architects, arts organisations, and art lovers around the world.
Whether it be in relation to the persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust years, or to the current animosity propagated toward Arabs, it seems to be a sad indictment of human nature that during times of global conflict it is all too easy for us to dehumanise and even demonise whole races of our fellow human beings. Some might say that this human compunction toward racial prejudice is a natural evolutionary instinct spawned during primordial times when tribalism meant survival. Or perhaps it is more the result of simple ignorance.
Those of us in the Western World, with our internet, atomic bombs, and moon landings, can feel smugly superior to the Peoples of the Middle East. However, in the grand scheme of history, these modern triumphs could be perceived as miniscule in comparison to the earthshaking human developments accredited to Middle Eastern peoples. Where would our moon buggies be without the invention of the wheel and astronomy? Where would the internet be without the invention of writing? Where would atomic power be without mathematics and algebra (what could be more Arabic sounding than Al-Gebra)?
And what good do we do with all this modern technology? What guides us in the fair and proper use of this power that man has somehow appropriated for himself from the Gods? We seek these answers in Religion, and Philosophy. Again, like the technologies described above, our sources for spiritual guidance, the great monotheistic religions of the Western World, are also a product of the cultures of the Middle East.
Those in the West also tend to ignore or forget the great poets and artists of the Middle East. Artist, poet, and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran (see poets section)> quoted in the introductory paragraph above, is a Middle Eastern version of, and is at least equal in stature to, English artist William Blake. And yet, how many Westerners have heard of Gibran?
One contemporary Middle Eastern artist/poet is Joseph Matar . His heroic painting Kadmous depicts King Kadmous of Byblos of the second millennium BC. Kadmous is credited with the invention and spread of the Phoenician alphabet, the direct precursor to Greek and Amaric (known to Biblical scholars as the alphabet used in the Dead Sea Scrolls and also during the life of Christ). The Phoenician alphabet evolved over the millennia into every Western alphabet used today. The homage afforded to Kadmous of Byblos by scholars through the ages for his contribution to language is still evidenced in words like: Bible, bibliography, and etc. -all derived from the root word 'Byblos'.
Matar's painting Ahiram et le Temple relates the story of the destruction of the Temple of Solomon. The Old Testament of the Bible refers to King Hiram (Alhiram) the Canaanite (Phoenician) king. Hiram was the architect of and sent his masons and labourers to Jerusalem to build the great Temple of Solomon which was infamously destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's Assiryans armies. (The Hebrew word for Canaanite, kena'ai means merchant. The Phoenicians were among the earliest navigators and world merchants, and thus spread their influence on culture and civilization throughout the world.)
A curious symbol used in both of Matar's paintings is the five-pointed star. The casual viewer can be forgiven for identifying the star depicted on the temple wall in his painting of the Ahiram et le Temple, as the six-pointed Star of David, symbol of the modern state of Israel. But closer inspection reveals that the star is a five-pointed star, the iconical symbol of the Phoenician dynasties. The great Phoenician architect King Kadmous is also credited with the creation of the Freemasons who still use the five-pointed star as the symbol of this secretive and powerful organisation (almost every US president has been a member of the Freemasons). The Greek Pythagorians also embraced and promulgated that mystical Phoenician star upon which they attributed great powers. The proportions and geometry of that star and its pentagonal derivatives are still studied and utilized in certain academic artistic circles in the form of the 'Golden Mean'. (As a result of various religious iconoclastic inquisitions over the ages, the five-pointed star has unfortunately also been associated with the Occult.) Morocco, originally a Phoenician colony, proudly displays the Phoenician star on its national flag.
Matar's work and the works of all artists worldwide can help us to understand cultures foreign to us and hopefully, lead us not to reject, marginalize, and destroy them; but, to welcome and embrace them.
In the Spring Issue 2003 of ArtComment Quarterly we asked the question:
Marketing Tips for Artists
"Are galleries are still essential for an artist to find success?"
The results are given below:
64% voted: YES
36% voted: NO
Comments received from our readers include:
From J. G. (email@example.com): "Yes, galleries are essential, in fact the only means be they private or public. With public exposure things start happening, even in a small way. I have experimented with internet galleries, but here we oppose a majour barrier in understanding, viewing the product of spirit in a 'mind package'. Without real life interaction with an artwork there can only be superficial understandings. Media and the prostitution of art by tourism markets have so diluted the meaning of art, being the fundimantal and traditional meaning of comunicating the meaning and beauty of life, that the true artist will likely never be discovered - however, is that important.
From M.S. (firstname.lastname@example.org): "As an artist just starting out 24 years ago I began contacting interior designers directly and accepting commissions for custom paintings. This enabled me to make money as well as to experiment with different techniques until I developed a style of my own . After a few years I outgrew the need and became too "pricey" and began showing at galleries. At that time I also was contacted by art reps who would show my work to architects, designers, corporations etc. and I still do business with some of them."
These results can be interpreted as positive for both the traditional galleries and the independent artists. With 2/3 of the respondents supporting the traditional galleries, it is clear that they are in no danger of them disappearing any time soon. And as for the independent artists, the fact that 1/3 of the respondents , voted NO, tells us that many artists seem to have found successful alternatives to the gallery system (though few were willing to provide us with their secrets to success).
Being an artist as well as the editor of ArtComment, I should like to speak directly to my fellow artists about a personal experience of mine. Until a few months ago I was happily building my own frames for my limited edition giclée prints - with mixed success. My theory was to produce a simple clean 'studio frame' that was neutral in terms of style, completely functional, and would protect the artwork until (or if) the buyer would chose to reframe it to match his personal tastes and interior decor - and of course to save money for myself.
Then I let David Kerwin of Artisan Frames talk me into framing one of my prints. The first impression of my work in a professionally designed and prepared frame was truly amazing. David had a buyer for the print before I could even pick it up from his shop. I became a convert to a new theory of division of labour, wherein the artist does the art and the framer does the framing - and we are both the better for it (and so too is the buyer). Since then every print I have had framed by David has sold in short order - I had never had that success with my own framing.
So the moral of this story is the old cliché, "sometimes you have to spend money to make money" Check out David's superior services at www.artisan-frames.com .
While I am speaking personally, let me also make some comments on a subject related to the latest poll results reported above. Some artists regard an online portfolio primarily as an alternative to the brick-and-mortar gallery system for selling their work. Depending exclusively on one's online portfolio for direct sales could lead to serious discouragement. Most buyers, if they are not already familiar with the artist's work, don't commit themselves to buying art that they have only seen on a computer screen. An online portfolio should be regarded as only one part (albeit an essential part) of an artist's overall marketing strategy. There is no doubt that every professional and serious amateur artist must have an up-to-date professional looking portfolio of his/her works - and being online is by far the least expensive, affords the most exposure, and is the most versatile form of artist portfolio available today. Additionally, you will find that today's successful artists, whether in galleries or not, do maintain online portfolios. Accurate documentation, immediate accessibility, and worldwide exposure should be regarded as the primary advantages and purpose of online portfolios. Direct online sales can be regarded as icing on the cake. (The direct sales I have made as a member of ArtVitae.com have paid for the Euro 50 annual subscription fee many, many times over.)
There are two basic types of online portfolios: stand-alone and group sites (often referred to as portal sites). The advantage of a stand-alone portfolio is that the design of the site is completely versatile and limited only by the artist's imagination. The down side of stand-alone portfolios is that they are very time-consuming, difficult, and expensive to build and maintain. Also, unless an internet visitor is searching for an artist using the artist's exact name in a keyword search, finding that artist's stand-alone portfolio is more difficult than finding a needle in that proverbial haystack. That is why you will find that many artists who have stand-alone portfolios are also members of one or more group sites.
Group sites receive vastly more traffic (and hence more exposure) than stand-alone portfolios. If you go to a search engine and enter 'artist' as the keyword, you will get millions of hits - another haystack. That's why the best of the group sites (like ArtVitae.com) also advertise their site in print in periodicals such as major Art magazines. ArtVitae.com also sponsors ArtComment, currently mailed to 10,000 addresses - yet another form of vast and direct exposure.
I urge you to try out ArtVitae.com, especially now that they are offering a
FREE ONE-MONTH TRIAL. What do you have to loose? Visit ArtVitae.com now.
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