In good times and bad it looks like 10% of the galleries do 90% of the business. Similarly, 10% of the artists sell 90% of the art. With the number of folks taking up painting these days and the volume of artists graduating from art schools, this figure may be closer to 1%. In comparison to some other professions, it’s pretty depressing. Mind you, there are not a lot of amateur gynecologists hanging up their shingles and offering their services.
Recent studies have indicated what biologists and sociologists are calling “the winner effect.” This is where those who do well tend to continue to do well. It’s along the lines of “nothing succeeds like success.”
In studies by John Coates of Cambridge University, stockbrokers and investment dealers were examined. It seems that brokers who did well with their clients’ portfolios tended to continue to do better than the average. While active, committed traders with strong track records did the best job, there was also evidence of high testosterone levels.
In other studies, testosterone seemed to provide “winning streaks” that often occurred about ten in the morning. Funnily, I’ve always noted this is a hot hour for my painting, but I never thought to connect it with hormones.
Of further interest, male brokers took more risks and traded more often than their female associates. It was also the men who got into the most trouble — witness infamous stock traders like Bernie Madoff and the London Whale. As well as further courage being generated after periods of successful trading, men became the most daring after having had a string of losses. Heeding this last observation, some big firms are temporarily suspending brokers’ licenses after they sustain 3% in losses.
Another interesting finding in these studies was that women brokers did just as well for their clients as male brokers. They also traded less often and were apparently more cautious and thoughtful. Women brokers didn’t appear to have those knee-jerk reactions that some researchers think are spurred by testosterone. Women were also more inclined to take advice from advisors and experts. I’m not sure, but I don’t think there are any female felons in the investment world. I may be naïve and gravely limited in my research, but I also know of no female felons in the art world.
PS: “In men coming off a winning streak, there’s an endocrine system on fire.” (John Coates)
Esoterica: Rana Foroohar in Time magazine recently noted, “Animals that win one fight are more likely to win another, as the winner enjoys higher testosterone levels, which provide an edge in subsequent battles.” She must be talking about alpha males. Do women artists benefit from similar endocrine blasts? I don’t think so. Most women artists I know are cautious, thoughtful, open-minded, deeply sensitive and gentle souls, eager only to steadily fulfill their artistic vision. Big success and mass bamboozlement are seldom priorities. Bite me if I’m wrong.
by Raymond St. Arnaud, Victoria, BC, Canada
Sorry, but there are female felons in the investment world. Carolann Steinhoff has been called to the carpet several times. We, through my wife’s investments, have suffered financially from her actions. Carolann’s investment philosophy was to put the client’s money into funds with the highest trailer fees. She had the ability to assuage all your doubts when you sat across her desk. You would leave and wonder what happened to the questions I had about those trades that we never initiated or confirmed.
We also encountered a female vendor of insurance that was also promoting investment in out of province real estate that eventually blew up in the investor’s face. We heard she eventually lost her insurance and real estate licence.
We also encountered a female broker who quit, rather than sell some of the product management wanted her to push onto her clients.
It may be the lack of female felons on the horizon is more a reflection of the gender bias of the investment business in the past. As we move to gender equality, your craving for female felons may be satiated.
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Bias against female artists
by Ingrid Mueller, Toronto, ON, Canada
Like many other industries, the art business is extremely gender biased. An interesting article in the Economist The price of being female quotes some frightening statistics that transcend bias to flagrant prejudice. The numbers made this obvious. In a recent auction by Christie’s, of post-war and contemporary art, the number of works by women was well outnumbered by works by men by a ratio of five-to-one. A recent Sotheby’s sale had a ratio of eleven–to-one. Not only do women command less attention, but their work is valued at a much lower price than that of men.
The aforementioned Christie’s sale, the work of women amounted to less than 5% of the total proceeds. Historically speaking, the most expensive post-war female artist, Louise Bourgeois, received $10,722,500 for her sculpture, Spider, while the Mark Rothko paintings, Orange, Red, Yellow, received $86,882,496.
The question is, why this huge discrepancy in the recognition of female artists and the valuation of their art? Perhaps men are better self-promoters. I would like to think that rampant misogyny is not the only judge of art. Let us hope the mindset of art collectors will change. Perhaps with the advent of more women investing, the art world will come to its senses.
So, Robert, I won’t bite you, because you are only half wrong. I’ll just give you a smack!
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Please return to yourself
by Nancy Schempp, Bristol, RI, USA
What does testosterone have to do with inspiration and the joy of soul? I hope you didn’t stay in China too long! Your beautiful Shenandoah video didn’t come from any hormone or beefed up testosterone.
I deleted this email but then decided to respond, honestly, with due respect and no offense intended…
You may have noticed that in China there isn’t any 1% (except perhaps for the malcontents) or 10%. They are 100%, or 99%, all of them clones of the great one (notice the small g). Their society is mesmerized into thinking everything is measured by numbers, obedience to the rules, and the dishonesty of high-jacking everything in sight and making it their own, so to speak. I hope you won’t be finding your art work on sale in Shanghai with a Chinese name on the bottom. (I will admit that some of their art work has a whimsical beauty that comes from a longing to be free in their soul…).
I do see the humor in your letter today, and also do respect the credit you give to women, but I also see something in your thought that hasn’t been there. I hope you return to yourself soon; you are too valuable to lose.
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Enter through your fear
by Laurel Adams, Danville, KY, USA
I guess a lot hinges on one’s definitions of “winner” and “success.” Similarly, where is one looking on the “art” scale?… There is a whole lot of “stuff” between “Fine Art” and “art.” Is it a coincidence that “art” is nestled in “heart”? Author Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote, “It is only through the eyes of the heart that one sees rightly. All that is essential is invisible to the naked eye.” I have been engaged in creatively “seeing” deeply and seeking to capture the magic even before I learned the label, artist. While great Art will always be born and widely discerned, it remains often inadequately compensated by the world because it is a spiritual gift! Who pays the Artist for the sunrises and sunsets, much less the artist who seeks to re-master it?
The current masses’ paradigm is influenced to culturally seek media vs. human engagement and accept mediocrity in all manner of socioeconomic, political, lifestyle and financial choices… and, there is a constant eye squarely focused on the disposable, reproducible, computer-generated, super-sized $19.99 bargain. Where does Art currently reside on the priority of popular choice?
My feminine perspective led my career to sound financial lifestyle choices before indulging in the soul choices born of classical mixed media training. While not every artists’ venue, I offer it without regret for I have tasted many shades of winning and success on both paths and, on backward glancing, all of my life’s weavings has been streaked with the golden light of art (in speech, in negotiation, in home design, in cuisine, in entertainment, in marriage etc.). I encourage anyone who struggles in the Arts… face squarely and boldly enter thru your fear… all is made well in the end. BE who you are aesthetically… in every aspect of your life… and others’ lives. It is about Being more than what manner I am Doing that has earned me the label, artist.
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Never too late to start winning
by John DeCuir, La Crescenta, CA, USA
I am reminded of the life of William “Bill” Traylor (April 1, 1854 — October 23, 1949) who was a self-taught artist born into slavery on a plantation in Alabama. In 1939, at age eighty-five, he moved to Montgomery where he slept in the back room of a funeral home and also in a shoemaker’s shop. During the day, he sat on the sidewalk and drew images of the people he saw on the street and remembered scenes from life on the farm, hanging his works on the fence behind him. A good thought for the day might be the following snippets from “IF” by Rudyard Kipling :
If you can dream — and not make dreams your master;
If you can think — and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same: ….
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!
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Myths of investing
by John Clemens, North Augusta, SC, USA
The idea that brokers who do well continue to do well just ain’t true, nor is it sound investment advice to share with a neophyte. I have not reviewed John Coates studies but people who have chased winning fund managers and portfolio managers for decades always lose in the end. Just ask Vanguard and Fidelity. The book, Random Walk Down Wall Street explains why. I would even suggest that artists are particularly naive and easily taken for granted and may be tempted to assume this is a winning investment philosophy/ strategy when it is just the opposite. Men with high testosterone levels do tend to take more risk and it almost always burns them in the end, whether we are talking about Wall Street or flying jet fighters. Winning portfolios tend to be the opposite: average and well balanced with only a moderate measure of risk. In fact it has been shown that women tend to structure portfolios better than men. Go figure.
What is a ‘real artist’?
by Annette Cargill, Troy, OH, USA
“With the number of folks taking up painting these days and the volume of artists graduating from artschools, this figure may be closer to 1%. In comparison to some other professions, it’s pretty depressing. Mind you, there are not a lot of amateur gynecologists hanging up their shingles and offering their services.”
The above comment makes me defensive… probably my problem not yours, but who are these amateur artists? And correct me if I am wrong, but haven’t we all been amateurs at some point? And what is wrong with an amateur painter trying to sell paintings? It starts to sound like sour grapes to me. If the competition is intense, is that a problem? Don’t you want to be able to pick your own “best” gynecologist? Not you specifically, obviously. But you seem to be suggesting that there are certain qualifications that you are espousing in a “real artist.” Could you please elaborate so I can know if I am one or not.
For instance, do I need a BFA? Can’t think of a single famous painter that had one, but there probably is. But I can certainly think of many who didn’t. I gave up the interest in a BFA awhile back because it would be wasting time I could be painting. And being 65 I don’t have time to spare. I have learned more in the 10 years I have been “in studio”, on my own for the most part, than I did in either of my degrees. Do you have a BFA? I couldn’t find any mention and obviously you are an accomplished artist.
I decided to think of my list of qualifications for a Real Artist to compare it to yours when I get it:
1. Loves the work (as opposed to only the product) and does the work, which are really two different things.
2. Thinks about his/her work seriously and has a personal focus/direction in mind.
3. Responds to his/her life directly or indirectly in his/her work.
4. Grows, develops, and deepens the understanding of his /her work.
Not much of a list but I think that list could cover amateurs and serious artists, realism, abstraction, expressionism, pop artists, cubists, sellers and non-sellers, BFAs and “unschooled” or self-taught. I think there are many kinds of intelligences and they do not all fit in the same category, are not better or worse than any others, and are not necessarily all developed in a BFA program. Some are, some not.
As an artist I appreciate any effort by an artist to grow and develop his trade, talent, etc. I respond personally more to art in the same genre as mine but not always. It is the way my mind works. That doesn’t make it better or worse art.
As an art teacher for 25 years I was always promoting that everyone has talent of some kind as an artist. It is a very inclusive pursuit. I would hope we could all enjoy making art and making it a part of our lives.
(RG note) Thanks, Annette, and all the others who bit me. I love your list. I don’t have a BFA. People have a right to buy art from anyone at any time. And, no kidding, that includes art by monkeys, elephants, horses, fleas, etc.
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Photographing in a gallery
by Anna Schoolderman, New Zealand
I recently attended an art show and was amazed to observe someone taking photos of some of the works. Upon approaching the authorities and pointing out that they had signs forbidding the photographing of art works, I was informed that the photographer was part of a group interested in purchasing a wedding gift. As not all of the group could attend the exhibition, she was photographing potential paintings so they could come to a consensus on the purchase. I was extremely disgruntled with this response since the various artists represented had not given their consent. What are your thoughts on this?
(RG note) Thanks, Anna. This is a completely legitimate system for showing a selection of art to unavailable buyers.
Artist bares all
by John Giesecke, Atlanta, GA, USA
Studying for a Fine Arts degree, I’ve taken the mandatory Life Drawing classes and wondered what it is like to model for a class. In an informal poll I’ve learned this crosses the mind of most newbies.
In Mexico where I was taking classes at the Instituto in San Miguel, we had the inevitable experience of a model “no show.” The instructor, Keith Keller, and I had become friends and over a few beers I had jokingly told him to call on me if this happened. He did.
The class was mainly locals ranging in ages from 18 to over 70. I was away from home and surrounded by about 30 students I thought I’d never see after the trip.
On the stand I took off the provided robe as an elderly woman sat and pulled her chair close enough to touch my feet. I looked down to see an elegant woman who was the spit and image of my Granny, who had died several years before. I never expected to be revealed to my Granny this way and I could not get the feeling (it was her) out of my mind. She was my most important mentor and taught me if one decides to do something, give it your all. She just stared awhile as I went through a dozen gestures I’d enjoyed drawing and then she began to draw.
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Featured Workshop: Donald Jurney
acrylic on wood panel, 30 x 30 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Leigh Sparks of Santa Barbara, CA, USA, who wrote, “Martha Stewart, interior artist and investor, didn’t have enough testosterone or good old boy connections and she was sentenced to prison.”
And also Lynette Sheppard of Hoolehua, HI, USA who wrote, “My husband, Dewitt Jones, always says that he hopes women start running the world in his lifetime.”
And also Lois Fox who wrote, “I take exception to the idea that felony including art felony is caused by testosterone. We have examples of unscrupulous politicians of all sexes. Human nature appears to trump gender. Testosterone like estrogen is a powerful force and either can be used for good or ill.”
And also H Margret of Santa Fe, NM, USA, who wrote, “Big success not motivating for most women artists? How is big success defined? Ambition is considered so much less attractive in women, though, so admitting it is a real Catch 22. Consider yourself bitten.”
(RG note) Thanks, H Margret. I have sustained lesions to most of my torso, arms legs and neck. Doc says I’ll be okay in a few hours.
Enjoy the past comments below for The winner effect…