London based PR and marketing consultant Jane Clifford posed that question on one of my Linkedin groups a while back. She asked whether you would buy a mug or a laptop covered with your favorite work displayed on it? Or is it all or nothing for you?
The answers were all over the map. One fellow said ” I would only as a kitschy-jokey thing to do; but then only if a gun was held to my head”. Another said that “Cafepress isn’t ‘fine art’. There were several entries discussing the merits of prints as being lesser. One person said that “I would not buy a less expensive product if I could not afford the original, nor do I buy prints. I prefer original pieces. I can usually find an affordable original from a local artist. I have made monthly payments to buy an original, and have let my clients do the same.” One entry caught my eye. “That would depend on the artwork. Who doesn’t have a poster or fridge magnet of, say, the Mona Lisa? I have fridge magnets of works by Botticelli to works in the Guggenheim collection.” I said to myself, this person got it!
I believe that this is important topic for artists and for “the rest of us”. So I offered my “five cents” which I will now share with you:
1. I don’t believe that what you create is diminished by mass marketing. See Andy Warhol, nee Warhola. He certainly taught us a lesson with his “15 minutes of fame” and sold reproductions galore, albeit supervised by “his studio”. He also made a lot of money.
2. If you think that an image you created is desecrated by being on a mug, then you are not giving yourselves enough credit for the power of your creative output.
3. If you think that the only thing worth owning is an original, then the great masses of people who normally don’t buy art, end up buying the paint-by-numbers crap and it is our fault. It diminishes artists and consumers and continues to label us elitists.
4. The only difference between a print of an original, albeit signed and a mug is the price. Both images are far removed energetically from the artist, unless the artist spends quality time with the print and imbues it with his/her energy. Even then, it would still not be the same as at the time of conception.
5. You are telling me that you don’t buy audio books unless read by the author? And then, oh, my, it is not what was on his computer screen! Should we buy mass printed books that have not been properly blessed by the author? You know, they don’t handwrite books anymore. Do you not see movies that have been adapted to the screen? You should have heard my 13 year old grandson after the last Harry Potter movie: “She missed the most poignant issues, missed the point. Changed the book. I am done with these movies!” (j.k. Rollings was involved in the screen writing). I know…books are not art…they are just copies of the original…