Tonight sees the next episode in the BBC 4 documentary, “Goldsmiths. But is it art?” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s01xm
As a Goldsmiths alumnus I was really interested to watch this and compare it with the fine art tutorials I had heard my friends relay as they struggled to find their voice in this competitive and confusing market. What was surprising was how much the Goldsmiths style has endured.
I vividly remember a debate in the Goldsmiths bar, at the start of the 1990s, about whether projecting images onto a canvas and painting the outline constituted fine art. Here we were in 2010 watching former police armour designer, Thomas Leahy, projecting images onto canvas and painting the outline.
It was painful to witness Leahy’s confusion as he tried to understand what was required of him by his tutors and switched from sculpture which was deemed “too literal,” to blasting a camouflage patterned canvas with a paint gun. This was followed by the complete change in degree show exhibition induced in painter, Ian Gonczarow, by director of postgraduate studies, Gerard Hemsworth.
After watching the programme, one could argue that the Goldsmiths style is created by a process of extrusion, following acerbic tutorials with Gerard and the mounting pressure of one of the most famous student exhibitions in the UK.
Last week’s episode ended with Ian Gonczarow living the dream and selling two of his paintings at the private view and landing a job as a tutor at a foundation course in Russia.
What did interest me was how neatly Gonczarow’s case study fitted the 5 P’s marketing model.
Product- Gonczarow had produced two very strong paintings that fitted the West’s current malaise over the Chinese regime
Place – Goldsmiths is no longer just a university: boasting alumni including Damien Hurst, Sarah Lucas, Tracy Emin, Rachel Howard, Graham Coxon and Alex James, Goldsmiths is a brand. What better place to launch your product to the art market?
Promotion – A BBC 4 documentary crew and one of the most well publicised art exhibitions in the country, attracting buyers and curators
People – As Hemsworth comments, much of the successful promotion of work comes down to the interpersonal skills of the artist. Gonczarow has an attractive personality; is able to articulate his work effectively and comes across well on camera.
Price – This is perhaps where the curriculum could benefit from some business input. Gonczarow made £3,000 selling his degree show paintings, with a little help from Hemsworth. But when the buyer initially approached him he had no idea what his work was worth.
So watch the programme at 9pm tonight and decide for yourself: is it art? Or is it marketing?