Why you are paying for failure when you buy a work of art
Potential buyers of art sometimes complain about the high prices. Part of the reason for steep prices is that you are paying for failures. At the heart of artistic creation is experimentation, trying out things that haven’t been done in that exact way before. Ideas need to be developed, with every aspect of a given one turned on its head and side, to see which is the best way to execute it. Staying safe is never a good look for an artist.
Recently I wanted to make a tapestry which would be several shallow bowl shapes. I drew my ideas in my sketchbook, made various models in paper, trying different colours and configurations, then did a small test weaving of one of the bowls. I thought I was ready to start weaving, so proceeded to make the first element. To make a bowl in tapestry necessitates pulling the warp threads after the piece has been completed to create the required shape. This proved more difficult at a larger scale, and I just couldn’t get it to lie the way I had hoped. Then it struck me. The bowl looked like a satellite dish. So the whole project had to be abandoned.
Another version of the possible tapestry
It is always disappointing when you have started out with optimism, only to realise that it is just not working. It may have been that the idea is sound but was not interrogated enough. Sometimes I look at someone else’s completed work and think that it had potential, but it wasn’t ‘resolved’, in other words, it needed more thought. But it this case, the whole concept was defective.
I have sometimes been able to save something that initially wasn’t going to make it – see, for example, http://joannesoroka.co.uk/its-just-not-working-what-do-i-do-now-revising-tapestries/ But often, especially with tapestry, it is difficult if not impossible to revise what has already been woven. Of course, that will work only when it is a minor problem.
If you experiment, you will inevitably fail sometimes. It shows discernment if you can see the difference between what should be rejected and what may be a success. The failures are hidden, since the public never sees them, but a great deal of time and effort may have gone into them
. This is among the things that you pay for when you buy a work of art.
As Samuel Beckett said, ‘Fail Again. Fail Better.’