Saturday, October 02, 2010

Which numerical performance measure matters most to you as an artist? (RESULTS)

Which numerical performance measure matters most to you as an artist
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Only 44 people responded to this month's Making A Mark Poll which asked which numerical performance measure matters most to you as an artist.

When analysing poll results I look at what's not there as well as what's there and the main conclusion that I draw from the responses to this poll is that most artists reading this blog are not too comfortable using numerical performance indicators to track trends in their progress and achievement

Here's a summary of the main findings based on the responses - both to the poll and via the comments
I was surprised at how different my definition of success as an artist is from the poll options and then realized you must be inquiring about art business success rather than a broader definition? If artists throughout history defined success using the poll's criteria, probably few would have been considered a success in their own times. 
Jana Bouc
Jana was absolutely right.  I had started off by thinking about how artists assessed their performance from a business perspective.  Hence my main conclusion - it's far from clear that all artists do assess their performance in numerical ways as business people as well as the progress they make in a qualititative sense as artists.

Here's how I responded to Jana
I'm working on the principle that to be a long term successful artists you
  • either have to have enough income (steady job/won the lottery/whatever) which puts a roof over your head and feeds you - and then you can take your time making it as an artist in whatever terms are meaingful for you
  • or you are a full time artist and your art has to earn you the income which put the roof over your head and feeds you
At the end of the day - how you earn your daily crust is actually quite important to how you look at performance measures

Those who have made a full-time commitment to being an artist with no income from other sources may have a different perspective.

Others may feel that what they get out of art is enough and being able to choose how they develop makes it worthwhile to earn their income in a job which maybe holds less intrinsic interest.

I've focused on conventional performance measures which lend themselves to being counted

It's not that they are better or worse so much as they help make you think about what really matters.

I'm definitely more interested in the debate on this one than the result!
So what did you all decide?

Overall, there's no clear pattern and some measures came a lot lower than I expected.  So maybe I should have had different polls for diffeernt types of artists?  What do you think?

What artists are not interested in - True?

According to the survey none of the following are a primary performance indicator
  • number of exhibitions including your work
  • number of press previews you've received
  • number of collections your work is in
Which makes one wonder why, on our websites, we all list the exhibitions we've been in, the range of places where are art is in private collections and what the press have said about our exhibitions

The key here is that the question was about the main number you looked at - not which indicators you ALSO use to assess whether or not you were successful.  Any of the other indicators could have been ancillary performance indicators - but I wanted to find out which was the main one you looked at!

Plus all of these are ways of communicating "success" to potential buyers as a means of taking your seriously - but that's a marketing strategy rather than an assessment of an achievement.

The top three performance indicators
  1. the number of works you've produced - the primary focus of most artists was on their work - and how many pieces of art they had produced. 32% said this was their main number they looked at.
  2. the number of works you've sold (this year) - 18% kept a close eye on how many works they've sold in 2010.  I'm guessing that the impact of our current economic difficulties might be making people pay rather more attention to this indicator this year.  I've certainly heard a number of artists saying that sales and income streams are very different this year.  This would also be a key indicator for all professional artists who survive primarily by the number of art works they sell.
  3. the number of art competitions which include your work - 14% of those who responded regarded the number of times their artwork gets accepted into juried art shows as being the main way they assess their achievement.  It definitely seems as if juried shows are seen as prestigious.  It's possible for anybody to have an exhibition in a vanity gallery, it's not that difficult to win a prize in a small local show - but in theory your art has to be really good to get into a juried art show.  Certainly the ratio of successful artists to the number of submissions on major art competitions in the UK which I record on this blog is testament to the validity of this view (see also Art Competitions in the UK - Resources for Artists).  Many see it as being indepedent validation of the worth of your work.
Other important indicators

The following is the order of importance of other indicators
  • works you've sold (all time) - 11% felt this was very important.  I guess it's always good to see the cumulative trend
  • high status collections your work is in - This seems to be an indicator which is more important to the established artist as they know that the prices they are able to charge and the type of collector who will come calling depends in part on who has previously collected their work.  This is the reason why artists list the collections their art is in on their website
  • net income this year  -  7% said this was the main number they looked at.  I'm a bit surprised that this indicator is not higher.  However thinking about it, net income is something quite a few people don't have a good grasp of until they come to do their book-keeping and see just how much gets swallowed up in expenses
  • galleries your work is in - most artists would like to be in one good gallery.  Professional artists are looking to develop a portfolio of galleries in varying locations (ie which don't compete with one another.  The more popular the art the more important this performance indicator becomes.  However for the artist that is generating serious sales via galleries I'd be expecting them to focus on indicators other than this.
  • solo exhibitions you've had - Just 2% of artists felt that the number of solo shows an artist had had was the key performance indicator
  • gross income this year - Similalrly just 2% used gross income as their main performance measure
Overall one doesn't come away with an impression that many artists measure their performance in terms of money.  Which is a major contrast to the way just about any other economic activity measures its performance.  Although having said that there are lots of activities which recognise financial measures as important - but not of primary importance

Any surprises?  Let me know what you think by leaving a comment

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