There’s a big sprawling and somewhat pointless story in the Times of London this weekend that tries to cover a lot of bases in and around the subject of artists swapping work with friends, mentors and admirers. Unfortunately, it veers far from that cart path into the subject of artists who collect or what artists own, which should be the subject of another article entirely.
So we’ve tried to pull out the bits that relate back to the state premise: artists swapping with artists. The author of article, Anthony Gardner, says it took him quite some time to find 12 artists who would speak to him about their swapping for fear of angering gallerists and the tax man. After reading the story, let’s propose another reason for the artist’s reticence: they just grew tired of Gardner’s inability to get to the point.
Take, for example, Polly Morgan, a young taxidermist who is rapidly making a name for herself with her inspired tableaux of dead creatures. Her art collection includes an etching from Jake and Dinos Chapman’s much-publicised series based on Goya’s Disasters of War, which Dinos gave her for her 27th birthday; a painting of a house she used to live in, by her ex-boyfriend, the portraitist Francisco Centofani; and a cast of a human heart made from a wasps’ nest, swapped with her friend Alastair Mackie. She also has a photograph of a dead rabbit, a gift from the rock singer Patti Smith. (“People always seem to think of me when they see dead things,” she says. ) […]
To offer an exchange is, after all, the highest compliment one artist can pay another. But according to the portrait painter Jonathan Yeo, whose subjects range from George W Bush to Minnie Driver, the explosion of interest in contemporary art has made people think much harder about these transactions: “In the past it was very casual. Now that pieces are worth so much more, you have to be more scrupulous.”
At the heart of Yeo’s collection are two wedding presents. One — “a pot with pictures of me and my wife on it” — was from the subversive ceramicist Grayson Perry; the other, a picture of Yeo in his studio, was from the actor-photographer Dennis Hopper. Yeo also treasures works by Gavin Turk, Keith Tyson and Peter Blake: “I have several pieces by Peter, including rainbow tins, prints, and a Paul Weller album cover. Come to think of it, he promised me a Sergeant Pepper print, and I’ve never got round to collecting it.” In monetary terms, this is like not bothering to cash a cheque for £1,500. […]
If there is a drawback to the artists’ alternative economy, it is that its participants are notoriously hard to pin down. “I’ve got five swaps I’ve agreed to that are still outstanding,” says the Turner-prize-winning painter and installation artist Keith Tyson, “and some I’ve been waiting two or three years for.” Nor are artists generally keen to part with pieces they are confident would sell well in a gallery. “Most of the ones I have are mementos of friendship,” says Paul Noble, the artist renowned for his huge, intricate drawings, “but they aren’t necessarily the best work of the people concerned.”
The Alternative Economy Booming Among Artists (Times of London)