Editorial: A Market to
Match the Art
“… selling on their own, pushing their work and haggling over prices …”
While Icelandic businesses have raided European retail, air travel and property markets and been criticised lately for their rapid expansion, Icelandic artists have been welcomed in galleries and museums around the world. The number of them that exhibit regularly outside Iceland has grown from just a handful to more than we can count in just a decade or two. This is of course necessary if Iceland is to enjoy a lively and innovating art scene itself as the size of the Icelandic population severely limits the number of artists who can work and sustain themselves without seeking audiences – and buyers – abroad.
Whether it be the small population or something else, Iceland has never developed an art market in line with the system used in neighbouring countries to bring art to buyers. With rare exceptions, galleries have been weak and in the end, artists have done most of the selling on their own, pushing their work and haggling over prices which most find understandably distasteful and akward. Despite the explosion in the Reykjavik art scene – and the new-found wealth of our international business raiders – the market has been slow to respond. This can definitely be blamed on the lack of a proper infrastructure of galleries and agents but there have also been repeated calls for legislation that would reward buyers and supporters of the arts with tax relief and similar incentives – so far without result. The success that artists enjoy abroad is also slow to filter back and influence prices at home, meaning that the home market for some artists dries up as their success elsewhere drives up the price of their work.
All this is surely worthy of more study and an important start has been made by professor Agust Einarsson’s new book on The Economic Impact of Music which takes stock of the social and economic effects of the rapidly growing music sector in Iceland; such a book on art would be an invaluable foundation on which to build a market that would do justice to the work our artists produce and make owning it easier for all of us.
LIST Icelandic Art News. Page last updated 9 April 2006. Texts and images copyright © by the authors. For inquiries and contact information see about us.