Art for Sale: What You See Is What You Could Get

Posted: February 25, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Fran Rensbarger

The secret about student art hanging in the halls on the Fairfax Campus is that admirers may be able to buy what they like. Faculty and staff art displayed on campus is often for sale as well.

Purchasing the work of a Mason artist is not only good for the artist’s morale, it could be an excellent investment for the buyer. Some Mason students have gone on to become significant artists. Morgan Kennedy, Erik Sandberg, and Pete Petrine are three recently graduated students who are nationally and regionally recognized for their art. Kennedy and Sandberg are now instructors in the Department of Art and Visual Technology (AVT) in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). And many other Mason faculty members have well-established reputations.

“All of the artwork displayed is potentially for sale,” says Scott Martin, chair and associate professor in AVT. Martin says he tries to buy one or two pieces of student art each year, which he exhibits at home.

However, selling these pieces is not a top priority for students. “Most students don’t see their work hanging on the walls as a venue to sell the work-they see it more as a venue to exhibit it,” Martin says. “Students artists think about their art as communicating an aspect of themselves.” He adds that seniors often want to hold on to their works, especially the ones more likely to sell.

To buy student art, an interested purchaser needs to obtain a list of exhibitors from AVT and get in touch with the student artist. Purchase of student art has to be negotiated privately with the student, perhaps with the assistance of an instructor. AVT does not broker art sales in the department.

Some students are reluctant to negotiate a price for their work because they don’t know what to charge beyond the obvious costs of time and supplies. “The true value is the content, and that’s what students need assistance with,” Martin says.

There have been few courses in the art school curriculum that teach artists how to market and sell their work, although Wayne Hill, of Hill Art Group and a member of the CVPA board, offered a course recently that was very successful. It will be offered again, says Martin, with more publicity. “I’m hoping those courses we are considering offering in the future will help students become more aware that selling their art is a component of becoming a successful artist.”

When students sell their work, they can negotiate the right to borrow it back from a future owner, Martin says. “They look more established when their exhibited work has a tag that says the work was borrowed from a collector.”

The majority of student work is displayed on the second floor and alcove gallery of the Fine Arts Building, but some is also hanging in College Hall, the Admissions Office, the President’s Office, and the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. Sculpture students often display their art outdoors. Senior shows are exhibited in the Fine Arts Building alcove. New work is shown there every two weeks, and it comes from all the courses.

Mason Hall Alumni Atrium Gallery
The Mason Hall Alumni Atrium Gallery displays professional, faculty, and graduate student art.
Photo by Mizuki Nishida

The Fine Arts Building Gallery hosts professional shows, while the Johnson Center Arts Gallery may have faculty artists or professional artists from outside the Mason community. The Mason Hall Alumni Atrium displays professional, faculty, and graduate student art. While price tags won’t be going up in the halls, some of the faculty and staff exhibits and professional shows may have a price book in the future.

Art exhibited in one of the galleries on campus can be purchased by contacting Kirby Malone, the gallery director, at 703-993-8865 or kmalone@gmu.edu.

On the Arlington Campus, the Original Building hosts a permanent collection on the first floor, while the Professional Center Gallery on the second and third floors is for rotating professional art shows. The Prince William Campus does not display Mason artists at present.

Mason art goes off campus as well. Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey LLP, an international law firm, exhibits AVT work on the 14th floor of the Tower Club building. So far, they have held two shows of student, faculty, and graduate student works in conjunction with the Century Club’s Art at Work program.

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