The cost of being relevant: unravelling the business of art
Posted on October 2, 2016
“We’re in an industry where artists are not respected as business men and women. Artists are taken advantage of because of the need of exposure, where as galleries without art, are just walls,” explains Ronald Muchatuta, a Cape Town based artist who is not afraid to explore controversial topics.
In light of Brexit, Ronald had an oxymoronic opportunity to display his “Self Portrait” Series at The Brickslane Gallery in London. It was a timely stance on socio-political matters. Inspired by Ronald’s desires to preserve the history of portraiture, his intention was to highlight and extend the narrative while including an analysis of his dark skinned tone to unpack the stereotypes of beauty and belonging. “I was investigating a body of work on immigration, using an introspective approach on colourism.” Upon arriving in South Africa, the Zimbabwean born artist encountered racial politics of skin colour, particularly among the black community. “This kept me questioning my blackness and how I see myself,” notes Ronald.
The audaciousness of the subject afforded him the opportunity of impact and exposure. Being the only African artist showcasing, the perspective of his expression warranted new conversations. “I wanted a new audience to see my work.” This marketing opportunity was not met without consideration of the cost of being irrelevant:”if you’re not part of the current conversation, there is the greater chance of being seen as at the bottom of the pyramid,” he warns.
As an artist who has worked his way up, Ronald has done mosaic art for the Topat family (founders of The Cash Crusader chain), as well as been nominated to be a part of a United Nations Expo. “On my journey, I have learnt what sacrifice is,” he notes; having lost both of his parents, the work that he now produces is in memory of the two people who had always believed in him. “My dad would always say that: I want you to be an artist!”
Regarding the business of art, Ronald acknowledges the disparities that separate the interests of the parties involved, and addresses them with a solution. “The only way to revolutionize the industry is to further good relationships. The sooner we work together, the quicker the blurred lines that separate artist and gallery can be erased.” It seems to be an artist is a work in progress: an avenue where client/supplier relationships are being defined; and where there is still room for artists to grow and become more recognized. “This is the intention of the environment; it is all about the audience you, as an artist, can draw in. One single opportunity leads to ten more.”