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Recession, Yes, Recession Art

As Leon Graham pointed out recently, here, art is a business. It’s how some people, like painter Brendan O’Connell of Cornwall, make a living.

   That provokes crass talk about money. And in O’Connell’s case, that means slashing the price of canvases to draw buyers in sluggish times. “Recession Art” he calls it.

   O’Connell continues to make his massive and gorgeous abstracts, and portraits, too, for people who are ready to shell out big bucks for his paintings. Lawyers and actors, he says, are still buying (O’Connell had to reschedule our appointment to deliver a canvas to Alec Baldwin in New York).

   Still, he is looking for ways to boost sales he tells me during a chat in his Cornwall barn/studio. (It’s heated by a stove that burns pellets made from goldenrod, and when he can’t take the cold anymore he steps into his sauna for an hour or so. No starving artist, here. Just a chilly one.)

   His recession art pieces are small, a little shy of 12 inches square, and, like many of his other works, they are abstract, quirky, beautiful and charged with color.

   He has 55 of them on the studio wall right now, and they sell for $500 each. Recently, one woman bought 30 of them, he tells me. Being the canny fellow he is, O’Connell reduces the price for bulk sales. Ten paintings go for $400 each. Forty go for even less, and so on. (Keep in mind, O’Connell drew 5,000 portraits of tourists outside Notre Dame one summer. He charged $6 for every caricature, as he called them. Everyone else was charging $10.)

   The buyer for his recession pieces can arrange the paintings as he or she likes and change the configuration at any time.

   Just one word on recession and inflation. A decade ago, O’Connell’s 6-inch-square paintings went for $50 each to keep him in paint and canvases.

   Ah, success. Just remember, buy early.Making Bad Times Work

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