Victoria Price, daughter of actor Vincent Price, will be a speaker at our upcoming Santa Fe Art Business Summit. We caught up with her to discuss her thoughts on artists, collecting and creativity.
ABI: What is your background in the arts, and how did that lead to what you are doing today?
VP: I was fortunate to grow up with a father who was an art collector, art historian, and a lifelong advocate for the arts. He served on countless museum boards, as well as the White House Art Committee under the Kennedy administration, and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the U.S. Department of the Interior for fifteen years — where he supported, protected and promoted Native American art. Additionally, he created a program to sell fine art (from Picasso to Whistler to Dali to emerging and ethnographic art) for Sears Roebuck in the 1960s. And he lectured on the importance of the visual arts — 60 cities in 65 days every year for 30 years. All because he believed, without hyperbole, that art saved lives.
Through my father, I, too, fell in love with the power of the visual arts. I went on to study art history at Williams College and then to become an art dealer. But being an art dealer often proved a dis-heart-ening experience. In other words, the commerce of heart often separated me from my love of art. The business of buying and selling art frequently seemed more about some fictional fiscal bottom line, about accumulation for the sake of owning, and about buying because one should instead of because one loves and connects with art.
Which is why I have now dedicated myself to speaking about art instead of selling it. Although I still work with collectors privately, I am far more interested in taking up my father’s mantle of arts advocate and enthusiast.
As we face — yet again — massive cuts to the arts, it behooves all of us who love the visual arts, and recognize their fundamental importance, to do whatever we can to keep promoting, preserving and protecting them.
Of particular interest to me is the critical role that the collector plays in the arts. Collectors are patrons, tastemakers, and art enthusiasts — but only when their impetus is heart-based. Art is not a financial investment. Rather it is an investment in the soul of creativity and the future of freedom. Because without the freedom to create, we will cease to live in a world where the free exchange of ideas, the celebration of beauty, the joy in collective seeing, and the ability to critique the world for the purpose of changing it for the better is possible. We cannot let this happen!
Without art collectors who invest in their own passionate eye and the adventure of an creative interchange with the makers of art, the world would be a vastly more limited and less true place.
My father used to say that he felt like one of those Salvation Army volunteers — that he had beaten the drum for art for his entire adult life. I am grateful to have the opportunity to pick up where he left off and keep beating the drum for art!
ABI: How has art collecting changed over the years, and how does this affect visual artists?
VP: When my father began collecting art in the early 1920s — he bought a Rembrandt etching for $37.50 by saving every penny from age 12 to 15 to be able to afford this piece with which he had fallen in love while walking by an art gallery window — the visual arts were believed to be the province of the moneyed elite. Furthermore, American art was deemed provincial and derivative — all great art being European. My father was a populist. His goal was a work of art in every home. He felt that living with art changes your whole relationship to art. It makes art personal and intimate and connective.
We make and collect, promote and preserve and protect art, because we love it.
Now that America is at the forefront of the visual arts, and most people believe that they can buy art, the pendulum has swung perhaps too far in the other direction. Millennials want to own art — but not necessarily because they want to, but rather because they feel they should. Most do not engage in the connective adventure of collecting, but rather seek to buy because they should. Should and art are not compatible. Art requires engagement. It is not about what will end up being worth the most, or buying what your friends have. It is about being willing to learn to see what engages your whole being and then investing in yourself and the work enough to want to live with that piece of art every single day.
But in a commerce-driven marketplace, the shoulding of art forces artists to create from a place of “What will sell?” or “What do buyers want?” This is deleterious to the truth of the creative process, and ultimate changes the whole fabric of the arts.
ABI: What have you learned from your own experience about being “given permission” to be an artist?
VP: When I was a little girl, I wanted to make art. A finger-painting I made was chosen for a citywide art show. But on the way to the show, my mother told me that they had not chosen my piece because I was talented, but rather because they wanted my famous father there. That was significant to me not because my mother was wrong. I was definitely not as “talented” as the other children, but rather because from that moment on, my pure joy in creating art was replaced by worry about whether I was worthy of creating art. It has taken me a long time to stop listening to those old “not good enough” voices in my own head.
As a gallerist, I always had a space where I showed the work of emerging artists. As an arts advocate, I serve on the board of the museum my parents started in Los Angeles, whose mission it is to show the work of underrepresented artists. But it has taken me a long time to encourage my own artistic aspirations. I photograph daily, but never called myself a photographer. Instead, I called myself an amateur — a lover of photography.
This summer, I will be having my first photography show at a gallery. I still struggle with the naysaying voices. But my love of photography is now trumping my fear of not being talented enough.
And that’s the bottom line. Art = Love. We make and collect, promote and preserve and protect art, because we love it. But we must all do whatever it takes to make sure that there will always be art for us to love. We must all become art advocates of the heart.
Learn more about our Santa Fe Art Business Summit, and register now. Victoria Price will be speaking at an evening reception during the event.