Ten years ago I read my first issue of Artchronika magazine. I was seventeen years old at that time. There was an article about “Silken Paradise” with a few fine paintings of animals in luxury interiors, palaces, and royal residences. I was captivated by the style, precision of details, rich colors, and, of course, the imagination of the artist who created that artwork.
When I moved to the USA four years ago, I left most of my books and magazines back in Russia including that Artchronika issue. Yet, a few months ago I asked my parents to send me that magazine. I looked up the name of the artist and his latest work online. I found Valery Yershov’s email address and after exchanging with a couple emails, we recently spoke on the phone. I discovered that he was also born in south of Russia – I am from Krasnodar and he is from Essentuki, Stavropolsky krai.
Valery came to the USA in the midst of Perestroyka. He was already a well-known and established artist who had exhibits all over the Europe. He was offered a contact in New York City and had a huge success in America at that time. In early 90-s art dealers were very interested in Russian art. Since then, there were some turbulent times, and Valery told me a few stories about ups and downs in his career. Yet, he has always been a painter and never traded painting for other jobs. His father was a landscape painter who introduced him to the art at early age. Valery received classic training from the Graphic Department of the Leningrad Pedogogical Institute, and I am so happy that his creativity wasn’t killed in the classrooms of a Soviet art institution.
After graduation he moved to Moscow. It was a fun time: many young artists were flocking in a semi-abandoned building, forming a wild, rebellious community. At that time, Valery was a roommate with Marat Gelman, who now owns Guelman's Contemporary Art Gallery and is one of the most famous and successful art dealers in Russia.
One of the highlights of Varely’s career was his participation in Pravda’s extravaganza. In mid 90-s, Valery was a member of Art-Party “Pravda,” a group of progressive Russian artists living in America, and made some provocative sculptures that generated a lot of buzz in the US. He mixed the dough with the clay and used it as a building material, and then painted over it. There were sofas with blankets, Jacuzzis and other objects covered with erotic pictures and sensual ornaments.
In addition, you can see some of Valery’s recent work in this video.
On my quest of finding the secrets of the most successful and best-selling artists, I couldn’t resist a temptation to discuss with Valery the contemporary art market, its major contributors, and players. I asked what advice he can give to the young aspiring artists starting their career nowadays. Here are a few advices he gave me:
1. Try to catch a new wave. Don’t look at well-established artists. Don’t repeat them. You may borrow the classy style but spice it up with reflections of the contemporary life. A good example would be figurative work by John Currin whose style reminds the work of Velasquez, yet is very modern and fresh. It leads me to the second Valery’s advice.
2. The time of a bare idea or a concept as a sole foundation of an artwork is gone. Technical skills and esthetics gained their value back. Try to create an art that is interesting to scrutinize: with multiple elements and lots of fine details.
3. Incorporate new media in your work: audio, video, and digital. Varery is now experimenting with 3D installations combining his oil paintings with 3D objects and digital multimedia.
I was thinking about our conversation. It is always hard to break through the dogma. Valery admitted that people generally want to buy already established art hoping that when they hang it on the wall, their friends will understand and appreciate their choice. I heard similar comments from the gallery owners when I scouted Dragon street gallery district in Dallas, TX a month earlier. An average American buyer doesn’t want to explain, justify or to be embarrassed by the choice of the artwork when friends and family members visit his or her house.
Therefore, a new artist should try to find people, who can connect with the artist’s fresh idea, and to recognize and help a rising star. As Wilhelm Uhde spotted out Henri Rousseau and Séraphine de Senlis a century ago, there should be art dealers, connoisseurs, and collectors who can escalate your success and multiply your net worth. Search and you shall find; ask, and you shall receive.
I always wanted to know why some artists had wide success and recognition while other talented people were left behind the curve, starving, or working unwanted jobs to meet their survival needs. No one art book or an autobiography I’ve read so far answered this question. Therefore, I began my journey of finding talented people I respect and admire and asking them to share their stories with me.
In this blog I am going to tell you about artists, gallery owners, art curators, museum directors and other art professionals and share their stories of failures and success.