In a new interview, gay Israeli artist Rafi Peretz explains the difficulties of being an independent artist in 2014, and the shift from selling work in galleries to selling pieces on Facebook and other social media. But despite the hardness there’s nothing else he would rather do.
Fifteen years ago Rafi Peretz decided to take the plunge and retire from education in order to make a living just by selling his paintings as an independent artist. His unique style is the combined fascinating variety of subjects he deals with, the impressive size of his paintings and the non- compromised colorfulness of the works. He does naive paintings of cities in Israel, as well as works with gay and lesbian content, in the form of same sex couples, parenting and more.
Peretz says that at the beginning he made his living almost exclusively through a well-known art collector, who bought many paintings and funded his work for nine years. Today, most of his sales are through the internet: he estimates that 70 % of sales come from his diverse activities on Facebook, and 30 % of sales are from other social network sites. He sells original paintings as well as museum quality prints, drawings and posters of original work .
One of the significant advantages Peretz has is the broad range of prices he offers : from NIS 30 for a poster, to NIS 500 for an original sketch. A high quality print goes from NIS 1300-1800, and NIS 5000-8000 for a large original painting. Naïve paintings in his series are a little more expensive, due to the level of detail and the considerable investment in drawing and painting. Peretz does about ten paintings a year from the Naïve series and sells them in the price range of between 8000 to 16000 Shekels.
What obstacles have you encountered during the construction and operation of your business ?
“Every day presents its own struggle in order to continue to create and to work economically ,” says Peretz. ” It comes in waves, difficult times and more difficult times. But when we do things we really love it’s possible to get through anything . I am a very optimistic person who draws his strength from a supportive family (especially siblings who loan me money in times of crisis), partnership and love that give me strength and provide support in order to manage a happy and satisfying daily life. ”
What is the hardest thing about being self-employed ?
“Finding customers to purchase my paintings. Galleries today are a dead horse . With gallery commissions of 30 % to 200%, commerce is almost never performed in galleries , and everything goes through trading online in my opinion. If there is anything I would do differently , if I were starting my business today from scratch , I’d try to meet higher quality professionals. ”
Is this the situation in all galleries or are there galleries that stand out ?
“Except for five or ten good commercial galleries that manage to reach an audience of collectors, and that choose a few artists from the variety of art school graduates, many artists are left without a framework that takes care of exposure and sale of their work. Artists find themselves exhibiting in spaces for rents of hundreds of shekels, and the display of painting alone costs thousands of dollars each exhibition. Mainly it’s friends who come to eat cookies. Technically, no trading really happens there” .
“But there are of course other cases. For example, last year a painting of mine was sold at auction in Montefiore Gallery, and a series of drawings of Tel Aviv led to a campaign by the Ministry of Tourism in London promoting tourism to Israel. Following this exposure in the daily newspapers , magazines and billboards, 30,000 wallets and T shirts with the image were sold at London Metro, so definitely there’s this side as well. ”
With all the difficulties , what’s the best thing about being independent ?
“Satisfaction from work I really love and enjoy. Financially I do not think it’s a wise decision to be a painter. Perhaps if I had chosen another area of practice, I would be more of an economic success. But to me being a painter was the best decision of my life. Painting is a kind of therapy for me, it is an incarnation of happiness” .