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Will you buy the next Banksy?

There is an urban artists myth (excuse the pun) that a woman approached Picasso and asked him to do a sketch on a piece of paper.

Blue Sky ThinkingHe made the sketch and returned it saying that it would cost several thousand pounds. ‘Isn’t that a lot for a five minute sketch?’ she queried. ‘This sketch may have taken five minutes’ said Picasso, ‘but it’s the result of 30 years of practice’.

Charles Hall, renowned silversmith and designer told me that for every design there are another 100 behind it. This should not be a surprise as it is true of most professions; every Wimbledon tennis shot is the result of years of practice, every chef has burnt countless dishes. Getting to the top of a profession is not merely about luck, although of course it can be helpful. You don’t ‘make your own luck’ by sitting around doing nothing, the more you practice the luckier you get, or perhaps the better you get. I cannot immediately conjure to mind a fine artist whose work has worsened over time and practice. That is not to say that it is not worth investing in emerging artists because their work has not reached its full potential. Back to Picasso, his later works may be his most famous, but to own an early work now would be incredibly special, a rare insight into the makings of artistic genius with an investment price tag to suit.

Unless people do invest in emerging artists they may never emerge, eternally cocooned in the restrictive confines of making ends meet. Even if we are all to be Alfred Wallis, painting without formal training on old pieces of board, we still have to buy our food, look after our family, have a roof to sleep under, none of which is given easily when choosing to pursue a career as an artist. When people scoff at the prices that some pieces of contemporary art sell for today they easily fall into a diatribe that I would term creative crushing – the equivalent of banker bashing for artists. When these artists started their careers they did not decide to become an artist so that they could get rich quick. I can’t imagine Damian Hirst sat down at a table with his mum and dad and said ‘I’ve decided to go to art college because it’s going to make me into a millionaire’.

Any artist making a career from their artwork is doing so because it’s their passion, because they have something to say and want to share it with others. They labour endlessly in their studio, or their front room, or on the street to realise their work. They wake up in the middle of the night and make doodles in sketch pads next to their beds. They get up at 5am to capture the exact tint of the sunrise on paper. They eat baked beans on toast for days as they just want to finish a painting and don’t have a creative ounce left to cook anything else. On top of this the artist needs to be marketeer, PR professional, photographer, framer, writer and web builder in the hope that their work is seen and bought.

So when you next hear someone say that a piece of art seems either too pricey or too cheap remember it could be the next Banksy.

Catherine Lette is an atist exhibiting at the Urban Art Fair