Cost of artist materials skyrocket as rare earth materials become more expensive

According to a recent report in the Huffington Post, in recent years, the price of artists’ supplies have risen dramatically, including commonly used materials such as cadiums which have gone up 50% in the last five years. “There have been increases in the prices of artists’ materials of about 10-20 percent over the past several years,” the owner of New York Central Art Supply explains to the Huffington Post. Additionally, pigments such as cadmium, cobalt and manganese are becoming harder to come by, pushing manufacturers to research and produce new colourants. The benefit of this new research however, is that these new colourants could be cleaner, cheaper and more durable and lightfast. Art Guerra, founder of Guerra Paint and Pigments, whose acrylic binders have gone up between 10 and 40% in recent years, told the Huffington Post that he believed the reason for the rise in prices is due to producers of acrylic being bought out by “bigger chemical companies, like Dow and BASF, which are recouping their expenses by raising prices.” As a result of increased prices, industry professionals have seen a shift in the types of materials that artists purchase, favouring cheaper student-targeted brands rather than professional-level materials, whilst others continue to buy the more expensive materials yet in much smaller quantities. Retailers also suffer from increased freight costs due to rising gas prices across the United States, yet manufacturers have turned to cheap labour in China and the rest of Asia in an attempt to keep costs low, claims the...

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The new materiality of contemporary art

Paris, 22 November 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA). What do White Sand, Red Millet, Many Flower by Anish Kapoor (1982), Mengele by Jean Tinguely (1986), The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst (1991), Murs de poils de carottes by Michel Blazy (2000) and Peinture homéopathique n°26 by Fabrice Hyber have in common? These five works mark a real revolution in the history of contemporary artistic practice. Indeed, since the 1970s, a new generation of artists began to work with new and simpler materials, from the everyday life, such as organic materials, food, salvaged objects, and even body fluids and animals. The use of these experimental materials progressively proved fragile and easily deteriorated; eventually it raised a problem of conservation. If a Tinguely does not work anymore and can produce no more sound, is it still a Tinguely? The conservation and restoration of contemporary artworks have become burning issues for museums today. Before the variety and complexity of the latest techniques and practices, restorers of the new generation are no more confronted to varnishes and pigments, but they must acquire the various know-hows of an electrician, a cabinetmaker, a taxidermist, a gardener, a projectionist, etc. In this context, three questions must be raised. First of all, the decisive question of the relation to time, of the artworks’ interpretation and of processes. Is an artwork defined by the materials employed by the artist, or rather by the concept that animates it? Then, the issues of conservation and restoration of works by living artists must be raised not only on the purchase, but even at the very moment of creation. Finally, the emergence of new solutions, and the evolution of the role of museums raise the question of their being “guides” and “partners” for the...

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