April 19, 2009

Ben There, Dunne That

I've been listening with a sort of horrified fascination to the recent set of radio ads by Ben Dunne, offspring of the super-marketing family who owns Dunne's Stores.

Ben, who also runs a number of fitness gyms, has recently opened an art-gallery and insists on selling art with the same style as he's flogged baked beans and gym memberships in the past. His latest promotion is an auction at the gallery and Ben (who also insists on doing his own ads) tells us that there's no reserve price on artworks and boasts that this is how art should be sold.

These latest ads give us a clue as to why this force of business thinks he knows best, for he tells us that his own Mum gave him all the encouragement he needs when she told him, "If Dunne can't do it, it can't be Dunne."

Well, Ben's done it alright and whilst I'm slow to wish any entrepreneur a poor return for his efforts, I can't help but feel that this stack-them-high and sell-them-cheap approach to art can't be a good thing for art or artists in the long run. I know some galleries can be guilty of gilding the lily when it comes to valuing artworks, but this alternative makes for grim listening and scarcely promises cheerful viewing.

Ben might insist that a visit to the gallery will lift my spirits but they plummet every time I hear his leaden tones hawking his latest wares on the cheap.

Over to you: Do you think art should be sold like tins of beans?


Andrew Lovatt said...

Hi Gerard,

Well, of course you have the comparison with Warhol's cans of Campbell's Soup - silk screened and mass produced, and still sold at a premium price! Whilst Ben isn't pushing the aesthetic boundaries, he is challenging what is acceptable. Whether it is tasteful is up to the buyers. The counter argument is "Why shouldn't art be treated the same as all other products for sale?" Also, Ben has great business instincts sometimes. I've heard him on radio talking about how Aldi and Lidl are the new cheap-as-you-go food shopping experience. He firmly believes "cheaper is better". Why would he stop at art? Is it holier than a new budget car or cheap bananas or a "fine wine" for €3.75?

As Dan Ariely points out in his ground-breaking "Predictably Irrational" (http://www.predictablyirrational.com/), setting a price point does influence later decisions. So if folks get used to cheap art, that becomes the new "anchor price" to compare all others to. It begs the question, why do we feel more comfortable paying over the odds for SONY or SAAB* (I drive one too).

very best,


Andrew Lovatt, md

r e d m o o n m e d i a . c o m
clear thinking - creative vision

e: info@redmoonmedia.com

* My answer on latter would be, because SAAB is a real piece of engineering. Safe, strong, powerful - but not cheap. Also, it ain't a Skoda (pre VW takeover).

Hugh said...


Andy Warhol thought so....