Rant 77: All for a good cause?

Rant 77: All for a good cause? Robin Cracknell, Custody version, 2007

Are some charities being cynical in the way they choose artists to donate artworks for auctions and publications? Robin Cracknell laments the lack of care involved and offers a word of warning.

It is right and good that we all should contribute what we can to deserving causes. Whatever one’s profession, charity is a privilege and a genuine duty. However, as more and more charities email me expecting donations, I begin to feel insulted. 

My inbox is routinely peppered with requests from various causes (mainly children’s and women’s charities probably because my work explores issues of childhood and parenting), usually with the sweetener that the work will appear in a sumptuous catalogue, admired by a glitzy crowd and, inevitably, be ‘backed with a major press campaign’.

The subtext of all this being: forget the cause. This is a good career move. We’re doing you a favour. What should be a spiritual exchange of generosity and appreciation is really just a dead-eyed trade of merchandise for publicity, and artists, it seems, are the softest touch of all.

Are artists so desperate for a glimmer of publicity or a temporary place on a gallery wall that we feel obliged to play along? No charity would ask an electrician to donate a week’s labour because those skills have a clearly defined market value. Yet paintings or photographs are not apparently held in such high regard – there seems to be a presumption that we’ll happily give them away. “Surely you have unsold work lying around?” I’ve been asked.

The sad reality of many of these charity exhibitions and auctions is that the ‘major press campaign’ is often an amateurish website and the catalogue a hastily printed typo-fest, photocopied the night before. Your generously delivered painting will be lost amongst a sea of other donations and rarely will you be given any details of final selling price. I suspect many ‘go missing’. My advice: always give generously and lovingly but, especially if the email begins with ‘Dear Artist’, consider it spam.

Contributed by Robin Cracknell
Robin is a photographer based in London. His technique combines elements of cinematography with traditional still-photography and involves various mixed media and chemical treatments.

Robin Cracknell on Axisweb

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