Over the weekend, I found myself in a healthy discussion regarding the Denis O’Regan photo book – Careless Memories. I haven’t personally ordered a copy of the book, but I know a few other fans that ordered a copy of Careless Memories and seem very pleased. The discussion centered around whether or not we’d buy the book even if money were not an option. All who participated in the conversation felt the book to be incredibly expensive and certainly out of reach of many fans. There are always those that will buy whatever is being offered at whatever price point; but for many, price dictates.
Last week, someone sent a question in to Ask Katy about Careless Memories, inquiring whether it was truly worth the price (we’re talking anywhere from £250 on up to £2500). Katy’s reply gave details about the special nature of the book and it’s construction. She closed stating that while it is certainly an investment, isn’t all art (an investment)?
Not only do I appreciate art, I am a certified Decorative Arts Appraiser. That means I’ve been trained to learn how to use market data to assign value to decorative art (paintings and drawings, photographs, sculptures, pop culture memorabilia or yes…gems and jewelry). I know what art is, and to be completely fair, the very question of what is considered “art” is pretty subjective, although there is a vague framework to help define. Art must be unique if not also rare, it must have beauty, and by some definitions it must be a human expression or application of emotion. The door is left VERY wide open as to what may or may not be considered art, and of course what might be art to one person might not be to someone else. Does Careless Memories fit that bill?
We traded ideas over whether or not the very fact that the book (or photos within) is mass-marketed should make a difference. After all, many works of art have millions of prints made – but are those prints still considered art, or mass-media representations?There’s definitely room for discussion over whether Careless Memories in it’s mass-marketed form (not the original photos themselves, but the book as a whole) really is a good example of art. Are they priced as such and do they hold that value well? In that case, are prints of artwork still an investment? The fact is, being willing to spend £1000 or more on a larger format photo book doesn’t necessarily make that book an investment…although I’d probably argue that to a willing fan, it absolutely is, regardless of whether it is a good investment, or otherwise. However, that is an emotional definition, not wholly factual.
While I hold no resentment about Careless Memories or my decision not purchase a copy, it is clearly being marketed AT fans with the pricing being out of the reach of most. Then again, isn’t most art that way? Warhol isn’t necessarily “cheap” pop art. Even Thomas Kincaid, one of the most mass-marketed kitsch artists ever – isn’t “cheap” by any means if you’re talking about Artist-handled prints. Let’s face it, the band knows exactly what they are doing here, and we really cannot fault them – because ultimately it is in the hands of each of us to decide whether or not to play the game and make these purchases. It puts fans in the position of having to decide how much the band means to them personally, and it ends up being an emotionally charged purchase, one the band “banks” on, so to speak.
As is typical, there are always fans willing to pay. I checked the website for Careless Memories late last week, and the most expensive editions of the book (“Unique” and “Special” editions), ones that include things such as (not each book contains all things mentioned – these are simply examples) “golden tickets”, meet and greets with the band, special prints direct from 1984 negatives, and personally signed copies of photos and books, were sold out or “unavailable”. These ranged in price from £1000-£2500. Even the least expensive edition – “Collector”, has a very hefty price tag of £250 – not a price most fans can even consider, especially at this time of year. Yet when I look at how many books are available in that edition – very few are sold, perhaps an indication that the price is just out of reach. Fandom continues, in many respects, to be an excellent real-life example of the “haves” and “have-nots”.
While I’ve had the good fortune to do many things consistent with the “haves” column, in the case of Careless Memories I am definitely in the “have-not” column. Not spiteful, not resentful (there’s no point), but I do find myself questioning the tag of “investment”. I suppose though, that makes the difference between a buyer and a bystander.