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Making a Living as an Artist in Prague

An discussion with Flavia Parvu of ArtImaging about the challenges facing foreign artists in the Czech Republic

Making a Living as an Artist in Prague
By Cristina Muntean Add to favorites email print this article Share on FaceBoook

Is it possible to move to the Czech Republic as an artist and start selling your paintings or photography and make a living out of it?

For Flavia Parvu, owner of ArtImaging, a premium art reproduction studio, this is a question she receives frequently. Her clients - painters, art photographers or art collectors - are mainly expatriates.  On one hand the art market is much slower than in the West, she admits. Yet, art trade is a relationship based on trust: if artists want to make a living out of their art, they must show respect for their masterpieces and present them to the public in the best light. Hope for the Czech art market? Absolutely, she believes.

Q: What should be the first step that an artist moving to Prague should take in order to make sure that he would be able to make a living from his art?

A: Based on what I have seen with our clients I think that you should continue to be what you are: an artist. An artist’s work is about emotions and about how you can share them with others. Coming here to the Czech Republic - a beautiful country - you should take advantage of what you see around you.

This will probably be the recipe to staying active and to producing value and sharing it finally with your public. You need to do this on a regular basis and don’t forget to keep a portfolio of your artwork. This is very important for any artist: you must be aware that you should keep a record of your artwork.

Q: How should artists keep such records? Is a photo album or an online website sufficient or is there anything else that the artist should develop?

A: I have seen both of them and I think both work, meaning that keeping a hard copy of your portfolio - an album or something – and an electronic copy of your portfolio like a website would be probably a must nowadays. What is important is that you can access it easily in any situation. You must have it with you because you never know when you are going to meet someone interested by your artwork and this person might help you to get better known and make a living out of your art. Above all, you must respect your art as you respect yourself, and you need to present it to your clients properly.

Q: We all know that artists prefer to create and express their emotions rather than think strategically and conduct business. Yet, it’s hard to make a living from one’s art without the second approach. How should an artist combine the two things --- the passion for his art and these material and often annoying tasks that need to be conducted in order to be successful?

A: There are ways to do it. The main point is: they need to do it. In my view, being an artist nowadays must come together with taking care of what you produce as art. You must respect it and present it the way it should be done. Nobody was born an artist or a businessman. You can learn and you can make a decision to take the matter into your hands and make something out of it. A big part of our clients have a main job and they keep the artistic work aside. I can tell because I can see it in their eyes: the flame is there. They are artists by definition, and they are so happy to find a place like our studio to enhance their art and present it in a better way. I would say – and hope – that a large percentage of them will eventually go back to the art business and making a living out of art because this is what they are. Even if they are disguised as an art teacher or even a real estate agent, they will eventually come back to their artistic call. Yet, they must do it in a structured way. I mentioned at the beginning of the interview that this is a business based on trust. We grow with our clients; so we help and advice them how to do it better, which means building a portfolio, having exhibitions on a regular basis, publishing their artwork and being the first one to respect their artwork as well.

Q: We spoke about artists as such, but what about the buyers – the art collectors? How would you describe this part of the market in the Czech Republic?

A: I am not an art critic and I am far from knowing everything that is going on in the art market here in Central Europe. However, based on my observations I have seen that the new artists, the younger ones, try new media, new ideas and new combinations of materials just to amaze the public and build their success story very quickly. On the other side there are the more established artists. They try to make the most out of the beauty of this country. I won’t speak of art collectors in general because our business is about creating premium reproductions, not selling them. Yet, when I look at myself, I buy art because my clients are coming in and some of their pieces talk to me. My conclusion would be that real beauty would always be appreciated. If some of your emotions are going to reach the public, there is no way the public is not going to meet you in the middle, buy your art and support you and make sure that both sides are happy with their choice.

Q: What other differences or specific issues have you observed on the Czech art market since you launched ArtImaging?

A: What I often hear from our clients is that there is no real market for their art and that the public here isn’t looking to buy their art. This, in my opinion, is half wrong. Somehow the artists expect the market to be already there, to exist for them and just welcome them in. On the other hand, we have clients who took the matter into their own hands, they prepared their portfolio, they exhibit on a regular basis, and they sell. They are on the right path. They have clients, their clients are coming back to buy more from them and thanks to that they find new ways of presenting their art and reaching a wider public. It’s all related. A few days ago I experienced a funny thing. Three new clients came to the studio; all of them have a main job, but they cannot renounce their artistic flair. So they continue to create paintings and keep them because they don’t know what to do with them. It would be just a matter of vision for them to get together, put together exhibitions and work together to reach a larger public. And, why not, make a living out of their art.

Q: Except for the language barrier and the lack of a buoyant art market, what other major challenges do you see for expat artists willing to move to the Czech Republic?

A: It depends how you look at it. I have never seen a place like Prague, where you have such easy access to important circles of people and communities. They are so welcoming. I will give you an example. We were invited to an exhibition of a French artist. She was living here in Prague for four years, and after these four years she moved to Portugal. Right before she left the city, she made an exhibition of her art with a Prague theme. Having been here for just a few years wasn’t a problem for her: she transformed the challenge into an advantage. She was inspired by Prague and the beauty of this city and she proposed her artwork to her French community here. It turned out to be a success, as the public wasn’t only French, but Czech as well. Thus, it depends on how you look at challenges. You can choose to say, “This is very hard to overcome.” or you can say, “This is my vision of things. Let’s do something new out of this challenge.”

Q: What other differences or specific issues have you observed on the Czech art market since you launched ArtImaging?

A: What I often hear from our clients is that there is no real market for their art and that the public here isn’t looking to buy their art. This, in my opinion, is half wrong. Somehow the artists expect the market to be already there, to exist for them and just welcome them in. On the other hand, we have clients who took the matter into their own hands, they prepared their portfolio, they exhibit on a regular basis, and they sell. They are on the right path. They have clients, their clients are coming back to buy more from them and thanks to that they find new ways of presenting their art and reaching a wider public. It’s all related. A few days ago I experienced a funny thing. Three new clients came to the studio; all of them have a main job, but they cannot renounce their artistic flair. So they continue to create paintings and keep them because they don’t know what to do with them. It would be just a matter of vision for them to get together, put together exhibitions and work together to reach a larger public. And, why not, make a living out of their art.

Q: Except for the language barrier and the lack of a buoyant art market, what other major challenges do you see for expat artists willing to move to the Czech Republic?

A: It depends how you look at it. I have never seen a place like Prague, where you have such easy access to important circles of people and communities. They are so welcoming. I will give you an example. We were invited to an exhibition of a French artist. She was living here in Prague for four years, and after these four years she moved to Portugal. Right before she left the city, she made an exhibition of her art with a Prague theme. Having been here for just a few years wasn’t a problem for her: she transformed the challenge into an advantage. She was inspired by Prague and the beauty of this city and she proposed her artwork to her French community here. It turned out to be a success, as the public wasn’t only French, but Czech as well. Thus, it depends on how you look at challenges. You can choose to say, “This is very hard to overcome.” or you can say, “This is my vision of things. Let’s do something new out of this challenge.”

Flavia Parvu is a Canadian citizen born in Romania who moved to Prague with her family in 2009.  She founded ArtImaging in September of 2011.

Learn more about ArtImaging...

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