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Yum Wrap – Irregular musings on film, art and media

The artist needs a wife

by | Jun 27, 2022 | Arts, Blog, Creative Media, Erin M McCuskey, Yum Wrap |

PN: Sarcasm ahead.

You know the type. Easy to take for granted. Not often acknowledged. Nor often paid. Does the heavy lifting. Allows the artist to simply do the work. The collective name is ‘wife’, as in wives of artists, also artists’ wife, note the possessive apostrophe.

What does wife do? They document, record, sort, pile, clean, fold, talk about, agent, share, herald, administrate, hold, provide, pick up, laud, pick up the pieces etc. Ultimately wives believe so much in the artist, the artists’ dreams become the wife’s.

The real trick it seems is finding one. I know a few, all women, they are wife to artists, all men. But knowing them is not enough to have. Is it any wonder men rule the art world when wives are involved?

I had a conversation with a well known artist. Let’s call her Betty. For the record, she has no wife.

Betty and I talked about the lack of space in her studio and what might happen to her works once she died. She said they’d end up down the tip. Unperturbed, she continued “what use are they once I’m gone”. But artist men don’t think like that. They know the world needs their work, their ideas and statements. And the world does. But without the work of artist women and artist feminist and artist queer and artist trans then its a much lesser world.

If Betty had a wife then she might already have a published monograph, or at least an up to date catalogue. She might have her works in quality storage and galleries might be clambering for her works, because now they know about her. She might have exhibitions, showreels, a website and an extensive documented CV. She may be able to put her hands on a list of her works and their provenance, collections she is in or a data file of literature about her.

But she doesn’t have a wife. Therefore she has only a few of these things, in different places, in various versions, and an idea that one day she might have the time to get her act together. She might start on dealing with passwords. At her age she’s forgotten more passwords than you’ve had hot toddies*.

Recently I attended a workshop about the creation of an artist legacy. For when you disappear, as we all will. A lot of the examples given were of artists male. Artists female work deserves preservation. The only problem is we have to do it without wives a lot of us. So here’s what I learnt that might help you. Its brief as people without wives don’t have time to read!

  1. Catalogue everything, and include its provenance (where its been, who has owned it etc)
  2. Create a will! Clearly state where you want your work to go. You can also nominate the tip – surely some of your work belongs here, don’t save everything!
      • Nominate your beneficiaries (whom ever you love and admire), and your executor (single person, preferably with a wife). Talk to them beforehand and make sure they are happy to execute your will.
      • Talk to your accountant about the tax implications, there are many, and you’ll want to save your people from it if you can, and you can.
      • If you have a dealer or agent talk with them about your wishes and state planning.
      • Note: of course you can write your own, must be signed by you and two adult witnesses
  3. Publish a monograph, or extensive catalogue, of your work. Give it an ISBN and lodge it with the state and national libraries. This will give your work permanence and provide a researcher valuable clues to you and your work.
  4. Follow artists wives, legal teams, art management teams
  5. Look into Testamentary Trusts, resale royalties,
  6. Check into these agencies and registers that can support your legacy, and your now:

There is a lot of fabulous information at the Women’s Art Register. I suggest you become a member, as I have, to support their work in supporting your work. If you don’t want to do that – find a wife who will probably need all this information!

If you don’t want to do that – recycle your work as best you can now! Gift it, donate it, chuck it!

Death and disappearance are not age related, it just becomes imminent as you age and create more work to deal with. So. Whatever you do do it now! Do it before you disappear to save a lot of work that others will have to do.

Ok! Now where’s my wive? Oh! That’s right. Damn it!

Thanks to The Women’s Art Register and And Also Presents. A terrific workshop with:

*Hot Toddy

  1. Boil water (once).
  2. Pre-heat your glass – put a metal spoon in the glass and pour some hot water in. 
  3. Cut a slice of lemon – de-pip.
  4. Add 5-9 cloves into the lemon slice.
  5. Empty glass – its hot enough now.
  6. Add whiskey – must be Irish – any amount.
  7. Add boiling water – stir.
  8. Add the cloved lemon – swish.
  9. Sip with care – Use a glass with a handle or wrap it with a kerchief or linen napkin

Slainté Maith

1 Comment

  1. Christine Tammer

    Beautiful Erin. Thank you.


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