|The Audit, 2008
Voice : Sébastien Turay
Pictures, 110 x 142 cm
Documentation made of 35 pages A4
Sound Installation with photograph and mono sound, 18' 34”
Collection du département de l'Essonne
Tirage documentation : 1
Tirage installation : 2
Tirage photo : 5
|The first Rennes biennial, “Crossing Values,” focused on the relations between art and business. Invited to participate in it, the artist came up with the idea of having himself audited by a consulting firm. Since he can no longer claim to have the status of a promising young artist and hasn't attained the status of a recognized international artist either, he asks the firm to assess his chances of success and tell him if he should simply give up on a career as an artist. The process takes several months and culminates in a business plan laying out a daring and promising strategy. The work for the biennial takes the form of documentation (slides provided by the consulting firm) and then an installation comprising a photograph and a recorded voice (see below).
|See an excerpt of the video
|THE AUDIT / VOICE-OFF TEXT
In the first quarter of 2008, Martin Le Chevallier asked us to submit him to an “artistic performance audit”. After ten years devoted to developing his activity as an artist, he had reached a turning point in his career and thought it was time to assess his value, the relevance of his work and his prospects. This was an unusual request, but it struck us as serious and legitimate. So after a few discussions, we made a commercial proposal, presented our approach to the subject, the method we would be applying and the result that he could expect from such an audit.
At a time when the art market is experiencing strong growth (record sales, new markets, a boom in art offerings), Martin Le Chevallier has made it his aim to gain a prominent position on the international art scene.
This desire for leadership is to be understood in terms of:
– Harbouring a vision, a future, and directions for the market, critics, and institutions, public or private.
– Taking risks, investing and succeeding in seminal projects that become landmarks in art history.
– Having an efficient way of working structured on flexible and responsive commercial, media and social networks.
– and all this while staying true to his. artistic beliefs and convictions.
Definition of level of ambition
The first step was to define Martin Le Chevallier's level of ambition. The methodology we employed was the strategic map based on the Balanced Scorecard approach. This allowed Martin Le Chevallier to clearly define his purpose in terms of strategic objectives to be reached. Such objectives typically address four aspects of the business:
– Target satisfaction
– Conceptual and artistic effectiveness
– Dissemination performance
Let's now look at the 13 objectives that were retained.
Four objectives in the area of target satisfaction:
– To rank among the top 10 sound investments in France.
– To adapt production quantity to market wants.
– to meet curatorial demands in an ongoing way.
– and to maintain a high level of artistic relevance.
Three objectives in the area of conceptual and artistic effectiveness:
– to maintain a process of continuous innovation.
– to factor brand strategy into project conception.
– to ensure that output stays in line with history. Three objectives in the area of dissemination performance:
– to gain access to the more promising dissemination channels.
– to benefit from a global distribution network.
– to benefit from international media coverage.
Lastly, three objectives in the area of profitability:
– to rank among the 10 most expensive French artists alive.
– to sell to major private and public collections.
– to develop a strong presence in emerging markets and in markets with a strong potential.
Let's take a closer look at a few of the more important goals:
– by seeing what he can do to attain them.
– and by identifying the measures that will enable us to assess performance against objectives.
In terms of target satisfaction, the first goal: to rank among the top 10 sound investments in France. How to achieve this goal? By broadening dissemination and distribution networks.
How to assess performance against objectives?
On the basis of several measures:
– The number of solo exhibitions in leading institutions (MoMA, Guggenheim, Tate Modern, Beaubourg).
– The presence of works in the top marketplaces (Sotheby's, Christie's).
– The number of Google hits.
Another goal in this area: to maintain a high level of aesthetic and conceptual relevance. How to get there? by identifying and exploiting the artist's centers of excellence. How to assess goal achievement? By observing the degree of validation by opinion leaders, be they critics, curators, decision-makers, or artists.
In the area of conceptual and artistic effectiveness
To accomplish the first goal of maintaining a process of ongoing innovation requires: Giving priority to R&D while outsourcing all areas of activity that can be done by others (organization, production, promotion, etc.).
And continuous monitoring of the competition How to assess performance against objectives? By measuring the amount of pirating, in other words, the extent to which Martin Le Chevallier's ideas are being picked up and coopted by other artists.
To factor brand strategy into the project's conception from the outset, also involves two forms of actions:
– Defining the “Martin Le Chevallier” branding strategy
– Determining a portfolio of art products, narrow enough to facilitate identification and broad enough to allow for periodic renewal. How to assess goal achievement? By monitoring brand recognition by the public, through surveys, for instance.
Third, area, Dissemination performance
First goal, To gain entry into the more promising places of dissemination (museums, galleries, art centers, etc.) How to achieve this goal? By developing a targeted, friendly PR strategy towards decision-makers and opinion-makers, be they artists, critics, or curators. The number of requests from the 50 most prestigious sites will indicate whether the goal has been attained.
Second goal in this area, to benefit from a global distribution network. To achieve it, two actions seem decisive:
– Identifying and mobilizing the key people in the media.
– And imposing his own news-breaking event agenda.
How to assess performance against objectives?
By evaluating the location, number, and prestige of publications.
The last area, Profitability
First goal: to rank among the 10 most expensive French artists alive.
How to achieve it?
– By benefiting from ambitious promotional events run by galleries.
– And by applying a bold and pragmatic price policy.
How to assess achievement? by the sale prices in auction houses.
Next goal: to sell to major private and public collections. How to accomplish it?
– by acquiring a high investment profile.
– developing an extremely efficient sales force.
– and producing works that are adapted to sales. The measure of success would be the penetration rate in the top collections.
Assessment and diagnosis
Now let's take a look at the second phase in the audit: the assessment and diagnosis of Martin Le Chevallier.
For this purpose, we employed two methods:
– the Sector analysis based on the Porter model.
– and the so-called “SWOT” analysis, indicating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Let's start by analyzing the dissemination context, identifying the parties involved, and observing the main trends in the sector.
The first group we have are the Producers, by which we mean the galleries and institutions. The analysis shows that the main monetary influx goes to sound investments, speculation, and the secondary market (auction houses) rather than to galleries and even less to the production of contemporary art.
Secondly we have the Buyers (private and public):
– The big collectors are basically looking to increase the value of their capital.
– At the same time the boom in the number of potential buyers indicates that purchasing art has become fashionable.
Thirdly, we have the Distributors, be they galleries, institutions or the media.
– First thing to note is the Fragmentation of the art market, despite the continued preeminence of the 3 initial markets: North America (60% of the activity), Europe, South America.
– Second, is the disjunction between the commercial circuit (fairs) focused on capital gain and the institutional circuit attached to content, notably, the key biennials and events such as Documenta.
Fourthly, we have the Competitors, artists and newcomers. Here we can observe:
– a boom in the number of working artists.
– an increased tendency to youthism.
– a rise in the popularity of East European artists.
Last group, the Backers, by which we mean the critics, curators, artists, gallerists, and so on.
Here we observe:
– a decline in the influence of critics on the art market.
– the development of collective strategies among young artists which give them greater visibility in an expanded and fragmented marketplace.
In conclusion, this rapidly changing environment presents many threats but equally a number of opportunities for an artist like Martin Le Chevallier.
The SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) makes it possible to objectively describe and evaluate Martin Le Chevallier's current situation and positioning in view of the goal he has set for himself. For this phase, we interviewed key actors on the art market, be they familiar with Martin Le Chevallier's work or not.
This analysis has two parts to it:
– An internal diagnosis identifying the artist's strengths and weaknesses.
– And an external diagnosis identifying the eventual threats and opportunities.
First let's look at Martin Le Chevallier's strengths.
– His artistic stance seems to be relevant stance insofar as his work questions today's world.
– His output is high-quality in terms of conception and production.
– He demonstrates a fair amount of equanimity in his work and in his way of running his career.
– His gallery has a good reputation for risktaking, originality, etc.
– Lastly, there's a good deal of humour in his works.
Now, let's turn to the weaknesses of Martin Le Chevallier.
– His output is rare (12 works in 10 years) and it is sometimes costly to produce
– His gender, nationality, and ethnic status are not a plus. In addition, his visibility is too limited to France and to restricted art circles, and his commercial representation is confined to a single French gallery.
– He is reticent about adapting to the market. His work is hard to collect and holds little interest for those who look at art as an investment.
– There are no monographs on Martin Le Chevallier.
– He has yet to produce a «hit», and he hasn't participated in enough major exhibitions.
– And since he got into art by chance, he lacks a network of fellow students (art school) or peers (groups of thirty-year old artists participating in trendy collective exhibitions, etc.)
– Lastly, Martin Le Chevallier may be lulled to sleep by the fairly comfortable position he's in of receiving grants from the state and having buyers in the public arena.
Now let's turn our attention to the threats that Martin Le Chevallier faces.
– Firstly, public budgets for artists subsidized in France are being reduced.
– Also many new buyers are lacking in culture and tend to focus on more monumental pieces (large format, painting).
– Marginal, conceptual works only interest a tiny portion of the art world
– The French market is rather sluggish, accounting as it does for only 6% of international activity.
– The art world prizes youth and novelty, and Le Chevallier is not getting any younger.
– Finally, world-class museums like the MoMA, the Tate, and Centre Pompidou are now implementing profit strategies.
This environment presents nonetheless a number of opportunities for Martin Le Chevallier. For one thing, there's the boom in the art market with:
– the emergence of new markets
– an increase in the number of potential buyers
– and a growing maturity of the market about contemporary art.
In addition, works with a critical stance to today's world have become trendy in France and abroad. Finally, major exhibitions need content and Martin Le Chevallier's output is adapted to this need.
After completing this diagnosis, the next step was to measure the gap between the goals and the existing situation in order to define a development strategy.
We have come to the third phase: defining the development strategies. When we plot the internal and external analyses in terms of strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities, four areas appear which correspond to four different types of strategy:
– a Repositioning strategy
– an Offensive strategy
– a Defensive strategy
– and a Diversification strategy Considering the situation of the artist, certain strategies are not viable.
The Offensive strategy
First strategy ruled out: the offensive strategy of conquering the market and history. This strategy would have required that Martin Le Chevallier make the most of his assets and of the opportunities that arise to rapidly and ambitiously develop his activity, concentrating his energy on the creation of a major monumental and spectacular work. This approach is not feasible because Martin Le Chevallier is not strongly enough established, in terms of means, reputation, and network, to pull off such a feat.
The Diversification strategy
Second excluded strategy, the Diversification strategy, of becoming fashionable. Martin Le Chevallier would have to create networks beyond the framework of contemporary art in order to become part of an elite group of people “in the know” (the hype), by developing a cross-disciplinary activity that would outdo the competition on the media front. This strategy is also to be precluded because it marks too strong a break with the artist's corporate culture.
On the other hand, we think the other two strategies are adapted to Martin Le Chevallier's strategic position.
The Repositioning strategy
Firstly, the repositioning strategy or the strategy of redefining himself. This involves making the most of the opportunities that arise while offsetting internal weaknesses by reshaping
his image in the curatorial, critical, and institutional world. The Martin Le Chevallier brand repositioning requires:
– Shifting the direction of his output
– Changing his name
– Changing his appearance
While offsetting structural weaknesses, this bold strategy can create an “electroshock” that would relaunch his activity, affording him greater recognition and ultimately profitability.
The Defensive strategy
Second interesting strategy, the defensive strategy, based on optimizing his art offering. Considering the fact that Martin Le Chevallier has few opportunities and limited internal strengths, this strategy involves exploiting his competitive advantages to reinforce his position by establishing a denser network. He could identify the most promising growth segments in his production and build a corpus that continuously raises the same question. This cautious long-term strategy is aimed at branding the products while safeguarding the artist's convictions.
The analysis of these different strategies allowed us to formulate our recommendations for a composite strategic choice: defensive repositioning.
The details of our recommended strategy are as follows.
In terms of Production two crucial actions:
– Produce a hit, that will make the artist instantaneously and lastingly famous, a simple idea that creates a stir by coming at the right time. The hit comes about by creating a calculated “buzz”.
– and Create icons that enhance Martin Le Chevallier brand identification.
In terms of dissemination, three main actions:
– Practice a strategy of selective exhibitions, eliminating all minor art centres and all places that are not trend-setting.
– Solicit exhibitions in trend-setting places; participate in high-visibility events in terms of. media coverage and attendance.
– Participate in profile-elevating major biennials abroad (Berlin, Documenta, Venice) and in projects in public spaces (e.g. NY) or in “project-rooms” in major museums.
In terms of Localization, we recommend that Martin Le Chevallier move to a value-enhancing and buoyant location like New York, Tokyo, or Dubai.
As far as Distribution is concerned:
– Martin Le Chevallier has to optimize current assets, by making the most of his current gallery.
– And find distributors that serve as springboards, notably by joining a highly specialized gallery in the host country.
For the financing we strongly suggest that Martin Le Chevallier Stop relying on funding from the French government.
In terms of Communication, we suggest that he:
– have a a monograph put out on his work with a solid text written by someone who is considered an authority in the art world.
– manifest the coherence of the work by emphasizing a single form, a radical object.
– assert the novelty of his work (even if it means belittling the precedents).
Finally, in terms of networks we recommend the following:
– Expand the target network while cultivating parallel networks.
– Broaden network of backers among influential experts, curators, critics, etc.
The conclusions of this audit were submitted to Martin Le Chevallier at the end of July 2008. As of today, we do not know whether he plans to implement our recommendations.