'One should never create art to make money'

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Artist Patrik Lundell says Florence is a great place to be based as an artist. Photo: Jacqueline Tamm
09:04 CET+01:00
Italy is renowned worldwide for its art, but is it possible to make a living from it? The Local spoke to innovative Swedish artist Patrik Lundell to find out how he made his way onto the Florence art scene.

After moving to Tuscany to be with his girlfriend, Lundell began putting on exhibitions in the city, something he already had experience of in Stockholm, alongside his studies for a certificate in fine arts.

He says Florence is a great base for an artist.

“Before we moved here I thought I had an idea of where my art was going, but after living here for almost one year now my art has changed completely, and I've realized where it can take me.

“In Florence, I feel inspired knowing that so many artists have spent time in this city and left many beautiful creations. I know that in a not far-off future, art will be my living and my career.”

Although Lundell's own work is very different from the Renaissance traditions you'd find in the Uffizi Galleries, he sees this as an advantage. His modern street-art, based around simplistic figures, symbols and quotes, stands out from the rest. He explains that each of the characters, including a Hobo figure which he says is an “homage to my grandmother”, has a particular meaning, and each of them is tattooed on his body.

However, Lundell warns: “One should never create art in order to make money; if you are doing that I think you should stop and find a 'real job' instead”

But if you have the right passion, Lundell believes there are still possibilities for careers in the Italian art sector. He says that aspiring artists shouldn't be put off by preconceptions of the Italian art sector as being elitist, and should instead take every opportunity to promote their art.

“There are always art shows and gallery openings, and if you're a student you always get the latest information about what's happening in the art scene,” he says.

He says it is important to keep up-to-date with the local art scene, but adds that there are many options available to artists, other than displaying your work in a gallery. “Nowadays as an artist you have to think outside the box to attract a new audience for your art.”

One way he does this himself is through the use of recycled material in his art, transforming old doors, windows and even two gun holsters into canvases. Each Friday he paints on recycled cardboard and leaves the artworks in the streets to be picked up by anyone who takes the time to look at it, in a project he calls his Friday Free Art.

He explains: “After seeing all the boxes left out on the streets each week for the garbagemen to pick up, the idea to make street-art out of them and the wordplay in literally 'thinking outside the box' came to mind. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss.”

He adds that if you have a true passion for art, this will be enough to attract people's interests, and eventually, their money. “Believe in your art and the rest will follow” says Lundell.

“My first encounter on a professional level was in the first week of school, when I gave stickers showing my art to my teachers. In order to break into the art world you have to do it on your own – nobody is going to hand you a key – so it struck me that it doesn't matter what people think.”

His proudest achievement so far has been a local wine bar choosing to use one of his characters to feature on a wine label, something that came about through a chance encounter on the way to the opening of one of his exhibitions, when he stopped for a drink with his girlfriend, Jacqueline.

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“I was reaching for my phone in my pocket and found one of my street-art stickers, portraying my figure called 'Waiter'. He is holding a glass of red wine, and I realized that the sticker had almost the same measurements as the wine label, on the bottle of our favourite wine.”

“The thought came to me of asking if we could do some kind of deal with the wine bar, so I showed the owner some of my artwork and on the spot he said 'Let's do this'.

“For me, that was really special, because it shows there are many ways as an artist to open up new doors and attract new viewers to your art.” 

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