For the past 17 years a big portion of my art has revolved around the story of the moratorium or cod closure in Atlantic Canada, in particular Newfoundland and Labrador. The theme 'Waiting for the Cod' has been the backbone and inspiration for my art, many times over. I have always wanted to do a big piece of art as a tribute to the cod fish because of it's importance to us a province and to me as an artist.
Some time ago I began to search the web to search for the 'Big Shots,' among the artist of the world who were getting top price for their modern day contemporary art. I learned that just recently an English artist, Damien Hirst, auctioned off a piece of his latest art titled, 'The Golden Calf' for 10.3 million British pounds, equal to approximately 20 million Canadian dollars at the time. The 3-D piece of art consisted of a real dead calf with 18 caret gold horns and hooves preserved in formaldehyde, in a huge glass tank held together with gold-plated steel bars and silicone; all sitting on a big white marble base. The piece is twice the height of an ordinary man. With the marble, calf, glass, and formaldehyde, it must weight thousands of pounds.
So this got me to thinking ; What is Art in today's world? It was no longer just paint on canvass. Art could be anything; anywhere. The inspiration for this piece of art that I was about to create came from an old carving of a codfish that I had sitting on the shelf in my studio. I had carved it out of clear pine and I did not sell it because one of the side fins was broken off. The cod had turned yellowish-gold in color after sitting there so long without any protective coating on the wood.
So The Golden Cod I must create. It became my passion. Research soon lead me to learn that there was indeed a Golden Cod in Newfoundland. A distinct species was identified by fishery scientist in Gilbert Bay on the Labrador coast. The species is reddish brown to golden colour. The more popular, the Northern Cod, on the other hand has a white belly and a dark spotted back. 'The Golden Cod' over winter in Gilbert Bay. Their distinct color appears to be the result of their eating habits; confined to Gilbert Bay and just beyond, thus limiting their choice of food. This species is not in danger but the fishery scientist are asking local fishermen from that part of the coast to set their nets a couple of miles away from the mouth of Gilbert Bay to allow more space for the cod to swim in net-free waters.
The story behind 'The Golden Cod' is as follows. Within the glass enclosure, beach pebbles surround a weathered whale vertebrate , above which hangs 'The Golden Cod'. So from top to bottom; The cod has always been the backbone of Newfoundland, "The Rock". The broken side fin is symbolic of the troubled and broken cod fishery. Beneath the enclosure, the six marble uprights represent the six pillars of a semi-submersible drilling rig. It represents the financial strength of our new offshore oil industry, now holding up a troubled and broken cod fishery. The fish hand-bar acts as a base on top of which set's the Golden Cod. It is there to remind us that once the liquid black gold is gone we must get back to basics and the cod fishery must be a big part of our future, especially here in rural outport Newfoundland. The hand-bar reminds us that we must handle the oil and fishing industries of the future with care and caution. Never again to be handed a deal like the one dealt to us by the province of Quebec over the Lower Churchill Hydro Project in Labrador. We as a distinct people must look at where we came from if we are going to try and figure out where we are going.
So how does an independent artist go about appraising and pricing one's own art. My pricing strategy for 'The Golden Cod' was quite simple, Damien Hirst , the British artist, who did 'The Golden Calf', got me to thinking about pricing modern day 3-dimensional art. If he auctioned off his Golden Calf for 10.3 million British pounds, approximately 20 million Canadian dollars at that time, then I would hands-down give it to him that he as an artist is 20 times smarter than me. So therefore, doing the math, my piece is worth at least one million Canadian dollars, without taxes.
So I went to see my accountant to ask him what would I have to sell The Golden Cod for to come out on top with one million dollars in the pocket. He told me that any net yearly income of 123,000 dollars or more ,the government was going to deduct approximately 45% of it on my personal income tax. Therefore I would have to sell it for at least $1,947,000 if I was to pocket $1,067,000. A total of $880,000 (approximately 45%) would be lost to government upon filing my Personal Income Tax return. Then there was the 13% Harmonization Sales Tax that I had to collect and submit to government as well, coming in at another $253,000. One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out that the governments are to make more out of this sale than the artist himself. Therefore, adding it all up, not forgetting the shipping and handling charges, I appraise my own piece of art, 'The Golden Cod', AT $2.2 million Canadian dollars (Taxes Included).
Besides that, the premier of our province, Danny Williams, recently said to his people and the world, no more giveaways from Newfoundland and Labrador.
I support my Premier.
Ben J. Ploughman
Dimensions: 18" x 24" x 35-1/2" (Without Hand-Bar) 24" x 60" x 40" (With Hand-Bar)