Poor Us: The Great Depression 2.0

April 18, 2009

A Fable: Crash Takes NY Street Artist from Hard Times to Happy Days

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — debacled @ 5:55 am

Picture via My Life On (and Off) the GuestThis is a fairytale for anyone who has toiled away at any endeavor-–science, art, invention, entrepreneurship, love—without pay, or recognition, and, especially in these bleak times, with diminishing hope that your creation will ever catch on. 

Artists struggle, they starve, they die believing themselves to be failures only to become posthumous geniuses whose newly understood masterpieces rake in praise and fortune the artist never sees. That’s why it’s called dying for your art.

Even the tiny handful of artists who find fame while alive enough to enjoy it apparently are still required to suffer.  Not too long ago Poor Us posted about photographer Annie Leibovitz who pawned her life’s work—past, present and future–to pay off her debts.

 Boom2Bust blogged that the art market has plunged 35 percent during the first quarter of the year “as cash-strapped collectors looked to unload works by postwar masters that had earlier boomed in price along with the stock market. “

It’s a harsh reality, which is why the story of artist Peter Zonis is so very gratifying  on the face of it.  Let’s start with his life before the crash as reported by The New York Times in October, 2008.

Mr. Zonis is no stranger to financial hardship. 

“With all of my talent,” he said, “until I was in my mid-40s I had never sold any work.” Mr. Zonis, who grew up outside Boston, said that after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, he moved to New York in the early 1980s. His first job was on Wall Street designing corporate reports for an investment firm while studying at the Art Students League.

He was working at the Museum of Modern Art bookstore, making $10 an hour, he says, when fate intervened and Elle Petrincic, an Australian redhead who is now his manager and muse, came into his life.


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