Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Mission impossible

For my sins, I get lots of people writing to me asking about various things Corsican. One of the most frequent requests comes from artists seeking somewhere geographically different to ply their trade.

The idea is to set up shop in a quaint Corsican village, throw energy into painting, pottery, photography, sculpture, literature or whatever, maybe sinking life savings into building a perfect studio. Surrounded by such a wonderful environment, their creations will be amazing and the locals will of course flock to buy them... or will they?

And I usually send the same reply. Corsica has about 300,000 permanent residents, with the population rising to over a million in the summer when tourists arrive. The island has more than its fair share of artists - and most villages have at least one painter, sculptor, photographer, musician or writer to embellish the place’s cultural credentials. Most of these rely on the tourist trade.

Now imagine that you are (heaven forbid!) a wealthy tourist, and you are in Corsica on holiday, seeking to commemorate your visit by buying a piece of art. Would you, in all honesty, buy this from an American, a Brit or a German? No, of course you wouldn’t! You’d buy it from a Corsican.

From what I can determine, the Corsican people, the majority of whom until surprisingly recently operated on a subsistence economy, are not great buyers of art from sources other than their own homeland. So how big a market is there in Corsica for foreign art? I suspect it is rather limited. And every Corsican would have to buy around six foreign artworks per month to sustain the artists who would like to come here. It’s not going to happen.

There’s no local market for foreign art here and there’s not much hope of selling it to tourists. So I tell them it’s probably best to stay where they are. By all means come for a short stay and be inspired by the island’s stunning beauty (and please spend a few euros here – the island could do with them) but unless you are supremely talented, the idea just isn’t sustainable.

Mind you, if my correspondent has plumbing skills, has a qualification as an electrician, or cares to set up as a handyman, my response will be different. It’s hard getting jobs done here. But then they’d have to negotiate France’s strangely complex rules for setting up a business and learn how to pay their taxes...

The relevance of the picture? I dunno, I just felt like including a pretty picture of Scandola that I took last month. Click and enjoy!

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