Would You Pay £1950 for a Picture from an Unknown Artist?

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This is perhaps the question that both the teams should have been asking themselves on tonight’s Apprentice.

This weeks task required the teams to select two photographic artists each from a pool of six, and then mount a one day sale of their chosen artists work. The winner was the team that made the most money. If the teams picked the same artist then the artist would be asked to choose.

From the outset it was pretty apparent that there was nobody on either team that had much of an interest in art. Having said that, because of the fact that it was a one day sale, the usual techniques of selling art wouldn’t really work – the teams had to get art with a good track record that they knew would sell, and then try and sell as much as they could on the night.

However when it came to the choice of artists, realising that they didn’t know the art world, both teams just went for what they liked, and both picked the same two artists. Whilst one, Tim Flach, was well established, and able to provide a client list, the other Elisabeth Hoff had only one collection, of which she admitted she hadn’t sold any, refused to provide her client list, and was charging between £950 and £1950 per print – the highest cost of any of the artists offered.

As is so often the case, Alan Sugar had presented the candidates with a selection of choices in order to spot the shrewd among them. Whilst if a team who had selected work by Elisabeth Hoff had managed to sell any they would have probably won, as Sugar said in the boardroom it was a big gamble – one that didn’t pay off for the team which she ultimately selected. His opinion is clearly that they would have been better going for more established artists with a client base that would be easier prospective purchasers.

Once the decision had been made, and thanks to some major schmoozing from Katie, Hoff had selected Natalie and Eclipse, their fates were largely sealed. Tim Flach was more impressed with Stealth and went with them (Natalie effectively blew it when she took a phone call whilst talking to him, and then comparing the horse in one of his pictures to the highlights in her hair…). Both teams then picked replacement second artists, Vanessa Warren for Eclipse and Linda Lieberman for Stealth – but because Stealth had a much more popular first choice with established customers, they easily walked away with the task, bringing in £4,702 to £1,599.78 from Eclipse who failed at the difficult task of selling unknown work to a brand new audience.

Perhaps they could have brought it back in with a decent selling strategy for the Hoff work – but since the schmoozing from Katie went on to the extent of Hoff dictating the sales strategy, wanting very much of a soft sell, all was lost. Ironically, although both Natalie and Katie continued to cross swords with Adam, regularly telling him that his car sales experience is useless, and pouring scorn on his ideas, he is the one that manages to sell. Relegated to the back room with the cheaper pictures whilst Katie is in full schmooze up the front, he manages to shift a few saving the team from total disaster.

However I’m totally of the opinion that had Hoff gone for Stealth, it would have been them sitting in the boardroom at the end rather than Eclipse. Hoff would have dictated the soft selling technique for them instead, and the pictures wouldn’t have sold for them either. Despite Tre’s distaste at some of the Linda Lieberman work, he managed to sell some of those, and the Tim Flach sold well too, thanks in part to the much harder – “you don’t want to leave empty handed do you?” techniques that were being used.

The final boardroom encounter is interesting as well. The key problem identified by Sugar is that they didn’t make a business decision in their choice of Hoff, and that they allowed her to run the show too much – Katie being chief in his sights for this. One of the issues that Hoff had was with the quality of the labels for the pictures – produced by Lohit, but Sugar regards this as not important. Alongside this there is ongoing antagonism between Adam and Natalie. Also bear in mind that Natalie has been largely relying on Katie through much of the task, and seems to think that they get on well – however as has been apparent in previous episodes Katie tends to keep her opinions for the one-to-one interviews. This week she is cutting about Natalie, and even at one point wishes that Adam would get run over!

It is often apparent that Sugar has access to the tapes of the task, including the interviews alongside the feedback he gets from his two assistants. Occasionally in previous episodes he has been seen to comment on events that occurred outside the view of the assistants, but in front of the film crew. The impression I got this week was that Sugar was clearly gunning very much for Katie when perhaps it was much more of a group decision to go for Hoff and to capitulate to all her demands. Maybe he had seen the interview where she wishes Adam would get run over?

However, when asked to pick, Natalie brings back in Adam and Lohit – and seals her fate. Adam, although he has personality clashes with other team members, sold well on the task, and did what was asked of him. The only thing that Lohit did wrong was the labels, so he is largely safe. If she had brought in Katie, it was pretty obvious that Sugar had a good chance of removing her, but Natalie protects someone she thinks of as a friend, and effectively leaves herself as the only option, and Sugar, “with regretâ€? has to fire her. Maybe she thought that after last week Adam could be in the frame, but in the past Sugar has shown that he will tend to keep people who can sell for a long while, even if they clash with other team members. Ironically, when Natalie is interviewed on the “You’re Firedâ€? show, having seen a number of the interviews that Katie has done, she is less impressed with her and can certainly see the ruthless streak in Katie’s tactics. In fact Natalie sums it up pretty well in her interview in the taxi – she was just too soft and too nice. Whilst that might build a good team on the task, in the boardroom you need to be ruthless, and seeing that Sugar had his sights set on Katie, it should have been clear that it should have been Katie not Lohit in the third chair.

Having said that, probably the best bit of the whole episode was the brief teaser for next week. The task is about selling ‘British Specialities’ to the French, and from the clips it looks like one of the teams is attempting to sell the French, a country renowned for their love of their many home-grown cheese varieties, British cheese…

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