Is the art world a lifestyle?
This week the veil was finally lifted. There were instances heading toward this moment but I think it was this quote from an article by Ben Davis in Artnet that finally ripped it off.
But even of the luckiest of the lucky, only a very few—1,654 in NYC, according to the experts at Creative New York, and 3,660 in the country as a whole, according to the government—will get the whole package, making a living off of their work alone.
For the most part, becoming an artist is not something one does because there is a booming “Creative Economy” that supports that choice. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.
Those numbers don’t add up with the information I feed myself daily. I see the tip of the iceberg because that is where my focus is. Underwater are hordes of art students in and out of school playing a game whose rules I don’t even know, never mind if am I willing to play by them.
Is the art world insane?
Setting me up for this reveal was the book by Roger White “The Contemporaries: Travels in the 21st-Century Art World.” The following quotes are all from that book.
“Art-making had gone from the intimate creation of handmade goods, or the modest pursuit of ad hoc experiments, to the quasi-industrial manufacture of objects for a global market or ambitious ventures into other modes entirely: feature films, festivals, political movements.”
The book followed a critique wherein the students and even the boiled as a frog teacher stood about dissecting the cut of the emperors clothes. The students were well versed in the codified language but even then it seemed were clueless as to their own motivations or maybe they didn’t see the need to explore them never mind explain. The best was a question posed by one of the Rhode Island School of Design faculty, Chris Ho which for me sums up the bulk of contemporary art.
“Is the shittiness intentional?”
The art students in this book were part of a generation who have grown up being fed highly researched and formatted propaganda designed to sell them something. In this case a lifestyle and all it’s tools.
“Institutionally produced artists, in general, seem more desperate for fame or to grant more empathetic agency, thirsty for public dialogue, and this seems to lead them to comparison and channeling.”
“Painting is now a profoundly eccentric way to try to represent the world: as materially and methodologically divorced from our everyday mode of image production as the illuminated manuscript is from the text message.”
I have blinded myself to these realities only allowing small glimpses to interrupt this fantasy of a world which may never have existed.
All is not lost. I still believe if you are good enough and your art is something people want you can make a living selling it on the internet. I have seen people do it. Who knows; That path could even lead to a place in the art world eventually. Could be the galleries will begin to pick from the best entrepreneur. At any rate we need a place to show our art and if we aren’t in an organization the internet can provide the “likes” to keep us going.
Are you crazy enough to fit in the art world?
The sheer number of students every year who are convinced to follow their dream in to the art world is mind boggling.
“more artists now come through art programs in the United States each year than were produced by the city-states of Florence and Venice during the entire fifteenth century.”
Where does that leave the artist who has spent their whole life answering a creative call; Those of us for whom art is part of our DNA rather than a career choice?
Find an audience of your peers and do what you have been doing but don’t try to compete with insanity it can do irreparable harm to your psyche.