This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 19,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I've been thinking about how people define success in art. My experience dictates that many artists allow outside influences -- specifically those from influential art scenes -- to determine what success in art should be -- what 'it' means. This blind acceptance of what success in art 'should be' often leads to negative thoughts. It becomes an obstacle blocking growth. After all, it is hard to be successful in art if you base success on the attitude of individuals who likely view you as an 'outsider' in the first place. With that in mind, I think that artists need to reconsider what success in art means -- and stop allowing high profile circles of the art world to manipulate how success in art is defined.
I base my opinion on hundreds of interviews that I've conducted with artists... as well as the contact I've had with thousands of artists while working for art-focused social networking services. Point-blank -- I know that artists often allow high profile art professionals (art writers, art dealers, curators, art critics...etc. who technically represent specific locations within the 'art world') to dictate what success in art is -- how 'it' must happen for the individual... where 'it' must take place... "you are not relevant unless you are here". This blind acceptance empowers the centric views held by specific art scenes with influence-- while 'cultivating' the idea that art outside of those dominate scenes is of lesser value.
For example, many younger artists feel that they must 'make it' within the NYC 'gallery world' in order to be considered successful as an artist. They just 'know' that is 'where it happens'. They have allowed others -- decades of art rhetoric that points to New York... thousands of elbows worn to the bone -- to define what 'it' is. Needless to say, there are swarms of disappointed artists out there... all because they embraced these 'cultivated' ideas of success -- ideas that are spurred by centric views that only serve specific circles of the art world rather than art as a whole. Point-blank -- don't think for a second that an art dealer like Larry Gagosian cares for art outside of his gallery OR art outside of the circle he embraces.
I won't sugarcoat it -- the movers and shakers of the NYC art scene (the same can be said of other major art scenes) don't care what you are doing with your art... BUT they (art dealers, art critics, art curators... etc.) love the fact that you have placed them -- and their vision of art and success -- on a pedestal. They don't care about your art unless you 'fit' into their established system -- their indoctrination of what art is and how success in art should be viewed based on their terms ... BUT they appreciate your fandom -- and the support you offer my playing into their dictations and myths. It is time to reclaim that support for ourselves -- for our own art communities.
The cultural influence of the attitudes mentioned above can be found at art schools throughout the United States -- and beyond. Furthermore, we observe the myths surrounding these attitudes in films, novels, and so on. The idea that an artist must 'make it' within specific art / gallery scenes is deeply embedded in our society. In my opinion, that is due to the fact that generations of artists have allowed these dictations and myths to take hold. It does not help that the public, overall, has allowed our art museums to become an addition to the high profile art market -- one would think that the only current artwork worth preserving is artwork involving six figures or more... artwork from specific scenes within the art market.
The factors mentioned earlier are pure romance based on the investment potential of wealthy art collectors and other mainstream art world power players -- individuals who will exclude you unless you 'fit' into their carefully crafted establishment. If you , the artist, don't 'fit' into their market -- you don't exist... you are undeserving of cultural / institutional critique... you are NOT successful... that is their message -- and they have been screaming it for decades. Welcome to the New Academy.
We can no longer buy into this manipulation of culture and history. We can no longer allow a powerful minority to dictate how we define success for ourselves and for art. We can no longer allow that wealthy minority to influence -- or should I say, purchase -- how visual culture is preserved and documented. We have to be clear that there is more art 'out there'... and inform the masses. We must make it clear that there is more going on -- and that said artwork is valid both culturally and socially. We can no longer sit back while the business of a few dictates our culture... we can no longer sit back while art history is sorted out by bank accounts.
In my opinion, this problem is rooted in the dominance that specific art gallery scenes have enjoyed within our major museums and cultural institutions. Elbow-rubbing within an unregulated market -- with paper-trails of ad sales and name-dropping closely behind -- has enforced a standard of success that few artists will ever reach. The mainstream art market power players -- call them gatekeepers if you wish -- want YOU to be excluded from the 'conversation' about art... unless they decide that you are profitable AND work within their system. That standard protects specific elements of the mainstream art market -- specific high profile circles. It keeps their game going. It gives them control. Don't hold yourself to their standards -- don't accept their chains willfully -- you CAN be successful without them depending on how you define success for yourself. Look to your art studio... look to your local art community. There is work to be done.
In closing, perhaps it is time that we 'change the thought', if you will. We need to remind ourselves -- and future generations -- that these specific scenes are not the end all, be all of relevance and success... and push that way of thinking until it is understood by our major museums, art schools and cultural institutions in general. There is a wider conversation going on -- we must be loud. We must show that there is more than one avenue toward success in art. The reality is that an artist can be extremely successful outside of these high profile art/gallery scenes. The reality is that an artist can (and many do) create significant works of art having never stepped foot within an established art scene. An artist CAN have impact without a blessing from the high profile circles of the art world.
Take care, Stay true,