To get the ball rolling on a discussion about the ways digital environments lend themselves to the success of artists versus what is determined as success by traditional artworld perspectives…. Here (finally) is a somewhat extended discussion on artists vs. capitalism and the art market.
So… I’ll just lay all this out there for those who want to contribute.
Does (monetary) success ruin art? - is what I asked you guys.
Graciously, nearlya and monsieurted brought up some major points concerning my question about artists as capitalists and artists benefiting from capitalism. What they said:
monsieurted answered: If success means making money, then yes, artists must be capitalists in our society. And yes, to a degree, financial success ruins art; in the sense that a lot of artists get “stuck” with what sells when they find a certain commercial success.
nearlya answered: Capitalism hates art, like it hates last month’s restaurant. No satisfaction can be repeated. Any commodity which plateaus in capitalism is defunct. Only rising stocks matter. As a small investor in any market, you’re at the mercy of the big players. You can play it like a lottery but you’ll lose. Small investors are only ALLOWED in the market to drive up prices. Artists devolve into self-parody like Hirst or Prince. Capos of course prefer art on their walls to stacks of bullion (less tacky), which is why we see prices in the 100’s of mill for the greats in a market which has been engineered to offer haven for cash.
Also - I had a range of comments made through private messages (along with the lovely little gem who told me to delete my blog because I suck) that led me to believe that most artists view engagement with any type of capitalistic agenda to be on equal grounds with ‘selling themselves out’. That by achieving monetary success through engagement in the art market an artist is put in a position that compromises their vision and artistic practice. It was clear that those who are considered part of the art market and artworld (those who study art, who curate art, who collect art, and those who observe art) have very different conclusions regarding what constitutes as success for artists versus what artists consider as success for themselves.
The question that had originally been asked of me was something like: “Do you feel that capitalism diminishes the quality of art and the creative process. In what ways does capitalism hinder the success of artists?” To which I argued that artists who are successful are usually ones who have found ways to brand themselves and their practices. Without branding themselves artists are unable to fully engage within the art market/artworld (which lets face usually does the branding for them) and the definition of their success becomes foggy.
So here’s the thing: I do not believe that monetary success ruins art, and while I agree capitalism and the art market have some play in the ruining of art, I think there are some additional problems contributing to the ‘stuff that ruins art’ onion…. so what are they?
In my search to find out the ways that capitalism, the artworld and the art market are ruining art, I learned that most people agreed it was the unfortunate tampering of the artworld in general that was at fault. Many believe (and I’m on the fence still) that the increased professionalization of artists by implementing a MFA requirement (as if it is a stamp of approval) to show in galleries, be collected by major investors, and to be studied and curated by us wonderful people who choose engage with you is also ruining art *cough/nervous laughter*.
Some of the other things I found that people considered to be ruining art and are actually still part of the capitalistic agenda of the art market:
“…The development of a specialized vocabulary for the discussion of art, the rise in prominence of art fairs modeled on other commercial trade fairs, the evisceration of critical and legible writing about art, the development of glossy trade publications consisting primarily of advertising, the loss of distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit galleries, the colonization of museums by corporate interests…” (x).
Problem that is rarely talked about?
I consider most artists to be entrepreneurs. They are individuals who are creating a product to be bought and sold within their market. I realize that for most artists part of selling their product also, in many ways, means selling themselves as an extension of that product. The problem here is that most artists are not trained as entrepreneurs. They are not trained to find balance between the requirements of managing a successful business (themselves) with their artistic practice. They are unable to negotiate for themselves terms that would create conditions which would allow their artistic practice to prosper as they prosper within the art market. Instead, they are forced to rely on others who dictate the rules of the art market for them. (Of course this is why I think convergence between the traditional artworld and digital environments is beneficial for artists - but that is a different post entirely).
So before this gets too long… I’ll finish here. Everyone is welcome to contribute (this is just a discussion). I’m thinking it would be great to start looking at art history now… to explore how creativity and artistic expression has changed as the artworld and the art market changed.