Monday, August 18, 2008

Do artists really need each other?

Away from the direct art criticism side today. This is just a quick thought that has really angered me. I was just on a website for an art school summer program which extensively talked about how "artists need each other." I certainly agree, but to an EXTENT. I don't think this is an emphasis that needs to be stressed any further than it already is in the education community.

Part of my number one problem with art today is this insular notion of the artistic community. Seriously, I want any regular readers who are artists here to think about this. Most of your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues are all fellow artists or somehow in the art community. The number one problem today with art is its reaching out to the non-artistic community; the voice of the common man, of the "people." Ask a stockbroker, a nurse, a elementary school teacher, a cop, a filmmaker, or a dancer what they think of your work. They are far more likely to be the eventual collector of your works than you think. They are also far more likely to write their congressman about an exhibition they do not understand, or have had an involvement in. I believe subconsciously, art continues to look down upon the "everyday" average Joe.

In the past few years I've gotten to see firsthand who collectors are (Insurance executives, doctors, lawyers, marketing people, interior designers, and yes, on occasion, fellow artists.) Getting opinions all the time from those within the "inner art circle" will not necessarily give you sales success. Perhaps I concentrate too much on the business side of things, but it's a very important thing to think over. Critical praise will not pay the bills.

I'd really like to see a school talk about "artists need to reach out to the outside world," not just "each other."

Just some food for thought.


hrag said...

I whole heartedly agree...we need to break the art mold.

Anonymous said...

except that those invested in promoting the "artistic community" to artists [schools, etc] will liken the "common man" to "selling out" and the name kinkade will pop up at every turn and perpetually remind young artists that critical acclaim and being a part of art history is the "proven" path to success.

true or not but its a scare tactic ingrained in the art scholar psyche

Anonymous said...

Outreach is exhausting. And why should it be up to the artists to educate the public--(whatever "public" means)?

. Museums rightfully should reach out to the public, as that is their constituency; indeed, many museums are funded with public money and many get tax breaks.
. And certainly community arts organizations should reach out, because the community is their constituency.
. Dealers build outreach into their programs, though typically at a higher level than the "average Joe.".

But artists have enough to do already: earning a living, making art (for the few lucky ones, those two activities are combined), and doing the myriad things an artist neeeds to do: photograph, edit and Photoshop the images, archive images, maintain inventories, find galleries, maintain relationships with the dealers they have, pack and ship work, see art, socialize at openings. Now we're supposed to take on the role of a teaching institution.

I don't think so!

How many times do you want to answer, "How long did it take you to make that?"

Art openings and events, as well as art fairs, draw many art-interested folks. They're not necessarily savvy, but they have begun the process of educating themselves. I'm happy to interact with them. But if someone wants a Kincade, they deserve to own one.

Oly said...

Sure, Kincade might have a chokehold on the "average Joe" market, but he's really not my focus here. (nor Chihully for that matter).

I'm talking about shooting WAY over the public's head-- i.e., the Whitney's jumping straight from being the Ground Zero of Hopper to the Ground Zero of Koh Bunny. Ummm... continuity problem?

We know there's been plenty of art in between those two extremes, but the problem is that the institutions-- museums, et. al-- have jumped straight from the kiddie pool into the English channel swim. So of course your average Joe's react with horror.

Remember, most art education doesn't even exist nowadays-- I know my own public school education ended with the death of Salvador Dali. (Wait. You mean there's still artists that came after him? REALLY????)

On a side note, I worked for several years here with a lot of financial world average Joes. I had as much in common with them as a baby seal does to a crack whore, but one day a very excited broker came up to me to inform me how much fun he had looking at the "Piscassos" at the MoMa.

Yeah, us art snobs might snicker at his inept pronunciation of probably the most famous artist in history, and lord, I tried my best to educate on the pronunciation, but the fact that HE was taking an interest was a big revelation to me. We're talking major meathead material here... MAJOR. And HE was making the effort.

But every time we ask something of ourselves-- god, what I hear time and time again is nasty, entitlement-laden talk at openings and whatnot-- "Oh, god... another investment banker." "Ugh... did you see that? He had an American flag bumper sticker! Patriotism is so wrong!!!" (Insert hipster eyerolls) Meanwhile, most likely they're a child OF an investment banker, or their grandparents died fighting at Normandy.

The hypocrisy of the art world is endless, and this is what I'm diggin' at is shifting some of the navel-gazing to the appropriate place-- the one looking back at us in the mirror.

If meatheads can attempt to step outside of their weekend beer bong to pay a $20 MoMa admission to look, but don't touch (a concept to them that's shocking)-- we certainly can reach out to find out what grandma or Crazy Uncle Sal might like to see.

Art should be for everyone.

Just my opinion.

Joanne Mattera said...

Oly, I agree with you that art should be for everyone--if they want it (some prefer Nascar or the movies, or some other form of entertainment/enrichment). But I disagree that it's the artist's job to do the educating.

If we're talking about the Whitney, then it's the Whitney's job to do the educating.

Museums have brown bag lunches, panels, forums, curators' talks. Yes, typically they cost. But so does a ticket to a sports event or one's 16th pair of shoes. There are also free talks led by docents at many museum shows. Galleries offer artists' talks that are open to the public. The public has to be motivated to attend, but these opportunities exist.

Also, art exists al all different levels. Most folks won't go to the Biennial (including many artists), but many folks are attending the Dali show at MoMA, and many others attend museum and exhibitions where history and/or culture come together, like at the Asia Society or at El Museo del Barrio.

But in every instance, it's the museum's (or gallery's) job to reach out to its core constituency--and beyond.

Certainly individual artists can choose to educate the public if they choose, but it's not, not should it be, something we're expected to do.