The art world is obviously a brutal place for young artists. When I tell people I'm majoring in art, I usually get surprised looks and I've been told, "Wow, you have very supportive parents." While I am lucky enough to have parents that support my passion for art, it's very scary to think about breaking into the art scene as a career.
Art in and of itself is so subjective. Being in art school has certainly taught me to think about my paintings in a different way. What makes art good? Is it simply the monetary value that a painting can be sold for? Is the best art what sells for the most money? If this is the case, what is the relationship between art collectors and the art itself? I watched an HBO documentary called "The Price of Everything" that explored these ideas and got me thinking.
Many things are changing at exponential speeds in the world, and the art market is no exception. Masterful works traditionally have been deemed too priceless to put a monetary value on, but in the contemporary art world, everything can be bought or sold. The documentary touched on this, specifying a few contemporary artists who have risen to fame in the past 20 or so years.
There is already a distinction between what is fine art and what is art made for commercial purposes, but to a certain extent, big-name artists must be creating work to make a profit, which raises the question of is there that distinction between contemporary art and all art in the past. One of my favorite artists, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a Nigerian-born artist who works in Los Angeles was featured, talking about the commercial aspect of contemporary art. She says, "It's heartening to know the work is connecting the way it does. Where the anxiety comes in and the scary part is that I'm getting all this attention. How do I keep evolving this work, how do I not stagnate, and cruise for the next 20 years?" If she were to make the same art it would almost feel like a cop-out because she knows that's what sells.
Another well known contemporary artist, Jeff Koons, was featured. One art critique brought up the point that his art was wildly successful, selling for record prices in the 1990s, but have recently became devalued due to hotels and complexes buying his sculptures as "lobby art."
This is where we have that fine line between commercial and what is considered high-end fine art. Akunyili Crosby wants the exact opposite for her work. I love this idea she has, saying that "museums are the gatekeeper of our culture." She would rather keep seeing her work in museums compared to just sell her work until it becomes too "commercial." It's crazy to think that what we consider art is all because of the art collectors that buy the work and the museums that show it. All you can do is to keep creating and hope to have the right eyes see and like your work.