Read This! The Death of the Artist – and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur | From the Atlantic

Last week I read a brief article in the Atlantic magazine that chronicles the history of how artists have been perceived by society, how they’ve worked, and how they have made money through the ages. Several artists have since emailed me with links to the article, and it may, understandably, stir up some conversation in the art world. It should be noted that the article does talk extensively about visual artists, but the author, William Deresiewicz, uses the term “artist” to refer more broadly to anyone engaged in artistic pursuits, including authors, musicians, playwrights, etc.

You should read the article for yourself, but the basic premise is that one can trace an arc in the perception of what constituted an artist. In ancient times the concept of “artist” as we would recognize it didn’t exist, rather there were artisans or craftsmen (and craftswomen) who were makers, working and living very similarly to any other tradespeople.

credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Slowly, over time, as the skill of these creators increased, and, as societal wealth grew, artists moved away from the functional and merely decorative and began working to create art for its own sake. Through patronage by wealthy individuals and organized religion, some of the greatest artistic works of all time were created.

Eventually, individual and institutional patronage died out, but the desire to create great works of art survived and the concept of a “starving artist” was born – an individual who would sacrifice the comforts of life in order to pursue excellence. These artists often survived on the good graces and charity of friends and family. Eventually the private collector came into being and many artists entered commerce – making a living selling their work. The academic artist also rose up – artists who spent years in school to then turn around and become professors to train up a new generation of academic artists.

The author of the article argues that we are now entering a new age of artists, many of whom, the author argues, wouldn’t necessarily be considered artists in the true sense of the word, but rather, should be considered “creative entrepreneurs”. He argues that the fall of established institutions like the universities and the rise of the internet and social media is ushering in a new age for those who create. He goes on to posit that as the selling of art becomes more democratized, the quality of the work being produced and accepted by society will inevitably fall. Many artists, he argues, will no longer have time to hone their craft, they will be to busy building their network of followers and chasing after likes and dollars.

The article is well-written and summarizes pretty succinctly the rise and fall of the artist over history, but I feel the conclusions of the article are too facile, and that the whole premise generalizes too much to reflect the reality of what it has meant and means to be an artist.

It’s clear that we are indeed in a revolutionary time as the internet allows artists to promote themselves to a broader audience. I would argue, however, that there have always been a wide range of approaches to the creation and marketing of art. Individual artists have approached both the creation and selling of her art according to her personality and disposition.

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credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I would also argue that there have always been artistic individuals who have a natural gift for business. They might not have been called entrepreneurs, but they approached the distribution and dissemination of their art in ways that can only be described as entrepreneurial. I’m thinking of artist like da Vinci, Picasso, and certainly Warhol.

It’s also true that many artists naturally leaned more toward craft than art, and that the number of artists who are creating history-worthy pieces has always been small.

The internet has made it possible for an artist to reach a wide range of potential buyers and patrons, but the internet has also dramatically increased the amount of noise that exists in the marketplace, meaning that it is as hard as ever for an individual artist to get enough attention to make a living through her work.

In short, I disagree that the age of the internet means the end of great art. I believe that the author mistakenly thinks that the creation of art is driven solely by the underlying societal structure that supports (or fails to support) artists. Mr. Deresiewicz fails to realize that the desire to create is as old as mankind, and that as long as humanity exists there will be those among us who strive to create works of art that have the ability to leave the rest of us in absolute wonder.

I suspect that there will always be art that transcends the age in which it is created – present age not excepted

The age of information has transformed the world, but I suspect that there will always be art that transcends the age in which it is created – present age not excepted.

You can read the full text of the original article for free at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/01/the-death-of-the-artist-and-the-birth-of-the-creative-entrepreneur/383497/#

What do You Think?

Is “The Death of the Artist” imminent? Can an artist be a great artist and an entrepreneur at the same time? Do you agree or disagree with the assertions made in the article. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

40 Comments

  1. I like your take on the Atlantic’s article, Jason. Makes me wonder if the author actually knows any artists. I think [with the “digital age” and the internet and computers and software] that there are more tools than ever before for an artist [in any media] to use to hone their skills. Rather than being sidelined by the 21st century, more doors and opportunities have been opened. Artists have always had that entrepreneurial side to them. Artists do have to eat after all. I like to call us “artist-preneurs.”

    1. I love the “artist-preneurs” I’m going to borrow that phrase because it clearly states the entrepreneur as an artist 😉

    2. Artists have a long history of ‘winging it’ through life, so artist-preneurs is nothing new to them for the most part. The problem nowadays is that the regular working force is headed in that direction as well. Secure jobs and pensions are a thing of the past for many replaced by a growing army of freelancers, temps, contractors, part-timers, day laborers, micro-entrepreneurs, gig-preneurs, solo-preneurs, contingent labor, perma-lancers, taskrabbit’ers and perma-temps.

      A good DVD series to watch is ‘Jazz’ by Ken Burns. Showcases the struggles the artist will do to practice their craft. Another good title is ‘Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and What the Neighbors Thought)’ by Krull. Get them from your library

    3. I agree as well, Jason and Linda. Your ending paragraph gives me a boost about real fine art creation. Ultimately it comes down to the original work, the one and only. Your articles are great and insightful, Jason.

  2. I agree with part of the article, that there will always be some “artists” who only paint to make a living, and I don’t fault them for that! I feel that the majority of artists will continue to paint for the pure joy of painting, the fulfillment derived from a completed work, and the desire to “just paint”!

  3. I am an an artist be a great artist and an entrepreneur, it’s scary and exciting all at the same time. Like mother nature, artists have adapted and changed according to the colors or shapes they create just like the fall leaves. We’re not going to disappear too soon. As an artist my creations are about culture, and culture embodies everything I do. It’s easier to express it in paint. Great article!

  4. I agree with you. There will always be artists who make art because they need to express themselves visually in ways that words cannot suffice. I paint because my life seems to be missing something when I’m not making art. I admit that I love the smile on the faces of people who come into a gallery filled with my work. I am sure the Internet has attracted many people, but it isn’t the same as actually standing in front of a painting or sculpture and having a visceral response to it. It will be a useful tool for many artists, I’m sure, but maintaining an internet presence means less time in the studio. I would rather share my price with a gallery who promotes my work.

  5. Is “The Death of the Artist” imminent? One could also ask if the death of the traditional gallery is imminent as I see fewer galleries left for artist to work with. I feel that there will always be artist and always be galleries. About four months ago I put another effort into the on-line world after having only occasional success going back over 10 years on-line. I spend at least 35 – 45% of my time being an entrepreneur and the rest creating art. With this new learning curve on the new Amazon Handmade section, it is currently more 30% creating art and the rest learning SEO, key wording, paid marketing, customer service, on-line presentation as well as a variety of other skills I needed to pick up. My sales expectations have exceeded what I was expecting so far and I am optimistic.

    Artists need to be creative and learn new skills which can result in getting art sales from a variety of ways such as on-line, stores, art shows and art galleries as a few. I have no problem calling myself an artist and at the same time taking the steps to sell my art. Perhaps somewhere in the past people thought artist should not concentrate so heavily on selling their own art, but times have changed. Taking the time to sell my art has never made me feel like less than an artist and I actually enjoy the art of selling and the satisfaction of making a sale myself.

  6. Thank you for another great post. I’ll add one more observation: When I started in this business a dozen years ago artists who developed a popular style enjoyed a lifelong career of increasing prices and strong sales, doing pretty much the same thing. Those days, it appears, are over. Today, the hottest selling artists keep it going for five years or so before sales start to slow and, for some, come to a halt (I’ve watched five shows just this year – established artists at big-city galleries – where not a single painting sold). I see so many artists facing this issue and virtually all of them continue to do the same old thing and fade into oblivion. Many try new marketing tactics but I don’t see it working for any of them. I’m in the same boat and have decided to change styles and re-emerge in a new market (I’ll start releasing new work in late spring). All the market research I do tells me that changing styles – once considered career suicide – is now required for artists to have a sustainable lifelong career. Most artist, dealers and collectors haven’t caught on yet. Those who intend to survive will figure it out sooner or later…

  7. I agree with you Jason.
    Our marketing approach has changed, and the author made some good points, but an Artist is so much more, and those who do their work for the love of it will continue making those pieces that express themselves and or the culture.

  8. I ran a successful business for over 20 years and it takes much time, effort, energy. Blood, sweat, and tears.

    While you are managing a business, you are not painting or practicing Art. Picasso and Matisse understood this basic idea. It is best to have somebody else “do” all or most of the business side, so the paintings can go forward.

    These principles only apply if you are primarily concerned with quality and quantity of output.

  9. This is a great article and I agree it will stimulate much conversation. Having graduated from The Art Institute of Chicago in 2009 I can affirm that we were taught marketing and selling of your own work was stressed to be as important as the artwork itself. I believe being social media and digital marketing savvy is important to today’s art and artist. From there I witnessed the shift of the idea of being a studio artist waiting to be discovered into the idea of bringing your product to the masses. Everyday products and ideas are more frequently delivered to people in news feeds and email blasts, therefore in my opinion artists will have to follow suit.

  10. I think Mr. Deresiewicz is right on. I don’t think he is questioning any artists desire to create, as you suggest, but points out quite accurately that in this new age of self promotion, without the filter of some qualified judgement, where nonsensical ‘likes’ amount to justification or even credibility, the quality overall goes down. I’m seeing it all over the place, very mediocre work being tweeted and facebooked etc. Even those of us who care deeply about quality, and have 20 plus years perfecting their art, are now faced with having to spend way too much time away from the easel to market themselves. Look at yourself, I like what you’re doing, and read a lot of your posts, but your own business model has changed from primarily gallery sales, to selling artists on now to market themselves. This is the big new business, selling artists on how to sell themselves, not selling art itself. Yes great new art will continue to be produced, I continue to try to hold myself to a very high standard, but it is almost overwhelming when I spend time like this, trying to understand how to market myself (again thank you for your contributions) when I’m aching to be at the easel trying to grow artistically. I’m not selling t-shirts, I’m an artist who cares about quality over quantity, and I may also be a dinosaur.

    1. Cody,
      No one can be a dinosaur who believes that standards for craft and creativity exist, and try to implement them themselves in their own work–such as the outstanding landscapes you paint. Marketing and how-to-market is an individual choice: some are better at it than others; some want to pursue it more than others. Whatever we make, we can be assured that some will like it and some will not, despite the wealth of information that we may possess to market it.
      In the end, I believe that the marketability of quality artworks, such as your own, rests on the ability, willingness and opportunity for the viewing public to receive education regarding what standards are being realized in the art they see, and which are not. This will start in the schools, passed on through artists who create at a high level, and fostered and promoted by galleries, websites, the media and artists who care about quality. All we can do is influence those who are in our own circle of influence. Rather than being artists who starve on the vine, I would suggest that we grow where we are planted, and encourage others in our artistic garden to grow along with us.

    2. I believe that mediocre art has always existed yet never rose to the level of reaching the masses like it does on social media. I also believe that collectors have been able to distinguish between quality and mediocrity in art and will continue to pursue the highest value possible for their investment. It’s unfortunate that we have to compete so aggressively in this market today but I think we have to see it as a way to encourage all of us, who see ourselves as artists, to strive to always improve our craft and create our best work.

  11. “The age of Internet and self promotion” might add more to “what is out there” but by no means does it mean that it will make all artists savvy in business. Nor does it diminish those that appreciate, follow, and collect art. Being a professional artist is not a business for the faint-of-heart. Just like the artists of old had to scramble and evolve when patrons were no longer part of the landscape, we too shall adopt and evolve into the next phase of social, internet, and self promotion art.

  12. Sure, all good points.

    The photo curators art museums employ came up with the term ‘snapshot aesthetic’ to justify poor photography like the off kilter, jumbled up messes Winogrand produced. Photo curators are not museum quality photogs themselves, they are just academics with an art history degree. The young gun photogs coming up worship Winogrand cause the curators say he is great and they copy his style. Soon snapshot aestheticism is the rage. With 2 billion cell phone cams out there everyone is a photo artist nowadays and snapshot aestheticism can make almost anything art.

    https://danielteolijr.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/hollywood-blvd-selfie-infrared-flash-2015-daniel-d-teoli-jr.jpg

  13. The advertising on that site has made it most frustrating to read, as it keeps jumping all around and then you have to scroll around to find your place again. As it’s such a long article, I eventually gave up, but I will comment on a few points.

    I don’t think the internet means the death of great art, but I do think that’s it is a contributing factor in apathy towards the value of art. The danger, I see, is that so much work is put before people that it dilutes the effect of all art – people simply quit looking because, just like that article, it becomes too tiresome to scroll through the volume of work to find pieces of substance that resonate with them.

    Anyone, anywhere can pick up a paintbrush, set up shop and call themselves an artist without putting in the time, training, and effort to hone their skills or even seek critical comment from experts on the value and place of their work. Many will spend their career chasing the next big trend, while there will be others who are probably less successful or known who spend their career trying to understand themselves and the process. Those will be the ones producing great art, but we may never know it because they are drowned out by the loudest voices and fickleness of trends.

  14. My own feeling is that we are witnessing the death of the advertiser. He has inundated us with countless ads that try to be so innovative that we often forget what it was they were selling. So, when artists try to compete with advertisers who have huge budgets and who may not be successful in promoting their clients, we feel at a disadvantage. Art, as one commenter noted, is best experienced live and in person. Anything smaller than the original, interspersed with many other pieces will not draw the attention enough for the viewer to experience what the artist has made/created. It is sad that our work is so little thought of, but that has always been so. I would much rather show my work with the help of personel who can direct the potential collector or buyer to the merits and appeal of the art, since I must be about creating more new pieces – the one aspect of art that really turns me on and brings joy and satisfaction. Sales somehow do have to be enough to allow for that, but when they begin to be the main incentive, the volume has to increase – sometimes at the expense of the art.

  15. So much to talk about!
    No, we don’t train fine artists in atelier schools anymore; we send them to formal art schools, community colleges, private and public universities, workshops, and lacking any of the former, are self taught. All are viable, which may or may not produce an artist for the ages.
    These days near everyone claims the name “artist.” Because credentials aren’t necessary to produce great art the term has lost its luster. Sales do not validate it. MOMAs have lost their minds … remember the news story of the cleaning woman who threw out a modern art exhibit because she thought it was trash? Loved that! Appreciation can, but only in the broad context of time will art prove itself.
    Although we’ve all heard the analogy prior to this the author apparently did not read the 10,000 hour requisite explanation. http://www.businessinsider.com/malcolm-gladwell
    We still can’t define “artist” satisfactorily. Most endeavors can be brought to artistic levels … surgery strikes me, but few would classify pioneering surgeons as artists. It is excellence and vision, also artistic characteristics.
    The faulty conclusion a true artist is only one whose art supports them contributes to the entrepreneur group. Depending on the medium, time may be a factor; if you can produce a dozen commercial pieces a week while another artist spends weeks or months on a project because of their chosen discipline … which is the artist? That is also a vendor.
    We can agree or vehemently argue over misinformation or opinions. Yours are as valid as the next person. But honestly, guys … just go back to your studio. If you have to work, promote, and sell while you create, do it. If you’re fortunate enough to have someone else take on that mantle, great. None of that makes any difference. Go back to your studio and work.

  16. The same revolution in social connection that makes art a business opportunity for the individual artist also applies to galleries. The shift we are experiencing will result in some new rising stars and a lot of that, if not all, will be via a more traditional relationship between the gallery owner and their stable of artists, though how the art is marketed will continue to evolve. Artists will still need to devote their time to making. My .02

  17. As always, there is very little “great art”–and that which is “great” is subjectively evaluated by each of us. The World Wide Web does not make it more or less so, it only makes it infinitely more –and less easy to find. Each of us is free to find what we feel is “great art” and to find our own “market” or find a way for others to assist us in our marketing. The actual making or creating of our art is or can be independent of the marketing. Though art can be marketable, it is not necessarily only a commodity for marketing. Unlike bread, we do not consume it and thereby use it up. When art is properly “consumed” it satisfies our intellect and need for human and cultural fulfillment.
    The marketing of art, is not in itself either a sin or panacea. For some of us marketing may be more of a necessity than for others–and for all of us “the market” may be an adventure we cannot ultimately avoid. One way or another, we all must face the interaction of a public–else our self-expression is not complete. After all, all human beings are social animals. The “web” only magnifies the proposition, with new multiples of complexity. As always, adapt, evolve appropriately or exist as you will.

  18. My first reaction to your summary (and I have yet to read the whole article) is that the old dichotomy between popular and “real” art is behind the judgment about the death of the artist. They are not mutually exclusive categories. I would also question that the “filter of some qualified judgment” was necessarily true of wealthy patrons of old.

  19. Thanks for your interpretation of this Atlantic article. I had read it before, but appreciate your point of view. I have found that the business of promoting myself and cranking out work to fulfill and increase my online art-selling business has had a profoundly positive impact on my work. Enabling me to increase my productivity has not reduced the quality of my work, quite the opposite – painting more paintings has increased the skill of my hand and allowed me to speed up the development of my work. After the initial shock of the extra time spent promoting and marketing my work subsided, I got into a groove with those tasks and it doesn’t take up that much of my time anymore. Now I live and breathe art 24-7, which was not the case before I was making a living as a full-time artist.

  20. Remember that “amateur” is one who acts out of love for the pursuit. We’ve got people spending hundreds of hours creating their own cosplay gear, creating their own animation with no expectation of ever seeing any return on their investment. Can you find a glut of low-quality work? Of course, but there’s a lot of high-end art emerging, too. As machines take over more and more of manual labor, more people can invest in mental pursuits, and this is widening the field of art. In both directions.

  21. “The distinction between art and craft, in short, was weak at best. Indeed, the very concept of art as it was later understood—of Art—did not exist.”

    (A quote from early in the article. I read the whole thing but found its tone off-putting and ‘unfriendly.’ )

    I don’t prefer articles built on an unsteady foundation any more than I would a house built on one. I just don’t see – beyond personal conjecture and extrapolation – how the author could make that statement. He was not there and, throughout the centuries preceding this one, I’d have to imagine that few people were writing about the distinctions between, for instance, a silversmith and a portrait painter. I happen to favor the essay as a literary form; I’ve read countless, some going back to ancient Greece and Rome. Oddly – or perhaps not – until about the 19th century, when art took a turn for the… how shall I say? The adventurous? No one wrote very much about either craftspeople or artists but, based on what I know about human beings, I’d put money on those people of previous centuries distinguishing between the folks who made the implements they used at table every day and those who were painting realistic portraits. Pretty sure the makers of tableware didn’t usually end up in a palace as guests for extended periods of time while they turned out their wares. Just sayin’. It’s a bit of conjecture on my part, but I’m not going to base an article on it.

    Yes, there are artists who are masterful at marketing their art now… just as there were centuries ago. And there are people who just HAVE TO MAKE ART and don’t care if nobody every buys it. It doesn’t make them any less an artist because they don’t sell… does it?

  22. I totally agree with you, an art piece can still leave someone in wonder, it all depends where the motive is coming from. Take music for example… some artist use a recipe, repeat what is tendy with a few twiks, to create a “hit”, a song that will play on the radio and to ultimately make money….. where as some artists will create songs that will move us, even though we thought everything had been explored in music. (because music has been existing for a very long time and because so many artists have made music)

  23. William Deresiewicz wrote an essay a while back for The American Scholar that begins with his observation that he had become so educated, so elite that he could not manage even a simple conversation with a plumber who had arrived at his residence to fix some leaky pipes. The legend-in-his-own-mind stance of the article offers useful context for judging Deresiewicz’s commentary on the state of the arts. When a plumber is such an alien being that you can’t even begin to imagine his world, I have grave doubts that you can understand much of Western art. What of the peasants who warm themselves by a fire in the Limbourg Brothers Tres Riches Heures “winter” scene illuminated manuscript? What of Van Gogh’s Sower? Or Millet’s? Van Gogh’s source. What about Saint Peter fetching the coin from the fish’s mouth in Masaccio’s “Tribute Money”? Rembrandt’s etching of The Good Samaritan with the “healthy dog” in the foreground? I would have to conclude that all these situations (and a host of others) are simply too ordinary and blandly human for the vast intellect of Mr. Deresiewicz to grasp. (Similar comparisons exist for other forms of art. How could he comprehend the wild gypsy Carmen of Bizet’s opera? Or clueless teenage lovers Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare’s play and its many off-shoots like West Side Story?) And that being the case, I gotta tell you I view his conclusions with a profound skepticism.

    PS: When I read the American Scholar article, I couldn’t help but wonder if Mr. Deresiewicz is so brilliant, why he didn’t just fix his own pipes. Plumbing is rudimentary physics after all — something that the plumber could have told him if Mr. Brilliant had possessed sufficient curiosity to ask ….

    Here’s the link so you can judge for yourselves. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Deresiewicz. Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (smile! – of Downton Abbey) would never have taken so condescending a tone. Nor even Cousin Violet!
    https://theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/#.VuiYlnLmrmQ

  24. Blaming the internet for bad art is like blaming the textile industry for velvet Elvis paintings. A tool in some hands is a weapon in others.
    I think that (most) art will get better because of technology and the internet, as most artists now have access to better training and opportunities.

    Mr. Deresiewicz posits that artists should concentrate on only one thing, one art, and not try to be more than that.
    While that advice is good for some, Da Vinci was also an engineer and Michelangelo didn’t like painting; he only wanted to sculpt.
    Matisse painted, but he also did prints, and collage. So many artists did more than one thing.

    Mr. D goes on to compare art professionals to today’s artist – the “self-employed” – who put their work online. He says artists in the past had a patron, they starved, but they didn’t market their own works as they do these days, all thanks to the internet.
    Picasso was a brilliant businessman and Warhol was worth $220 million when he died. At the age of 15 Elizabeth Vigée-leBrun (Marie Antoinette’s court painter) was earning enough money from her portrait painting to support herself, her widowed mother, and her younger brother. 

    Yes, some people work harder on their Facebook likes than on their art. Is that new? Effective marketing has always sold art, or shoes, or cars. I remember seeing full page magazine ads with some pretty bad art in the 70’s. When I was very, very young. Barely old enough to read.

    As far as the statement that artists are not well trained these days, I would think that depends on the school, as in any profession.
    Were artists trained better in “the good old days”? The master/apprentice relationship worked really well for the master painter; he got the young apprentice to grind pigments for years. Yup, you’d have a pretty good understanding of paint. And I’m pretty sure Ms. Brown would sue the school if that’s all little Charlotte did for two semesters. Luckily Charlotte was on the internet getting a marketing degree so she could manufacture a new line of environmentally friendly paints, so her time was well spent.

    The internet allows students of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds to study art from the entire world, in every timeline.
    Throwing on the wheel is never going to be an effective online class, but many other classes are effective. Anyone with access to the internet can learn from world famous artists, or art curators at the Met. It doesn’t replace a mentor or formal education, but it helps inform viewers about art, artists and art marketing with multiple training methods.
    Will people continue to publish bad art on the internet and refuse to learn what comprises really good art? Of course. Some people are perfectly happy with their velvet Elvis collection. The fact that many of you want to Google “Velvet Elvis” right now is a testament to the power of internet marketing.

    Whether art is great will be judged only by time, just as it has in the past. We now have more choices to learn our craft. The fact that you’re reading this and learning about marketing art proves that we can learn from the internet. Now that I understand more about how art marketing works I feel more comfortable with galleries and marketing, and that means I can concentrate on my job as an artist.

  25. Quite a long time ago Jerry Mander wrote a book about computers in which he pointed out how society is evolving because of technology. Briefly he asserts that, whereas pre-computer generations innovated in order to better their lives, currently people adapt themselves to technology. In other words, we’re adapting to a man-made artifact more than originating and communicating on a personal level. The very definition of what it is to be human is changing as a result. We make jokes about a system that insists we “Start” in order to log off, but that is just one instance of our contortion, however illogical it may be.

    I have no solutions, but only observations. (1) Art magazines dedicated to instruction talk less and less about acid-free and archival materials. There seems to be a societal acceptance of impermanence. We reflect our times and can’t help but be influenced by the violence, disasters and unrest in the news.

    (2) Digital cameras and cameras in phones have improved to such an extent that people feel entitled to make their own “art” with unauthorized prints. People seem to be satisfied with throwaway copies. Wealthy people still value originals; but the erosion of the middle class has affected the size of the art market. Art, as ever, is a luxury compared with the need to eat.

    (3) Antiques are decreasing in popularity due to the younger generation not wanting to be encumbered with “things.” I know older people who are selling “family treasures” on Ebay because their kids don’t want them. Experiences are more popular. Again, this reflects a culture of impermanence.

    (4) The “mixed media” craze is a catch-all with permission to use anything that makes an impression, whether it’s lasting or not. Of course, some of the expressionists experimented with painting on raw canvas and so have guaranteed conservators job security.

    (5) I’m amazed at awards in some juried shows where size and bright colors are given top marks regardless of skill level or handling of materials. Technology has decreased attention spans to the point where immediacy is the priority. Flip through any art magazine and notice the amount of red.

    I will always paint not so much as to produce something but more because it’s a soul thing. We may not have control over what’s popular and monetarily valued. But that’s the way it’s always been. We’re still in charge of what we ourselves value and how we invest our time.

  26. I think there is some validity to the theory that marketing and promoting are becoming an increasing percentage of the time spent by artists honing their crafts as well as producing works. I am sure that there are many “pure” artists who create to satisfy their personal needs. There are also some who combine that motivation with the knowledge that to continue to have the resources to create they need some sort of income. Most of us do not nor will not have a patron to subsidize our creative urges but will struggle on to address our creative urges. I also think that the ability to flood the digital markets with ads and images dilutes the pool of arts and crafts creations as some of our group spend more time promoting than creating. I hope that this trend levels out but the ever-present grasp for a buck is a huge motivator.

  27. I think the digital age has changed entire patterns in society that effect cultural and economic preferences….especially among young people. People are likely to spend money on technology at the sacrifice of artists…the beautiful painting on the wall is being replaced by a wide screen with ever increasing digital media advances in technology. .
    It is harder than ever to sell art so no doubt artists try to use social networking etc. to get their art seen and make a living…and that outreach takes time away from actually doing art. Artists still do art regardless of societal tastes….but it isn’t easy.
    I am amazed at how many of the extremely rich decorate..large open spaces and blank walls. Most of my patrons have been middle and low income people. Just the way it is in the digital age where large chunks of money go to techie consumer products….there are a few who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for the latest computer..phone…tv etc but can pay a little for a painting.

  28. It surprises me that the responses here so far seem to miss what I see as the main point of the Deresiewicz article. He states, and rather clearly I think, the changing paradigm historically of an artist starting well before the renaissance as an artisan to the isolated genius in the 19th century (Gauguin in Tahiti) to the professional of the 20th century and now to creative entrepreneur of the 21st century .
    What I have been seeing these days is the growing emergence of artist coaches who will teach you how to sell your work, how to massage the internet to get contacts, how to create an extensive email list, and how to use the internet to sell art. Podcasts and online workshops are increasingly becoming standard fare for introducing “emerging” artists to becoming entrepreneurs. Artists web sites often have dual purpose to not only show the work of an artist but also offer a way to buy.
    The thing is that it seems that the division between the artist world and the monetary world is vanishing and that will greatly change the life of the artist and character of art work. It is not that there is anything wrong with artists selling and making a living from their artwork, it just is as I think Deresiewicz is saying that it is radically changing just what it means to be an artist in the 21st century as well as just what we will call the artworks of our time. And I don’t think we know that yet.

  29. to Peggy.
    outstanding observation
    An indictment on the system.
    Attempting to jury in to a gallery 2 years ago, I received an admonition in a ‘critique’ from the gallery employee: she waved her hand expansively and said YOU NEED MORE COLOR! LOTS OF BRIGHT COLORS! THAT’S WHAT SELLS WELL HERE! Patiently I explained what should have been obvious to a blind man, BUT THESE ARE NATIVE WILDLIFE AND BIRDS.
    If I’d had a fifth of vodka I’d have consumed it on the spot.

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