What defines Artist Emergence? How does one become an artist and what informs this personal path and career direction? How do artists navigate this real-time, streaming media revolution and information overload that is now a bi-product of our society? This complicated notion of emergence has many factors. Aside from childhood background, education, and experience, the most influencing force is the art market, which is informed by changing trends, economic conditions, professional practice, and of course, the players (i.e. artists, gallerists, dealers, critics, collectors, academic and cultural institutions, auctions, et al.).
To “emerge,” can be described as follows:
• to come up to the surface
• to come into view as from concealment or obscurity
• to come out, or live (through a difficult experience)
• to become evident or apparent
• to rise from or as if from immersion
• to come into existence
• to arise, originate, spring up, develop, grow
For an artist, it could mean a ‘big break,’ which may translate to a lucrative commission or sale, a high profile exhibition, a museum acquisition, peer acceptance, and/or critical review. The reference aligns with the term “success,” which usually breaks down to critical and commercial success. This issue has multiple layers, specifically in how we define ways of measuring success. Essentially, success means different things to different people … kind of the way art means different things to different people, which again, I see as context. Success is based on experience in relation to background, education, and personal and professional support structures. During the run of my gallery, a show’s success meant connecting artist to viewer, particularly, as witnessed in conversation at the many openings over the years. Sure, sales mattered, but the true measure of success was in the engagement of the work and the experience it resonated.
In observing and experiencing an ever changing culture, the rise of media-driven technologies, and economic challenges facing the art market today, I know first hand the impact these forces have on artist emergence. In my own work, in representing the works of others previously through my gallery, and now as a consultant and educator, I see new patterns developing that directly reflect the culture and the conditions surrounding it. The artist, in trying to find the right path evolves through socialization and conventions imposed by the art market and life in general. These informing factors contribute to his or her identity construction, belief system, methodology, and career.
Artist emergence has significantly challenged the traditional course of gallery and institutional systems granting new opportunities, accessibility, and personal enterprise for the artist. This fast-track exposure to global audiences, as a result of advancing communication and new media platforms, has all but eclipsed the established norms of artist representation and ideologies of the industry. Artists are now entrepreneurs, many forging their own careers and taking to the web to promote their “brand” through blogs and social media. Some are positioning themselves as experts in the field dolling out advice to throngs of hungry followers in the name of art … or commodity? A great number of books and resources are available online and in print, as authors expound in how to survive and prosper as an artist. They offer commercial advice in portfolio development, marketing, public relations, and management. Many include steps in developing a professional acumen, gaining representation, and building an audience. Aside from these DIY manuals, others on the media circuit include artist managers, career coaches, and advisers––some more credible than others. My advice? Be informed but mindful.
Information technologies are at the fore of a cultural shift that is occurring. This virtual environment may influence an artist’s career success and survival, whilst the effects of these conditions impact the economic structure of the art market and theoretical issues of art’s value and mediation in our culture. Mechanisms in artist emergence include signifiers such as the environment; educational, political and socio-historical structures; the media; and conditions of mass culture. However, the most vital components I have concluded are core genius, talent (inherent or acquired), tenacity, luck, networking, and personal and professional support systems.
Quintessential to this landscape is the ability for one to adapt to the evolution of culture and technology, yet remain true to self and the instinctive core qualities possessed. In a society of continual change, artists are poised to experience the world beyond their own context assessing the results from informed perspectives. Factors mentioned accelerate this path. Stay tuned.