I have recently begun to put up my paintings for sale, without much result. I’m told that “I need to promote myself and appropriately sell my product.” I’m told that “marketing myself and my product are crucial elements in building my brand.”
It appears that an artist’s notoriety and marketability has nowadays become more important than the artwork itself. Or maybe this has just been going on for at least the past 100 years.
I don’t like this proposition at all. Call me a romantic, but I always thought of art as something more than just a product for sale. Are we back to those times where artists were commissioned work and had to work under the constraints of their employers? Although our employers, nowadays cleverly call themselves “the rules of the market.” If my success as an artist depends on how much I sell, what happens to the idea of being a genius or divinely inspired? Do I become just a wheel in a well-oiled machine? A salesperson, aiming at “becoming somebody” instead of doing something meaningful? And when did we turn artists into celebrities?
In my short research, I discovered that the connection between inspiration and divinity began in ancient times when poets and prophets were believed to be inspired by a guiding, holy being or spiritual helper, which the Romans called genius. This entity communicated to the world through chosen individuals. In the Renaissance, that source of inspiration became identiﬁed not with a pagan god or muse but with the Christian god. At this point in history, artists began to be described as “divine.” Furthermore, this link with the divine enhanced the status of the artist, and in the 16th century, the image of the artist as genius emerged. The artist became to be regarded as an inspired and exceptional individual. However, from the last century, the attention has been slowly shifting from the artist’s original creative work to his personality.
The artist as genius, as divine, as mystiﬁed. Who is the artist? Is the artist’s personality and eccentricity what drive his/her success today? It appears to be so. Just look at Andy Warhol or Madonna for example.
If we are to judge contemporary art by the artist’s fame and our proﬁt-making standards, it would seem appropriate to dismantle the art’s aura of superiority and judge it as merely as a commercial product for sale, a product conforming to the underlying supply and demand laws.
And so be it, if art has lost its real value and meaning, even the concept of the artist as “divinely inspired” needs to be ofﬁcially declared obsolete.
(The art presented are Loredana’s art)