For the love of it* was a day long conference that interrogated what it really means to work as an artist today – unpicking the reality of an artists life from the professional, the romantic or the career development views of funders and government. It was an opportunity for artists to focus their priorities, explore the realities of work, and reconsider the limits of professionalisation.
We considered and questioned four key themes from the day in the run-up to the conference on 15 May: this week, Success.
The question of success for artists is a complex and nebulous one, and is linked to how we value our work – and sometimes how others value it too. Of course, success is personally defined – for different artists, it might be exhibitions, residencies, peer recognition, column inches, money or fame. But what happens when you reach your aims and goals; where do you go from there? And how can success serve to typecast an artist, trapping them in a market or critical area that no longer fulfils them?
The art market can act as an ossifying force on practice – where artists (and many individual collectors) enquire, evolve, adapt and change, ‘the market’ relies on stability and predictability to set prices and build an audience. Plenty of artists have attained what others may term success – exhibitions and public recognition – only to be passed over when they change style, try new media or experiment.
Professional development programmes – in art schools and those provided to artists during their careers – also presume to have an answer, to understand what targets artists seek to attain and how to get to them. What bearing do these programmes have on influencing what an artist aims for, rather than what they really want for their own careers?
Other interesting discussions around the internet on success include:
Gary Hume interviewed in The Guardian in 2002
Interviewed just before his exhibition opened at White Cube in 2002, Gary Hume reflected on being the selected artist for the Venice Biennale, the difficult shift in his practice from hospital doors to portraits (and regrets he had about it), and the place of experimentation in his work.
How and why taste changes, in The Art Newspaper
How do artists who are successful in their lifetime fare after they die?
Although sometimes looked down on by the more ‘critically focussed’ sections of the art world, artists like Beryl Cook OBE and Jack Vettriano continue to command healthy sale prices (Vettriano’s The Singing Butler brought £200,000 at auction) and are represented in major public collections (Cook’s work is held by Glasgow Museum of Modern Art, Bristol City Art Gallery, Plymouth Art Gallery and Durham Museum). Is recognition by artists more appealing than public recognition, and why?