Thursday, May 20, 2010

Too Many Artists?

This week I have been corresponding with a woman from Germany about art and life. Yesterday I threw out the thought that it would be cool to find someone who could represent my art in Germany.

She replied that Dusseldorf indeed has a great art tradition, and her husband co-wrote a book about one of the most important galleries there (Galerie Schmela), but that today the art market is saturated and it is hard for artists to get traction. "We see it happening to friends of ours. They are dreaming of selling their artwork in the U.S."

This reply led me to think about the arts in general. Why are there so many artists? And do we have too many artists?

John Naisbett's 1982 bestseller Megatrends offered a notion which might explain the high tide of creative output we see in the civilized world today. (I won't call it a tsunami, because that implies a destruction which I can't associate with this output in the arts.) If you recall the book, you will remember his mode of developing forecasts of what's happening came from massive clipping and analysis of local newspapers. I have to believe that this is all done via the Internet now with data harvesting tools like Mozenda.

Anyways, the famous insight he had was called High Tech/High Touch. "The two biggest markets in the United States are consumer technology and escape from consumer technology." In other words, the more we get inundated with technology, the more you have a need to immerse in something that is not technology. Music, art, film, hiking, gardening....

I resonate with the observation Naisbett's team of researchers reported, but interpreting what it means might depend on the perspective one brings to the data. I myself believe being creative is part of being human.

The problem may not be that we have too many artists, it's just that we might have too many art products. That is, in an economic supply/demand equation, value diminishes when the market is glutted. I saw this when I was first doing freelance writing in the 80's. The writer's magazines tell you how to make money writing articles and fill your head with sugarplums and rainbows with pots of gold at the end of them. The reality is, so many people are willing to write for nothing that it is hard to be paid for the time you invest in producing good work. In the art scene many of the mags seem to have the same slant: all encouragement and nary a discouraging word.

The bottom line is thus, why do we want to make art? Why did we do it in the first place? Many artists will say, "Because it's who I am." When I was first learning how to create three dimensional depth on a two dimensional surface when I was eight, it never once crossed my mind that I was into it for the money. It was simply sheer fascination.

If you're a fellow artist, remember your roots. Cherish every moment you have to create and discover something new. And thanks for visiting my blog.

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