Good business is the best art.

            An acquaintance stopped in to visit. He was in the states from Tokyo where he is living, studying Japanese and traditional wood block print making.  The few prints he brought to show were gorgeous, a step up from what I had seen the last time he was by. We talked of what life in Tokyo is like. I asked about the art scene, whether he was showing anywhere. He looked at me quizzically. He couldn’t afford to show, he said. In addition to paying a hefty commission if the works sell, the individual artist must pay the gallery in order to show. Few artists can afford that, he said. Like in the states, most producing artists work at some day job. In Japan, art, as an avocation, is seen more as a “hobby” than as a calling or occupation. People produce, they just don’t show. Only the “recognized,” successful artists show. Here in the states, there is an entire population of art producers, who consider themselves artists, hidden in plain site. They show, extensively at that, from community organized events and co op galleries, small “for profit” gallery venues to larger, not for profit juried exhibitions that have corralled upscale venues like art museums and public buildings. The “recognized,” successful artists are never seen in conjunction with this shadow contingent, never shown on the same stage. Their light shines too bright.

            I suspect that all may be changing in the direction of the Japanese model. I was considering a recent “call for entries,” you know, the application that is the first step for the unrecognized to get their work “out there”. The “call” application specifies the entry fee for consideration, the commission terms of the gallery/event, as well as the criteria by which work to be included will be selected. This “call” was put out by a “not for profit” community arts organization. They have just completed building a new arts center in their upscale suburb. Now they would like to line up showings and events for this building’s main gallery and adjacent spaces. There was a new criteria for selection included that I had never seen before, at least not with a not for profit sanctioned show like this. The application wanted to know whether the prospective artist will supply marketing resources, and if so, how much and what kind.

            This just in: The celebrated art school in an adjacent city (with a century of experience) has just announced they will be offering an MFA program in the upcoming year. Part of the required curriculum is, you guessed it, courses in marketing. “Good business is the best art.”

            Warhol’s imperial grip on 21st century American visual culture can best be summarized in his oft repeated quote: “Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art.” Aligned with the market centered, market driven political economy of the last 10 years, it is no wonder that BFA programs now shepherd aspiring artists in the intricacies of business management and entrepreneurship, and MFA programs are now poised to hone their marketing skills. Is it too early to speculate on Warhol’s place in art history? Could it just be possible, even probable, that Warhol will follow the same course as Social Realism did in the states of the former Soviet Union? After all, those works and that style maintained a hegemony on visual art for some 50 years primarily because of their intimate affiliation with the political economy of that time. Portraying the best art as good business promotes the same sort of social engineering agenda that portraying larger than life stereotypes as citizen worker heroes does. There is a distribution of sense in both that restricts the capacity of imagination and restrains its expression. What could post Warhol visual art be like? Dare we even imagine it?

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One Response to “Good business is the best art.”

  1. mollydolly5 Says:

    I see myself painting a mannered, social (hey, especially if we become a socialist country — this is really working out!) realist work depicting Stanley typing into his blog! A computer’s screen light source glows so romantically — it is as golden as busted and left on the side of the road for eternity farm equipment in the sun.

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