You are what you sell

Whenever I come across articles about the ways that artists make their living, what comes out is a big frustration with the artists trying to defend their artistic entity while earning money one way or the other. The “other” way is usually the case, meaning that artists have to do all kinds of irrelevant jobs in order to live a liveable life. Since the artists were detached from the old world’s patrons system, this was the price to pay for the gained independence. So, the majority of artists live a split life between a few hours of paid work and their studio. They always have to be prepared to wear a costume which never really suits them. Or, they have to share drinks and pleasantries with rich people. There we classify artists that do earn a living from their work. What did you think, that this was crystal clear earnings without side-effects and without extra (non artistic) work? Orson Welles was saying that he had spent half of his life trying to find money to realize his artistic projects. The thing is that artists have a hard life anyway; even more because they have to be on the defensive towards people who pester them by questioning their artistic existence when they have to wash dishes in order to preserve exactly this existence. Artists tend to resemble to the aliens of the film “district nine”: monster-citizens of the third kind that sprawl out incomprehensible sounds and are aggressive (or passive) over the top in their hopeless defence. Do we identify ourselves with this description?

Artists’ professionalism goes in levels:

Creation – Publication (exhibition) – Selling

For performing arts, like music or acting, where time is an essential factor, meaning that the work is created in time simultaneously with the attendance of the audience, the level “publication” coincides with the level “creation”.

For visual arts, the creation happens (usually) out of sight. The work is done in private and then it goes to the next level which is to be exhibited. For the intellectual world this is enough for including this work and its creator in the chambers of intellectual creation.

A professional artist according to some, including our incredible art center of The Hague ‘Stroom’, is the one who sells their intellectual creation. I suppose the more you sell the more professional you are, plus that when you do not sell for a period you are not professional for that period.

Under this thinking: the most exploited (to disgusting extend) Dutch artist was never professional. Was he an artist, or what was he anyway?

Would the American abstract expressionists ever have been “professionals” if the American politics had not decided to create an ‘Americanism’ in the post–war art history?

Was Rimbaud a poet or a weapon dealer?

Even mentioning these artists, it comes to mind the ridiculous assumptions about art creation that people who have never put their hands in pigments, or never have spent a whole working day repeating their scales, or even more never have felt absolutely crashed by their own vision, come to. I have always ignored them, or fought (with) them.

What makes a professional artist is the depth of involvement: be there with your work, always, body and soul, even if you sell your body or your mind here and there to support this commitment. No committees are necessary to “recognize” that. Each one should know it for him/herself.

sketches for plaster figures of approx. 30 cm high
to be reproduced in such a number as to fill up the floor of a
30 m2 room, title: ‘variable according to audience’

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