Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What I Did for Rent: Open Thread

I am unfortunately swamped today. I did try to write something on this article in ArtNews about what artists do to pay their rent and came close to arguing that it's not just rents that have risen and made it harder to be a full-time artist in NYC, but also expecations for quality of life...but then I realized that needs more thought than I have to give it. Rather than whip something half-assed out, I'll open up a thread with this question:

Do you think artists today are as willing to sacrifice their quality of life to work on their art career as artists of previous generations?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to have to say that is a big, fat "no" as it seems impossible with the price of art school and considering how many artists there are these days. I don't see much "suffering" going on let alone sacrificing ones luxuries for their work. Many of the artists I know have mortgages. Keeping their regular day jobs are then justified because of having to pay for the debts they have incurred - by choice I might add. ...And now I have a feeling I'm about to get clobbered in the following comments.

-carol es

9/28/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, and let's be careful not to romanticize the earlier generations. I believe it was easier to find a place to live for little money years ago - when I lived in NYC (late 90s), Manhattan was out of the question and the still-sketchy Fort Green was only possible because I lived in an illegal apartment. The only young artists I knew whol ived in a decent neighborhood were trustafarians.

Most artists I know are moving farther and farther out and still have to work jobs. I'd like to hear what these expectations are that you mention - food? heat? not getting shot?


9/28/2005 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'd like to hear what these expectations are that you mention - food? heat? not getting shot?

Actually, yes, those are included. But also a lifestyle.

It's a question about society at-large really. I look at what my parents had when they considered themselves middle-class, and that would most definitely beconsidered "poor" by today's standards.

So does owning an iPod and G4, for example, prevent an artist from paying the rent? This wasn't a "basic" need for the earlier generations of artists.

9/28/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger carol es said...

So does owning an iPod and G4, for example, prevent an artist from paying the rent? This wasn't a "basic" need for the earlier generations of artists.

it isn't a basic need now either. although, having a website is. but maybe the question is, "what would you do to get that paid for if it's essential for your art career?" and here's another question, "does this relentless drive even matter to the art world? did it ever?" it seems to me it's gone unappreciated whether the practice of suffering has gone on or not.

9/28/2005 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger dwayne said...

I have no idea the sacrifices needed in NYC but I can imagine. I live in Memphis and the sacrifices are plentiful, no cable, no internet at home, no drinking during the week, no cigars during the week, no eating out, no wasting time watching commander in chief, lost, bob dylan on pbs, and buying the magazines every other month just to save a little money to but paper, paint, and other shit one may need. But what is the result of such "sacrifice, if it really is that.

9/28/2005 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anna L. Conti said...

Maybe... I don't see human nature as changing much, since the times of the cave painters. People are intrinsically susceptible to peer pressure and cultural propaganda, and the current versions of those pressures would lead one to believe that life is not worth living without massive amounts of high-tech cargo. If by "quality of life", you mean a mostly happy, productive life of integrity, the only things really necessary are food, shelter, art supplies, someone to love, and something to do. Everything else is frosting. Even today, in San Francisco, it's possible to live a life (with frosting!) with stunningly small amounts of money (and cargo.) And most of the artists I know personally are doing that - here, in a city with a ludicrously high-cost "standard of living." Maybe we're less susceptible to the cultural propaganda because a.) we're too busy focusing on our art and b.) our peer group is other artists doing the same thing.
I have no idea how my observations compare with other places today or other generations of artists, but I think there's certainly a significant number of artists who have made the choice to opt out of the consumer lifestyle, in order to practice their art. And I agree with snoopy that this "relentless drive" and discipline is under appreciated.

9/28/2005 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous preacher's daughter said...

I didn't read the artnet article but I think that the idea that artists sacrifice for their art is a strange myth. And it's an outrageous need to want to see someone suffer to PROVE that their a real artist. Ironically, this suffer requirement is what causes artists a lot of hardship. The idea that the artist should not have a life or really exist outside of her studio but should also be able to(using one of ed's examples) burn the just right cd a the end of the studio visit. the amount of work that takes, the r and d for the sculpture, the neogiation with the phototgrapher. the getting burned by several photographers and then finally back to spectra to get the drum scan and having a working computer printer and dsl. bbut somehow this professionalism, intelligence and savy is supposed to spring from someone who never cared for anything other than their work and doesn't have a life and especially doesn't have a job. Artist have to hide their children, jobs and pets because somehow this makes them less credible and weak. and so to keep up with everyone's romantic notion about what an artist is (someone who suffers while everyone else gets fat--even some the bloggers get advertizing dollars) the recipe provides the smooth pathway for the young trust fund baby with no life to take the prize. this artist has to sacrifice thing is in reality saying I am more interested in this myth/recipe than good work. why isn't it just about the work?

9/28/2005 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous J.T. Kirkland said...


I think the question is a good one but I fail to see the significance implied. I know artists who have sacrificed everything and still make crappy art. I know artists who have sacrificed very little and make incredible work. Given that, I don't see the importance of the "sacrifice." If an artist is true to himself and is happy making art the way he does, then that's all we can ask for. Just make good art... whenever you can, however you can.

Disclosure: While I am an artist, I work by day as a high tech consultant for the largest consulting firm in the world. I make good money doing that and it has allowed me to live a comfortable life (car, cable tv, etc...).

While I don't sacrifice my quality of life for my art, by having the job I have I don't have to make a certain style of art or be concerned with selling my art. It leaves me free to create whatever I want, though granted I wish I had more time to do so. If I had to sell 3 paintings a month to feed myself, who knows what art I'd be making. I'd surely starve as is (yet I would be warm with all the firewood!).

What's unfortunate, I think, is that artists with good jobs and some money are looked down upon. As if we don't deserve artistic success. That's hogwash! Just look at the work. Nothing else really matters.

Good question Ed!

9/28/2005 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Barbaccia said...

I worry about sacrificing my artwork to make money. Not the other way around. Doing without consumer goods is not a sacrifice. Reducing the time in my studio to work to pay the rent is the sacrifice that I make right now.

9/28/2005 02:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice comment Joseph, and I second JT that this is a good question.

I agree with the above posters who say focus on the work and that a lot of the "suffering" myths are just that - myths.

BTW having a computer can be really cheap and essential to many artist's work.

Edward, I agree that societies definitions of poor have changed, though thats a wider issue of how "working class" has come to mean "loser" to a lot of Americans. My Aussie neighbor is writing a book about the contrast between Oz and here - in Australia they call the working poor "battlers" - the working class is seen romantically. Here they're seen as "losers" by many.

In my experience in NYC (and what I've seen of my friends) it's simply getting too expensive to have it both ways - you either have to get a job or you have to move away.


9/28/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And it's an outrageous need to want to see someone suffer to PROVE that their a real artist.

I hope that's not the only way to interpret my question. The question stems from something Alex Katz is quoted as saying in the article:

“Today, it is a very different problem because the cost of living is higher,” says Alex Katz, who worked as a carver at a fine-art frame shop two or three days a week for ten years before his first commercially viable show at New York’s Stable Gallery in 1960. “I lived on a shoestring, so it paid the rent. Today, it would be impossible,” acknowledges Katz. He has often said that it takes a decade for an artist to mature, “but now it would be impossible to be an absolute failure for ten years and survive.”

Combining that observation with my own sense that a shoe-string today is different from a shoe-string in Katz's earlier days, by "sacrifice"
I mean go without what are now considered "the basic" necessities of life.

I believe what we as a culture assume are "the basics" has risen over the past few decades, and that may be impacting the ability of artists to be content enough to trade off those basics for more time in their studios.

...I don't see the importance of the "sacrifice."

Again, the question was arising from the context of the article. Specifically, does an artist lose credibility, as Greg Stone suggested, if he/she works on Wall Street to live the lifestyle they prefer? Some would argue he/she does. What impact does that have on his/her career?

What's unfortunate, I think, is that artists with good jobs and some money are looked down upon. As if we don't deserve artistic success. That's hogwash! Just look at the work. Nothing else really matters.

That would another solid "no" then. I'm still considering how I feel about all this actually.

In general, I don't think one has to be poor to be a good artist (that's a moronic romantic notion), but one probably has to have more free time than the average citizen to be a good artist. If Joe WallStreet comes home exhausted, the odds are his work will suffer for his lack of energy to devote to it, no?

That may not be true across the board, but it is my honest sense of it.

I worry about sacrificing my artwork to make money.

I'll second wwc...very nicely put.

9/28/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...


I don't know if I would use the term sacrifice. I have different priorities. Non artists go shopping on the weekend, hang out with friends; I go to the studio. They go to movies; I go to openings. How much you do or don't do seems to me to be determined by energy level. I know good artists with full time jobs and children. They also have high energy levels. For those of us with meager, puny energy levels, the priorities become critical.

But that said, I left New York because I couldn't afford to stay. My priority was studio time, not location. And LA is treating me pretty well.

9/28/2005 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous lisa said...

... one probably has to have more free time than the average citizen to be a good artist. If Joe WallStreet comes home exhausted, the odds are his work will suffer for his lack of energy to devote to it, no?

Absolutely. I work fulltime as a software engineer and it's draining. I come home exhausted every night, and as a single mother my free time is very limited. My work definitely suffers from this lack of time and sleep.

As a result I make significantly less artwork than I could if I worked at it full time. The cumulative result over time is lower quality. I believe quantity and working consistently day in and day out is important for the improvement of techniques and artistic skill.

I still am able to devote 15-30 hours a week to the artwork but in the end that simply is not enough for a full fledge art career.

So why work? Why not quit the day job and "suffer"? Ultimately because my decision directly effects others besides myself - specifically my children. While I don't live in NY it's not exactly cheap to live in any large city these days.

Many women have come to learn that we can have it all - just not all at once. We have to sequence. Yesterday I was a stay at home mom. Today I have a well paying, challenging technical career. Tomorrow, when the kids are gone, I will be a fulltime artist.

A major advantage of the choices I've made is that I don't have this worry:

I worry about sacrificing my artwork to make money.

If I were to try to raise my kids on an income from art I would have to worry about the market. I'm not willing to make that sacrifice. My work is not generally commercially viable and for my circumstances that is fine with me. I like working with fiber. I have no desire to make crafty stuff that will sell - or switch to a more "acceptable" medium.

9/28/2005 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

Dear Edward,

Please forgive me in advance my pseudo- Henry Miller philosophical state of mind about your provocative question.

Some general questions (to establish a questionable moral framework!)…

If you were a destitute, poor and homeless artist, would you rob a bank to fund your art?

If you were a rich, ego-maniacal narcissistic art collector, would you rob a museum of a painting to build your private collection?

If I were empanelled on a criminal jury, would I vote to convict the poor artist of committing the first crime? No. Why not? Because I do not believe that the creation of art can be a crime.

If I were empanelled on a criminal jury, would I vote to convict the rich snobby asshole collector of committing the second crime? No. Why not? Because I do believe that the collection of art can not be anything but a crime.

“Do you think artists today are as willing to sacrifice their quality of life to work on their art career as artists of previous generations?”

No. Why not? Because I honestly do not believe that many artists today are willing to risk more than the poor artist and the rich collector mentioned above in the effort to put their art before everything and every person in the universe. Those very few artists who are living today who are willing to break the law will be written about 100 years from now and called great. Those many artists who are living today who are unwilling to live the life of an artisitic criminal and put their art ahead of everything and every person under the sun have the convenience of the luxury of the moment to make a name for themselves in the art world that can be engraved on their tombstone or art blog – some refer to this as 15 minutes of fame.

I do not think that the question is what is an artist willing to personally sacrifice to become one of those celebrated great artists, but what is it that that artist is willing to compell, implore, beg, seduce, trick or manipulate others to sacrifice on their behalf.

Underneath the feet of most, if not all, of the great artists lie the anonymous ruined lives of those who have sacrificed more for the artist than the artist could ever imagine sacrificing.

It’s simple point really – the celebrated famous Pharoahs that we all know by name did not build the pyramids…the anonymous uncelebrated nameless faceless common folk did.


9/28/2005 08:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps some artists have material in their day jobs that find their way into their work, but I would guess that the vast majority would rather not have to work one.

First off, there are only so many hours in the day. No artist wants to give precious time to "the man" when he/she could be making work and/or promoting the work.

Secondly, the day gig takes energy, which is required to make work. Less energy to make work because of the day gig means less work. Period.

It seems that those artists most successful (from Picasso to Coltrane) spent the most time creating.

Yes, there are certain day gigs that might be preferrable (i.e. teaching, where the artist is at least involved in the art-making world) to others (temping, for instance); they all suck!

I always come back to this bumper sticker I once saw:

"The secret to happiness is keeping your expenses low."

And in the case of the New York artist, squeezed out by the high cost of living here, that saying couldn't more true.

Vinson Valega
Consilience Productions

9/28/2005 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No children. crappy day job. dangerous neighborhood. It blows.
If I didn't believe in my work I would never sacrifice this much. I wonder how I'll feel when I get old and have no money.

9/28/2005 08:42:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"The secret to happiness is keeping your expenses low."

So true.

If I didn't believe in my work I would never sacrifice this much.

Which is the opposite answer to what others are suggesting here.

I realize there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and in the end you have no choice but to judge the work, but if you're never happier than you are when you're in your studio, well, that's your answer, isn't it?

9/28/2005 09:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Suffering, sacrifice and pain make for something a bit more interesting when it comes to art. Even when a little money has come my way (and I'm only talking hundreds - never thousands), I've put it back into the art before I ever bought a steak. I think it's about commitment and getting some dirt under your finger nails, but the rich will undoubtedly find excuses to tell you why they are entitled to a better life than that, even when they are "artists."

9/28/2005 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think artists have to suffer to justify what they do. But I have noticed that the artists garnering the most attention here in NY are the ones with the time and money to make their work. Has anyone else noticed this?

I sometimes think that the rest of us are just here to facilitate the lucky one's careers. Like workers supporting the CEO of corporations.

9/29/2005 04:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have some time to make work, some money to get by. But I have a shred of a career. It doesn't always come down to the privileged ones getting the attention. If you are working a day job at least you have something to blame when your career isn't moving forward.

9/29/2005 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food for thought in hugh macleod's blog. He did a series of posts on How To Be Creative.

I really like this quote:

"Quitting your job at the phone company to become a musician is no different than quitting your job at the phone company to start your own accountancy firm. It's just the human spirit trying to better itself. The difference between art and commerce is artificial. What matters is not what individual path you have chosen, but that you stay on it; that you become the person you were born to be."

Artists like to think they are somehow special or different from the rest of the world. I'm not going to be a better accountant if I'm suffering and sacrificing so why would I be a better artist?

Section 7 - Keep Your Day Job
is particularly relevant to this conversation. I find the sex and cash theory to be absolutely true for me.

9/29/2005 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

Great post Ed.
I think its new generation, new life style. And artist can't and won't survive in NYC without a job. Almost every artist I know, they have eighter full time or part time jobs. Like everybody above said, everyone has to pay rent, mortgage etc.

And answer to your questions is "NO" Cause to create and make new piece, you need all new techology etc, to make yor piece and get attention, press and hopefully to sell. (to pay expenses and rent)

I might be wrong, but thats what I think :)

9/29/2005 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't think you're wrong Bambino, the art market expectations have also changed, not just expecatations about quality of life (that's a very good point).

If someone tells me they can't give me a CD of images, I make a judgement about how dedicated they are to their's not fair (and by stating that here, I hope to be more conscious of it and be more fair moving forward), but it's the reality of how the business is evolving.

9/29/2005 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger benvolta said...

I try not to forget that making art is a privilege and not something that I am entitled too. This mindset helps when I have to slow down the studio work to pay bills or help friends with projects, move stuff, or whatever. Forging genuine relationships with other artists and people that support us in different ways seems to keep the feelings of "sacrifice" at a distance. When there is a feeling like we are all in this together I think that it helps redefine what normal is. Also, I think that I have done my best to brainwash myself to be indifferent to quantifying what might be normal for a mid twenty something artist like myself. I just try to make the most interesting work that I can make at this point in my career with the amount of time available. Even if I was working full time in the studio, I think I would still want more time. So I try to keep things in perspective.

my g4 is attached to my hip, i could do without my ipod, but i would take out a loan within 24 hours of dropping my powerbook!

9/29/2005 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

art is not like any business. it is special. in the way a palm reader is special, but even with palm readers - there is more demand. it's not like making shoes or something that people need. it is a RISK to be an artist. there is more risk in doing art than starting up your own accounting firm, talking to the dead, or pushing around your own hot dog cart for crying out loud. it is more specialized than the specialized. it is for a small percentage of the society, even if the artist intends it for the world. It's also not a choice, it's a drive that can not me stopped (for some of us).

again, not that it even matters to the art world which artists have suffered, but may i ask this question -- do you people think it's at least perhaps more admirable for an artist coming up from NOTHING to cultivate a career verses one that had the privilege of school and wealth? isn't that wherein lies the sacrifice? maybe the word here is "risk." do artists today take the same risks as the ones of yesteryear?

my answer is no, they do not. very few, and they are not accredited for it.

9/29/2005 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

the accreditation issues is raised again and again if artists wouldn't mind making the sacrifices many do if they only got some credit, any credit, for it.

Personally, I think they do.

I strongly believe society sees artists as a special group of people. Stick with me here (Yes, I heard you groan).

This is not to say all artists are created equal, by any stretch, or that I've never met an artist I couldn't stand (there have been a few), but in general (speaking very generally here), I (as I'm sure most people so) find the artist the most interesting person at a party. Generically speaking, they're the "cool" one there. As such, I seek their approval somehow. Even in the US, where your average American will claim to find art less interesting than sports, there's a cache to being able to tell the world that "I am an artist"---that statement is always met with a bit of scepticism, even from those in the art world, but deep down even the most art-intolerant prig on the planet secretly wishes they could claim the same.

Not everyone is willing to do what it takes to make that statement though. And so, they pretend they don't care.

But given the choice, of being able to live in the way they prefer and still be considered "an artist" I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't happily be seen as such. No one sane, anyway.

9/29/2005 01:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me Anonymous again. My point was not about getting credit for making art in the face of opposition (although I must disagree with you. I don't see any acknowledgement of that -- not that I want to argue with you Ed, I like you!) But the point is RISK. Why do people think we're the coolest one at the party? Because it's a damn brave thing to do to be an artist. It is a vulnerable position to be in to start. An artist is opening themselves up to be judged and viewed, and yes valued to some degree. Artists pose a new point of view (sometimes) and sometimes beauty. All this is a personal, emotional and integral risk. Then, to sacrifice having a car, house, baby, furniture, health insurance, savings, hamburger and retirement (because some of us are not paying into Social Security or a 401K), that is quite a risk. How many artists out there have taken such risks since the 1960s?

9/29/2005 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Hi, it's me Anonymous again.

Too many "Anonymous"es in this thread to keep track.

Perhaps folks who wish to remain anonymous could add a number or initial to the end of their post...or, just make up a name.

I know it asks you to login if you choose "Blogger" but you can enter only a pseudonym, (webpage optional) under the "Other" option and still remain unknown.

There are at least 5 anonymous comments here with no indication of who's who.

[/pet peeve]

But the point is RISK.

I'll accept that as a clearer question: Do you think artists today are as willing to risk as much to work on their art career as artists of previous generations?

9/29/2005 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous cat food said...

A different question:
So what happened to those artists of previous generations? Are they eating cat food?
just wondering, because I don't know many older artists. I've met a few and they cashed in on real estate in NY. I think the question of whether artists are sacrificing enough is kinda rude. (no offense!) As far as I can tell, many sacrifice everything and there is no social safety net for their future. Is it more authentic to get old without health insurance, savings, social security?

9/29/2005 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll accept that as a clearer question: Do you think artists today are as willing to risk as much to work on their art career as artists of previous generations?

Given that the definition of "art career" has changed over the past few decades I'm not sure how you propose to make this comparison.

For example - life expectancies have increased dramatically in the last 100 years. In 1900 it was around 47 years. Today it is closer to 71. So when you talk about the risk we take by not having money for retirement - this wasn't really a "risk" 100 years ago - so how do we make that comparison in a valid way?

Personally I find this thread to lack a grounding in reality. Sacrifices and risks have to be considered within the context of current society.

To risk not being able to pay your rent in 2005 is probably not the same type of risk as it was in 1900 or 1950 or even 1970. Society was structured much differently.

And while Edward addressed this in his original post I haven't seen any of responses address this with much thought.

To make a fair comparison between now and then we need to understand how society has changed. What time period are we talking about? 20 years ago, 100 years ago? Without this context I believe the answers are rather irrelevant.

9/29/2005 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think the question of whether artists are sacrificing enough is kinda rude. (no offense!)

I would agree with you...if only that's what I had asked.

I'm not making any assessments here about what's "enough." Again, as I've noted, the question stems from's Katz's observation that "I lived on a shoestring, so it paid the rent. Today, it would be impossible.”

What I'm interested in is not whether anyone is actually suffering (I certainly hope not), but whether what we consider "sacrificing" has changed. Some folks consider not having AC, or music playing while they work, or an iPod or G4 or what have you, torturous...60 years ago, obviously, that wasn't the case.

9/29/2005 04:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's a good observation, Anonymous 11 (I'm assigning numbers to you all)...context would make this more valuable:

What time period are we talking about? 20 years ago, 100 years ago? Without this context I believe the answers are rather irrelevant.

Let's make it the golden age of artists living in the US. That first period in our history when one might dare dream realistically of going from blue-collar laborer by day / artist by night to wealthy international celebrity, the early 60's (because precedents of such were now set).

9/29/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous cat food said...


9/29/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

oops, meaning Anonymous 11 is actually "cat food"?


9/29/2005 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous 11 said...

Nope - I'm not catfood. I'm a vegetarian... :)

My first thought is that yes - if we make adjustments for the differences in society between now and the 60s that artists are willing to make the 'same' sacrifices and take the 'same'risks. The risks now look and feel different but they are still there. We just don't recognize them as such - both because of the way society has changed and because the definition of what it means to have an art career has also changed.

But I have to get back to work - more thoughts tomorrow.

9/29/2005 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

What is this about? I’m not even sure I understand the question. Are you asking about artist's willingness to sacrifice/risk to work on their "art" or their "art career"?

Artists today who want to show and be considered for residencies or prizes or whatever, never mind riches and superstardom, are generally expected to have an MFA, meaning artists today are expected to START $40,000 to $60,000 in debt. This was not the case within your context of the early 60's.

Is an artist living in NYC and struggling to pay rent on a tiny place but interacting with the right people risking more than an isoloated artist living in a more spacious apartment? Which one is sacrificing his art and which his career?

Yes, artists are risking and sacrificing more today than artists of yesteryear. The biggest sacrifice artists have made has been giving up control of the agenda to curators and gallerists. Artists are not leading.

9/29/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Are you asking about artist's willingness to sacrifice/risk to work on their "art" or their "art career"?

well, it started off as "career" but morphed into something in open threads are known to do...

Otherwise, nice food for thought, Martin.

9/29/2005 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Kriston said...

Martin makes the point I kept thinking about as I was reading over the thread. The question really hinges on the word "career"—whether today's artists are willing to do what it takes to make it in NYC. NYC has changed so dramatically over time—it's not really possible to compare today's bohemians, who must work within a predefined and structured art world (the parameters of which Martin describes), with the young artist gentrifiers of the 60s and 70s. I think, probably, that the market asked less of those artists.

Also, the wording of the question does grate. ". . . are as willing to sacrifice their quality of life. . . ." Seems to imply a moral observation about the character of artists today, and syntactically sets the artists of yesteryear as the gold standard.

9/29/2005 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Also, the wording of the question does grate. ". . . are as willing to sacrifice their quality of life. . . ." Seems to imply a moral observation about the character of artists today, and syntactically sets the artists of yesteryear as the gold standard.

I can see where you might take it that way. I see no reason, however, the answer couldn't have been easily, "as willing? are you kidding me, they had it easy!"

9/30/2005 07:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Lori Landis said...

Why is it that New York City is the end all for artists? Can't you live somewhere else and send your work in??? Do you have community
like the artists of the 60's or isn't it possible to do that somewhere else? I really don't know. What is it about the Holy Grail of NYC?
I agree with Martin about the business of art. Most curators are trying to be so hip and cool that
that ANYTHING that's different is the newest rage whether it has any artistic merit or not.

10/03/2005 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


6/27/2008 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger yoomee said...

I think this question is absolutely redundant. Artists in nyc today are adapting to the changes in real-estate just as they are with technology. most young artists i know make work in their bedrooms. who cares what space/quality of life it is as long as good work is being made. this question only interesting to people over 30

8/13/2008 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an artist in Brooklyn, and worked as an assistant for two different blue chip artist over a three year span here in nyc, and I have to say that I would never advise working for another artist. When i first got a job with one of them right out of college, I thought it would be great to "hone" my skills, but quickly learned that with their deadlines I was working 60+ hours a week at times and had no time for my own work. The pay was surprisingly pretty decent, which made it hard to quit. You become used to the nice apt., buying your little gadgets to make you forget that you're working your ass off for someone else, eating out, and after a while you start to think that you really need that job to pay for all of this. I'm sure it's similar with any job. i quit about a year ago, and have been working on my own work full time. I moved into a small apt. in cheaper neighborhood, got a room mate, canceled cable, don't eat out, etc. The thing I'm trying to say is, it's not easy here in the city, even in Brooklyn, especially if you're not well healed, but you can scrape by on a lot less than you think, you can get a roommate, you can do a lot of things (legal things) to make enough money to survive and make art work full time in the city. There is a lot that we don't need, and if the work is solid and you're persistent, you're going to get some attention. I don't have a problem with people that do have money. Like someone else said, there are both poor and well off people making both good and bad art, it's not an issue of class. The thing is, if you are good, and you have money, it's a hell of a lot easier to execute any project, especially large scale works. if you have money and your work is lacking, the money isn't going to help that much.

10/23/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Once a Gallerina said...

There is a marked difference between "art" and "career", you seem to have put both in the same category. There are thousands of artists in new york, and most of them work on the art part. Others concentrate on the career part. Some do both. I would divide art as what is made in the studio (or office, bedroom, wherever) and career as what happens outside of the studio, whether it's shows or partying or openings.

The reality is that "art career" is not for all - that's because there needs to be interest from outside parties not just one's commitment to studio practice. Some people excel at partying and meeting people and that may or may not lead to the career part. It's a simple thing. The idea of sacrfice for art is one that puts the artist in this isolationist position which then never leads to a career because it is sustained by the cliched idea of a lonely person suffering which is at this point ridiculous.

Romanticizing the past is useless, patronizing and usefully forgets that most of the older generation was supported by women who worked in and outside the home (see Barnett Newman's teacher wife).

I would NEVER EVER think of the past as courageous or exciting, because then, women (myself) - as well as gay people - were excluded from any kind of serious art conversation. Maybe the 80s were better, SO WHAT?

11/02/2008 08:43:00 PM  
Anonymous untitled said...

This is a subject near and dear to every artist. Thanks for posing it Ed.

I used to feel so much stress about how to work enough hours in the studio to keep my art developing while still being able to support myself. Eventually I just let things take their own course and found a strange pleasure in living very differently from most other artists (i.e. having a home, family and full-time job teaching).

Interestingly, after living this way for many years (essentially proving its possible to be a serious artist and also have a real life) I decided that I wasnt enjoying making the art enough and that I would rather devote all those hours that were going into the studio to doing things that were getting short-changed, like reading more. My approach was always wanting to have my cake and eat it too I guess. But also, I have a lot of interests, and I found I wasn't getting enough back from my art.Really, no one cares if you make your art. Many leave the art world and no one even notices.

I can always go back to it, but with a family and full-time job, it will be a challenge to get work made in high volume. I saw a video a while back where prominent artists living in NY were visited in their studios and interviewed about their work. The main thing I got form it was how much sacrifice these people had to make. It was depressing.The only time they did anything non-work-related was when they went grocery shopping!

I think the issue of not having money for basics is one thing. But what about the fact that you can't participate in so much of life because you're always in your studio?

I think some of the dilemma has to do with self-image. Most artists are so caught up with the idea of what it means to be an artist-how an artist's life should look, that they dont feel living any other way is legitimate. I found that once I was able to free myself from that trap, I was much happier.

4/13/2009 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous brad said...

I'd point out that the $100,000 of debt I saw kids coming out of a BFA with (or my own $50,000 MFA) is a heckuva risk.

And yes, it's a choice, but it's also a norm.

So no, I think we're riskier right now. And once you owe $100,000, what's another $100 for an ipod?

I always ask, when I see a successful artist, did s/he come from money? And the answer is very often yes. Constant struggle is not a good strategy. I've lived in ratholes in my past, but I married someone with a realish job, and we are extremely frugal, so we can afford our apartment in crown heights. And yet, we're still in a lot of debt because of things we 'needed' to do (education for both of us and art supplies for me) so there's no way we can do a lot of things. Like go out to eat. Or get a new used car. Or go on a honeymoon.

So, to your original point, yes, I think most artists sacrifice as much as they always have. Some are rich, and some are over their eyeballs in debt, trying to have enough time to make work like the rich ones do.

Or at least that's what it looks like among my friends.

4/18/2009 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger c garger said...

I think it has been a really sad state of affairs recently, with galleries during the "boom" times, not even looking at new work unless you came with an MFA from an ivy school. Although I can appreciate a good education, I find that this excluded a number of people from making a viable career based soley on their ability to pay their way. It was pretty laughable at the time, but now looking back, we have a ton of bad work by these trust fund kids, that in most cases is meaningless. I did my undergrad, then worked for another artist for a few years before going it alone here in Brooklyn. I keep a studio near the navy yard and it is a constant project to keep the bills for everything paid. Trust me, it is a struggle. The fact of the matter is, there is nearly NO cheap workspace in the city, and it the same for Brooklyn now. I know a number of other people doing the same thing, just getting by to make there work. All I care about is making the work I want without compromising it's integrity. I will do anything to keep doing that, even if it's not financially the "best" thing to do at the time.

6/30/2009 07:43:00 PM  

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