Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hatin' how they love them Youngins: Open Thread

OK, so here it is...the chance to get it out of your system. Choose a psuedonym if you like, but let it rip. How do you really feel about the art market's alleged preference for younger artists? For this thread (and this thread only), we'll turn a blind eye to less than gracious commentary (although, anyone attacking anyone else in here will be asked to your ammo for "the system").

To get the ball rolling, though, let me direct you to the flip side of all this. From
the Guardian:

At 41, Damien Hirst is no longer a 'young British artist'. So what should we call him? A middle-aged businessman? He still pickles the odd shark, but he seems every bit as interested in his £3m country house, his £100m fortune and the danger that it all might slip away. [...]

Damien Hirst: master of all he surveys; worth, so he claims, £100m; the most powerful man in the art world (according to ArtReview magazine, anyway); property magnate; collector. Artist.

It is 18 years since he attracted attention as the Goldsmith's student who curated Freeze - a show of work by his mates that demonstrated the entrepreneurial spirit of a bunch of artists who refused to hang around waiting to be discovered.

These days he employs 65 people, including a full-time business manager, Frank Dunphy, who has become famous in his own right. When Hirst speaks, in his curlicued, erratic, scuttling sentences, he nearly always says "we", not "I". "Well, it's such a big operation," he says. "I tend to mean me and Frank. Or me and Science." (Science is the company that handles his affairs.) The "most powerful" tag, sensibly, he laughs off - "It's Top of the Pops, isn't it? It's funny. When you've been number one you can only go down, can't you? We were once the 'most invited' in Tatler. But we never go anywhere."

And yet despite his army, his stately home in Gloucestershire, his land in Mexico, his properties in Lambeth and Devon, his art's seemingly unassailable market value (Away From the Flock, Divided, 1995, sold last month for £1.8m, his saleroom record), and his sheer celebrity, he does not feel safe. There's Hirst's old friend, fear of death, to contend with. And then there is all that money - burdensome, bringer of both responsibility and distraction, horribly fragile. "The whole thing could fall apart with a war," he says. "I always think it can be taken away from you at any moment. People talk about safe investments, but Lloyd's Bank could collapse. Banks have collapsed in our lifetime." [emphasis mine]

Yes, many artists would still trade places with Damien, but I hope this example prompts folks to question what exactly is it the system isn't giving them that they want so badly. Unless it's simply the freedom to make their art, I'm not so sympathetic. away. Anecdotes are always good.


Blogger James Wolanin said...

"...I hope this example prompts folks to question what exactly is it the system isn't giving them that they want so badly"

Fame / Immortality

Young or old, these three things are what an artist wants from the system, that's what we want oh so badly.

6/22/2006 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

Edward......wonderful. Here is my very biased opinion.
I was a little frustrated by yesterday's round in that there was so much meat on the table (the first two introductory paragraphs)then much of tit-tat obscured that.The free-for-all that followed
was mediocre (I said I was biased) but then impressed that the conversation picked up the meat again. I also appreciate your fight-back entry in the middle. Not that you are either right or wrong but it was a challenge to "say something" rather than have people mostly mouthing off ( apologies to all...mea culpa).
While I understand our cultural and business preoccupation with the "fresh and young", The FREEDOM TO MAKE ONE"S ART is what it is all about. (My Bias). The other stuff is surface distraction.
People never rushed to help Hewlett-Packard or Compaq when the fresh young ones at Apple and Microsoft began to take over the market. If their products stunk, the young ones would have been buried. In this case the old ones stunk and didn't get off their asses fast enough to do something about it.
My thinking goes to a two-headed arena about the art market. Doing art is separate from exhibiting art. And below that, exhibiting in a commercial gallery is different than than exhibiting.
I think we culturally feel like our "last chance" (older artists) is being usurped by commercial interests in the young and edging us out.
I am glad of that. I think we need to take our heads out of our asses and be creative in how we place our work in the world. I is sad if someone steeped in the creative process cannot be creative enough to figure out what to do with their work.
I like that Keith HAring marketed himself by starting to place his images on the black subway ad spaces (which I think he rented, rather than graffitied...if I remeber correctly). Kudos to creativity.
I do believe that the "fight" if you will is an opportunity. There is no welfare system that would work for artists.
PLease delete this if I rambled. I can no longer tell.

6/22/2006 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Rebel Belle said...

Ed, I just can't resist this one. When I was 35, I was told that I was too old for the NYC market, and sobbed bitterly all the way back to Brooklyn, before Brooklyn was uber cool. (And this was a while back!). How unfair! And an SVA graduate! I had to get that in even though I graduated decades ago.... :)

Well I'm still here, and it still is grossly unfair, but WTF. I'm still making art even though I still bristle about the unfairness of it all. Young artists may be smug, but no one is a young artist forever. I really believe that you just have to go on with your work and ignore what everyone tells you, because life is just fucking unfair. I don't live in NYC anymore, which makes it easier in a lot of ways. It's not in my face all the time. My older NY artist friends are like the walking wounded, they have no place to hide from the reality of this situation.

Oh yeah, my blog is good for venting, spewing and generally creating a nice illusion that I am relevant. It takes the edge off the "I can't change anything" bullshit.

6/22/2006 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Moldy said...


I don't quite agree with your list, although in spirit I do. Here's my version.

Sex (and why not add love?)
The chance to exhibit in the best places
The money to quit the effing day job
Influence on peers and art history

And, Edward, the only benefit of the youth movement that I can see is that there'll eventually be a rebound and moldy oldiness will be revered. Sure, this is like thanking Bush for helping the dems in 08 (infuriating, not worth it, but at least he might bring about his party's own demise).

6/22/2006 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger James Wolanin said...

I don't see what all the hub bub is about. Just shave ten or fifteen years off of your actual age and no one will know the difference. After all, this is show business. Create a character and play the part.

6/22/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger serena said...

Hi Ed!

I must say that I wasn't even aware that there was currently a 'youth bias' in the 'art world.'

I am one of those people you mention, who has continually had a creative response to a perceived lack of opportunity. I co-founded an alternative artspace in San Francisco as an undergrad. I exhibited in bars, dance spaces, warehouses, other people's studios. Instead of spending the money on graduate school, I set myself projects and formed critique groups. When I found myself repeatedly turned down for grants and residencies, I packed up my truck, rented out my home, moved to Mexico for three years, and did an 'independent residency.'

When I moved to New York and found that the 'art world' didn't seem interested in what I had to offer, I founded my own gallery. I sold art from a table on the street. I exhibited in 'non-art-world' spaces and did all the promotion myself. I joined community art organizations and did studio tours.

I did this all while supporting myself as a freelance massage therapist, and all that that entails.

Now, I'm just exhausted. What I would really, really, really like is simply someone to help me promote and sell my work. I'm tired of doing it all myself, and I would like to challenge people's seeming assumption that just because a person is creative, disciplined, sensible, resourceful, relible, articulate, and self-motivated, that we don't need anyone else's support.

6/22/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger James Wolanin said...

Bravo Serena! If the current system doesn't work for you, create your own system.

6/22/2006 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Now, I'm just exhausted.

I hear ya, Serena. I more or less invented my own opportunities as well, and have the bags under my eyes to prove it.

Thing is, though, I cherish the memories of the days I rented a store front in the Lower East Side, got my friends to help me clean it up and paint it, and then held a three-day siz-artist art event there. There was so much energy, and dare I say, even love in that atmosphere, that it remains one of the fondest memories of my life. I lost a small fortune on the venture, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything.

just because a person is creative, disciplined, sensible, resourceful, relible, articulate, and self-motivated, that we don't need anyone else's support.

This is going to sound harsh, I suspect, but just because someone feels they need support doesn't entitle them to it. There are literally tens of thousands more visual artists in New York City alone than there are slots for them in galleries. You must convince the system to give you that support. It's no one's birthright (although, yes, a few folks get it simply because of who their family is...but that's another thread).

6/22/2006 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger That Broad said...

I had a professor in undergrad who told us that if we managed to stick it out until we were 40 we would have a chance to "have our say" in the art world. At age 20 that sounded ridiculous, but I think for a lot of people that might prove to be the case. Continually harping on the notion of the art market as obsessed with youth (thank you Ed, for pointing out that this is just a subset of the larger culture) reenforces something that may or may not be true - there is merely a perception that it is true. Isn't that simply a reflection of arts writers looking for something "hot" and "fresh" to report on? Perhaps it is simply that my peer group is over 35, but these are the artists that I know who are getting attention for their work. I think that with all media, the focus is on the exception rather than the norm. We all have to get over examples like Mr. Hirst and move on with making our work. That is the point, afterall, is it not?

6/22/2006 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

I was thinking that perhaps there is a Darwinian logic underlying all of this discussion.
Fair????? doesn't exist in a survival of the fittest context
Exhausted?????Keep moving or be devoured.
And perhaps the galleries are subjected to the same dynamic.
How many galleries exist that spent let's say $100,000 plus to be in business are extinct?
How many artists whould spend the same without any gaurantee of survival or becoming a Hirst?
Is there any consolation in knowing that in a few years, when our time has come, that the worms won't be able to tell the taste difference of a Winkelman, Hirst or Danonymous?

6/22/2006 11:37:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

How many galleries exist that spent let's say $100,000 plus to be in business are extinct?

The current conventional wisdom is you should have at least $250,000 to set up in Chelsea...with no gurantees at all, unless you're poaching "stars" to start off with.

6/22/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Anonymous sucker said...

Continually harping on the notion of the art market as obsessed with youth reenforces something that may or may not be true - there is merely a perception that it is true.

That is a good point. I have a hard time figuring out if it actually is true and while reading the comments yesterday I went back and forth several times. But it leads me to this question:

What is it about youth that makes us want to idealize it or bitterly reject it when our own "youth" has passed? (sorry I'm gonna get a little sentimental) Recently I've thought a lot about this having only one sibling (who is 16 years younger than me). When she was a child I played the role of a parental figure but when she became a teenager I wanted to be her buddy and mentor. Even though we shared interests I was constantly frustrated in my attempts. So I started thinking about what all this meant for my own attitudes towards growing older. Something about seeing her go through all her teenage struggles as I was making a transition from young to old (as false as this perception may be) made me really want to hold on to my youth. It's really hard adjusting your self image with this stuff. I think maybe a similar dynamic is functioning in the art world.

6/22/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

In the previous thread, Happy Path said:

Think how you would feel if after putting years of hard work into your gallery, all the collectors stopped coming in because they decided you were too old to be relevant.

The only answer I can offer is that if you're younger, do things in your art that "seem younger," and if you're older, do things in your art that "seem older," e.g., youth is associated with energy, charisma and wide-eyed wonder, while age is associated with wisdom, maturity and excellence. I know this is a crude overgeneralization, so I offer it only for the sake of discussion.

I hate to agree with danonymous's statement above that "everything is an excuse," but put a more gentle way, I'd agree if you said life was never meant to be easy, and you need to do the best you can in the situation you're in, and take advantage of whatever parameters you can.

P.S. I know an artist whose CV shows a BA received in the early '90s, but does not reveal their past career, or the fact that they were in their 30s at the time they got their BA.

6/22/2006 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

I know this may sound obnoxious, but this is how I have brainwashed myself to think about my process.
-My job would be to produce $250,000 of work....not at inflated values, but in the nickle and dime tradition....before I have the "right" to expect results,
and even with no gaurantee that somethingwill happen.
But then I can turn around and look at a body of work and know undeniably that it exists. Gaurenteed.
I mean ,, didn't Gaugin giv eup everything to paint in Tahiti? Didn't Van Gogh use his ear for something? MAybe Hirst doesn't merit being a zillionaire in this discussion but he certainly deserves a lot of recognition for groundbreaking vision when he had it (has it still?)

6/22/2006 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger That Broad said...

If artists would "come out" about their ages, we would see that an awful lot of them are older than they admit to being. I see so many resumes with no dates of graduation - almost always a tip off that the artist is over 40, so why bother? If people would push back and stop engaging in this silly behavior, we would see that the art world is populated with some really well-preserved "middle-aged" artists doing engaging, exciting and interesting work. And don't you want some credit for looking so fabulous and over-40 anyway? (and of course, for making such great work?)

As for Mr. Hirsts existential woes, nobody forced him to live as he has chosen to live. If his money is so burdensome, I'll be very happy to provide him a list of some very deserving charitable organizations...

6/22/2006 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger JD said...

Aside from all of the (legitimate, IMO) personal feelings of frustration expressed by artists who haven't gotten the recognition they deserve and who aren't 21 years old anymore, there is another compelling reason to question the "youthquake." Simply put, artists who've been around a little longer tend to make better work. We all know the galleries which tend to feature "hot, emerging" (young) artists, and in all honesty, more often than not I find myself bored to tears by the mostly undeveloped, derivative, trendy look of the work. OF COURSE, this is a generalization: if you've really got the goods, as does Dana Schutz, go for it. And there are plenty of older hack artists. But which are the shows that I remember as really breaking new ground? Almost without exception, they are those of mid-career or even late-career artists. Who is doing hotter art, NOW, about the body and psychology than Louise Bourgeois? Who is tweaking abstraction in a more interesting way than Stephen Westfall? Who is, to pick a particularly trendy genre, making more intersting narrative art than David Humphrey???

6/22/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

David Humphrey's older than 21?

What's he drinkin? Baby blood?


6/22/2006 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous the artist formerly known as Happy Path said...

Ed, first of all, thank you for your thoughful response to my lengthy comment yesterday. And also for the much needed topic today, which could otherwise be called The Elephant In The Room. I'd like to address a few things you said yesterday, add a couple of thoughts, and then move on down my happy path.

I'm no spring chicken, and I feel it too, believe it or not (happy path, believe me...I get it..and thanks for suggesting I'm old ;-)

Ed, you're not old. But that's because you're a gallerist. If you were and artist, you'd be old.

What I don't get is why folks look for any reason, no matter how marginally connected, to bring it up and rant about it. Like that stops it or something.

Because it's a serious problem that has a devastating effect on people's careers and lives. I'll bet back in the fifties there were all kinds of rants about having to ride in the back of the bus that didn't start out as conversations about mass transit.

who exactly you're angry with?

Certainly not the young artists. I hold the galleries responsible, since they're the ones making the choices about which artists to exhibit.

galleries get turned down by artists because they're not hip enough or whatever. I wish I had a dollar for everytime an artist told me they thought there work was perfect for the hot hip gallery du jour

First of all, your gallery is plenty hip. Secondly, as you mention above, there are thousands of artists in NYC for every available gallery slot. So in your case, you can just ignore the snooty artist that turns you down and pick from a few thousand others. Most artists are not in that position with regard to picking between galleries.

the thread running through all this anecdotal evidence is that better work (yours) is being ignored whereas assumedly inferior work (that of anyone who's an MFA student) is given a chance because of potential

Obviously this is a very competitive field, and also extremely subjective. And there will always be people complaining that they deserve the success they see someone else experiencing. I'm not arguing for some sort of universal "fairness". But there's something else going on here, as well. There is a systematic discrimination against any artist being seen as "older", and that age cutoff seems to be getting younger and younger. Right now the right age seems to be twenty-something. Maybe in a few years galleries will start raiding the high schools. It's easy to dismiss this as some sort of wacko "conspiracy theory", but then you see evidence that you can't just brush aside that easily. Like the experience I mentioned in yesterday's comment, and Serena's account that followed, about her friend who lies about her age. I've personally noticed an increased interest in my work by galleries since I removed the dates from the education portion of my resume, and shaved off about 15 years of exhibitions as well. But then they ask that inevitable question, and I'm not quite sure what to do about that. Are you suggesting I just lie? Do I falsify the dates of my degrees as well? It's a slippery slope; where do you stop?

You suggest being inventive and finding other ways to get your work out there, but the gallery system seems to be the art world, and I'm not sure there's any real way around that. I mean you can join an artist collective and show with them, but those aren't taken seriously by anyone. You could show in regional art fairs, or even open your own chain of galleries like the Painter of Light. But come on. That's not the art world we're talking about here.

James Wolanin said...
I don't see what all the hub bub is about. Just shave ten or fifteen years off of your actual age and no one will know the difference. After all, this is show business. Create a character and play the part.

I hate to admit it, but I think James is right. That might be the only way to do it. In fact Ed, thanks to your prompting to be inventive, I have a great idea for a business. It's an agency where you (the too-old artist) can hire a stand-in to be your face in the art world. You can look through pictures and choose from hundreds of young good-looking models to be you. For an added fee, we'll equip them with a hidden earphone, you know, like W used in the debates, and you can feed them clever things to say about their, I mean your work at gallery meetings and openings. And of course we'd protect our clients' interests by requiring all our spokesmodelartists to sign a contract, preventing them from ever actually stealing the older artist's identity, or outing the artist's "oldness" in any way. We don't want another Milli Vanilli here. In fact, come to think of it, gallerists may want to use our service too. You may not need it now, but someday Ed, when you've lost your youthful good looks :)

6/22/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Who is doing hotter art, NOW, about the body and psychology than Louise Bourgeois? Who is tweaking abstraction in a more interesting way than Stephen Westfall? Who is, to pick a particularly trendy genre, making more intersting narrative art than David Humphrey???"


6/22/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

This is going to sound harsh, I suspect, but just because someone feels they need support doesn't entitle them to it.

This is, of course, implicitly understood. I was simply verbalizing to myself something that I haven't completely articulated before--that there is a substantial difference between 'advice' and 'support,' and that it is the nature of human beings to be heavy on the former and light on the latter.

6/22/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

The youth thing is a symptom of a larger problem. High, Low & In Between has a thread that is relevant to this conversation.

We are in a mannerist period, with a big market that craves huge quantities of work that will sell. Young artists are like young pop stars. They are suitable grist for the mill because they are naive and haven't formed a mature style or persona. Therefore, they are more likely to tolerate bad business, don't stand up for themselves the way mature artists would, and are also making student work that is behind the curve and therefore easy to sell.

And they're sexy.

There are three losers in this scenario. Some of these young artists probably are brilliant but they are at the mercy of this too-bright, too-short career that does nothing but create huge expectations... they are getting used because they are young--it's not worth it to hate them. The buyers of this work wind up with faddish bullshit, and buyer's remorse. Most of the work in Chelsea looks "so 2006" already...

But most important, what highlow calls "the civic role of the artist" is compromised. Pumping out scads and scads of whatever people will buy is all well and good, but what does that do for the meaning of art in the larger culture?

Contemporary art has a weird relationship to capitalism. A bearish art market will clear out all of this sillybusiness and reconnect people with where the value lies in what they are buying. Older artists are, IMO, at an advantage when this happens because they aren't sucking at the teat of the problem. Anyway, all artists have a choice to make: are you going to be ahead of or behind the curve?

6/22/2006 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Happy Path typo... said...

Ed, you're not old. But that's because you're a gallerist. If you were and artist, you'd be old.

Typo. Should be "an" artist...

6/22/2006 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Oh, and to answer the question about what the system isn't giving that I want so badly:

Frankly, it's more than the freedom to make my art, although that's nice. In a perfect world, I would also like a context for art that makes sense to the whole community, that isn't such a lame inside joke.

But you know, I don't buy this powerlessness trip... galleries do not have a corner on the meaning-production market, and are not the only validators of art.

6/22/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous juryduty said...

jd, I agree. In my own case, at 21 years old I was of no use to anyone. It took me a long time to figure out what the hell I was even trying to do. Grad school at 35. No trouble with the work, but much trouble with relationships. Successful solo show in a major European capital immediately after, but botched the relationship. Immediate show opportunities with name-brand galleries in NYC, that didn't produce much other than frustration due to botched relationships.

That said, I don't blame the system for my (past, hopefully) difficulties in interacting with it. I've taken steps to improve my communication/social skills - with immediate and gratifying results.

Moral of the story: Maturity counts for a lot, even beyond the work.

6/22/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I sensed that you didn't need to hear that Serena, but there are those I've talked to who think the world owes them a living because they chose to be an artist. So I used your comment to get that out there. Seems I need to be more careful across the board lately. Sorry.

Happy Path...lot's of great comments...thanks.

I'll respond to just my stomach's growling for lunch:

You suggest being inventive and finding other ways to get your work out there, but the gallery system seems to be the art world, and I'm not sure there's any real way around that.

I actually mean being inventive about getting into a gallery. We've given solo exhibitions to artists as young as 28 and as old as 56 (I won't name names, but if you think I'm thinking you're older than you are, don't's not you). Each instance was someone whose work knocked our socks off. Really, that's our criteria. So...duh...knock their freakin' socks off!

But more your homework. Please.

I'm really gonna get it with this I know, but I've done studio visits with folks doing quiet, rather average work, who tell me they feel their work is right for the hottest young gallery out there. I always want to ask if they've ever actually seen a show in that space, and if so why they can't see the difference between what it is that gallery exhibits and what they do.

I like your idea for a business, but I have a better one. It's called the Reality Check. For a fee, a small company will analyze the programs of your top 10 galleries and tell you which one is the best match. That way artists won't waste time and build resentment against the art world when in fact they're simply approaching the wrong spaces.

6/22/2006 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

Continually harping on the notion of the art market as obsessed with youth ...reenforces something that may or may not be true - there is merely a perception that it is true. Isn't that simply a reflection of arts writers looking for something "hot" and "fresh" to report on?

I think there's something to this. It's like every few months when the NYT has a feature about some new, hip neighborhood with some new acronym. There's usually something to the story, but it is overblown to seem like a big trend when it's not.

As many here have said, there are lots of older artists getting recognition for the first time. Most of my artist friends are in their late 30's and 40's and many, many of them are just now having their first solo shows.

6/22/2006 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Lim said...

hmm. Ed, I must thank you for your blog - I didn't know I had so much to be depressed about.

I really admire these young artists. I'm a late bloomer and did not have their guts at their age.

What I want to know is HOW DO middle-aged, somewhat successful, but not-setting-the world-on-fire artists carry on? HOW DO YOU KEEP ON LIVING THIS LIFE? Do you ever think of quitting, or even imagining a different life?

I ask this because I'll be there soon enough myself, and wonder how I'll be feeling then. I was looking at an older artist's cv, someone I admire who is doing very interesting but completley ignored new work, and noticed that he had big success early on - Whitney Bienniel, Guggenheim, tons of major reviews, etc. And now, nothing.

(and of course there are any number of established artists who are coasting on previous reputation whose current work is - YAWN)

I guess another question is how did this happen? Was there something he did wrong along the way, a misstep with a gallery, a body of work, what?

Sorry to go somewhat off-topic, but there's just so much ranting about unfair youth bias one can do. At some point, we all get old, if we're lucky - think of the alternative!- and must figure out a way to continue being artists.

6/22/2006 01:52:00 PM  
Blogger mbuitron said...

I thought that the whole idea behind modernism (old-fashioned modernism that is) was that it's about the new. The problem with Hirst is that he's beating the same dead shark over and over again, regurgitating his best sellers ad nauseum. What's so new about that?

I'm out here in Los Angeles. If good work comes from the big MFA show Supersonic, if art is bought and solo show are offered, how does the art world suffer?

6/22/2006 02:11:00 PM  
Anonymous happy trails, er, path! said...

It's like every few months when the NYT has a feature about some new, hip neighborhood with some new acronym.

jec, you may be onto something there. What we really need to do is rename our neighborhood w/ a catchy acronym. Location, location! When the press comes to do the story, remind me to cover up the shuffleboard court.

6/22/2006 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972. Back then young artists were ignored because they lacked the depth that came with maturity. The LA artist, Ed Moses, at age 41 was a "new young artist." Now everything has changed, no shit, sherlock! It's not surprising. I left NYC 30 years ago because all the younger artists seemed to be spending more time working on their reputations rather than their art. It's about image.

Like others I have spent a lot of years, no decades, working at jobs to support myself and my family. Work all day so I could paint at night. Like Serena I made opportunities wherever I could and still do. But the young thing, the image thing doesn't just belong to the art world. Myself, alond with 3 friends are in the same boat. We are all educated, intelligent, have lots of experience, and are willing to work hard. We are all out of work. There is one common denominator, we are all over 50! We don't fit the image.

Maybe a lot of people are looking at the new young artists because they are all hoping to find the next genius or prodigy and make a killing because they bought the work early. Too many things now are about image and money. Make a fortune and retire at 40. Me, I'm way past 40 so I'll just keep plugging away and continue to look for opportunities. And I'll die with a paintbrush in my hand.

6/22/2006 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger chrisjag said...

I am more concerned about all the artists concerned with market trends - trends change, the world is unfair - get over it. Keep your head down and keep working. Anyone who seriously feels injured by the preferences of the market has their priorities in the wrong place.

6/22/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

Ed said....And I'll die with a paintbrush in my hand.

Ed, if I make a suggestion. I am all about presentation....I suggest you alter the above to a paintbrush in one hand and a paint palette in the other....looks better in that rugged John Waynish way.

I sympathize with you but find my own predicament more serious. I do sculpture......what I can I place in my hand when I go?
I am almost there....I...uh..uh...
ssst. Too late.

6/22/2006 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

Below is a descrpition of a book by David Galenson that discusses what we are talking about from an economist's analytical perspective. The link is an amusing Macolm Gladwell recording of speech based on Galenson's book. I recommend it.

Old Masters and Young Geniuses : The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity
by David W. Galenson

Book Description
When in their lives do great artists produce their greatest art? Do they strive for creative perfection throughout decades of painstaking and frustrating experimentation, or do they achieve it confidently and decisively, through meticulous planning that yields masterpieces early in their lives?

By examining the careers not only of great painters but also of important sculptors, poets, novelists, and movie directors, Old Masters and Young Geniuses offers a profound new understanding of artistic creativity. Using a wide range of evidence, David Galenson demonstrates that there are two fundamentally different approaches to innovation, and that each is associated with a distinct pattern of discovery over a lifetime.

Experimental innovators work by trial and error, and arrive at their major contributions gradually, late in life. In contrast, conceptual innovators make sudden breakthroughs by formulating new ideas, usually at an early age. Galenson shows why such artists as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Jackson Pollock, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, and Alfred Hitchcock were experimental old masters, and why Vermeer, van Gogh, Picasso, Herman Melville, James Joyce, Sylvia Plath, and Orson Welles were conceptual young geniuses. He also explains how this changes our understanding of art and its past.

Experimental innovators seek, and conceptual innovators find. By illuminating the differences between them, this pioneering book provides vivid new insights into the mysterious processes of human creativity.

6/22/2006 03:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anon said...


Although I'm not the person you mentioned there is a similarity in the career paths (WB, Gug etc)

For a number of reasons, some just chance, I decided to withdraw from the artworld but I still kept making art. I found a way to marginally support myself and still have time to work in the studio.
All I cared about was the art, what it was about. I wanted to be able to experiment (and fail if need be) without being typecast or doing it in the public eye. It was a complete ten year disconnect from the magazines and the gallery scene, I did visit the museums, but that was about it. I do have a limited number of artist friends as a reality check, so to speak.

I don't feel there were any mistakes or missteps that made a difference, it was a matter of choice. It was a decidedly non-careerist path, but during a less booming period in the art market. As general advice, I would say to think twice before making the same decision but times are different, individuals are different.

6/22/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

This issue doesn't really have anything to do with the characteristics of "young, hot" art versus mature art. The current preference for new MFAs comes from market speculators. A lot of collectors are just looking for the next star, and they choose their art the way they'd choose an IPO. From their perspective, a 20-something artist has potential to be a star, but after a few years, the speculators figure that if the breakthrough hasn't happened by now, it never will.

Take heart, mid-career artists. The current fizzy art market can't last forever. Someday, when the speculators are licking their wounds, the real art lovers will still be buying, and good work will sell, regardless of the artists' age.

6/22/2006 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

Excellent thread and some very effective commentary. Thanks for the shoutout from Deb Fisher!(always a pleasure)Its gut wrenching to read some of these things.
Well, I fall into the early 30's group but can pass for 26-28 if in the mood. I never have lied about my age but have been tempted at various events - not a good sign. It shows that the NYChelsea bubble has affected me more than I had hoped. The reality is though youth matters to the people that make careers. You think Simon Watson wants to hang with a 48 year old rookie? Hell no.

The artworld unfortunately has been eroded by the fashion world and by a general corporate media consciousness.
One that places Paris Hilton's sex life on par with Global Warming. Everything is about youth and an artworld desperate for relevance follows that part in kind. The system wants to be hot more than it wants to be serious. Serious only sells to a handful of connoisseurs and academics.
On the cynical side i think young artists are favored -they ARE favored - for style, for investment reasons and because they are easier to manipulate, mold. That can be in a gallerist's interest as well as an aggressive collector's. Get someone when they are young and hot, buy buy buy and then flip the work into the secondary market. Its speculation and is effectively like shorting stocks. That being said I still say its a shallowness at the core of the artworld that is driving the youth craze.

Ultimately no one should take out their frustration on the kids but hold responsible the institutions (Grad programs), the kingmaker curators, the chic gallerists and frankly the new crop of undereducated collectors - who ultimately rely on the galleries and other collectors as a filter to what's "important". Yes the dog is chasing its tail at the expense of young artists.
Its easier to cherry pick 3 grad programs than to go to hundreds of studios in the 5 borroughs and research people's work. Instead its grab a student and 5 of their MFA friends! I won't even get into the NY Times and its Yalecentric coverage...

6/22/2006 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

Part of the discussion about age and modeling oneself would fall parrallel to doing art according to what one thinks would sell. I believe when one falls into the trap of second guessing what kind of art would sell and doing that, one falls simultaneously into the trap of second guessing WHO one should be. None of it is real anymore. I'm over the hill.....and on the other huge mountain. Thank god I got into shape while climbing the hill. The moountain is not as intimidating anymore.
other than that, everything is just as messed up as in any one else's life

6/22/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Lisa said it. A lot of these collectors got thier skills and cash from running hedge funds. They know a market that they can manipulate when they see it.

6/22/2006 05:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aging Artist Haiku

MFA is grape
I'm only in mid thirties
turn to raisin on the ground

6/22/2006 05:26:00 PM  
Anonymous happy path said...

Ed..... can we do this EVERY Thursday?!

6/22/2006 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ed..... can we do this EVERY Thursday?!

Oy vey!

I won't promise sometimes something else will take priority, but an open thread on Thursdays could be arranged I believe, yes....thanks the the suggestion.


6/22/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

I'm for Thursdays.
It was a very good day on this blog. Got a lot out of it. Thanks.

6/22/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

We could start explaining to the speculative collectors that prices really go up after an artist dies. Tha may be all that is required.

But watch your back . . .

6/22/2006 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>It's an agency where you (the >>>too-old artist) can hire a >>>>stand-in to be your face in >>>>the art world.

Haha ! I've done that! I mean...I've had people presenting themselves as the artist for what I did. That was around 1997-1998.

It's fun to read people's reasons to do art.

I've had, and I still have important health issues to deal with and so for me the primal thing is to stay alive.

If I do art it's more that I want people to like it. It's not exactly fame. I want it to be good, I want to satisfy myself, or, honestly I am naive enough sometimes to think I have "something to say". I don't want to be recognized in the streets for the sake of it.
I dont care about magazine covers.
My fave artists are rarely there anyway. I want enough money to do art and be comfortable but no need to be ultra rich. Those ultra rich people bores me. I am going to see Madonna tonight. Im gonna like the show but..her life would probably bore me.

Sex...u dont need art to have that and..I'm afraid art art won't bring back the ones you love but rejected you. You merely get a cold vengeance if you succeed.

Ok..about youth art:

we need them, but it's true that the fact that I can count on my 10 fingers the artists who succeeded starting at 35 a little annoying.

When you look down at history though, things get more balanced.
Many people who started late leave a mark. Or it's more like the youngs have been forgotten.

The "youth tendency" that this thread is pointing implies the fact that some artists lately are signed in their late teens directly from the schools, when their art actually look like college art. Almost as if there is an aesthetic trend right now for college art (Ok I hear you..."define college art"...but I'm tired).

This issue was first addressed by journalists going to art fairs, but it's been more obvious with recent large events (notably at the Whitney, which usually represents a strong symptom of current trends).

I mean...we all did sincere unprepared art in our classes. These aesthetics are not new. What's new is that we are showing them because they have a collector value. And they have a collector value because collector prefer buy young art for cheap and see who is going to get it up.

This won't be for long before people say "Enough", so there is no reasons to be angry. It is more sad for the artists, many will be thrown out in a near future. You can't sustain at making someone believe their trashy college art will still be of value in 10 years.
The very few who will make it didn't need the embarassment either.

As far as YBA are concerned, they were already fair old when Sensation was brought up. They should have called it NBA (new brittish artists).

On Hirst:

I think Hirst, while not being a bad artists at all, is over-estimated. A couple animal pieces are landmarks but the rest to me is so-so. It's sort of existential and tristounet. The irony of picking him for this thread is that his art is always about "oh my gosh...we're getting old and ugly!!....we're going to die..die..DIE!! Arrggghh !"

I'd hope to be beyond that.

Cedric Caspesyan

PS: Lisa Hunter explained the situation best.

6/22/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous quaker librarian said...

And they have a collector value because collector prefer buy young art for cheap and see who is going to get it up.

If that's what they want to see, the younger ones definitely have an advantage.

6/22/2006 06:19:00 PM  
Blogger Hans said...

99% of Americans (and Europeans) do not need art at all anymore. They are all more or less satisfied with their lifes without art. Thats the success of your system, the american capitalism, that art gets not valued anymore, and that all the young and middleaged artists only may measure their doings about their financial success.

I am convinced, that art can not be measured in money. Your discussion is about the 1 remaining percent of the population, of wich some produce and the others consume art. But you measure your carriers on 19th century standards, where the average was fascinated by art. (I can not imagine myself an unfascinated person in front of an oil painting then.) Even educated none art-world people do not know, what they buy today, if they are willing to spend some money. Its just a stomach descision by most of them, or the good work of their advisors. But the cultural background of living with art isn't here anymore, as it was in the time of Goethe or the Dutch.

Hirst now makes the most expensive, brillant-popped skull in art history, was that worth his whole carrier ? No, he probably never was an artist but a pretty average guy with a smart brain.

For me art is dead, personally as I am not inspired, and visually as every new turn bores me to death, but I also lack the revolutional ideas. I think, its a mannerism time, as told by other commenters before. Maybe my life turns again towards art, maybe not.

I think, till 50 no artist does know something about art. I am still 10 years younger. I for myself skip the whole gallery system and (the possible financial success) and sell it for my internet. Where I am free, and people take me as good or bad as I am.

Also your brilliant blog dear Edward, the best I know in the Artworld, is in fact more about a smart mind, good discussions, a social pool and about a very good writing.

In front of very good art, one is almost not able to breath.

6/22/2006 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Unless they're called Andrea Fraser?

Mouhaha couldn't resist.

But yes I think collectors like to know they own art that has eitheir financial or intellectual value.
They buy now cos they can't buy a Hirst but they figured someone else was able to when he started.

And they're tired of reading stories about princesses reselling their art 20 years after they bought it, daring to claim "I want to encourage young artists" when comes time to provide reasons.


Cedric Caspesyan

6/22/2006 07:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric said...

was responding to quarker


6/22/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous quarker said...

The current preference for new MFAs comes from market speculators. A lot of collectors are just looking for the next star, and they choose their art the way they'd choose an IPO. From their perspective, a 20-something artist has potential to be a star, but after a few years, the speculators figure that if the breakthrough hasn't happened by now, it never will.

Lisa, I had never thought about it like that before. I mean I figured the Van Gogh buyers were looking for an investment of sorts, but I always assumed most buyers of contemporary art, and especially the cheaper stuff, were doing it for some combination of loving art and/or wanting to be hip. It never occurred to me that today's market (and with it the careers of so many artists) was been driven by, basically, junk bond investors. It sounds plausible, but if true it's really f*ing depressing.

6/22/2006 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

In front of very good art, one is almost not able to breath.


Note...please...everyone...the threshold.

Take my breath away or don't even bother.

That's all I ask.

6/22/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous happy path said...

what exactly is it the system isn't giving them that they want so badly. Unless it's simply the freedom to make their art, I'm not so sympathetic.

Ed, what a great day of discussion! I went back and looked at your orginal post, and thought I'd address the thing you asked. My answer is exactly what you named - the freedom to make art. I mean I already do that, but what I'd really like is the freedom to quit my day job and do it full-time.

It comes down to the lottery question - what would you do if you won? For me it's a no-brainer. I'd just keep painting.

6/22/2006 09:34:00 PM  
Anonymous eva said...

Even if the young are hot (and they are, for reasons Lisa gives - investment), there is something they don't have. And that's a past.

If you've got an interesting one, it is marketable in this competitive art world.

Everyone is looking for authenticity... there's so little of it and way too much calculation. So if you're older, remember what is authentic about you and your past. We've got the music and we made the art and so much more.

6/22/2006 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

It comes down to the lottery question - what would you do if you won? For me it's a no-brainer. I'd just keep painting.

Amen. Well, maybe make art and travel a little :)

6/22/2006 11:22:00 PM  
Anonymous lim said...

Yeah, making art, being an artist is a privilege. Living in New York City is a wonderful privilege. Every day I am grateful to be here, doing what I love. So, I'm no art star but I don't care. One thing that no one seems to have addressed is that there are actually many art worlds and types of art careers. If you insist on being the biggest, hottest thing, you will probably fail because nothing else will make you happy because nothing will ever be enough. Don't mean to go all spiritual here, but I do believe that if you're clear and undeluded about what you want, you're gonna have a much better shot at getting it. Yes, there are lots of age biased meanies out there, but so what. Not every Chelsea gallery fits that description anyway. The art world, like the artwork being made these days, is so pluralistic, it really doesn't make sense to talk about the 'art world' as if it's some monolithic beast. Leave that to the media, but fellow artists, don't buy into it.

6/23/2006 12:16:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

what would I do if I won the lottery.......??????
I've gotten to a point where I worl about 40 plus hours and I do artwork for 40 plus more hours.
After years of trying to do do less(work) in order to do more (art) and being turned out that if I did more, I could do more. So now I pile my plate as high as I can. When stuff spills over, I get more plates. I think , for safety, if I won the lottery, I would have to put it in someone's hand so that they gave me what I needed, when I needed it, and have me pretend it is not there.
After the years it took to get to the point that I can't stop making art, and what I do SOMETIMES takes my breath away (though of course not as often as I would like) I wouldn't/maybe couldn't.....risk having that pattern fall apart and start over again....just because I thought I could handle it.
I can handle most things as long as I do art. Unfortunately, I had to take the word "money" out of the thinking. I feel fortunate that I figured that out. I a broke.
And somehow always have just enough money for a lot of materials.
The dangers of discovery, is that some of the discoveries go contrary to what I was "hoping" for.

6/23/2006 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

hey, I just had a thought about the age thing. Of all the arts, visual art has no trouble keeping the audience young and re-newing all the time.

Maybe that's because there is less age bias in vis-art than in other areas of art. The young are not uniformly shunted aside for dead people, not expected to serve an apprenticeship to some egotistical clown with good grooming, not expected to make or perform the work of others twice or three times their age. Visual art (a sorrowfully inadequate name for the category) of all the arts celebrates spontaneity, improvisation and spirited rebellion. You would rather wear a black bow-tie to work?

6/23/2006 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous quit your bitching said...

i'm wondering if this so called alleged obession with youth is not a red herring. I mean, okay the ab-exers were all old geezers when they got discovered but since then the artworld has been devouring it's young and beautiful. Jasper Johns was twenty five when he sold out his first solo show at castelli. The rauschenberg couldn't have been much older. Have you ever seen those sexy pictures of young, intellectual robert smithson posing in artforum looking all seventies and cute. What about the Lynda Benglis dildo ad from the late seventies or eighties as anct of revolt. Schnabel didn't even have facial hair when he started his meteoric rise to fame. Basquiat was like 21. Same for Herring. My point is that I think we like our young'uns and we've liked them for a good long time.

6/23/2006 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous spellchecker said...

Same for Herring

Is that Keith, or red? Or pickled maybe...

6/23/2006 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Priit said...

In previous thread, Ed evaluates some of the SVA exhibition work as "promising". Here appear to be two different meanings of the word, though. Promising in terms of that the artist can build on the piece in further possible work. Or, promising from speculative art investor point of view. Bad, good, promising ... - is this the scale?

6/23/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

OK, people, you asked for it. [via]

Immaturity Levels Rising, Discovery Channel News

June 23, 2006 —The adage "like a kid at heart" may be truer than we think, since new research is showing that grown-ups are more immature than ever. Specifically, new research shows a growing number of people are retaining the behaviors and attitudes associated with youth. As a consequence, many older people simply never achieve mental adulthood, according to a leading expert on evolutionary psychiatry. Among scientists, the phenomenon is called psychological neoteny. [...]

6/23/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous olive said...

Or promising as in "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"?

6/23/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

The last entry by Olive said sound psychological
neoteny just escaped.

6/24/2006 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger kurt said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/24/2006 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I think that one reason for all the obssesion with the subject is how hard it is to have a basic artist's life.

I think in the 80's you could look at Soho and be pissed off that you were not a star. But, you still had your studio in Brooklyn or Tribeca and you did your work. I think a lot of the resentment comes from the fact that now only the "art stars" seem to be able to produce full time.

6/24/2006 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

only the "art stars" seem to be able to produce full time.

I agree. This is the issue here.

6/25/2006 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger closeuup said...

Anyone see Art School Confidential? In the movie, they used the artwork of a 50 year old woman to portray the work of the art school "boy genius". Having gone to art school with said woman, and seen her actual art school work, I can tell you that she has come a looooong way in 30 years. I can't think of any artists who paint and draw with her skill at 20.

6/25/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm 52, and I've been only doing this for 3 years.

All I want from the system is an audience. I'm fairly confident I'll find one.

1/07/2010 10:29:00 AM  

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