Friday, February 09, 2007

What Does "Mid-Career" Mean?

It's parallel to the general human paradox where children can't wait to get to act like adults and adults won't give up acting liking children. I refer of course to that point in an artist's career when they stop being "emerging" and become "mid-career." I find a good deal of resistance to that label actually, "mid-career"; it seems to arise from a sense that "I haven't accomplished enough as an emerging artist yet, I can't be mid-career...I don't like how that will position me" and similar concerns.

I'll admit that I don't have a very good definition for "mid-career." Like an overprotective parent who forever sees their offspring as their "babies," I tend to think of all our artists as emerging. But what are the real measures here? Is there a certain age (surely not), or number of exhibitions, or number of Google search results that separates the emerging from the mid-career artists?

Back in April 2006, Holland Cotter wrote
an article about mid-career artists in which he noted "Midcareer is a flexible category, defined partly by age, partly by time on the job," but he mentioned one other factor that might shine some light on this:

They have one thing in common: their work has developed over time and maintained its presence for a number of years. In a fast-food culture, as capricious in its erasures as in its rewards, that's the vote of confidence that counts.
Perhaps "mid-career" is a qualitative measure suggesting more than anything a well-known name and body of work, unlike the "emerging" artists who only a few people know of and whose "style" is still developing. Endurance also seems key, but "a number of years" could mean anything from 3 to 30.

OK, so I'm perhaps making this more difficult than it needs to be. The Canadian Council for the Arts, for example, states clearly what it sees as
the criteria for a Mid-Career artist:

Visual Arts As a professional visual artist:
  • You have specialized training in the field (not necessarily in academic institutions).
  • You are recognized as a professional artist by your peers.
  • You are committed to devoting more time to artistic activity, if
    financially feasible.
  • You must have produced an independent body of work.
  • You must have made at least three public presentations of work in a
    professional context over a three year period.
  • You must have maintained an independent professional practice for at least three years.
Three seems to be the magic number there. What's not well defined in that though is "professional," (would an exhibition in a restaurant be seen as a "professional presentation"?). Nor is "body of work" clear to me...or "independent" for that matter (what if you're part of a collective...can you never then be mid-career?).

However, the New York alternative space Smack Mellon (one of my faves) defines a "mid-career" artist as "someone who has been working as an artist for over 10 years" [emphasis mine]. Do American artists take longer to mature than Canadian artists (that's a freebie for you folks north of the border)?

Perhaps most indicative of why there's confusion on this is the entry in the online Art Dictionary:
There is currently no art information listed for Mid-career Artist
So what criteria do you use and why?



Anonymous bnon said...

My criteria:

Emerging: 0-5 years, Any exhibition, any amount of recognition. Should be cool, if nothing else.

Mid-career: 5-10 years, moderate but CONSISTENT exhibition and recognition, but probably not nationally. Doesn't make a living from art, except teaching, maybe. Hooked on art, but basically screwed.

Established: 10-Whatever, shows every two years in established galleries and museums, with national and NYC recognition. Makes a living from art. This is THE goal for most artists.

Blue chip: 10-whatever years, and it makes me too jealous to describe.

2/09/2007 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe it should be based on a random art poll.

Question: "without utilizing google, do you know who "artist name" is, and can you describe the work?

If 50% of responders can, maybe the artist in question is no longer "emerging," and depending on their yearly percentages are either "mid-career" if the percentage stays strong, "art star," if the percentages go to 80% or more, or "disappearing."

2/09/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I always remembered my teachers in college saying to us, come back and see us in ten years. I didn't appreciate it until I hit the ten year point and realized just how much I and my work had matured. It seems we are in a rush to a finish line and not enjoying the ride.
An artists work is valid at any age/period, if you see yourself as an artist and only make one work your whole life and never show it, so be it.

2/09/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Ed Pas said...

Hi Ed, I've been following your blog for a couple of months and have been enjoying it.

As a point of clarification regarding what constitutes a mid-career artist, the criteria you posted are noted on the source page as being "…only an abridged version of the Canada Council for the Arts various criteria defining professional artists at a mid-career stage…" They are, in fact the Canada Council's baseline criteria for what qualifies as a "professional artist" when applying for their grant programs. Full details of eligibility criteria are available here:

As defined by the Canada Council, professional context is:

Artists’ public presentations and exhibitions, both in Canada and abroad, must be in a professional organization or context where the artists’ work is recognized by a professional curator, gallery owner/art dealer, or collective of professional artists.

In Canada, to be considered professional, an organization must be a public art gallery, a museum or an artist-run centre that pays a professional fee to participating artists. The condition of paying fees does not apply to commercial galleries or professional venues outside Canada.

The "professional fee" refers to the CARFAC Exhibition fee schedule (, which AFAIK many government-funded galleries and artist-run centres in Canada are required to follow as a condition of continued funding.

In visual arts, the Canada Council sees "established artists" as …established artists are those at a mature stage in their careers who have created an extensive independent body of work and have made a nationally and/or internationally recognized contribution to their discipline through public presentation of their work. Established artists must have at least 15 years of exhibitions history, in a professional context.

I wasn't able to find their definition of mid-career, but I expect that it falls somewhere between 3 (baseline) and 15 (established) years, and the associated levels of achievement.

Best regards,
Ed Pas

2/09/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but then there is always the "re-emerging" artist

2/09/2007 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger carla said...

and there's the vast sea of sub-merged artits

2/09/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger carla said...


2/09/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ed Pas,

Thanks for the details on the Council's criteria.

It might be controversial, but ultimately helpful, for there to be similar standards in the US as well.

Just think of the party a Sweet 16 Party, artists who reach the mid-career stage can have a coming-out bash with lots of booze (ok, so, er, 16 year-olds shouldn't be drinking [statement required by law]) and a band, but not necessarily a designer dress---unless you want one....

2/09/2007 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous oriane said...

to first anon re the "random poll" test:

If you're talking a random poll among the general populace, almost no artists would be known. It would have to be a poll among the art world and interested observers.

As an experiment, ask your [accountant, parents, siblings, high school friends in your home town, day-job office colleagues, local deli-owner; in other words, people not in the art world] if they've heard of Amy Sillman, Dana Shutz, Glenn Ligon, Polly Apfelbaum, Inka Essenhigh (these are just off the top of my head artists that I think we can agree are established and successful). They can probably name the characters or actors on tv shows, but not artists.

I know this is slightly off-topic, but we have to remember that only a very small percentage of the population knows/cares about us.

2/09/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

"Emerging artist" sounds like the birth process, you come out feet or head first, get a good slap on the ass, and scream you lungs out for attention, and find yourself with a name attached.

"Mid-career" occurs when you realize, you have had your Warholian fifteen minutes of fame, are no longer emerging, are no longer ‘young’ and realize you have to live up to the expectations that came along with that name you were branded with above.

2/09/2007 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous cnonymous said...

Emerging is hot and sellable. Mid-career is not.

Aren't they more marketing strategies than real criteria?

My stance is that middle aged women will be the next hot group to be recognized.

2/09/2007 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous xnonymous said...

wow, cnon, i hope so.

2/09/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric caspesyan said...

I LUV the Submerged Artists !! Hahaha!!

An "established" artist once said to me that it's generally 7 years period.

Emerging is: you finally start move your ass and do stuff (hopefully that's relevant for any age)

Mid-Carreer: that's where some institutions are starting to do Retrospectives of your works (not necessarely museum, mostly ICA, art centres, or even at your local gallery). Generally after 7 years of hard work that should start to happen (if you're good), but let's not forget cases where artists worked all their lives before they ever got known (usually with a Bang).

Established, Carriered, Senior, etc: That's where it's getting quite hard to reach. Apparently (selon the artist I mentioned), the 7 years AFTER you start having retrospectives are very decisive. Eitheir you fall into desuetude and obliveon, and only your gallerist and certain connoissors tag you as "established" (everyone else don't care), or you managed to go through, keep doing excellent, and most importantly, "pertinent" works, and from there you start getting "Major" retrospective in important museums.

The "blue chip" artists would be those that are the most collected, featured in personal and museum collections, or reaching the highest price in auctions, BUT...
It's important to remind oneself that certain artists are better fitted to the market than others.
They are artists that are estimated
as being important historically yet they don't reach the prices or presence of a Jeff Koons or a Damien Hirst. I am thinking of Christo (essential to environmental art) or Ann Hamilton (essential to installation art history). Please "beware" of blue chip artists. I don't think product-centered art will all be that relevant in future centuries.


Cedric Caspesyan

2/09/2007 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cedric said:
Mid-Carreer: that's where some institutions are starting to do Retrospectives of your works (not necessarely museum, mostly ICA, art centres, or even at your local gallery). Generally after 7 years of hard work that should start to happen (if you're good)

?? Retrospectives after 7 years of working?? Who has had a retro after 7 years?

2/09/2007 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We once described one of our artists as "mid-career" at an art fair and the collector vehemently disagreed. This artist has gallery representation in NY, LA, and Chicago and has been in several museum shows. She is in her early 40s. Her first solo show at a gallery was in 1990 and has consistently had solo shows since, so we were a little perplexed until we were reading an article somewhere - forgive me, can't remember where or which artist - but it described someone along the lines of Kiki Smith as being mid-career. The collector at the fair believed the term means that the artist has made their mark in the art history books but is still young enough to have many more and important museum shows.

2/09/2007 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous xnonymous said...

If Kiki Smith is mid-career, the rest of us can just hang it up right now.

2/09/2007 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>?? Retrospectives after 7 years >>>of working?? Who has had a >>>retro after 7 years?

As I said, gallery retros, art centres retros, of smaller scale.
Call them semi-retros: basically exhibits that assembles selected works that got big acclaim in biennials or elsewhere. Also, the 7 period is the minimum, you can extend that to 12 years. Or... "Ever".

By "Ever" I mean that, if in the next 7 to 14 years after "mid-career", you have never yet reached your museum retrospective, I consider that though you may still be "an artist", you are not "established". Established or Senior, personally I think that should require a museum retrospective.

But as I said, many gallerists or critics refer to artists
as established by respect of the years they have been working (sometimes quite at the marge). Or some artists sell while they are never being represented by institutions, simply because their art does not fit intellectual criterias (or even, ethics).

Is Tom Of Finland an established artist? Everyone have heard of him, but you won't see him exhibited at your local museum easily (the topic porn VS art titillates).

So my terms are grosso-modo and quite generalists.

If you have done work non-stop for 7 or 10 years and your gallerist has not yet done a retro of yours (always merely presenting your recent output), than I think there's a problem. If your work is outstanding you will get a demand for a mid-retro quite fast (Keep in mind I'm not talking museum yet, though that could happen too. Any remote culture centre will do, and in fact after 10 years of work it is important that you start having them, the mini-retros, or it's urgent that you question why your work is not yet worth it).


Cedric Caspesyan

2/09/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

haha... They call Kiki a mid-career???

Oh, that's just them being polite.
Not wanting to say "you're getting old..Kiki"

I saw a kiki mid-career exhibit in 1996.

10 years later it is definitely a Major retro.. I mean, it starts from 1980, don't kid me.



2/09/2007 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous xnonymous said...

cedric said:

If you have done work non-stop for 7 or 10 years and your gallerist has not yet done a retro of yours (always merely presenting your recent output), than I think there's a problem. If your work is outstanding you will get a demand for a mid-retro quite fast (Keep in mind I'm not talking museum yet, though that could happen too. Any remote culture centre will do, and in fact after 10 years of work it is important that you start having them, the mini-retros, or it's urgent that you question why your work is not yet worth it).

Cedric, somehow I don't think you are operating in the same realm as most working artists. Are you in the US? Most of my artist friends and I have been working longer than 7 years and we are lucky to have a solo show every year or two. Our galleries are not offering up miniretros at this time, and I don't think it would be appropriate to do so after 7-10 years. I don't think I would be that interested in seeing a retro of an artist who has been out of school for 10 or 15 years, showing for 7-10. A retro is for a body of work developed over many years. 7-10 is not enough time. And the way you seem to dismiss someone's chances of ever reaching that level if it has not happened by a certain point is also not realistic I think.

2/09/2007 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Oops, someone tells me here that MOMA has acquired their first Tom Of Finland drawings last year. So forget previous mention of him.


2/09/2007 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Most art schools teach a timeline to their students now. X number of years in this kind of gallery; x number of years at a better gallery with solos in small museums; etc. Cedric's timeline seems connected to that trend.

If the artist is just producing product, this makes a certain sense. But most artists I know grow in spurts. Those spurts don't seem to have a timetable.

So, what is mid-career? I don't even know what middle aged is any more. It used to start at mid-thirties but that seems young to me.

2/09/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was always 'emerging' because I moved around so much. When I finally settled a bit into one gallery, then people were saying I was 'mid-career'.

But just the other day I met someone from another city who did not know my work and she started telling me about galleries (in her city) who might be interested in my work since I was... you got it... 'an emerging artist..'

I'm 50, so I guess you can be one at any age and even if you've been showing a long time. It's all about perception.

2/09/2007 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>you seem to dismiss someone's >>>chances of ever reaching that >>>level if it has not happened by >>>>a certain point is also not >>>>realistic I think.

Oh, you can take all your life before getting a retro. I'm just saying that if you want to ever get "established, reknown, senior, etc" some day, than you should already have the substance to get to mid-career between 7 to 15 years, and have mini-retros. This information is as painful to me as to anyone, but I think I am being realistic. If you get a retro after 30 years of work, than it will be great, you will get all those nice press articles, and people around you will fest, but your chances that the general public will "wake up" and finally realize you are a very important artist of your generation, are strongly diminushed. Because they are already plenty artists from any generation who already get their mini-retros quite fast simply because they are "that good".

Nevertheless, it happens that people get a strong recognition late in their lives, sometimes with surpriseful large retros. Some of the most important artists of history have it that way. Eitheir it took a long time for people to comprehend their work, or they were themselves hermetic misanthropic savages who didn't function well in the social sphere.

That said, I'm sure even Cezanne had a mid-carreer survey at some point.

Maybe I can give an example.
An artist I admire, David Altmejd,
only had about 1 or 2 solo shows yet in the "offical" New York gallery world. But he has done works for about 6 or 7 years prior, right here in my city. Well personally I think he is ready for a mid-career retro. Why wait? There's at least 7 or 8 major pieces from him that could easily be presented together. I think an university gallery here (Uqam) is preparing something along those lines. They already publicated his first monograph. That is how things go.

There's also the possibility of "emerging late". That is, you've done art for a long time but got represented by a gallerist
very late. You still need to go through 7-15 years emerging period, but you are being presented as an artist who did stuff for a long time.

I mean, these are generalizations.
If you have done art for 20 years and have not yet even circulate some of your older works in remote cultural centres, than what can I say. You can still be tomoorrow's biggest star, or keep dreaming about it. In the end, with art, anything can happen,

Finally, getting "important" or not, does that really count?? As long as you're honest with yourself and do what you like.


Cedric Caspesyan

2/09/2007 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous xnonymous said...

anon 12:44:
I've run into that situation before, which is sometimes a bit awkward, where someone who hasn't heard of me suggests some, to my mind, very remedial or beginning exhibition opportunity or venue. They're just trying to be helpful, so you don't want to be rude. You just have to tell them something like, I don't think that's the right context for me to show in.

But it is kind of annoying when someone who doesn't know anything about the art world, so of course they don't know my work, don't know that I am in several museum collections, have gotten several prestigious grants, have had many solo shows, etc., says something like, oh a friend of mine chooses the art to put up at this very cool cafe, you should call her and show her your work!

2/09/2007 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This talk of x years in this kind of gallery, then x years at another, better one, etc. is so depressing. It's so careerist. What are we, lawyers? I'd be happy showing at a gallery where the gallerists beleived in my work, showed it regularly and had a collector base. It's like choosing a mate. Are you trying to snag a doctor or hedge fund manager or are you trying to find love with a compatible person?

2/09/2007 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Art schools are marketing art as a career to keep their enrollment numbers up. And with some of the tuition costs, it has to be marketed as a career.

In a way, the arts are returning to more of a medieval guild system rather than the genius model.

2/09/2007 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

What a weird set of conventions... I can only list my responses:

1. Uh oh, I am a mid-career artist.

2. Wait... wasn't that supposed to be a good thing? What do these labels even mean?

3. And what's the problem with being careerist? I am passionate about what I do, and my passion is not misguided--it's real and important enough to share with everyone else. Why is there so much failure-baggage surrounding artists?

2/09/2007 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Reading some comments I felt like adding this:

You can start making art and showing in galleries at ANY AGE in your life. You can even RE-Emerge after years of living in complete doubt. But ONCE you're "READY", once you start showing, you will normally climb fast if you're very good.

I'm a bit severe here: I make a distinction between being a professional artist and an established artist. Pro is what you and your gallerist calls you, Established to me is defined by public recognition.

You can have a retro after 30-40
years of hard work, but if it merely a polite recognition, and you are being forgotten by the public 3 years later, than... It's sad, but to me that's not "established".

Finally, this all sound depressive but I wonder if major artists even find the time to think like this. They are way too obsessed by their art. So the best avise is: be obsessed by your art.


Cedric Caspesyan

2/09/2007 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

i became a quarter-career a year and a half ago.

but i like the submerged artist concept. carla that was funny.

2/09/2007 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Hans said...

To speak about 27 years old painting amateurs as artists is funny, "true" artist's life are long life waves of struggle.

This discussion makes me angry. The Market can not value art. The market in its time never did. Because art is art and market is market. That was once the function of Museums to save the undervalueated. You say that moneymaking artists are what we should aim for ? That they are good ?

This American Discussion is on very questionable American terms. As the culture is maybe declining, is maybe the discussion.

Is the canvas in front of the painter first asking his age ? Does the painter stop the adventure at his 32nd birthday ?

What true artist is working for a Gallery/Museum career anyway ? Look how bad looks a Beuys' work in museums today. How displaced. Look how bad looks a 1-Million-Immendorff (early or late, doesn't matter), if you stand in front of it. Open your eyes and take a close LOOK at the Leipzig school !

Every serious Chinese, Japanese or African Artist would laugh, it's just not how an artists life does work.

The market rather produces marginal artists, it is not more sophisticated, than it was 150 years ago. Art history gets every 20 years rewritten.

Look at those many stupid Gallerists today around, the many stupid Art-critics and collectors everywhere, who do not have a glimpse of art anyway, but sell their small content to Media and Museums as pig bones. They are just traders. The many fooled artists.

Matisse started with 40 and Gericault died with 31. Was Bouguereau a full-filling emerging artist for you? Or will Jeff Koons statements survive? Or

Damien Hirst in 20 years, who ?

Would you name a 65-years old Scientist-Nobel-Prize-Winner a late career scientist ? When was Fassbinder emerging, when mid career ?

False premises. Should most of your readers commit a mid-career's suicide ?

Was the young Picasso better then at 50 ?

Was the early Rafael better than the late, Vermeer ? Pollock a good mid-career ?

An artist makes seldom his best works in his first 10 years, take who you want. The living artists I adore, do not have a professional "career", but are unknown to the wider public, because it does not understand, what's about. The public always understands afterwards. 50 years later.

What Canadian bureaucrats worked on that stupid professional artist's definitions ? You take that serious ?

Don't become too greedy on watching market developments. Invest in mind. Artists emerge through their entire life.

2/09/2007 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger tim goldsmith said...

Hahaha this is a pointless exercise. I am insulted. When you say midcareer you mean to say unsuccessful. That is not really the point you say??? wrong. I hate you.

2/09/2007 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger tim goldsmith said...

Only kidding. I hate no one. I am just mad that I am probably not even mid-career even though I am old as a hat. So what. How do you, as a gallery dealer with a great deal of power and prowess dismiss me! Please meet me for power drinks and prowess drinks. I'm buying.

2/09/2007 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...


Well said.

2/09/2007 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Chad Lowe said...

The canvas is in front of the painter first asking his age. The painter stops the adventure at his 32nd birthday. Amen brother.

2/09/2007 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The discussion shouldn't make you angry. Discussion is good. Until someone points out - repeatedly - how shortsighted the current obsession with very young artists is, it won't change.

Career is not a bad term. Throughout the history of art, artists have made a living making art. Beginning with Giotto in the West, though, genius became a factor. And with the Romantic era, misunderstood became synonymous with genius.

I don't make enough off art sales to survive financially. That doesn't make me a bad artist - or a good artist. It makes me one currently not in style.

Some artists are brilliant early. Others aren't. The young brilliant ones may fizzle out. The older ones who evolve into brilliance may or may not be recognized while they are alive. Basically life is not fair.

But it is a wonderful treat to have an avenue to whine and compare notes and to share insights. I do thank Edward for providing this opportunity (and no, I'm not buttering you up to send you my jpegs).

2/09/2007 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stop buttering Ed up to send him jpegs.

2/09/2007 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mmm...buttered jpegs...

2/09/2007 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Snyder said...

I'm faithfully dinking along, discovering a thing or two here and there. I'm probably in mid-dink.

2/09/2007 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger tim goldsmith said...

What is a dink?

Are you an older fellow, in mid-career? Let's stay on topic here.

Are you drinking scotch?

2/09/2007 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Snyder said...

To dink along, as I understand it, though I may be wrong, is to take a meandering path, at a pace that allows you to explore the terrain and perhaps find a thing or two. You could compare that approach to the get-the-retrospective-in-seven-years approach, which would definitely discourage dinking. So, hopefully, somewhat in response to hans and others, I was on topic.

2/09/2007 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger John Holdway said...

Perhaps career stages should be described as animals instead.

Jack Rabbit
Jack Ass

2/09/2007 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

for the record, if you're gonna butter me up, it's Jack Daniels....not scotch :-)

[seriously, just kidding...and anyone foolish enough to send JD will be mocked mercilessly in these very pages]

2/09/2007 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have sent you a large bottle of Jack Daniels along with a CD of jpegs. Look for it in the mail. You can email me back at

I expect to be on your roster for next season.
The title of my first solo show will be:

Weight Strains Hearts

2/09/2007 05:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Scarpa Kos said...


I was thinking about a definition for the new art style that collects influences from comic art, illustration, video games, in a pastiche-like form, but with a background of contemporary art; images with a circulation out of the circle of art galleries, contemporary art magazines, contemporary art museums.
I mean artist as Michael Hussar, Mark Ryden, Nicola Verlato: ArtXploitation, or artexploitation (from exploitation films).

2/10/2007 05:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets stay on topic. edward: Blanton Deluxe. you'll never go back to Jack

jpegs forthcoming

yours truly.

anonymous, not the other anonymouses

2/10/2007 08:36:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Blanton Deluxe

I'll give it a try...thanks.

on a more on-topic note, I realize terms like mid-career (like any labels at all) are antithetical to the characteristics that lead someone to be an artist in the first place, but they are useful, professional terms. They don't necessarily have any place in the studio, but to suggest they don't have any place in the professional art world (commercial or not) is impractical IMO. The suggestion by some that artists fall into this timeless (one might say Peter-Pan-ish) non-categorizable class, even in a professional context, is wishful thinking.

2/10/2007 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Ed’s point is well taken. When faced with a large amount of information, we attempt to break it down into smaller chunks to make comprehension more manageable. In the art business, ‘mid-career’ is just this sort of flexible (fuzzy) categorization. We do this all the time in other ways. For example, "artist A reminds me (makes me think of) artist B", frequently the connection is tenuous at best, but it allows us to create a general category in a situation where artist A’s work may be unfamiliar (as in not familiar enough to be classified a ‘B’). It’s a convenience.

2/10/2007 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Mid-Career is between 39 and 49 years old. The amount of artworks in the show should be between 40 and 50 important pieces. Unless you are Neo Rauch and hang 80.

Remember, artists never retire. (Quote; Julian Schnabel)

End of discussion.

Now, get to work.


2/10/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

is mls the same person as ml? they are two interesting anons.

2/10/2007 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Mid-Career is between 39 and 49 years old.

That certainly simplifies things.

You remain an "emerging artist" from birth through the age of 38. If you're smart you take a break for the next ten years, and skip the whole demeaning "mid-career" phase. When you start up again at 50 you're a "blue chip artist", and an AARP member.

2/10/2007 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>Mid-Career is between 39 and 49 >>>>years old.

Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, NAH.

It has nothing to do with age.

It's where you're up to in your agenda from when you emerge (or re-emerge..think Louise Bourgeois).


Cedric Caspesyan

2/10/2007 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

Midcareer is a quagmire. Stay out of the weeds.

2/10/2007 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

39 to 49? Instead of age, why not talk about art experience?

In the guild system you went from apprentice to journeyman to master and had benchmarks to indicate each shift. Masterpieces were the works journeymen did to become masters.

My suggestion:
emerging until a consistency in the work and professional attitude develop;
mid-career until a breakthrough in the career;
blue chip when you can live off sales.

Artists will navigate these at different speeds, like Montesori classes.

And no, mls is not ml.

2/10/2007 07:52:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Sorry, bnon, I just repeated yours. On my computer the comments come up automatically at the recent on the list and I missed yours, the first and wisest.

2/10/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

"Mid-career" means that it has become embarassing to persist in marketing the artist as "emerging," and said artist is still walking without assistance.

2/10/2007 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger tim goldsmith said...

I am here to get on topic. THE TOPIC IS THAT:

1. Mid-career is boring
2. No one wants to giv eyou a hand job.
3. Plus sizes are in your future.
4. Tutoring is your bag.
5. Booze is your bag.
6. You will die soon.
7. It hurts.
8. A secret
9. Weight strains hearts.
10. WAKE UP .
11. Go to the doctor.
12. Buy real estate.
13. You will never get to 3rd base again.
14. Pills are in your mouth.
15. regurtitation seems fun.
16. You are nothing.
17. You are no one.
18. You smell.
19. Lose weight.
20. Yeah.

That is what I am feeling about myself because of this post and my "career". Ed, why do you hurt me. Give me a show.

2/10/2007 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger tim goldsmith said...

Did I mention that:

1. I have horns.
2. I have backne
3. I have bad breath.
4. I am forlorn.
5. People disrespect me a lot.
6. Sometimes I want to touch and press things.
7. How do I express these longings.
8. by talking to you and to my friends on this blog who hate me.
9. coping is for cons.
10. piss is cozy.

2/10/2007 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Heath said...

Tim you are prolific.

2/11/2007 12:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course there are exceptions to the rule but they are very few. Aberrations mostly.

You are an emerging artist from the point you graduate from school (B.F.A.) or start a career as an artist and for the next eight to nine years tops. In most professions 10 years is the rule of thumb. You are it after 10 years. You have 10 more (or less) to make it.


4 one person shows at least during those 10 years, anywhere, and specially a good alternative space or museum or major university gallery or your gallery (2 more). Tons of group shows and fairs during that time. Then the mid-career survey comes or big “periods” show. It takes at least 4 years to plan and finance a mid-career show.

That’s what galleries see and museums look for. Bottom line, what each and every gallery invested in you, you pay back before you move on.

You need to be in a good gallery by the third decade of your life. They will guide you pass the mid-career and then you jump to a better gallery. If you stay in the same gallery for more than a decade you are in trouble. Very few galleries make it/survive the transition from emerging to established. Each decade has a few. You move on and galleries disappear mostly.

It is different for men and women. Men have it easier on all accounts and their work sells for a better price always. (Regardless or because they mature later.) Galleries like that. Same effort, more money with men. (Sad but true.) Smart women find a way to overcome it.


...I sometimes forget to sign but never ml…. have to deal with facts, very few artists know what's really happening to other might think you know, but you don't....
....the business of art and once you are a player is would know if you are making it as an artist....

2/11/2007 01:26:00 AM  
Anonymous People said...

MLS, that's a very comprehensive Survey Of Art (Career).

I'm not an artist, but if I were still in college I would take your class anyway, and tell all my artist friends about it too. If more art students knew what you do, most of them would change their majors and save themselves a lot of trouble.

2/11/2007 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me that most of you didn't read H. Cotter's great article in the Times. According to that, there's no question about Kiki Smith being mid-carreer, something I personally take great comfort in.

Please ponder Cotter's last paragraph from the article (below); Art takes time, I could not have put it better.

"So wisdom comes with age after all. And what can it tell young artists ready to dash out of school? Don't just do something; sit there. Art takes time. Let your brilliant career have a middle, and a late period, and an end. Let it be long."

2/11/2007 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

MLS, are you the author of The Rules?

Your take on things is cynically proscriptive and has little to do with my experience of the world. I can't think of anything else that works in such a rigid way...

IME, things have a way of working out, and people have a way of getting exactly what they ask for, but never the way they think it will happen. You sound like an expert. What makes the art world work differently from any other endeavor?

2/11/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About Mr. H. Cotter:

Very nice guy. A good critic but with a few flaws. He is the welcome mat of the New York artworld. He gives the first review in the NY Times to 99% of the people showing in the five boroughs and other places, galleries included. He gave me my first 2 and then I moved on to the others. If he is the only one that reviews your shows you are in trouble. ( No growth. You are not growing, maturing. ) Most likely you are a minority artist, gay artist or politically to the left. He is very old school NY and "New Left". Predictable.

Furthermore, if you read his latest review of the NY Times about Venezuelan artist Armando Reveron at MOMA you should feel offended and many of us are livid by his audacity. "Whatever" as an answer to a terrible conflict of interest won't do. We should all be judged by the same standards. Corrupt.

Kiki Smith is a good artist. (Period.) Excellent or genious, not. From a family of artists and very rich. That makes her different in all respects. Hello?

I never said I was making rules. I said -rule- in a common phrase meaning a mayority of the cases. Don't put words in my mouth. These are facts. Like I said there are exceptions.

In any case fyi. There are to many "artists" in the world. Most art sucks. Mr. Finch's phrase is right on. If you make art to feel better or are you troubled that's therapy and people with a good eye can tell is not Art. Don't be confused.


2/11/2007 10:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mls, who are you?

2/12/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MLS, reads exactly like a track record for a 9 ~ 5iver. And what you offer is generally true!

2/12/2007 07:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I like mls

2/12/2007 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

If you make art to feel better or are you troubled that's therapy and people with a good eye can tell is not Art.

That's the first good news I've heard in a long time! I didn't realize my health insurance covered my studio rent.

2/12/2007 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey ML,
Everything you said rang true.
Could you clarify one thing please?

you said:
4 one person shows at least during those 10 years, anywhere, and specially a good alternative space or museum or major university gallery or your gallery (2 more).

So are you suggesting that 2 of those 6 solo shows in a 10 year period should be at a alternative space or museum or university or your own gallery?

Thanks for the clarification, just not sure if I was reading it the way you intended..?

2/12/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I meant to address that post to MLS! not ML!

2/12/2007 04:40:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

As an alternative, you could just have one show in a Space Museum. Why mess around?

2/12/2007 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/12/2007 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

No, David, you would still need two shows.

2/12/2007 06:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are you people for real? x number of shows in this kind of gallery in a certain number of years, then x more within x years... THERE'S NOT A FORMULA, fer chrissake. I think we can all agree that you don't want to be showing in cafes, vanity galleries or places where they make the artist pay a fee to apply, but there are lots of ways to have a career. There is not one straight and true path.

2/12/2007 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Hmm, okay. How about one solo show at the Space Museum, one at Sea World, and 2 or more out of six (or less) group shows at miniature golf courses, all within ten years, more or less?

If any of these are therapy they don't count, or course, except toward your deductible.

2/12/2007 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

Sea World seems iffy (IMHO).

2/12/2007 07:11:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Yeah, I guess Sea World would be considered a vanity venue. I hear they charge the dolphins to perform.

How about the Monterey Aquarium? They have a great jellyfish tank, and you know they're not paying to play. Jellyfish don't have any money.

2/12/2007 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

Are these mid-career exhibition requirements determined regionally? That could get interesting.

2/12/2007 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so if i had a show at sea world, then it was determined that sea world wasn't an officially sanctioned venue, and i had already been pronounced midcareer, would i then be demoted back to emerging? if i made up the subtracted sea world credits within 8 months with a show at disney world and/or land would my midcareer status be reinstated?

2/13/2007 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

...would i then be demoted back to emerging?

Anon, it's all very complicated, and for an official decision you'll have to check with someone who knows The Rules. But it seems to me you could look at this not as a demotion but as a second (or third) chance! Much of the artworld seems ready to put midcareer artists in the Wax Museum. Not their artwork, but the artists themselves. Collectors LOVE emerging artists.

If you demote yourself back far enough you could start your career all over again. Maybe even reattend high school and apply to college with better grades.

2/13/2007 11:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In any case fyi. There are to many "artists" in the world. Most art sucks.

Way too many "experts" too.

2/13/2007 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and there are too many people who don't know the difference between "to" and "too".

2/13/2007 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even two is two too many.

2/13/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

too true.

2/13/2007 01:44:00 PM  
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11/28/2007 08:06:00 PM  

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