What Does it Mean to Make Commercial Work Too? | Open Thread
During a talk in the gallery recently, a student asked whether there were, in my opinion, any distinction problems with an artist making both fine art and commercial work. "How would you categorize, for example," he asked, "a project that a magazine commissioned by an artist for publication?" I wasn't actually ready for that question (it's not something I've had to think much about to date), but my gut instinct was that it would depend on the quality of the work as to whether I considered it commercial, fine art, or somewhere in between. In hindsight, I think that answer was gibberish.
If the artist considered the commission fine art, then that's what it is, regardless of how the magazine then uses it. How good it is as fine art is another matter, but the artist's intent here makes the difference.
I thought a bit about this again later, reading Eleanor Heartney's interview with Shirin Neshat (published on Art in America's website), who has been working on her first full-length feature film:
And perhaps that's another important distinction between commercial projects (which will undoubtedly receive input from those paying the bills) and fine art, but what about the commissioned artwork scenario for a channel that also hires fine artists for clearly commercial projects...can the viewer make any distinctions? At what point would a viewer no longer care that the work was created by committee and consider it "fine art" anyway?
ELEANOR HEARTNEY: How did this project come about?
SHIRIN NESHAT: At the time I was in Documenta in 2002, having made several video installations, I was beginning to feel very consumed by being in one big international show after another, making one work after another. I felt I needed time off to plan a project that would take a long time to realize. Then I got a call from the Sundance Institute, asking if I would consider developing a feature film project for their writers’ lab. At first, I thought I couldn’t, so I said no. Then, after Documenta, I thought why not?
EH: What did you discover about the difference between the art and film worlds?
SN: In the art world you are very free, but you end up making something that few people see. In the film world anybody can view your film for the small price of a ticket, but you are not as free. There is also a big difference between film producers and art dealers. Producers are extremely involved. Everything has to go through them, while an art dealer basically leaves you alone and remains uninvolved in the production.
And...we're back to my gut instinct...quality will tell.
Consider this an open thread on whether there are any tricky complications, as a fine artist to producing commercial work, that you would share.