a while ago anna and i discussed how such a large number of young art students become indoctrinated into the paradoxical credo of the (finnish) art world. by the credo i refer to the belief that achieving popularity is a mixed blessing in addition to being something suspicious.
it seems that artists are socialized into believing that success is only worthwhile if it comes in droplets of graciousness from the "right" people or institutions. massive enthusiasm from institutions of glory could be a sign of greatness, but is usually followed with an expectant smirk: "s/he'll surely fall from grace soon." needless to say, grandma's bridge club just isn't a credible buyer – even if they clear the entire gallery.
much of it comes down to insecurity: funding is scarce, making it hardly ever was purely about artistic talent or vision, but having the right connections and, yup, style of the time. moreover, there is the romanticized notion of great artists only being valued posthumously. additionally, there are inaccurate historical beliefs that true art is only the expression of the artists own whims, true self and desires – the majority of renowned artworks were made to order, after all.
the worst scenario is be deemed a sellout: the artist who creates art to be bought and enjoyed by mere mortals, the success of whom is dependent on the taste of the masses, someone whose funding is mainly covered by sales instead of grants. a perfect example of such an artist is kaj stenvall in finland: his duck portraits cover the walls of ordinary finnish homes as posters (and the better off as originals) and those of us who are "in the know", snicker at the poor, uneducated fools who think they own art, right?
the intricate and complex web of power relations is held together by aspiring artists and their peers, curators, reviewers and art museum regulars all executing what say they may have over the state of the art circles. an exemplary personal experience was when i was attacked by an art lover at a kiasma opening whilst dj'ing: she complained her heart out and finished with a telling phrase "this place is not for the youngsters" desperately trying to grasp onto whatever little authority she had over me as a "youngster" playing "youngster" music.
sure, i am exaggerating and over-simplifying, but it seems reasonable to assume that most artists would love to sell their work (some at least if they could decide who to sell it to) and make a decent living without the stress of grant applications. but it seems that because there are examples of real sellouts who have made it big (and i am not talking about stenvall here; his success seems to be the result of two worlds colliding to form a perfect symbiosis), fame or success have become read as signs of being a sellout. it's an example of faulty logic that is not uncommon: because despicable motives sometimes lead to the wanted results, we start to think that someone achieving those results is a sign of contemptuous motivation.
there is a completely different world of art out there, as well. while finns still cherish the suffering artist desperately trying to get attention to their bleeding heart and growling stomach, the art kids in new york ditch the art and begin with networking. "working in the arts" is the desire; hanging with the right crowd is the answer. creative production of artwork – music, video or whatever, like, duh, i'm in the arts, bitches! – has become secondary.
the conversed logic seems to originate from the realization that to make it anywhere in the arts in the us, you need to know the right people. having a trust-fund – and no-one in their right mind would pursue the arts in (post-)dubya states without a trust-fund because health insurance is expensive – is not enough, creating work of immense potential is nothing, if you don't know the people. so young aspiring americans start from the most important: creating networks.
three children of nyc artists and/or art world regulars observed their environment and figured that a scene of such hilarious characters could not go unremarked. they started a little project, delusional downtown divas, that parodies the art world and the clueless fame hunters that flock the circumferences of important artists and galleries. their chronicles are both an observation and self-mockery as they claim that their characters are versions of themselves, only "with much bigger delusions of grandeur."
interestingly enough, by inspiring insiders and catching their attention – such as isaac mizrahi in the teaser above – they've achieved what they decided to make a parody of and have made it into the "right circles" – their, like, ultimate life goal. i guess penetrating the art world comes down to creating something interesting, after all.
full series at the index website.