Art 2010, Time and the Evolution of the Artist Today

Posted on January 21, 2010


Art 2010, Time and the Evolution of the Artist Today

The First Installment

As an Artist, do you ever wonder where in the world art is today? Is there a new Art Movement going on now and are you part of it. We had Modern Art then Post Modern with all of the associated subcategories. What do we have now in 2010? Maybe the art experts were too quick to name those movements. It seems to me that the word Modern is a moving target, it moves with time. What is contemporary art? Is that art you made yesterday or are making today? These labels add to the confusion we all have about art and where art is at any specific moment in time. As an artist have you ever been asked, “What kind of artist are you” or ‘What kind of painter are you’, watercolor, and oil’? If you are not an artist have you ever asked the question? Labels are important is spite of what you have been told. Why should we care? It is about communication, the communication of ideas and information. The label adds a visual to the discussion based on learned information. The label helps us zero in on important facts while weeding out irrelevant information.

The art market today is as confusing as art for most of us. Where is the market as a whole and where do we the artist or patron fit into the market. A bigger question you may have is what is the current State of the Arts today?

A new study released January 2010 by the Americans for the Arts gives us a glimpse of where artists and markets in America are in 2010. The report, called the “National Arts Index”

…can be compared to the Dow Jones Average used to measure stocks, as a tool to measure the Arts. The index measures 76 prime areas of the arts to establish the data used in the index. Data was collect over a ten-year period and compiled into the index.

However as much as I find the index interesting and full of important information it falls short of answering many of the questions I have about, specifically visual art. Market trends and business information is good and helpful to all of us as we try to make a living as an artist. But, I am after something more. Why you ask? Because I am an artist and I am, just curious about the profession I have chosen. I want answers so that I can understand what it is we do just as much as non-artists want to know.

I can hardly answer any one of the questions I asked. So I began looking for the answer to where are we today, yesterday seems easy compared to the now. There are so many artists working the world over today it is I think nearly impossible to pin down a single modern  movement except possibly that artists have turned inward into their own personalities for insight and inspiration in an attempt make sense of everything.

2010, is the starting place where I am going to try to figure some of this stuff out. I do not claim that I have an answer, I just have an opinion that I hope is based, on facts relevant to the questions.

So for the rest of 2010 I am going to try and look at art, trends and markets that I find interesting and try to add perspective to make sense of everything.

Fame regardless of what we as individuals think about it is an important driver of art and the market. After all fame is what elevates art to a noticeable level of interest.

I think most artists dream of fame at one time or another. We dream of recognition for the importance of our work. We want to be part of something important something new.

Did you ever stop and think about a famous artist and how long it took them to become famous or how short a period they actually created that famous art in, perhaps only a brief moment out of a full life’s work?

Picasso surely gained fame for his contribution to Cubism a sub-movement of modern art. He seemed to live and work forever after that breakthrough in the early years of the 20th century. As art history goes that was really it, Cubism for Picasso. Then of course, Salvador Dali came along and became one of the most famous surrealists. As art, history suggests that was it for him too. He also lived forever and worked his whole life. Then there are that Van Gogh’s of art history that never knew he was famous or important. In fact, according to history he only sold one painting in his entire career. Today he is one of the top selling artists of all time. I have wondered what he would think if he knew the collective values of his paintings today are worth more than the gross national product of Dutch Empire, give or take a few million when he was alive.  A million was a million back then. Maybe he wouldn’t have been so depressed. Imagine if you could go back in time and talk to Vincent. Imagine if you told him about his future success as it is today.  I think he would say with a mood of desperation like Kirk Douglas as he played Vincent in the 1950s movie “Lust for Life” ,

“And they say I am crazy”

You have to grit your teeth as you say it. See how it works Kirk Douglas is a visual label.

One thing that these great artists did not have is most of everything we do have today. Information the internet and the absolute numbers of artists making art today did not exist back in the day. The National Arts Index reports that more than Two Million Artists are working today in America. The report does not really tell us how many painters, sculptors; photographers and so on are counted in these numbers. The report does tell us that more than seven hundred thousand solo artists are at work today. Many of the artists counted work in a plethora of industries, like advertising, film, design firms and so on.

Another important statistic is most of these artists have other jobs, full or part time and unemployment among artists is excessively high when compared to other professions. Well maybe not in 2010, but one thing for sure is this. If you as an artist depends on your day job to make ends meet you may be in trouble today if you lost that part time job and with current Art market trends in a downward motion. That is sales and other funding. More on that later.

Refer to page 21 of the report:

21. Independent Artists, Writers and Performers

While much of the attention paid to the arts in the public arena is to established arts organizations and institutions, individuals also enter the arts as entrepreneurs and proprietors. Individual arts entrepreneurs or soloists are active as poets, painters,

musicians, dancers, actors and in many other artistic disciplines. The solo artist who works without employees is one such entrepreneur. Many independent artists ply their cultural trade on a part-time basis, combining arts entrepreneurship

with other jobs and work. Data on the number of “non-employers” in business are kept by the Census Bureau.

This indicator measures the total number of individual artists in NAICS 7115 who are not employers, labeled “Independent artists, writers, and performers.” This figure grew every year between 2000 and 2007, from 509,000 to 679,000. Of these,

more than 97 percent are sole proprietors, with small numbers of corporations and partnerships. The steady growth in proprietor numbers —an increase of one-third during a seven-year period— is a mark of continuing interest, and shows enthusiasm on the part of individual artists to be commercial competitors…NAI

The report also tells us that 25 million students received education in the visual and performing arts over the last ten years. In 2007, 120,470 art degrees were conferred at various levels from associates to PhD’s.

Refer to page 55 of the report:

55. Visual and Performing Arts Share of Higher Education Degrees

In total, more than 25 million degrees —from associate to doctoral level— were conferred between 1998 and 2007. Students pick their major from a range of subjects. Successive cohorts of college students have evolving interests, resulting in shifts

in which majors end up being more or less popular to students as time goes on.

This indicator measures the share of those degrees that were in visual and performing arts. This indicator uses data from the

National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education. Starting at 3.6 percent in 1998, the share of visual

and performing arts degrees among all degrees peaked at 4.3 percent in 2004 —capping several years of steady increase.

Even though the total number of arts degrees continued to rise, its growth was not as high as the growth in the number of total degrees…NAI

That’s a lot of competition is an understatement.

The numbers do not answer the question what are these artists doing.

1. What kind of art are they making?

The answer is everything they; the artists can imagine and turn into reality and non-reality. I would describe the visual arts today like a Symphony made up of the individual playing their personal and unique instrument an instrument of their own making. I do think there are current trends and extensions of past trends. Realism, Surrealism, every other ism and I think most of all the new movement in art is IDISM.

Derived from Freud’s explanation of the ID

“ It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learnt from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of this is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We all approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations… It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organisation, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.

[Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1933)]

I may be out of my league here, to attempt to make my point and expand upon the art movement of IDISM. The artists that are working on the edge today are synthesizing the modern world through their own ID in relation to the physical world they live in. Art has now become even more personal and individualized than ever before. We are in an age of a New Renascence a Modern Renascence driven by information and technology managed through the eyes, mind and action of the artist.

Take a look at Ben Tolman’ work

“I think about death a lot. I’m very aware of the fact that I only have so much time to get this stuff done before the game is over. In the big picture our lives are so short and our perspective is so narrow. I just want to communicate what my experience of being alive was like and add my tiny piece to the cultural pool. Art can be a signpost in time, giving a way to communicate with the future. I just hope I can make something meaningful enough to people that it will continue to be passed on”… Ben Tolman


Take a look at Michael Reedy’s work

What I find interesting about Reedy’s work is how he combines visual science with the human form. Somehow takes me back to Da Vinci’s exploration of the body. Read more at Slow Art

2. What are artists making art with?

While many artists are still debating, what art is or what art is really made with, those artists working on the edge are making art with everything they can get their hands on. While some artists are still asking if photography is really art, others are dissecting cows and various other animals and assembling the parts into million dollar artworks.

Like Damian Hirst And to add bizarre to bizarre. Recently when Hirst abandoned his old methods, working as a Zoologist or Butcher and returned to painting, doing the actual work himself he was largely panned by the art critics. Go figure.

Today no rules apply to what is considered art thanks to Marcel Duchamp giving artists the permission to do what ever they want with what ever they want to use as a medium or material. Argument settled. Well apparently not, maybe, I don’t know. Depends on whom you ask.  One thing for sure new technologies are emerging as art mediums and if you are bogged down in the debate of what is or isn’t art you maybe missing the new renaissance. Going back to IDISM today we use material we like and right material and wrong material are not necessarily going to be dictated to artists working in 2010. And neither is how images are viewed or delivered to the public. Who out there has their art on an iPhone app?

Take a look at Jeremy Eagles work

The sculptor Jeremy Eagle currently lives and works in both Manhattan and Berlin, Germany. His work has been described as three dimensional political cartoon. Borrowing from Surrealist and Dada tradition, he combines handmade and found objects, often bringing together incongruous items to deliver his messages. In addition to Limner his work has been exhibited at the Frumkin Gallery and George Adams Gallery in NYC.

Take a look at Toby Berthold’s work


“This work is meant as a reflection on Mans philosophical and sociological constructions to define himself in life, his identity and his place in, “The Natural Order of the Universe”. Of the alternative titles that could apply to this body of work such as; “A Separate Reality”,” A Room Full of Mirrors ” or”

Peeking Behind the Curtain of the Universe” the story of Narcissus serves to comment with a certain clarity of the irony in the work.

Narcissus probably had a clear calm pool to gaze at his reflection. We do not ;…And so…

the ripples. Using elements of theater to speak in metaphors of the explorations of man’s self perception and perceptions of reality, I create images to witness the complications and contradictions of the popular concepts of the times. The images are meant to encourage reflection and meditation of the actual events and consequences of the past leading to where we find ourselves today. To engage the mind and stir the soul. With the future in mind, along with our increasing

power to affect the planet and all life on this planet, I feel that reflection of the view points of the past should be examined in order to temper our actions and beliefs in motion as we continue to

progress through our development into what we may become”.


Is great art achieved through hard work or luck? Being at the right place at the right time doing the right stuff? Is the next great art movement being made right now, at this moment in time. Are you part of it? On the other hand, is the next great art movement going to be ignored for art that fits the needs of a commodity driven art market.  How do we as artists evolve? How do we as artists find our way to the future?  Is it even possible for us to focus on the art made today long enough to figure out where we are now in the evolution of everything?

The new National Arts Index”…

…gives us a current picture of the Arts, Market and Business. I am going to work at discovering what art is today.