Carrie Miller offers some advice to easily offended artists – get over it and make some money from collectors who love their art…
The documentary on the recently opened Museum of Old & New Art that screened this week on ABC1, MONA: Feel the Weird, had an unexpected outcome. Before the January opening, Facebook was buzzing with people in the art world sniffing around for an invite with their sucky posts about the museum and its owner. Everyone seemed super-excited that such an ambitious contemporary art project was being undertaken in Australia.
But that was before David Walsh said the ‘s’ word. A man who seems desperate to be loved by being hated by some imaginary art establishment (which for him consists of phoney-baloney, high-brow critics and curators) inadvertently managed to piss off the real control freaks in the art world: artists themselves. He called them “stupid” and they really didn’t like it.
I’m a huge supporter of artists. I listen to them complain about not getting a dealer, about having a dealer, about not having a show, about having a show and so on.
And I thought David Walsh was funny. I also thought he was very transparent in his need to be contrary and that calling artists stupid was just part of his infantile need to position himself as an outsider while becoming the ultimate insider.
But some artists – artists who’d probably love to be collected by Walsh – suddenly lost their sense of humour when his weirdo monologue turned on them.
I have to say, while I think that being an artist today takes a lot of courage, psychological resilience, not to mention material sacrifice, there is sometimes a preciousness that clings to artists like cheap perfume that I find unattractive.
Art is a product – maybe a very special product – that is available to anyone with the means to buy it. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to collectors and what I’ve come to understand from interviewing these people is that most of them don’t know that much about art and that can be annoying. As a result they can come off as a bit obnoxious about it. But, less obviously, I’ve come to see that quite a few of them seem to intuitively understand that it has a power that can’t be diminished by its commodification and that’s why they drop their cash on art instead of lots of cars.
I know the commercial aspect of a creative practice can be frustrating – as a writer I know how you feel. I’ve had to learn how to stop implicating my ego in that aspect of what I do. And so now I laugh when people write nasty comments below my online posts in major, widely read publications which clearly show they have totally misunderstood my ideas and arguments or don’t get irony or humour. I’ve found that doing the work with honesty and integrity is all that matters and all that you can control; let go of how it’s received or commodified (while staying open to constructive criticism) and you will be much happier and more productive. The work is all that matters.
You’ve all read Baudrillard – there’s no outside to the late-capitalist system, it can only be disrupted from within. So get a bunch of artists together and video them all wearing “I’m with stupid” t-shirts while weaving baskets in a sheltered workshop. David Walsh is exactly the sort of collector who would buy it. Charge him lots of money and then go out and make some really good art that no-one would want to buy.
Or do what an artist I know does when he’s sold work to a dumb corporate: piss on your painting before you bubble wrap it.