I'm not sure if you heard, but the Academy Awards were on Sunday night. I actually heard about it because I'm not in a coma.
Three days before that, a little something called Linsanity hit South Florida, where I live. Apparently our guy beat their guy. I am not a sports fan, and I haven't watched a basketball game since I was eight years old, and yet I can't escape being Linundated.
One week ago, sadly, Whitney Houston was laid to rest. You may have seen it mentioned on the news.
I get it. We love our celebrities! What I don't always understand is how we pick them.
I make a living as an artist, so you can imagine my surprise when I asked five of my closest friends to name five famous living artists, and the longest list I received had just three names. Second place was one name. The other three could name none. These are the close friends of an artist!
Throughout our most recent centuries, visual artists were highly regarded and celebrated along with musicians, poets, and other gifted individuals who shared their talents. Yes, we always hear the stories of the Van Gogh types who never achieved fame or recognition until they had passed on, but they are actually the exception, not the rule. Even as recently as the 1980s, visual artists were reaching a level of celebrity and recognition.
Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Robert Mapplethorpe are all names I remember hearing as I was growing up. I would be hard pressed to find a 12-year-old who could name a living artist today.
I don't believe it is a coincidence that the shift in focus and appreciation for more traditional art forms and artists coincided with the birth of personal computing, the Internet, and (what I call) ADD-TV programming. We receive information in a faster, more homogenized way than ever.
Today's celebrities are people whose talents can be seen and appreciated on an electronic device. Thank God for the Kindle and the iPad, or else books may have become extinct. Authors are only slightly more famous than artists, but at least they make it to the talk show circuit!
For the art community, the future may look a bit bleak. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Earnings for self-employed artists also vary widely. Many do not make enough money just from selling their art. Many artists will need to have a second job in order to support themselves financially."
This just in.
In order to survive, art needs to reinvent itself, just like every other industry had to do twenty years ago. More importantly, artists need to reinvent themselves as well. We are living in a digital era and the vast majority of artists are still working with an analog medium.
Andy Warhol said it best: "Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art."
There is still, and will always be, a great value in tactile artwork. There is no better way to complete a home or business than with original art. Art can be very powerful and moving. It is also sometimes purely aesthetically pleasing.
The artist of the future will find a way to meet their end user halfway, between the canvas and the iPad. The galleries of the future will concern themselves far more with creating a good user experience, and far less about age-old values that have actually been dead for decades.
Thanks to the commercials during the Super Bowl, I can recognize the guys who created Words with Friends. Maybe soon they will recognize me.