28 December 2005

Art: Paying for it

Happy Birthday to my Dad.

Patrons are, if anything, essential and indispensable. No matter what the art; good, bad, or ugly, someone has to pay for it. Some people get really bent out of shape about art “selling out”, and I don’t blame them. It is annoying to think that something so crude as money is driving something so noble as art.

So I was paging through another great Christmas present that came my way this week--this book, which has the following advice in it:

. . . Oh ye artists who can spell, speak French, and read Homer, never show your patrons they speak bad French, or read Bad Greek, and spell carelessly, but listen to their French as if it was Racine’s, to their Greek as if old Homer himself were spouting, and read their epistles as if they had orthography, grammar, and common sense. Do this, and you will drink their claret, adorn their rooms, ride their horses, visit their chateaux, and eat their venison. But if, on the contrary, you answer the French not meant for you to understand, rectify their quotations which you are not supposed ever to have heard of, and discuss opinions only put forth for you to bow to, you will not eat their venison, you will not adorn their apartments, you will not ride their horses, you will not drink their claret, or visit their chateaux, at any rate more than once. And, so, artists, be humble and discreet.

So wrote Benjamin Robert Haydon, an “awkward man and an unsuccessful artist”, according to Grove (pg 427-8).

I’ve mentioned Sherrie Levine’s statement before, but today it is relevant for a part I didn’t talk about then. The statement ends with “The birth of the viewer must be at the cost of the painter.”

Is she right about that? I’m inclined to think that she is. The artist/patron relationship is, in every case I can think of, one in which one party bows to the other. Has it ever been otherwise?


katperkins said...

I guess Graphic Designers are sort of sell-outs. The purpose is to sell as much as possible of whatever you're designing. I guess we're kind of like the Britney Spears of artistic professions.

Mary Ann said...

Is it really selling out if the purpose is to make money? Is making money really all that bad? Love mulling that over. . . .

katperkins said...

Actually I retract my first statement. Britney was always obnoxious, she never sold out. I guess we're more like the Gwen Stefani's of art.

d.g. said...

A sell-out produces art to make money, whereas an artist takes money to create art. I've known advertising people and commercial designers who were true artists, and painters / sculptors who were complete sell-outs.

Matthew said...

I don't think there's anything un-artistic or ignoble about creating art that people want to buy. It seems to me that the aspects being debated here are common to any service provider/customer relationship.

I'm reminded of the quote from Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie "There isn't good acting and bad acting, there is only unemployment".