When my son was small, if he was asked to do something he thought was irrelevant – such as: darling….would you like to make your bed today? – his answer would invariably be, what’s the point? He was right of course. If he wanted to leave his bed unmade, then that was his responsibility. Since then, this question has become a family catchphrase.
Now, at this very juncture in my life, I find myself asking the same question. What is art for? What’s the Point of it? Why do I feel compelled to ‘make’ art? Where exactly in the ‘bigger picture’ do I fit in? What is the importance of art and artists in the cultural context of today and could we all live without it / them?
Firstly, as Paul Hobson ( Dir. Contemporary Art Society) said, there is no doubt that artists are the ‘oxygen’ of the art market. Without them (us), there would be no art industry at all. It helps pump life blood into the networks that support the galleries, public and private collectors, residencies, critics, writers, teachers, art schools, public art institutions, technicians, designers etc – not to mentions other branches of the creative professions, such as choreography, film making or acting etc. – and helps to turnover billions of dollars in the world economy.
However, like small UK dairy farmers today, most artists are at the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of earning potential. Only a handful of artists are destined for stratospheric stardom with eye-popping incomes to match. There is no doubt that the more successful artists do possess a high degree of self-belief. The question is, why do so many of us take up such a precarious existence? A conservative estimate by Arts Blueprint1 for workforce development drawn up by Creative and Cultural Skills (CCS) suggested there were 28,490 visual artists in 2009. I shall be pondering this for my next post. In the meantime, dear followers, please let me know if you have any ideas on the subject.