As our intrepid columnist continues to traverse Warsaw, we bring a piece of advice for all those finding their way in through the muddy path we call “art.” If you’re stumbling through the dark or feeling alone in your efforts, keep your chin up! Let this be the light to guide your way. Help Desk is an arts-advice column that demystifies practices for artists, writers, curators, collectors, patrons, and the general public. Submit your questions anonymously here.
I graduated from college about a year ago, and have been pursuing art passionately and persistently ever since. My work is well received, and I’ve participated in shows, but I’m used to being generally unnoticed. When it dawned on me that ardor does not equal opportunity, I came to another blindingly obvious realization—I know virtually nothing about building a career as an artist past this point. How do all of these young, contemporary artists that I admire get to where they are now? My whole life is art. I’ve never had more faith in anything, and can’t see myself doing anything else. My point is that I am unacceptably clueless about how to reach an audience in a way that I would like to. I’m aware that being an artist isn’t a walk in the park, but right now I’m stuck in a rut. What do I need to do to keep moving forward? I don’t want to lose my spark because I’m in the dark.
I wish I could give you a fun and non-cynical pep talk along the lines of: Just work hard and the magic will happen!, but you’ve already figured out that you can work your fingers to bloody nubs and still no one at Art Basel will know your name. Your question, though, is a good one. It’s the fundamental—perhaps axiological—query of the emerging artist living in the shadow of late-market capitalism: “I am passionate about art; how do I garner acclaim and money for my work?” And you’ll find any number of peppy answers if you poke around in art-career books, but my advice is that you keep these two things as far from each other as you can, because—and this is the really important part—you can only really control one of them.