This Summer Session we’re talking about celebrity, and today we bring you Bean Gilsdorf’s Help Desk arts-advice column and a question about fame. With the art world, the art market, and celebrity so deeply intertwined, what is the difference between being a famous artist and a successful artist, and can it be described by the similarities between Thomas Kinkade and Damien Hirst? This column was originally published on April 16, 2012.
How do you become a famous artist? I am an artist and make lots of art (performance, paintings, drawings, etc.) but I never went to art school. What should I do to slowly but surely become better known in the art world?
Fame, huh? Without a doubt, you must already know that there is no way to “surely” become “better known in the art world,” especially if you are going to do it slowly. Fame strikes like lightning, white hot and irrefutably blinding to those in its immediate path. If fame is your goal, why bother trying to climb the ladder, rung by greasy rung? Why not charter a helicopter and get airlifted to the top? Since my job as an advice columnist is to answer the queries set before me, here is a short list of actions that others have tried in pursuit of fame:
• Kiss (with lipstick on) the museum-hung artwork of an already-renowned artist. When you are arrested, explain to the press and the jury that it was a form of homage and that you were simply overcome by the power of the art. Alternately, if you are the fighter-not-a-lover type, you could punch, kick, stab, or otherwise wound an artwork you find objectionable or offensive.
• Sleep with someone powerful. It’s pretty well tested as a means to gain recognition, so why not give your favorite rock star/politician/A-list dealer a bounce? And then he or she can give your career a boost in return.
• Make a complete spectacle of yourself: do buckets of drugs while making art, have sex in the gallery, don’t bathe, etc. Be the wild and crazy guy who publicly justifies all the stereotypes of the tortured artist. Bonus points if you are a.) attractive and b.) from an old-money family.
Two words: reality show.