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Artists, Self-Sabotage, Integrity, and Selling Out

When I was starting out as a music, movie and art critic in the late 1990s, there was a consensus in the editorial offices where I worked that the best stuff always rises to the top and is discoverable, that there’s no such thing as the secret basement genius or the truly hidden talent. At the time I chose to believe that because the notion was a relief. But I don’t believe it anymore.

I think there’s talent everywhere that we don’t get to see, and I think that there are artists who are truly deserving and fascinating who we don’t discover, because they are poor and desperate, because they are bitter, because they don’t play the game of social media and consumerism, because they are uncompromising. A lot of people would label them “difficult” or “complicated,” but I think we should roll back our expectations that artists be well-rounded social butterflies and take a harder look at the work itself.

Artists are being asked, even by the art world itself, to make work that’s easy, digestible, good for short attention spans, Instagrammable, marketable. Even the political stuff needs to be something one can “get” through the equivalent of a Hollywood pitch. Where does that leave the majority of our most dedicated artists?

I’m certainly not saying that all successful artists are sellouts. I am saying that our world is increasingly eager for pre-disposed sellouts and marketable work, and that artists with any profound integrity or vision are more endangered than ever. Just ask the White House Arts Committee.

Source: Artists, Self-Sabotage, Integrity, and Selling Out – Glasstire