2020 vs The Art Life
I think it is safe to say that up to this point, 2020 has been a very unusual year.
I wouldn’t know how to even start a list of all the unexpected events that have taken place. Surprisingly, however, some things seem hard to change, even with a year like this one. The art market is one of them.
Although shaken up, it is still a massive industry, moving billions of dollars around the world. But what happens in the so-called “art world” (or “art bubble”) hardly affects young or beginner artists. What about them? How are they coping with the challenges that 2020 brought to them?
Being an art student myself, I have had many discussions with artist friends about this year. And in every conversation, there is one word that stands out: uncertainty. Nobody knows what a post-pandemic world will bring, financially nor professionally.
However, one thing is clear. The romantic idea of the starving artist, the misunderstood genius with no money but a heart full of passion, should not be an option for the future. This idea is inaccurate, and many artists will call it rather damaging. The struggle to be accepted as a serious professional is a common dilemma for people in this field. It gets in the way of getting fair payments and work conditions.
With the pandemic, many artists were forced to find money in new places, creating new work dynamics and finding new platforms. With museums and galleries closed, people started to find new ways to show art and sell their products. Social media has played a major part in this.
The irony of this year is that it teaches a lot of lessons too. Some artists actually found out they have other options besides working for traditional projects and media. They focused on exploring their work in profitable ways. It is all about putting yourself out there and showing your work.
One of my friends started selling embroidered portraits of pets on Instagram at the beginning of the year. A few months later, she gave up her job to concentrate exclusively on her embroideries. Another friend started selling T-shirts he designed, and also sold his first painting during the pandemic. All of these projects started out as mere tries and became successful for being the right business model for the right moment.
The truth is that being an artist nowadays is not easy. It is actually very difficult. Being an artist it is not just being an artist — it is also being an entrepreneur. And as soon as we accept this, we will be closer to professional success.
You must advocate for yourself, keep in mind that art is a field that requires refined skills, and that means a fair price too. We need to learn how to play the game, at least until the game changes. Basic schedule organization and basic financial planning are all accessible information and necessary knowledges to live in this world.
As I said before, nobody knows what a post-pandemic world will bring us. But this year told us to expect the unexpected, and to be prepared. Since the first caveman painted the first wall, art was always present in our lives. And it will continue to be until the last human stands on this planet.
But we also need to do our part and work as a community to change outdated ideas and build a new work environment. Be aware of your surroundings, your platforms, your tools, and privileges. Use them in your favour and to help those around you. Reach out to your favourite artists and build your network. Art requires hard work, but I am absolutely sure that we, artists, have got this.