For nearly three years, I have been a contributing blogger here on absolutearts. It's an absolute honor to have the opportunity. The item that has generated the most response from readers was the October 14, 2005 post titled, "Posterity or Prosperity - Can Artists Have It Both Ways?"
The question is one that has vexed artists for as long as money and prestige have been attached to art. Some artists seem to rise above it, others are crushed by it. And, others still find their way to make peace with the fact they can create work from their vision and passion, make themselves wealthy, do good deeds for others and let the critics be damned.
One such artist who has accomplished this is Yuri Gevorgian Yuroz. Best known by his last name, Yuroz, the Los Angeles based artist has been a fixture on the art scene for three decades. A cover story in the Los Angeles Times Magazine titled, "Never Mind the High Praise. How About a Little Ink?; His Work Is Priced as High as $ 150,000. He's Been Commissioned to Paint by the U.N. But There's No Place in the World of Fine Art for Yuroz and Others Like Him" provided the motivation for my post.
The gist of the Times piece came down to this: despite becoming wealthy and having the support and friendship and being collected by powerful and well-known people, and also having raised more than a million for charitable causes, Yuroz' work was stymied from reaching the museum level. Seems the cabal of curators, gallerists and media that compromise the fine art cognoscenti had deemed him to be "too commercial."
Apparently, it is quite a sin to become too successful outside the anointed path to art glory. Being washed over with money from unapproved sources taints certain artists and they become scorned for their success. Yet in the odd dichotomy, we regularly celebrate record sales of artists whose work has met the cognoscente's criteria for posterity. I'm not naïve; I realize talent and a host of other factors contribute to who gets picked. But who picks the pickers?
Still the track record for experts picking talent in all kinds of fields is spotty. Whether is sixth round draft picks like Tom Brady becoming perhaps the best NFL quarterback ever, or musician Chris Daughtry defying the odds of being a fourth place American Idol loser to go on dominate the record sales charts in 2007. Those in the know, often pass on talent that later proves them shortsighted.
It seemed unfair to me then and does now that a small handful of soi-disant tastemakers hold the keys to an artist's entrée into the world of museums and other acclaim that seals a legacy beyond his or her mortal years. But, the simple fact is life ain't fair and decisions are made in ways not to be confused with democratic practices. We all live by rules someone else made up and mostly unelected others enforce. It's the price of living in a civilized society. Still, delightfully sometimes we find the worm turns.
Recently, I received an email from Yuroz. He wanted to reply to my reporting of the LA Times Magazine article:
Many artists read your articles. Please find a way to give them a little light and hope too, so they will continue to create.... we need them.
The article in L.A. times was totally misinterpreted and created an image of me (Yuroz), which is very far from reality. It is a long conversation which is important to me as an artist to make it right. One day I hope we can have a glass of wine and talk more about this subject. But, the very short version of all this is - Without artists there is no gallery, no museum and no critic. Unfortunately the machine (galleries, critics, and museums) has become too dominating on the artist's mind and life and this affects what they create.
An artist's obligation is to create and support his love ones. To me, the person is considered to be successful if he can afford to wake up in the morning and do what he loves to do. Successful or not, I wish there were more artists in the world. I don't remember any time in the history that world suffered because there were too many artists
p.s. I have good news to share with you. In 2008 I will have the pleasure of working with four museums around the globe to share my UN murals with public.
So, despite long odds, Yuroz is proving his detractors wrong as his work is finds its way to museums. I reiterate here the ending of my initial post:
The bottom line is that as an artist, if you are selective and effective in how you market yourself and your work, you can have it all, both prosperity and posterity. So, why not strive to do both? There's no romance or nobility in being a starving artist. Focus on prosperity with flair, dignity, and style-with a dash of luck your reputation will precede you into posterity.