Artists Can’t Sell Out
April 8, 2010
I mean, it’s not even possible. Once Andy Warhol came on the scene and made selling out his personal artistic expression the wall between art and commerce was destroyed. Well, that’s what I learned from it. Once an artist can buy a sink at a garage sale then sign it and turn it into a gold mine, our age is revealed as the one where commerce became an art form.
I studied Fine Art in college which is another way of saying that I studied snob art because only elitists and academics could understand what the hell was going on. There were a whole group of artists who wouldn’t title their work for fear that it might influence the viewer into some preferred narrative of the creator of the work. What happened was that people who liked to study art could keep up with feces-as-a-medium but your average pedestrian didn’t bother.
After a while, I realized that I was the dummy for bowing to this snooty specialization of the arts while those who rejected this Fine Art as junk were onto something. The street wise were right, and the round heads were exposed as fools. Just because we can study the Emperor’s new clothes doesn’t mean he’s not naked.
For the most part, artists have always sold their work to whoever was willing to buy it. We artists still have to eat, and once that transaction takes place commerce has influenced the work. I used to criticize my friends where were just illustrators for being sell outs. Yet, I had to admit that I purchased plenty of art, was influenced by the imagery of illustration more in my day to day life than by the Fine Arts.
I took to the commercial arts pretty quickly given I loved animation, video games and telling stories. It’s funner to have an audience just like something without me having to explain to them what they’re even seeing. Art is communication after all, so why not communicate to a ton of people instead of just three if it takes the same amount of work?
So this is why I don’t think an artist can actually sell out. There is an implication that someone isn’t being pure by admitting that they have to eat and that strikes me more as inhuman than artistic. The painter can purposefully make art that leans away from commerce or he can solely chase a buck and both are just as artistic, though I’m more likely to enjoy the latter than the former. I’ve seen the pure artist Warhol’s films and I enjoyed “sell-outs” like Transformers 2 much more… even as fine art.