Throughout the history of art, the idea of the artist has had many connotations. Yes, artists
have always taken the role of documenting different points of views, nevertheless, as the world becomes more connected, the idea of the struggling artist and the 20th-century notion of “art for art’s sake” has shifted to a commercial and collaborative perspective in which artists must look at themselves as a personal brand and their art as a highly valued and unique product.
Mike Garibaldi, defines in the Huffington Post the Struggling Artist Syndrome as “the pattern of symptoms that characterize or show the particular social condition of spending all your time and money on an artistic ideal in the hopes of someday “making it.” Achieving economic stability as an artist is already hard, now add the pressure of the industry telling you to uphold the starving artist ideals. The idea that being an artist equals being an outsider is part of the past.
Artists have the opportunity to look at themselves as entrepreneurs that have the skills and power to create something that no one else can. If we were to talk about the artist as a business, he or she would be their own CEO, with his/her creations being their product. Is the product extremely connected to emotion and history? — yes, but it is still part of a transactional process. The artist must plan, market, promote, sell, and make a profit of his/her art. Now, it is true that there is a fine line between a product designer and an artist. However, in recent years we have seen the artist rise as a multidisciplinary creator.
Pablo Picasso whose 1955 “Les femmes d’Alger” sold for $179.4 million at the auction house Christie’s in 2015. Years before, in 1998 Claude Picasso, one of the heirs of the Picasso fortune sold rights to the Picasso name to Citroen to use as the name of their newest car from 1999 to 2010. This became a battle between those who thought that associating the name Picasso with a commercial brand would devalue the “grandeur” connotation of the artist. Nevertheless, Picasso’s paintings are still some of the most valuable works in history.
Many artists have created a career in both their “fine art” and their commercial collaborations. Takashi Murakami, Shantell Martin, Jeff Koons, and many others have collaborated with top companies. Some collaborations include BMW, Louis Vuitton, and Absolut just to name a few. The dialogue between art and the commercial space brings a world of benefits to both sides of the equation. For artists, portfolio building, positioning, and a good income stream. For brands, as noted on China Luxury Daily in 2019, it brings “visibility, expressing the company’s values/brand ideals, and giving back to the community/social responsibility.”
Commercial collaborations between the commercial world and artists may take different forms. The work of artist Daniel Arsham, who most recently collaborated with the brands Pokémon and Adidas is a great example of how an artist can cross from one world to the other and continue adding value to his/her personal brand. It makes his creative genius accessible to different audiences. Does his one of a kind “fine art” work sold lower its value due to these commercial collaborations? The short answer is, no.
Finally, the work of Romero Britto, an example of an over-commercialized artist. Britto has done everything when it comes to commercializing his work. From clothing to souvenirs, nevertheless, the record price at an auction house for his work as noted by MutualArt is $250,000. Regardless of whether you are fond of his style, and ways of commercializing his work, it sells, and he continues to grow as a creative, having made his name “Britto” a global artist brand.
These artists have learned to market and sell. Their names have become brands from a marketing standpoint and legends in the art history books. Let’s move away from the notion that an artist must starve for his/her art to succeed. The only thing an artist should feel hungry for is his/her need to create, start a dialogue, and give us a path into their minds. If as an artist you can carry out these tasks by creating a one of a kind Nike boot, then so be it, I will be the first in line to support the growth of artists and the end of the struggling artist syndrome that society has burdened young artists with.