The Unbelievable Pressure Artists Are Under to Just Completely Make Some Stuff Up
A long but worthwhile read by Jen Graves (scroll down for the link), starting with an account of a woman who decided to reinvent herself as an Outsider Artist because that’s where the market was going, lied right to the author’s face about her past, then got nasty when she was found out… and still does pretty good business.
There’s also confirmation– somehow both shocking and entirely unsurprising– that you can just make up an exhibition history and hardly anyone will bother checking to see if it’s true. Graves mentions an artist who claimed to have showed at the Whitney on the basis of having work in the building for two hours. In my experience this is an extremely common type of artist lie, i.e. major and serial omission, where all you’re meant to take in is “major art museum”, not the details which would reveal that the artist might have been there for something but it wasn’t really an exhibition or any kind of official engagement at all. Another artist just flat out lied about being in the collection of MoMA New York when they’re not. Above all, Graves gives a very cogent account of how and why an artist’s real or claimed biography ended up sometimes meaning more to the art world than the work those artists make.
Wealth and comfort can be problems for artists. Some commit their low-level fraud by hiding that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money. Ruthie V. is a painter who recently moved out of a raggedy trailer in the unincorporated wilds of Bow, in Skagit County, to live with her new fiancé in Shoreline. While her happiness just went way up, her biography just got seriously downgraded.
“People love the trailer in Bow,” she said. “It’s a romantic story. Everybody my whole life has encouraged me to be an artist, and they know it’s a financially difficult thing to do. But they love it. They love that I’m living the dream, they love watching me blossom, they love sharing it with me. But nobody’s paying for it. It’s really complicated to have people living vicariously through you. It’s like, you’re really happy that I’m an artist, but I have no running water, and I just lost my house again, and I’m exhausted because the rats kept me up all night chewing the wires.”
I think Graves is being a bit kind when she writes that “some commit their low-level fraud by hiding that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money”. One of the most demoralising conclusions I’ve come to over the past few years is that many or possibly even most “successful” (whatever that means) younger artists hide the fact that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money, and they couldn’t have a career or be free to be artists or run their “artist led space” without that nest egg or that well-paid partner. Maybe I was naive to have ever thought any different. Several artists like this are well known to me personally; I’m sure there are many others I don’t know about because they’ve done a better job of keeping it under their quirky tweed hats.
Read the whole article here: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-lies-of-the-artists/Content?oid=17706036