Monday, August 11, 2014

entrepreneurship (and a suitable replacement)

In the last few weeks I've had a much needed vacation and participated in a panel discussion (which was more of a panel of individual opinions expressed by each member) on art collecting.  The panel and their ideas brought up some points that have stuck with me, and this is an appropriate venue for flushing them out a bit further in the next few posts.    

1. Entrepreneurship

The idea of entrepreneurship needs to be reevaluated as it is used in the art world.  It is often used as a state of artists working independently.  I am putting forth that it should be referred to as self-reliance or subsistence.  Entrepreneurial is so far rooted in capitalism that it sullies the idea of artists working productively for themselves, and oversimplifies what artists might do to make a living.  When I’ve heard people use this as a way to justify not working with galleries, starting projects, or crowdsourcing funds it almost always reduces the artists’ work to an economic strategy (with only one end goal--the acquisition of capital).  I know subsistence—doing what is needed to maintain at the minimum level—is problematic in some ways, but it is closer to what I see and feel in the art world than entrepreneurship (unless we are talking about an artist who makes work and sells it only on Etsy, which one could argue that those artists are making conscious choices to be outside of the art world or sell their work in an entrepreneurial way in addition to being a part of the art world).

Though one can argue that the art world is intertwined (or even dependent on) the art market (or the capitalist economic system), I think it can be problematic and dangerous to use capitalism's rhetoric.  The system should not define modes of making within the art world, even if it lasts forever and the art world's relationship to it does not change.  

One must also admit that making money as an artist is a necessity but should not ever determine the entirety or reason of one's production.  As a function of capitalism and a part of the small business economy, entrepreneurship has the end goal of gaining capital.  The two are opposed to one another.   

I, of course, am open to suggestions on possible replacement words.  My suggestions come from a life spent working to avoid the system as much as possible, so in some ways the vocabulary is against it but also acknowledge its prevalence.  Perhaps there is some better substitute.