Monday, April 27, 2009

Who are the "best and the brightest" artists?

"The best and the brightest" is a term which gets bandied around from time to time.

As the credit crunch progressed, I began to wonder more and more why the term was frequently applied to describe those who worked in Wall Street and why they deserved their mega salaries and bonuses. I found myself nodding vigorously as I read through a blog post titled Better and Brighter by Judith Warner on the New York times which questioned when/why the phrase "best and brightest" came to be applied to people who work on Wall Street. I'm not sure how many would agree about that they deserve this description now. I'd quite like to export rather a lot of them to very distant shores!

Clemente Pomegranate
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Then I began to wonder about who are the "best and the brightest" in terms of contemporary artists.

Thoughts were stimulated at least in part by the way the wheels appeared to be coming off that steamroller formerly known as the contemporary art market.

Then I began to wonder what criteria are used to determine who are the "best and the brightest".

I would argue for example, that a lot of the 'kudos' directed at the Brit Artists (Damien Hirst et al) was stimulated by some very clever marketing rather than very clever ideas, originality or innovation. Marketing may be clever but it doesn't create substance!

I don't have any answers - but I do think it's an interesting question. One which also generates some other questions such as:
  • What does "best" mean and who are the best? According to whose criteria?
  • "What does "brightest" mean? Is about intelligence and being 'clever' or does it mean something else?
  • Who is qualified to say who are the "best and the brightest"? (How do you avoid the term being used for pure hype?)
  • Are the "best and brightest" about promise or delivery? (Do the lights dim?)
  • Is it about being inspirational or being authentic or both?
  • Are the "best and the brightest" artists the ones who make the most money?
  • Do the "best and the brightest" generate art of lasting value? If so, how long do we need to wait before we can determine who are the "best and the brightest" artists?
I'm sure you can think of some more questions - and maybe even suggest a few answers!

I'm always very nervous about putting up my art on blog posts of this sort! Which is why you're getting an old one!

Do please feel free to comment, ask more questions or even try and provide some answers.