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.


Miki Willa said...

First, I want to say I love the painting. I have always enjoyed seeing your pastel work. The colors in this one are very inviting. The fruit glows just like a pomegranate should.
Who gets to determine who is the best and brightest in any thing? In the arts, it seems there are many judges. It used to be the Salon. Now, it seems to be magazine editors, show judges, teachers, art leagues and societies and bloggers. Each group has its own set of criteria. As a blogger, I know that I select my favorites to list on blogs I watch based on personal responses to the art. In reality, I am not sure there can be an all inclusive list of the best and brightest artists based on skills and quality of work until all the artists out there have greater exposure. I have seen some phenominal work by people who have no interest in showing or marketing it. That being said, any list of the best and brighest artists would have to have a subtitle "of well known artists."
It will be interesting to follow this conversation.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful painting - which interestingly looks like oils to me!! Interesting topic as well - not easy to judge art objectively since art is almost by default subjective...

vivien said...

lovely work :>)

yes, these sort of judgements on who is the best always make me want to say 'sez WHO?'

(like when students quote 'rules' about painting to me! usually starting 'oh you must always ...' sez WHO??? I ask)

It always seems meaningless to me - artistic judgement is so individual, biased, personal - styles and concepts so different that they are chalk and cheese. How to compare??????

Even Miki's 'well known' invites a 'by whom' Artists I know who are at the top of their field are unknown to many of my students. I don't know a lot of the US artists quoted online and American friends haven't heard of the English artists ....

It's one of those tick box exercises that I hate so much !

A Brush with Color said...

I feel the same way about writers, too...I have a feeling it's only after we're all dead and gone that history will determine who really was the best and brightest, in terms of long-term influence on the rest of us. Think of the famous art movements, and it's only after artists were dead that they were lauded. Monet, Van Gogh, etc...We probably won't know who out there influenced our moment in time until we look back on it. But there are so many talented people "out there" right now, and I agree--it seems so subjective in many ways. It will be interesting to see who "shines" in history later on from this period in time.

adebanji said...

Nothing much to say on the best stuff but that painting of Clementines is one of the best! Beautiful, beautiful colours/intensity!

Jeanette Jobson said...

I love the pomegranates to start with! the lovely lushness of the seeds and creamy interior are delicious.

As for best and brightest. Phew...I'm in agreement with what's been said so far. It is so subjective but art, in many ways, holds court and sway with money and all that it represents when it comes to the cliched 'best and brightest'.

To a mother, her 5 year old's drawing on the fridge represents the best and brightest. To a collector with snob appeal, it is the most trendy artist or the one commanding the most money that is the best and brightest.

There is no best and brightest or there are hundreds. It all depends on an individual viewpoint or the influence of media and public desire.

Lindsay said...

Beautiful painting Katherine.

I've become very jaded when it comes to "official" pronouncements of who's work is great. What concerns me most is weather or not the work is honest. Does it touch something in me that connects us. (viewer and artist) Sounds arbitrary but it seems more authentic that basing opinoins of greatness on what sells.

Robyn Sinclair said...

Wonderful capture of the pomegranate, Katherine. And congratulations for winning a place in the catalogue for your kittens - not that I'm surprised.

Making A Mark said...

Thanks for all the very nice comments about my pastel! :)

An aside - in relation to "the gilded" of Wall Street. I read Paul Krugman in the New York Times and on Sunday he wrote Money for Nothing. It's worth reading in relation to the wider context.

glen said...

..........and who said the phrase: "The Art of Selling" Is it really an art?

Casey Klahn said...

My compliments on the pomegranate pastel - very wonderful!

Jennifer Young said...

I, too, enjoy your lovely handling in this pomegranite piece.

Your post reminds me of an art history class I took in college. The question posed on the first day of class was somewhat broader, but similar; "What is Art?" (I can almost hear the groans now! LOL!)

I remember feeling very dissatisfied with the answer. After a very long lecture with slides of poop in a white room and a crucifix in urine, man nailing himself to a volkswagon, etc., the prof summarized that these things can only be called art by someone in a position to do so. In short--the educated elite.

So if an "educated elite" never happens to come across your work and call it art, then what? It's a non-starter? It ceases to be? It's kind of like the "if a tree falls in the forest" question.

I really don't have the ultimate answer, either to your question or to the broader one. They seem rather circular questions, really, as too much depends on taste. The only bottom line answer I ever seem to come up with is: Depends on who you ask.

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