Art Schools – A Ponzi Scheme

Charles Ponzi allegedly writing a check to Jeff Koons. (I allege it by the way)

Of those people, who have attended art school, very few manage to make their living from selling their art afterwards and even fewer get rich. Everyone seems to have accepted that and even while I was attending art school, that was constantly something people were talking about. It is now ten years since I have left art school and maybe things have changed drastically, but from the outside glimpses I get, I doubt it. Back then, the main goal for most students seemed to be the art market. That was the stuff worth hoping for. Whenever a gallerist came for a visit, people got excited. When there was the annual open house event, people were hoping to be discovered or to meet affluent buyers. Very few did. But the excitement remained. Just hope, maybe the next gallerist visiting might discover your potential or maybe the next group of visitors is going to make you rich.

In retrospect, the whole thing has some characteristics of a cult or a Ponzi scheme. The promise to make it in the end keeps everyone involved, even though most people fail in one way or the other.

I think that the focus should be entirely different. Art schools should distance themselves from the art market and understand themselves as scientific institutions. Not sellability should be the focus, but research. This goes even further. Does it really matter how often one’s art is being shown in a museum or gallery? Right now, with the way the art world is structured, it certainly does. I am struggling with the whole topic myself, maybe art should become something that works as pure discourse, without being shown. I am not talking about artist who present this discourse as performative works – that would be once again an attempt to please the established environment of exhibitions in museums and galleries. No, artists should be able to participate merely in the discourse itself and still be considered artists.

Creating stuff has become a key part of modern, middle class lifestyle. Only if you are somehow creative, you seem to be a full-fledged member of society. And not only do people create stuff, the creations are shared constantly. There is this “five stages of grief” thing (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). I wonder what stage the art world might be in. Sure, that is self-help-guidebook nonsense, but poking at these things can be fun.

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