Today’s Deep Thought Thursday is written by guest blogger Yong Joo Kim.
In school, I got the impression that “selling” was “below” artists. “How do artists make a living?” students would ask. “Teach” was the most flippant answer. So I did. And it was wonderful. But it was not sufficient to make a living. To live off of teaching, you had to be a full-time professor. And full time positions in art is scarce, not to mention highly segmented.
While contemplating my options, I got to talking with my friend with an MBA.
“Why aren’t you selling your work?” he asked
“Sell? That’s not what artists do.” I responded.
“What do you do then?” he asked.
“I make art.” I responded.
“Then what?” he asked.
“I send it off to exhibitions or galleries.” I responded.
“And what? Hope for the best?” he asked, sarcastically.
“Sure.” I responded as-a-matter-of-factly.
“That’s the most uncreative thing I’ve ever heard of” he exclaimed.
“What?!” I responded, shocked and annoyed.
“You call yourself an artist and that’s the most creative business model you can come up with?” he continued.
“What are you talking about?” I responded, offended, not even knowing what a business model was.
“MBAs would kill to be in your position.” he said.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, confused.
“You see, our passion is in making businesses, not products. But businesses sell products or services. So when we graduate we are going crazy trying to figure out what to sell. Artists like you already have that problem solved. So it pains me to sit here watching you parked on your ass hoping for the best.” he exclaimed.
“You just don’t understand! Art is not for money.” I fight back, feeling the need to defend myself and the discipline of art.
“Who said anything about money? You’re thinking about large corporations. Not all business is infatuated with money. Money is a natural byproduct of a business exchange. It is the currency of business. But business, at its core, is about forming reciprocal relationships.” he said, firmly.
“Reciprocal relationships?” I asked, unsure of what to make of his reply.
“Yes! A business decides to offer something they believe will have a positive impact on a group of people. Armed with this idea, they go around different markets trying to find such people, and when they do, they exchange their goods for money.” he said, passionately.
“That’s it?” I responded, quietly.
“That’s it.” he reassured me.
“Don’t I have to change what I make or how I make things to suit people’s tastes?” I asked, unsure of myself.
“Not if you can find people who like your offer as it is.” he explained, as I was still digesting what all this means.
“You see, I think Art has tremendous value in society. Yet for some reason, you artists are content with hanging your work on the wall of museums and galleries. Oh, and you guys know nothing about business, yet assume to know everything about it. That’s just plain ignorant and lazy. Take some responsibility for your work! Find a way to get it out there in the real world!” He had thrown his final blow.
Deep Thought Thursday
Ever had a conversation like this?
A native of Seoul, Korea, Yong Joo Kim is a Niche award-winning artist and co-founder and executive director of Sublime Experiment who explores how beauty emerges by investigating both conscious and sub-conscious modes of making. Yong Joo’s work has been selected as part of the prestigious Museum of Arts and Design’s (MAD) permanent collection and has been internationally exhibited at museums and galleries.