Monday, April 23, 2012

KINKADE VERSUS HIRST - Who you callin' commercial?

Thomas Kinkade

Both of these names might make you wrinkle your nose in disgust for their artwork. Thomas Kinkade creates soft, warm, paintings of light, and Damien Hirst paints dots. Funny thing is, one of them is looked down upon by the "art world", being labeled a "commercial" artist, and the other is praised and saluted with a global exhibition of polka dot paintings. One was successful in his own right, and the other is involved with a blue chip, contemporary, "fine art" gallery. One artist made happy paintings that were nostalgic and the other creates conceptual art that makes you go, "WTF?" Both artists made boatloads of money off their work, both artists used assistants to create their work, but only one is considered to be a "real" artist by the "art world", and the other is "commercial."

Damien Hirst

Seriously people? Show me an artist who isn't a commercial artist. Show me an artist that doesn't want to sell their work, that doesn't want to have others appreciate and exhibit their work. Show me an artist that doesn't want to have people look at and talk about their artistic achievements, and I'll show you a liar; or should I say an idiot? Artists make art, that is their product, and just like any other business they should want to move their product. What serious artist would not want to make a living off of making artwork? Sure people like the idea of the recluse artist whose gigantic body of work is discovered after they pass, like Darger, but for the most part art is meant to be viewed, talked about, and experienced. I mean, if you're an artist and you're making paintings that you don't want people to see, "Why the f&$k are you making paintings?"

Thomas Kinkade
Damien Hirst

This kind of stuff grinds my sh&t. Polka dot paintings are viewed as conceptual, and popular paintings of pastoral landscapes are deemed commercial. Hirst sold the most expensive piece of art ever! Wouldn't that make him COMMERCIAL??? Or the most commercial, or the commercialiest??? I tend to feel that it has more to do with the fact that Kinkade did it on his own. He built a brand and an artistic empire, franchised galleries, made lots of people happy with his work, and made MONEY. It seems like you can make whatever you want, but if you don't play by the rules of the "art world" you will be shunned and deemed a "commercial" artist. Spin paintings are "fine art" and idealized American cityscapes are "commercial." Really?
Just to be clear, I don't care for either of these artists' works. Sentimental, fluffy paintings do the same thing for me that conceptual pickled sharks do... nothing. I just think it's a little ridiculous for "real" artists to be separated from "commercial" artists. It's very much like calling bands "sell-outs" when they finally get a big record deal. I guess if you play your cards right you could be praised from both sides like...? Oh yeah this guy.   

Louis Vuitton bags designed by Murakami
Takashi Murakami

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great piece. This whole song and dance that the "art world" pushes on artists is insufferable. Art is a business. It just happens to be one in which you can express yourself. Everyone wants to be noticed and appreciated for what they do and those who deny it are full of it or probably just afraid.

When you mentioned "Show me an artist who..." one person came to mind. Her name's Brenda Lopez and she's worked under the pen names LonelyPlanetGirl and RepeatingDefect. She'll sell a print maybe here or there but she does fear moving forward to anything else because she's been following the notion of 'selling out'. Its a shame really, because she's built stories and personality for these characters that could even hit a graphic novel.

A good amount of people like her art and have followed her for over 9 years now. I personally love her art for the same reason I really enjoy yours. Without getting too artsy about it, I like that you guys have this very...American(?) style that has been hard to come by. Well to me anyway, but what the hell do I know.

Anyway. The art world should be open minded to the fact that the same work goes into designing the ergonomics and label of a Pepsi bottle than the designs on a hand bag. Its about getting people to like and want the art.

But sadly this industry is inundated with contrarian people that get off on 'getting and liking' work others don't seem to 'get'. A squiggly line one inch long on a canvass 30 feet wide is considered 'moving' and, I've actually heard this, "speaks volumes about the limit of life". Banksy's art is "rebellious, controversial and brave", Britto "speaks to the child within" while a Thomas Kinkade is deemed "uninspired, commercial and generic."

The'll never consider the ironic notion "Hey, maybe I just don't "get" Kinkade. But like the 30 year olds that complain that Justin Bieber (A teen pop star aimed at teens) will never be as good as Led Zeppelin, these contrarian twats are here to stay. But its good to point them out. Its good to write at them, cut them short, call out their bullshit. This way, more people won't fear some stupid notion of "selling out".