“This gallery does not accept unsolicited submissions from artists.”
Art galleries are playing it safe by discouraging emerging artists from contacting them directly. Yes it's a drag, but not all artists follow the usual degree show, who-you-know, not what-you-know method.
Advertising had a similar problem until it decided to stop trawling academia for creatives and encouraged original thinkers from all walks of life to get in touch.
When I was starting out in advertising at J Walter Thompson in Berkeley Square back in 1971 (I think?), where Bridget Riley worked as an illustrator and Martin Amis a trainee copywriter, many writers were still Oxbridge firsts, and art directors from art schools. Most client-facing positions were either ex military and, or, old Etonians.
All that changed, thanks to the creative revolution in advertising, which started in the US during the 60s, where new agencies bearing non-Waspish names such as Bernbach, Galgano and Della Femina took the industry by storm. Creative standards improved dramatically with daringly different campaigns for VW, Avis and Benson & Hedges.
Writing in the Spectator, a former colleague, Rory Sutherland, who is now Vice Chairman of the advertising agency, Ogilvy UK, explained why he started hiring people with thirds, rather then the usual firsts. He stated, “If you recruit only using a single measure, your pool of talent becomes dangerously homogeneous.”
He stated, “It’s hard to tell the difference between a university and a business school nowadays. Where are all the hippies, the potheads and the commies? And why is everyone so intently serious and sober all the time? ‘Oh, it’s simple,’ a friend explained. ‘If you don’t get a 2:1 or a first nowadays, employers won’t look at your CV.’”
When I was a creative director of a number of ad agencies, I found that many aspiring copywriters with firsts in English had a stiff, academic style and were more concerned with style, rather than compelling, innovative ideas.
Aspiring art directors too, were often more concerned with the latest typefaces, photographic styles and layouts than the big idea.
Rather than sit back complacently waiting, or simply trawling degree shows, I kept an eye out for the “crazies” and ran ads for new people. It worked. We hired many outstanding creatives, many of whom went on to win numerous awards and head up creative departments and agencies.
So, returning to art, have galleries fallen into the trap of trawling degree shows or art fairs and not being proactive enough? They’re missing a trick, because, every ad agency now actually encourages applications. It’s essential, in order to discover new talent; new blood.
Why don’t art galleries encourage submissions from artists? It seem that for some, managing the estates of dead artists is becoming increasingly popular. Presumably it’s more profitable and is less hassle than dealing with irritatingly living artists.
It’s a shame, because if this carries on, it will help encourage the rise of flippers even further. And that is unfortunate, because their primary and possibly only motivation, is fast profit, often at the expense of “their” artists’ long-term careers.
It also encourages the emergence of pushy, self-promoting “artists” who are adept at climbing the networking grapevine, rather than those who may be, as many are, introspective, or introverted. I’d rather deal with the latter and generally find them to be more interesting, inventive and more talented.
The current system encourages artpreneurs such as Jeff Koons, who the late, great critic, Robert Hughes described as follows: “He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida.”
Incidentally, Koons’s cringeworthy, unoriginal and amateurish Jim Beam ads wouldn’t have got him through the door of any reputable, or even disreputable agency in the world.
So, where is new talent? Are they to be found in art schools only? Or will we have to look further afield?
Have there been any new movements since the YBAs? No. They're all now middle- aged. No wonder collectors at art fairs and auctions are complaining about seeing the same old work by the same old multi-millionaire artists.
Every now and then a maverick, or outsider, in the true sense of the word, not those who are self-taught, comes along with a totally different view of the world and lets us see everything from a different perspective. I look forward to seeing someone emerge soon.
So, wake up art galleries, or the next generation of original talent may either adopt a new, online combined with pop-up galley model to sell their work, or ignore art and wend its way to areas such as game development, design, advertising or digital content; where the industry leaders get off their fat arses and actively seek and encourage innovation and fresh talent.