Navigating the arts in post-millenial capitalism

It is not an unknown issue that with any art arises the issue of reception, and consequently subjectivity.
Once you have released your masterpiece to the world, it is disputable whether you are any longer the possessor of it, as it is left to the wider community to dissect, use and control.

It’s like being Paul McCartney in a world of Michael Jacksons. And then, as a result, whatever form of art you produce (be it literature, sculpture, music); the debate begins about what your creation really ‘means,’ and whether it’s really great, or frankly a load of bollocks. It’s like that painting you slaved away over in art GCSE that you were convinced was worthy of an A*, but for whatever reason your teacher only graced it with a C.

“Does quantifying and equally measuring the pay of artists devalue the very existence of art itself?”

So, post GCSE, when you enter the terrifying world of adulthood seething with capitalism, how does the issue of money translate? Should we be paid by the value of our work, by its ‘greatness’? Or does the difference in opinion of ‘greatness’ make for this too difficult to determine? Is it simply too unjust to provide different rates to artists, assuming that any determination in their pay will have arisen from a place of subjectivity? Whilst journalists can be paid for a service, this is a quantifiable and tangible amount of work. Competition winners, for example, have been selected through a process of opinion and arguably are awarded cash through luck, depending who’s on the judgement panel, or which members of the public decided to vote etc. Though on the flip side, we wouldn’t necessarily say the same thing for Wimbledon finalists.

“the debate begins about what your creation really ‘means,’ and whether it’s really great, or frankly a load of bollocks”

Obviously, we cannot expect artists to produce work for free, but how do we go about tackling this issue of payment? Helen Marten, Turner Prize nominee, believes she has the answer. Having just won the Hepworth prize for sculpture, she vowed to share the prize money with other nominees. I can’t decide if this is a stunning act of generosity, aiming to empower the work of artists everywhere, or whether to be honest it’s just a bit patronising. Surely, it would feel like salt in the wound for the other nominees after losing. Furthermore, does quantifying and equally measuring the pay of artists devalue the very existence of art itself – by ignoring one of the key features of its form? One of the greatest things about art, literature, photography, and any other style is the contrast in opinions and beliefs that are triggered by it. No single person experiences art in the same way.

Therefore, I’m not so sure I agree with Marten’s approach. I can understand its sentiment, but in reality it feels a little hollow and condescending. If she felt the desire to give away the money, were there no other causes in more desperate need? Perhaps her donations would have been better received by charitable cases, for example. Or, alternatively, if we are to continue to support the value of artistry, we should invest in projects that support artists and young people, instead of just cashing out the money afterwards. Teach a man to fish and all that.

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