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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Discovering Artists at the Grass Roots Level

Recently a New York Times article was written about the Hollywood mega talent agent Joshua Roth and how he was delving out into the art world to seek talented artists to represent. I've long advocated that this is one of the steps needed to really really kickstart the art world into new methods and directions. In fact I see it as a sign that a revolution truly is taking place in the art world. I applaud Mr. Roth for taking these steps.
Now for some of the things that concern me.

First, it takes an innate instinct to know good art and to see it at the ground level. I equate this to publishers in the book world. A good publisher knows early on when a book idea has great potential. I have no doubt that Mr. Roth has a great eye for spotting talent. But does he have a great eye for spotting great art? I honestly can't answer that...yet. But an indication from the article written gives me a clue. From the New York Times article I quote:
"Mr. Roth’s assistant is busy planning his trips to scout talent — not just at Cannes and Sundance, but at Art Basel Hong Kong and the Frieze Art Fair in New York."
By all outward appearances that is a good sign. But is it? It says to me that Mr. Roth, rather than relying on his own eye and the artistic eyes of his staff is instead relying on the eyes of the big art selling entities. There is no doubt in my mind that there is great art at these venues. But, it says to me that Mr. Roth still needs to develop his own artistic eye.

The other thing that it indicates is that there is a potential for Art Agents to go down the same road as publishing agents and talent agents who will rarely take the time to look at grass roots talent. They will rely only on vetted artists that have come through the system already. This saddens me because the greatest artists are often the unseen ones who through economic status or just plain lousy luck have never been discovered. Does that mean they are not talented? No, it just means they were not one of the fortunate few to be noticed.

I would suggest to Mr. Roth that while looking for great artists at the important art venues of the world that he also devote a bit of time and resources to watching for artists at the grass roots level also. If he truly wants to make a name for himself, discovering an already discovered artists is not the way to go.

The vetting process serves a purpose, it weeds out those that just do not have the talent even if they wish they did. But there are many left behind also. Face it, the gallery system used to act as one of those vetting mechanisms, but at this point that system is so broken that many extremely talented individuals never get seen.

The days of Lana Turner (yes a Hollywood talent agent cliche) being discovered in an ice cream parlor are over.

But to Mr. Roth's credit, he said the following:
“I’m interested in artists who are re-envisioning the way to make art and re-envisioning how people experience it,”
This is a good sign. It says to me that he is willing to go out there and truly find the next great artists of our age. It is this kind of effort that will herald a true revolution in the art world.

The artists must do their part also. We can't expect to get seen if we never leave our studios. I recently wrote an article called "Artists as Rock Stars - Creating Excitement in the Art World". As much as we artists might dislike it, this is one way we play our part.

Artists don't like to think about this aspect of what they do. They think that talent sells work. If they are great artists then inevitably their work will sell. Sadly this is often not the case. Selling is as hard as creating and it will take the talents of people like Mr. Roth to help bring the unseen artists to the public's attention

It will take the movers and shakers to change the art world and I am hoping Joshua Roth is one of them. Never forget "The Revolution Begins With Beauty".


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