Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Amateur vs. Professional—What is Valued in Art
I participated in a neighborhood opening a few days ago. I knew I might be among amateur artists, and that’s fine. But it got me thinking about how art is judged, compared to, say, Olympic sports, or even dance. There are clear standards in sports. The lines are smudgey for ballroom dancing or ice skating, although they are considered sports too. But for visual art, how do we judge what is “professional” compared to what is student or amateur?
And judge we do.
I led a class discussion with brand new students on how quality is determined in the contemporary artworld. The arts scene in my corner of SoCal is not great. We’re a conservative area, a tourist mecca; we’re not into culture, at least not the visual arts. When I talk to my students I understand why better. These are art students, they’re in my classes because they’ve self-selected to study art, and still they feel mostly contempt for contemporary art. The exact word that kept coming up was “crap.” It’s my job to enlighten them, but really, they should already be on that road. Some are not even at the trail-head yet.