Labels exist everywhere in our society, and in the art world they thrive.  Artists are not only required to give a label to the type of artwork they create, but they must also label themselves within the hierarchy of the art world. And labels such as “emerging artist” and “mid-career artist” go unchallenged.  They are used with such frequency and fervor they have become an integral part of the art world vocabulary. And horror of horrors, even artists use these terms to describe themselves!

The blog Bmore Art which thankfully is against artist labels describes an emerging artist as “someone who’s in the early stage of their career, someone who’s caught the eye of an art critic and/or gallery, but hasn’t yet established a solid reputation as an artist amongst art critics, art buyers, and art galleries. “ The blog also describes an “emerging artist” as “An artist who has specialized training in his or her field (not necessarily gained in an academic institution), who is at the beginning of his or her career, and who has created a modest independent body of work.”

On the other hand, the Jerome Foundation supports “emerging professional artists who are the principal creators of new work, and who take risks and embrace challenges; whose developing voices reveal significant potential; who are rigorous in their approach to creation and production; who have some evidence of professional achievement but not a substantial record of accomplishment; and who are not recognized as established artists by other artists, curators, producers, critics, and arts administrators.”

In an article in Forbes, art appraiser Danielle Rahm writes about four artists whose work has received national and international recognition and is priced from $2,500 to $10,000. She labels all four artists as “emerging.”

The multimedia magazine DIS takes a different approach to the subject of artist labels in its video Emerging Artist. The video “explores contemporary culture’s obsession with the newest, freshest thing. Extreme youth. Pregnancy. Kim Kardashian’s unborn baby North, MTV’s Teen Mom, every cover of US Weekly; it’s practically a movement. Our desire for younger and younger artists is insatiable and growing as mothers in Williamsburg cradle their newborns to classes for ‘young artists’ ages 0–6 months—while artists at 30 ask, Am I too old?”

Humor aside, when it comes to pricing artwork, regardless of all of the abounding myths, career labels are inconsequential. Artists who are relatively new to the art world can sell work at higher prices than those artists who have an extensive exhibition record. I have seen this happen many times over. The difference between the two groups is that the artists with less experience in the art world have more self-confidence in their work and trust their own judgment regarding pricing, versus deferring to the self-serving directives of art dealers. Caroll Michels © 2015


Last July, writer Daniel Grant wrote about the pros and cons of being an artist’s studio assistant in an article in the New York Observer titled “Low Pay, Monotonous Work: Are Artist Assistant Positions Worth the Trouble?”

A few weeks later, Jillian Steinhauer wrote an article in Hyperallergic about the Marina Abramovic Institute which placed an ad on the website of the New York Foundation for the Arts announcing four unpaid studio assistant positions. Steinhauer pointed out that “Abramovic raised over $660,000 for her institute on Kickstarter in June. . . and recently ‘collaborated’ with Adidas. Yet somehow she cannot afford to pay people to work for

ARTISTS AND THE ART WORLD SOUNDOFF, created by Spector Projects, is a collection of first-person stories from the art world. “These are experiences that tell who we are, how we got here and what goes on while we do what we do. The art world is not easily defined. From the outside it is foreign and quirky, with ideas that separate it from all else. Inside, the makers, sellers, reviewers, administrators, curators, and academics coexist and work in harmony with completely different agendas. In its hugeness it is ultimately rooted in self-expression and kept alive by the thrust of people who need to create.” New stories are added bimonthly.