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