An Unusual Way of Getting Your Art into a Museum

7 Jan

Recently in Poland, my homeland that I’ve never actually been in, a young art student chose to forgo standard procedure and covertly hung one of his paintings in a major Warsaw gallery.

“I decided that I will not wait 30 or 40 years for my works to appear at a place like this,” Sobiepan told reporters. “I want to benefit from them in the here and now.”

So do we all, son.

While I smile at his effrontery — and wonder at how he smuggled a painting in, past the guard, and managed to pound a nail up there without anyone noticing — I am also consternated that such an attitude reaps its own reward: while the museum took down the painting from its briefly stolen space, they re-hung it in their cafe. And the artist is reaping attention and benefits because of what he did — not because of what he paints.

“Someone will buy it just because of the story behind it,” the Norwegian Artist said at the breakfast table this morning. “His career is made, not based upon his skill as a painter, but because of his nerve.” (Actually, the N.A. used another term that rhymes with “halls” or “stalls.”)

It is eminently understandable the young man’s frustration at getting through to museum officials, gallery personnel, magazine editors, professional art organizations — any group sets up its criteria, and after awhile, that criteria can get in the way of its original intention: to seek and showcase fine art, whether it is done by an established name or by a struggling, emerging artist.

Realistically, some good art gets shown, but so does bad art, simply because once the artist has broken the barrier and made his name, he could paint old Playboy calendars from the mechanic’s back room with compost-derived paint and get it hung, showcased, admired and sold.

So the young man decided to take a short cut.

Robert Frost had it right when he talked about the road less traveled; it's worth taking. After the Harvest Rain by Steve Henderson

But in the same way most of us have learned to be wary of Uncle Rob’s famous short cut that shaves 30 miles off the trip, our common sense tells us that anything worth having is worth working for. If the old guard doesn’t work — if the museums close their ears and the major art organizations pick the same old things over and over for their prize winners and the galleries sniff that they’re full and the magazines print a new article about the same artist three issues in succession — then find a different road.

Not only will it not be a short cut, it will probably be longer, and since it isn’t very well used, it won’t be as easy to follow, but it will get you to a different destination, with different scenery along the way.


4 Responses to “An Unusual Way of Getting Your Art into a Museum”

  1. Sara Martin January 7, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I enjoyed your post, especially your ruminations about the different paths we choose and the experience of the journey. But I don’t share your consternation with the gallery imposter — it’s possible he is more interested in earning recognition for his nerve than his artistic talent (a gift that has served countless innovators). In which case, this move could be the perfect step on his unique path. All the same, I enjoyed your perspective very much. Thanks for sharing!

    • middleagedplague January 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      My consternation stems from his poseur as a showman, a marketer, a savvy and cunning “freethinker” masking himself as an artist. There are, unfortunately, too many of such people making tremendous amounts of money as “artists,” when that is what they are not. Their art is indifferent, many times amateurly and poorly executed, and yet, because they have such a way of convincing and persuading people, they are lauded for their artistic ability.

      The result is that people look at bad art as good, and don’t recognize good art when they see it.

  2. bearrunner January 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Love the painting.!

    • middleagedplague January 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Thank you. A local collector tracked me down in the grocery store to purchase this painting, because, without knowing it, Steve (Henderson, the painter) had captured a well known and well loved path that she drove every day.

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