Living Artists: Let’s not overlook them whilst focussing on the past

Commentary

A recent event in France made me rethink the state of things for living artists not only in Australia, but wordwide, in particular during the past two years.

Whilst it is good to remember our artistic heritage, as is the case of the work by Christo and Jean-Claude, an important fact that I urge everyone to remember, in deference to them, is to support the living artists who work in our communities.

This topic came to mind as the recent dedication to Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon was created in Paris. Both have now died, and the project that was never realised during their lifetimes has been completed by completely wrappping the L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Covered by the Guardian newspaper and various social media sites, there has been both support and criticism of this event. Some saying, according to the Guardian, it likens to “the wrapping to an unmade bed. Journalist André Bercoff stating that it looked like a giant bin bag. “One of the critiques is that this is too much of an event, and people say that means it is not really art but something more like megalomania,” Koddenberg says” (Guardian September 24, 2021).

What wasn’t mentioned is that attention like this takes away from what is, or is not happening for living fine and visual artists, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate, and have learnt much from many historical work by artists. What they have contributed is important to understanding our culture and who we are. What I am saying is that sole or concentrated attention on work by non-living artists often takes away from living ones who still need support both financial and moral.

It is, I think, more than time to not allow artists to live in poverty working for the love of what and who they are, only to have, sometimes, and not that often, their work “discovered” after their death and suddenly given values that would have seen them living a much better standard than they may have had during their lifetimes.

Too much sensationalist art takes up the space that should be allowing for a more diverse admission of creative work by living artists. So, if you have ever thought, “oh I would have loved to be able to buy a painting by that famous artist, but it is valued way above anything I could ever pay” remember that often that artist never saw the kind of money that is now being asked for their work. Their work often only barely paid their rent or bought them food and materials unless they were from wealthy families. Think about that if you are considering entering the art market for a purchase.

There is more to consider than a famous name. Do you like the artist? Find out about them. Do you love their work? Are they living and will your purchase and support make a difference to their lives? Will it help them to continue to produce their art? Please think about that because your decisions and preferences make a difference to living artists, rather than big art aucton houses, and art brokers of the deceased.

The dead have no needs other than that we remember them, learn from them, protect and preserve their work, and as artists pay respect to their achievements. The living on the other hand…

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