Does Talent Matter?

What is talent? Is it skill? Is it theory? Is it marketing? Hmm…how do the powers that be choose what is, and isn’t worthy?

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Ledger 1982 by Robert Ryman born 1930

ABOVE: Robert Ryman, Ledger, 1982, enamelac paint on fibreglass & aluminium and wood, 30 x 28 x 1.4 inches, Tate Britain, Photo: © Tate, London [2014]

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“I’m not limited by a certain narrative that I want to get across. There’s no symbolism or story that I need to tell or some kind of political project that I might want to do.” Robert Ryman

“I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.” Jeff Koons

“The best spot painting you can have by me is one painted by Rachel.” Damien Hirst

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Does talent matter at the top of the art world? If so, how is it quantified?

To many, talent refers to technical skill, but:

You don’t need to know how to draw, paint, or sculpt to be successful.

To others, talent refers to ideas, but:

You need a fancy degree (lots of $’s) in order to be taken seriously.

Hmm. How do the powers that be choose the art stars of tomorrow?

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2 responses to “Does Talent Matter?

  1. Ah, investment art, high end galleries and auction houses, and the marketing gurus that must have gotten them to that level. Sounds similar to what I’ve heard referred to as the Greater Fool Theory.

    The highest end of the high end investment art world seems like a parallel universe to the one most artists work in. If you take away the schtick, the hype, etc, if there are any good marketing strategies left, they might be studied and applied to the real world. Otherwise I find this high end art world mildly interesting but usually kind of disappointing.

    Of course, it’s just my opinion, but I think technical skills and conceptual skills are both needed. And, being able to reproduce what things look like is only one measure of skill. When talent really shines is when artists hit it on all the marks, regardless of style, it’s more a matter of heart and soul of the piece. Just one of the many things in art that can’t be measured or weighed.

    A fancy degree? I have a degree but never thought of it as fancy. 😉 It was cheap when I went, and I don’t know how anyone affords college these days, in any degree field. There does seem to be a correlation between the lowering of education in the US and the population’s susceptibility to propaganda, scams, etc. That’s the scary thing, not whether they ever had any formal drawing instruction. Art education is a way to focus on art for a few years, but most of what any artist learns is thru the countless hours of practice, of a life time of making art. Like most of the students I knew back then, we had established styles and at least fundamental skills, and had definite concepts. Without those things I doubt a school could make an artist out of someone, that’s just not how it works. So having a degree or not won’t make or break artists. What it can help with, besides years of focus on your art, is that if you want to work in the arts industry as an employee it greatly helps get your first jobs if you have a degree. Once established, no one really cares or asks. And I’ve never had a gallery or show organizer ask if I had a degree as a prerequisite to getting in. I would do my college education over if I suddenly found myself back in the 80s, but I would take some business classes. Art and business together would really prepare artists for making a living at it. Art alone doesn’t. And business alone might lead you off on some tangent like…well, business.

    • Thanks Cindy,

      I really enjoy reading your well thought out comments.

      I should clarify what I meant by a fancy degree:

      I don’t have a problem with art school. If I had a do over, I would probably have gone myself.

      What I think of as fancy, are the six-figure MFA’s from schools like Yale.

      Conceptual art (which has been wildly popular for decades) is largely academic in nature, and where you went to school matters a great deal at the top of the art world.

      That said, I am not a conceptual artist (nor, am I anywhere near the top of the art world), so your thoughts on art school are well-founded and definitely true.

      Thanks again, for writing such great comments.

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