Long ago I wrote a post in which I attempted to define art, purely from a theoretical and also idealistic viewpoint. You can read “Definition of art – A Theoretical Standpoint” here. In that post I had promised that one-day I would write its sequel, which would present the practical viewpoint. This is that post.
- If you are a budding artist, full of hope and brimming with confidence that you’d follow in Hussain’s or Raza’s footsteps, step back now. Don’t read this post. You can come back to read it after you’ve spent at least a decade trying to figure out whatever the heck didn’t work for you. It isn’t for you.
- If painting is your only skill, and if you’ve got some surety that you’ll have someone to support your artistic pursuits all your life, without of course, expecting success in return (you know about Van Gogh, I presume) still this post isn’t for you. You might yet become what you aspire to be.
- And finally, if you are indeed someone who comes from a well-connected family, even if you don’t draw, I’d recommend that you paint a few canvasses. The exhibitions, the fame, and even the sale of your paintings; they’ll all happen without your ever discovering why.
However, if you aren’t among the three types listed above, instead you are the more common type (the stereotypical struggling, starving artist who has crossed into his thirties and has a wife and a child to fend for,) you might want to print this post and tack it to your soft-board…or in the more realistic scenario of your not being able to afford a soft-board, you must fold the printout and put it in the only pocket of your trousers that still doesn’t have holes.
Here’s the practical definition of Art.
Art – A Practical Definition:
Art is what sells at the famous art galleries for sky-high prices.
Practically speaking art is nothing more than this.
How you get to sell your art in those famed galleries could be a matter of:
- The X-factor
Let me explain the above four points in greater detail.
Art Element 1: Luck
You’ve got this fabulous collection of innovative work, and you are wondering how to exhibit it. You get a call from someone who’s seen your work, admired it; and who knows someone who is somebody in the artistic circles. This person comes to your studio, checks out your work, swoons, and decides to exhibit your work in a prominent gallery. Voila! Lady Luck has short-listed you. Now your chances are bright that you’d indeed get lucky.
I’d put your chances that you’d turn lucky at about 1 in 10,000
Art Element 2: Slog (Euphemistically known as Hard Work.)
You’ve got this fabulous collection of artwork, and you lug it around to every gallery, famous, not famous, and infamous; show your work to every body from the doorkeeper to the owner, and you get the boot. Then one gallery decides to give you a group-show. You don’t sell anything. Then the next year you lug your work around to every gallery – finally, you get a group show, and you sell one painting. Every year the number grows. After 10 years, you get your first solo, and you sell one painting. You go on doing solos. The number of paintings sold grows. Then when you turn 75, you’ve got a 50% sellout! Wow! You are an artist!
You can now tell your family that finally it’s your turn to take care of the expenses. You can now also tell your elder brother that he needn’t send you that Dole-the-Family-Artist check every month.
Art Element 3: The Combination of Slog and Luck
Now if you work hard and you get your solo in a year and a sellout in 10 years; you are a lucky slogger. Chances that you become a “real” artist who earns his bread, butter, mayonnaise…and then later his house and car, in this way – Better than pure luck, worse than only slog. Somewhere in the middle, if you ask me.
But if you’ve got that magical x-factor, then…before I kill the surprise, let me tell you about the x-factor.
Art Element 4: The X-Factor!
The x-factor is a publicly unknown factor, which is seldom made known to the general public by the artist, but which can be discovered if only the public had a keen eye.
The x-factor may include one or more of the following:
- High-society connections
- Money, money, money
- Empowered (and empowering) relatives
- The unmentionables (couches?)
I really don’t think that one post is sufficient to cover all these components. I might tell you some stories with the names changed to help you understand why these factors are so effective. I mean you really have work hard not to succeed, if at all you had the x-factor!
Chances of your becoming a famous artist if you have the x-factor: 9,997 out of 10,000! (I keeping the 3 out of 10, 000 chance as my Get-out-of-Jail-Free card.)
Before I end this post, I’d like to publicly apologize to all the successful artists including the dot-dabber, the horse-rider, the box-maker, the shit-sprayer, the bone-master, and the can-caner!
But…you want to say something. Say it.
Okay. I’ll say it for you. You wanted to say that there are so many of those artists that don’t really appear to have the x-factor…
Observe and Identify…the x-factor.
- Figure out whether the lady in question is the wife or the daughter of a diplomat,
- find out whether her mom is a famous writer and how she was born in a mansion that’s right there in the heart of the city,
- figure out how an Indian woman born a 100 years ago could get her nude pictures shot by her brother and not get shot in turn, only because she was born a princess;
- decide why though you can draw and paint almost as well or better than a South Indian king, but you end up in a two-room apartment with a broken, discolored center-table in your drawing room (just in case you are wondering whether I am talking about the table in my drawing room I should tell you that I am talking about another, perhaps a lot more talented gentleman who is about 15 years my senior.)
Begin joining the dots my friend, and turn wise BEFORE you turn old. If you are young, I’d recommend that you try your best to attract a useful spouse who comes in either with connections or with money. If you fail at that, then the best thing that you can do is – join an advertising agency and build the right contacts.
Don’t bet your life on that one random event, which has a 1 in 10,000 chance of coming true (the chance could be even lower for all I know – I just picked a reasonable sounding figure…) If you can draw, first find a job with an ad-agency, an animation company, or a publishing house – and then try to win that lottery.
Check out one of those reincarnation schemes that assure your rebirth in a family of your choice. What? There aren’t any reincarnation schemes in the market?!! That’s too bad – isn’t it?
A Special Note for the Cynical Reader:
I am not biased against the fine art of selling the fine art. I have also written a moderate, optimistic, theoretical definition of art, which you can read at: “Definition of art – A Theoretical Standpoint”. I hope it will establish me a rational, left-brained, right-handed, useful, non-sinister member of the world community.