I’m a new media artist who freelances around the art world to make a living. I’ve lived in New York for almost ten years, but still can’t afford a studio separate from my apartment. I’ve always thought this was fine, as I have my own dedicated room, and since my work is digital it isn’t hazardous and doesn’t take up space. Yet I’ve heard both artists and gallerists dismiss artists who don’t have a separate studio as not serious, which strikes me as an absolutely insane thing to say in this city. Please tell them.
Hello, it’s Chen & Lampert. Yes, that Chen & Lampert, and believe us, it wasn’t our idea to write this letter. We are reaching out on behalf of an anonymous new media artist who submitted a question to our advice column. Well, their submission wasn’t actually phrased in the form of a question, but from what we can gather you’ve been razzing them for not having a dedicated art studio. Is it true that you don’t think they are serious? We understand the challenge of taking seriously anyone who identifies as a new media artist, given that the term has not been uttered since the eve of Y2K. Nevertheless, as ethicists, we cannot simply push this complaint aside.
Perhaps the real problem here is the word “serious” and what it implies. Thousands of artists earn MFAs every year, and given the cost of such programs one would assume that most graduates are dead serious about pursuing careers. Only a minute fraction of these hopefuls will ever make it big, but this doesn’t mean that those who fall short will just quit. Emboldened artists possessed of an unwavering creative spirit will make work whether or not they have representation, shows, or an audience. Why do they do this? Despite substantial obstacles and their own crushing self-doubt, artists continually create because they don’t know what else to do with their energy, ideas, and anxieties. It is impossible to stop them, even with your snide comments.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the pandemic that the world has been experiencing since early 2020. Whether they like it or not, people have been learning to embrace the reality of working out of their closets and bathtubs. For a sculptor or painter this could be tricky, but new media artists can easily go “post-studio” if they have a digital practice that takes up little space. Maybe the real question here, in an age of Zoom offices, is: Who gives a crap? The last thing you want to do is to ask this struggling new media artist to spend more money on studio rent after accruing debilitating debt from art school. Cut this poor artist a break and request a Vimeo link to see their latest work. By doing so, you’ll save yourself a schlep out to Maspeth for strained conversation and an uncomfortable screening spent seated in a still-damp chair that they fished out of a dumpster. Everybody sort of wins.
I’ve been tagging buildings and trains around the world for the last two decades and people know me in the scene. It’s cool but comes with lots of risk. I’m not getting younger, and spending another night in jail isn’t on the top of my list of attractions when I bomb a new city with my art. The contemporary art world has a lot of interest in street artists like me, and seeing how Banksy and KAWS blew up, I know it’s my turn to cash in by bringing my legacy to a bigger stage. Do you have pointers on how to get my tag legally on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art? That’s my heaven spot right now.
We’re thrilled that street artists check out our column and that the Hard Truths tag has become indelibly spray-painted on the hearts and minds of our readers. We get that you want to see your work on MoMA’s walls, but have you ever considered entering through the gift shop? Charm the buyer into putting your toys, T-shirts, and sneakers in the design store, then sell tons of it, forcing the hoity-toity curators at the actual museum to recognize you because you’ve made them so much bank. The Warhol comparisons will start rolling in. If this approach doesn’t work, you can always try being a DJ, because a DJ has a better chance at getting their foot in a museum these days than an artist. If all that fails, try to get adopted by Agnes Gund.
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