The image you see here is from a remarkable exhibition I recently saw at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, called “Smoke & Mirrors: Magical Thinking in Contemporary Art.” While the exhibition’s focus was on stage magic and hoaxes perpetrated for financial or political gain, it made me think of the mix of illusion and reality in artists’ careers.
One of the most seductive illusions is that the art world is a meritocracy, with only the best artists achieving recognition and reward. This belief makes artists doubt the value of their work, when what they actually need to improve is the quality of their relationships with people who can help them advance.
Another illusion is that the art world is totally random in its functioning, that artists get discovered through sheer luck. We know that art careers don’t happen in a linear way, yet success isn’t random or accidental. It begins with a clear understanding of where you are on your path.
For example, an emerging artist’s job is to become visible in a variety of venues, gaining experience and exposure. A mid-career artist uses that visibility to build a network of relationships, since opportunities come from people who know you and like your work. An established artist might focus on moving from local gallery representation to finding a gallery with a national reach.
Yet your own values are the bedrock of your reality. Think about your life as a whole, and try to create the life you want to lead. While letting go of illusions will bring you clarity, a full creative life can bring joy and satisfaction.
There’s real magic in that.
Mary Edwards, Ph.D
Career & Life Coach for Artists
“Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”
As an artist coach, I bring a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to my practice.