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22/9/2015

TheDeathoftheArtistandtheBirthoftheCreativeEntrepreneurTheAtlantic

TheDeathoftheArtistandtheBirthof
theCreativeEntrepreneur
Hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professionalthe
image of the artist has changed radically over the centuries. What if
the latest model to emerge means the end of art as we have known it?

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WILLIAM DERESIEWICZ
JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2015 ISSUE

PRONOUNCETHEWORDARTIST,toconjureuptheimageofa
solitarygenius.Asacredaurastillattachestotheword,asense
ofoneincontactwiththenuminous.Hesanartist,wellsay
intonesofreverenceaboutanactorormusicianordirector.A
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22/9/2015

TheDeathoftheArtistandtheBirthoftheCreativeEntrepreneurTheAtlantic

trueartist,wellsolemnlyproclaimourfavoritesingeror
photographer,meaningsomeonewhoappearstodwellupona
higherplane.Vision,inspiration,mysteriousgiftsasfrom
above:sucharesomeoftheassociationsthatcontinuetoadorn
theword.
Yetthenotionoftheartistasasolitarygeniussopotenta
culturalforce,sodeterminative,still,ofthewaywethinkof
creativityingeneralisdecadesoutofdate.Sooutofdate,in
fact,thatthemodelthatreplaceditisitselfalreadyoutofdate.
Anewparadigmisemerging,andhasbeensinceabouttheturn
ofthemillennium,onethatsintheprocessofreshapingwhat
artistsare:howtheywork,train,trade,collaborate,thinkof
themselvesandarethoughtofevenwhatartisjustasthe
solitarygeniusmodeldidtwocenturiesago.Thenewparadigm
mayfinallydestroytheverynotionofartassuchthatsacred
spiritualsubstancewhichtheolderonecreated.
Beforewethoughtofartistsasgeniuses,wethoughtofthemas
artisans.Thewords,bynocoincidence,arevirtuallythe
same.Artitselfderivesfromarootthatmeanstojoinorfit
togetherthatis,tomakeorcraft,asensethatsurvivesin
phrasesliketheartofcookingandwordslikeartful,inthe
senseofcrafty.WemaythinkofBachasagenius,buthe
thoughtofhimselfasanartisan,amaker.Shakespearewasnt
anartist,hewasapoet,adenotationthatisrootedinanother
wordformake.Hewasalsoaplaywright,atermworth
pausingover.Aplaywrightisntsomeonewhowritesplayshe
issomeonewhofashionsthem,likeawheelwrightor
shipwright.

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22/9/2015

TheDeathoftheArtistandtheBirthoftheCreativeEntrepreneurTheAtlantic

Awholeconstellationofideasandpracticesaccompaniedthis
conception.Artistsservedapprenticeships,likeother
craftsmen,tolearnthecustomarymethods(hencethe
attributionsoneseesinmuseums:workshopofBellinior
studioofRembrandt).Creativitywasprized,butcredibility
andvaluederived,aboveall,fromtradition.Inaworldstill
governedbyafairlyrigidsocialstructure,artistsweregrouped
withtheotherartisans,somewhereinthemiddleorlower
middle,belowthemerchants,letalonethearistocracy.
Individualpractitionerscouldcometobeesteemedthinkof
theDutchmastersbuttheywere,precisely,masters,asin
mastercraftsmen.Thedistinctionbetweenartandcraft,in
short,wasweakatbest.Indeed,theveryconceptofartasitwas
laterunderstoodofArtdidnotexist.

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22/9/2015

TheDeathoftheArtistandtheBirthoftheCreativeEntrepreneurTheAtlantic

ALLOFTHISbegantochangeinthelate18thandearly19th
centuries,theperiodassociatedwithRomanticism:theageof
Rousseau,Goethe,Blake,andBeethoven,theagethattaught
itselftovaluenotonlyindividualismandoriginalitybutalso
rebellionandyouth.Nowitwasdesirableandevenglamorous
tobreaktherulesandoverthrowtraditiontorejectsociety
andblazeyourownpath.Theageofrevolution,itwasalsothe
ageofsecularization.Astraditionalbeliefbecamediscredited,
atleastamongtheeducatedclass,theartsemergedasthebasis
ofanewcreed,theplacewherepeopleturnedtoput
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22/9/2015

TheDeathoftheArtistandtheBirthoftheCreativeEntrepreneurTheAtlantic

themselvesintouchwithhighertruths.
Artrosetoitszenithofspiritualprestige,andtheartistrose
alongwithit.Theartisanbecamethegenius:solitary,likea
holymaninspired,likeaprophetintouchwiththeunseen,
hisconsciousnessbulgingintothefuture.Thepriestdeparts,
saidWhitman,thedivineliteratuscomes.Artdisentangled
itselffromcraftthetermfinearts,thosewhichappealtothe
mindandtheimagination,wasfirstrecordedin1767.
Artbecameaunitaryconcept,incorporatingmusic,theater,
andliteratureaswellasthevisualarts,butalso,inasense,
distinctfromeach,akindofhigheressenceavailablefor
philosophicalspeculationandculturalveneration.Artforarts
sake,theaestheticistslogan,datesfromtheearly19thcentury.
SodoesGesamtkunstwerk,thedreamorideal,sopreciousto
Wagner,ofthetotalworkofart.Bythemodernistmoment,a
centurylater,theageofPicasso,Joyce,andStravinsky,the
artiststoodatthepinnacleofstatus,too,aculturalaristocrat
withwhomtheoldaristocratsoratanyratethemost
advancedamongthemwantednothingmorethanto
associate.

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