Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Makers and The Shakers

The idea of compensation for work is not as straight forward as it seems. Just ask the guy who took the photo that Shepard Fairey used to create his iconic portrait of President Obama. Legal proceeding aside, the philosophical question remains: Was it the photographer who captured the original moment or the artist who capitalized on the resulting image who deserves credit for the work?

"The Mona Lisa Curse" is a documentary series narrated by art critic Robert Hughes on the state of the art world today. His critique of the current state of affairs can be summarized in the following quote. "Apart from drugs, art is the biggest unregulated market in the world, with contemporary art sales estimated at around $18 billion a year, boosted by regimens of new-rich collectors and serviced by a growing army of advisers, dealers and auctioneers. As Andy Warhol once observed, “Good business is the best art.” 

But who benefits from that business? The documentary touches on the story of Robert Rauschenberg whose protested his lack of compensation when one of his works sold for a significantly higher price on the secondary market. He was the creator of the work sold at auction, and yet the argument could be made that it would not have received such a high secondary sales price without the skill of other art world players.

These and other examples indicate the presence of Makers and Shakers in our world. In other words, there are originators and those who bring original ideas to public attention and subsequent popularity. But what if compensation for one's work included the necessity for that original product to be copied or otherwise extended beyond its creator? 

One commenter on an article I was reading described herself accordingly. "I'm not a trend spotter, I'm a trend maker. An unintentional generator of designs that become trend icons" writes Barbi. "It has become harder and harder for the true originator to capitalize on their ideas because the trend spotting machine is ahead of us, seeing a marketable trend when we're still scratching our heads wondering if our "thing" is cool enough, wondering what we should be doing next, already bored with the idea, forever motivated by intangible inspiration(...)So. I've turned the tables. The motivation behind my new company, Plastic is Forever, is that it can only fulfill itself when copied and serves as inspiration to many many appropriators. Only then will I be happy and feel that I have achieved what I set out to do."

It seems at least one of us has figured out how to truly be compensated for an original idea: making something intended to be shaken out to the masses. Brilliant!   


  1. Hi Nicole, Barbi here, thanks for the quote on your blog, I shall link from mine.,
    I love your blog and looking at its contents I think you may really dig the fabulousness of this artist and everything she stands for: there is a lot there, including her artist's in residence program @ Mildred's Lane, be sure to check out...

  2. Hi Barbi,
    I just checked out your site and look forward to reading along. Thanks for the artist info as well. I love finding out about interesting new work and the person behind it. Thanks!


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