Could Fame Destroy an Artist’s Career?
The Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4 UK recently held a competition called 4 New Sensations which is basically an art prize for UK art students who are registered on STUART (Saatchi Gallery Online art student profiles) and are graduating from a UK art school or a fine art/photography department of a UK university or college this year. According to the Saatchi Gallery website “The ultimate winner will be voted for by the public via the Saatchi Gallery’s website, and awarded prize money of 3000 pounds to support their artistic endeavours. The winner will be announced at the opening of an exhibition in London during the week of the Frieze Art Fair, featuring the work of all the 20 short listed artists and the 4 winners. The work of the 4 winners will form part of Channel 4’s prestigious art collection, Art4.”
The winner of the competition was 22 year old Sarah Maple whose witty yet confronting comments on her life as a “white” Muslim and the associated issues of cultural identity had the right ingredients to stand out from the crowd and connect with the judges (artist Antony Gormley and gallery owner Sadie Coles) earning Maple a place in the final four. A clever marketing ploy in the form of a mock political campaign combined with the controversial nature of her work fuelled the interest in Maple’s art and resulted in her receiving the most number of votes from the public and consequently the title of British ‘art idol”.
Although I am all for competitions such as this I do question whether the rapid rise to fame of a young inexperienced artist is such a good thing for their long-term career and profile. One particular newspaper went as far as to refer to Maple as the “heir to Tracey Emin’s throne” which is a rather bold (and ridiculous) statement to make considering that Maple only graduated from art school this year.
The pressure is now on Maple to not only continue to produce art of a similar standard but to produce new, even better work or face fading into obscurity and being forgotten which is the greatest fear of any artist. Having been pushed into the spotlight so quickly I would question whether Maple will have enough experience, skill and time to develop her ideas and portfolio to a level that meets the expectations that have been put on her. I think that it is irresponsible for the media to put such expectations on Sarah Maple so I hope that she is able to rise to the occasion and prove that she is up to the challenge. As the old saying goes: “the bigger they are, the harder the fall”
**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of artmarketblog.com, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.