This Summer, multidisciplinary artist Jonathan VanDyke will be teaching Art World Basics for Artists. The course provides emerging artists with the tools necessary to build and manage their own careers. We spoke to him about some of challenges facing artists today, and how to combat them and start to build an artistic career.
On visiting galleries and museums
“Being exposed to original works of art is crucial.” Even though we have the privilege of living in an era where entire museum collections are one click away, Jonathan thinks this should only complement seeing things in person. “I did a performance where I stared at a Jackson Pollock painting for 40 hours. I’m a huge believer in spending time with work one-on-one. Certainly, I’ve seen many works on Instagram that I thought were really interesting and saw them in person and was really disappointed. I’ve seen many things online that I thought weren’t so interesting. But in person, they were totally incredible and needed time. It takes a lot of time to get to know a piece.”
On managing your time
The most important asset for an artist is time. “Artists have to be really rigorous about time and really thinking about time as your number one resource,” VanDyke says. “It really takes a lot of time to get to know one’s work and to make one’s work as powerful and as strong as it can be. The work-life balance is hard because there’s an expectation for artists to be social.” Being an artist means making sure you protect your time. You have to give yourself enough time to be creative and actually make your work, but you also need to dedicate time to getting that work seen. Finding a balance to all this is tricky. That’s why thoroughly planning and organizing your time is key.
On stepping out of your comfort zone
Even if it may not come naturally to you, it is vital that you learn how to speak about and present your own work. Jonathan notes that, “It’s expected that we’ll be out and about and really polished in terms of how we speak about our work.” But he also acknowledges that this may be difficult for some. “The marketplace needs to make room for people who maybe aren’t as social or who don’t know how to speak about their work, without thinking of them as eccentrics. We have to make room for all different types of practices and give them room to grow and develop and deepen.” However, the marketplace is sometimes slow to change. So, in the meantime, practicing and honing your ability to articulate your work will benefit you.
On participating in art fairs
Understanding the limitations of art fairs is a key part of actually participating in art fairs. You have access to limited lighting options, your audience for a new piece is reduced to just a few days, and you have less overall control than in a gallery show. Working within these confines can be a challenge, but can also present opportunities for creative solutions. Also balancing heaps of exposure with a lack of focus is to be taken into consideration. Art fairs do exercise a lot of financial pressure especially on smaller galleries, which in turn may put a strain on the gallery-artist relationship. All that being considered, art fairs are crucial to building one’s career and thinking about them more holistically. “Think of the art fair as a way to deepen relationships,” Jonathan offers. “That’s really important.”
On working with art dealers
An artist’s work is deeply connected with his/her inner life and consciousness. This is why, for many artists, it is really difficult to think about their work in a marketplace context. “An art business program—like the one at Sotheby’s Institute—can help students connect with working artists in a way that is mutually beneficial for both. There’s a real need for that.” For Jonathan, the most extraordinary art dealers have one thing in common: “They love artists. They love art. They love hanging out with artists, building those relationships, and being in the studio.”