Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Artist Statements say Nothing when Plagiarism is Involved

Artist Statements say Nothing when Plagiarism is Involved:

After half a decade of writing about art and interviewing artists it is safe to say that I’ve viewed the artwork of thousands-- probably more in the hundreds of thousands-- online. I can remember days when it was not uncommon for me to view the work of at least 300 to 800 artists on a routine daily basis-- a constant search for potential interviews. Some days were devoted entirely to viewing art online. Needless to say, I've viewed a lot of artwork and have read many artist statements as Senior Editor of and as a contributing writer for other ventures. Thus, I have learned to key in on potential problems concerning the statements of artists and the manner in which they gain exposure online.

While 'hunting' for potential myartspace blog interviews I often notice basic problems artists face concerning exposure when placing their best foot forward via the Internet. In some cases the problem is in the form of poor website design-- others, poor image quality of photos that have been uploaded. These only serve as professional trip lines when one is trying to advance his or her exposure online. However, those errors can be corrected. Unfortunately, some of the problems I ’catch’ during my ’hunts’ are truly self-inflicted-- and can foster lasting damage to ones artistic ambition. The main issue-- individuals who plagiarize from the artist statements of others.

In truth, I have ‘caught’ a few instances of plagiarized statements on myartspace as well as other social networking sites designed for artists-- and dealt with them accordingly-- while others have been brought to my attention. It is no secret that some artists have ‘borrowed’ from the artist statements of others since statements became the norm. Said practice has never been accepted-- and in my opinion, it only serves to limit the artist who is doing it. However, in this day and age-- one fueled by the power of the Internet-- it is increasingly more crucial for an artist to communicate with an authentic voice rather than ‘steal’ the words out of a fellow artists mouth.

In my opinion, the artist statement plagiarist risks damaging his or her professional presence more than ever. While it is true that some individuals do not care about the authenticity of an artist statement it is also clear that others take it very serious. This is compounded by the fact that it can take a mere Google search to expose an artist statement plagiarist. In other words, with just a few clicks an artist who has plagiarized his or her statement can easily face a lifetime of criticism and ridicule for that choice-- especially if the offended artist is involved in exposing the truth.

It is unfortunate that some artists place their practice, education, or other aspects of professionalism on the line simply because they are too lazy-- or don’t know their own work well enough-- to come up with their own words. After all, a plagiarized artist statement only ‘speaks’ to those who are not aware of the plagiarism. Once exposed-- said artist statement is silenced and the plagiarist-- from that point on-- will ‘hear’ the criticism and ridicule of his or her failure.

I realize that some individuals do not care about the authenticity of an artist statement-- just as I understand that there are some individuals who feel that an artist statement is a waste of time and words. That said, for some individuals-- including myself-- the artist statement is a crucial piece of information. It serves as documentation of an artists thought process as well as a general guide of consideration when viewing an artists work.

In other words, I find it troublesome when I discover that an artist has plagiarized. In fact, after that discover is made it is highly doubtful that I will give much thought to the plagiarist again. I expect the same level of professionalism from artists as I do from individuals who pursue other studies.

To put it bluntly, the artist statement plagiarist places an unneeded obstacle before himself or herself-- once exposed, the act of plagiarism is apt to block success, respect, and dignity. And for what? For an easy route? A lack of words? It is not worth it. An artist should strive to communicate authentically about his or her art-- an artist statement says nothing when plagiarism is involved.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. So, how many artists do you know who have plagiarized - 39 or 42? I am just curious, because that's a big statement, based on some sort of experience - I mean you would have to have a huge knowledge base to know - or sophisticated software to check everything you read - is this just a gripe or good advice?

  2. Good advice. One of the most common advice questions I get from artists is how to deal with the issue. I remember one situation that involved an artist who plagiarized from three other artists. I'd say it is more common than people may think-- and normally involves an emerging artist.

    A basic way to check is simply to take a sentence from a statement and do a Google search. Sometimes that will reveal others who are using the same artist statement or sections of it. Also, I do have some associates who can check word for word.

    When I interview emerging artists I tend to do a bit more research just to find out if they are who they say they are as far as exhibit claims and other info. On a side note, I've denied interviews in the past after discovering that an artist has lied about an exhibit or lists a gallery that does not exist. That is a common error as well.

    I realize that some people do not care one way or the other-- but for someone doing interviews it can be a huge burden if the artist is not being truthful. It does make me question the validity of an artist as well as the artwork when a discovery like that is made or is brought to my attention by someone else.