Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hype vs. Talent: Which is more important for mainstream success?

Hype vs. Talent: Which is more important for mainstream success?

If content is King than controversy is surely its mistress. A brief look at Yahoo or Google news reveals that to be true-- even when art is the focus of an article. Artwork is more apt to be covered by these news sources if it involves some form of controversy-- be it due to materials used or simply the subject of the work. There is also no doubt that some artists target controversy in order to spread knowledge of their work. It boils down to a question I’ve pondered before-- which is more important for mainstream success? Hype or talent?

After reading comments left on said articles it would seem that there is a general view that some of the most recognized names in the art world are known for artwork that 'forces an opinion' via means of shock. However, these news sources are apt to cover art by emerging artists as well if it involves some form of controversy-- specifically due to materials used.

This shock can come in many forms-- a diamond cluttered skull, a painting involving menstrual blood, works involving live animals, works involving fecal matter, works involving other forms of bodily fluid - the list of what is apt to be covered by the mass media goes on. One has to ask if these works are being reported on due to talent reflected in the art or the shock factor alone.

A friend of mine once said that a masterful painting reflecting the plight of the poor will get little response by the mainstream media-- but if the artist adds fecal matter or a splash of urine to the painting it may very well become a mainstream success. At the time I found his statement to be amusing. However, a decade later-- at least in some ways-- his statement rings true.

Thus, I ask the following questions:

* Do you think hype-- spurred by controversy-- over a work of art is more important than the talent that went into creating it as far as mainstream success is concerned?

* Do artists need to ride the 'shock train' in order to earn mainstream success?

* What do you think of artists who obviously strive to force a reaction based on materials used?

* Do you think artists who rely on shock have harmed public opinion of art and artists as whole?

* At what point does responsibility come into the fold-- both the responsibility of the reporting media and of artists who utilize shock for the sake of shock?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin


  1. Hype.Shouldn't be but it is. Maybe I should kill a cow and call it art. oops, I believe that's been done.

  2. it will take critics with wholesome sense to turn it all around. plus artists who don't sell out to hype. Hype is exactly that. Only fools get by with that type of art. art is so much powerful than that. exactly what is mainstream? If I don't show in galleries then i am not artist? sometime ask me about an artshow in the middle of Saudi Arabia that rocked that world....

  3. Yep, hype...and it is quite unfortunate. Perhaps you should kill a cow with a Qur'an.

  4. LOL had to smile about the cow and Qur'an... When I lived there, we weren't supposed to even put a newspaper in the bottom of a bird cage lest the prophets name were on it. which of course is ludicrous because every male child is called mohammed. That didn't sway me from using the paper anywhere I wanted. I did however experience an art event unlike anything that can happen here in the land of commercial consumerism....

  5. Rasama, write to me about some of your experiences.

  6. i'll send you a copy of the recent article I wrote for an arabic newspaper... There's lots more, because the article is "clean" for it's viewers... this is a good synopsis!

  7. Controversy is usually courted by artists who can't really paint, just as musicians who can barely play make a big show of struggling with their guitars or horns; but I found a tiny bit of it worked once: the first time I got a mention in a London paper, the Guardian, was when I gave an exhibition a 'fancy' name: "I shot Mario Amaya".