A couple weeks ago I went to check out The Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair. It’s a great little exhibition enabling artists to connect directly with potential buyers. Part of the exhibition this year included a competition where artists were invited to create a piece of artwork involving typography. The winner for me was the one shown above by artist Jim Bourke of a portrait of Andy Warhol and one of his quote : “ You know it’s art when the check clears”, answering the question : What is art anyway ?
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s checks started to clear when he was in his early twenties. He had a dream of becoming a famous artist, and went on to make his dream come true in a relatively short period of time. The Art Gallery of Ontario is currently exhibiting some of his work (the show ends on May 10th) , so I went to see what art is from his point of view.
Viewing his art felt like seeing a portion of the North American culture through his eyes. Most of his work was not about him but about people and events around him. I think that’s a clue to what makes art valuable to others enough for them to pay for it. This reminds me of what many successful entrepreneurs promote : the importance of taking yourself out of the equation and find ways to be of service to others. In the case of Basquiat, I think it was more about his message and how his art made people feel when viewing it as opposed to how perfectly one color blended into another or how perfect the canvas was stretched over the frame. I try to keep that in mind when I find myself seemingly hypnotized by the minute unimportant details taking me out of focus from my main goal. Perhaps that was one of Basquiat’s strengths and that’s why he succeeded.
Art is an emotional trigger that changes shape from one point of view to another. Art is in the eye of the beholder. If a person sees value in the artwork, that person will gladly pay for it. So I think Andy Warhol said it best: "You know it’s art when the check clears".