Getting the Edge | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Getting the Edge

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In any cutthroat business, having talent or skill may bring about success, but they certainly don’t guarantee it. What has given so many artists an advantage is adaptability and not being wedded to one medium or mode. Like my financial advisor would say—if I had a financial advisor—diversifying is key to success.

Artists who have made waves in recent years are talented, sure, but they also know how to channel their artistic energy in several different arenas. Nowadays artists don’t stop with making a solitary object. Concepts that inspire an object are adapted to film-making and photography, or exploring the idea in a real-time performance, or mass-marketed as luxury goods or knick-knacks.

I was watching a cheesy arts “documentary" the other day and one up-and-comer’s work made an impression—or more specifically, the artist’s way of working. The objects themselves were completely forgettable, but the artist (a sculptor) took her work (made from ghastly globs of hyper-colored gelatin) from sitting in her studio to the screen of her computer in an animated film to the surface of a canvas, transferred there via digital printing.

It isn’t that success comes with this kind of adaptability, because in this case the work itself wasn’t particularly intriguing. But young artists aren’t just content to work one way, and expertise is no longer the prime goal. Many are infused with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to dabble in different formats and to see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Photo credit: illustration from The Nursery "Alice" by Lewis Carroll, 1890 (Wikipedia)

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