Parties of Two or More


From the time we are kids, collaboration and teamwork are extolled as holy virtues, but that conditioning directly contradicts one of the truest foibles of human nature: it is hard to please yourself; harder still to please someone else.

Taking that into account, I’m puzzled by why working together has become a fairly commonplace practice in art. Certainly it is a modern phenomenon. I would dispute the assertion that a master with apprentices is a comparable historic precedence of two equals merging their artistic visions.

And the payoff of such a melding may seem indisputable—double the inspiration, creativity and energy; one has a partner to bolster oneself and an equally committed sounding board, editor and critic. Certainly there are plenty of duos that make this work—Gilbert & George; Jake and Dinos Chapman; and Christo and Jeanne-Claude are just a few.

But turn the lens just slightly and the fault line of such a partnership is glaringly obvious—twice the doubt, criticism and torpor; twice the interference and muddle-headedness. Moreover, splitting success and limelight in half isn’t that appealing a prospect. Clarity, expression and articulation—these rarely thrive as group endeavors. The way of the artist is akin to soul-searching. Such activities are usually most rewarding and effective when done solo.

Photo credit: Wikipedia, Umbrella Project by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Japan (1991)

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