Recently in Poland, my homeland that I've never actually been in, a young art student chose to forgo standard procedure and covertly hung one of his paintings in a major Warsaw gallery.
“I decided that I will not wait 30 or 40 years for my works to appear at a place like this,” Sobiepan told reporters. “I want to benefit from them in the here and now.”
So do we all, son.
While I smile at his effrontery -- and wonder at how he smuggled a painting in, past the guard, and managed to pound a nail up there without anyone noticing -- I am also consternated that such an attitude reaps its own reward: while the museum took down the painting from its briefly stolen space, they re-hung it in their cafe. And the artist is reaping attention and benefits because of what he did -- not because of what he paints.
"Someone will buy it just because of the story behind it," the Norwegian Artist said at the breakfast table this morning. "His career is made, not based upon his skill as a painter, but because of his nerve." (Actually, the N.A. used another term that rhymes with "halls" or "stalls.")
It is eminently understandable the young man's frustration at getting through to museum officials, gallery personnel, magazine editors, professional art organizations -- any group sets up its criteria, and after awhile, that criteria can get in the way of its original intention: to seek and showcase fine art, whether it is done by an established name or by a struggling, emerging artist.
Realistically, some good art gets shown, but so does bad art, simply because once the artist has broken the barrier and made his name, he could paint old Playboy calendars from the mechanic's back room with compost-derived paint and get it hung, showcased, admired and sold.
So the young man decided to take a short cut.
But in the same way most of us have learned to be wary of Uncle Rob's famous short cut that shaves 30 miles off the trip, our common sense tells us that anything worth having is worth working for. If the old guard doesn't work -- if the museums close their ears and the major art organizations pick the same old things over and over for their prize winners and the galleries sniff that they're full and the magazines print a new article about the same artist three issues in succession -- then find a different road.
Not only will it not be a short cut, it will probably be longer, and since it isn't very well used, it won't be as easy to follow, but it will get you to a different destination, with different scenery along the way.