What is success for an artist?

Rebecca Field, co-editor of Pigeon magazine alongside Tamsin Devereux, on redefining what success means for artists. Pigeon are also running an event on the same subject at 2pm on Tuesday 15 May, also featuring the artist Jasper Joffe, an RCA graduate 

As graduation approaches for us and many readers of our magazine, Pigeon, we wanted to ask a fundamental question: what is ‘success’ for an artist? Success has been emphasised during our years of study not only through marks and comments from tutors, but also through how we ourselves measure our success or failure. Those of us graduating now will soon be entering a new stage of our practice, with new pressures and new questions of how others view our work. We are about to graduate into the jobs market at a moment of fundamental change within the arts, and a structural crisis in global capital. With cuts to the arts across the UK, and many art organisations struggling to stay afloat, artists are having to redefine what they do and how they work.

Talking to the contributors to the current issue of Pigeon has revealed to us that all kinds of art practices can exist in all kinds of economies, from the upper hierarchies of the art market to the artists that circulate in the shadows of the formal art world. It is these economies that constitute the vast flat field upon which a ‘chosen’ few stand out in relief, revealing the increasing disparities between stereotypically ‘successful’ and ‘failed’ artists.

As peculiar as the cultural economy of contemporary art may be, there is no denying the fact that an increasing number of people are choosing to become artists. Today it is clear that despite fresh talent arising from art schools, the familiar pyramid structure of the art economy has become increasingly stratified. About to leave the education bubble, and enter the ‘great contemporary art bubble’, the question is now one of defining the artist’s notion of success, of context, and of audience.

On Tuesday 15 May, Pigeon will be hosting an event at Work Gallery in London to discuss and debate what it means to be successful as an artist, the different forms that success can take, and the importance of the longevity of that success. We want to hear what the students of today and the graduates of tomorrow have to say, discover what they want from their future and encourage experiences to be shared. With some contributors to the magazine coming along as familiar names to spark debate, from Jasper Joffe, the artist who started his own Free Art Fair (and was once banned from Freize Art Fair!) to the eloquent writer Sal Randolph, a Brooklyn-based artist whose work has involved giving money away for free, we want to get students and graduates talking about what success means.

Pigeon’s free event, ‘What is success for an artist?’, will take place 2-6pm on Tuesday 15 May at the Work Gallery, 10a Acton Street, London, or you can find out more about the magazine here