Elitism in the art world is not an easy topic to tackle. To help make sense of its complexity, I invited Megan Auman back to the Art Biz Podcast.
Megan and I wrestle with what, exactly, the art world is. What are its boundaries and who defines it? We dive into problems that occur when entire groups of people are excluded from participating in that world.
On the other hand, I believe there are multiple art worlds. And now that I'm thinking about it (after the recorded conversation), maybe there is just a planet with a lot of artists making things and it doesn't matter that we come to a clear definition of what the art world is or isn't. But that's another topic.
One thing is for certain. Elitism is rampant in the art establishment that is written about in newspaper reviews and whose artists are shown in museums and sold at auction, and that can be a real problem. Or is it?
In our conversation, Megan and I unpack the many layers of elitism in the art world, from the traditional artist models that need to be permanently retired to the concern that too many artists are undervaluing and underpricing their work.
There is a lot that needs to change, and this conversation is the perfect starting point for any artist who is interested in exploring and contributing to this difficult dialogue.
Music by Wildermiss
- Megan Auman shares the studio practice that evolved from her childhood artmaking. (2:19)
- ‘This is the story that we’re not paying attention to.’ Is elitism running rampant in the art world? (4:52)
- Megan defines the elite art world (with a capital A) and the inclusive art world for the rest of us. (8:58)
- The definition of art from 50 years ago just isn’t cutting it by today’s standards. (15:29)
- A look at the many levels of elitism in the art world, and what exactly is wrong with all of them. (17:12)
- What effect does the democratization of the art world have on the monetary value of an artist’s work? (23:54)
- The importance of valuing what you make enough to be paid for that value. (25:54)
- The basis of gender inequality in the art world. (27:45)
- Defining elitism in the art world, why it’s worth ranting against, and what we can do about it. (28:40)
- Reaching the point that you can confidently call yourself an artist and make your art truly accessible (not affordable). (35:00)
- If anyone could be an artist, how can we differentiate the makers of the world and value what those makers make? (41:36)
- Guardian interview with Robin Wall Kimmerer
- The Straits Times Singapore Survey
- Art Biz Podcast episode 39: Our Stuff Matters with Megan Auman
Megan Auman Quotes
“When I talk about elitism in the art world, it’s not actually the art world that I inhabit.”
“There is this level of gatekeeping that happens and it’s a problem because only certain, very specific kinds of people get paid and supported in making their art.”
“It’s a matter of whether or not you believe that what you’re doing has enough value that you should be paid for that value.”
“What I want is for more people to claim what they do as art, and for us as a culture to value that art. Meaning that we put our money where our mouth is.”
“Calling yourself an artist does not preclude you from also spending money on other people’s art.”
About My Guest
Megan Auman is an artist, metalsmith, teacher, writer, and business coach. She designs jewelry that is simultaneously bold and easy to wear. Though trained as a metalsmith, Megan draws endless inspiration from textiles and fashion, seeking to recreate the ease and fluidity of fiber and textiles in metal. She works predominantly in steel, forming each element and link by hand from wire, then torch welding each joint. Other welded metals, including silver and bronze, are sometimes used to add variety and contrast to her designs.
Megan received a BFA in metals from Syracuse University and an MFA in metals and jewelry from Kent State University. While studying at Kent, she developed a love for working with steel and torch welding, which led to the development of her current line.
Follow Megan on Instagram: @meganauman
Music by Wildermiss