What is an emerging artist?

Is the term “emerging artist” based on age?
Is “emerging artist” different from “beginning artist”?

Deborah Foutch, Red Reeds
©Deborah Foutch, Red Reeds. Painted cotton appliqued papers, machine embroidery, 12 x 15 inches. Used with permission.

Deep Thought Thursday

You may think it unimportant to define, but granting agencies, galleries, and collectors have their own definitions. Every artist, at some point in their careers, will be called an emerging artist by someone.
If you ruled the world, how would you define “emerging artist”?
Edward Winkleman
What is an emerging artist? (Australia debate)
Joanne Mattera

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15 thoughts on “What is an emerging artist?”

  1. Indeed, there are lots of definitions from funding bodies and galleries. But for me, an emerging artist is anyone who is growing as an artist. Whether that be in technique or clarity of concept, etc. Someone could arguably be ’emerging’ for their whole career, in that way.

  2. A very good question. I have been called an emerging artist, at age 53. So age does not seem to be a factor. I am far from a beginner as I have been doing photography since before I got an MFA in it over 20 years ago. I have a strong presence in my niche market. So, maybe it is just that I am “emerging” on the larger Photography scene? Like I said…a very good question. As it relates to what galleries, grant and shows an artist can apply for.

  3. Emerging in nature means beginning to receive the light, whether a long dormant seed finally breaking through the duff layer of the forest floor, or the process of a bear emerging from its den after its hibernation, or even any creature going through a path in the forest, and emerging out the other side back into the sunshine. The sunshine is the media, proliferating everywhere. With this increased “light exposure” an emerging artist is receiving new and valid media coverage for whatever reason and at whatever age. A gallery owner or other promoter of an artist’s work may well sum up this fairly recent media “spotlight” exposure, that the artist has generated by their work and their artist persona, by using the term “emerging artist.”

    1. Jill, that is the way I’ve understood it too. An emerging artist is coming into the spotlight of greater exposure.
      I’ve also associated the term with galleries who are looking for the next rising star to carry them to prominence.

    2. If we go along with this analogy of a seed breaking through the forest floor. What would we say is the water that is spurring its growth? Would it be a form of inspiration that has swept the environment (a new movement)?

  4. Jacqueline Webster

    I think artists tend to define emerging differently than a lot of organizations. Artists tend to define it as starting out, or a starter period (5 to 10 years), or until they feel that they’ve “made it” as a professional artist, whatever that means to them in their own minds. I think grantors, museums, and high-end galleries see it as artists under the age of 30 – period.

  5. Love Jill’s take. As I see it, emerging is by definition all of those concepts. and here are some from an actual dictionary:
    1. To rise from or as if from immersion: Sea mammals must emerge periodically to breathe.
    2. To come forth from obscurity: new leaders who may emerge.
    3. To become evident: The truth emerged at the inquest.
    4. To come into existence.
    SO…in theory anyone who has been “in the shadows” and is now “in the light” is now someone who can be seen by all – or at least more readily able to be seen.
    As a member of an on-line wholesale sales site, they define emerging as someone who has not done a major trade show and who has only a few retail outlets selling their work. Many of the new “emerging” members have been actively full-time studio artists for years – even decades. But with no background in the wholesale arena, they are (and I think this is a good and important distinction) emerging artists. For many retailers who use the site to find new work for galleries and shops, this is a double-edged sword: New work is always good to bring into a gallery, but someone that is not established can also bring headaches in the form of innocence and ignorance about the general standards of the industry. But mostly it is a positive.
    In the gallery world, an emerging artist is as much a “marketing” term as anything else. It is used to infuse a sense that this person is going to go places and you need to get in on the early pieces and lower prices. That is the larger use/abuse by galleries in upscale “uptown” circles. But, it’s not all cynical commercial hype. If the gallery finds real talent and sees real long-term potential, they will want to promote that talent. THEN, they can use that term to everyone’s advantage and collectors who trust that galleries reputation will flock to that “first opening”. That same artist may have an established career in their town/state, but getting that show in the “Big City” and getting reviewed or mentioned in the “Big Art Publication” can mean you are now (after many years) an emerging artist.

  6. Emergence is an ongoing process. Sales and press and gallery representation are its fuels. Sometimes an artist has all of these things pushing him along; sometimes only one or two. It’s a matter of momentum.

  7. If I ruled the world… Hmmm… where would I begin. OH, sorry.. focus. Emerging artist defined:
    I believe it would describe that artist that you saw once…but then are seeing again. Or you heard the name…and realized you heard it one other time… They are getting more exposure, more talked about, more found and are showing up higher on the google search results.
    Opposing sides I consider a beginning artist one who has just got his/her student grade box kit and pad of paper and is just putting medium to media. One who considers it new info that you can create shading with contrasting colors, etc. Of course there is always a little beginner in all of us. Everytime I try something new I feel like a beginner again, and I still find myself learning art theory even today.

  8. To me an emerging artist who is professional, but just starting out (as in less than 5-8 years selling their work.) Also, they haven’t had a solo show yet, any major publications, and no major grants either (unless it’s an emerging artist grant ;^)
    I agree that it’s someone who is just starting to get known, and if you have too much name recognition, I wouldn’t consider you emerging anymore.
    The next step is to be a “mid-career” artists. I think I’m somewhere between emerging and mid career, what would that be? Late emerging? Earlyish career?

  9. You know, I’ve always wondered about this in relation to galleries or exhibits looking to qualify or categorize artists. I label myself a professional artist, though I’ve always considered myself forever emerging.

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