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Emerging art:
pros and cons of the quest for new talent

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Up and coming contemporary artists - chosen by experts

emerging contemporary artists

Above: opening party for the 1988 'Freeze' show curated by Damien Hirst. Left to right: Ian Davenport, Damien Hirst, Angela Bulloch, Fiona Rae, Stephen Park, Anya Gallaccio, Sarah Lucas, Gary Hume

Artist emerging!

Proceed with caution...

If, while perusing this site, you wonder how on earth every one of our featured artists can possibly make it big, you'd be right to doubt.

One the one hand, we're convinced that the talents we showcase are destined for better things: important shows, wider recognition and higher prices.

But whether they'll still be names on everyone's lips in twenty years, ten, or even five is another matter entirely.

It's always been far harder to estimate an artist's staying power than their chances of initial success. And recently, the rate at which new names are acclaimed, seen everywhere, then all but forgotten has accelerated hugely.

The Next Big Thing

This worrying state of affairs is due, it seems, to various factors; chief among them the growing perception of art as some kind of lifestyle accessory.

Viewed as yet another sexily covetable product, art is as susceptible to fashion's vagaries as the latest fine-dining experience, leaving its creators more prone than ever to novelty and trend.

It's a scenario, moreover, that's too often reflected in the purchasing habits of deep-pocketed, high-profile collectors, whose patronage of the arts seems as de rigeur these days as owning a fleet of private jets.

When everyone from Pop divas to nouveau riche squillionaires want in on the status conferred by art ownership, one can only suspect that - despite the advisors in tow - real conoisseurship may be lacking.

And as powerful buyers vie to amass holdings as definitive, cutting-edge or sensationally showy as possible, attention is inevitably focussed on whichever up and coming talent they currently wish to court. The potential of artists to maintain long-term interest is increasingly outweighed by demand for the Next Big Thing.

But this creeping crisis is also self-perpetuating. The number of new art graduates in the UK, for example, has risen enormously over the last decade, a situation no doubt encouraged by the discipline's luscious new image and lure of vast financial rewards for a very lucky very few.

Similar tendencies are evident worldwide, and as surging international focus promotes the work of talented individuals from countries whose art scenes were once little known, a vast pool of rapidly replenishing talent can remain ever-new, ever-fresh.

So why a site on emerging artists?

Yet despite these cautionary notes, emerging art is clearly the regenerative tissue at the heart of the art industry. After all, contemporary art depends on new names simply in order to remain contemporary. Future greats have to start somewhere, and the possibility of spotting an artist at the beginning of a glittering career remains a palpable thrill.

And even if, as we've pointed out, the chance of buying work by an artist whose career will continue to flourish seems increasingly remote, there's kudos (and money) to be gained by spotting enduring talent early.


Prices jump with each career milestone

For those without major sums to spend, the benefits of foresight certainly tot up.

Graduating artists generally sell for manageable prices at degree shows. Once represented by a gallery, prices obviously rise and continue to jump between 10-20% after each career milestone, such as inclusion in a major group show, a sell-out solo or major art prize.

The influence of emerging art

Whether your interest in emerging art extends to purchasing or simply perusing, any aficionado is likely to want to stay up to date with new names and talents. It's simply a part of what makes art so fascinating.

Artists themselves - often highly aware, naturally enough, of developments amongst their peers - are also susceptible to new influences, a dissemination of ideas that may just augur the start of a notable tendency driven by one or two exceptional talents.

For collectors, keeping a close eye on such developments allows for due discernment: are intriguing works evidence of a promising new voice or simply a derivative 'homage'?

Appraising the originality and individual merit of a new artist's practice is difficult without a broad overview of recent, as well as canonical, precedents.

Big in Mumbai, unknown in New York

Yet despite ever-growing emphasis on a global art arena, emerging artists' mainstream visibility can still remain highly localised for surprising lengths of time.

Artists currently causing a stir in, say, New York or Mumbai can easily escape the notice of all but specialists for months on end elsewhere.

And opportunities to view an artist's work first-hand can take longer still, with galleries, exhibition spaces and fairs setting exhibition schedules months in advance.

It's worth remembering, for instance, that Damien Hirst's New York debut (in 1996) took place several years after widespread recognition in the UK and three years after his first international appearance at the 1993 Venice Biennale.

It's hard to imagine such tardiness in today's faster-paced art world, but that's one of the reasons we're here: making it our job to keep you as up to date as possible.

By Mike Brennan for artbroth

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