by Bayles and Orland
According to Bayles and Orland, competition can be a good thing when it's directed inward. That is, when we artists push hard to meet exhibition and publication deadlines, our work often improves because of our dedicated efforts and need to offer our best work to the public. In a healthy artistic environment, artists are not in competition with each other. Unfortunately, healthy artistic environments are about as common as unicorns, the authors write.
We artists must compete for recognition, grants, sales, and space in the marketplace. We're reminded in this chapter that artists build their cv's upon their accomplishments which occur in a competitive arena. And when that happens, competition centers not on making work, but on accumulating the symbols of acceptance and approval of that work. If we fail to successfully compete, then we may succumb to bitterness and depression. And, even if we do have a winning streak, eventually it will end.
I'm going to disagree a little with these authors. IMHO, it's not the existence of competition that's problematic, it's human nature. If it weren't for competition, I wouldn't work as hard nor would I challenge myself as much to find new ideas. Competition allows new artists to challenge well-established ones for prominence. It also pushes the boundaries of fine art into new regions previously unexplored. At the heart of the matter is the fact that life itself is based upon competition for resources, mates, and survival itself. So, I can't see it in a negative light.
However, competition can bring out the worst in some of us who succumb to immoral and
unethical behavior in order to get ahead. I've seen this happen plenty of times in the fine art arena and it's very destructive. But, art is also a business and the marketplace is fundamentally competitive in our capitalist society. It's the engine that runs the machine.
Personally, I think there's room for everyone and I take care to encourage others to develop their work so that they may successfully compete with me and everyone else in the art world. I get great joy from learning that one of my students earned an award or made sales even if I didn't. At the end of the day, I must be able to look at myself in the mirror and like who I see. That means that I must deal with my competitors with honesty, fairness and good will. Certainly, many others have extended that to me and I'm better for it.
What are your thoughts?