The Art of Selling Out

There’s been a lot of talk of selling out this year — Banksy sold out with Exit Through The Gift Shop and more recently Shepard Fairey siding with Deitch in regards to MOCA choosing to buff BLU’s mural the day after it was finished. So let’s talk about selling out a little bit…

The concept of selling out — or not — is an invisible line that people have invented to define when it’s cool to like something and when it’s cool to dislike something. Chances are, if you choose to partake in the discussion of selling out then you, yourself, are a sell out.

Art is the expression of emotion — through music, walls, canvases, poem, film, sculpture or any of the infinite other media through which you can express yourself. Once you start incorporating things like supporting a family, eating, buying a house, galleries, shows, selling your art, (ad nauseam) you introduce ‘industry’ which extends far beyond the artist, and far beyond art.

If your definition of selling out is when an artist becomes popular, garners a following, and has people willing to pay them for their efforts, then I don’t know how you expect artists to live off of their passion. If your definition of selling out is when you’re in it strictly for the money and don’t believe in the art, then I say you weren’t an artist to begin with — you’re a marketing campaign mixed into the culture.

So what is a sell out? I say selling out is when you actively go against the very people who helped you get to where you are. In that case the only way Shepard Fairey sells out is if he starts a graffiti clean-up firm. The only way Banksy sells out is by smashing pieces at the Bristol Museum.

In the end we need to cut the gossip and let people live their lives and do their thing. Selling out happens far less than the local hipster coffee shop will have you believe and when it does there’s often some sort of reaction/outcry from the people affected. Leave the people trying to establish their mark/brand alone.

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