Business is Art and Art is Business

There’s a saying that goes something like, ‘All artists want to talk about is business and all business people want to talk about is art.’

It’s not so easy to make that statement any more, because art and business have merged.

The model of the painter in the garret creating for her own enjoyment, and then being hailed as a genius, usually after her death, well, that’s not so relevant any more. There is a lot of culture-noise out there, and being passive and hoping to be ‘discovered’ is becoming a long shot. Artists have to make intelligent noise to be noticed, need to sustain themselves with a business model for their work.

The model of the cigar-chomping capitalist who puts profits before people and only cares about himself is being remade by people like John Mackie, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and many others.

Business as an engine for good doesn’t seem like such a strange out-of-the-box idea any more. The solo artist creating something ‘great’ in a loft by himself is what seems strange and improbable. For one thing, the loft, at least in New York, has become far too expensive for an artist to maintain. Unless that artist has a trust fund or a viable business.

The take home is that we have to stop looking at art as a frontier of what’s next and look toward business.

Fine art is at a developmental standstill anyway. Its superstars, like Jeff Koons, are ridiculous. Business, driven by startup and maker culture, is where the new things are happening. Not all of them are good, of course. Amazon has remade the publishing industry, and in the process become a digital bully. Facebook is better at tracking what we are doing than the CIA or NSA are. But agile companies like Stripe, which just became Kickstarter’s payment processor, and Buffer, with its belief in company transparency, are leading a change. There are new players on the scene and they are playing the game for the good of their employees, for themselves, and for social good.

WordPress is the printing press of our age, and it’s free. Twitter is the news ticker of our time, and it’s free. Shareholders of Whole Foods are pressuring the board to allow them to have a say in who will serve as a director of the corp. Imagine – a shareholder vote that actually meant something. This proposal will break up a self sustaining old boys’ network, and make Whole Foods more transparent.

I’m looking forward to seeing what 2015 will bring.