275: Winner Take All

ART culture has problems. One of them is the rise of celebrity culture eclipsing 99% of art being created. For some reason the modern art world only respects winners–which in their dysfunctional value system means artists who generate boatloads of cash. Very few people can occupy that slot. It is a convention that works better in sports and politics. But with art, and the diversity of artistic tastes, such monopoly means nothing at all.

Who lacks such insight they will declare the world’s celebrity artists the only artists worth talking about? Read any cutting edge art magazine and you will note that the cognoscenti spend more time talking about art celebrities than actually looking at art. How did this system get so distorted?

Instagram recently announced it was changing it’s algorithm to promote the most popular posts. I have enjoyed Instagram for its ability to reach a broad audience. I recently connected via Instagram with an arts magazine that asked me to write an article for them and with a museum curator who wanted a show of my woodcuts. But the new change will not promote such random connectivity. It will be yet another example of the winner-take-all mentality so frustratingly pervasive today. What exactly does the new algorithm mean?

It means that some of your favorite artists will be buried by the avalanche of mediocrity that pervades social media. It also means that images such as a notice for my upcoming woodcut show would get buried in my feed before the show, yet rise in the feed as it randomly garners likes after the show is over. Heaven help the artist who posts a picture of her cat. Such strange logic ultimately benefits only those artists garnering the most likes (which in my feed are not necessarily my favorite artists).

Those of us trying to make a living in art will get buried by those making a killing. I shake my head in frustration at the shortsightedness of social media CEOs and view their unchallengeable domination as the rise of corporate tyrants.

The answer for independent minded artists may be to abandon social media. For more in depth insight into this phenomena I recommend the book The Winner Take All Society. Let me know your take on the subject.

Brad Teare –March 2016



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Updated: 21st September 2020
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