The archetype of the “starving artist” isn’t just old school. It’s dangerous.
In fact, creatives can be business success stories! Of course, there are plenty of artists who never make a dime. And there are artists who are worth more money after they’re dead. (Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your success in this lifetime?) But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, there are some business-savvy artists who challenged the notion that artists are always broke. These artists all built businesses – even enterprises – around their work.
Let’s look closer at one of these business-minded creatives who challenged the status quo and inspired us to tackle business as intensely as art.
Meet Andy Warhol
“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” – Andy Warhol
Warhol wasn’t just the “Prince of Pop,” creator of iconic soup paintings, and arguably one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He was also an entrepreneur at heart.
In the early 1960s, Warhol opened “The Factory,” his New York City studio that operated like a well-oiled machine, consistently creating art. Operational efficiency was Warhol’s fascination. He used silkscreens so he could mass-produce images the way capitalist corporations mass-produce consumer goods. Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale said, “It wasn’t called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test. Every day, something new.”
An exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art called “Andy Warhol Enterprises” explored his interests in business, commerce and money. The exhibition’s co-curator Sarah Urist Green commented, “I love the fact that Warhol had the corporation Andy Warhol Enterprises – it has always stood out to me as a really fine example of Warhol as an entrepreneur.”
Warhol’s mass-production techniques – techniques still used today to produce t-shirts – made his work ubiquitous. By mass-producing images, such as Marilyn Monroe, Warhol boosted the celebrity’s fame as well as his own. And that’s how “Andy Warhol” became a global brand.
In Warhol’s world, fast really was best.
Ask any photographer if they’re a business owner and they might say, “No, I’m a photographer.” But the truth is: if you are a professional photographer, you’re also a business owner. Embrace business as strongly as you embrace creativity.
In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about a paradigm shift – going from lone artist to business owner.