Apr. 23, 2017: Professionalization
I'm in Miami! I ate roast pork last night that was very good. Anyways, I'm still reading Duchamp and, especially reading about Duchamp's activity in the late 1950s and into the '60s, have been struck by the artist's involvement in shaping his own legacy. Much has been made in the last few years about the professionalization of the artist (and art workers, namely "curators"), and—maybe this has already been spoken or written about—it seems that Duchamp presented something of a paradigm in this regard.
While he wasn't exactly "professional" in that he was a bit reclusive and unorthodox in his approaches to both art-making and socializing, he predated the current model of professionalization in several ways: enmeshing himself in a social network of important artists, writers, curators, and collectors; helping to construct his own art's market, through buying, selling, and advising; fostering the "scene" and discourse around his work and its contemporaries through curating group exhibitions, publishing journals, working as an art dealer promoting his peers' work, and, later in life, speaking at greater length on what his work meant, did, etc.; and finally, creating his legacy while he was still alive, chiefly by advising his prominent collectors—Katherine Dreier, the Arensbergs, et al.—even going as far as to place the Arensbergs' collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and helping the museum arrange their galleries.
Which is to say, Duchamp is the most influential western artist of the 20th century, in large part because he pioneered new and vanguard ways of making and thinking about art—but also because he was skilled at convincing people, through words, sales, and exhibition-making, that what he was doing was indeed as vanguard as he hoped it to be. Which, looking at today's art landscape, just proves Duchamp's influence even further.
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