How Technology Expands the Art Market
A Brief History of How We Got to The Sovereign Artist Era
Before we delve into how to be a Sovereign Artist, let’s take a brief trip back in time. It’s important to understand how technology relates to the art market and how new technology, especially revolutionary new technology, always expands the art market and puts more power in the hands of artists.
Historically, the art world has always (until now) had gatekeepers that controlled access to the market such that only “blessed” artists were allowed to create and sell their works.
There have been roughly three eras so far and we are just now entering the fourth:
1. The Church Era
2. The Patronage Era
3. The Gallery Era
4. The Sovereign Artist Era (Now)
Each era endured until a major societal upheaval, usually brought about by new technology, forced a change. Each change resulted in a larger art market and a dilution of power for the gatekeepers. Here’s a brief history of how technology historically has expanded the art market:
The Church Era
The church reigned over a dark/middle ages agrarian society. The church (and perhaps kings) controlled just about everything art related, and nearly all art was commissioned by and done for the glory of the church. There was one gatekeeper and one buyer. Anything else was heretical or frowned upon.
The Patronage Era
A major change started during the Renaissance, and continued to smolder across western Europe until the new, dynamic ideas finally took off in earnest during the Enlightenment. That change was humanity’s shift from being locked in a static society that suppressed individuals to individual creativity being celebrated in a dynamic society. The Enlightenment eventually led to the huge improvements in knowledge, science, technology, literature, politics and art that have made modern society possible. The original Renaissance ushered in the Patronage Era - best exemplified by the Medici's in Florence. Artists could sell directly to patrons, and patrons would sponsor artists. And while patrons still held most of the power, there were a lot more patrons than just one church and the artists had more freedom to explore formerly heretical subjects.
The Gallery Era
Once the Enlightenment hit its stride, huge increases in scientific knowledge led to startling new technologies that changed the world - particularly steam engines, combustion engines, electricity and more. We call this revolution the Industrial Revolution and western societies shifted from being primarily agrarian to primarily industrial. During this era we saw the rise of capitalism and nation states as the primary form of government, at least in the west. This era reigned supreme during the 20th century.
During the Industrial Revolution, a gallery system appeared with numerous art galleries run by independent gallery owners who helped market and sell art to individual collectors (A state controlled model, used largely for propaganda purposes, ran concurrently in the communist nation states). The art galleries helped expand the art market tremendously. This all coincided with the rise of impressionism, modernism, postmodernism and whatever other isms I’m forgetting. The gallery system was much, much better than previous eras for most artists. The market for art (and different styles of art) was significantly expanded and the art market overall could support many more artists. But gallerists, even if well-intentioned, were still gatekeepers of a sort, and artists who were outside the system had far fewer options.
The Sovereign Artist Era
And that brings us to the Sovereign Artist Era of today. As I described above, the Information Revolution is, in many ways, just now finally hitting its stride. And just like previous revolutions, the world is being remade again with old powers and elites being toppled and new power structures being created.
We've entered the Sovereign Artist Era
It took 25 years, the rise of smartphones, and advances in bandwidth to bring the information revolution to nearly everyone on the planet. There are no more gatekeepers or more correctly, the only gatekeeper left is the fear inside each artist's own mind. Sovereign Artists, no longer beholden to patrons or galleries, have been liberated and can now show their work and sell their work to nearly anyone on planet earth.
Exponentially more artists can now live their dream. And not only is it great for existing artists, as AI and robots take over traditional jobs, we will see more and more people choosing to be artists as their full time occupation. I foresee a day (perhaps still far in the future) when all humans either work in developing new technology or in creative, artistic endeavors.
I firmly believe that the central drive of a human is to create and as more people are liberated from factories and cubicles, we will see a huge exodus from traditional jobs and a new era of human creativity will flourish. That is why I’m excited about this new era: The Sovereign Artist Era.