Ramblings about patronage and Artistic Truth

In this day and age the tradition of Art Patronage has changed, with church, wealth and societies becoming more secular, we don’t see an artist making their livelihood purely from the art the way that was possible in the 17th Century of even into the 18th. These days Artists if they are lucky may get a grant or a commission to produce work for a specific item or representation. In fact, many very good artists have a day job to put, as they say, bread on the table and their passion can often be relegated to that of a hobby. That is not to say that those artists who can’t make a full time living from their art are not making great art, simply that waiting for the right buyer to come along maybe too far and few between to make it a viable vocational choice.
To a greater or lesser degree under a patronage system artists would on occasion get to do what their passion and imagination tempted them to, while essentially working for someone else’s glorification. In today’s art world being a lawyer, teacher, accountant, waitress or linesmen maybe the daily drudge, but if they are talented and lucky they may get the odd commission. With the advent of the digital age even commission work isn’t what it was.
For us here at Detour what excites us is being able to experience and hopefully sell what our artists are excited about producing, not the daily grind. On two separate occasions since we opened our artists have asked us “what sort of things we’d like” them to produce. Now on the one hand commercial sensibilities suggest we should really give that some thought and maybe offer guidance. But, for us as art lovers who genuinely enjoy the reactions and conversations each piece sparks for ourselves and those who choose to come and explore the work, dictating to artists what they should be doing feels like the antithesis to the artistic process.
You hear constantly in programs like the “Voice” or “Idol” as an artist be true to yourself. Well that is true of any art form. Art should inspire, challenge inform, remind and engage the viewer, listener etc. But if those producing it aren’t’ any of those things how can the audience be.