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Art Superstar-- Crown or Trophy?

Among millions of artists in America there is an enormous resentment and misunderstanding of how influential people in the fine art meccas go about "choosing" the superstars of art.  


Strange how those millions of everyday artists accept the idea of contests and choosing winners when on a small, "aw shucks" scale.


For instance, on the popular website,, which caters to the common ordinary everyday artist, there is a contest for artists being sponsored by an individual member of the website.  The sponsor calls his contest, the 'Skeletons' contest.  


He posts rules for the contest as follows: 


"Rules... please read BEFORE entering the contest: 
1) All entries (sculptures, paintings, photos) MUST have one or more skeletons as the visible primary subject matter or it will be deleted from the contest. 
2) A skull or skulls alone or a pile of bones are NOT skeletons, full or partial intact skeleton view's accepted. 
3) Skeleton's have NO guts or skin, ANY guts and/or skin will be deleted. 
4) Skeleton MUST be easily identifiable as a skeleton and not grossly abstract. 
5) Images CAN be digitally altered and/or modified. 
6) Color or B&W ACCEPTABLE. 
7) My contest, my rules, my decision to accept or delete any image at ANY point in the contest." 


As an artist, if I wish to win this contest, I have to enter it and I have to follow the rules. If I wish to enjoy some of the attention which contest entries get, whether or not they win, I still have to enter and still have to follow the rules.


Nearly all artists would acknowledge that it is right, okay, permissible, maybe even desirable, for this contest to exist and to have rules and for its administrator to accept or delete any image at ANY point in the contest.  


So, isn't it arbitrary, unreasonable, dishonorable, and unjust for the same artists to defame, discredit and invalidate an art "contest" sponsored by someone whose name happens to be Alan Avery or Alec Wildenstein or Charles Saatchi or Larry Gagosian or Christie's or Sotheby's?  Their rules may not be posted, but they exist--if only in their own mind--and those rules are no more arbitrary than the rules posted for the contest above.  It is also true--and I emphasize it is also fair--that if you want to win a contest sponsored by Larry Gagosian, you must enter the contest and abide by the rules.   The thing that is challenging and fun about such high-stakes contests is reading the mind, the instinct, of the sponsor.  It is like poker: you know the cards you hold in your hand, you've entered your ante, and sooner or later the make-or-break-move depends as much on your ability to read the dealer's mind as your ability to read the cards in your hand.  Good poker players and the best artists embrace that challenge.


Lawrence Gilbert "Larry" Gagosian is an American art dealer who owns the Gagosian Gallery chain of art galleries. Working in concert with collectors including Douglas S. Cramer, Eli Broad, and Keith Barish, he developed a reputation for staging museum-quality exhibitions of contemporary art.

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