What makes a great artist? Years of traditional training? Not necessarily. A nugget of arty genius only possessed by certain people? Um no.
It's a question I both love and hate. I periodically get asked this question and immediately feel the pressure to provide the "right" answer since I studied art history in school. They didn't tell me the answer... maybe I was absent that day. The truth is there really isn't a right answer and that's because it's ultimately subjective. It's subjective no matter how many years of art history training you've had, no matter how many slide identification tests you've taken, and no matter how many I'm-an-expert research papers you've written. It's simply your opinion...
So how to answer? Well in my opinion, there is one trait all great artists have: the ability to make us think. Grrrreat artists use art as an avenue to address bigger, more important issues. My homeboy Olafur Eliasson comes to mind... Yep, homeboy. I wrote my thesis on one of his projects, thus we have a special bond.
Get this, for his latest project, Little Sun, he's making solar-powered lamps with the hopes of bringing our attention to global energy and the power of solar light to improve lives. Little Sun is called "a work of art that works in life" - how cool is that?? These little artworks are actually meant to be practical and affordable sources of light for people who have unreliable or no access to electricity. When I heard these lamps will be available for purchase I about fell out of my swivel office chair, got back up, and booked a flight to London to be the first person to purchase one of these gems at the opening of his exhibit at the Tate Modern. Then I googled it and learned I can buy one online... maybe I should still go to London though?? Pretty effing cool. Definitely a lot of greatness here. Eliasson's projects often involve larger environmental issues... and I loves him for it.
But what do you think? What makes a great artist? I mean, this guy's making lamps... I see how some people might not think this is great art or art at all. Sighhh but I love them. I think it's an incredible project and Olafur Eliasson is a great artist... but that's just my opinion.