The Differences between Emerging, Mid-Career and Established Artists

Labels are quite often looked upon with disdain, prompting the individuals who they have been assigned to to reject such blatant oversimplifications of themselves. The vast realm of the world of art seems to have a liking for labels, and the kind that it appears to cling to are the ones that enable artists to be divided into three distinct groupings: emerging, mid-career and established.

These three categories are a matter of contention in the art world. The reason for this seems to lie in the way in which, in direct reaction to the constantly shifting and fluctuating nature of contemporary existence, art and the manner with which one understands and categorizes it has not ceased to change as well. Despite this, however, an understanding of the differences that exist between artists, however imprecise this might be, can prove to be rather useful.

Amongst the advantages of such labels, one is able to garner insight into an artwork’s value, into the artists of the works themselves, and to also gain access to the specific jargon that is used in the world of art. Art exhibitions are not unlikely to make use of titles such as ‘Emerging Artist Exhibition’, or to promote the work of specifically ‘mid-career’ or ‘established’ artists. It is for this reason, therefore, that an understanding of these broad categories, and knowledge of where one can place himself or herself in, can be necessary.

The Emerging Artist

The emerging artist, irrespective of age, is an individual who finds himself or herself at the beginning of their career and who, despite not having established a reputation in the art world as of yet, has also created work that has managed to garner the attention of a particular critic or gallery. The artist in question does not necessarily have to have obtained specialized training in an academic institution, however he or she would be proficient in their field and would also have a body of work that is already created. This term does not solely apply to young artists, but also potentially to older individuals who have decided to shift their focus to the world of art.

The Mid-Career Artist

Those artists who are given the description of ‘mid-career artists’ are ones who have already established a relatively substantial body of work over a period of a number of years. These are also artists who have received recognition for their artwork from a local or national perspective. This recognition could have been achieved through their presentation of such work to the public or through the use of various publications. Solo-exhibitions are not a novelty to the mid-career artist, often having exhibited his or her work in galleries of much significance. The age of the artist in question, and the number of years in which he or she has been an artist is irrelevant here. This is because the criteria that is necessary for one to be given the label of ‘mid-career artist’ lies primarily in the artist in question having obtained recognition through publications and public presentations, and not to any specific number attached to his or her time spent practicing art. In this way, the mid-career artist is also one who has garnered a following for his work that is either national or international.

The Established Artist

The established artist is one who has reached a stage in his career that can be described as mature. He or she has, by this point, established an extensive body of work, and is also widely recognized as having contributed significantly to the discipline in question. In light of this, the established artist manages to sustain national or international recognition, thus being able to sustain an advanced level of achievement. The value to the work created by an established artist is settled after years of having his or her artwork sold in galleries and auctions. The artists who are given this label have exhibited their work numerous times at significant and reputable institutions on a national or international level, and they have also been written about and found themselves having set foot in the cultural discourse of the art world.

“An understanding of these broad categories, and knowledge of where one can place himself or herself in, can be necessary.”

Overlap between distinctions is of course not unlikely, however, despite not being able to neatly place an artist into a labelled container and seal it with a shiny new ribbon, misconceptions regarding where one ought to place oneself can be quite problematic. It is also true that the status of these labels is a rather flimsy one as artists are very often seen sidestepping levels, having their label change after their death, or challenge traditional trajectories. When one buys art solely based on where its creator fits in these categories, the result that they obtain is often significantly less rewarding. It is therefore useful to, if not omit the use of labels altogether, clear up any misinformation that clings so tightly onto these widely used ones.

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