Professional profile and academic training to become an artist: teaching or learning?


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Artists often live in precarious employment. In order to understand their situation on the art and thus the job market, one has to recognize how the training at art academies works - for example at the Düsseldorf Art Academy.

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Anke Ernst anke-ernst_index-magazin_dusseldorfAnke Ernst is the editor-in-chief of the art magazine INDEX in Düsseldorf and a freelance journalist for travel, art and culture.

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Artist as service provider

In order to understand today's art education, one has to take a look at the history and the self-image of art: At the end of the 19th century, artists had a very clear task. They worked under a patron or painted for the church, the nobility or the bourgeoisie. Today, artists are thrown onto the free market unprepared without any security whatsoever.

Peter von Cornelius, the Nazarene who took office in Düsseldorf as rector of the newly founded Royal Prussian Art Academy, wrote 1819 in a letter to the Catholic publicist Joseph Gorres: “But now I finally come to what I believe to be the strongest, and I would say infallible means, to give German art a foundation for a new direction that is appropriate to the great age and the spirit of the nation: this would be nothing other than the reintroduction of fresco painting as it was in Italy at the time of the great Giotto except for the divine Raphael ”.

At that time: syllabus oriented on the labor market

The Prussian empire, which sought to promote culture and science, and to show its political power through the monumental art, also took the place of the church. Particularly in the Kunstakademie under Eduard Julius Friedrich Bendemann (1859-1867) was developed in favor of this painting.

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The director of the National Gallery Rudolf Jordan, as well as the Speaker for Art Affairs at the Ministry of Culture Richard Schöne, helped to revive the monumental painting. This meant that for the artists at the Düsseldorf Academy, this form of painting was mainly on the curriculum.

Today: diversity in teaching in the big bubble

Today, the students have access to the artistic-technical facilities in which they can practice, for example, in plaster molding, painting, modeling, photography, video and film. But you can ignore these facilities completely. The question arises whether the mere offer is sufficient, or whether craft-related mandatory events would make sense.

It seems almost unthinkable that an artist does not want to learn his craft. On the other hand, the students are held in a big bubble: They have not only no idea of ​​the previously mentioned pages of professional artists' persistence but also of the complex art market of the 21. Century. Frequently, this circumstance promotes a self-produced, one-dimensional and ergo rather disabling genius.

Not introduced into the playing rules of the art market

However, when artists leave the academy today, they have no real patron or patron. They are also not permanently employed as artists, and they have not been introduced to the rules of the art market. They lose their student status and have to deal with a series of questions:

  • Where can I find a suitable studio?
  • How does this work with the artist's social insurance fund and health insurance?
  • How do I find a gallery, how do I market myself, how do I build a network?
  • How much will my work cost and how much will I get from the selling price?
  • How are my work insured?
  • Should I accept commissioned work?
  • How do I write an invoice and how do I calculate VAT?
  • How do auctions work and what is this resale right?

Does freedom have to be absolute?

A graduate of the Kunstakademie judges as follows:

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“You are not prepared for life as a freelance artist, on the contrary, you are raised in a crystal ball and have to jump into the cold water later on and often it is too late for a new career for many who have imagined it differently to start. I wouldn't send my child to the academy. ” Does freedom have to be absolute during the art studies? Would the knowledge of what happens after graduation motivate students to become artisanal trained so that they can master techniques for an emergency to earn money?

More preparation for the labor market does not hurt

Basically, I believe that craftsmanship as well as a few art historical knowledge belong to the basic education of an artist. In addition, a few seminars to prepare for the art market could not hurt. Well-to-be: both distributed in moderation and over the years, in order to ensure artistic freedom. For this freedom is indispensable to our society.

What does the new Rector McBride say to all this? What are their convictions and how does they plan to implement them? With whom will she occupy the soon vacant professorship of Lucie McKenzie? Unfortunately, these questions remain in the room, because McBride is currently not ready for any interview.

The fact is: today art is considered to be without a job and the economic crisis is exacerbating the problem. Is it because of the art itself or a bad training policy?

Breadless study?

When I was still studying, a supposedly loaf of humanities, I was often given professional suggestions such as a taxi driver or usher. The hardest comment was: “If you want to have children later anyway, it is an outrage that you study. You only cost the state money and afterwards you only sit at home. ”

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I can argue about the logic of this comment, if it contains one, but I would like to know: How much money did I cost the state? The Cultural Finances Report 2012 of the Federal and State Statistical Offices tells me on page 64 that he spent a full 2009 € per student in the year 6.200.

Art students cost more

There are probably few students at art academies who have never been involved in a similar discussion. In addition, every art student in 2009 cost the state more than twice as much as an “ordinary” student - namely € 13.700.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, as the study continues, we are even more eager to spend than in other states: Public spending on art colleges 1995 to 2009 amounted to 94,2 million euros in NRW.

Why we need artists

Artists are essential to a society. Man needs aesthetics, at least in the widest sense, otherwise he is missing a part of himself. Our society is dependent on people who place the values ​​of a critical, independent mind, aesthetics and authenticity above those of financial success.

Or to put it in the words of a graduate of the Düsseldorf Art Academy: “Artists are important to society, precisely because they reflect and express things that other people do not reflect Sense have more, or the many people remain closed and who are brought to mind by art. ”

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More students than capacities

Money also plays an important role in the art world and it is probably due to financial reasons that the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf has accepted more and more students per year over the years. In the summer semester 2013, 577 studied main songs at the academy, which is more than half more than in the year 2004 with 367 students.

More students mean more money. But it also means lack of space. In this way the orientation area was expanded in order to accommodate the ever-increasing number of students, which also gave less suitable candidates for the art studies a place to study.

The art market is being flooded

The consequence of such a strategy is an art market that is saturated with artists and artworks: only 2 to 5% of graduates of a German art academy can later live from their art.

In the “Kunstzeitung”, publisher Karlheinz Schmid called in a “twelve-point program for reorganization in the art business” under point 1, “to sensibly (reduce) the number of art colleges, subject training to (to) less people, too driving unemployment and poverty, which is economically irresponsible. ”

Irresponsible training policy

Legislators are well aware that graduates will not be able to draw on the full. Section 50 (3) of the NRW Art College Act already states that the course offerings should be organized in such a way that “the study can also be done as part-time study”.

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However, these subjects of artistic existences are not conveyed to the novices. And so, as in the past, artistic approaches in the forefront of art-academic disputes are no longer present. It is rather the discussion of who is actually an artist. And when? Does he need an education, only the space to unfold, or is he already per se?

Training in theory

How is the training at the Düsseldorf Art Academy today? How it should look in principle is enshrined in the Art College Act § 50 Paragraph 6: “The art college advises its students as well as prospective students in all questions of study and works towards a suitable individual study planning; this is in particular the task of Professorinside and Professoren. ”

Ultimately, the education of an art student stands and falls with his Professor - a system for which the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf is internationally known. And no one teaches here, but teach internationally recognized artists, each of which represents a different teaching concept.

Big names - good teaching?

The Academy may be adorned with big names, including newcomers Andreas Gursky, Katharina Fritsch, Katharina Grosse, Tomma Abts, Marcel Odenbach, Johannes Schütz and Eberhard Havekost, who have been appointed by Tony Cragg's 2010. She has looked back on a long line of directors since her founding in 1773. Each of them, from Wilhelm Lambert Krahe (1773 - 1789) to Tony Cragg (2009 - 2013), has shaped them in his own way.

From the beginning, the latter only wanted to hold the post for a term of office, there were no other applicants and therefore the American sculptor and installation artist Rita McBride has been adorned with the honorary salutation “Magnificence” since August 1st - so it determines the basic order of the Academy.

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What do students learn?

The only question is - does a big name automatically stand for a good education? Indisputable teach at the academy Professors who stand up for their students and help them to pursue their own artistic career. The students appreciate this and therefore express themselves positively: “At mine ProfessorI thought it was good that they gave me the opportunity to develop artistically freely and to do my art without being given any guidelines or standards. ”

You will also learn “how to show position and how to represent it properly”. However, the mechanisms of the art market are anything but fair, so that artistic success is often not necessarily synonymous with quality. And a great artist doesn't have to be a great teacher. When in doubt, he is not even physically present.

Professorwho are never there

That students have to build their theses a second time months later, so that you Professor it is not uncommon to examine them. And what influence does a teacher paid by the state, incidentally, pay if he is not there? Probably not, because you have to look at fine art, as you know.

As Joseph Beuys 1972 by the then Minister of Science Johannes Rau from his position as Professor was fired from the art academy, which was the culmination of a long series of fundamental debates on this artistically and politically relevant topic. Convinced that everyone is an artist, because everyone is capable of spirituality, openness, creativity and imagination, Beuys developed his “expanded concept of art”, according to which the artwork as “social sculpture” affects all areas of life. The concept of art must therefore be made as large as possible "so that it can encompass every human activity" as long as man takes responsibility for it.

Can people be taught art?

This novel perspective led to Beuys taking students who had been rejected by the academy into his class - which eventually included up to 400 students. Beuys' release was not long in coming. Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Eduard Trier (1965 - 1972), who had been appointed for life, announced that Norbert Kricke (1972 - 1981) took over and became Beuys' antagonist as someone who valued the artistic aptitude and training of the students.

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Markus Lüpertz, director at the academy from 1988 to 2009, certainly sees it quite differently. He is of the opinion that only a microcosm has to be created at the university that gives space for art to flourish. When asked whether art could be taught to man, he answered no. Art cannot be taught, but it can bring the atmosphere and aesthetics that surround it closer. He later added: "I am the master and art knows no democracy!"

Teaching the craft

So much for subjectivity in relation to the definition of art. Hans Schippert, Rector at the Academy from 1959 to 1965, also believed that art could not be taught. Tony Cragg emphasizes the advantages of this system in the catalog for the sculptor exhibition in the K20: "The now almost self-evident term of artistic freedom, which is held up in Düsseldorf, has led to a great diversity of content and form, instead of an academization of art."

But what can be taught indisputably is the craft. Nor can a musician simply improvise or consciously break the musical rules without knowing them. Paragraph 1 of Section 50 of the Art School Act therefore requires, among other things, the university to guarantee the student “preparation for artistic and art education professions”. In this context, “guarantee” is formulated very vaguely.

Was everything better before?

The offer is undoubtedly at the Dusseldorf Academy, only it is, unlike in their past, no obligation. When Wilhelm von Schadow 1826 from Berlin was called to the academy as rector, he had already thought about the painter's consistent training: he built on methodical art didactics and introduced a three-class system inspired by Peter von Cornelius (1819 - 1824).

From 1831 the students went through these three stages, and while the influence of the teacher waned more and more, the individuality of his students came to the fore: “Education begins with elementary tuition, continues in the class that turns the student into independent compositions prepares, and closes with the advice and warnings that the teacher, from his experience, can still forgive to those youngsters who have reached the point where their own free composing begins. ”

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The need to learn the craft was out of the question

For example, the students first learned to copy paintings and to understand and depict objects and people; they were also trained in "auxiliary sciences" such as anatomy, architecture and perspective. Then, in the third step, they were allowed to create their own compositions. This groundbreaking method ensured that the Düsseldorf painting school and thus also the art academy achieved international renown.

Well, at the time, Düsseldorf was the Lower Rhine province and belonged to the 25.000 inhabitants. In contrast to today, however, the original understanding of authenticity lay in the motif and not in the unicum. The mastery of technology was therefore extremely important, as artists also deserved to copy works of art. If the students wanted to rebel, they refused to paint sacred works; it shows, for example, Johann Peter Hasen-Clevers' studio scene of 1836. The need for training itself was out of the question.


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