“You have to make a decision: Do ya wanna be a traditional artist? Or do ya wanna be an artist who eats regular?”—Bob Ross, The Joy of Painting (Season 1 Episode 8)
Corporate corruption of the art world is an ever-present possibility, something to keep an eye on. But corporate sponsorship isn’t nearly as problematic as many seem to think it is. I suspect that we see corporate sponsorship as deeply and necessarily problematic because we’re still living in the shadow of the “art for art’s sake” movement, and many of the artists we know are living off of government grants. Regardless of the reason, it remains a thoroughly unrealistic standard. Rarely in history were artists independently wealthy; they’ve always had to pay the bills one way or another. During the Italian Renaissance, that meant painting religious themes for the Church or hagiographic shit for a Machiavellian prince; today, it might mean painting a mural which employs the colors found on some corporate logo. Is this really such a big deal? I think not. We’re part of the world, friends. There’s no getting around that. We’re all inextricably enmeshed in a thick web of relationships that enrich and delimit our action in the world. Now, as always, power and privilege afford a small minority of artists the freedom to do as they please. Some of these fortunate few produce timeless work, sublime work, but, let’s face it, most of them produce forgettable garbage. Art, like philosophy, is usually at its best and most vital when it’s in conversation with the messy world most of us live in.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2016)