What is the “Museum Factor”?


Photo by Matheus Viana from Pexels

Why does an artist paint? Why do you paint? Or draw? Do we all paint for the same or similar reasons? The answer is that, while they could have significant overlap, the reasons could be quite different, depending on many factors. And that brings me to the title question, “What is the “Museum Factor”?” 

Museum Quality

As an artist have you ever wondered what your work would look like if it was hanging in a museum? Perhaps some of you already know the answer because you do have works in museums. Well, good for you! I’m mainly talking to the rest of us poor souls.

Now, I’m not talking about dreaming or stoking your ego. Considering the “Museum Factor” when regarding your own work is a quality assessment tool that you could and should utilize for your sake and for the sake of your collectors as well.

Perhaps many would disagree with me and say that my idea of “painting for the sake of satisfying museum standards” is akin to “painting for money” or “painting what’s popular”, as though those are somehow vulgar or distasteful. As you wish. But, even if an artist has grown to attain and embrace the purity of “art for art’s sake”, my idea should not so easily be ignored.

Quality Art for Our Grandkids!

Imagine, 500 years from now, when even our descendants are so disconnected from any semblance of who we once were, what will they find when they peruse whatever manifestation of what we now call museums, in their own time? They will only be provided ready access to what will be considered the best and most significant art of our time.

So, here’s the big question: Will your work be represented or perhaps never make the cut? If your primary goal as an artist is to make genuine, altruistic artistic statements and you feel it should be shared far and wide, why is it not important to share it with future generations? It simply doesn’t make sense.

The “Museum Factor” is not only a critical consideration for your current fans and collectors but also for the ever-expanding art-loving audience of the future.

Perhaps you could agree now? Well then, let’s explore what the “Museum Factor” is and how it works.

What does the “Museum Factor” Factor In?

  • quality, first and foremost, but also…
  • demonstration of master skill
  • significant historic reference
  • example of a pioneering spirit
  • uniquely profound artistic statement
  • difficult process to easily copy
  • meaningful and contemporary social/political/religious statements
  • serves as a narrative of contemporary culture
  • the list goes on and on…

How do you implement the Museum Factor in Your Artwork?

If you’ve never done this before, you’re in for a real eye-opener! Get on your computer and load up images of your best work. Then, do some searches for the art movements that will reference work that is similar to yours. Perhaps you even have a few specific artists in mind. Maybe some are even contemporary artists or colleagues of yours. Arrange the images on your screen, side by side, and continually scan the works, take them in, and feel them. Does your work speak to you like the great works of past and present? Be honest. Does your work meet museum quality?

Now, some of you will again take fault with my exercise. You might think such a comparison is demeaning and self-deprecating. But I wholeheartedly disagree. Besides, it’s not comparison and I didn’t use that word. It’s more a mingling, a get-together of artistic souls. Of course, they’re all different, with different styles, different genres, and varying degrees of skill, even. Difference and variety are key.

Remember, much of the most valuable art in history is not the most skillfully executed. Let’s repeat that: Value does not only hinge on skill. Don’t demean yourself.

So, for your next few paintings, if you are so inclined, plan and execute them with your future great, great, great grandkids in mind. Make their day by providing them with the opportunity to proudly nudge a friend as they tour a museum and say, “You see that one there? My great, great, great grandmother did that!”

If you don’t aim to be in that museum, it’s less likely to happen.

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