On Egocentric Artists

July 14, 2023

Many Fine Art artists have earned a reputation as prima donnas. Their insistent need for things to go their way and the perception that they interact with others only when it serves their purpose positions them as self-centered individuals, seemingly disconnected from their surroundings and relentlessly controlling over anything that impacts their work or them.

What drives this degree of self-absorption, control, and demand?

The nature of Fine Art demands a degree of egocentrism. Artists, when swayed too much by public opinion or striving to align with popular tastes, risk veering towards commercial art rather than maintaining the essence of Fine Art. In this realm, there's only one critic an artist must satisfy - themselves.

A key distinction between commercial and fine art is that commercial art produces the art the audience wants, whereas fine art strives to attract the audience that the artist wants.

This egocentric self-absorbed, and narcissistic behavior disregarding market sentiments extends to their personal relationships being oblivious and demanding in interpersonal relations.This can create instability in their personal lives, often leading to a string of unsuccessful relationships and a string of marriages. But, if you reckon they are difficult to their surroundings, observe the pressure they impose on themselves. Committed to meeting their own expectations over those of others, artists transform into their most stringent critics. This is why some of the most accomplished artists never exhibit their art, deeming it unworthy despite the admiration it receives from others.

There is another reason why they insist on controlling everything that impacts their art. Art, being a creative process, requires energy. Artists seek to control anything that might detract from their energy to ensure maximum availability for their artistry.

There are risks associated with this mentality. Artists may prioritize their artistic aspirations above market demands, focusing solely on their artistic needs, sometimes to the detriment of their financial stability. That explains why many of them are starving artists.

This seemingly self-centered, ego-centric behavior of artists should not be entirely curtailed. Controlling them could lead to their commercialization, causing personal distress and leaving society culturally impoverished. Their behavior, however, needs to be managed to prevent them from causing their own financial and social downfall.

The guiding principle in setting boundaries is to honor mutual trust and respect. It is acceptable for artists to be oblivious to their surroundings, provided they do not act offensively or disrespectfully, and in ways that erode trust.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes