Six Artists on Becoming Artists


In 2008, Art21 launched the Web-only series Exclusive, a mix of newly shot film and previously unreleased archival footage, focusing on a provocative idea or on one aspect of an artist’s work, process, or biography. To date, Art21 has released nearly two hundred Exclusive films. In the following six, artists talk about becoming or being an artist.

Episode #007: Nancy Spero
“I was kind of worried about being an artist. That was the only thing I felt I could do…and it was the only thing I wanted to do. And yet for some strange reason I think I felt it wasn’t of use to society.”

Episode #014: An-My Lê
“I really did not know what I should do, but as any responsible child of immigrants, I knew I should be doing something…practical. I thought, why not biology and becoming a doctor?”

Episode #072: Jessica Stockholder
“I always loved art class in school. But it’s odd that I don’t remember thinking that I was going to be an artist.”

Episode #084: Yinka Shonibare MBE
“The thought of being an artist itself is a utopian idea because I don’t make anything useful…I am realizing my dreams and that somehow is also my profession.”

Episode #141: Hiroshi Sugimoto
“I didn’t pay much attention to serious art. Only after I moved to New York in 1974, I started realizing how important and interesting art can be.”

Episode #149: Ursula von Rydingsvard
“It was impossible for me to consciously think that I was going to be an artist because I had never heard of anything like an artist until I first came to the United States.”

  1. R. Chatt says:

    A tremendous collection of interviews. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.

  2. Melissa says:

    These stories are breath taking and I hope that I will also be taking the same steps they will in the future. My all time dream is to become an artist and to have people enjoy my art. I want to people to enjoy what I do and have a feeling of enjoyment.

  3. Ursula talks about her immigrant experience and family and hard work as defining her artistic development. In the end she concludes that it is the good idea, more than the hard work, that she looks to now. This seems so obvious, but for many of us, who have similar experiences of duty, work ethic, it is in fact a revelation and a game changer. Thanks for the wonderful work of art21

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