California State University,
Gatekeepers of the Creative
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in Creativity - Flow and the
Psychology of Discovery and Invention:
The Systems Model of Creativity includes the creative
domain, which is nested in culture, the field, which
includes all the gatekeepers of the domain (e.g., art critics, art
teachers, curators of museums, etc.), and the individual
person, who using the symbols of the given domain, has a new
idea or sees a new pattern. Csikszentmihalyi suggests that we only
recognize this person's creativity when this novelty is selected by
the gatekeepers for inclusion into the relevant domain.
So who are the gatekeepers that Csikszentmihalyi writes
about? The following was taken from the Spring 1998 issue of
Northridge magazine (p. 23) and is used with permission of
its editor, John Kroll:
Aunt Tillie, with her easel, palette, and flowered
smock, may consider herself an artist, but does anyone else think
she is? The initial people to make that decision - the gatekeepers
- are often gallery owners, who choose whether to grant someone an
exhibit. What do they look for; what are the characteristics of a
serious artist as opposed to a dabbler?
William Turner - William Turner Gallery,
"I look for artists who have found their voice, who
speak in a language that appears somewhat different. When artists
find their voice, they find a language that gives expression to
"Art history is presented as a linear progression, one style
succeeding the previous one, but that's a fiction because artists
are working in many styles at any one time. Letting go of that
fiction allows [artists] to look at different sources of vocabulary
that they can draw on. The variety of sources has never been
richer than now, but it's also never been more confusing. I think
this time will lead to greater clarity. Right now there's great
activity in the midst of what looks like
Bob Gino - Orlando Gallery, Sherman
"Reviewing artists' portfolios helps me determine the
artist's direction. I look to see how innovative and unique they
are. You can see if they're dedicated to art by today's standards,
if the artist is being totally honest, directed, channeled.
Talking to the artist and looking at their body of work (in terms
of shapes, forms, colors), you get a sense of their
Gail Harvey - Gail Harvey Gallery, Santa
"I try to advance the customers' taste, and their taste definitely
needs advancing. Most people don't allow themselves to be touched
by art. They are intimidated. I want people to understand their
reactions to art, not just shut it off."
"I don't care if the painting is trendy or salable.
The most important thing is that it's well painted. I like oil and
surfaces with depth - art that draws people across the room. The
color is incidental, and the imagery is not that important. I like
paintings that are so well done that you can look at them again and
again and keep seeing something new."
Steve Stein - Steve Stein Gallery, Sherman
"I look for techniques, style, imagination, and
creativity - a knowledge of composition and drawing. I usually
find artists myself by traveling throughout the country, to
exhibits or by word of mouth. This more frequent than artists
coming into my gallery.
Pat Faure - Pat Faure Gallery, Santa
"I don't want people who are derivative; I look for a unique style.
I've been approached several times about exhibiting the work of an
11-year-old girl who is said to draw like Picasso. Not denying
that the girl has some talent, I'm not interested because not only
is she like Picasso, her colors are from Matisse."
"First I look for connections to art that I already
show. Then I look for differences - the really profound
differences between, for instance, one minimalist and the other
minimalists you're familiar with.
"When artists aren't ready, it's self-evident.
"Graduate students in art should spend a lot of time looking at
galleries to see where they fit in."