English translation of アーテイストとして生きること  宮島達男

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On living as an artist / Tatsuo Miyajima   (Originally in Japanese)


  1. Realistic contemplation on how to live as an artist in this country (Japan): Frankly, you cannot make a living as an artist. Everyone knows this but no one will admit it. Why?
  2. This fantasy seems to be perpetuated not by art schools but rather by art professors who believe in it. They preach the illusion to youngsters -- as if you are no longer an artist if you abandoned the dream. It is a misconception of what it means to live as an artist in my opinion.
  3. "A professional artist = one who makes a living with his or her art" is a mistaken equation. Art and occupation do not go hand in hand. Rather, being an artist is a lifestyle. I praise those who attempt to embody and communicate their thoughts through art while supporting themselves outside the discipline -- this way of life.
  4. If we accept art as a way of living, we are free from the confines of good or bad, popular or unpopular, sold or unsold. There's no competition. The time you painted because it was fun, and you felt happy that someone liked it; the joy you had when you were truly satisfied with what you made regardless of opinion. Such is real freedom.
  5. Gauguin and Rousseau lived like that. So did numerous other painters. Picasso was a rare exception who could support himself as a painter. He was one of less than 1% -- like winning a lottery but with even slimmer odds. It is a pity to stake your art on such a gamble.
  6. This lifestyle is not limited to artists. Anyone who believes in one's own pursuits without comparing oneself to others is already a real artist. In fact, art is not exclusive to artists; anyone can be an artist. "Art in You"*
  7. Fundamentally, an occupation exists to serve a need whereas there's no need for art to begin with. Art serves as self-expression and therefore, is not a job. Every once in a while however, someone succeeds in making a living as an artist. This creates the illusion -- how do we make sense of this?
  8. It is nothing but a coincidence when art generates income. Surely, there has been a "standard of aesthetic quality" that a professional artwork is expected to meet. That's what is taught in art school and it can be learned with effort. However this quality does not guarantee that the work will sell.
  9. What sells is largely determined by the times, circumstances, and trends. Value fluctuates with history. For example, Vermeer has recently gained popularity contrary to the case of Buffet. You never know what will become of the artists who happen to be selling now. Work's quality and commercial potential reside in different dimensions.
  10. To face the question of "quality" is to face your own-self. Reward comes not through external judgement but through your own devotion. This part never fails. We become fearless as soon as we accept that financial success is sheer fate. What is sad is not to fail to feed oneself with art but to lose one's vision as an artist.
  11. Once we lose our vision, we start blaming others. "Our creative environment is wrong", "Culture is not valued in Japan", "It's society's fault", "The market ruins it" -- we then focus on the strategies to overcome these external obstacles, forever failing to evaluate our own "quality" and unlock our potential to live as professional artists.
  12. I don't deny the structural problems of our society and thus, have been involved in initiatives such as the enactment of the Basic Act for the Promotion of Culture and the Arts, consultation on the Protection of Culture (正式名称?) or reformation of the tax system to promote structural reform. Even still, the problems concerning the lives of artists remain unresolved.
  13. I in fact believe that if more people lived like artists, the social structure of Japan will change, for art lends us imagination for empathy and creativity for surmounting formidable problems. If more people nurtured sensitivity towards their own-selves, Japan will naturally and immediately reshape itself.
  14. That is why everyone should live like an artist. The illusion that "to be an artist = to make money with one's art" undermines art education as an opportunity for everyone. Music, dance, architecture, literature -- beyond genre, art education is the fundamental education for humanity. We should never mistake a trivial fantasy for commonsense.
  15. "Art in You".* The word "artist" will free itself from its role as a "noun" which is merely 150 years old, and become an "adjective" that signifies unlimited meaning. The term "artist" will be inscribed as a realistic "way of life" not a fantasy. Thank you for reading my tweets!


*the concept of Tatsuo Miyajima (as written - not translated)