Finding my place in the Artworld

Chun Aik
4 min readMar 2, 2021

Few months ago, I came across this article that discusses the idea of the artworld. It is witty, slightly enlightening, a good read, and does not provide any real answers (very artworld-ish).

While we can all recognise the existence of the Artworld, none of us can accurately define it. Or rather, it is not possible to reach a common understanding.

While I’ve started writing the above two paragraphs in late 2020, I’ve come to forgot about it, and am only revisiting this piece now in March 2021. Much have changed since then, about the world, about the art scene, but by and large, the artworld remains quite the same. I think.

I can’t actually remember my thoughts back then about it as I did not note down any more points than the initial two paragraphs, but I shall try to continue and finish this based on my current understanding as I re-read the article now.

The author started off with the question: how many people are in the artworld?

Without setting any parameters, this little experiment by the author seeks to explore the notions of the artworld among his friends, what they share in common or what they differ with each other.

Within what we recognise as the artworld, several sectors and roles exist. First and foremost, the artists; and then art patrons, museums, curators, art critics, commercial galleries, auction houses, art writers, art enthusiasts and more. Depending on how you qualify how people fit into these roles, the number of people that make up the artworld can vary accordingly.

It is apparent then, as with the world, or reality, the way each of us perceive the artworld is different from each other as well. While we all agree the existence of the artworld, we can have very different ideas of what the artworld consists based on our personal experiences with it.

For one, the artworld may be largely made up of like-minded individuals sharing the same pursuit of artistic practice; for another, it could be about the appreciation of art and the support of artists; for yet others, it could be the inaccessibility resulted from a high barrier of entry built up of art history and theory.

The point is, there is no right or wrong way to look at the artworld, or to determine what is the artworld. And there is no a singular way to think about how the artworld should function. Art is malleable. Just as art can exist in different forms and be perceived differently, the artworld takes a different form under different contexts.

At this point, I realised I have titled this piece “Finding my place in the Artworld”. I guess wanting to write this wasn’t as much to think about the artworld, as that has been nicely discussed in the aforementioned article, but to think about my role in the artworld, if I’m able to qualify myself as part of it.

As a gallery worker, and an aspiring artist, the duality in my position coupled with the fact that I didn’t receive a formal education in art contribute to a constant struggle within myself.

I sometimes feel like I am barely hanging onto the artworld with my role as a gallery worker. Aspiring artist is really nothing more than a term that sounds better than artist-wannabe, as even practicing artists or art students can find it difficult to label themselves as artists. The lack of an art education, to have not gone through the rigour of a studio practice, or a structured environment to learn, does nothing more to convince that I can be accepted in this world that I so want to be part of. Not that having an art education auto-qualifies one as part of the artworld.

The fluidity of artworld, and of art, sometimes give the impression that the key factor for one’s existence in the artworld depend on one’s belief that one is part of the bigger circle. To a certain extent, that may be right. To look deeper though, more questions will have to be answered.

Which part of the artworld do you belong to? The academia, the institution, the market, the practicing artist, so on and so forth. The artworld is made up of different sectors and to be part of the artworld one has to be part of at least one of these sectors, taking up at least one role, be it the artist, collector, critic, curator, or others.

By virtue of my job, I can claim to be part of the artworld. But is that the only role I wish to play, or the place I hope to be at?

Heck, why do I even want, or care to be part of the artworld?

Perhaps that last question is the right question to ask. Perhaps I will never be able to come up with a definite answer. Perhaps I just want to.

We are all looking to figure out our place in this world, and maybe the artworld being a subset of the bigger world helps me narrow the exploration I need to do. Or maybe it guides me in the exploration of the bigger world.

If what one says of people or how one sees the world tells more of one than of others or the world, perhaps what one thinks of the artworld and how one is part of the artworld tells more of one than the artworld. Perhaps to find my place in the artworld, is to find myself, through art, and in relation to art.