Conversation Starter

What qualifies being an artist?

Does formal schooling, apprenticeships, or personal passions determine an artist? When does one get to call oneself the honorific?

For Richard Serra, the association started in the family. Sharing an anecdote with Art21 founder Susan Sollins, he stated: “I have a Jewish mother. She used to introduce me to everybody as, ‘This is my son, Richard Serra, the artist.’ Now, if your mother is telling you all that—even if you don’t believe that it’s true—you grow up with the definition of yourself as being ‘Richard Serra, the artist.'”

Whereas for outspoken human rights activist and artist, Ai Weiwei, the title was more nuanced. He explains, “I called myself an artist, but not really. I didn’t have many works—nothing that people would appreciate. Very late, 2004, I started to have shows…which surprised me also.”

Who bestows the title of “artist”? How does one become an artist?