Artists are the ultimate entrepreneurs. That’s why a trip to a museum is so inspiring for founders.
Who is more entrepreneurial than an artist?
They have new ideas. They meet resistance. They have to mobilize support. Half the time they don’t even know if they are going to succeed, and very few of them actually make it to the galleries of our major museums.
Last semester I took a group of Cornell students who attend my leadership seminar in New York City to the Museum of Modern Art. We started by strolling through a Van Gogh exhibit and proceeded to the fifth floor to see the Cezannes, the Seurats, compared the Braques and Picassos, marveled at the Chagalls, and were tranquilized by Monet’s Water Lilies.
Then we stood before Duchamps’ Bicycle Wheel. I tried to explain to the class the notion of “ready-made” and its importance to contemporary art. Some were buying it, some were not.
We moved in front of a Pollock on the fifth floor. Now the conversation was less about art and more about “how did this stuff get on the wall?” We discussed Pollack’s energy and dynamism, but we kept coming back to one fundamental question: What is the difference between Pollack’s drips and the work of some unknown artist? In other words, how did these works get on the walls of the MoMA when others did not?
Perhaps, like any entrepreneur, it was the artist’s ability to focus and move an agenda. It was about being proactive, taking charge of your career, not being passive, moving things forward, and creating coalitions.