Florian Graf sets out his stall with ‘FG Artist Service Group: The Artist’s Jobs’. With wry humour his book alphabetically catalogues services an artist can provide, from Activist to Visionary.
Today artists’ work is often commissioned, rendering artists part of a service industry. Art for art’s sake is a nonsense when there are bills to pay; an artist is only emancipated if they can sell what they want to do. As art becomes increasingly dematerialised, the artist has to work harder to justify their role and their activities.
‘FG Artist Service Group’ clarifies a 21st century artist’s position by listing more than 50 different stances that Graf, as artist, may adopt. It provides an explanation for otherwise intangible and mysterious activities and defines the value an artist adds, suggesting how they might complement a community or company. The gamble of the art commissioner’s role is much reduced when they can anticipate – or choose – how the artist will react to their circumstances. Commissioners can also gauge how much risk they are willing to accept or how much disruption they desire in their everyday lives. Do you want a ‘painter’ who will reliably produce a painting a year, an inspirational ‘conceptual engineer’ or a naughty ‘diabolist’? The choice is yours!
Graf’s catalogue chimes with contemporary corporate and governmental milieus. Nonetheless, his timely book takes a long view of the artist in society, borrowing precedents and inspiration dating back several centuries. The ‘court jester’ offers the buyer ‘cabaret rationale,’ while the ‘ornamental hermit’ can grace a park or garden as they did some of Georgian England’s great estates.
‘FG Artist Service Group’ quantifies an artist’s immaterial value. Graf is business savvy – if the artist does not know their worth, who will? The artist as chameleon refuses to be consumed by the market, but defines its course. He reframes the question of what role we want artists to have and how much we are willing to pay in return.
Florian Graf (b. 1980, Basel) trained as an architect at the ETH before studying art. He has a MFA from the Edinburgh College of Art and was a Fulbright Fellow at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work, which deals with the psychological and emotional relationships between people and their architectural surroundings, has been shown throughout Europe and North America, including solo exhibitions at the Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, the Zepplin Museum Friedrichshafen, La Rada in Locarno and the Krasnoyarsk Museum Center. In the summer of 2016 Graf’s Floating Folly, a sculptural performance, travelled from Basel to Rotterdam on the River Rhine.