What Does 'Emerging' Artist Mean?

What is ‘emerging’… and does it matter?

There are many terms that get used when referring to an artist’s career - emerging, advanced, established, up and coming, mid-career - what does any of it really mean? And are these titles important when buying art? We walk you through some arty-terms so you can keep up with the lingo and work out what’s hot and what’s rot.

Emerging Artist

Young? Fresh out of art school? Picked up a paintbrush last month? Not necessarily at all. There are two ways to look at this term: as a technical art-term or as a more general term. The technical art-term defines ‘emerging’ as any artist not yet recognised by major art critics, galleries and museums. Their works have not yet won any major prizes and their works have not been acquired for public viewing in such institutions as the National Portrait Gallery or the NGV. This means that no matter how old an artist might be, how long they have been developing their craft, the number of artworks they have sold or how popular/recognisable their work is, most artists will always be technically classified as ‘emerging’.

As a more general term, ‘emerging’ tends to be used to describe artists when they have been practising for less than 10 years, they haven’t before been snapped up by a gallery or art agent and their profile in the art market has been low. Other terms for this might include, ‘up and coming’, ‘fresh talent’ and ‘rising star’. Amy Kim is a great example. Amy is professionally trained, and has a body of works to show but hasn’t had the public and media attention her work deserves (and Vernissage Art is delighted to be the ones to do the snapping-up and raising her profile!).

Mid Career and Established

The next level in technical art terms is ‘mid-career’ artist. Mid-career is when an artist has won those prestigious art prizes and had their works acquired in those seminal art institutions discussed earlier; their works are shown at a state and national level and their works written about and published by art critics and journals. For most artists, this is the top level achievable as the last category, ‘established’ artist, is usually only given after an artist’s death! The ‘established’ artist has their works acquired by internationally acclaimed museums such as the Tate Modern Museum or The Lourve, and sold at international auctions for increasing prices every time. This is almost entirely impossible for the living artist, especially as many collectors do not wish to sell their investments at auction in case they sell for less, devaluing their other pieces by the same artist.

Photography: Gabrielle Connole

In Other Words

And what do words like ‘professional’, ‘advanced’ and ‘master’ mean? Well, technically nothing, but generally speaking a ‘professional’ artist does not need to have another job as they sell enough works to focus on their practice. An ‘advanced’ artist might mean that they have been painting a long time, and ‘master’ often refers to a professional artist that skirts the mid-career bracket, and perhaps also provides mentoring or classes to other artists. But, is any of it important? That probably depends on the type of artwork you wish to view and collect, however we at Vernissage Art love the untapped talent of the emerging artist, and here’s why: the emerging artist brings something new and exciting to the market, and while their work is still high-quality, the prices for their artworks aren’t as high as artists with a greater portfolio of sales and collectors. There is also so much potential with emerging artists - they are hungry for a challenge and create boundary-pushing pieces, plus their prices have lots of room to move upwardly, meaning the work is often a good investment.

So you know the terms and what they mean, you can feel more confident when seeing the labels given to artists (in the knowledge that it’s mostly arbitrary or quite technically incorrect!). Give the ‘emerging’ artist the chance they deserve and get in while the prices are affordable. And what is affordable? Well, we cover that in a later blog!