The latest controversy rumbling through the art world is the question of who should get credit, and when, and how. When a movie is made, at the end of the movie, every single person who had a hand in the production is listed. The same goes for television shows. Even the lousiest, most short-lived, low-budget sitcom will list the names of everyone in the credits.
If a painting isn't painted by the artist, why is their name on it in the first place?
Moving closer to an "apples to apples" comparison, a novel has several places where people are credited. The author may choose to dedicate the book to someone, and can also include a section with acknowledgments in the back. On one of the first pages at the front of the book, the publisher will sometimes list the font used in the book and the name of the artist who created the cover.
So what about paintings and sculptures?
Increasingly, big budget artwork is being created more by a team of assistants that the actual artist. And yet it is the artist whose name ends up on the work.
It's one thing to hire assistants to take care of the mundane chores around an art studio. Cleaning brushes, stretching canvas, that sort of thing. Most artists beyond a certain level will hire a studio assistant for minimum wage plus experience. This is a great way for newer artists to get their foot in the door, network, learn the tools of the trade, and so forth. Many art school students help pay their way through school by doing this sort of grunt work.
But it's an entirely different matter when the artist is essentially just giving directions, not actually creating the pieces themselves. This situation crops up more than you might think. Of course, Thomas Kinkade famously left the actual painting of many of his works to an assembly line of painters.
But Damien Hirst, one of the biggest names in the art world, left painting the actual dots to his team of assistants. Yet his name is on the paintings. Although many art critics turn up their nose at Damien Hirst's work as "crassly commercial" and "attention-getting shenanigans," Hirst is big business. And yet he himself had almost nothing to do with his works, beyond writing up the specs.
Is this fair? No, but then again, life isn't fair. It's well-known inside the art world that the art of big-name artists is almost never created by those artists. Confusing, yes, but as long as people are willing to keep paying for it, this practice will continue.