Basic Shit: Ten Things Artists Need to Know is written with the broadest of authority. Leo Kamen has lived and worked in the art world for the past forty years as an artist, a gallery owner, an artist consultant and an author. During that time he has watched artists and their work become increasingly compromised by its growing monetization and professionalization. Basic Shit: Ten Things Artists Need to Know addresses this trend with the intention of reversing it and restoring the artist to the power and purpose of their vision.
The book is broken into ten chapters. Each chapter begins by stating a fundamental concept that an artist can cite and use as inspiration and guidance. As the chapter develops it offers examples of the concept in action, discusses how it can be practiced daily in the studio, and reflects upon its cultural and social context. The chapter ends with an illustrative biographical anecdote, rooted in the author’s own experience of an individual who inspired his life.
If the crass quality of the contemporary art scene makes you livid, this is the book for you. Basic Shit: Ten Things Artists Need to Know speaks directly to anyone wishing to create meaningful work in a world that has reduced meaning to the level of status and money. Defiant in its tone, the book lambasts the hollow entrepreneurial nature of the present art environment, ignores giving career advice and refuses to have anything to do with the business or crafting of art. It chooses instead to focus on how artists must learn to manage issues of integrity, risk, time, value and solitude in order to survive being an artist over a lifetime of challenges. With humour, wisdom and a social philosopher’s flair, Kamen moves point-by-point to outline the attitudes and convictions necessary to remain undistracted by the antics and fashionable postures of the art world.