Imagine that you’re trying to make it as an artist. The odds are overwhelmingly against you. If you are an actor, you go on countless auditions. If you are a writer, you send your manuscripts anywhere that will accept them. Rejection is a constant and incessant part of your life. In fact, rejection is all you know. You get depressed. There must be another way.
Then you remember the Impressionist painters of 19th century France, whose revolutionary style was derided by the selection committee of the Salon. To be a successful painter back then, you simply had to exhibit at the Salon. But Impressionist paintings, if selected (a big if), were hung in dimly lit backrooms – just as bad as not having been selected at all. At some point, the frustrated artists decided to defy the status quo and mount their own exhibition. They got mixed reviews, but any press is good press.* They revolutionized painting. They became Monet, Renoir, Cézanne.
You get inspired. You decide you are going to refuse rejection, and build an alternative path for yourself. You come up with an amazing project you can self-finance. You get great collaborators to work with you. You’re doing it. You’re following in the footsteps of great artists before you… But there’s one question that keeps you up at night: how did these broke, revolutionary, Impressionist painters get anybody to show up to their exhibition in the first place?
*this is a recount of the Impressionist Exhibition as framed in Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath.’ Different art historians might disagree with the details.