The Zen of Doroshenko: 5 Easy Steps to Becoming Almost Famous

by Darryl Ratcliff September 12, 2013

doroshenkoOn Wednesday night, September 11, 2013 Peter Doroshenko, director of the Dallas Contemporary, gave a talk titled “5 Easy Steps to Becoming Almost Famous” to approximately forty eager art world types.

He urged his listeners to be brutally honest with themselves and to write out their strengths and weaknesses, and reminded the crowd that the successful artists they idolize live for success. The key is transforming yourself into the type of person you want to be. The background for most of his talk was a picture of a growling Damien Hirst in front of his famous shark.

1. Product. For Doroshenko, product is what you do in your studio, and also being able to communicate “who I am” and “what I am working on” in two to three sentences. Doroshenko believes that you can’t just be good at cranking work out, but have to be able to describe your work and be able to write a one-page statement.  If you can’t, he recommended getting a friend to do it for you. He advised artists to have a slick elevator-and-cocktail speech and to be extremely passionate about what they do.  Doroshenko admits this is common sense, nuts and bolts stuff, but it is necessary in order to take the next step.

2. Image. Artists must package themselves; particularly by being involved in articulating what their practice is about. He advises that learning never stops, not just locally but all over the world. When talking about one’s work artists should be concise and able to articulate why what you are doing is important. For Doroshenko, being wishy-washy is very 70’s. “You’ve got to have a story.”

3. The Plan. Doroshenko posited that being famous means having a plan, which should cover the short, medium, and long term, with five to seven goals and three breakout goals. He emphasized the importance of writing this plan down to counter laziness. He advised that artists focus all energy outside of a studio practice on these goals, and that they tweak these goals according to how the world changes. Part of achieving these goals is making lifestyle choices, giving things up, and making sacrifices.

4. Belief. Doroshenko advocated self-examination, and that having belief in oneself takes a long time. He dismisses people who act like “major jerks, major freaks” by saying that they are “a marshmallow and can be crushed with a paperclip.”

4.5 Doroshenko then segued into a talk about criticism, saying that is really hard, underpaid, and that critics don’t get much in return. He asserted that everyone can have an opinion, but there is a difference between criticism and opinion. According to Doroshenko, when an artist encounters criticism they should ignore anything snarky or that is mere opinion. He recommended having impartial people look at your work as well as your friends, and recommended 7 to 10 studio visits per body of work. He didn’t want you to worry too much about what other people think, and to remember that a negative review is not the end of the world. He says we always think in the short term, but should think 3 years, 10 years, 60 years from now; however, he noted, “If you don’t have it by 90 then your time’s up.”

5. Networking. Doroshenko also recommended talking to people, networking, and making yourself feel comfortable with people. He recommended building peer relationships and being persistent, but advised that there is only so much you can do and it can’t be your full-time job. He connected persistence to positioning, and reminded us that the art world is small and also political. Although he described politics as boring, it does exist, and whether an artist engages in art-world politics is a personal choice. He recommends collaborating with new people and changing up your coworkers. For him, it is healthy to bring in fresh blood, new ideas, and new feedback.

Doroshenko concluded by pointing out that it takes baby steps, and that “the basics work, the fundamentals work, it’s in all of you, it’s about being serious, passionate, defining things on paper, rolling up your sleeves, and doing it. “”Anything is possible,” he said, “You are the only roadblock.”



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a mc donald September 15, 2013 - 16:19

Is this just ignorant of Pussy Riot art and Femen art or just indifferent? Matthew Collings is equally evasive in his latest imaginary interview (Art Review) with Lenin on the subject of the Bernadette Foundation/abstract art etc. Ask Lenin about Putin,Kirill and Pussy Riot ? Not even playfully! Don`t upset the rich collectors or make them irrelevant with DIY genius? Pussy Riot art/philosophy belongs to everyone rich or poor. It is “aesthetic resistance” to the “conservative,secret- service aesthetic” of the church and state`s big business/wars. At least Collings mentions Hilma af Klint. Who or what is being “idolised” in Texas? Hirst`s anti-genius designerism? Emin`s new official status as one of Her Majesty the Queen`s corgies? American individualism? Questioning the nature of art ? In Catalonia Sister Teresa Ricardo is loved by and uniting believers and leftwing atheists, she`s become one of Europe`s leading public intellectuals!

Dave Hickey September 16, 2013 - 09:58

I think Peter Dorchenko is wrong. Self-involvement and self examination are not prerequisites for making good art. Paying attention to art and to the world around you would be high on my list. I could list on one hand the artists whose work has been improved by adulation. It is the end not the beginning. I recommend good work habits, too much sex, getting to know the territory, and an old Joy Division t-shirt.

arthur mc donald September 18, 2013 - 19:19

Pussy Riot is “the most important cultural event in the 21st Century.” They are the finest artists in Russia since the Suprematists and the Oberiu poets,the apotheosis(so far) of situationist detournement by feminist artists. Not since Marcel Duchamp…….(to be cont`d later). Matthew Collings is not so explicit or enthusiastic (nor Camille Paglia) What does Dave Hickey have to say ?

Michael Corris September 16, 2013 - 10:39

Professional practice in the creative fields can means many things but it is increasingly being cast in terms of an affirmation of the sociality which bears the mark of global corporate enterprise and is already well-entrenched in neo-liberal sociology, management theory, and institutional behavior.

Are there other models, capable of generating other agendas, that might be more appropriate from the standpoint of the artist, as opposed to the standpoint of the institution?

a mc donald September 16, 2013 - 18:49

That`s 2 `Joy Division t-shirts` in the comments.Very interesting. JD fans may be surprised at the art and politics at Gothic Moon Records (easily Googled) Zizek`s `Trouble In Paradise` has a communist model. He`s also the philosopher-ambassador for the Greek Syriza Party. His `The True Blasphemy` defends Pussy Riot conceptual art activism and denounces Putin&Kirill . Joseph Kosuth,Art-Language,The Royal Academicians say nothing. There`s more about this in my interview in the art&music mag FixeMag

Julie Webb September 16, 2013 - 11:26

I just love that Peter Doroshenko laid all of this out for the 40 or so artists in the crowd! Mr. Doroshenko is a professional in his field. He had this group of artists who were looking for some help and guidance in getting themselves and their stuff out there. Lord knows it’s hard enough just being an an aritst! They were just looking for a plan and will it work? – oh who knows, for everyone is different, but Mr. Doroshenko gave them a way to market their product whether it be their art or themselves. Everyone’s idea of fame is different and what works for one probably won’t work for another. Sure there is a common approach to marketing art by folks like Damien Hurst and Shephard Fairey, but that wouldn’t have worked for Joseph Cornell or Howard Finster. One can only hope that the artist will stay true to themselves in making art. Sure there are artists who make art to sell. Then there are others who just have to make art. There are even those who fall in the cracks and make it anyway. I do hope they are all wearing joy division t-shirts from time to time.

franco mondini-ruiz September 16, 2013 - 11:45

wow. a refreshing insightful , spot on formula. I often refer to myself as an almost famous artist (except in Helsinki , finland) and am surprisingly and thankfully content in this niche. Of course, one must keep in mind he is not giving advice on being a someday super famous artist, or a brilliant, tortured artist, or a genius ahead of one’s time,….he is giving a nuts and bolts outline for the minimum steps to achieve a hard-work driven level of recognition …it is practical and nuts and bolts and I feel like I would have written the same list. There are probably other ways to skin the cat, If so, spread the word if you are so inclined.

franco mondini-ruiz September 16, 2013 - 11:55

ps Dave Hickey is a god. I didn’t realize I was contradicting him and I have found his proposal valid also. I am just too tired for “too much sex” anymore!

DAVE HICKEY IS GOD!!! September 17, 2013 - 11:36

Is this the best example of what transgression doesn’t look like? I hope so. It would be the piece’s redeeming feature. Doroshenko’s prescriptions are as anodyne as they come. Michael Corris asks the only interesting questions. But I suspect he’s venturing dangerously close to Doroshenko’s marshmallow land. Another model, another agenda isn’t even topical.

a mc donald September 20, 2013 - 09:48

This is very true. The young genius artist in America is Akiane Kramarik.She`s prospering,inspiring,a miracle,even. America didn`t put Oscar Wilde or Marcel Duchamp in prison but Russia has done the equivalent putting Pussy Riot in prison. The genius of fledgling Femen is not `artworld` approved,nor does it require it to `succeed`. I can`t see Obama,Putin or the Islamic mafias (or their fans) abandoning their retarded ideologies for self-education in art as Camille Paglia advocates.

Rainey Knudson September 17, 2013 - 16:53

Not to sound like a Darwininazi, but I honestly wonder whether artists who feel they need a seminar on how to market themselves are ever going to get to “success” or “almost fame”.

But maybe I’m just being a negative old bag: Artists? Any of you who have attended these mushrooming self-help seminars? Have they worked for you?

Paul Stella September 24, 2013 - 20:50

Your a negative person, we all know that.

Julie Speed September 18, 2013 - 21:02

I think Mr. Doroshenko is giving bad advice. Having “fame” as your life goal is just plain shallow.

Sebastien Boncy September 18, 2013 - 21:43

Man, I still have fond memories of Doroshenko telling an auditorium full of UNT freshmen that the Artworld was a shitty place with few opportunities, and that no reform was possible. He got his though. Thug Life!

a mc donald September 23, 2013 - 15:46

Thug-lite life in the USA artworld? Today in a Russian slave labour camp Nadia (of Pussy Riot art group) began her hunger strike because of the barbaric thuggery of the Russian penal and political establishment. Her description of the horrors is now online at the Guardian newspaper and n+1 magazine. for more info .

sethalverson September 23, 2013 - 12:39

Man, this is the saddest thing I’ve ever read. Rainey, I’m an artist and I’ve been to LOTS of these things. They don’t help at all and possibly do more damage than good. And even using fame as the pretext for advice to artists is just plain silly. There are muuuuuuch easier ways of becoming famous. My advice to anyone that wants fame- don’t be an artist, become a politician and do terrible things to particular types of people. All of his advice would be better suited for that.

Codyledvina September 23, 2013 - 17:29

pee pee

J.V. September 24, 2013 - 10:06

I’m not sure the commenters above appreciate (i.e., understand) what Doroshenko is actually communicating here. His specific bullet-points are merely a small group of tangible details to illustrate a broader but more elusive concept, which is to obtain and nurture a laser-like focus on yourself and your art.

If you are already a hyper-focused person to begin with, and if you already know yourself and your art inside-out, then you’re not attending this lecture. You’re too busy conceiving art, making it and/or promoting it. (Where “promoting” might mean something as simple as “sitting in a bar with friends talking about your art in extremely interesting ways”).

If you’re attending this lecture, then you probably need as much focus as you can get. It’s not such a bad idea to study these concepts and internalize them, then understand that what you’ve really learned is not these specific things, but rather the larger goal of focus, whereupon these specific things will flow of themselves.

Frank Zappa said it best: Shut up and play yer guitar. Eat your art, make your art, sleep your art, and speak your art. A laser focus on yourself and your art will lead to self-knowledge, which will lead to a natural ability to generate things like “elevator speeches”, because your art is all you know. It can also help to success because you would now know exactly what you’re fighting for — i.e., yourself — and you would now have the strong desire to put all your energy into your fight.

Because once you’ve done all this, you’re no longer fighting for “a sale”, or for “a show”, or for “a job”, or for “a commission” or even for “recognition”. Now you’re fighting for you. And that’s when people will sit up and take notice.

So I think the concepts above are valuable, and need to be understood in the broader context of yourself, your art, and the real world. It’s been said that Einstein had multiple copies of the same clothes. He was focused pretty intensely on physics. If an artist doesn’t have that level of focus, then it’s not clear that success is in the cards. In which case I don’t know that there’s any other way to learn it, except by going through what is laid out above, and making it part of you.

a mc donald September 25, 2013 - 15:10

Like Einstein I have multiple copies of the same clothes. So does the best painter in England Stella Vine (I forgive everyone who thinks it`s David Hockney or somebody else!) She rents a very small flat in London and has a great website/facebook etc. She is independent and creates in freedom. Mere millionare cunts like Hirst and Emin are not supercunts like Duchamp,Tony Wilson(Factory Records)RIP, Pussy Riot,Femen,Sister Teresa Forcades, Zizek,Akiane Kramarik,Hilma af Klint,Stella Vine,or Sarah Maple. The real artists are supercunts. Its not a cultural or conceptual distinction that Dave Hickey,Michael Corris,Mr Doroshenko,Matthew Collings,Kenneth Clark(RIP),Camille Paglia,or Judith Butler have ever made. The supercunts redefine,rephilosophise,refresh and revolutionise art/peace/prosperity/success. To the uber rich Arabian princes Larry Gagosian`s `empire` is peanuts.The global artworld in its entirety is peanuts to them. But the uber rich Western, Russian,chinese and Arabian `collectors` and `educational` foundations steer well clear (or imprison) the art/philosophy of the supercunts. What Mr Doroshenko advises is standard `soviet` ideology for `Stalinised` capitalist times in the USA. There is a market(and some management/curatorial jobs) for unreal art/ideology for unreal people. Totalitarian capitalism is totally unreal. What Mr Doroshenko advises is almost quaint Americana. Perhaps he can be encouraged to comment at Glasstire? Young american artist Akiane Kramarik proposes that there is genius in everyone. She knows what she`s talking about too! She`s only 18 and has co-founded the Forelli Academy with her mother. Didn`t John Cage advise unfocusing ?

Patricia Mora September 25, 2013 - 20:40

The art world amazes me. The “c” word seems to be especially in vogue – note commentator Number Thirteen. And Mr. Doroshenko seems to meld art and artists with the marketing techniques used by cereal manufacturers. I find all of it repugnant – the “hipness” of being crude and the application of Marketing 101 to the art world. It’s all de rigueur but that doesn’t prevent it from being boring, not to mention ill-advised.

a mc donald September 25, 2013 - 22:01

It might amaze Commentator 14 even more to know that the genius English writers Chaucer and Shakespeare used the “c” word. In `The Millers Tale` and `Hamlet` to be precise. If its good enough for them its good enough for me. The famous feminist Germaine Greer even defends the word! “Kant” (the philosopher)would be preferable? Or the German word “Kunst” ? The liar and misogynist President Putin wants to ban swearing ie the “c” word that describes him exactly. Commentator 14 is the one being boring and ill-advised here.

Patricia Mora September 25, 2013 - 23:45

Commentator 13, you are actually imprecise in your observation in Round 2. Furthermore, you are not a genius. But, by all means, go forth a scrawl verbiage as you wish. You’re making your point.

a mc donald September 26, 2013 - 09:43

In Round 2 Commentator 14 is bluffing,inexperienced and in denial. And was blinded to all the other words by the “c” word in Round 1. Google the history of the word. Where precisely is it imprecise? If not me then who is a genius? Name one living artist. I precisely name Akiane Kramarik (for starters). Do you deny her genius too? And Hilma af Klint`s ? It is a pleasure to write about the artists and philosophers I name and love. I am being very generous and convivial. Who or what does Commentator 14 love ? Perhaps she`s actually Snow White writing from Disneyland? The genius film star and writer Mae West said “I used to be Snow White but I drifted.” Why deny the existence of genius in the USA,UK,France and Russia ? Jealous? The clamour and noise of Bestia Triumphons calls forth Wisdom from her cave (Oscar Wilde). Perhaps you are too young to write a paragraph. At least Mr Doroshenko can manage a couple of them! Your `tweets` are not exactly self expressive. This isn`t Twitter! Its Glasstire! We can write entire paragraphs and reviews here! One of the genius artists of Russia is now on hunger strike in prison while the Bestia Triumphons /fucking sadistic Kremlin bastards are free to roam and pillage. Not everyone is indifferent or a willing minion of the omerta/gruel-propaganda. Sneer and look down your nose as you wish,Snowie. If you`ve got it flaunt it. Round 3 tomorrow ?

Patricia Mora September 26, 2013 - 10:20

Geniuses? Melville, Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy. In visual art, Lucian Freud and Ged Quinn come to mind immediately [among living artists.] I’m so sorry I’m unable to write. It’s often been noted that I am unable to put a sentence together. Also, I’ve never read “Snow White” — not even as a child. I’m quite fond of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy and Nabokov. Ada, in fact, is one of the most delicious pieces ever written. I leave it to you now, Commentator 13. The world is all yours.

a mc donald September 26, 2013 - 15:09

That`s more like it! If you have a look at Akiane Kramarik`s website you might agree that at 8-18 years old she`s at the very least their equal. Yes or no ? She had the craft and talent of Quinn mastered at 8 years old but her art is more explicitly beautiful and poetically/intellectually engaging.More independent minded. Fabulous prints,book and cards too. We are in familiar territory with Freud and Quinn(F & Q have dealers do the` Marketing 101` for them.) If I was given paintings by Freud I`d just sell them immediately and open a gallery showing the art and philosophy of the artists and allied intellectuals I`ve mentioned. But back to Akiane! She is at least the equal of Quinn.Yes or no ?

Michael Henderson September 26, 2013 - 18:59

what is zen

a mc donald September 26, 2013 - 22:03

At first I thought you were just too lazy to google an answer but for a precise answer google zizek and zen (for the Youtube videos) Zizek maintains that zen Buddhism is the perfect `religion` for the expansion and management of global Asian and western capitalism (especially in its most barbaric business ego/wars.)! No one is claiming Mr Doroshenko is a zen teacher. In the title of the article it simply means a brief ,concise list of some artist-career advice. For Camille Paglia `the East` is wrong about Nature so zen is a kind of false science and false consciousness. An illusion and evasion of reality and Nature`s fascism. It`s aesthetics and ethics were at one with the Japanese declaration of war against America and any other country the nutcase Japanese Emperor thought he could turn into slave labour colonies (with help from Hitler and his Nazis and Hitler`s Muslim Legions ! Not all muslim men enlisted but the “Halal Capones” did. They`re still at today in Palestine, Syria,Afghanistan and Africa etc.slaughtering other muslims,christians and atheists and still republishing Hitler`s book `Mein Kamph` in Arabic ! )

Michael Henderson September 28, 2013 - 08:05

what is zen

a mc donald September 28, 2013 - 08:24

The perfect Expressionist Art response to the `zen` of whatever is the Youtube channel of the English performance artist `Artist Taxi Driver` (easily googled). `The World News` and artworld news has its zombie voodoo ideology excorcised. He swears a lot (there`s a lot of it England these days!)as he philosophises the who,what,why and where of it all. And he really does drive a taxi in London and broadcasts from it.He`s also got a part-time art teaching job.Superb conceptual expressionism.And it`s free. He`s also making a short film `It`s Not A Recession It`s A Robbery`.

Jordan R October 10, 2013 - 11:48

Just stumbled across an article on Hyperallergic related to narcissism in the art world, which made me think of this article. So, I guess the want to be “almost famous” is a shared characteristic amongst some artists — enough to fill seats at the aforementioned seminar, and explaining the spate of comments that follow this Glasstire piece.

Interesting read:


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