Art is the fifth wave of business

February 21, 2021
Art is the fifth wave of business - original painting by Kym Bennetts - Campbelltown Arthouse Inc - Wave Exhibition

I am convinced that artists hold the key to our world’s future, which is why I was delighted to have been asked to formally open a new art exhibition by Campbelltown Arthouse Inc for the 2021 Adelaide Fringe.

I was doubly delighted when I discovered the theme of the exhibition is Wave.

This is because I am working on an upcoming book entitled, Art Is The Fifth Wave Of Business. As a side note, I must approach the artist, Kym Bennetts, whose image is pictured above, because it would make a dashing cover for this book, as I will make clear.

To understand the significance of this event and this work, I need to take you back to some foundational texts, and then give you some broad brushstrokes as I paint a picture of the future.

Alvin Toffler’s Third Wave

Back in 1980, Alvin Toffler published a book entitled, The Third Wave, in which he argued that an Information Age was upon us and threatening to push aside the Industrial Age.

In Toffler’s world, waves of change wash through developed economies, eroding old boundaries, washing away sandcastles of routine, and invigorating our entrepreneurial energies from our sunscreen besmeared noses to our damp trouser bottoms.

The first wave was the settled agricultural society, washing away hunter-gatherer cultures.

The Second Wave was the Industrial Age in which goods became produced en masse, education became readily available and widespread, and most aspects of society became commoditised in the hope that by one size fitting all, it would enable mass consumption and mass profits.

The Third Wave was dubbed by Toffler as Post-Industrial while others have called it the Information Age or Internet Age. This age has seen mass consumption supplemented with automated customisation of products and services, more wealth made through computers than factories, and making possible some new heights of artistic expression such as songs like Psy’s Gangnam Style.

Toffler’s work then inspired other observers to denote a Fourth Age, such as Herman Bryant Maynard and Susan E. Mehrtens in The Fourth Wave: Business in the 21st Century. In this age, one we are supposedly in now or on the cusp of, integration of all dimensions of life and responsibility for the whole, will have become the central foci of society. Perhaps these authors, back in 1993, foresaw the impact of Covid-19 through which getting out of a “hole” has certainly become the central foci of all!

But I am predicting we need to bring about a Fifth Wave in which Art becomes the key method of communication and existence.

What can Art do that money can’t?

To begin, let me compare past waves with this important future wave I am postulating.

The first three waves had very clear outcomes for all of us.

By marshalling our energies and resources, farmers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, enterprises, were able to scoop in and bank piles of money.

To achieve this, they plundered natural resources, dumped growing amounts of industrial waste, and changed the core patterns of familial relationships from one where extended families lived within close proximity to each other and gaily serenaded their lot each night around pianos and drunk husbands, to one where people handcuff themselves to streaming services and gobble mass-produced calories while serenading the lot of fantasy characters who flicker across widescreen TVs doing battle with zombies and drunk husbands.

It’s a bleak trajectory and there’s little wonder it gave rise to wide-eyed (and possibly 1990s-style ecstasy-inspired) optimism for Maynard and Mehrtens, as they tried to drown out the droning sounds of Grunge artists like Kurt Cobain et al and construct a future in which all things are rosy and happy.

My theory is that artists, due to the neglect and oppression of the industrial waves, have honed their survival skills and will be the cockroaches of the world’s future.

Let’s look at what they can do.

  • Artists take industrial products like polymers and petroleum and turn them into paints with which they create wonderful depictions of the natural world
  • Artists have endured the rise of digital prints and AI artwork and have made do with ever decreasing sources of income
  • Artists communicate in images which will become the new language as levels of literacy and numeracy plummet

What I see in that list are qualities of resourcefulness, resilience, and relevance.

What can business learn from Art and Artists?

There are three things businesses can do right now, to learn from the lived experience of artists.

Firstly, be more obvious.

Many artists have described to me how they are frustrated by having to provide literal narratives for potential art buyers. To them, this defeats the purpose of artistic expression but they know such stories will make the sale.’

Therefore, if your business does things that are counter-intuitive, perhaps you should explain them more bluntly. For example, we know entrepreneurs need to fail to succeed, so when applying for a bank loan or venture capital, perhaps outline all the dangerous and undermining things you will do to ensure you lose their money quickly and thoroughly. Such frankness will surely earn their respect and trust.

Secondly, many artists have their work judged by whether or not it suits the decor of the room in which it will be displayed. This is so common that many artists have learned to make four or five variations of each work of art, so that a desired painting can suit a range of aesthetic situations.

Likewise, as a business, you will earn more if you can blend in (or contrast) with your customer’s colour tones. For example, landscape gardeners working on a garden for a red house with white feature windows, would do well to provide artificial lawn in soft pink hues or perhaps a tawny-orange, and any palms or succulents could be spray painted white to match the trimmings.

Thirdly, most artists know that the key to success is in doing work for free to gain exposure. This has led many artists to have long, fruitful, and rewarding careers.

Therefore, smart business owners should seize upon this. For example, the MBA School Of MBA Credentials would be most willing to give businesses great exposure in return for products and services. In particular, I would like to upgrade from a hybrid to a fully electric car and would welcome a Tesla from that young man, Elon Musk, because it might convince him to stop talking down the value of MBAs. Just wait until he reaps the reward of the exposure I’ll give him!

A message to artists

This is your time.

Heed the signs and note that we are living in the End Times of bloated capitalism and greed.

You know how to survive in times like these, and you will be ready to capture new images as the world’s facade of order gives way to a great outpouring of emotion and despair.

For this generation of artists, no more needing to slice off one’s ear to derive inspiration, for the world will be poking and prodding itself as it awakens to a new reality.

You will witness a time when, instead of you, entrepreneurs will be spending hours and days on hold with Centrelink.

And if you have prepared your easels and stockpiled your tubes of toxic colour, you will be ready to stroke to your heart’s content.

I am thrilled just imagining your images of merchant bankers screaming in silence, of a last supper of economists farewelling their messiah of money, and your unsmiling, dour portraits of the likes of Murdoch and other moguls.

But how will you get paid for this, how will you earn income?

You won’t.

But neither will anybody else.

The difference is that all the former Waves have toughened you and prepared you for this moment.

In this new era of broken systems and despondent couch potatoes, we will all hear the rousing choruses each night, of proud but hungry artists, huddled around the bonfire of the vanities, knowing that their enforced stoicism of ages past has primed them to be able to see out the world in song and celebration.

Here’s hoping this final picture of society will fetch a good price in the great Sotheby’s in the sky.

Going, going, gone.

And hence, the artwork by Kym Bennetts, pictured above, is the perfect image for this story.

Artist, Kym Bennetts describes the work thus: “she felt the storm roll in and smiled, pulled up a wave and tucked herself in…and finally she slept.”

In a similar way, this era of Art will be the nurturing moment depicted in this peaceful scene, before the Sixth Wave sweeps through.

This Sixth Wave will be the one that comes when this generation of artists will have died.

At that time, the prices of their artwork will skyrocket and the Wave of the art critic and gallery owner will emerge.

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