Young Black Artists Are More in Demand Than Ever—But the Art World Is Burning Them Out

Steffani Jemison, REVELATiON, 2017.

Photo by David Dashiell, courtesy of MASS MoCA.

As calls for social change continue to ring throughout the art world, Melissa Smith's 2019 article for Artnet News resonates now more than ever. In the article, Smith speaks with young Black artists and their sentiments around feeling constant pressure and strain from burnout. The “boom bust cycles” faced by black artists have left those like Steffanie Jemison, Tiana Clark, and Sable Elyse Smith in a state of exhaustion. Such burnout can be frustrating as the artists aim to take advantage of the few opportunities they're afforded while also risking being the tokenized "Black artist" consumed by ill-informed white audiences. Even as the industry’s gatekeepers are now paying attention to Black culture, establishing strong relationships with them is still proves to be disproportionately harder for artists of color.

“No matter the movement or era, being burned out has been the steady state of black people in this country for hundreds of years.- Tiana Clark