What Does Success in the Arts Look Like - Interview XIV with artist Ina Loitzl

Ina Loitzl - Artist, Vienna

The (human) body is the initial point of the artistic research of Ina Loitzl, who works in different media: photography, animation and video, object and installation. The core of her artistic practice deals with the female body: crucial points in female life like pregnancy and birth as well as different gender roles that are attributed to female bodies by society. She often uses textile objects whose production, like sewing, is seen as a traditional work by women.

 What are your thoughts on fame in the arts?

We know many names of artists who appear as headlines in well known art magazines, whose works are in high selling auctions worldwide. But compared to how many artists are producing art - this number is very small.

For me personally, fame has never been the aim. I’ve always had the opinion that a sort of organic growth of the artistic practice is better than being a shooting star just for at a short period: increasing my number of exhibitions per year; solo exhibitions; developing exhibitions in off spaces, galleries and further in museums; to increase the prices of my pieces. Being an artist is my profession and calling, I want to be an artist literally for the rest of my life.  

I experienced that people follow my work and what I’m doing, but that deep connections take their time. It takes more than ten years to sort of make it and be a well known name in a city and beyond. That means to be in it for the long run. Fame is maybe the wrong word, my notion of success is connected to be seen, exhibited, appreciated by visitors and critics, and at last to be bought.

What is your approach to rejection as a side of success?

I often experienced “winning” the second place, been voted fourth in a ranking, and others won. I observed that many artists who won an award pressured themselves (or were pressured by their network) to continue to hold their level of success and to remain at the top of the ranking list. To achieve success early on in the career means often to face the burden to keep their celebrated techniques, genres, subjects unchanged etc. Successful artists, especially if younger, do not dare to make experiments in their practice, are squeezed into a box, and might struggle to develop new works.

The rejections I got sometimes brought me certainly down, nevertheless, they also made me more competitive. I thought about making it better the next time. To be honest, the more experiences I gain, the less competitive submissions I do, because, they deal just with the dream to win and to be the first. Often times your work does not really fit very well within the context of the submission, or the jury knows from the beginning their favourites. So, as a newcomer you barely have a chance. I have the feeling that the jury does not spend much time to get to know unknown portfolios. It feels very often like a pre-arranged matter.

Any thoughts on income and financial stability and success?

Most artists earn at the beginning of their careers nothing or just a little. There are periods of time where you just have expenses and no income. Therefore, it is important to support artists at the beginning of their careers: with federal programs, institutional fellowships, through their family, their partners, mentors etc.

Many artists do have a second job. Or – as in my case also produce commissioned work, like animations, stitched portraits in unusual material, or once in a while, I teach or make a workshop.

Together with my friend we run a social art project “den blick öffnen” where we invite other artists to exhibit art on fairs or big exhibitions together with us. The net profit is then donated for a charity cause, and 50 percent go to the artists.

I think to live solely from the revenue of your artistic work means to be very creative and flexible. I have three galleries who collaborate with me (in Vienna, Bratislava and Klagenfurt) – but just from the art sale I could not pay my bills.

Ina Loitzl, Kunstboxen, Courtesy of the Artist.

Ina Loitzl, Kunstboxen, Courtesy of the Artist.

How do you define success in the arts?

Success, for me, looks like: when your solo exhibition opening is crowded with people and you do not know anybody; when you go shopping and strangers talk to you because they know your name and more important, they are really interested in your art work; when you do not submit but nevertheless, you are more and more invited to attend exhibitions, “artist in residencies”, interviews, without having to ask for it; your works are sold right away when you exhibit them for the first time; when your work is part of an important collection. That one of my video objects is part of the Contemporary Collection of the Graphic Collection of the Albertina gives me as an artist a special feeling of success.

The notion of success includes commercial success. But there is also personal and private success: when you get to know fabulous and interesting people and you establish new friendships. When you are invited to very special and unique events – like in my case to restore an ancient 16th century portrait of a lady and I made a video-installation out of it and at the end, your work is exhibited in a big castle. And you know this was just a unique invitation.

Ina Loitzl, „In der Blüte ihrer Jugend“, Video-Mirror-Installation and Animation, Courtesy of the Graphic Collection Albertina  

Ina Loitzl, „In der Blüte ihrer Jugend“, Video-Mirror-Installation and Animation, Courtesy of the Graphic Collection Albertina  

Do you have role models for success and who are they?

I have many female role models or artistic collectives: Christo, Oldenburgs, couples strengthen my sense of collaborative working and I appreciate working with others, as in social project “den blick öffnen”.  I adore female artists who were very engaged in their artistic practice like Niki de Saint Phalle, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgois, Cindy Sherman, Valie Export, Maria Lassnig, Mona Hatoum, Marina Abramovic and so on. Their works, their way of working, small and large-scale, their portraits, their artbooks, and their quotes are unforgettable. 

Which advice on success would you give your 18-year-old self?

Listen to your inner voice, do what you have to do, without doubts, collaborate as much as you can and do critical and socially engaged projects which can change opinions and make the world a better place.

Your thoughts on success in the arts and race/ gender

My last loudly cried sentence at my “live” art-boxing performance was: “In order to be successful and to be seen as a female artist, you have to become very old or you have to die!”

Many female colleagues who witnessed it thanked me and gave me a big hug.

The number of female students at art universities in Europe is higher than their male counterparts but the art market is still male oriented. Women are exhibited in group shows but rarely in big solo shows in important Museums. The “glass ceiling” exists, but has become thinner in the last 10 years.

Women have to have big role models, should think bigger and believe in themselves, should cooperate and should be more active and create their own art projects.

Learn more about Ina on her website.