Everybody talks about becoming an artist. But what happens when you give up the calling? Can you cease to be an artist? Where do ideas go when they no longer make it into art? Do they float around, searching for an artist who has none of their own?

The lifecycle of the artist is a strange one. Many start, but few continue. Failure, fatigue, and frustration seem to lurk at every corner of a budding artist’s career. Even stranger: out of those who do blossom, some aren’t allowed to stop. Artists who’ve attained a certain level of recognition—Marcel Duchamp, Lee Lozano, Cady Noland, or Agnes Martin, to name but a few—are forever engraved into the public’s imagination as such, despite their own proclamations to the contrary.

         Change comes when worlds grow dry. For artists, this can mean doubt and disillusionment with the art world, a promised land which soon reveals itself to be no different than the market-driven world that surrounds it. Yet to return to the land of non-artists is never easy. Outside judgment adds itself to the weight of letting go, and what starts as a personal choice soon becomes a failure in the eyes of others.

         Much of the pressure surrounding the practice of art, it seems, stems from meeting the expectations that come from being called an artist. This might be why many distance themselves from the name over time, whether their career is in tatters, at its peak or, more likely, never took off. The question then becomes: what happens to an artist’s ideas when they’re no longer an artist?

         We’ve gathered a selection of such ideas from former artists to see how they resonate in public. By withholding the name of each idea’s provider, we’ll respect their wish to no longer be defined as an artist and explore the possibilities that come with breaking free from authorship. Maybe this step away from viewing art as something to be practiced or realized in a codified role can nurture ideas that would never have seen the light of day under the pressure of execution.

         Artwork Agency provides ideas for artists who have none, or for individuals curious to see what lurks inside the minds of artists who have ceased to be. Its portfolio contains a series of propositions powerful enough to be ideated into a work of art without necessitating or prohibiting any form of physical realization. Each idea can be freely appropriated by anybody who comes across it.

         With these possibilities comes new freedom—to craft ideas that don’t need to be realized in order to be understood, and to lead artists and non-artists alike to rethink what it means to make art. Or maybe just what it means to forget it.

Each proposition for a work of art is accessible on the Artwork Agency’s website, and can be appropriated by any artist and claimed as their own.

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Financial support by Pro Helvetia