Opinion

Opinion: Why don’t more artists and designers write autobiographies?

Work / Opinion

Opinion: Why don’t more artists and designers write autobiographies?

This week, editor Liv Siddall wonders why you don’t see that many autobiographies from creatives. Seen any? Disagree? Throw in your two cents in our comments section at the bottom.

Damien Hirst has just announced that he’s going to tell all in an autobiography coming out soon that is, in co-writer James Fox’s words, going to reveal Damien’s “semi-criminal” past.

If we can, let’s just put that on the back-burner for a minute, and have a think of which other artists or designers have made autobiographies. Think of any? Me neither. Sure, there are monographs, show catalogues and big, coffee table-bucking books about their work, but not so many paperback life stories written by the artist themselves.

A brief spell on the internet led me to discover that yes, there have been a few. Yayoi Kusama has made one called Infinity Net and rather excitingly, Frank Lloyd Wright wrote one too that I had no idea about. There are a few more here and there, but you can go and look into that later.

What puzzles me is that surely, surely they’d sell really well. Who could have more stories to tell than those who stayed up getting pissed with Picasso in his chateau one summer, or artists that spent periods of time lounging, smoking Vogues in Warhol’s Factory? Even Damien’s counterparts, the illustrious YBA’s must have some fun stories. Michael Landy once told us about the private view of YBA’s infamous Freeze show and about how he missed out on being in the famous photo of them all together because he was “at the shop buying ice” for everyone’s drinks. There must be loads of funny stories like that.

Are artists too busy to make autobiographies? Or could you argue that their life is already written in the work they create? I had a think about what other kinds of people tend to write them and my brain came back with Jordan, footballers and comedians. One look at the Guardian’s very handy list of bestselling autobiographies since 2001 showed that I had pretty much nailed that. Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It held the top spot, contrasted with Peter Kay at a close second.

Those two oddly appealing reads aside, there aren’t many others in that list that I’d chose to read over, say, a book written by Keith Haring about his time spray painting all over New York. I’m sure Richard Hammond and Sharon Osborne did some cool stuff, yeah, but imagine hearing anecdotes selected from the upbringing of a design legend like Milton Glaser.

I’m looking forward to reading Damien’s book, really. But is has got me wondering about the worth of these books, the importance of refraining from a tell-all à la Simon Cowell, and more importantly which artist’s life I would most love to get really stuck into. What about you?