Culture report

Part II: What is success?

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Photograph: Marilyn Minter; Untitled, 2008; Courtesy of Salon 94, New York

America loves success. In fact, America loves success so much that its definition has been greatly expanded and more people than ever can have it. Your juggling-dog video is a YouTube hit: success! Your name rings a vague bell, even if nobody knows what you actually do: success! You buy The Observer at 25 (albeit with your parents’ money): success! The Waverly Inn mâitre d’ waves you in: success!

But are we talking about success here, or merely fame—unless, of course, they’ve become the same thing? Does success still mean anything when everybody and their juggling dog has a chance to sniff its sweet smell? And what does this apparent democratization/blurring of the lines mean for New York’s cultural agitators?

Read the rest of our introduction

About the cover: We're already getting questions about artist Marilyn Minter's exclusive cover for Time Out New York, mainly: What's coming out of that mouth? Pearls? Caviar? Cocaine? Here's the deal.

THEATER

The Great White…wait!: Broadway isn’t the brass ring it used to be.
Stage vs. screen: Success in one arena doesn’t guarantee it in the other.

ART

A matter of time: There were years when no one bought Marilyn Minter’s art. It took a while, but things have definitely changed.

MUSIC

Self-made man: He’s a fact-checker and an artistic force. How Nick Hallett defines success.
Europe is better than America: NYC singer Joan As Police Woman tells us why.
My way: Producer-turned-performer Ryan Leslie is changing his game—and reinventing the rules.

DANCE

“I’m always thinking I’ve failed”: New York’s lords of the dance tell us how they really feel about their careers so far.

BOOKS

Words of wisdom (sort of): The factors of literary stardom are not all that clear-cut. Here, seven notable New York writers weigh in on what they think of the benchmarks they’re supposed to hit.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

Top 5 ways to be an Internet success: To succeed online, you must become more than a brand—you must become a meme. Julia Allison tells you how.

Missed Part I of our Culture Report? Read it here!

America loves success. In fact, America loves success so much that its definition has been greatly expanded and more people than ever can have it. Your juggling-dog video is a YouTube hit: success! Your name rings a vague bell, even if nobody knows what you actually do: success! You buy The Observer at 25 (albeit with your parents’ money): success! The Waverly Inn mâitre d’ waves you in: success!

But are we talking about success here, or merely fame—unless, of course, they’ve become the same thing? Does success still mean anything when everybody and their juggling dog has a chance to sniff its sweet smell? And what does this apparent democratization/blurring of the lines mean for New York’s cultural agitators?

As the balance between art and commerce has tilted toward the latter over the past couple of decades, TONY decided to look at what success means in New York nowadays. No, bigger, louder, brasher isn’t always better. And guess what: You can’t always put a price tag on your achievements (for choreographers such as Sarah Michelson or John Jasperse, simply being able to work at all is a daily gift). Some of the most commonly accepted milestones may turn out to be smoke and mirrors, too: Broadway, for instance, isn’t the be-all and end-all for innovative theater folks; Ryan Leslie is a hot R&B producer who probably doesn’t get any Gawker sightings, because he built his success behind the scenes; visual artist Marilyn Minter (who created the image above and this week’s cover) defied art-world critics to find her audience; and rocker Joan As Police Woman explains that being popular in the U.S. isn’t all that.

Stars are fun, sure; many are deserving, and some even have talent (that unfair advantage that kinda screws up the aforementioned democratization). And yet our NYC heroes are often far from successful in conventional terms. Selling out Southpaw is a towering achievement for some; for others, it’s publishing a novel with Akashic Books. For many, it’s simply being able to eke out a living without having to temp on Wall Street. But then, the fortune of capitalism’s soldiers has proved to be as erratic as that of artists. Funny how these things turn out…

— Elisabeth Vincentelli

Missed Part I of our Culture Report? Read it here!


We're already getting questions about artist Marilyn Minter's exclusive cover for Time Out New York, mainly: What's coming out of that mouth? Pearls? Caviar? Cocaine? "I used bakers candy—it's edible," says the Whitney Biennial star. The image fit the issue's theme perfectly—the package is about how New York artists define success. "The voraciousness of the mouth eating the candy is a metaphor for people craving success," she says. "And yes, the tongue really that long. It's Louisa from Ford Models. No Photoshop in that picture!"

See more of Marilyn's art in our series.

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