No! Older artists are not past their best. Of course they aren’t! Are you crazy? In fact, they’ve never been better.
Thinking that older artists are no longer capable or relevant is a stupid idea, held by those who really haven’t thought about the matter too deeply and who are only too happy to accept and adhere to the orthodox stereotype. Don’t be that intellectual zombie and dupe.
The whole world seems to believe in and worship youth. That’s an implanted idea and you have been propagandised for a reason – it keeps things nice and cheap for those paying for creativity. It also ensures that the jobs go to compliant artists who do what they’re told, because they are hungry, poor and trying to build their careers and reputation by any means necessary. These are the dogs that are mostly likely to eat other dogs. That keeps them distracted and docile.
Older artists have wisdom, decades of skill and the perspective that only comes from having seen it all before. They generally take no nonsense from anybody (unless they have no choice and only then as a last resort). The older the artist, the more they have a tendency to have independent minds and to offer forthright views. They produce great, edgy, challenging work, not the faux shock-value, tantrum-driven works of younger artists trying to make a splash. If you want something of lasting, monumental significance, ask an older artist.
Most of them have spent a lifetime perfecting their art and drawing on a diversity of influences that no younger artist could have possibly absorbed, let alone been exposed to, in their short lives to date. They draw on a rich, fertile set of ideas and their works show the added ingredients and flavours gloriously.
Are they still relevant? Because they can remember a time before neo-liberalism became the de-facto global religion, and because they lived through the battles that lead up to its dominance, they have world views that are simply unthinkable to people born later. They know other worlds are possible. They have lived in them. Their experience of a better way is visceral, obtained through direct experience.
I think older artists need to assert their superiority. Sure, the young guys might be in fashion, but fashion fades fast and they all too soon join the ranks of the middle aged and invisible artists, burning to make a meaningful contribution, but denied opportunities to do so. Make those contributions anyway.
To those passing up the opportunity to work with older artists, you are turning your back on sheer competence, in favour of people that are still faking it until they make it. A younger artist might look cheaper, but they take longer. Their ideas are drawn from a shallower pool of influences. They are prone to follow each other in an ever decreasing circle of plagiarism, like the clueless leading the clueless. Not all young artists are this deficient, of course, but neither are they all the new wave and next big things. What seems to be fresh is often just repackaged retro.
The definition of a clichéd hipster is someone that failed to change as fast as the trends did, ensuring that they maintain conformity to an idea frozen in time. They become has-beens much faster, in other words. Older artists, on the other hand, have had to reinvent themselves several times throughout their careers and had to eventually eschew following trends for being who they authentically are, uniquely and standing for what they represent, despite the ebbs and flows of popularity.
Ageism is no more legitimate an idea than racism or sexism. It has no place in a modern culture. Support your older artists. You’ll get great work in return.