The Phaidon Folio

"Making Art Is Hard": 9 Immortal Quotes From Some of Today's Most Important Artists

"Making Art Is Hard": 9 Immortal Quotes From Some of Today's Most Important Artists
Alec Soth, on looking. Bill Sandusky, Ohio, 2014.

Henri Matisse once said that "whoever wishes to devote himself to painting should begin by cutting out his tongue," and it's true that artists are often most eloquent when they're working in their chosen medium. But let's just say that tongue-cutting might be taking it a bit far. When it comes to tossing off the occasional bon mot, incisive insight, or profundity, some of the world's greatest artists have historically been devastatingly effective with their words as well.

Now, to pay tribute to art history's most eye-opening utterances, Phaidon has collected quotes from legendary painters, photographers, performance artists, and other figures that express their most captivating, amusing, and irreverent thoughts.  Think of the book, called Art Is the Highest Form of Hope, as an inspiration manual. Here, we've compiled some of our favorite pithy quotes, pairing them with iconic images of the artists.

Chris Burden, on first times

Chris Burden, The first time you do something only happens once.Shoot, 1971 (stills)

Damien Hirst, on the hope and promise of art

Damien Hirst, Art won't let you down.Damien Hirst with The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991. Photo: Oli Carff/Getty Images

Franz Kline, on "killing your darlings"

Franz Kline, If a painting doesn't work, throw it out.Franz Kline in his studio. Photo: LIFE

Jenny Holzer, on influence and aspirations

Jenny Holzer, I wanted to be soft like Rothko and ruthless like Reinhardt.Jenny Holzer

Louise Bourgeois, on the enduring allure of art and ourselves

Louise Bourgeois, Art is a way of recognizing oneself, which is why it will always be modern.Louise Bourgeois. Photo: Annie Leibovitz

Lynda Benglis, on titles

Lynda Benglis, Yes, the title does matter.Lynda Benglis with Ghost Dance/Pedmarks, 1998. Photo: Jonathan Pow

Marina Abramović, on self-destructive tendencies

Marina Abramovic, I don't drink or smoke and I have never taken drugs. I am probably the most boring person you could meet.Marina Abramović, Rest Energy, 1980 

Rachel Whiteread, on repition

Rachel Whiteread, Everyone repeats themselves.Rachel Whiteread. Photo: Marcus Taylor

Richard Prince, on the difficulty of art-making

Richard Prince, Marking art is hard.Richard Prince, "New Portraits," 2015



a treasure trove of fine art from the world's most renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. We offer exclusive works you can't find anywhere else.


through exclusive content featuring art news, collecting guides, and interviews with artists, dealers, collectors, curators and influencers.


authentic artworks from across the globe. Collecting with us means you're helping to sustain creative culture and supporting organizations that are making the world a better place.


with our art advisors for buying advice or to help you find the art that's perfect for you. We have the resources to find works that suit your needs.


Artspace offers you authentic, exclusive works from world-renowned artists, galleries, museums and cultural institutions. Collecting with us helps support creative culture while bringing you art news, interviews and access to global art resources.