Having said that much, I really have no choice but to give it a go, do I? I will do so and report back.
The unremarkable results of an hour or so on line, viewed through the filter of my own prejudices:
There is nothing much from before around 1970, although I found a reference from 1952, which I will chase up the next time I visit my local library.
Earlier comments about marketing are confirmed. Galleries require artist statements and sites aimed at aspiring professionals provide advice on how to write them.
That advice is not always good. "Show it to a fellow artist" is common, but surely "show it to a journalist or an advertising copywriter" would be better.
Often it is the artist, or their career choice, that is being marketed, rather than the work. Many artist statements are fragments of autobiography.
The artist statement is often a locus of intense anxiety for the artist, an occasion for uneasiness. On the other hand, some artists seem to find them all too easy.
Earlier comments about the link to conceptual art are confirmed. In such cases, the actual work may add little to the statement, or even detract from it. This is particularly the case in conceptual art with a political subject.
Texts that look like artist statements from earlier centuries tend to be by famous artists who have something interesting to say about their artistic philosophies. There may have been garbage back then, but time has buried it.
Contrary to my own earlier view, there does seem to be some correlation between the quality of the statement and the quality of the work. Cliches in the one are sometimes associated with cliches in the other, and quality with quality. But this is not always the case.
The earlier comment about the value of a "foucaultian" perspective is on the money. The artist statement is a central part of the "discourse
" of the contemporary art world.