Post #970 • March 12, 2007, 7:44 PM • 24 Comments
EW linked to this last week, but I didn't have time to read it until it was forwarded by an alert reader last night: Donald Kuspit on the cash-bloated art market. Money quote:
Indeed, I am prepared to argue that money rushes in to full the vacuum of existential meaningfulness left by art that has lost spiritual purpose.
In other words, what critics can do is speak louder than money with their expertise. Too many cower in the shadow of money, rather than telling it to move aside and stop blocking their sun. What are they afraid of?
Commenters there added that corrleation does not equal causation, but Kuspit still has a point, and I think that Ed_'s larger one is incomplete. I don't know of any critic who
cower[s] in the shadow of money. I say what I think, and I'm sure Holland Cotter or whomever you might pick feels that he does the same. There's a larger problem at work.
First, I don't know how many people work full-time as art critics and earn anything resembling a reasonable salary, but I would guess dozens, and I say that without being able to name a dozen myself. Kuspit's working in the SUNY system. Jerry Saltz actually showed me his teaching schedule once. The publishing market and the art market have made it eminently clear that they do not need critics. Kuspit makes an interesting point that if the market ranks Grandma Moses and Anselm Keifer at the same price point, we might as well think about their equivalencies. We could do the same with the fact that art critics, once we factor in available workload, are paid commensurately with, maybe, museum cleaning staff.
Second, it may be possible that the current market obviates criticism. I maintain that only one article about Art Basel/Miami Beach has ever been written: an askance look at the glitz, a cursory mention of the art, and some indeterminite worrying about the effect of the former on the latter. I'm not sure how it could be otherwise: you can't critique this thing. It has no greater meaning, no larger story except the commercial forces behind it. And as AB/MB increasingly typifies what goes on in the rest of the art world, you can't critique it either.
I got the impression that the panel agreed there were no longer any standards for what was good or bad art, but when, in the question period, one audience member mentioned Greenberg, the effect was electric.Thank God we don't have to go through Greenberg again!barked [Jerry] Saltz, and another male voice (most likely [Jeffrey] Deitch) chimed in,The art world spent 30 years plus before we got rid of That Man!I was reminded of how Republicans used to refer to President Roosevelt in the 30s: not by name, only as That Man. I was also reminded of a recent email from an artist friend, telling me that he'd once been reticent about telling people that he'd known Greenberg, but no more. The reaction on people's faces when he told them was so extraordinary:like a cross held up to Dracula(this being a phrase that originated with Darby Bannard, inThe Unconditional Esthete,published in Arts Magazine in 1987 and available online in the Walter Darby Bannard Archive).
The critical world, and much of the art world with it, is still rebelling against Daddy. This is unproductive and unbecoming. We clearly haven't gotten rid of him, or he wouldn't be driving some of us into huffy fits at the mention of his name. The man's been dead for thirteen years and out of fashion for nearly forty. His detractors have had ample opportunity to contribute a framework with equal vitality or lucidity. They have not. Did Einstein say at some point in his career,
Thank God we don't have to go through Newton again!? No, he acknowledged the debt and worked hard to solve the remaining problems. Physics then became Einsteinian, not post-Newtonian. We're missing the eqivalent energy in art, and thus the modern became the postmodern.
This is the tripartite vacuum that valuation-by-money has flowed into. Dollars, at least, you can count.