Post #1111 • January 14, 2008, 12:54 PM • 180 Comments
Sometimes I wonder whether artbloggers drink from the same water supply. This morning Modern Kicks linked to The Chronicle of Artistic Failure in America, while Ed Winkleman linked to Sellout. Both of the latter sites attempt to address the contemporary art market, either psychologically or practically. Along the way Regina Hackett at the Seattle PI (link at ModKix) attempts to refute CAFA's assertion that art criticism is failing along with art, and an Artnet article (link at EW) bumps up against raw truth and then brushes the cooties off its sleeve:
Seen in review, 2007 could be taken to provide evidence that the condition of art is changing, to be something more akin to contemporary fashion, where designers make unwearable, esoteric prototype projects that are then reprocessed for mass consumption, where they find their actual home. This may be what the incursion of design into the art galleries is unconsciously about. But I doubt it. The devil-may-care, anything-goes "complicit" condition [Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity author Johanna] Drucker outlines is bound up with the art boom, where collectors literally seem to be buying anything, a phenomenon that has the effect of drawing more students to art, producing more art programs, and thus a more pluralistic scene... and so on, round and round.
Rather than hack on yet another internally inconsistent art analysis, I'd like instead to share some thoughts that I've had lately regarding the market.
1. Taste is the ability to detect visual quality. People with taste are relatively rare. People with inclinations towards art and the mental capacity to wonder about it are quite a bit more common.
2. The art market grew to its present size thanks to the latter group, not the former. It has done so by flattering the latter group into thinking that it has progressive taste, not a lack of taste. Museums have largely assisted this effort, flattering its own deficiencies of taste as progressive taste as well.
3. This is basically how all marketing works. People with taste can detect quality using their own powers. People lacking taste can be talked into thinking they have progressive taste by setting up an excluded other. You drink Coke, because unlike those Pepsi-swilling rubes, you know how to live. This is where Clembashing came from.
4. Ever since the dealer Sidney Janis reconstructed Duchamp's Fountain 34 years after the orginal had appeared in an Armory show and was lost, theory-driven art has served commercial interests and continues to do so today. It interests the larger portion of high-art consumers: people who possess interest in art but not the ability to detect visual quality.
5. The art market has grown enormously in the last fifty years and now includes a huge range of ostensibly viable styles. These are also related phenomena.
6. "It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art." - Oscar Wilde.
7. If we measure the health of a profession by the richness of its production and its ability to maintain its practitioners in reasonably comfortable circumstances, art criticism is not only dying, but was never alive in the first place, except for a few months in the late 1940s.
8. Even though the kinds of things taken seriously as art have diversified exponentially in the last fifty years, the idea of art-career success is identical to when there were a few musuems and a few good galleries. Everyone from the neotraditionalists to the denizens of the bloodiest edges want recognition from the same middlemen. The middlemen have not expanded in scope or quantity relative to the explosion of art objects.
9. Musicians have figured out how to cut out the middlemen. How do we?