The new center of the art world
Post #1375 • July 30, 2009, 10:15 AM • 60 Comments
According to Bill Wasik, it's the Internet.
Meanwhile, another destination beckons, a place that courses with all the raw ambition and creative energy that the hard times seem to have drained from New York. I am referring, of course, to the Internet, which over the past decade has slowly become the de facto heart of American culture: the public space in which our most influential conversations transpire, in which our new celebrities are discovered and touted, in which fans are won and careers made. ...
The experience of moving online actually bears quite a few similarities to becoming a New Yorker. Disorienting and seemingly endless, the Internet conversation moves at lightning speed and according to unstated social rules that can bewilder outsiders. Also, like New Yorkers, residents of the Internet do not suffer fools, or mince words in belittling them, as anyone who has contributed a redundant post to Metafilter, or an earnest comment to Gawker, can attest.
According to Ed Winkleman, it may be Berlin, but it's probably the Internet.
After surfing around the site a bit I began to wonder whether the "center" of the art world even needs to a be one physical location anymore. We still need to experience the art in person, of course, but there's always been two important factors in what made a location the "center of the art world." The fact that you could view the art there (and with the proliferation of international fairs and biennials, a physical center becomes less of a requirement) and the fact that you could find a high concentration of knowledgeable people there. The speed of communication from anywhere to anywhere today makes travelling to one place for that less important today as well.
Imagine a scenario in which artists, armed with readily available information about how to take control of their careers, do so. It becomes common for artists to cultivate their own collector bases and media contacts. Artists pull down price points, favor work that reproduces well, and make it available through their own online stores. Just as everyone knows that there's no substitute for hearing music in person, but hardly anyone consumes the majority of their music that way anymore, people start buying art online as a matter of course. Galleries stop representing artists and start representing works. The majority of artists disappear into the crowd, as they tend to anyway, but for the first time, so do the majority of galleries, as more and more business gets done online and they find themselves increasingly disintermediated.
Galleries respond by leveraging the one irreproducible aspect of their operation: their space. Their exhibition calendar becomes their portfolio, which they then have to draw attention to in the same way that artists have to draw attention to their portfolios, via largely the same channels. Opening receptions in major metropolitan areas become ever more elaborate, liquored, and deejayed, while the exhibition run fills up with artist talks, performances, and anything else that will draw bodies into the building. Galleries, administratively speaking, begin to resemble stage theaters. Taking cues from savvier artists, galleries begin producing audio and video tours of exhibitions by increasingly noteworthy narrators. It becomes common for an exhibition to have both a physical and digital presence. Critics consequently feel free to comment upon work that they haven't seen in person.
Welcome to the new center of the art world: nowhere in particular.