Post #1861 • May 4, 2020, 9:50 AM • 4 Comments
Jed Perl, “Private Lives: The recession and the art world,” December 2008:
Experience has taught me that every decade or so the art market gets weak in the knees, and when it roars back a few years later the picture palaces specializing in Warhol and other assorted idiocies are doing better than ever before. It is my firm conviction that artists who are really engaged in their craft will pursue it, no matter what. I have never known the quality of an artist’s work to be affected, one way or another, by economic circumstances. Among the contemporary artists I admire, there are those who make a living selling their work and those who make their living in some other way, and artistically it does not really matter one way or the other.... In good times and bad there will be good things to see and bad things to see. Some people will deduce from this that the arts have failed to connect with the rest of life. I arrive at the reverse conclusion, namely that the arts have an essential, unique place in our lives.
Art, it seems to me, represents the triumph of private feeling over public pressures, or at least the ability of private feeling to assert itself in the face of public pressures and public values. I would argue that true art is always characterized by its unto-itself-ness, its freestandingness, its independence. This is not to say that the arts are untouched by the rest of life, only that they are affected in their own fashion....
It is true that there is no artist who has ever stood entirely apart from his or her time. But whatever the complexities of the artist’s shifting social and economic situation, the artistic act is also an individualistic impulse rooted in the sense of self that is at the heart of the human condition.... If you believe that art is, in all times and places, a reflection of the possibilities of individuality, then you must embrace this belief as fundamental, inarguable.... Art is not a mirror of society but an essential part of the fabric of society, with a unique role to play, which more than anything else has to do with affirming the stubborn particularity of a person’s existence.
Anthologized in Magicians & Charlatans: Essays on Art and Culture, 2012.