Friday, March 4, 2011
It seems to me that so much contemporary art these days is very curator and critic driven. There are so many gallery and museum shows as well as juried exhibitions out there with ready-made themes that it's hard sometimes to find an opportunity to exhibit. This seems very new to me. It used to be that it was the artists who took the initiative. Sometimes curators chose the work of many different artists around a particular theme, but most of the time, they did not. They mostly chose the work of artists that they liked or that shared a common vision or technique. Maybe a theme would emerge out of that, and maybe it wouldn't.
These days, I sometimes feel like a low level employee whose job is to flesh out the ideas of theorists.
There are times when I think art has come full circle. In a distant past, artists were the anonymous illustrators of church doctrine and the ideas of clerics. Now I sometimes think artists are returning to something like that former status, employees illustrating the ideas of academics.
Contemporary art and theory spent the last 50 years demolishing the Romantic idea of the artist as a kind of inspired visionary with a unique vocation. Perhaps this is the harvest of that long effort. Now it seems that every artist is just another commercial decorator, just like in the mural biz. Maybe artists should start signing union cards.
And when did collectors get to be such acclaimed geniuses? Anyone remember the much hyped career of Penthouse magazine mogul Bob Guccione as a "serious" collector of contemporary art?
The Saatchi brothers collect provocative art because they are advertising geniuses and they know what gets public and press attention. Does that really mean that they have any particular insight into the meanings of contemporary experience? Are they even interested in such a question? I wonder.
I think the whole idea of art working hand in hand with commerce is just so much crap. Of course one funds the other and makes the art possible, but are they really compatible enterprises? Commerce is about reducing meaning to exchange value so it can move product and make a profit. Art is about expanding meaning, even at the expense of profit. Of course those two are going to clash, as they always have (and still do despite the desperate declarations of reconciliation with the Chamber of Commerce by arts organizations that are always short of funds).
Or, maybe I'm just being a middle-aged crank.
Posted by Counterlight at Friday, March 04, 2011