Thursday, April 13, 2006

a new day, a new rant

Earlier today I had a nice email back and forth with a couple friends who believe that blogging about art could return the whole mileu back into the hands of artists where it belongs.

May I say that earlier this week in my aggregator preview I was greeted by not just these paper towel doodles, but next to that by something talentless though I am sure very intellectual. Lord. A bunch of bad figure paintings on cardboard with dripped paint. That one was actually going around the blogosphere quite a lot. At least the paper-towel doodles of how much was spent on laundry is limited to a Greenpoint only audience.

May we please see the end of these sort of overtly open minds, so open that wind is blowing through and garbage is just billowing around the edges. As our email progressed, it was suggested that perhaps artists should call the shots, and not Art Dealers, Gallerists (a stupid title they made up for themselves), and certainly we should see a mass firing of curators of contemporary art. These people make the present administration in Washington look competent. Oh, no, no they don't. But they certainly mirror them in terms of venality and venomous self-righteousness.

No artist worth anything believes in any of this. I read an amusing Tyler Green post earlier today. I hope one can rant and still get points for being witty and earnest. Probly not.


  1. i wish points could buy booze.

  2. James, I agree with you that the artists need to be out in the lead, and blogging can play a part in getting us there.

    The thing I see happening here in Blogland is that we're forming these communities of sorts, the kind of thing that you once needed to live in the vicinity of the Cedar Bar to get. I'd suspect most of us are a bit more sober as well.

    We're exchanging ideas, sharpening one another's thoughts, doing worlds of good in terms of developing the language of our work.

    Here's where I'd like to see us truly lead, and, so far, we trail way behind: I want to see us take a bigger role in the market. I'd like to think the Internet could help us do that, but, so far anyway, it's been disappointing.

    We'd need collectors at all levels to give websites the same credibility they give art dealers and galleries. And it's the investment collectors that we really need to attract; the impression I have is that they buy more and pay higher prices -- someone correct me if I'm off on this. But nobody with any sense would purchase any kind of investment based entirely on what they see on a website.

    This, to me, is the biggest obstruction to artists gaining any substantial ground in the control equation.

    What if an artist's website was endorsed by a high-profile gallery? That might tip things somewhat.

    I could spew out a few models for how that could happen to the benefit of dealers and artists both, because after all I'm a financial neanderthal. But ultimately, galleries have no incentive to provide such an endorsement. The status quo is greatly to their advantage.

    Now, should the art market ever actually crash, or just dip sharply and remain depressed for a while, perhaps some dealers would open up to these kinds of arrangements. Edward Winkleman blogged a while ago about the potential of less-formal arrangements with artists, specifically regarding studio visits.

    But even then, the result would be more of a structured co-opting of the artist's powers by the market, rather than the artists leading.

    Artists seem to lead when new things come up, such as Cubism in the last century. But we're quickly and willingly co-opted by the market because we badly need to sell. Once the market has control over what is seen by whom and when, it's essentially over as far as artist control is concerned. We can talk subversive art at that point: graffiti, fax art, mail art, I've even gotten some interesting things done on dollar bills. Rarely even these are co-opted, much to the glee of the artists involved. But, for the most part, these cries from the street seem more like declarations of defeat to me than defiant stands.

    Alternatively, we might create a world, an artist-run environment that merges with the "real" world at points, and that both exists as a moving, changing art experience, and that contains a variety of changing art experiences. Imagine not a museum of any kind, but an attractive social destination, sort of an amusement park of art. Storm King Art Center meets Six Flags meets Howard Finster's Garden of Eden, kind of. A place where ordinary people could have art experiences that fit in with their lives, while gaining some esthetic education, perhaps without even realizing it. Forget dead artists, these would all be contemporary artists.

    I've taken groups of high school kids to MOMA. A lot of it falls flat for them, but some pieces really turn them on. A glowing red room by James Turrell held them riveted. They also got a kick out of Mike Kelly's installation in Chelsea last fall.

    Regardless, somehow I think we need to change how we're looking at the problem. It's a tough nut to crack. But of all the forces that could control which art is seen by whom and when, I'd submit that the ones currently in control are near the bottom of the stack in terms of competence in providing relevant art experiences that are of enduring value both in terms of esthetics and investment.

    (Sorry for the lengthy comment - you got me thinking)