Thoughts on Art

In the coming weeks, months, and years, this is a place for me to throw out (at times vomit) some things that I am thinking about the Art World, Art Market, and Culture at-large…  Some are snippets from my previous writings that have been published and others are not fully formed ideas with a clear thesis, my Meandering Thoughts… 

“So much is gained when only one person stands up and says no.”― Bertolt Brecht, Galileo

 

18 May 2018

If you call yourself an art critic or you are in the fortuitous position to be paid to be an art critic, then you may actually have to criticize from time to time.  What happens when a city newspaper does away with full-time art criticism positions in its editorial and writing staff.  You get a whole lot of articles about “this artist” showing “that artwork” in “this venue” without any substantial opinion from the author about the success or failure of the exhibition.  Remember criticism is to critique, describe and detail the good and the bad (in historical, stylistic, and cultural context)…  No one wants to play the bad person and in smaller cities you probably won’t be able to keep your job if you do write a scathing article on a local art hero.  But I want to believe that there is still ethics in journalism and that critics would be allowed the freedom to criticize without retribution from their paper.  But these days a lot of Arts writing is masquerading as criticism when it is simply restating what is on the city’s Arts Calendar.  Artists are asked to be brave all the time by putting their works out in the world.  Where are the brave Art Critics?  Sure, there are a few writers that will tell you what they think but they also work for papers that have an active Arts Writing Staff, unlike most cities that maybe have one beat writer for all the Creative Arts (if you are lucky).  This lack of varied opinions and bold, brave, and brutal criticism is another straw that helps break the backs of the art world. Every Arts Writer/Critic should have at least 20% of their total annual writings be harsh, brutal, and opinionated about exhibitions, institutions, and various other art-related issues in their city otherwise they are simply cheerleaders for their towns and not really critics.

 

13 May 2018

Which tribe do you belong to?  It’s a common phrase heard globally in Politics and Art these days.  And there is truth in the old adage that there is “strength in numbers”.  I had a colleague that used to tell students, “create your own mafia so that you can help each other down the road”.  This is solid advice for groups in the minority that need a voice within the larger cultural discourse.  But what happens when a tribe member gets in a position of power within public institutions and drives their tribe’s members or agenda at the exclusion of others.  Is there an ethical responsibility for those people in positions of power to acknowledge their own tunnel vision and recognize their bias?  Otherwise, those same issues that necessitated the existence of a tribe, to open dialog and communication for the disenfranchised, can quickly become a closed narrow system that once again caters to only a select few.  A feedback loop… cyclical rotations.  There are too many tribes to list on the artistic, political, social, and cultural front.  Being in a tribe is a valid way of working, but I question the ability of some of those in positions of power to maintain objectivity from their tribe when they get in positions of Power within the Art World.  To recognize the voice of your tribe but not exclusively and systematically exclude all the other tribes is a tough balance to find but if you don’t… there is little difference between you and the oppressors that your tribe fights against.  This is true in Art & Politics.

 

10 May 2018

I don’t think the Art World can sustain its current business model for much longer… We have been going down this road for decades but the effects are finally hitting the local (state/regional) art scenes very hard now.  Crazy auction prices for historical paintings or obscene prices for a few one percenter contemporary artists while collectors do not fully support their local (state/regional) art scene.  And everyone is looking for a bargain at auction or art fairs at the expense of the marginalized artist.  One $75 million dollar investment in a masterpiece painting could fund and help thrive a local (state/regional) art scene for generations of quality artists…  And the focus on reaching to NY for validation of an artist or a work of art versus looking for quality work in your home town (state/region) is destroying the market.  There are too many good artists living everywhere that to have tunnel vision in a small geographic location is absurd.  In reality, NY no longer has the answers in the same way it did in the 1960’s & 1970’s…  But, it still does have the most money.  No New Yorker wants to hear this but its market looks frighteningly like a giant Ponzi Scheme…  Of course, there are treasures in NY just like many other places…  and I am not advocating “throwing the baby out with the bath water”… but damn that “Art Market Baby” has soiled diapers and needs a thorough cleaning…  and the needle is getting awfully close to the balloon. If you are paying attention, you can almost see and hear the Pop!