Monday, October 14, 2013

When Did the Art World Jump the Shark?

Of course there's more than one art world. But one of them is dominated by wealthy collectors and institutions who compete for status by buying and selling rare objects at very high prices. Some of these rare objects are by old and not-so-old masters and some are brand spanking new, created to feed the monster.

This art world is not, of course, easily distinguishable from the other art worlds, the one's concerned with valid human expression. After all, some of that older work WAS legitimately created in and of its time. It's only in retrospect that is power and beauty has become subordinated to money-fever.

In the last decade or so the corrupt art world has found its way to the oil money of the Middle East. The New York Times has an article on the current scene in Doha, Qutar:
Christie’s, which holds auctions in Dubai and exhibitions in Doha, reported last year that sales in the Middle East were approaching 10 percent of its annual turnover.

“Our numbers are probably similar,” said Alexander Rotter, who runs Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York and was in Doha last week, too. Sotheby’s opened its office here in 2008 and had its first Doha auction the next year. In April it had its first auction of contemporary art here with works by artists from the United States as well as the Middle East and Asia. “There is a new breed of collector here that didn’t exist 10 years ago,” said Mr. Rotter, who organized the sale and was its auctioneer. “And they are in it to win it.”
And also:
Asking for public opinion is a novelty in this absolute monarchy. But the Qatar Museums Authority seems to be drumming up feedback even more aggressively than most American museums do.
This most recent effusion of buzz surrounds the work of Damien Hirst, who. according to the late Robert Huges, is all hype: "Isn't is a miracle what so much money and so little ability can produce."

I've had quite a bit to say about art here on New Savanna, especially about graffiti. Some posts:

Through Duchamp and Beyond: Graffiti in the Promised Land? – On the institutional theory of art. Once art becomes whatever an institution says it is, the game passes to those who fund and rationalize those institutions (museums and galleries). So far graffiti has managed to resist, though it has been tempted long and hard in its young life.

Graffiti Reset: Throuth the Streets and Beyond – "What’s important is simply that the expressive use of public space is being systematically contested in a new way."

Graffiti Aesthetics: The Space of Writing – In which I argue that, thought its concentration on the name, graffiti has the opportunity to introduce a new conception of aesthetic space, just as rationalized perspective introduced the Renaissance and cubism foretold modernisms.

Graffiti, Signaling, Evolution, and Art – In which I show, using a contemporary example, how status competition among graffiti writers has let to expressive virtuosity. At first the competition is simply about getting up in more difficult and more prominent spots. Then, it becomes necessary to be visually superior.

Placeholder: Flowers, Photos, Art – A little squib: "what’s the difference between art photos and the rest?"

Paley's Summa Quiltologica – Is or can quilting be an art form?

Rhinoplasty – A dialog on appropriation as an aesthetic technique in which Dürer's famous print of rhinoceros is put through its paces like a little show dog.

Art and Civil Society in Tokugawa Japan – A look at Eiko Ikegami, Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture, a book about Japanese politcal culture and national identity was created by groups of people from all strata of society who gathered together to make and to share art. Some of the practices of these art circles are similar to those of graffiti culture.

1 comment:

  1. The interview is priceless. Gave me a good laugh to start out the day. See the art of Komar and Melamid; they worked together for years in what was then the Soviet Union and their satire on pop art was one of the darlings of the contemporary art market. In the US now and having split after their last work of having elephants paint. No doubt the folks with big bucks who wanted to impress thought they really really had something.