Monday, May 12, 2014

“The art world today is full of zombies”

Takashi Murakami, Tan Tan Bo Puking -aka Gero Tan, 2002, acrylic on canvas mounted on board

I would never have thought that I would be quoting Takashi Murakami and agreeing with him so completely but at the moment I am.  He is quoted to have said at an Asia Society Dinner that, “the art world today is full of zombies.”  After this past week I can’t agree more.  The state of the art world is just so far gone that it seems indomitably doomed.  But as always, one person’s doom is another’s dream and the state of things as they stand in the art market to many is ideal and enticing.

This state I am referring to is the total corporatization and monopoly of the art world by business interests, marketing agendas and the totality of the moneyed elite’s influence on not only the art market but art itself.  This has been going on from the beginning of art and money changing hands but as it currently stands, it has evolved into a force that has overarching effect.  The effect that most concerns me is how it determines what/how art is being produced, shown and talked about.  This was seen thoroughly this past art fair week in New York but it wasn’t about this past week per se as now almost every week is ‘art fair week’ in some country or city. 

This circuit of art fairs has been created from an evolution of supply and demand.  The collectors are wanting and able to buy so the dealers follow and enable this.  I’m sure some research paper out there has the statistics of the growth of art fairs but just to my plain old observing eyes, this has tripled within the last decade.  There is a sense that this is natural, the evolution of things that are responding to a need, but this seems at minimum a passive survival excuse. 

What is happening because of this is most of the times not too damaging.  Artists making money, galleries making money, thus supporting jobs, industries and a large web of supportive industries like shippers, designers, contractors and so many more.  This is in itself an incredible thing, how one industry flourishes and how it supports so many people, lives, dreams is truly incredible.  The part that has me in such a state of despair is how the market is so evidently affecting any criticality, weirdness, or outsiderness.  Even when something is vaguely so, like Pussy Riot, it gets swooped and crafted into a marketing event, a PR campaign, or a branding inducement.

Who is shown in museums, who is selected as curators, directors, who can raise the most money through gala’s, benefits, fundraising events, development outreach via their rolodex is a primary determining factor on who is in the greatest positions of authority.  This is necessary, but the absorption of the creative with the monetary seems more then compromised and something that reduces the brain and time power of these individuals. 

Art criticism is nearly dead because it is either totally preservationist of a past form that serves a insular but moneyed audience and thus survives or it is chopped and tag lined to be like stats pages, accumulators of keywords that mostly reflect what people have already been talking about.  There are a few that are in a strata mingling with this but not determined by this.  They are mostly a part of a generation where old print models were the standard form and they had enough time and talent to make their writing voice and name have weight.  It is a tricky thing, art criticism today because it is so in flux but it is no excuse to keep circling back and speaking of such a small group of galleries and artists over and over again. 

I used to say that the art world (art industrial complex) and ‘art’ were two very different things, somehow separate albeit overlapping.  Now, after another art fair week, another confluence of money and art and seeing yet again how they merged and determined each other, I have to just let go of that belief. 

There is so much good art being made.  I have met some incredibly talented, smart, inspiring artists in the past few months, years and this I hope/know this will continue but things are too far-gone now to say they are separate.  People think that the state of this art world is not sustainable, that something has to give and in that ‘give’ there will be some sort of change.  I don’t think it will give, not soon, probably not ever.  Is that doom and gloom?  No, it’s just honest.  It will be interesting to see who stays in all this, that, in many ways will reveal many things.