The other night, eating at a Chipolte after an opening with a bunch of people, I got into a spat with someone about art. It wasn’t an argument per se as they were so aggressive and rude that I actually refused to talk to them after a point but since then that minor incident has stayed with me. The spat started with me saying a throw away comment like, “I don’t like the art world,” or something along those lines and the other person then prodded me to explain that statement. That request in itself is a valid one but not something I wanted to be forced into in the manner of their questioning which became reduced to demands to “name names” of artists that I didn’t like. Regardless of the futility of that certain conversation this idea and statement of, “I don’t like the art world,” is one I find myself often making and it is worthy of unpacking.
There is not a specific thing for not liking it, it’s not some quotable, measurable or data driven analysis, it is more a feeling and a being within it (about a dozen years kiddos) that has created a series of moments, incidents, observations, and interactions. These have affected how I think about the larger ramifications in art, culture, living and human exchange. These incidents range from curatorial directions of major museums, artists being visible or not, how labor is conditioned from large-scale production to internship culture. They occur in public spaces, institutions, galleries, private dinners, openings, studio visits etc. They are the exchanges of communication in email, in books, in reviews and in person. It is about specific people’s influences as well as their ability to dominate or to supplant as well as other people’s passivity in the active maintenance of structures they may ideologically be opposed to but are conditioned out of need or want otherwise.
So basically it is just everything on top of everything that is involved with the creation of the art world but to get to the point of it, the thing that I think has bent all this everything into the idea of, “I don’t like the art world” is money. It’s not about not liking money, it’s about the scale and the influence money has on the art world that I think its impact is shifting things to such degrees that it feels like a strangle happening to art.
'Art' and the 'art world' are to me, two very different things. This I know is probably naive and deluded in its own ways but sorry not sorry I do think there is a difference and most people in this business will admit this. To me art is not just about what is the new as some want to expound upon but it contains the tingle of the contemporary. I am not using contemporary in the right here right now mode of use but in the having affect and import on the now. To further explain what I mean: something like a Giotto painting from the 1300s, something made by a kid in Idaho with MS Paint in the 1990s and something made by someone who would fit in with the New Museum Triennial are all capable and impactful in the understanding and influence of the contemporary/now. It is about accumulations but these accumulations manifest, come into vogue, and crystalize in the openness and the brilliance of actualization of creating objects, images, and ideas in this time. This to me is art and this is the reason why I am still here.
The art world is not this because it is an entirely different sort of structure with different objectives. It is a system like any other like the motor industry, food industry, banking, etc. It only functions with the exchange of product and that product is art. This is an obvious idea and one that isn’t deplorable as in its fundamentals there is an essentiality to the system and structures of operation. The problem, for me, about how the art world operates is how it is influencing and changing how art is being made. This change is not just in terms of scale and materiality but also in how things look and who is participating in that creation and purchase. It’s a simple thing of supply and demand but this is sprinkled with speculation, asset managing and basically a paralleling of stock trading. This is the current tone and language of art collecting today and you know what? Everyone is having a blast with it because unlike the market, which has some regulation (or a vague semblance of), the art market has none at all.
Yes, yes, art has been the leisure, hobby, and prerogative of the rich since forever but I don’t live back then, I live now and the way that it operates makes me feel equal levels of grossed out and resigned. The feeling, knowing that this is just the way things are is something that I have had to come to grips with (knuckles white) but that’s not even the saddest thing associated with all this. To me, the saddest thing is that art is now being pumped up, pumped out and shuffled around, as cultural playing cards and you know what? The house always wins. Who is the house? That’s people of privilege that are insanely wealthy. There are insanely rich people that are really amazing art supporters and its great when they buy art but to be honest most of those collectors are buying art for the market potential, bragging rights and the adrenalin of possessing. It’s of course not all their fault though, it’s the dealers, it’s the curators, it’s the artists, it’s the everyone and everything that plays along.
So what are the options when this is how you feel/this is how I feel? Are we all waiting with baited breath for the next Duchamp? Will we just wait till the noise of visual garbage dissipates? Will something happen like a market crash that will void most of the bad but also some of the good? There is not much that we/I can do about this and wishing and bitching and shit talking our way through it will get you nowhere (trust me and use me as example). The only way I can get through it mentally, morally, personally, is to keep searching, looking, contributing to and enjoying those moments of actual art, those brain tingle moments that makes me feel lucky to be living in this right here right now, even if it happens to be in the 'art world.'