Friday, July 31, 2009

Tired of Art?

With all the gallery closings, devaluing of artists’ oeuvres, and a general malaise in the art world, at least from the perspective of collectors who speculated and dealers who sold, maybe the reality is just that people are tired of art. At least, tired of the current model where one artist after another has his or her solo show then, miraculously (if they sold enough the first time, or perhaps if their contracts stipulate it,) two years later they show again.

In the interim, they dutifully count the months, and their collector base dutifully waits with baited breath.

But what if something’s wrong with this model – wrong because two years is an eternity in the art world, wrong because two years won’t necessarily make someone’s art innovative, wrong because the market is a fickle place that twists and turns and somehow becomes a self-perpetuating behemoth beholden to nothing but itself.

Art today almost invites one to be tired of it. At the other end of the biannual exhibition spectrum is the endless stream of flickr posts or Facebook updates that reduce every creative act to a post, make everything perfectly identical, reduce it to pixels and almost obliviate its value.

Artists operate in a strange place where the dealer/artist model seems ripe for revision. Collectors and speculators alike want access, questions of taste seem entirely meaningless. It is as if the entire process has been reduced to cashflow and guesswork, hoping, usually beyond hope, that the one artist you might be interested in has the potential to “crack it”, as they say, to make it big, to take off, to be something other than his or her other classmates from an MFA program. Anachronistically, we speculate that someone might have “the right stuff”.

The problem is that this mysterious “stuff” is just as elusive to the gallerist and the collector as it is to the artist. Every artist has to operate under the self-deception that his or her work has the potential to be the best ever made.

So now, in an endless sea of speculative works, everyone experiences what I will term vision fatigue – a neverending stream of hopes and desires spread across a range of media so diverse that no one can be an expert in them all.

What happens? Well, for the most part people simply retreat to the TV. My new favorite game is speculating on who might have made that exceptionally cool – though also somehow nondescript – artwork that just flickered by on the screen. I’d try to remember what it looked like, but I’m tired, so tired, I’m on the verge of falling asleep.

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