Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Did Diogenes Teach Us Nothing?

I don't know about you, but personally I really can't stomach much more moaning about how contemporary art is "all about the money." It's bad enough that too many artists, who truly are best situated to restructure the system, are sitting on the side lines, as if mere spectators in it all, but now more and more critics (the other voice that could work to change things) are wringing their hands, but doing little more. I don't mean to single him out, he's hardly the only critic doing so, but as he's the latest, let me use Donald Kuspit as an example. In an article on artnet.com, he complains:

Many years ago Meyer Schapiro argued that there was a radical difference between art’s spiritual value and its commercial value. He warned against the nihilistic effect of collapsing their difference. I will argue that today, in the public mind, and perhaps in the unconscious of many artists, there is no difference. The commercial value of art has usurped its spiritual value, indeed, seems to determine it. Art’s esthetic, cognitive, emotional and moral value -- its value for the dialectical varieties of critical consciousness -- has been subsumed by the value of money.

Art has never been independent of money, but now it has become a dependency of money. Consciousness of money is all-pervasive. It informs art -- virtually everything in capitalist society -- the way Absolute Spirit once did, as Hegel thought. Money has always invested in art, as though admiring, even worshipping, what it respected as its superior -- the true treasure of civilization -- but today money’s hyper-investment in art, implicitly an attempt to overwhelm it, to force it to surrender its supposedly higher values, strongly suggests that money regards itself as superior to art.

Art’s willingness, even eagerness to be absorbed by money -- to estheticize money, as it were -- suggests that art, like every other enterprise, from the cultural to the technological (and culture has become an extension and even mode of technological practice in many quarters) is a way of making and worshipping money -- a way of affirming capitalism. Indeed, it is a way of signaling the triumph of capitalism over socialism, that is, the unimpeded pursuit of money and profit at the cost of the common human good that might be achieved by the re-distribution of capitalist-generated wealth.
This drives me nuts...it's as if Diogenes taught us nothing. Who? you ask. [enter anecdote]

Before heading for Asia, Alexander the Great found himself in Corinth, where the great beggar-philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was living at the time. Diogenes, as was his habit, was sitting in a barrel. Despite all the hoopla of the conqueror's entourage, Diogenes paid no attention to Alexander, who, very surprised at this lack of interest, asked if he could do something for Diogenes. "Yes, you could stand out of my sunlight," answered Diogenes.
Why on earth we've lost that lesson is something I can't comprehend. Artists in particular are disappointing me on this front. So money's calling the shots? Respond! goddammit...don't just bitch about it.

And critics, too. I understand that his lengthy look at the issue is seen as a step in the right direction to Kuspit, but there's so much more he could do. He has the platform.

Here's how easy it is. Take a work of art that has a record-breaking price and note, in the forum that you have, that, for example, although that (oh, I don't know, let's say) Klimt may be worth hundreds of millions to someone in particular, this transaction should in no way be interpreted to suggest the Austrian is now widely seen as the most important artist of his generation. In fact, it's a stretch to suggest Klimt's even in the top 10 most important. That transaction may signify a passionate pursuit, a personal preference, an emotional attachment, etc., etc., etc., but it did not signify any significant repositioning of the artist's importance in aesthetic or art historical terms. Someone simply wanted it, a lot. The flocks of gawkers rushing for a peek at the "world's most expensive" painting (short lived as that title was) may be confused about its value, but [and here's the part where doing one's job comes into play] where that Klimt is lacking (i.e., why it's not the most important painting of its time) includes x, y and z.

In other words, what critics can do is speak louder than money with their expertise. Too many cower in the shadow of money, rather than telling it to move aside and stop blocking their sun. What are they afraid of?

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32 Comments:

Blogger RT said...

The problem is inherent in the system itself. I can understand why you're fed up. I had enough a few years ago. Postmodern theory, postindustrial economics and now post-art-gallerists. True, artists are complicit in the neo-80s careerism, that is bigger, better and more expensive than ever, but the system in power is designed that way. Universities now have a college draft for the galleries, galleries are being funded by auction houses and art is seasonal like fashion. There is a lot of inbreeding going on and a lot of big money is riding on the fact that more money will have to be made. Diogenes may have quipped with Alexander, but Alexander had to stop to hear it. Today the narcissism is so thick that no one who is anyone will stop to ask if someone needs a hand - unless of course - it benefits them. Someone will have to take a chance - maybe the critics - maybe the galleries (though I think they put it on the line quite a bit) - maybe the collectors (who must often follow rather than lead) - ultimately they determine who is seen, discussed and sold. In the meantime we artists have the internet - which is why you hear a lot of grousing and why the critics are starting to recognize the problem.

3/07/2007 11:14:00 AM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

How ironic is this?:

Captain America died today. In the latest issue of the comic he gets killed by a sniper. And then there is this info via AP:

"According to the comic, the superhero was spawned when a scrawny arts student named Steve Rogers, ineligible for the army because of his poor health but eager to serve his country, agreed to a "Super Soldier Serum" injection. The substance made him a paragon of physical perfection, armed only with his shield, his strength, his smarts and a command of martial arts."

wow

3/07/2007 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous dp said...

...Alexander the Great found himself in Corinth, where the great beggar-philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was living at the time.

Edward, who would you say are the great beggar-philosophers of our time?

3/07/2007 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward, who would you say are the great beggar-philosophers of our time?

Cady Noland springs to mind.

3/07/2007 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

Good post Ed.

3/07/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Edward that you are taking Donald Kuspit too literally. He’s just a misanthrope and everything he says needs to be reinterpreted based on acknowledging his reactionary position.

Irrespective of money, his purpose it to ascribe a coherence and an intellectual framework for the current art world. Many, like Donald, seem to have a misplaced need to categorize and identify dominant trends despite the futility of that exercise in a post-hegemonic post-historical time. In doing this he has latched on to the most obvious (only?) universal commonality there is today; money/the market. But it is no more a driving force now than it ever was (which is to say, somewhat of a force but neither dominant or even the most prominent).

The fear that money distorts the art world is both historically omnipresent and naïve (in the sense that “of course it does”, it distorts everything subtly; it is a necessary convention and a framework for everything in most societies). We can obsess over money in the same way that the convention of language limits our understanding of the world - but don’t invite me to that conversation. One thing is clear; the art world can not currently function without this convention and any attempt to subvert the application of financial instruments to art will be circumvented.

Donald Kuspit is wrong, and I believe that your implication that he is not doing his job by criticizing the market rather than the work is right. But it’s a very hostile environment right now for critical thought and I think this is what Donald is always responding to in most of his writings; he’s always trying to create an objective hierarchical system of valuation. Such a system allows for simplistic good/bad, right/worng, fail/pass Greenbergian judgments. The current “system” permits only subjective arguments because we are not operating under a unified understanding of art’s “goal” or role. If we want to continue in the modernist tradition of critique we have only tired relativistic tropes at our disposal; originality, skill (technical & conceptual), and the feedback loop of the market’s financial mechanations.

Damon

3/07/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Durbin said...

Almost all the discussion on this topic seems to relate to artworks at the high end of the price spectrum, whatever relation that might have to "quality." But like most human endeavors, art exhibits a "long tail" (see Wikipedia). The vast majority of artists and buyers operate in a different realm of price, hype, and geography. They probably also account for the greatest part of the money spent on art, depending on one's definitions. Who's writing about this art market?

3/07/2007 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what exactly should artists do?

3/07/2007 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

what exactly should artists do?

Create a better system. In a nutshell: create.

3/07/2007 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But it is no more a driving force now than it ever was (which is to say, somewhat of a force but neither dominant or even the most prominent).

Good point Damon. Kuspit begins that article by quoting Robinson:

We don’t have art movements any more. We have market movements.
-- Walter Robinson


But that implies a causality where there's no evidence of any that I can see. The fact that there are no movements is merely an observation about the pluralistic approach to artmaking we see today. The fact that we have market movements is actually a rather obvious observation that one could have made at any point at all during the past 500 years or so.

3/07/2007 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

...despite the futility of that exercise in a post-hegemonic post-historical time...

We live in a post-historical time?

3/07/2007 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

about critics - i don't understand why critics write almost exclusively about what is being shown in the galleries...

i mean, is that a rule of the newspaper?
can they just write about art and artists, regardless of whether the work is currently in the market?

i think it was jerry saltz that wrote something once on a deborah kass sculpture in a cemetary... i don't remember any mention of a gallery, or how that sculpture got placed there.

and roberta smith did an article once about some outdoor artist organized show under a bridge, i remember matthew fisher was one of the artists.

but, other than that, there isn't much ny art criticism that isn't following the market.

i thought about this specifically when smith reviewed swoon at dietch... why wait until she was showing at dietch?

there are so many good artists making work, especially of course in ny, that aren't showing. i'm thinking of all of the "older" artists that the dealers aren't showing because (i've read) the collectors shut down upon hearing an artist is over 35 or so.

can't the critics write about street art while it is on the street, or net art while it is on the net? why not write a review of eric doeringer or tom moody?

i'm not saying they should shut out the galleries, AT ALL, but a little more effort to not simply follow would be so refreshing.

3/07/2007 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger jafabrit said...

martin I am 51 and a woman so on two counts I am basically invisible.

In response the blog entry.Apart from the fact that as an older female artist I have as much clout as a fish's bottom, I just don't have time to spend trying to fix an art market, too busy creating.

3/07/2007 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward - Agreed that the Klimt is not a sign of much. The best works of art already live in museums. The remaining paintings sell for hundreds of millions because there is an enormous scarcity of good-quality works at the high end. If it were conceivable to sell them, Grande Jatte or Gioconda would easily sell in the billions. (Mona Lisa was insured for $100m almost 50 years ago).

3/07/2007 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Kuspit needs to validate his existence in the absence of an art narrative. Kudos to him for not going gently into that good night, but otherwise I too disagree nowadays with him (loved him in the 80's, learned a lot).

So money's calling the shots? Respond! goddammit...don't just bitch about it.

Truly effecting change: it reminds me of a visit my wife paid to poor Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic.

You can bring food and clothes, which they'll use and then need more.

What they really need is a sense of investment in their own communities, some sort of social contract, something on which to build a sense of this better world they can build.

You could build them a small power plant, but they'll dismantle it and sell the parts - get it? Same for a community water-collecting cistern. Same for arable land divided. Etc etc etc.

In other words the cultural malaise is so pervasive that to truly effect change, a massive, well-coordinated plan that included intensive cultural education would be required, and then the timescale would be decades before that change appeared.

Some similarities holds true in the art world. Sure, it would be nice if the mindset of the marketeers changed but they're the least-motivated to do so. Same holds true for collectors.

It's really got to change with we the artists.

The coordination necessary to make this effective almost seems arbitrary, certainly against our natures. We're not joiners, generally speaking. Probably shouldn't be.

We need to rethink what we do and remake our art-making culture.

If that's impossible, then maybe as individuals we need to maintain a fluid attitude that eschews this kind of pointless complaining. Watch for holes in The Wall. Be endlessly energetic. Think about how what we do can be entirely different from what's been seen so that it demands attention. Think about new markets -- etc etc.

If everyone has to go it alone, so be it -- but let's make up for it in generosity to one another. Help each other out. Give each other a leg up.

And be straight with one another about our work -- that's a big help all on its own.

3/07/2007 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous ezimmerman said...

thanks for the great post!

3/07/2007 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Kuspit mistakenly attempts to make a connection suggesting that "price" is some measure of aesthetic quality. This is nonsense, price is about how much someone is willing to pay for something they want, even a can of sh*t. At one time people were willing to pay $90 for a share of Enron because it was a "quality" company. Money and quality are only loosely correlated, at best, and Kuspit's attempt to somehow use auction prices to suggest that they indicate a measurable perception of aesthetic quality is a misperception of market psychology.

If the art market pricing mechanism has usurped the critical function in the art world, then this is occurring because the critical community has not adapted to the enlarged structure of the art world. The art world has become large enough that the idea of the "avant garde" is dead. You might have a avant garde in a community of 200 artist (1950), they lead the troops. With 20,000 artists, in all media, the idea of the "avant garde" is a joke. Maybe this is what Danto means when he says history is dead?

The new paradigm should be like a virus. Viral art can infect the organism anywhere with it’s passion and brilliance, by example it can inspire other artists without restrictively framing what they do. It is less about style, more about substance.

3/07/2007 06:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Ed:
>>>Create a better system. In a >>
>>>>nutshell: create.


"But...but...but...I need money to do that."


Hence vicious circle.

The Diogenes example is bad. Diogenes would say the same to an artist: "get away from my sun."

Baudrillard died yesterday and it's time we remember some of his finest final words, like "art is everywhere but where it thinks it is". But I disgress.

Kuspit is one of the critics I find the most confusing. So I guess this still occurs in this post.

What I find is that art is about signature these days, and hence about money. Any artist sell any crap and the gallerists input value because they have "signed them", and thus many artists live on the couple best ideas they had in their lives. The system is commercial, and I won't repeat myself about how commerce have been formatting the arts.

I agree with you Ed, "stop whining and do art". That's what I should be doing. I shouldn't even be here. I just have a couple health worries to put aside and if I make it through I'll probably do just that, or, it might not even be directly within the artworld, as that's never been the world where I met the most sympathy (not that I invited it either). We'll see.

Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

3/07/2007 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I think the biggest downfall of contemporary arts is that art was supposed to be about ideas, but it soon turned out to reveal itself as being about the patenting of ideas. The patenting of any stupid idea.

And art has been greatly suffering ever since, and artists have a harder time to prove they really mean what they do. Like they have to nail themselves to car doors or something.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

3/07/2007 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger burrito brother said...

I (as an artist) can honestly say I've never been swayed aesthetically one way or another by the price of a piece of art... THE FORUM on the other hand, in which a piece of art is presented, can affect how it is viewed, and the type of forum usually varies based on the money behind it. And yes, maybe these days I'm less trusting of art I encounter in more 'expensive' forums (i.e. Mary Boone) when really I should evaluate everything equally (her shows are getting better...)
In short, I don't think poor artists can "change the system" but they can make their work and find some piece of real-estate to show it in, invite as many people as they can think of to view it, and see what happens. If that means you have to show your work at a weekend gallery in Bushwick, so be it. Holland Cotter will probably go see it. It's true there's a money-channel where artists are bred (yale, columbia)and safely harbored in sexy renovated gallery spaces in Chelsea... but don't people really get more excited about that guy from tampa community college that ends up rocking everyone's world in some show only 12 people originally saw?
Sorry to ramble, but keep the faith, don't buy the hype.

3/07/2007 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Well, we are spending our retirement money to run a gallery and show work we think needs exposure. Work made from the heart, for lack of a better way to state it. After three years we have begun to make some inroads, gained the respect of a lot of people. Somehow this hasn't translated into sales yet, at least enough sales to begin to offset the monthly investment we are making. Yes, we are also artists.

What more can we/I do?

That is a serious question. Are we throwing our money away or will the cognoscenti eventually acknowledge what we are doing and shine a light in our direction? Money is the fuel, you can't pretend that is not the case. It is expensive to do these projects in a major art center like NY or LA.

(we got our first major review in Art in America this month! Hooray)

3/07/2007 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/07/2007 08:58:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Kuspit's article reads like a Marxist critique of capitalism (aside from his gratuitous, reactionary jabs at abstraction) -- specifically, how the capitalist economic structure alienates the subject of labor (in this case the artist) from its object (the artwork) through commodification. This leaves us with artworks whose market value has supplanted their art value. [the odd nuance of Kuspit's theory is that he views art as the last holdout from capitalism, whose recent defeat, as he sees it, signifies some kind of ultimate domination of capitalism.]

This is depressingly old news for many of us (except for Kuspit's part about 'art as the last holdout' -- which is hilariously self-important), and was beat to death by the Critical Theory crowd beginning around 80 years ago. It was true then, and still true today -- even Edward_ seems to agree that there is some kind of problem. So I guess the dilemma is not one of diagnosis (which is all Kuspit focuses on), but one of remedy (which he avoids altogether).

For critics, I like Martin's idea best, when he writes, "i don't understand why critics write almost exclusively about what is being shown in the galleries." It's a great point, considering that so much art is being made outside the market system (just ask LeisureArts), and yet the critics who complain the loudest about the negative effects of the market on art, write almost exclusively about 'market art.' If we are to take Kuspit seriously, then maybe it's time he start paying attention to art whose value lies outside the market system.

For artists, I think more is needed than Edward_'s suggestion to "create." I love Cedric's recalling of Baudrillard's words that "art is everywhere but where it thinks it is." Artists need to create, yes, but if they are serious about creative activity whose meaning lies outside the market system, then they also need to reconsider the context and community in which their work is received.

3/07/2007 09:20:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

Okay!

I found the review of the show under a bridge I was remembering before, and it was in fact reviewed by Holland Cotter, not Roberta Smith.

It was the "Death to the Fascist Insect..." show -

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/25/arts/design/25GALL.html?ex=1173416400&en=637447a533e78ee7&ei=5070

Here is the show website -

http://www.tagprojects.com/exhibitions/death_to_the_fascist/index.htm

And here is the Saltz review of Deborah Kass I mentioned -

http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/saltz/saltz10-29-03.asp

I am also inspired by the Winnipeg artists that run the Other Gallery... they don't have an actual space, it's just a bunch of artists based in Winnipeg, and the gallery is a website... they had booths at Aqua Miami in 2005 and Pulse NY 2007.

http://othergallery.com/

Cedric - Be WELL.

3/07/2007 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I agree with Martin…. The critics need to seize back power and write about important work that might not be represented in the marketplace, and not validate unimportant work that might have fetched a high price.

I am speaking from experience… as an artist, you can work your ass off for many years, have shows, get amazing reviews, but until you start to work with a commercial gallery and get “in the game”, nothing substantial will happen. There are so many power structures in place to keep an individual artist from getting the work “out there” without a gallery: I know, I tried it for 18 years on my own. Alternative spaces, non-profits, university galleries, renting a studio in NYC for a month long open studio, writing my own press releases, etc…. it only gets you so far. But exhibit your work in the validating space of a gallery, have the gallery take it to an art fair, and like magic, people pay attention.

The internet could be helping artists in his regard, but the serious validating websites, like artnet.com, will not allow an individual artist to post work…. only commercial galleries.

I recently went to a conference where several critics mentioned that the prevalence of the art fairs was taking away their power…. How do you review an art fair, where there is usually 1 to 2 examples of an artist’s work, i.e., no context? You can only report what price the work sold for.

3/08/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

While Kate certainly has a valid point of view I wonder if we are asking the correct questions. The point of "validating unimportant work that might have fetched a high price" wants to argue that work sold at a high price is unimportant. Maybe so and maybe not, this might be more a question of individual taste than anything else but at the same time a point worth discussion.

The issue that Martin raises "why critics write almost exclusively about what is being shown in the galleries" has similar problems. There are so many artists, showing in so many venues, that the critical structure cannot logistically do justice to the work being shown. Peter Plagens wrote an article about art criticism, describing some of the current problems inFebruary's Art in America. [link to findarticles text]

The problem with art criticism in the print media is that it is subject to space constraints, lack of interest by the general public (newspapers), or a dependency on advertising which can affect editorial policies. It would appear that an obvious solution might be found in the electronic media, on the web. There are several sites, Artnet is one previously mentioned, which do offer criticism on the arts, but again there are certain constraints because they tend to be organized with a similar modis operandi as their print counterparts.

This leaves the us with the bloggers who make an attempt to provide coverage and an opinion of artists and exhibitions, often providing more up to date and fuller coverage of their local venues. A key factor in the blogging approach is that the writers are unpaid. Obviously this is a downside for the writers, who seem to do this for love or glory, but it eliminates one of the primary financial roadblocks to starting something akin to an underground art magazine.

Finding a counter-cultural solution by being visible in the underground.

It would seem to me that there must be a number of artists and writers, interested in writing about art, either as formal art criticism or just as a personal point of view. The problem with the blog format is that there are so many, they become unmanageable and fail to become a daily destination for enough readers to have an impact on the art world dialectic.

Blogger is free and already set up for multiple contributors which permits more than one person to write and post an article. I think this feature is under-utilized by the art community.

It would seem to me that with a little organization it would be possible to setup a blog which provided reviews, from a broader group of venues. I’m speculating that this could be successful because it would become a point destination on the web rather than a "what’s happening here" item in your bookmarks.

It is clear that we all do not have the same aesthetic tastes, nor the same philosophical approach, ideally we disagree and this is what makes art interesting. The blog format allows for reader comment, arguments, put downs, etc, but isn’t this just what criticism needs, disagreement, especially civilized thought out disagreement?

This is just a thought, provoked by Ed’s excellent post, and I’m wondering if it has any resonance with other artists and writers? Build it and they will come? [Field of Dreams]

3/08/2007 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Edward:

You write that artists are disappointing you on this front, bitching about the evil market rather than effecting change. I agree that kvetching of any sort is essentially futile (and often damned annoying), but this hasn't stopped me (and countless other artists) from spewing vitriol every now and again. Aware of how pointless bitching is, why haven't I instead made an effort to influence "the system" or create alternative markets?

I haven't because doing so would be to place myself in the context of the market, to focus on the sale of the work, something I still struggle with philosophically. (This struggle is considered naive, I assume, by many other artists and certainly by the market, itself - as if it's a sentient entity - but it's not unusual.) I see Kuspit's point despite his heavy rhetoric, and I believe many artists agree. If you make the work primarily to communicate, or because you feel you have to (if your happiest moments come via process), the business of selling - no matter ones geography or market positioning - will always be at odds with the making and thinking.

And art and commerce have NOT always been connected. As the western world edged into its now waning dominance, "fine art" was attached to status in the same way crafts and finery were, but artistic inclination (and the communicative power and value of art) is more closely attached to the markings on the walls at Lascaux than it is the Medici family or Saatchi. Certainly those artists who did attach themselves to money or the church are those that populate the pages of our art history books (and therefore those that influence and inform future generations), but no doubt there are countless unknowns who were no less gifted who remained unaffiliated with the business of art making. I suppose in today's terminology they would be "hobbyists' or "outsider artists," but their involvement with the making was no less complete - perhaps more so - than that of their contemporaries.

Furthermore, there is ample evidence of artists complaining about their attachment to institutions and families (Michelangelo) or recklessly abandoning/destroying such associations (Caravaggio).

One road is not better than the other. They're just different. It's largely a matter of personal inclination. And, for some of us, determing paths takes time. I know I want to spend my life making art and writing, but I don't yet know how to support myself outside of other, unrelated work, or where I'll end up living. What I do know is that I am a "spectator," in terms of my involvement with the market, because, well, because all artists are spectators.

During a recent visit to NYC, my father sat with my mother and me on a bench in Washington Square Park, watching some NYU students juggle a soccer ball. My father loves soccer, and he was mesmerized by the boys' skill. After a few minutes of rapturous watching he turned to me and said, "You realize that all artists make a choice in life. They have to choose between a life of observation or a life of participation. You can blur these a bit, but, essentially, you're one or the other. It's something of dilemma for many of us." At the time it seemed an odd admission from a writer - nominated for a Pultizer back in the day - who principally writes about personal involvement and effecting change (in conservation and ecology). After ruminating on the comment, though, I realized that he is very much an observer, and only very rarely a player. The lion's share of artists are such, and we don't act to change the market dynamics because it's not in our nature.

3/08/2007 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. D. Kuspit is the critic who frequently undertakes art issues where the others don’t want to or afraid to or simply feel uncomfortable with the topic. The crux of his article is corrupting influence of money on the contemporary art world. I am the painter. If I start idea for my painting in reference to what was sold the best in the market lately, I’d become slave to the art speculators choices. The power of art comes from the artist’s unique visions (like in the paintings) not the created marketing buzz followed with a good sell. Mr D. Kuspit pointed out that the latter one has become the major driving force in the current boom of contemporary art. Instead of the old struggle of artistic idea vs. appropriate(?) financial reward for it, we, now, have the struggle between shallow materialism, where art piece becomes speculative commodity (buy cheap, sell expensive) and the artistic idea is the only minor attachment to the sell. It is very important argument because we might reach the point that Art, as we know it (richness and variety of individual ideas), will seize to exist and traditional Art model may involve to something else in the future. Since so huge sums of money are involved in contemporary art market what would hold off big business to start producing art on their own in the future? The corporate bosses will have means to hire hundred of artists working on one project and then use their marketing prowess to promote “their art.” It seems like a joke now, but how we can predict it won’t happen? And then we end up with “mom and pop” artist vs. artists on corporate payroll. Or may be it is happening behind the scene, now? At this moment, the individual artistic decision is eroded to marketing schemes and promises of good investments instead of audience humanistic experience of viewing art. I can’t subscribe to the point of view that the unique relationship between the artist’ piece and the viewer can be evaluated in terms of monetary value. Mr. D. Kuspit implies, as I have understood it, that in the long run this issue of money may undermine the progress of art and it may lead to the implosion of art as the means of communication among the art audience, and I agree with him completely.

In the U.S. we have very few critics of the same league as Mr. D. Kuspit and accusation against him of being conservative critic (or whatever label people try to put on him) are coming from people who are unable to provide quality counterargument against his conclusions. Well, I suggest to use variety of the expletives. It might help if someone disagree with him.

XYguy

3/08/2007 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And art and commerce have NOT always been connected.

If there was commerce, there was commerce and art connected, HH. No fair pointing to a time before commerce, per se, existed.

3/09/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

XY Guy:
>>>accusation against him of being >>>conservative critic (or >>>whatever label people try to >>>put on him) are coming from >>>people who are unable to >>>provide quality counterargument >>>against his conclusions.



WTF??!! Kuspit has written a LOT of bullshit in recent years. Which argument do you want me to counter? That neo-masterism is the only valuable new art? That Sean Scully is one of the rare valuable artist of these days?

Sometimes I don't even feel the energy to counterargument. I just think "ok, believe the fuck you want". It's kind of like trying to convince a nazi to appreciate the art of jews, you know? I don't expect Kuspit to be interested.
And all you artists out there, please all become neo-masters so I can laugh really LOUD.

Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com


(not that one Desiderio is not nice, but when it will all be Desiderios on our museum walls, boy are we going to have fun..We'll invite Istvan Kantor to splash blood on them)

3/09/2007 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

Randy Kennedy on street artist Revs, for the NYTimes, 4/18/05 -

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/18/arts/design/18revs.html?ex=1271476800&en=ae71d7f94523678d&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

3/10/2007 09:13:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Edward:

I appreciate your perspective - it's more realistic than mine, I suppose - but I feel it is fair to point "to a time before commerce, per se, existed." If art was as vital to communal experience and understanding, then, in the days of horizontal social structure, it suggests that the core of the process is not at all related to our vertical arrangement of finance and authority (that which is reflected in the contemporary market and the story of western art for centuries past).

Sure, it's naive to suggest that artists today are more concerned with process than career. That's the sad truth. Yet I do think this has much to do with the general reluctance to effect change on the market. The market will always seem like an outside force to most of us...and so it should.

3/12/2007 01:09:00 PM  

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