Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Bitching (with some Bonus Thoughts on the Solitary Vision)

Upon my first full day back in New York, I was somewhat surprised to see there were no articles on visual art in the Arts section of today's New York Times. Not even in the Arts, Briefly section. Nothing.

There were reviews of rock concerts, operas, books, plays, etc. etc. and news about movies stars, TV programs, libraries, orchestras, etc. etc. But not one single mention (in the printed version anyway) about visual artists, or museums, or galleries, or anything.

After the 21-ring circus that Miami was, it is a bit of a relief I'll admit (indeed the folks in Miami reporting the most satisfaction with their social schedule were the ones who got as far away from the art world as possible [boxing matches, alligator farms, and the like were this year's must-see events]). Still, it got me to wondering about the role of visual art in our society that not even one bit of visual art news was fit to print.

Doing the math in my head (always a dubious venture), I guesstimated the number of new theatrical productions and new movie releases or new TV programs vs. the number of solo exhibitions or museum acquisitions or other possible visual arts story lines and can't help but conclude that there's something amiss here. I ran through a list of possible rationalizations for this. Things like, "Well, it takes so long and the efforts of so many people to produce a play or opera or TV show or movie that it just makes sense they get more coverage." But that doesn't ring true to me, as I know that the middle age artist getting their first solo exhibition has invested a staggering number of hours in their work.

I also considered whether the number of potential consumers of the art product plays a role in the Times' decisions. TV shows, movies, concerts, operas, plays are all designed to reach mass audiences. But not only is there no guarantee they will, blockbuster art exhibitions are often the result of wide press coverage, not just marketing, so that doesn't hold water to my mind either.

It did occur to me that the number of authors with new books out who don't get a Times review is very likely much higher than the number of visual artists with new work on exhibition who don't get one, though, and that began to make me suspect the bias at work here has more to do with the solitary vision than with potential audience.

Indeed, although there are publishers, editors, and others putting their reputation on the line in releasing a new book (just like there are gallerists, curators, and museums putting their reputation on the line for a new artist exhibition), to the public, a solo art exhibition or new book is the product of one person's vision. And there seems to be a reluctance in general to credit any solitary vision as worthy or valuable as group efforts. (This despite the fact that most Broadway musicals, for one personal-pet-peeve example, manage to combine the incredible talents of actors, musicians, composers, choreographers, stage designers, costume artists, etc. etc. etc. and still [usually] end up with an outing only slightly less painful than dental surgery without novocaine.) I get this bias against solitary visions instinctively---Who are You to tell me something about my world? I'll accept social commentary or human insight or poetic gestures as valid when the emerge from a committee, from an organization or group of artists working together. But the audacity of one solitary person to presume to have reached conclusions worthy of my time and attention. Hmpfff!---although I think it has more to do with insecurity than anything else.... Still, the limits of arm-chair psychology not withstanding, I'm curious if others have similar thoughts. Do you do think there is a widespread, if mostly subconscious, bias against solitary visions?

Or is it more simple than that? Am I simply imgaining a rationale where the most obvious reason is staring me in the face? In other words: is it the money? Is it because theaters and cinemas and the like will buy full-page ads from the Times (and most galleries can't afford to) that we'll see a day with no single story on visual arts in the "Arts" section of the largest paper in the nation's cultural capital?

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59 Comments:

Blogger Tyler said...

Well, it's not exactly news that the Times is pretty lousy at visual arts coverage. I'm not sure it's much more complicated than that. I mean, you did see the Sunday visual art story on... art therapy for chimps, right?

In a related story, how amusing is it that the NYT refuses to mention that one of NYC's major cultural institutions, Dia, the museum that effectively created Chelsea, sold its only exhibition space?

12/12/2007 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

I should say that the Times is frequently pretty lousy when it comes to the visual arts.

12/12/2007 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I don't think it's a bias against solitary visions. I think it's a bias against insular, simply self-referencing visions.

12/12/2007 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

you did see the Sunday visual art story on... art therapy for chimps, right

LOL...happy to report I missed that...busy de-installing our booth.

I think it's a bias against insular, simply self-referencing visions.

Unless that describes every visual art exhibition currently on display that hasn't been discussed in the Times yet, I don't understand your point.

12/12/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

My theory on this says that cultural forms that can be easily shared are gaining on ones that can't. This tends to put books, movies, and music ahead of theater (in terms of garnering critical attentions, and to some extent, remuneration), and theater ahead of visual art. Newspaper coverage follows accordingly. And since writers perpetrate said coverage, readers end up hearing about art that makes for a good story rather than a good looking-over, hence chimp therapy, top ten lists, Matthew Barney, Kara Walker, etc.

Hey, I can't link my name back to my website anymore? Oh well.

12/12/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although Roberta Smith and the re-annointed Ken Johnson can shine once in a while when writing about groups of people or individiuals making visual art, I would say their ignoring of the visual arts is 100% based on advertising dollars. Why are there more reviews of museum shows than gallery shows? They advertise in the NYT all the time. How many galleries that have never given the NYT a dime in advertising money have been reviewed in the paper? Maybe a few slipped by in the briefs section, but a full length review with an image included, I bet never.

Eric

12/12/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s.

I know for a fact, based on my experiences working as a freelance art critic for the NYSun, that they decide on what visual art story will be headlined based entirely on the 'sexiness' of the image they managed to procure for that specific show. How depressing is that?

12/12/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

The NYT's arts coverage isn't better because they treat it as a fuddy, featurey thing rather than as news. When was the last time you saw aggressive, enterprise reporting from the NYT cultural crew? When did they last break a story that the relevant institution/etc. didn't "allow" them to break with a selective leak? The last piece I can think of -- the Lowry salary fund story -- was broken by the philanthropy beat writer, not the culture crew.

12/12/2007 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Tyler's excellent points are apiece with mine (which are not so excellent). Lesson:

Don't Bite the hand that feeds you. If someone else broke the story already we will not be held responsible for reporting it. This is a form of pseudo muckraking.

E.G.

12/12/2007 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

But, it's never the group effort that's praised. It's always the director, or an actor...

12/12/2007 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't know how good you've got it. Living in the provinces (Boston), I appreciate the Times for its art coverage. The Times may do poorly by visual art, but every other American paper I've read is much, much worse. Keep in mind that their coverage has been better than other papers' for a long time, way before the recent art boom. I guess it's fair to say it's sad that the Times is the best we have. Is it much better in other countries, I wonder?

A personal aside: Ed, it was great to finally meet you in Miami! (We talked about the artists-who-use-photography-versus-photographers -who-are-photographers schism. Hope you blog about it soon!)

12/12/2007 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous bnon said...

PS I'm the anonymous poster from Boston who usually posts under the name Bnon. Somehow, I wasn't able to sign it that way.

12/12/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You make a good point bnon. That is why art blogs are so important! The print media is a hopeless cause even though we all get an ego (and perhaps monetary) boost when we get to write for them or if someone we are assoicated with appears in one.

Eric

12/12/2007 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Edward, your post reminds me of that feeling i would get coming home after going to the Miami fairs. That disoriented feeling like i was just in some upside-down, bizare, HRPuffNstuff land and now I am back in "reality". Of course, unlike Dorothy, I am never in a hurry to get back to my achromatic world. Of course, I go back to Jacksonville, FL so the effect is WAY more dramatic. (When I drive up from Miami I have to stop at a few little museums and galleries to avoid getting the bends!)

But regarding arts coverage in publications like the NYTimes, I wonder if that is more a reflection of the particular interests of the editors and publishers. I imagine gone are the days when any newspaper editor goes home, puts on a smoking jacket, listens to Mozart , drinking (add some fancy-schmancy concoction), and reading Kierkegaard.

Granted none of us do that anymore either probably but you get my drift, no?

12/12/2007 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Tyler put you up for this post?

12/12/2007 12:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in the media and have often asked newspaper and magazine editors about the lack of visual arts material. Without a doubt, it's two things: they feel there isn't a big enough audience, and yes, it's ALL ABOUT THE LACK OF ADVERTISING DOLLARS!!!

12/12/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Edward said:

I think it's a bias against insular, simply self-referencing visions.

Unless that describes every visual art exhibition currently on display that hasn't been discussed in the Times yet, I don't understand your point.


Sorry, let me be more clear.

You wrote that the Times has cruddy coverage of visual arts, and wondered if there is a bias against the solitary vision. After all, the things that do get all the press tend to be theater and movies.

I don't think it's about the number of people that it takes to realize a vision. I think it's about what the vision is.

People don't turn their noses up at visual art as a category because it's full of cowboys. People love cowboys!

It's because contemporary art has a lame tendency to be about itself, about art history and injokes and these days, mannerizing the avant garde (and the irony of that manner).

The Times is the paper of record, not Artforum, and art is less and less relevant to people outside its own self-anointed circle.

How much wading, then, should they have to do, through Tracey Emin's panties or a thorough parsing of why Steven Prina's monochrome paintings are different than anyone else's monochrome paintings, in order to find the things that are actually worth covering in terms of a general audience?

I think the Times is not being lame about their art coverage as much as they are being discerning in a specific way.

12/12/2007 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The Times is the paper of record, not Artforum, and art is less and less relevant to people outside its own self-anointed circle.

I'd like to see some well-developed data on that, actually. I read conflicting reports of museum attendance, with record crowds in 1999 and supposedly declining crowds in 2006, but with no real indication of how that compares with other choices for spending one's time/money (i.e., is it the economy?). But there must be other measures to back up that notion (i.e., that contemporary art is less relevant to people). It's certainly not the case in the UK.

I think the Times is not being lame about their art coverage as much as they are being discerning in a specific way.

If we have to guess at their motivation though (i.e., if they don't come out and clarify that they're intentionally covering less visual art because of their desire to be discerning in a specific way), what difference does that make even if true? Are we supposed to infer that their editorial decisions are a commentary on the relevance of art to their audience (remember, although the Times is read nationally, for many of us, it's our local paper)? The number of galleries, new collectors, artists, museums, and visitors to area institutions suggests to me that art is very much of high interest to the NYTimes readers.

If that's not the case, I'd like them to clarify it openly. Slowly lessening the coverage without any explanation strikes me as somewhat unfair.

12/12/2007 01:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the Times has been cutting off art coverage for a year now, I think, but seeing the Monkey story this weekend, while the art fairs and the gossip/sightings blog on Base is a downer.

that means more coverage of the main generic art stars.

maybe its sign that NY is not it anymore for the arts?

12/12/2007 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Pedro Velez said...

this is Pedro Velez

12/12/2007 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger McFawn said...

Remember that the Times itself was narrowed by 1/2 an inch (or was it a full inch) this year. There are 7,000 less words at the paper's disposal, and images take up even more room. Perhaps art coverage would have occupied that lost inch.

12/12/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Edouard:
>>>Still, it got me to wondering >>>about the role of visual art in >>>our society


It's going down the drain. It's loosing its impact because there are too many aesthetic titillations these days occuring on too many levels, and we are becoming better at analysing (thinking about) these aesthetic titillations all the times, so what is there more that art can bring? I would have an answer for that but it doesn't fit well with a state of art in which goal is to be sold at optimum profit.

And people, to add on fisher6000's comment, are also not dumb enough
to go crazy about a 23 millions bauble that look like a giant christmast decoration at Macy.
They think the riches have simply lost it and are letting them play their games in between themselves (by the way, I love Koons, I just think Hanging Heart was way way over-estimated, like too many contemporary art. I do am glad that for once the artist earn such a price while being alive but I think this piece is like self-erasing fireworks).



My solitary take is that the artworld makes it very hard for people. I'm trying to be an art fan, I really do. But once you really like an artist, you only manage to see one of their solos
every 3 years, and when you get interested by what was shown in the other shows programmed around the world in between the two ones that you were able to visit, the artworld makes it very hard to see it. You're lucky if a gallerist presents photos of say, a work shown in a biennial, and often those photos are small and at low resolution. Catalogs are often frustrating, they often miss works or that special perspective or shot that would satisfy me. So basically the artworld makes it hard for art lovers and you tend to give up.

Koons has a great online catalog of all his works, that sounds accurate so it is wonderful. Maybe I would require images a little bit larger and more multiple views of some of the most important works, but you rarely get such an online catalog from any artist.

Dear artist, if I can't make it to your exhibit in Tokyo, please help me out, here. Sometimes I feel artists merely rely on the love of the 10 collectors who buy them and are oblivious or superfluous to the people with the passion that makes art so feebly still mean anything these days. Thank God for Flickr and illegal tourist shots at your local museum.

So there, I think the problem is one of access, and that's not just a question that art requires deplacement and space, more that it is as poorly documented as it is poorly advertised.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan

centiment@hotmail.com


PS: Uk is different, things have always been different there. I think it's because of all the grey skies that people are more into art over there, and also they've been tough at adapting to modern design so when they see a Koons in the street everybody go crazy. If you go to Shangai, Tokyo, New York, even Paris, a Koons on the street is clashing with so many other things that it get dissolved in the picture.

12/12/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger hallwalls and elsewhere said...

Be glad you still have any writers covering visual arts.

Here in Buffalo, following the retirement of Richard Huntington last year (a splendid art critic), the Buffalo News opted for the combo-platter of an 'arts beat reporter" who could write about art and theater and other related genres...

At Hallwalls, we went from getting every exhibition reviewed to gaping chasm of review nothingness.

Re: The NY Times...it's a telling detail that in the on-line home page, the clickable links under ARTS are Books, Movies, Music, Television, and Theater...

12/12/2007 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Another big fallacy on the importance of visual arts is the economic strategy of art auctions.


It's not because a work sells 23 millions that it means that art is getting more important. This is a case when you have very little people who want a work but they both have the big
cash for it, so they are other people's whose job is to make sure the price gets an optimum considering the people who are ready to pay for it.

But there is a culture to people with money, it's very different from art culture. A lot of the great standouts of art history were projects rejected by the kings who have commanded them.


Value is all about the who's who's circles and their desires. It's most of the time, a fallacy.


Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.con

12/12/2007 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger sharon said...

I feel I must agree with Tyler on this one--I've never felt the Times was very attentive anything in the art world. And by the way, yeah-- the Dia is ginormous news! Why wouldn't they report that one?

I'd also agree with Franklin a bit; but only on the level that we don't live in a world of singular art critics anymore. If we expect our newspapers to report only on the goings-on of museums and uber-galleries we're in for a lot of elitist insider news, and that world simply isn't accessible to the majority of folks already on the fringe of the art world.

Still, that would be better than nothing at all, and perhaps open the door to people who would otherwise forget there even is an art world.

Now the question is, has the art world done this to itself, and is there a possibility to reconnect people to art in a way that's important, intimate, and relevant?

12/12/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Sharon:
>>>is there a possibility to >>>reconnect people to art in a >>>way that's important, intimate, >>>and relevant?


First, by doing really, really, really good art. That's very hard. Many artists think they are getting away with making good art, but are actually kidding themselves.

You only make good art when mass of people are begging to see you being retroed in museums, and await in queue outside the museums for over an hour.

It's not because you're bought by a few collectors, are being flattered (and programmed) by many curators, or even got a curriculum of over a dozen catalogs of your work that it means your art is great. When people stand in queue to see your solo at a museum, then something is going on, definitely.



Another good way of bringing people to like art is by
simply stopping attempting to outsmart them, fool them, or entangling them in obscurantism because you actually have nothing to say.

If your art says nothing, just say it: "this art doesn't mean anything, I've just been fooling around". Bingo! Most of the times that explains art way better and people can receive this. It's all the pretentious PR prose that makes it hard for people to trust art to be as important as it claims to be. Monet or Cezanne never talked about their art in ways that people couldn't grasp within minutes. There is a villain tendency in contemporary arts to over-complexify everything, and ther results are often embarassing once you reached the eureka of what a work is about.

There is a lack of...how can I say this.. hmmm..."fair communicative grounds" (?). A lot in art is trying to tell you that it thinks or knows better than you when it expects from the viewer to understand in seconds issues that the artist have been researching for years.


Another great option is to get outside the context of museums and galleries, because that context has been entangling itself in stiffness (expecially museums, with their suffocating self-sacredness, and their police guardings). Sometimes you feel better watching a digital picture of a great painting at home than at the museum, where the experience was marked by the stress caused by the 5 guards walking around you. How many museum exhibits did I feel such a relief from having the text available online to read about the works? It's just that hard to concentrate in museums, at times. So that's an artist responsibility to create user-friendly viewing experiences (as a wannabe-artist myself, one issue that is of extreme importance to me).

Gallerists should encourage their artists to experiment (or confront) their art with the outside world. See how it functions in other contexts and jauge at the people's response.
And if your goal is really that people "get into" your stuff, sometimes adapt. Accept it when
people are bored or don't get it. You're not there yet.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

12/12/2007 04:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Actually, sometimes you're doing great art but people aren't yet ready for it, and you'll be more popular 100 years after your death. In those cases I can't say anything encouraging. Just be yourself, sist (or bro).


Cedric

12/12/2007 04:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want more coverage in the NYT?

Advertise. The free ride is over people. For all, big or small.

Intimate art? Real? Please.

Can somebody talk about the enviromental impact of 24 fairs; bad art, 300 parties, cars, buses, AC's, tents, brochures-newsletters and flyers, etc.

12/12/2007 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger sharon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/12/2007 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger sharon said...

First, by doing really, really, really good art. That's very hard. Many artists think they are getting away with making good art, but are actually kidding themselves.

You only make good art when mass of people are begging to see you being retroed in museums, and await in queue outside the museums for over an hour.

It's not because you're bought by a few collectors, are being flattered (and programmed) by many curators, or even got a curriculum of over a dozen catalogs of your work that it means your art is great. When people stand in queue to see your solo at a museum, then something is going on, definitely.


Much of what you've said in your commentary makes a good point but this quoted statement is verging on a dangerous game of absolutes. You're basically saying that the only way for an artist to be validated is to be incredibly (unattainably) successful or dead. If that's the case, then what would be the point?! Art is an individual act, gauged by individual experiences.

I'm arguing that the art world has inflicted this problem, and the institution itself is to blame for holding art "above" people who may have as genuine an experience if not more than those directly involved. If most people didn't feel so cast on the fringe of an insular culture, perhaps it would hold more significance to them.

Art insiders may have the new task of bringing artists, viewers, collectors, and institutions together more locally and sustainably; focusing more on the art and less on the market-- which is the most irrelevant thing about art to most people.

Then again, I am an idealist.

[edit} original comment deleted for a correction. :)

12/12/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much is one page in Artforum? 1/2? 1/4?

Art in America? Art News?

Frieze?

What about all the other art rags, where friends write about friends?

12/12/2007 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I don't get the argument here. Are "you" arguing for peer review for the NYT? Who's your audience? How much art coverage does the average person need with their morning coffee?

I don't want to reify a sacred news cow here, but the NYT covers a lot of "important" art as well as quirky individual tales of resistance and can-do spirit - uplifting tales that brighten your day and bring a common narrative to the chaos that is cultural life.

Is that not so? What more do you, dear educated reader) want out of a NEWSPAPER?

All the news that's fit to print! Hubris! I read USA Today for the pictures. I read the Economist for analysis. Not really but you get the idea.

I'm a big fan of the NY Post's occasional arts coverage - as well as some of the movie reviews. Mostly the movie reviews.

The NYT says:

"The Company's core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment."

Note that the mission statement here states "enhance society" - as stated above, by fisher2000 - essentially:

the greatest good for the greatest number.

The counter argument, that:

"the few must be protected against the mob,"

is valid, but in art currently, this is not the case, as Cedric so eloquently, points out. Money does influence who gets seen - and reported on.

A quick look at any major cultural institution will point out that the NYT is not the only one to make lazy - curatorial choices on occasion, daily monthly or yearly, in subject matter - choices that most believe are mostly made on the basis of wealth, power and nepotism.

Many people openly embrace this paradigm - it matches their core values, populist OR elitist - power takes many forms.

Many of these people own or soon will own, iphones.

Is the NYT any different? I've talked to reporters who will decide on an angle and then pursue the story - as if the story existed and all they needed to do was to round up the facts. That kind of deterministic thinking works well for a NEWS AGENCY but not, for example, Artforum, which is infinitely self critical and beholden to no one when it comes to advertising dollars.

I guess my argument is that reporters should not be critics. And obversely, arts coverage for remote art fairs is best done through the medium of video, or better, film.

THe critical establishment at large operates in much the same way - using the rubric of arthink conceptual speak to identify true believers and major players in the concrete jungle and its supporting arcadia.

In this the critic becomes the fisher of men - casting out nets of preconceived notions and articulating their visions through marketing pawns, formerly known as artists.

GONE are the times when artists, posessed of idiosyncratic and cottage industry spunk, create as individuals for small circles of friends and fellow travelers.

Mourn not the loss of critics, for blogging is the kingdom.

12/12/2007 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Mourn not the loss of critics, for blogging is the kingdom."

"Mourn not for the dead; mourn for the living."

12/12/2007 05:46:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen

12/12/2007 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I refuse to mourn for the living...they've got as much a chance to change their fate as any other creature. Maybe the odd are against them, but they're better than they are for the dead.

12/12/2007 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Are you making an appeal to rugged individualism here? I think it's clear that success in the art game - barring cold fusion, requires social networking. I mean for the living. Dead people can be wessuwewcted.

"[Republicanism] stresses liberty and rights as central values, makes the people as a whole sovereign, rejects aristocracy and inherited political power, expects citizens to be independent and calls on them to perform civic duties, and is strongly opposed to corruption."

12/12/2007 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Edouard:
>>>I refuse to mourn for the living...they've got as much a chance to change their fate as any other creature


Hmm...I would absolutely mourn the livings. Life is tough, don't you think? If you don't think yet you will think it some day, we all arrive to that point.
If you dig down you will always end up meeting people worthy of your compassion, because they experience things that you would not dream to experience, and
that's the subtle difference betweeen pity and compassion in that the latter occurs when you know the chances are likely for you to be there.

In death you're either vanished or part of an afterlife, you believe what makes you feel the best, but I hardly see any logic in mourning death. You'd mourn your loss as a deprived living being, not exactly the dead, isn't it? You can't know if the dead is unhappy.



Sharon:
>>>>>I'm arguing that the art world has inflicted this problem, and the institution itself is to blame for holding art >>>"above" people


I'm constantly jumping between absolutes, you are right.

Yes that's the other option, to come back to a time when art was about doing fun stuff for the people you liked. You don't have to aim for importance to make art experience worthwhile.

The best advocate for humility is ancient anonymous arts, which make us look sometimes like we never even yet learned to design a nice teapot.

I think my argument was merely directed at artists who really want to become artstars and reached the most poeople possible.

In your argument the role of art becomes different, and then you don't mean to reach more people than your local circle of friends. Actually probably the majority of artists in the world think EXACTLY like you describe, and are probably much more happier for it. Have ever met an artist you thought
was gifted but had absolutely zero sense of ambition? Me, frequently.

If you aim to attract massive amout of people than you've got to
think in absolutes, I find. Or be naturally and innocently extremely
gifted, to a degree where other people around you will develop
that sense of absolutism at your place (and perhaps profit from
your hazardeous self-conscience).

Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

12/12/2007 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Maybe the story in the Sunday Times about art therapy for chimps was the NYT's way of covering Art Basel Miami Beach in other words maybe it was a subtle way of saying in a parallel fashion art basel miami beach is like art therapy for chimps???

12/12/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

donna thats so cynical. Although the NYT cites no figures on the numbers of chimpanzee shut ins, or what percentage of these chimps is artisticly gifted, if one chimp falls through the cracks, that's one chimp too many.

12/12/2007 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger George Rodart said...

Or is it more simple than that? Am I simply imagining a rationale where the most obvious reason is staring me in the face? In other words: is it the money?

Things being good, or bad, money is usually the most obvious reason, but not necessarily the correct one. As far as the NY Times goes, it may have just been ABMB burnout, or maybe that’s what Ed’s feeling, the post exhibition crash, no cliff after no more hyper stimulus.

More interesting maybe is your observation I get this bias against solitary visions instinctively---Who are You to tell me something about my world?

The arts, the visual arts are a cultural activity and cultural activities are learned processes which proliferate through society by repetition. This implies that there is no correct definition for art, no aesthetic metric which cannot be changed or challenged, for if required, society can just redefine what it considers art and proliferate it into the future by repetition. I am willing to accept that past cultural histories will temper this process, but in theory anything is possible.

Ed’s instinctive observation of "solitary visions" is very interesting for it touches upon what I feel, why I feel, art is considered important at all, by society, and therefore by the culture. It may be that in modern society, the artist (painter, writer, actor, etc) takes on a mystical role which in effect replaces the hero, or shaman, or wizard, or alchemist, that singular person in past mythologies, which our society has no place for today. What are celebrating is the creative individual and the uniqueness of their vision, statistical outliers in a world reduced to numbers. We use the artistic results, the objects and performances, as markers to remind us that such individuals exist, knowing that we too aspire to this individuality and it can elevate us in our own lives.

What is revealed is not necessarily some ‘truth,’ for these seem to change over time, but that the search is what matters. Art becomes the manifestation of identity, through the realization of ones uniqueness, that creation is making something from nothing, just because.

So it may be that after a week of exposure to the ego maniacs of the art world, the NY Times, needed a pause to refresh.

12/12/2007 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12/13/2007 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

george rodart, what is described by winkleman;s post and the responses is not a pause or an anomaly. People are saying the NYT is not fulfilling it;s role as an upholeder of high cultural values nor representing the demographics of the people commenting.

My rebuttal notwithstanding, what say you to that?

Also, the idea of "the artist as" or that we all play roles seems overly deterministic. Are we ants? Is an artist a baker? A Poet a priest? No, none of these.

But to rebut that, in a way, I also take issue with the idea that art cannot be defined - that in essence makes art a secular religion.

That, my friend, just cannot be.

12/13/2007 12:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Fisher 6000 might have it when she said media apathy was to do with the visual arts being self insular. We live in an age where art is highly academic and therefore exclusive to that audience. Once you made paintings of saints or were some kind of shamanistic medium where your social point of view was important to the society. The most artists can muster today is an irony about arts position. So now we make well informed entertainment in order to make mass media seem more stupid than us. Its the only option available

12/13/2007 01:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Oh my gawd George, beautiful text but very idealistic. Kuddos for you if you still believe in it.

I agree with bob and fisher about the irony except that we're only talking about a portion of contemporary arts that is ironic, and not all of it is out there to ridicule the mass media, actually a lot of contemporary arts are throwing their shoulders down and embrace it like they've lost a battle.

Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

12/13/2007 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

awesome thread folks, thanks for sharing!!

Hmm...I would absolutely mourn the livings. Life is tough, don't you think?

Life is brutal. Believe me, I've had my share of hardship. I just firmly believe that this is as good as it gets, regardless of your current, temporary circumstances, and to waste it mourning those who can still do something to change their circumstances is anti-nature and unproductive. It's a cliche, I know, but the line about the sparrow that freezes to death on the branch never once feeling sorry for itself comes to mind. Mourning for the living is wasted energy. Do something to help someone instead.

12/13/2007 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

In the end, I dont think its that important. I wonder if Michelangelo was reviewed in the Rome Times or even if he would care.

12/13/2007 08:17:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Zip: People are saying the NYT is not fulfilling it’s role as an upholder of high cultural values nor representing the demographics of the people commenting.

&: What more do you, dear educated reader) want out of a NEWSPAPER?

Exactly. I suspect that this type of discussion over newspaper reportage on the arts is not new, occurs in some form in most cities with coverage, and will continue in the future. My initial reaction was that it was the ennui after ABMB, that’s all.

I’m not suggesting that ‘art’ cannot be defined per se, rather that what we consider to be the definition of art, changes over time. What we accept as art, now, in this localized timeframe, changes day to day. These changes occur gradually but after say twenty years, they are quite apparent. History, societies collective memory, is the glue which binds these changes together, in essence corralling them into some sort of order, but in principle it could all change radically next year without violating anything other than our personal sensibilities.

This in essence suggests that ‘anything can be art.’ What I would add is that this is only true to the degree that the ‘artist’ is able to manifest this vision in a convincing fashion. We applaud uniqueness, originality, the sense of identity, these qualities are manifestations of the individual artist's’ personality. I’m suggesting that society chooses to recognize those individuals who are able to express this manifestation at the highest level.

If one looks through the history of art, at the minor artists and tries to understand why the ‘minor’ artists are considered minor, I would suggest that one reason is that they allowed the identity of their work to slip outside of their self. We say the work ‘looks like...’or the artist is a ‘follower of...’ as an indication that some true identity with the maker is diluted or lost. We respond to the ability to create when it is associated with an individual. I suppose that is what makes them stars in the present but I wouldn’t go as far as associating it with religion.

Cedric, how could I be an artist if I wasn’t idealistic? It’s a rhetorical question but I suppose we all have some focus to our identities which we allow to guide us.

12/13/2007 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

The most artists can muster today is an irony about arts position. So now we make well informed entertainment in order to make mass media seem more stupid than us. Its the only option available

Wow, the art world must have really lost it's way! So that's the kind of art you're making? Or is the idea that's what every artist is doing except you?

12/13/2007 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

So that's the kind of art you're making? Or is the idea that's what every artist is doing except you?

Excellent.

Both the problem and the solution revealed in two simple questions.

12/13/2007 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Back to the question about solitary vision and potential biases against it: we are living in a time when our films, advertising, television, etc. are created by committee with focus groups.

The media seems to love to report about Hirst and Koons, who do not physically touch their own work, but have it fabricated or created in their own factories. While I feel some of the work is brilliant, it often feels like the ideas were committee-based or formulaic.

Perhaps it is sexier to read about successful art world "players" who act more like media moguls than that lone artist in the studio, giving it all to the next painting.

12/13/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger peter said...

I've written to both Leonard Lopate and the New Yorker about this same issue; he almost never interviews visual artists (and when he does they're super-famous) and the New Yorker has weekly space for theater and film reviews, but intermittent space for art.

I did hear back from the L.L. show producer, but her answer was unsatisfying to say the least. I think we all need to be on book tours if we want that kind of exposure.

12/13/2007 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

That's funny... hearing Lopate interview the (super-famous) Richard Serra spurred me to email Fresh Air and complain that Terry Gross never interviews visual artists.

12/13/2007 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger peter said...

There's a clear symbiosis between NPR and the Book Tour Industrial Complex that excludes those of us without books to flog.

It seems to me that a novel is as much a solitary vision as a solo show, yet how many first-time novelists do we see lavished with coverage if their book is well-reviewed? Can you imagine a first-time solo gallery show getting anything like the same amount of attention (barring some sensational scandal?) I think not. There's a glaring double standard.

More letters to more editors might help budge the coverage a bit though.

12/13/2007 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

It seems to me that a novel is as much a solitary vision as a solo show, yet...

The difference is because of the solitary vision but because of the solitary audience.

Most artworks are targeted towards a single buyer. Music, books, film etc are targeted at multiple buyers.

12/13/2007 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger peter said...

Right, but does that mean that the job of cultural media is to consider the market when deciding what to cover? Obviously books (and CDs, etc.) move product in a way that say paintings don't, but critics aren't supposed to only report on things that the market has already validated. Otherwise they're just shills.

And 10 paintings at $10,000 apiece gross as much or more than many bestsellers.

12/13/2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger crionna said...

Can somebody talk about the enviromental impact of 24 fairs; bad art, 300 parties, cars, buses, AC's, tents, brochures-newsletters and flyers, etc.

Sure. Totally worthwhile; and I didn't even get to attend...

12/13/2007 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

George:
>>>Cedric, how could I be an >>>artist if I wasn’t idealistic?

I think you can be an artist by just wanting to be big and popular and that many
got there for just that reason..

But idealists and dreamers are the best people to marry.



George:
>>Most artworks are targeted >>towards a single buyer. Music, >>>books, film etc are targeted at >>>multiple buyers.


The big main issue, I find. Most art is seen through their documentation, at any times. But with nicely produced art catalogs or better web access you turn around that problem, and if the arts are out there and people like it they'll talk about it on the net. Who needs the press if it's too corrupted to care reporting the stuff that they don't receive advertisement for?


Peter:
>>>10 paintings at $10,000 apiece >>>gross as much or more than many >>>bestsellers.


But journals need to be sold en masse to the mass in order to subsist. The mass don't care about
baubles that only a few rich can buy, unless it's "that" interesting or if it breaks record sales.

If you want the mass to care but only have 10 paintings, you better have documents (repros) circulate freely on the web, and have the most people talk about it. You got to be as easy to find as a Raisonnee of Vermeer. That's the only place where people see the Vermeers.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan
centiment@hotmail.com

12/13/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger peter said...

But of course the masses care about the baubles that only the rich can buy- have you watched TV lately?

And again, what is the job of a cultural critic? Is it not to bring people's attention to some of the many aesthetic experiences available in this, the most culturally vibrant city in the country? Is standing in front of a work of art in a gallery less important because it's free? Of course not. The market should have no bearing on what critics choose to write about. It's not their job to sell things, it's their job to bring attention to any and all efforts they deem worthy.

If the Times (and WNYC) are failing at his, then it's up to us to let them hear about it.

12/13/2007 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger crionna said...

So, last week in the SF Chronicle, there was a visual arts article (Full page) to go along with the Thursday "what to do over the next 96 hours" section of listings. Then, there was a nice write up of visual arts in the Sunday paper.

At a time when most local papers, and unfortunately, that's what THE VOICE OF THE WEST has become, are dropping out of any real coverage of world events (I swear, reading the Chron's bylines, you'd think the WaPO, NYT and AP were directly on the payroll) it seems in comparison, we're getting a good deal of coverage of the arts in comparison to at least the NYT.

12/17/2007 11:39:00 AM  

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