Monday, April 07, 2008

More Evidence that the Answer Is "No" : Open Thread

In her current solo project at Dumbo's Smack Mellon space, Jennifer Dalton has a piece that serves as an "Insta-Survey" (you can see Jen talk about the exhibition in a video on Smack Mellon's site). Visitors are asked to choose Yes or No to the following question: "Are Times of Recession Good For Art?"

As I'm sure will surprise no one, I voted "No." Times of recession are not good for art, in my opinion. Of course, we've been all over this question on this blog with some arguing that too much money in the art market tends to make the art more boring as younger artists (in particular) get swept up in producing to meet demand rather than gestating or working through their ideas thoroughly enough, or something like that. [UPDATE: Don't miss this round-up of a MoMA-hosted ADAA panel discussion titled "Is The Killer Art Market Killing Art?" on Joanne Mattera's blog.]

But two recent articles by the husband-wife super critics of New York, Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, seem to indicate that there's a flavor to this question that isn't only important to consider, but, much more importantly, vindicates my point of view. Specifically, once you conclude that times of recession are good or bad for "art," the next question becomes "whose art?"

Although I still believe the jury is out on whether hot art markets are good for up-and-coming artists, I'm pretty sure now that hot art markets can be very good for artists who've been overlooked. Indeed, in his January 24th article that included a review of a show by one of my favorite contemporary painters, Joyce Pensato, Jerry stated it perfectly:
One of the good things about the supposedly evil art boom—setting aside for the moment the notion that it may be destabilizing right now— is that underknown mid-career artists are getting second chances at recognition.
Then today in The New York Times, Roberta writes a glowing review of the current exhibition by Doris Lee at D. Wigmore Fine Art. Who and where you ask? That's precisely my point:
[The exhibition includes] around 50 paintings, gouaches and drawings by Doris Lee (1905-1983), an artist whose name initially rang no bells at all. Ms. Lee’s sophisticated fusion of folk and modernist painting ran the gamut from Grandma Moses to a rather prim Abstract Expressionism. The arc was clearly intriguing, as was D. Wigmore Fine Art itself. It is in a building on Fifth Avenue near 57th Street along with other galleries known to me. Inside, it looks like something that Douglas Sirk might have dreamed up. Three trim desks sit squarely in the exhibition space, and the paintings are hung cheek by jowl on brass rods descending from the molding. Deco-ish high-gloss South American rosewood paneling here and there radiate an impossible sheen.

If D. Wigmore Fine Arts struck me as a place where time had paused a bit, that may be because history, as you think you know it, becomes unsettled here. Ms. Wigmore is one of several New York dealers who mostly represent estates of mid-20th-century artists who are suffering from at least momentary neglect.

Since she began handling the Lee estate in the mid-1980s, she has mounted around 10 shows of the artist’s work. Ms. Wigmore’s view is that while her artists may never again be part of the current scene, they can always re-enter history.

My central argument here is still technically unproven, I'll admit. Essentially I'm attributing the ability of overlooked artists to "re-enter" history to the fact that there's so much money about in the art market that galleries can afford to highlight them (which can also be read as the galleries have run out of inventory on their other artists). That doesn't seem to be the case with Wigmore, who focuses on such artists, though, but I'm pretty sure the amount of money about helps that mission too. I'm also leaving out museums or not-for-profit spaces that might on their own take a fresh look at a previously overlooked artists, but there again, the hotness of the market impacts the number of people lining up to become trustees (i.e., donating money) and helps expand their capacity in this regard as well.

So given all that evidence, I'll conclude that I'm more right than wrong and smugly move along to getting myself a cup of joe. Consider this an open thread on overlooked artists, re-entering history, and the impact of the market conditions on both.

See image at NYTimes: “The Violinist, Woodstock” by Doris Lee.

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48 Comments:

Blogger George said...

Maybe this will help define those moments:

link to NY Times Graphic on all recessions since 1850

4/07/2008 10:05:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

The seventies produced conceptual art so enthralling and intellectually rigorous that we are still having a hard time moving on today. The recession was good for art.

Was it good for artists? Depends on whether they are happier doing something completely relevant and exciting or would rather be comfortable.

Is it good for the machine--the museums, galleries and any other viewership vehicle? No, absolutely not. They're institutions--they need money and recognition more than artists do.

Artists can make art out of nothing, and can make art for reasons other than recognition (see: Darger, Henry; Bontecou, Lee; Noland, Cady). But you can't make an institution out of nothing.

Not arguing that money and recognition are bad, just saying that artists have more options than institutions when it comes to these external validators.

4/07/2008 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The seventies produced conceptual art so enthralling and intellectually rigorous that we are still having a hard time moving on today. The recession was good for art.

How do you prove a causal relationship there, though? Why are you sure the conceptual art wouldn't have developed otherwise?

4/07/2008 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

I think that the relationship between the status of the economy and the overall direction of art production is complex and unpredictable. It is interesting to note that a large amount of art produced over that last several years of extremely prosperous times used found or cheap materials. Now this may reflect some way of offering alternatives to the current paradigm or it may reflect the reality. Keep in mind that a boon in the economy does not necessarily trickle down to us lowly artists. In fact, a strong argument can be made that overall it was much easier to be an artists, live in NY all that, in the 1970s then it has been recently.

4/07/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

...Has anyone started reading April Artforum yet? It takes the global art marketplace as its theme (Hirst's diamond vanitas is on the cover). I just read the keynote article by Thomas Crow, which sets the stage for a round table discussion, among other things. Here's Tim Griffin's intro:

TO WHAT DEGREE and in what ways have an expanded market and popular interest in contemporary art impacted and shaped the contours of art’s making, collection, circulation, and display—and to what degree does our current situation have any historical precedent? [...] The current issue’s focus is contemporary art and its economy during the past decade, particularly seen in light of the remarkable expansion of art’s global circulation; of its ever-increasing technological sophistication and production values; of its exponential growth in prices; and of its tightening grip on the popular imagination as a unique arbiter of status. But there is no separating these circumstances from those of culture understood more broadly. Accordingly, this issue calls upon voices not ordinarily heard in these pages.

Am hoping the issue is as good as it looks ;)

4/07/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

At one point I had a theory that recessions were often periods when art reinvigorated itself often by finding new stylistic or philosophical directions. The premise was that in affluent periods, the art world, gallerists and artists, tended to exploit these new recession born developments, as second and third generation variations. A variation on don’t rock the boat, fulfilling the demand in a stylistically hegemonic marketplace.

Looking at the recession map (linked in the first comment) you can draw your own conclusions. At this point, I’m not so sure this is as true as I once thought it was. The primary difference between the present art market and past situations, is that the marketplace has become so large that there isn’t enough good product of a singular style or philosophical bent to satisfy demand.

It appears that as a result the breadth of the work being offered in the current marketplace has broadened out and can include artworks or artists which in the past might not have been able find a slot.

No doubt the marketplace has an addiction to "the new," it’s a basic requirement of fashion. Yet for something to be "new" it needs a contextual reference to reflect off of. Without this, the "new," just becomes a flailing of arms within the din of the crowd, and meaningless.

In my opinion, an awful lot of junk has been passed off as art over the last few years of this "art boom."
If the marketplace does indeed broaden out, it should raise the bar for all artists, because the evidence is always in the seeing, the experiencing of artworks. Regardless of whatever marketing hype we are inundated with, we can see the truth by comparison.

By example, I saw an exhibition by Thomas Nozkowski at the Pace Gallery in Chelsea, it was hands down one of the best painting exhibitions on view. Now if you are interested in video, it might not ring your bell (see the show at Ed’s) but if one is interested in painting Nozkowski set the bar up a notch.

The difference between now and the past, is that the larger marketplace now offers more opportunities to see the types and quality of work one is interested in. The devil is in the details and the marketplace is still adapting to it’s new size and breadth. If the quality of works on view improves as a result, I cannot see how this can be a bad thing.

4/07/2008 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Its very fascinating to see how one considers the downturn to be a benefit according to their vantage point. It either benefits the conceptualist or the painter depending on your view. Perhaps both?

I am interested in seeing how online resources influence things (i.e artreview.com). Could it be that if galleries and publications falter artists and critics will rely more and more on online blogs and things not only for promotional purposes but for discourse? Could the web become a more legitimate arena?

4/07/2008 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Now if you are interested in video, it might not ring your bell (see the show at Ed’s) but if one is interested in painting Nozkowski set the bar up a notch.

This is another really good example of why a strong market is important to me, as well. It facilitates the ability for new-media--based work (not to mention art from regions not previously known in a market [our current exhibition is new video from Central Asia]) to be seen in a new commercial context. To test the commercial waters, so to speak, without sinking a gallery willing to see whether the medium is ready for that market (or the market is ready for the medium/content, if you will).

The rise of photography prices over the past 10 decades, for example, is linked, in my opinion, to the strength of the market remaining high enough, long enough to get the prices up there. Getting to the point where you have more demand than supply requires a sustained health in the market for certain less-traditionally commercially successful products/artists/media.

The notion that what's considered important/credible media can evolve because the market is strong enough to support the artists working in new media, strikes me as more evidence that a recession is bad for art.

4/07/2008 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

over the past 10 decades,

should have been "over the past 10 years,"

my bad

4/07/2008 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

… It either benefits the conceptualist or the painter depending on your view.

This is an old paradigm polarity. I think Ed’s remark "To test the commercial waters, so to speak, without sinking a gallery" is more to the point in the present environment.

At the outset of conceptual art the economy was in a hole, the art market was surviving from the back room, so galleries could show conceptual works without any real market ,because there wasn’t a market to speak of anyway.

The present situation looks like it may shape up differently. At some point a market reaches a large enough size to be self sustaining and I think this is what has occurred at the present.

This doesn’t mean that a downturn won’t be painful, it will, but a broader marketplace, by definition, has a broader customer base. In good times it allows for the kind of experimental exhibitions Ed speaks of. In tougher times, while competition for the consumer dollar intensifies, a broader offering has a better chance of succeeding by catering to different tastes and interests.

4/07/2008 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger J.T. said...

As I was preparing to post a comment here I realized that I initially mis-read your comment, Ed. You stated:

"Specifically, once you conclude that times of recession are good or bad for 'art,' the next question becomes 'whose art?'"

I see now that you are asking for whose art is a recession good or bad. Please correct me if I'm wrong. When I first read it, I thought you were asking whose art should benefit? Or, whose art should make the cut in lean times?

That is a question that I think is quite important right now. Most everyone I talked to in Miami (I didn't go to NYC) felt there was way too much art there... too many fairs, galleries, artists, art, etc. I had to agree. I don't think the size of the Miami market did anyone any favors, other than put some money in some people's pockets. Which often, but not always, is a good thing.

So, with that said, will a recession cause the machine to be more selective about what gets shown? Will the best rise to the top (the scary thought of "quality")? Or will the most marketable work make the cut?

I agree that in general, more is better. But one part of me really wants to see what will survive a recession, even if that means harm to my own practice (financially speaking, of course).

4/07/2008 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

It's not what will survive a recession but who will survive a recession.

4/07/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I see now that you are asking for whose art is a recession good or bad. Please correct me if I'm wrong. When I first read it, I thought you were asking whose art should benefit? Or, whose art should make the cut in lean times?

Sorry for being vague.

What I mean is a hot market can be good for "art" in that more art gets seen than would otherwise. My premise is centered on the notion that art is first and foremost a conduit to a dialog, and that without the dialog (i.e., without ample venues in which to see the art) "quality" is somewhat beside the point. (If a tree falls in a forest...)

Specifically this associates what's "good for art" with how much of it gets seen. The case of Doris Lee being a good example of why the strong market is good for "art" (i.e., the public might not have been exposed to her work again otherwise). Again, equating "art" in a broader sense with the strength/depth of the dialog it sparks.

The other opinion, that which subscribes to the notion that better art gets made in a recession, seems to hinge on the notion of quality rising when artists are left alone to create art for art's sake [unaffected by commercial influence because the market is relatively irrelevant]. I haven't seen that proven as true to my satisfaction. There are periods of great art coinciding with bad markets, but that's not convincing of the premise to me.

4/07/2008 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger J.T. said...

You weren't vague, Ed. I was reading a point that wasn't there, but instead in my own head. :)

I guess I'm wondering for every Doris Lee that is resurrected in high times, how many awful, but hot, artists do we have to suffer through at the same time? What's the cost/benefit of that exchange?

I'll remain interested in seeing what the recession does (my first as someone finally old enough to pay attention) to the art market. But I'll hope that regardless of what happens you survive unscathed, Ed.

4/07/2008 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think the two are not related as much as we seem to want to believe they are. There are, it seems, four possible main scenarios and we just happen to live during one at any given point in time; perhaps revealing that there's nothing causal between how good art is and the market, per se, at all. If we consider the four possibilities...

1. Art market is strong and "quality"* of art is strong
2. Art market is strong and quality of art is weak
3. Art market is weak and quality of art is strong
4. Art market is weak and quality of art is weak.

(*Here I'll let "quality" be the description for work with lasting interest for the public in general and subsequently working artists in particular.)

....there seem to be circumstances beyond a simple equation that lead to any of these four being descriptive of the time in which one happens to lives, no?

But I'll hope that regardless of what happens you survive unscathed, Ed.

Thanks JT...the feeling is mutual.

4/07/2008 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I would make a distinction between a "hot" market and what I think we have which is an expanded market, the art market is much larger today than ever before.

This makes Ed’s remark that "art is first and foremost a conduit to a dialog" viable and it is through this dialogue that we can ascertain "quality" by comparison.

The downside, especially of a hot art market is that it introduces distortions within the system. People tend to focus more on price as a metric and in "hot markets" pricing always becomes distorted.

The comment quoted from ArtForum "of its exponential growth in prices" indicates a lack of understanding about the realities of a market economy. It the type of misperception which causes markets to eventually implode.

4/07/2008 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Given that the majority of business analysts and politicians cannot bring themselves to even utter the word recession, and that recessions are often recognized after the fact, I am not sure I buy into the argument that the art world has a real-time reaction to the state of the economy.

If the art world does react swiftly, more swiftly than our dithering policy makers anyway, perhaps it is more of an experiential reaction along the lines of "Holy Crap, I need to adapt/evolve NOW because what has worked well for me in the past has stopped working!"

Either that, or CNBC should start tracking the art market as a leading indicator...

4/07/2008 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

There's "art" in the stratoshere, "art" in general, and "art" as specific to me and you and others artists and dealers who are not operating in the six and seven figures.

I realize it's all connected but, for instance, when we talk about auction prices, I don't see how that affects those of us on the ground.

So in a recession, is it the biggest, most expensive works, which have typically been collected by the wealthiest collectors, the first category to feel the pinch. Or is is the lower-priced works by lesser-known artists, which have tyupically been purchased by collectors of more modest means?

One mid-level dealer dealer told me that the bottom has fallen out of the lowest and highest priced works, but that the middle ground is holding its own. Meanwhile at the ADAA panel last Saturday at MoMA, "Is the Killer Art Market Killing Art," the panelists were still talking about a boom in full swing. (See my report: http://joannemattera.blogspot.com/2008/04/is-killer-art-market-killing-art.html ) To hear them speak, there's an ever increasing market for an ever-smaller number of high-priced, blue-chip artists.

But what's going on at the base of the pyramid? That's what I want to know.

4/07/2008 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has there been a single commenter here who actually makes a living off his or her artmaking?

The recession will not affect any of us as artists.

4/07/2008 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

A recession affects everyone, one way or another.

4/07/2008 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"as artists", our artmaking.

4/07/2008 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I still disagree, it affects the intellectual, emotional and psychic climate, it has to affect the art, at least for me.

4/07/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Yes.

4/07/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's not what I meant. I'm not denying that your life experience or environment affect your art.

This is a tangent. I don't feel like pointless arguing. I defer. See you later.

4/07/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

In that vein, sometimes it appears that collectively artists acts as mediums, sussing out the zeitgeist of the age, without necessarily trying. I’m frequently surprised when looking at art how certain characteristics or attitudes just appear all at once, seemingly out of nowhere.

4/07/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I make a living from the sale of my paintings--though I recently started teaching one course a year at an art college and direct a painting conference at another. I couldn't live off either of these supplemental gigs, but all this talk about recession and the other shoe dropping have made me feel that I need to diversify. This is either a really smart move or a totally boneheaded one. So as not to cut into my studio time, I'm ridiculously oversubscribed.

4/07/2008 02:13:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

How do you prove a causal relationship there, though? Why are you sure the conceptual art wouldn't have developed otherwise?

I haven't read everything yet, but wanted to respond to your question, Edward.

I am basing that statement on what Eleanor Antin told me about working through the seventies. Her take is that nobody made paintings because nobody had paint, and nobody would have bought them anyway. William Wegman has said similar things about his early video work, as has Bruce Nauman.

I think it's interesting that as these artists have aged, they have responded to having more resources by doing more resource-heavy work. Vito Acconci has basically become an architect. Chris Burden and Dennis Oppenheim are making properly huge, resource-intensive sculptures. Eleanor Antin's last photography project was a huge undertaking--she employed a huge crew of people.

We all know that William Wegman has spread his seed widely.

I would argue, as many of these artists have, that conceptualism of the 1970s variety was borne of necessity, and that its aesthetic

(which has IMO become manner)

is not one of inherent spareness or asceticism as much as it's about making Stone Soup. I think you can see that in the flexibility in these artists post-recession careers. It's interesting that Wegman is doing genuinely great creative work in a children's book context. It's interesting that Oppenheim is making plaza art.

I think that speaks to the strength and flexibility that any individual requires if they're going to thrive in a recession.

Don't get me wrong--I think that artists should get shows and think that Pensato is right when she says that more artists get props in a big market. But a recession is only going to be bad for artists who can't respond to it with some serious verve.

4/07/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

I haven't really noticed the supposed art boom or the supposed art recession. I make art, and I have a day job. What's changed?

4/07/2008 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Deborah,

Well maybe, but I suspect there's a bit of myth making in those comments. I think the developments were intellectually driven, a counter response to formalism and the marketplace. Since there was no market, this fit right in. To suggest that it occurred because artists didn’t have paint, etc is bogus.

4/07/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

The fact that there was a recession during the birth of 70s conceptualism doesn't demonstrate a causal relationship. Perhaps the conceptualism caused the recession? Perhaps we can blame it all on the advent of disco?

4/07/2008 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

...what Eleanor Antin told me about working through the seventies. Her take is that nobody made paintings because nobody had paint,

Deb, I wonder if she was making some sweeping hyperbole to push home a point, since painting certainly was happening in the 70s; high-profile revisions of the no-paintings version of recent history have certainly been made.

and nobody would have bought them anyway.

That's more to the point re: this discussion of markets. Comparing now to then: if the market itself -- producers, distributors, collectors -- has diversified a zillion-fold since the 70s and 80s, it can only bode well in the event of a recession. It's possible that whenever the market resurges, that's the true vulnerable point for a large swathe of artists who then got lost or "left behind" if they hadn't made it to a certain level before the slump/crash. They will never be young and "new" again and are forced to forge ahead on a different route.

4/07/2008 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous s capone said...

Sorry if this drifts off-topic a bit but I think there is an ironic historic circle that closes its loop with the current discussions about the art market. Back in the late 80s, the dialog was heavy and vitriolic about censorship; that is, political and social censorship surrounding the NEA and the value of government sponsorship of the arts. This attitude was summed up most hyperbolically with this comment from the infamous Rev. Donald Wildmon in his organization's campaign against the NEA:
"The NEA feels that their artists are an elite group who should not have to put their art to the test every other American must face in a capitalistic society...Let the NEA and the artists (meet the) demand of the marketplace. (And if) the works of art have merit they will succeed in the marketplace."
This sentiment was echoed in Congress, on pundit talk shows and in the Times, Post, et al. and did raise a question about the 'validation' an artist receives if his/her work wouldn't sell or be sustainable under a system of market support.
But now it seems the prime dialog concerns the 'censorship of the marketplace'. After reduced governmental support for individual artists and punishing admonitions for art to 'find its way in the marketplace', and then spending the 90s doing exactly that, the market seems the main offender and determining force for what kind of art is 'good' or 'bad'. In a free market system, though, at least the arguments are mainly internecine, without the looming mobs of flag-waving, gay-hating lynch mobs ready to drag artists to the pillory.
The allure of the market is a dense center of gravity that bends art to its curve. But there is more diversity of art out there than ever, it's not as if the 'market' (i.e. wealthy dealers and collectors) only desire bucolic still life paintings and portraits. Since the early 90s there has been a visible system of private support for increasingly difficult forms of art. This system may be a black hole but it can also be an umbrella: can you imagine the furor that would have erupted over John Currin's paintings had he been supported by a measly NEA grant back in the mid-80s? Actually, since he does straight porn, probably not much of a furor would result after all....
Sorry, back to the point. IMO, 'art' is not a blanket term for all modes of production. Artists are primarily involved in some sort of dialog with culture, art that is 'poor' or lacking in production values should not just be seen as a reaction to so-called high-end art. Probably we will see less of a factory-production model for art (Koons, Hirst, Elliasson et al) and hopefully we'll see fewer art fairs but artists will carry on making or doing things. What is the opinion of people here on a return to governmental/fiscal sponsored support system for artmaking? Very little discussion is seen about artists who find support via grants, residencies, fellowships etc. and in what ways are those affected by the economy?
The closing of the ironic loop comes with this blurb in the AiA March issue: "On Dec 26 2007 President Bush signed the fiscal year 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill allocating $144 million for the NEA, and increase of $20.3 million over last year's funding. It is the largest boost since 1979 and the highest level of funding in 13 years."
At the height of the NEA controversy in 1989 the funding was at about $171 million, as a point of reference...

4/07/2008 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Joy’s points are well taken.

The recession of the 1970’s was the worst since the great depression. NYC went bankrupt and the art market was severely depressed.

Funny thing, as a young artist at the time, it didn’t seem that bad to me. Paint was cheap, rent was cheap, food was cheap, gas cost less than a buck. Since the art world wasn’t robbing the graduate schools for fresh meat, there was plenty of incentive to do things which weren’t meant to be sold. Performances were given in a rough floored lofts, with bare bulbs for illumination. A lot of sixties idealism was going bust and I think the art of the time responded accordingly.

4/07/2008 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

At the height of the NEA controversy in 1989 the funding was at about $171 million, as a point of reference...

Adjusted for inflation, $171 million in 1989, is $298 million in todays dollars.

4/07/2008 03:40:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

George,

I see what you're saying about romanticizing the past and mythmaking. But I stand by my own take on the conceptual artists of the seventies--that there is a practicality driving the aesthetic that remains, even as the work becomes less conceptual. I do think that this group of artists is unique in their ability to look at the world and make something out of what is already there.

Listen, I went to grad school at the Old Conceptualists Home... expect my take on this topic to be biased. I am willing to believe that much of what my professors told me is, as you say, bogus.

4/07/2008 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I was just going to ask who is talking about John Currin these days....

Is that dude is having a dialog or what? I ass u me its a good one. He sure can paint. But to what end?

Are you a part of that conversation? I know plenty of people making good art who think he's off on his own. Or maybe I'm lying. It's easy to manufacture consent right? I love John Currin.

If you exclude all the "bad artists" how do you do that? Is there a formula? How do we tier the art world based on personality and interests rather than money?

My vote is for gene therapy and drugs to create a rigid caste system.

No, ecologically speaking culling the herd is only beneficial when there is a herd.

And the herd these days, as always, is made up of collectors circling a defined number of "good" artists.

(Im with you there, I know one when I see one, and if you are lucky I will mention your name,several times, John Currin).

Each generation has its a-listers - just as each generation must burn the huts and cannibalize the previous.

MY generation is fucked, so I don't know that it matters. Now, John Currin, he's got electrolytes and he's only 46. You go Boomers!

4/07/2008 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

WHich is to say, many artists who seem to be doing wella re booming and busting all by their lonesmoe - but not John Currin. WHy is that?

And also, booming and busting is probably more disruptive to the artistic psyche/muse than pure failure - or pure suckcess.

Thats why im in favor of the government stepping in and subsidizing things like they do with food. Rioting is ugly.

4/07/2008 03:54:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

And also, booming and busting is probably more disruptive to the artistic psyche/muse than pure failure - or pure suckcess.

Once again, Zip sends it out of the park.

4/07/2008 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

great comment, s capone.

What is the opinion of people here on a return to governmental/fiscal sponsored support system for artmaking? Very little discussion is seen about artists who find support via grants, residencies, fellowships etc. and in what ways are those affected by the economy?

The politics of the market vs. politics of grant giving bodies? I apply for grants every year like a good little artist; the only substantial one I've ever received was one I didn't apply for. In the end, the grant givers and the market shakers have to overlap - diversified or not, it's still a relatively small group of people; if they lived long enough, they would probably all end up knowing each other. I guess I'm not sure if they don't boil down to the same thing, the market system and the grant system: influenced to diff. degrees by personal politics, the shock of raw merit, and plain ol' entrepreneurial know-how.

4/07/2008 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

pure suckcess

:-)

4/07/2008 04:05:00 PM  
Anonymous s capone said...

"In a free market system, though, at least the arguments are mainly internecine, without the looming mobs.."
What I meant to say is that the market seems largely more permissive and liberal, actually. In a time of economic crisis the conservative pundits start to voice their indignence, so be prepared for the arts to come under fire, it's an easy target as a launching pad & rallying point. That's what I meant by 'black hole but also an umbrella', if people are buying art does 'art' still have to justify/validate itself on intellectual grounds as well market success in this country? How does this compare to places like Canada or in Europe where artists are largely supported by the government and which have no real base of private collectors?

4/07/2008 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

… if people are buying art does 'art' still have to justify/validate itself on intellectual grounds as well market success in this country?

How does it achieve market success? Going back to Ed’s earlier suggestion that a robust market makes it possible for more kinds of work to be shown, it suggests that the audience will be able to make comparative judgements between one artist and another. I think that at some point this includes the intellectual grounds as well.

How does this compare to places like Canada or in Europe where artists are largely supported by the government and which have no real base of private collectors?

Art made in Europe is just as significant as art made in the US or China for that matter. I go along with the globalization of art idea, great artists are born and it doesn’t matter where.

4/07/2008 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the two (good art and a recession) are correlated at all. Just like fame and success don't correlate to good or bad art. Good art is beyond these things and that is what gives it the strength. Artists have made great works in all sorts of economic conditions with and without recognition. These things just don't have anything to do with one another... apart from the fate of institutions

4/07/2008 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I dont know what this means but I;d like to enter it into the public record because I think it speaks to the subjectivity of public opinion, the market, and suposed objective criterion, the auteur theory of artistic genius, foreign policy decisions, the power elite, the impeachment of George W Bush and etcetera, John Currin voibiscum:

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough. […] [A]s a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power. […] Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify. It has been demonstrated that we cannot rely upon intuition, conscience, or the accidents of casual opinion if we are to deal with the world beyond our reach.

– Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion

4/07/2008 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you don't expect to sell your art, you make it differently. There are exceptions to that, I know. Experimental and highly personal work both tend to continue on regardless of external economic pressures.

I am curious about how a slowing market will impact art schools. Most of the younger artists I know expect to make a living doing art. That's one of the reasons their parents shelled out so much money to send them to the hot schools. With the decline in the economy, will they, like so many in my generation, quit producing art in their mid thirties?

ml

4/07/2008 05:44:00 PM  
Blogger joy said...

am curious about how a slowing market will impact art schools.

Indeed; do you know this article from the Bkyn Rail? So interesting!

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Assistant, by Graham T. Beck.

4/07/2008 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Folk Art Paintings said...

The blog was very interesting. I think making art for money results in less creativity. Artists should be given the freedom to explore their talents. As art is an expression of oneself the artists should give more importance to the work than on the profits.

4/08/2008 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joy,

Thanks for that link. Enjoyed the article.

ml

4/08/2008 09:51:00 AM  

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