Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Darwinism as Applied to Art : Open Thread

I've seen it again and again recently, the resigned assertion that despite what the economy does, we'll be just fine because the strong will survive. The recession will weed out the weaker artists, galleries, institutions, etc., and that, the assertion contends, will be good for Art. Not that this notion is universally agreed upon. In a recent article in The New York Times, 303 Gallery's Lisa Spellman voiced the opposing viewpoint:
“What drives me crazy are these clichés that say only the very, very best survive. I don’t believe that recessions are Darwinian systems.”
And in doing so was echoing the same sentiment expressed 25 years earlier, by Bess Myerson, then New York City’s commissioner of cultural affairs:
“Darwinism is abhorrently inappropriate when applied to the arts,” she stated. “There is no reason to suppose that the fittest will survive. Indeed, without adequate, nurturing support, it is dangerous to assume that any cultural institution will survive.”
Of course, it would seem to make sense in discussing this to delineate between commercial and non-profit enterprises, but as Spellman notes, not everyone agrees that Darwinism as applied to even commercial galleries is appropriate. Indeed, many of the same people willing to accept at face value that only the strong galleries will survive are among those looking forward to the recession helping more challenging and difficult (i.e., less currently salable) art getting its day in the sun, apparently with no sense of irony. But let's (try to) take out the commercial aspect for just a moment and discuss Art in such terms. Is it true that the art that survives the recession will be the strongest? In discussing (yes, I know it will initially seem like a return to the commercial aspect, but stay with me) how he views the current state of the art market, super-collector Eli Broad noted recently:
Every artist is different. You may see continued softening with some artists. When you have works of great quality, there will always be buyers who will want to step up to the plate, who will buy in good times and bad.
The implication being, art of "quality" will survive regardless of the economy. If that's the case, though, I'm not sure how a recession is good for Art. Quality sells out during a boom, and quality stands out during a bust. Quality seemingly always survives. Isn't that Darwinism at its essence? Consider this an open thread on whether Darwinism is truly applicable to Art.

Labels: art market, open thread


Blogger kalm james said...

I’m sure there would be plenty of Tyrannosaurus Rexes who would agree with madams Spellman and Myerson. But life, and the laws of nature, aren’t fair. Art and artists will carry on, regardless of “quality” or “economy”, they’ve got no choice. In hard times “institutions” that relay on the public’s largess or the bottom line will always be facing the evolutionary ax, it’s the difference between faith and business. Jurassic Park might work in the movies, but institutional DNA preserved in amber still needs cash flow to survive.

7/08/2009 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I guess Myerson's (in particular) point is best illustrated by what just happened in (of all places) Texas:

More than 100 people advocating for the arts at the City Council Chambers in Corpus Christi rose in a standing ovation when it was announced last week that a proposed $433,000 cut in support to Texan art institutions would not be happening. Threatened institutions included the Art Museum of South Texas, the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures, and the Art Center of Corpus Christi. The proposed cut stemmed from a decline in revenue from hotel taxes due to the recession. The city was able to raise money, however, by taking from the general budget, postponing a scheduled election, and cutting funds for temporary workers. A committee was also established to come up with a more long-term solution to the arts budget crisis.

The point being, the strength to survive is something you can lend art institutions, even during a recession, if you make it a priority.

7/08/2009 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

We'll have no way of knowing - a few years from now - whether these bad times truly left the cream floating on top. Because in the arts, it takes decades to know for sure what is and isn't the cream. Art lovers in 2075 might be reading about tragic misjudgments of certain artists in 2010, 2011, 2012 ...

7/08/2009 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Survival of the fittest ain't got anything to do with being strong.
It's just about being adapted to the changes going on. Sometimes the art gets very boring: think communist era art. But those artists were fit to that context. Did the greatest communist artists sold? Err..Sure. Did they art contain any quality? Yeah, some.

Darwinism applies to the artworld, but not in a way that it's bothered by good taste and elitism. Or money. I have a problem with "There Will Always Be Buyers" frame of thinking. This is what those people want to know. It's a 20th century misconception that without buyers, art would never be able to survive.

Did Van Gogh killed himself because he wasn't selling? Nowadays it would seem like the reason an artist would.

This dependancy of artistic endeavour to its potential "marketabillity'"
annoys the hell out of me. It's not a question that money is evil,
it's just the dependancy. How art is now officially understood as
being subordinated to the power of the buyer. And why exactly would
this equation implies that artists are dead on the ground when the buyer is able to save the best? How about: the buyer loose everything, can't buy art anymore, bankrupt, finished, and the new artist is actually rich and always have been?

Who makes the art survive if the collector crashes and the rich artist make art?

Oh but you got me wrong again. You think that by "rich" I mean "money". But if an artist makes art in a world where nobody has a penny to buy it, who is in power? Who is rich?

Cedric Casp

7/08/2009 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Well said, Cedric.

In this case, I'd say what we want to survive, will survive (and wan't isn't a vague desire, but what we are willing to support with time, money and effort). It isn't some vague invisible hand, and certainly isn't some sort of anthropomorphized deity/market.

7/08/2009 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

perhaps the middle man (or woman in this case) suffers. It's sort of like taking the small percentage of cream that settles at the top...if you're not there (and 'there' is your goal), you must find a way to make it there.

I don't think this is a game for waiting for the dust to settle. If that is your strategy then the top really isn't for you. Although maybe this is a bit of a rash perspective. great post.

7/08/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Institutions are institutions, their only function is to perpetuate themselves. Sometimes this involves helping art and artists sometimes it doesn't. I don't know exactly what art is, but I know for sure it ain't no institution.

7/08/2009 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I'm inclined to think the Darwinian metaphor is applicable.

"Institutions" by their very nature need and deserve public support. Obviously the better run an institution is, the better the chances are for its continuing survival.

Commercial enterprises like galleries are different. "Commercial" is the key word, if they cannot make it as a business, then let them fail.

As for Art in a recessionary period, I don't think the metaphor of "the cream rising to the top" is what applies. In my experience, recessions seem to allow new art to sprout and incubate. If you can't sell anything why not make what you want, have fun, poke the world in the eye, take your pick. I do think there is some evidence to support this idea, earthworks, conceptual art etc.

7/08/2009 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Luis Coig Reyes said...

Darwin never said that only the "strongest" survive. He said that the environment changes all the time and that the creatures that survive and reproduce are the ones with new features that give them an advantage in the new environment. So you don't necessarily have to be a "strong" gallery to survive, you have to be an adaptable one.

The whole question about the survival of quality in art is another issue. The assumption is that quality is the characteristic that allows works of art to survive in a changing environment. This applies to the condition of the market as well as to the passing of time. But a lot of mediocre art has survived the passing of time, even if it's not kept in museums (although some of it is), but it's still around and being displayed in people's houses. So the absence of quality doesn't necessarily mean that a particular artwork will not survive the passing of time.

Also, quality in art doesn't depend on the living conditions of the artists. Works of great quality have been made by artists painting for the king of Spain, like Velazquez, or living in poverty, like Van Gogh.

The arts evolve very much like living things do, in response to new variations in the environment, always trying different things, and having to come up with new features in a mileu that is in a continuous state of changing alteration and variable flux, in fluid transitional motion, unrest, and mutation toward an eternal metamorphosis perpetually transmutating the regeneration of things.

I don't know if I'm making myself understood.

7/08/2009 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Darwinism isn't truly applicable to art because art isn't adaptive. Art doesn't get made in one way and not another because that one way is better suited to a changing world. Rather, art is contingent. It gets made because new and unexpected things happen in the minds of artists.

7/08/2009 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even in flush times many, possibly most, artists struggle. In a difficult economy, there's a point when the ball gets so big and the hill so steep that even the strongest can't keep pushing.

When he formulated his theory I don't think Darwin was talking about trying to pay a $2000-a-month-studio-rent on a $20,000 a year part-time job.

On the other hand, I understand that enrollment at art chools is up for the fall. Hope springs eternal.

7/08/2009 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous DJ Ward said...

Cedric is right. Darwin never said the best would survive. He said that those best suited for the environment would survive. We're talking about three entities here, institutions, commercial galleries and artists. Survival is different for each.

Institutions survive with the support of the community. The museums in Texas aparently survived because they had supporters lobbying against budget cuts. MOCA LA survived because Eli Broad and a few other wealthy supporters believed in it.

Commercial galleries are in a tougher spot and many need to rethink their business models to survive. How do you cut your overhead? How can you reach buyers more efficiently? Are there other products you can create to open new markets? It's a difficult spot to be in.

And as Cedric pointed out, artists are bound to survive even though they might not be selling work right now.

Ultimately "Art" will survive, but the way we experience it, buy it and sell it will likely change.

7/08/2009 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

I concur that the Darwinism metaphor fits in the sense the others expressed that when the meteorite crashed into the dinosaur’s garden of Eden and that bunch of hairless apes that smile a lot and make funny art suddenly became the best suited to the new ecosphere –well hey- go figure)

But will the new economic reality privilege quality for arts acquisition? I think there are two caveats here:

Quality as a measure for choice :
Regardless of what the shift is that has occurred, it remains that our choice habits are often based upon which is better, not which is best.. (given the choice between x or x-1 or y, you’ll likely choose x ( based on it is better then x-1), regardless if y is the best.) So there remains no guarantee that the best quality will be the chosen one.

Commercial Acquisition as a norm:
I’m not convinced economic acquisition will remain the same as we currently know it. Our software is now cloud data located somewhere on the net, where we have access to the tools but not ownership of them as an item. This blog is likely not even located in NY. I’m not proposing economics will end, but that it will metamorphosis into something we don’t expect. Do most people own cars in NY city?

The future remains a mystery to me.

7/08/2009 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

DJ Ward, the distinctions you made are correct, and thus, very helpful.

7/08/2009 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The moment you talk about 'buying' it becomes commercial. You can't base an artwork's merit on whether or not it sells without talking in terms of commerce. Art will be made both good & bad, sold & unsold, discovered & undiscovered as it always has & always will be.

7/08/2009 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric hit the nail on the head.

Perhaps it's not that the "strong" will survive, but that (at least in regards to artists and institutions) those who are in it for the long haul will.

I've talked with several artists who find it somewhat liberating to not have the prospect of commercial success lingering over them. Sure everyone wants to make money doing what they love, but I think some artists (myself included) were driven too much by market prospects rather than just making good work.

It's very sad to hear about gallerists who had their hearts in the right place have to fold, but I think they too will have a chance to rebound if they continue to work in the field in other capacities, even if it means roughing it for a while.

I think the vast majority of artists, galleries, and institutions are in it for the right reasons, but those who aren't -- who care much more about financial success than the artwork -- should go work in advertising.

7/08/2009 01:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never purchased a work of art in my life. On the other hand, I am a member of 6 different museums and I support a few local art non-profits. I am in no position to make a significant impact on any artist's career by spending what little money I have on their art. However, I can choose to support the institutions which preserve art historical traditions and offer new curatorial insights into the nature and future of contemporary art.

The market is not the primary concern with respect to the survival of art. The artists of lasting importance will find a way to create their work no matter what conditions exist within the market. The only question is; will we be educated enough to find and support artists and organizations which will become essential in continuing to develop and advance the social relevance of art.

Ultimately, I feel that the most important people in this emerging period of art will be patrons who recognize where to focus their resources as well as curators and artists who strive to reach the institutional and critical audience that will preserve the art of true importance and significance.

On a final note: I may be dreaming, but it's about time that the notion of art as a monetary investment dies. The only true and lasting value in art is educational and cultural.


7/08/2009 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

We have seen businesses with great service and products fail for reasons that had little to do with the quality of their product (like being overly in debt, when their sales collapsed by, say, 50%). We tend to paint the companies involved with a broad brush and dismiss their products as well as their business that caught up with them.

Who and what art survives may have little to do with the art made, and more due to the shrewdness of the people running the business (and a little luck in business decisions).

A commercial gallery collapsing may ruin the chances of a possible towering genius to make his or her mark. This is not the fault of the artist or on the strength of the art. When faced with collapsing endowments and sales, the financially strong will tend to survive, but the artistic strength may have little impact.

This is not and won't be "cream rising to the top" it is simple, base and ugly scramble to survive.

While I am not a big fan of big subsidies, I feel also the reality is going to be that a financially weak gallery/institution with amazing art is just as likely to fail as a financially weak gallery/institution with poor art.

Survival is less on the strength of the art and artists, and more on the business and financial acumen of the people who run these places. And a little luck.

7/08/2009 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The moment you talk about 'buying' it becomes commercial.

OK, so let's flesh that out a little bit.

Whether artwork is exhibited in a commercial gallery, or a non-profit gallery, or a public space, the inescapable fact remains that exhibiting art COST someone MONEY.

The notion then that you can discuss "ART" as if it exists in any form that anyone can view it in some money-free vacuum is ridiculous. Once you accept that, then parsing whether the context is "commercial" or not seems much less relevant to me.

7/08/2009 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous nemastoma said...

Darwin’s adaptation of Herbert Spencer’s term “survival of the fittest” has been widely misunderstood in popular culture. It’s not about an individual that’s most fit to survive, but it is about reproductive success, the ability to attract mates and produce successful offspring in a given environment. It’s not about physical fitness in the here and now, as this may not necessarily lead to reproductive success. “Fittest” in Darwin’s time didn’t mean strongest or most aggressive, but well the most suitable, the best camouflaged, the most cooperative. That’s the lesson of Darwinism as applied to Art: cooperate to survive!

7/08/2009 01:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Were you not aware that art enters the world in some virginal state. Most artists that I know are not expected to "buy" their materials. In fact, they are magically materially generated at their every whim.

So truth be told, money is never an issue for any artist even before they try to market their work.

7/08/2009 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

maybe the focus is better described as being viable.

I doubt this concern is exclusive to the arts worlds. Newspapers need to be become viable anew when Google gets the advertising revenues and Joe Everybody writes the content on twitter or facebook or the latest "fad" and ebooks and epaper throw their traditional structures about.

The crux is how to remain or emerge as viable while the social and financial realms go through such rapid upheaval. it isn't only the economy.

7/08/2009 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George and Bromo Ivory, "cream rising to the top" is not the metaphor I used. What I questioned was whether we'll have any way of knowing, a few years from now, "whether these bad times truly left the cream floating on top." Which addresses the wrong-headed idea that these bad times will only negatively affect lesser talents. It may be the judgment, in 2075, that we tragically allowed some of the best talents to go under.

7/08/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I guess Myerson's (in particular) point is best illustrated by what just happened in (of all places) Texas::

why (of all places) texas?

i don't get it

7/08/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so when we say "survive" we really just mean that the current state of the economy will praise art that caters to the rich and trendy who can afford to buy it, align themselves with the taste of the artist who created it, and show off their newly purchased "good taste" to their rich friends? and the artists who actually resist the financial rewards of creating art that is completely derivative of something else will not "survive" i'm pretty sure that the artists who you think won't "survive" aren't real interested in "surviving" because they aren't making art that would redeem themselves from that fate. eventually this type of subversion will be commodified and become trendy. we will all have our day.

7/08/2009 01:57:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The moment you talk about 'buying' it becomes commercial.

As Ed elaborated it's a moot point. The distinction I made about galleries being "commercial" is that they are retail businesses which buy and sell artworks. In the process they may or may not exhibit the artworks.

For museums and alternative spaces, including non-profit spaces, the primarily function is to exhibit the artworks. In this sense they might be viewed as an educational institutions providing a public service. Their relationship with the commercial galleries is there and complex, but even so they are not in the business of selling art.

I have no problem with commercial galleries. Many artists seem to have problems resolving commerce and art making, but exhibiting in a commercial gallery does not mean the artist has sold their soul to the devil. The cash flow from sales can facilitate new production and exploration, possibly better artworks or not.

But since galleries are businesses, then they will survive or fail as businesses. There is no reason why a gallery should be exempt from this process. Galleries have other ways to access capital to tide them through the initial startup, slow periods, or recessions.

For a gallery which relies primarily on sales to survive (as opposed to being a tax shelter, or funded by a patron, oneself or others) the route to success lies in the art they have to offer and the owners business acumen. Larry started his gallery in a small space, just like Bellwether or any of the other galleries that have recently closed, why did he survive, or LFL, or...? Along with good business acumen (or guidence) another reason might be that they had better artists?

Artists should worry about how good their art is, the rest will take care of itself.

7/08/2009 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

why (of all places) texas?

I know it's not fair to paint the entire state with the same brush, but the reputation the state has is one much less interested in art than, say, New for Corpus Christi's residents to stand up and fight for arts funding shames many of the Eastern communities that supposedly value the arts more than the rest of the country.

7/08/2009 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed says: " . . .for Corpus Christi's residents to stand up and fight for arts funding shames many of the Eastern communities that supposedly value the arts more than the rest of the country."

Agreed. Yet I wonder if part of the issue is that in New York City we have many museums offering free nights or pay-what-you-wish entry fees, free-entry non-profits, and hundred of galleries where there is no entry fee at all. People get used to the availabiity and abundance. You know, why buy the cow when the milk is free. Except, of course, the milk isn't really free. And the cows are drying up.

7/08/2009 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While all of these exchanges are taking place, I'm imagining you sitting in your gallery at your computer managing this great blog. While all of this is happening what is life like in your gallery... have very many serious collectors made their way into your gallery lately?

we are all throwing around ideas, but where do you really see things going in the future. Aside from LA, Will 20th-28th street continue to be the capital of the contemporary art world?

I like hearing all of these other opinions, but I would like to know how you really feel about all of the upheaval in the art world as of late.

7/08/2009 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom: It may be the judgment, in 2075, that we tragically allowed some of the best talents to go under.

Nonsense. Forty years max and probably a lot less is good enough to sort it out. Also I seriously doubt that there are any undiscovered geniuses out there (say over 50 years old, kids don't count)

Art moves along with its time, each generation defines what it thinks is important and the older generations call it crap because it's not what their generation thought was important.

The reason I think recessions are good for art is because they stem the velocity of the PR machines. Those Fab artists from yesteryear get tested in the marketplace and may come up wanting when collectors have time to think.

(I went to buy tennis shoes last week, mygod, jostling crowd, thump thump, 9000 watts of halogen light blasting my eyes, coupled with thump, thump, thump music and a fast talking Nigerian asking my size, 11? Wanna try em on? try em on, try em on. -- Boy have I a painting for you)

When things slow down a bit, there is less pressure on artists to conform to "what's hot" more room to explore. So I think something good is coming out of this, we'll see.

7/08/2009 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

While all of these exchanges are taking place, I'm imagining you sitting in your gallery at your computer managing this great blog. While all of this is happening what is life like in your gallery... have very many serious collectors made their way into your gallery lately?

Not as many as I'd prefer, but I'm greedy that way.

Within the last two months we've had at least 6 of the world's top 200 collectors through, plenty of collectors not on that list, and as many top curators at NYC's best museums. We're not as busy as we'd like, but then we're workaholics.

Will 20th-28th street continue to be the capital of the contemporary art world?

Some (mostly Berliners [yes, I know the pun]) might argue we've already lost that designation. I don't sweat that, though, as I figure the market's gone global and so long as the people you want to see what you're doing find you while making the rounds being, #1 or #10 is not worth fretting over.

7/08/2009 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Economic theory, for a while, has been based on the principle that in a free market, buyers and sellers behave rationally and with self-interest to agree on the price of an item. I think we have all realized, however, that buyers and sellers do not always behave rationally and just because an object has a monetary value attached to it does not mean that it has any larger value to culture or society.

And art, by definition, serves no other purpose than to expand culture and to imagine for the members of a society a way to move that society into the future. Therefore, I think the question is not, "will the art that survives this recession be good", but rather, "what can we do in the market and beyond to assure that art with cultural value can be shared by members of our society?"

7/08/2009 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George said, "Nonsense."

Perhaps, but like the nonsensical intuitions some had - years ago - that big trouble's on the way, not impossible. ;)

7/08/2009 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Economic theory, for a while, has been based on the principle that in a free market, buyers and sellers behave rationally and with self-interest to agree on the price of an item.

It is true that prices revert to the mean and over time (a decade plus) art prices will approach a "correct" value in the auction markets. That said, anyone with an ounce of financial savvy knows any speculative markets swing between extremes of too high and too low in a manner which defies rationality

It is usually the insiders buying when prices are too low and selling to the less informed public when they are too high. David Geffen is the master of this, approaching genius.

While as an artist I would like to believe that the only purpose of art is "to expand the culture," history reveals that it also becomes an object of speculation for the wealthy.

Art exists in spite of the recession, slow sales does not mean that it is consigned to the trash heap. So the question "what can we do in the market and beyond..." must be answered differently for each area of responsibility.

I think artists should realize that for awhile the art world is going to become more competitive and that it's not a matter of lowering prices but raising the bar of expectations.

The collectors need to do what they do, study and collect. It's a buyers market, which offers opportunities to discerning individuals who wish to create a great collection without needing a small fortune.

I still have my doubts about the critical community which may still be stuck in the intellectual politics of the last century. We're not in Kansas anymore.

7/08/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The fun thing about speculating about the future is that there are no pesky facts to prove you wrong. George thinks that forty years tops is enough time to sort everything out. I take the opposite view: as the number of artists increases, and as they work in an increasing number of media and styles, reputations are becoming less stable, not more. Furthermore, I assert that 1975-2075 will produce such a bewildering stylistic array that art history will not be sortable, or will be so arbitrarily sortable that you could make a case for any historical thread you want. By 2087, Warhol will have been dead for a hundred years and it will be clear that no artist since then has had an impact on the cultural world outside of the insular one that follows visual art. The exceptions will be people I call übercreatives, for whom fine art will be one of the many creative practices in their lives. They will be known for their books, music, films, or whatever mediums the future has in store for us as well as their visual art. Otherwise, reputations will peak at the level of the subgenre.

Not only will quality survive, visual quality is going to prove more durable than anything else going. Always has, always will.

7/08/2009 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Re: Texas.

The funny thing - I have lived in many different places - both cosmopolitan and provincial. I have noticed a few things:

1. Cosmopolitan types and Provincial types are woefully ignorant of each other and tend to stereotype each other (like the comments about "Wyoming" here as being in some place so remote as to be nearly inconceivable to a Manhattanite.)

3. People living in large cities tend to take the great art and cultural events for granted and assume "there is more of that where that came from." Hence when the mighty fall and funding gets cut, it isn't viewed as quite the emergency as it is in areas less well endowed.

4. People in Provincial areas tend to treasure whatver they can manage to pull together because they are aware of how delicate it is. Cuts to funding get people militant because there isn't much more.

I much prefer the cosmopolitan areas to the provincial ones, but in a lot of ways in a big city you are standing on the shoulders of giants, but in a smaller city or town you get to make your own action.


7/08/2009 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

+++the inescapable fact remains ++that exhibiting art COST someone +++MONEY.

Well, couldn't we come up as a society to delineate certain square meters of space for which we agree that no tax will be cut for the sake of free exhibiting? These values we put on land property are artificial. We just decided some day that "ok, this land from now on cost this much".
You could erase this artificiality for the sake of art exhibiting with
the only requirement of a social agreement.

Cost is based on deprivation. A form of energy cost this much
because there is this amount of ressources to produce it. I am
interested in finding alternatives for ressources to decrease the
problem of deprivation the most possible.

I tend to think of "costs" when you work at a loss, but there is
lots of way to make art without ever being at a loss economically.
You can make nice handpaper from roots and dig for natural pigments.
There you go: now you can paint. Ok, this example is extreme, but I like to think of art in terms of generosity more than in terms of what it cost me. I think I want to see art as my gift to the world, not something that my heirs will profit for about 75 years.

Is the thought "it cost me that much" always necessary? When balinese artists prepare a Barong show, do they think "it will cost us that much"? I'm not sure. These works are made collectively. People attend and help when they can. What about the contrary thought? What about : "I OWE it to the people"? I MUST do art because I have a DEBT toward society.
What about the monk's perspective that art is OWING to God. Is there any other angle from which in contemporary atheist (and sometimes amoral) society, making art could equal OWING something TO... whatever.. an ideology...the people... the happiness provided by your family...Really . It would make a good Bruce Nauman neon: "OWNING / OWING", I don't
know if he made it.

Cedric Casp

PS: my future speculations, apart from a potluck economy, is that archives will be important and more people will look back because there will have access to the materials. So the contemporary culture will be in competition with the past, but the past will also be heavily recycled.

7/08/2009 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Have you noticed that Darwin was not selected to survive the evolution of this discussion?

7/08/2009 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

In Europe you can find masterpieces at the provincial level, and I think it's just a question that you can reach these
places by train, so people tend to travel around more. In America, the "best" items are mostly in the big towns.

I tried once to visit Mass Moca by train and bus and it was hell. Now I only go by car, and I think about it twice.

Cedric C

7/08/2009 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous C C said...

Scrap that: the Barnes have a few gems. And I suspect the Broad have a remote villa too that I've not visited.

Cedric C

7/08/2009 06:39:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

In my response to Tom, I suggested that I thought 40 years was long enough to sort things out. This remark was only directed at the assessment of an individual artist. It had nothing to do with predicting anything or even commenting on already existing styles.

It's fairly obvious that the artworld is faddish, to say the least, and that in any short period of time certain artists may receive a better judgment than they deserve. The best example of a catastrophic failure of taste was Greenberg's anointment of Jules Olitski as the worlds greatest painter in the 1960's. A check of recent auction prices is telling, Olitski's paintings failing to make the reserve at prices most good mid-career artists can

However, Olitski is "in play," he has passed the 40 year test and entered into history as a representative of a particular period in American painting in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is also possible that he may be deemed more important in two years, or twenty, or two hundred, and none of this would change my point made to Tom.

Forty years allows enough time for particular prejudices and politics to wane allowing most artists and artworks to be seen in a more objective fashion. At the same time future generations will distort the historical truths surrounding an artists works and they become mythologized. Warhol isn't going to go away, he already is part of the mythology of the sixties along with the other major POP artists.

Of course, none of this should be taken rigidly one must allow for late bloomers but I think the culture can sort out which artists it considers "important" and a "part of history" without necessarily creating priorities. There is little doubt that in 1940's, Picasso would be considered the most important artist. By the end of the century it was Duchamp, but while this distinction is subject to debate, nobody would exclude one or the other from the list of important artists.

7/08/2009 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

2075, forty years, two years, twenty years, two hundred years ... what exactly was the point you made to me, George? I've lost it somewhere in all this chrono-cruising.

7/08/2009 08:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Kincade will survive this recession. Chew on that and ask yourself "how ridiculous is this debate?"

7/08/2009 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Brent Hallard said...

We act upon reality the only way we can, with imagination, with quality. When a particular reality shifts we necessarily need to shift also, which is part and parcel of the 'imaginative quality.'

This is the nature of all things—the fine print in Darwinism.

I hope it works out for all.


7/08/2009 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Fair enough Tom, we got sidetracked here somewhere.

Recessions dampen the froth that occurs in the marketplace and I suspect may functionally act as a form of filtering -- hence the cream rising to the top idea.

But in my experience what seemed more important is that new art seems to emerge from recessionary periods and I think that's what will happen now. Since monolithic styles can no longer exist, we could expect these new directions to occur in a number of different ways. It's an opportunity rather than a curse.

7/08/2009 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 9:25 said, "Thomas Kincade will survive this recession. Chew on that and ask yourself 'how ridiculous is this debate?'"

I'm not sure what Thomas Kincade surviving this recession has to do with a discussion about Fine Art. Please explain. Thanks.

7/08/2009 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Tom's concern was that genius is going undiscovered, and I think this could easily be the case in an environment characterized by massive aberrations of taste, in which even an obviously failed painter like Jasper Johns will be taken seriously. However, thus it ever was. There used to be a dearth of opportunity - consider all the would-be talented artists who had to keep on herding pigs or gathering wood because of lack of opportunity to cultivate their gifts. (To think of all the women whose talents were wasted for millennia for sexist reasons is too painful.) Now we have the converse problem, in which hardly anything is impermissible and hardly anyone prevented from doing it, but it's easy to get lost in the crowd. We should be on the lookout for neglected talent at all times, just as we should not presume talent in the vaunted.

Caravaggio was regarded as a minor figure for almost two hundred years after his death. To think that in two hundred years after our deaths people are going to go along with our version of art history is laughable.

7/08/2009 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"It's an opportunity rather than a curse."

I think it'll prove an opportunity for some, and a curse for others - and a tragic curse for a few.

7/08/2009 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Franklin, thanks to you, I'm no longer an obscure painter, flatfooted dancer, retired poet, minor blogger, reclusive performer, failed gallerist, naïve entrepreneur, blocked playwright and unfunded film director; I'm a neglected übercreative. God bless you.

7/09/2009 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have to comment with respect to Franklin's ignorance regarding Jasper Johns.

Franklin seems intelligent enough to have grasped the sad fact that many remarkable female artists have fallen through the cracks of art history and he even recognizes that our version of art history today is not fixed and will continue to evolve (hopefully we can even edit in the numerous overlooked female artists).

HOWEVER, to suggest that Jasper Johns is a failed painter is completely absurd. Jasper is a pillar of modern art and he cannot be written out of art history. You may take exception with his use of paint, but his technical ability can hardly be questioned. On top of all of that his true contributions as an artist go well beyond painting as he changed the very way many artists perceived images and visual reality.

Caravaggio may have been a more classically brilliant painter, but his contribution to art history is no greater than Jasper Johns.

With respect to the Darwin conversation does anyone care to suggest a contemporary artist that will stand the test of time and prove to be as significant as either Jasper Johns or Caravaggio (I know that for some it may be early to elect Jasper to the art world HOF, but I can hardly see his reputation diminishing over time... He painted American flags for God's sake!!)


7/09/2009 01:57:00 AM  
Anonymous justin said...

perhaps the survival of the fittest/darwinism thing we talk about is just our collective way of dealing with something we have little control over? does it really matter who does well in the recession? won't we all still make art/sell art/see art? we're not going to stop, so maybe if we talk about the "strongest" or best equipped, it is some form of comfort. because we all think we will be the ones to survive no?

7/09/2009 02:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Is Kincade Fine Art? Does art need to be "avant and contemporary" to
be considered and received as Fine Art? It's an interesting question.
Kincade is not just "selling". There are other values than "strictly business" communicated in his paintings, mostly conservative and religious ones. It's a perticular case. A lot of people think it is the "Fine Art that should be'".

But if Costco and Wal-Mart crash, how does Kincade survives?

Also the world is becoming increasingly non-white, and the non-white might start to wonder "who gives a damn about that white shit".

Personally I already have a list of potential undiscovered geniuses.
People who I think deserve much more attention than we are lending them. A few are in technological arts. Some artists are just way too "advanced" in my opinion to be appreciated by an artworld, which as I said, have become a little superficial by concentrating on an aspect of marketability (ie, good art must mean the one that sells).

There is Status Quo art and Research art, and true research
is little concerned by the Status Quo. You don't exactly find sheets with red dots when you access the places where research unfolds (often simply because the "art is not ready". It remains in prototype formulas for years...).

Cedric Casp

7/09/2009 03:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will the strongest Talents survive? Maybe, maybe not.

Will the strongest Personalities survive? Maybe, maybe not.

Will Genius be lost or wasted? Yes and no.

This sweaty, grunting, American work ethic that likes to believe that mental toughness always rewards The Best, and that Those Who Survive deserve to do so, is disgusting and simply not true.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by graduate school debt, peacocked curators, galloping gallerinas, and myopic museum directors, as they scratched out a livelihood as community college teachers, art handlers, and event catering staff....

7/09/2009 04:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

who shall survive .... another wrench to toss into the gearbox is that we are in an epoch of superabundance of creativity (not simply oversupply) and there is the phenomena that when a consumer (or even anybody) has too much choice, that they have difficulty in making a choice, and so postpone their decision.

So when the arts world thrives in terms of valid choices, it has the limting effect of reducing the acquisition level and historical understanding of the period. ALmost like we need to forget some of the historical choices in order ot have an optimal number of styles and schools to be able to choose between.

So when creativity thrives as in our epoch, maybe the art world needs to segmentize itself to "contain" the choices within each segment so as to enable connoiseurs to have some decision space ....
maybe one could use the financial markets as an example of this segmentation of offerings

segmentation in a time of convergence! - go figure -ah the yin and yang of it all

7/09/2009 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Well said, Luis Coig Reyes!

Darwinism is nothing like 'survival of the fittest' - more the best fit to circumstances where genetic variation in a species allows advantage to one or some over others.

There is no actual competition in this sense - you've either got the goods for an environment or you haven't. There's not actually much you can do about it either, except maybe move on or die.

7/09/2009 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Delucci wrote: I have never purchased a work of art in my life.

I know this is really not the point of the thread, but that comment caught my eye. Is this really true? Perhaps it has to do with how you define buying art? (Does buying a poster reproduction count as buying art?).

Given how inexpensive a lot of good work is, it seems a shame to never have dived in a buy a piece or two that you like.

7/09/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Saki, don't worry about it. George doesn't like it when his ideas about the future are challenged, so he responded with a needless swipe against Greenberg and Olitski, a writer whose work I make a point of defending and a painter I like quite a lot. I responded with a needless swipe against Johns, a painter he likes quite a lot. That said, Johns looks worse to me every time I see him, and in some ways he made an even more destructive contribution to art history than Duchamp. Duchamp asserted that you could be lazy if you were inspired; Johns asserted that even inspiration was optional. In contrast, Caravaggio inspired a movement of Dutch Caravaggisti that produced Rembrandt. But this is a separate discussion.

I will say, though, that cultivated, intelligent people who embraced Bouguereau and Gêrome at the expense of the Impressionists felt as sure about their place in history as you do about Johns's. That doesn't make you mistaken, it makes you sure about a future to which you don't belong. It's too easy to look back on those people as idiots. They had an idea about art that had an honorable lineage going back 300 years. Bouguereaus, in their way, are fantastic, head and shoulders above his fellow academic realists. (In fact, the people who rejected Impressionism in favor of Salon painting and the people who rejected Salon painting in favor of Impressionism were the same kind of people. When you have taste, you evaluate works of art one at a time, not as a class. This is also a separate discussion.) But their future, now our past, had different plans.

Pretty Lady, I'm glad to help, but I have in mind people with a lot more talent than you and me. If your experience of art school was anything like mine, your classmates were all those kids who were the best artists at their high schools. Imagine instead that your classmates are all people like David Byrne, David Lynch, Laurie Anderson, and others of that caliber and ambition, and then they all get to duke it out. This is what Darwinism is causing. I've done a few portfolio reviews over the last several years, and kids coming into art schools have portfolios that blow my student work away. (And I got into RISD, SVA, Parsons and Pratt.) That has been true for a while, but as of a couple of years ago you could start expecting them to know some digital tools as well. Good art teachers who want to see their kids get into the top schools are becoming more common, and they only ever have more kids to work with. Soon, the best kids will be good draughtsmen, they'll know Maya, and they'll sing well, too. Their biggest obstacles will be limits to productivity, energy, and the number of hours in the day.

And if Ray Kurzweil's preditions about neural implants pan out, we get a whole different ball game.

7/09/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

"Cost is based on deprivation. A form of energy cost this much
because there is this amount of ressources to produce it."

Actually cost is a rationing system for limited resources. It is a way to cope with deprivation, and itself does not cause it. But price and cost are not always locked in - since we are allowed to "bid" for things with our money (creating either price inflation if allowed to happen or massive shortages if it isn't).

A world without deprivation has been the goal of just about any pragmatic or idealistic system of distribution. We have not succeeded in thousands of years of trying ... perhaps we will succeed this time?

7/09/2009 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

My earlier comments about Greenberg were made addressing Tom about the idea that the cream will rise to the top during a recession. Maybe it's something closer to the sediment settling to the bottom, but whatever, I think this may be one result of a contraction within the art world.

During the prosperous years the money flows wherever it's directed and critical excitement can result in the misjudgment of certain artists. I have lost my interest in Olitiski, but when I was a young artist Olitski was one of the first contemporary painters from NYC I was exposed to. As a result I have a direct recollection of the events of that period.

Because Greenberg was such a powerful critic for a few years, the failure of the broader culture to validate his taste is significant. I could have chosen other examples (Barbara Rose ignored Alice Neel in her book American Art since 1900) but Greenberg's failure was spectacular and public. One will also note that I didn't make any ill informed remarks about Olitski's paintings.

7/09/2009 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"Their biggest obstacles will be limits to productivity, energy, and the number of hours in the day."

Same as it ever was. Focus, discipline and commitment to one field has always been a requirement of high achievement. (Not that playing in other fields has to be ruled out. But it's only playing.) Which makes me a little skeptical about the idea that the best art of tomorrow will be made by übercreatives (with or without neural implants). The idea extends the notion, into the future, that art is a result of adaptation to environment. (In this case, adaptation to an increasingly kaleidoscopic world.) When in fact it's contingent on unexpected (and non-adaptive) things happening in the minds of artists. Inspirations, not adaptation.

7/09/2009 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming Soon...
From Sarah jessica Parker and Co.
Art Gallery Owner SURVIVOR Manhattan!
Artist SURVIVOR (wait... that isn't of interest).

From Donald Trump...
Art Gallery Owner - The Apprentice!
- AND -
Celebrity Artist - The Apprentice!

7/09/2009 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

George, informed or not, your judgment of Greenberg's characterization of Olitski is your arguable opinion, and buyers have long been noting the price disparities between art stars and the rest of the market, thus making Olitski's auction prices telling of nothing, especially in this economy.

Tom, I tend to agree with you that the best work will be made by artists who commit to art. But I see art continuing to diminish in importance compared to creative media that can be easily shared. This is going to favor the reputations of people who can cross into other fields.

7/09/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Franklin, Greenberg's opinion on Olitski is a matter of history, it's not my opinion, arguable or not. Certainly the current market is soft, so maybe $20k seems like too high a reserve, but all things considered we should have seen an Olitski go off for seven figures during the boom, I don't recall that happening. Money talks.

7/09/2009 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Franklin, I see your point. (I was actually reading your blog when your post popped up here.)

I agree that art will continue to decline in importance for the rest of the world. But then, it's only been important to the rest of the world for rare, short periods anyways. So no great loss in my opinion. Making art is not about becoming a mass-culture star.

I've met young artists who don't fit the trend. They're not Luddites, but they keep technology in its place - as a simple convenience. They don't even want their cell phones to do more than make and take calls. (One wireless phone commercial, airing now, ridicules them.)

Perhaps we older folks exaggerate the importance of technology, and its importance for the future of art, because we're awed by it. Some young people who grew up with it can take it or leave it, as they like, because they take it for granted.

Of course, the types I'm talking about are a minority. The majority of young people are addicted to being constantly connected - in every way possible. But then, we're back to the fact that art is made by a minority for a small audience.

And I wouldn't be the first to suggest that, in the future, the physical and low tech will become more important - for part of the population - than the virtual and high tech. Activities like making paintings and sculptures. Experiences like standing in front of paintings and sculptures. A connection with the real world of emotions and sensations.

Question is, of course: will there be many places left to have that sort of personal experience of new art objects? I'm optimistic there will enough of them.

7/09/2009 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

George, Greenberg's opinion on Olitski is a matter of history. Your judgment of it as a failure, or anything else, is your arguable opinion, as is the assertion that Olitski should have gone for seven digits during the boom and you don't think it did, as if that supports some point germane to the original post.

Tom, you have to have a Luddite streak to make art. Art is where commercially obsolete mediums go for their afterlife.

7/09/2009 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Olitski and John are both very good painters (I do prefer Olitski but I respect George's tastes).
The only problem is that...well, they were painters... at a time when contemporary art was starting
to be so much more than painting. Even Warhol was not just painting. I don't see the work as "painting".
We all have our biases I guess. I personally never seen anything in Installation Art that surpassed
Ann Hamilton, in a way that I believe she nailed a trend (started by Duchamp and Beuys).
But nobody talks about Ann Hamilton these days (sob).

++I see art continuing to diminish ++in importance compared to ++creative media that can be ++easily shared.

Bingo said the oracle! (hey, I agree with Franklin!) but maybe the creative media can be art? (hints, hints)

Tom, I think it will be a question of where the "elite" (or intelligentsia) moves toward to. You could have a phenomena where most people are into seeing a (real) painting, but the "intelligentsia" is into virtual. So where does "Fine Art" follows? There is also the people who think they are at the edge and the edge itself. The "elite" should always be wary wrether the popular isn't surpassing "their" edge. Otherwise you're swimming in rather a superficial sea of make-beliefs, innit?

++perhaps we will succeed this time?

The new possibilities are amazing
(on all sorts of levels: renewable energy, intelligent food (soja!), biofuels and bioplastics, genetic medicine, water recycling, convertable urbanism, pefan, digital archiving... I think
we are focussing on "abundance", "reproduceable"
and "renewable" on just about everything. And when the mind is set there, the solutions come
by themselves.

Cedric Casp

7/09/2009 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

In the meantime, Anselm Kiefer's first theatrical piece was just performed.

7/09/2009 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Franklin: "Art is where commercially obsolete mediums go for their afterlife."

Yes, but the new mediums go there too. And all of it is Fine Art. The only difference is the new mediums can be hugely successful in the hyper-trendy commercial world as well. (The world where art serves to sell something other than itself.) But then it becomes commercial art, not Fine. So limiting myself to working in mediums that are commercially obsolete (some more so, some less) is okay by me.

Cedric Casp: "The 'elite' should always be wary whether the popular isn't surpassing 'their' edge. Otherwise you're swimming in a rather superficial sea of make-beliefs ..."

Piffle, good Sir Cedric. The idea that Fine Art is leading edge - avant garde - is so 20th Century. We have no idea what will characterize 21st Century Fine Art, but I'm confident it won't be the values of the century past. Indeed, make-believe might just be it.

7/09/2009 07:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom - my Thomas Kincade comment was trying to illustrate how ridiculous an argument about "Darwinism as Applied to Art" is. Whether you define Thomas Kincade as a fine artist, or not doesn't really matter. The rationale to this thread has been focused on market demand - those in demand win, while those not in demand lose. The implied rationale being that the winners are better than the losers. Given that criteria, Thomas Kincade is the preeminent art star. You can choose to limit the art market to people who buy and sell "fine-art", but if you stack that market against the market that buys and sells Thomas Kincade's "un-fine art" you would have to conclude that the much larger "un-fine art" market kicks the "fine art" market's ass and is therefore better. Arguing either side of this "debate" is pretty silly, imho - it's a rhetorical question.

7/10/2009 12:45:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 12:45, Thank you for replying.

It was my point, at the beginning, that a few exceptional artists may not become Fine Art market winners in these bad times. But instead remain unknowns until some time later in the century.

Obviously, I don't believe the Fine Art market is the final word on Fine Art. (Though I do believe the pop culture market has the final word on pop culture artists like Thomas Kinkade.) The Fine Art market is a follower, not a leader - despite all appearances to the contrary during boom times. Heck, a few exceptional artists may not become Fine Art market winners in good times, either. Because of their contemporaries' tastes in Fine Art.

So, if the the Fine Art market is a follower, not a leader, the responsibility for exceptional artists being overlooked lies elsewhere. With critical opinion. And the responsibility for the eventual resurrection of overlooked artists lies with critical opinion, too.

As for the silliness of this discussion: why not? Some of us learn what we really believe through the winnowing process of discussion, silly or not. It's fun, too - and fun has nothing to do with right thinking. Just as fun has nothing to do with good taste.

My kingdom for an online whoopee cushion! Brrrooop ...

7/10/2009 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

I think the best use of the virtual is to augment the physical, not replace it. The thought of our world --art and non alike-- evolving into a Matrix-like future makes me nauseous (an involuntary *physical* reaction). Guess I'm one of those young-ish artists (does 35 qualify?) that Tom is referring to. It fits that in the information age, our definition of art expanded to include the conceptual idea itself, with the physical object of secondary importance, if it exists at all. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy conceptual art, but not to the exclusion of other types.

I feel a counter-movement,a return to the physical on the way, especially with this recession forcing a lot of people to reassess their lives and downgrade. I can spend as much time as I want online, reading about and discussing art, brewing new ideas, but at the end of the day, I still have to pick up the paintbrush and make something, otherwise I'm just a "virtual" artist, not a real one.

7/10/2009 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're right Dalen and Tom. Maybe there will be a return to presence. Visceral art that simultaneously engages most, if not all, of the senses to remind viewers of their physical presence and connection to the material world. Art as intervention. I'm weary of the intense emphasis on the visual and the senses being marketed to individually.


7/10/2009 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Dalen, Cathy: Art that's primarily about the idea behind the art has had its day. A long half-century. Something new is in the air.

On physicality.

7/10/2009 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

A little gem I didn't want to leave ignored.

Cathy said: ...a return to presence. Visceral art that simultaneously engages most, if not all, of the senses to remind viewers of their physical presence and connection to the material world.

Great paintings have this quality, presence. As Cathy implies, it is not the exclusive territory of any one mode of our experience of the world, including our experience of an artwork.

The polarity between the visual and the conceptual existed only for a brief time in order to draw our attention to their specific qualities. Those who long for the return of one or the other are seeking a comfort found in their past.

Rather than turning back, the more likely outcome will be a synthesis, a reintegration of the two.

7/10/2009 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Anon: first of all when we apply Darwinism to the artworld, it's metaphorically. Then I said that the "surviving" artist might not be "the best" (I gave the example of communist art...bleagh...).

Thomas KinKade is the best seller for the simpliest reason that he honestly embraces the fact that we live in an artworld where all is about marketting. He should probably shake hands with Hirst on these matters. I think he is culturally significant as one
of the "fittest" Fine Artist (Fine is debatable) of the late 20th Century. So there you go: Darwin wins.

+++The idea that Fine Art is +++leading edge - avant garde - is so 20th Century.

I'll bite that. In fact I think I was trying to say the same thing but took a very large circle around that, but... Ok here is my question: As an artist, what makes
you decide between you wanting to remain in a niche of Fine Art or attempting to be on the edge in whatever it is you're attempting? Or is it that you think that's it's
impossible to be on the ege of anything these days? That there is nothing else now but niches?
(I understand this is the idea behind pluralism but I was wondering if this idea should actually be attached to anything that is "work" in this world.... aren't genetic researchers on the "edge" of medicine?)

+++the Fine Art market is a follower, not a leader

You have a lot of humility for a Fine Art artist. You mean that Fine Art has become a "replyer"
of some sort, of what is going on around it? Fine Art as Blog Commenting? Interesting.

As far as "return to visceral" ..errr...We haven't even really started virtual art yet. Look at what sells in auctions.
We've been making paintings since about 1500 years (on canvas) and it's still the most popular medium.
I mean..Give me a break. ;-)

Cedric Casp

7/11/2009 12:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Stuckists struck against conceptual art 10 years ago but the antidote for virtual art will need to be potent. Antithetical perhaps.


7/11/2009 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Cedric, I think the only way for Fine Art to keep up the appearance of being leading edge is to become the fashion accessories department of an ever-expanding technology superstore.

Some artists are fine with that. Others seriously question it.

If Fine Art can't really be leading edge anymore - in its own right - then what will it's purpose in 21st Century culture be? What reason for being will the Fine artist have? I think the answers are to be found in the studio - and they won't come easy.

In part because the studio demands isolation. And technology will continue to tempt us away from isolation with its ever-growing means of connectedness. An old conflict in the artist's soul, most easily resolved by surrendering to the notion of art as hive production.

I think it's the pervasiveness of this notion in future-talk that Dalen and Cathy are rebelling against.

A bifurcation of Fine Art in the 21st Century seems inevitable. Low tech individualism vs high tech collectivism. But each will have its audience.

7/11/2009 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing I like best about very new oil paintings is their smell. Even if they're hideous I can close my eyes and enjoy that. Similarly, when I used to go to church, it was the incense, the warm wood, the deeply resonant sound and the light that 'touched' me. Very real and beautiful sensations that are usually teased out of the art viewing experience. They seem like antidotes to me.


7/11/2009 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The Stuckists struck against conceptual art 10 years ago

And look how successful that was.

but the antidote for virtual art will need to be potent.

But you're prescribing an antidote for something that hasn't even come into being fully. The notion that you already know you'll dislike it suggests a closed mind in my opinion.

Moreover, how strong is the smell of oil on a 200-year-old painting? Would you suggest we chuck them out after they stop tingling your nostrils?

From Plato's cave to the fact that the body benefits equally from the chemical releases due to laughter whether it's forced or not, humans have long recognized that what we can perceive with our senses is hardly any indication of what's really happening, so to assert that "visceral art that simultaneously engages most, if not all, of the senses" is a priori more important is illogical.

7/11/2009 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, I'm suggesting that the more technology leads me away from my primal self, the self that needs the senses to survive(and I guess my unproven assumption is that technology does this), the more benefit I may gain in being re grounded in that self through art. I don't think my mind is closed to technology but I am wary of it, of its price. And I am hierarchy adverse. - Cathy

7/11/2009 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

If we interpret Darwinism as meaning evolutionary through adaption, rather than survival of the fittest, then I think it applies to the art world -- at every level.

I think it is incorrect to assume that the avant garde is missing in action or strictly an artifact of Modernism. What causes this misperception is an assumption that the avant garde is singular, the point of the spear of the dominant style which we know no longer can exist.

What does exist are a multiplicity of styles, mediums and conceptual approaches for making art and they exist in concert with one another. The avant garde is the irritation which causes art to evolve, it is that act which relocates boundaries, or reintroduces the forgotten into the process and revitalizes art.

The avant garde is by definition an irritant to the status quo, it is resisted by other artists and the public alike. In this poly-stylistic age it is even more elusive because advanced art, the avant garde may not be functioning on all fronts at once. Once the avant garde is accepted, it is assimilated into the body of art and the process must restart anew.

The avant garde is not, at least in principle, reactionary. That is, it doesn't exist as a reaction to prove something else wrong. While the argument may in fact be a result of the action, the avant garde is forward looking and does not try to preserve the past.

In my opinion Stuckism was purely reactionary, presented little forward alternative and aside from Billy Childish, was composed of mostly minor artists.

Except for the purest forms of conceptualism, "virtual art" cannot exist. The term "virtual" implies simulation, the reconstruction of something in the imagination and is thus not the primary stimulus. For example, a jpeg of a painting is not a painting just as Magrittes painting "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is not a pipe. A jpeg is however, a jpeg, and treated as a jpeg, it is a thing in itself, not a simulation and therefore not virtual.

Cedric, painting is a form of conceptual art and thie has kept it alive in the culture for the last 40,000 years. Most painters don't deal with it on that level.

7/11/2009 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Wait a minute, I though Post-Conceptualism was already a synthesis between conceptual and the visual (physical) experience?? I mean: what are Jeff Koons and Anish Kapoor? It's very visceral to me.

Cedric Casp

(or is it that: oh nooo it's not painting?)

7/11/2009 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Is it true that the art that survives the recession will be the strongest?"

Is anyone ever in any position to know what contemporary art will prove to be strongest over time? Is there a confusion between art as commodity and art with historical or aesthetic significance? They can overlap, but not necessarily. It would seem that the question really goes back to who has the bucks during the recession, and are they art buyers?
As someone who was trained in evolutionary science, I think Darwinism is best left to biology.

7/11/2009 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom says: 'If Fine Art can't really be leading edge anymore - in its own right - then what will it's purpose in 21st Century culture be?'

In the context of the unplugged artist making things with their hands, the purpose might be shamanistic, corrective. So a more intuitive and custodial perspective that offers balance rather than a revelation of we're hurling towards. We'll be the knowing shadow. But the limits of my imagination could limit my optimism here.

The Stuckists haven't accomplished much but they kicked against the pricks so joyfully.

7/12/2009 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The Stuckists haven't accomplished much but they kicked against the pricks so joyfully.

The "pricks"? Really?

What makes those against whom the Stuckists have kicked so impotently "pricks"? What, indeed, makes the Stuckists any less prick-ish themselves?

In the context of the unplugged artist making things with their hands, the purpose might be shamanistic, corrective

What "things" are these unplugged artists making with their own hands, pray tell? Are they grinding pigments and weaving canvas? Are they plucking horse hairs to fashion their own brushes? Are they in the foundry crafting their own chisels and hammers? Where does this superiority of the "handmade" art begin and end in other words?

And how do you imagine artists not working in painting or sculpture create their videos or photographs or digital prints, with their toes?

This is becoming a truly silly argument Cathy.

7/12/2009 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Painting and sculpture: It's not superior, but since it's what I do, it's what I champion. I do worry about its future. Hence my musings. But why would you post something silly? It's not expected.

And this Oklahoman is grateful to you for sharing your insight. And helped by the connection.


7/12/2009 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But why would you post something silly? It's not expected.

Alright then, I'll forgo any attempt at levity and speak clearly: you can't go calling people "pricks" and not defend it or take it back. Why are they pricks? If they're not, then amend your statement please.

I have nothing against painting and sculpture (I love them both), but I won't stand by as people suggest artists working in newer media are any less balanced or offering anything less meaningful via their work.

7/12/2009 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Kicking against the pricks" as I understand it is an expression that means to rebel against authority. I picked it up from Nick Cave who picked it up from the bible. So I believe my statement was accurate. I suppose the word 'prick' helped me access the expression but I don't think I need to defend my brain's wiring.

7/12/2009 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The medium does breed misunderstanding, but your original statement that lead to my objection remains

The Stuckists struck against conceptual art 10 years ago but the antidote for virtual art will need to be potent.

and we have

antidote: n. a substance which can counteract a form of poisoning

So no matter how you try to parse the use of "pricks" now, you're still left defending that you've implied media other than painting and sculpture are "poison," which isn't a matter of your brain's wiring but rather your bias.

Suggesting that you shouldn't be taken to task for this bias because you're from Oklahoma (really, what does that have to do with anything?) doesn't sway me in slightest either. If you read here enough to appreciate the connection, you read here enough to know my gallery represents artists working a wide range of media and therefore your assertions are a direct challenge.

Your personal preference is one thing. Your assertion that others' preference is poison is something altogether different.

All I'm asking is that you defend it or take it back. Dancing around it won't do.

7/12/2009 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The responses to this post reek of anxiety and I suppose this fits the historical moment.

In Ed's final paragraph he says "The implication being, art of "quality" will survive regardless of the economy. ... Quality seemingly always survives. Isn't that Darwinism at its essence?"

So, let's edge our way into this. First, I think most must agree now that Darwinism only suggests that body, in this case art, artists and the artworld, adapt to the environment.

If the environmental stress is the economy, in our case a recession, then it will affect, stress both the artists and the art world (galleries etc) which will will have to adapt in order to survive.

"Adapt" can have several meanings here, galleries and artists who can find outside financing (trust-funds, private investors etc) will be better able to survive in the current climate regardless of what kind of art they make or exhibit. Those who can't will end up having to make a decision about whether or not to continue.

The survival of quality is the point which causes anxiety. In terms of the marketplace, one affect we see during recessionary periods is a shift in focus towards art which is less speculative, towards artworks which have already been established and vetted by time, the critical community and the marketplace.

The discussions surrounding the questions and ideas about the survival of quality all fail to ever address what quality actually is and it is this disagreement or incomplete knowledge which is the cause of the anxiety. Why should it matter if it takes only 40 years, or 60, or 100 years to vet an artist, anoint the art works as "quality?" On the collecting-exhibiting end of the spectrum it really doesn't matter all that much, the related events are transient and changeable.

For artists it seems to matter a lot. Every artist makes a commitment, an internal alliance, a match-up of their personal beliefs and part of the thread of history which they see as validating them. If these threads of history re called into question it becomes a source of great anxiety. Case in point is the Stuckists backlash at a "you're stuck, stuck, stuck!" remark in a domestic quarrel. What may have started of as a humorous response as "the Stuckists" found a broad support among other artists who were also feeling threatened by art they did not like or understand.

The Stuckists are just one example of the polarization which can occur within the artworld, typically between the old garde and the avant garde. The old garde wants to maintain the status quo, the set of structures and aesthetics they understand and seek to demonize the avant garde, to the point of calling them names (hence "prick")

One function of the avant garde is to propagate quality into the future, without it art stands still, repeating its old mantras while we fall asleep. The rear garde raise their hands in protest, declaring the new advanced art crap (scat for "lacking in quality") and this is the underlying tone of much of this discussion. However, time shift backwards a generation or two, the same tired arguments against the then avant garde were being made, with the same chorus of cheers from the peanut gallery. Yet it is just this art, this critical stance and aesthetic that the current rear garde is using \for its "quality" argument. Sorry but this cannot be the case.

The recession is a stress event and the artists here will have to decide where their commitment lies. Regardless of their decision art will continue on, it always has and always will

7/12/2009 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

I think Cathy haven't tried the Wii yet...

But yes, talking about "antidotes" and "pricks" sound like south religious people trying to cure homosexuality. Some of the best sculptors today use computers
before they can build the thing for real. Wanting to go back before technology sounds retrograde to me. In fact a big problem I see these days is people
refusing to adapt to technology and how it can make everybody's life easier.

George, I kind of accept some forms of technological art as being avant-garde but it doesn't seem to be moving out of its margin, so I accept it as my own interpretation. Sometimes it's good to "believe you're among the avant-garde" even though it isn't true, because it keeps you moving
nonetheless. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but, the knowledge that I'm not doing anything new demotivates the hell out of me,
and I think I'd rather die trying, and because it seems impossible (or rather, pointless) now to be avant-garde by style and narrative, I see technology as the only option left (or, going elsewhere than Fine Art).


Cedric Casp

7/12/2009 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your words imply that I am disingenuous and fawning. I wish you'd take that back. My notions are very far from air tight though.

Upon reflection I understand why you find some of what I said offensive. And silly - though it just seems fair to make allowances for silliness when discussing the future of art. That you are enthralled with ideas about the future has been repeatedly made evident. So offering my contrary perspective in your space was inconsiderate? I now believe it was.

I will retract the word 'antidote' and replace it with another that reflects the evolution of my thinking, 'Counterbalance'. Though new technology causes me some psychic discomfort, it also awes me. It's tough competition that I worry will crowd out other forms of expression that tap into other facets of being. I never put painting and sculpture on a pedestal, in my mind they're not. My guess is that my reference to Stuckism put me in that camp. Now drawing...


7/12/2009 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Your words imply that I am disingenuous and fawning. I wish you'd take that back.

Fawning never occurred to me, but disingenuous, yes that had occurred to me.

I will retract the word 'antidote' and replace it with another that reflects the evolution of my thinking, 'Counterbalance'. Though new technology causes me some psychic discomfort,

Fair enough, and a valid point to raise in any context.

Let's call a truce and move forward, understanding each other a little better. Deal?

7/12/2009 08:14:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric, Your falling into the trap of visualizing a singular avant garde, I just don't believe this is the case any more. "Technological art" is not avant garde just because it exists. Even it now is developing its own history and critical relationships.

The danger always exists with a new medium, that it falls into the trap of becoming irrelevant in the way that say paintings which exploit technique become irrelevant.

It's not that technology or technique are bad, but they do not guarantee that one will end up with good art. Various forms of technologically influenced art have been around for at least a half century. While much of it seemed interesting at the time, once the novelty wears of a lot of it is forgotten.

Sometimes it's good to "believe you're among the avant-garde"

I wouldn't quarrel with that, whatever works eh?

7/12/2009 08:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deal. But might I clarify that my reference as to where I live was mentioned simply to further demonstrate (because of the distance on so many levels) my gratitude for the pleasures found here? Though banal perhaps, it was offered in the spirit of generosity. Your suggestion that it was self serving quite bothered me.

7/13/2009 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Though banal perhaps, it was offered in the spirit of generosity.

That got mixed in with my taking your central point, as initially stated, offensive. You seem passionate and very bright, and as such are a welcome voice here. Let's write it off as miscommunication and let it drop, OK?

7/13/2009 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7/13/2009 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

It's not a "singular" avant-garde, George, because they are as many
different things happening with technological art than anywhere else. You can't really pigeonhole such a thing as "technological art"
or it would be a mistake (indeed it IS a mistake, fully happening).
But the fact that an artist use new technology to me is likely to be the only way to be "avant garde" these days, or I might be wrong.

Technology doesn't just mean interactive cynetic art or computer art, it can just mean using new materials that technology can provide, so the notion is very broad.

Cedric Caspesy

7/13/2009 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric, ok, I think we're on the same wavelength here. There is always the problem with 'technology' (extended definition) slipping into being mere novelty. A look back at the history for the last 50 years or so will bear this out.

When I was a grad student many years ago, I went into the Library and looked through all the art magazines since about 1900. It's always an eye opener to do this.

The one review I remember was on Rothko which finished with "Another ho-hum show."

7/13/2009 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Boy, by going up North for four days (Michigan's upper peninsula), I missed one heck of a conversation.

Cathy, don't worry about the future of art. It will be whatever it will be - and it will prove all of us (including me) to have been wrong about the future.

You have your medium(s), your style and your vision. So just keep putting your work out there. That's all any artist can do. Worries about the state of the art world can be the death of an individual's pursuit of art.

7/15/2009 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Survival of the fittest, in art, what a great post! When I paint, I have no thoughts of what I need to do to survive. I paint to paint, to express myself through my work. There are other, simpler ways, to survive then in your art. And the fact of thinking that way, to survive, places to much pressure, at least for me, on the ability to create art on the path that I truly want to take.

When it comes to an institution, gallery or dealer the question of survival and growth is different and a critical part of any business operation and plans. I think today, survival of the fittest does not necessarily mean the strongest. We were in the early stages of an industrial revolution when many of the strongest got crushed.

The question to me is not really about the current recession, but the changes occurring in this still young century. The way in which galleries have been able to operate, walk in business and a few collectors, will not be the way to thrive and drive their way into the next few decades.

Over time the model of who is the strongest to survive changes, just like the Dinosaurs who became extinct. And even the idea of strongest, to me only means you are given a greater chance of success. After all, Lou Gehrig was always considered the Ironman, was he not?

7/16/2009 07:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Spellman quote from the Times article is specifically about galleries. Ed sort of muddies the waters by saying "The recession will weed out the weaker artists, galleries, institutions, etc" expanding the scope of her reference to include art and artists. Actually she says that "she doesn't believe that recessions are Darwininan systems"-which doesn't make sense because recessions aren't systems at all- but anyway galleries surely are subject to Darwinian law. The making of art is a human behavior, and although it is the human that must yield to Mr Darwin, not the behavior, the behavior would not survive if the human's survival were threatened by this behavior. Bottom line, only the strongest institutions will survive, be they supported by trust funds, Broads, concerned citizens or art sales. What gives them their strength is not important, only that they are stronger.
As to the art and artists, I think we are a long way from the act of making art becoming a threat to our survival. This is a small meteor, the art (behavior) will evolve accordingly.

7/31/2009 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you anon 7/31. I knew there was something about the Spellman quote that bothered me when I read it in the Times but I didn't give it much thought . She's looking down her nose at us, isn't she? The sub-text implies that one needs to be wiser, more cunning, harder working (like her). She doesn't mention that trust-fund-ier, like her, can be the the real world survival factor that is the difference between trying to sell your artists work out of a cardboard box in Central park, like me, and holding onto your space. I doubt that even her uber-safe/trendy program (I mean really, Edie Sedgwick?) would survive now without her trust fund to back it up. Random factors play a role in evolution as well- my seed fell on solid rock while others fell on humus-rich Galapagos topsoil. Maybe I'll have better luck in the next evolutionary cycle when my seed lands on the nutrient rich rotting carcasses of- nevermind.

8/01/2009 08:36:00 AM  

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