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.