Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Time to Rediscover : Open Thread

A very nice group of journalists from Central Asia and former Soviet countries stopped in for a visit to the gallery last week (thanks Susan and CEC!). Through an interpreter (my Russian includes all of three words, two of them curse words), we discussed what exactly about the gallery system this blog tried to demystify (what "myths" are there exactly, they asked), as well as who exactly buys contemporary art (I showed them The Collector-ibles by Jennifer Dalton), and what kind of art exactly it is they buy. They were big on specifics.

When it came to answering what kind of art exactly is being bought now, I was actually a bit surprised to hear emerge from my mouth a thought I wasn't aware had fully formed in my head. "Brand names from the 1960s and 1970s that the market had mostly overlooked seem to be the hottest artists at the moment," I told them. What I hadn't said, but was thinking too, was that many of the innovators and influential artists who were perhaps a bit too much of a head-scratcher or controversial during their early days all seem to be getting a serious second look.

Of course you hear this in reports from art fairs, and if you watch the smarter museums (see, for example this [of course, great] review by Ben Davis of The New Museum's current exhibition of work by Brion Gysin) and galleries [I could name three galleries that I positively worship for their efforts in this vein, but their heads are big enough as it is :-).], you'll see this reflected in their programming, but what seemed to spark that "ah ha!" moment when I heard myself answer the journalists' question was how this wasn't what the conventional wisdom had expected of the recession.

Back in the days when the death watch was in full swing, there were plenty of (haughty, I don't mind noting) voices warmly welcoming the bloodshed because it would bring about...what?...a serious new artistic practice in the studio? a chance for undiscovered new artists to get some attention? a return to appreciation for "good" art?

Arguably, that last one is what the recession brought about with this blast from the past we're seeing, but I wonder if there's something more to it than that. Why has the recession turned into a time not for looking forward as obviously as it seems to be a time to rediscover? Does this suggest a collective sense that we had somehow lost our way?

Consider this an open thread.

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8 Comments:

Blogger C. L. DeMedeiros said...

Edward,

I was pick it by a gallery in the throws of the financial burst. I was
surprise and descombobulated. Took good 9 moths between the gallery choice of what they want to expose and sale, to the very opening of the Outsiders Art Fair, what I saw and what I understand now is: for some, above and beyond any financial crisis, collectors, money to burn in good, bad or ugly art will be available.
Even though to see bargain process for some art work was fascinating too.

No doubt also, there's a lot of business going on via web.

My hubble blogspot is my 365/24/7 gallery and this is a good thing

It's a brand new world for the good, the bad and the ugly art.

Carlos

mean to ask you: there's bargain in mainstream galleries or is just a outsiders thing?

7/20/2010 09:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this suggest a collective sense that we had somehow lost our way?

I wholeheartedly concur.

Of course, I have been dealing with that very issue on a personal level for the last few years, so I definitely feel it.

It makes a lot of sense considering those artists of the 60's and 70's that seem to be coming to light again-- radicals, trying to forge a new vision of the world.

How did we get from there, to here, and how can we get back to that state of nebulous possibilities so that we can go about re-making those parts of the world that seem to have gone horribly astray?

-Saskia

7/20/2010 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger mikesorgatz said...

Perhaps collectors see undervalued artists from the past as a safer bet than new, unproven works? Perhaps it's easier for galleries to sell? If work is readily available it can be sold based on its historic position (and as a relative bargain). Maybe it's just that the old is new again and the wheel spins round. Note that what is being sold doesn't necessarily relate to what is being made.

7/20/2010 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

I consider the “avant-garde” of art to be a reflection of the changes that have already occurred in our society’s paradigms. So if you see a rise in collaborative public arts, it is in part a demonstration of how technology (digital) has already shifted our social paradigm in that direction. (If society is stable – as in ancient Egypt- then art stays stable).

We never really walk in to the future with 20/20 vision. Its a kind of bizarre sideways shuffle with a collective glance in the mirror to discern what we have just passed in order to find our ways. Recession makes that forward march much more hesitant, so we look increasingly for security in that mirror, something that can reassure us to move on.

60 & 70s overlooked brands? it might simply be that these are the images of a nostalgic past that offers a sense of security for a given generation that are now current collectors... I know I’ve been adding to my “best of” music collection recently. I recognize the tunes, it’s reassuring and a touchstone that gives a sense of grounding. Is it avant-garde music? – not anymore, but in some ways it is music that “defined” a generation. Maybe as each generation passes along the milestones of life, (IE becoming collectors) we tend to use that mirror to remember with, versus to move forward with? Our eyesight shifting with age as it were.

7/20/2010 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Why has the recession turned into a time not for looking forward as obviously as it seems to be a time to rediscover?

It depends on who the question is directed towards. If you are speaking about the art market, then I believe what we are seeing is just "sector rotation"

Dealers have gravitated towards artworks which had previous validation and visibility but have languished in the marketplace over the past decade. It's a safe sell. I don't see how this is much different than other past marketing fads (Chinese artists are hot, etc)

Does this suggest a collective sense that we had somehow lost our way?

The stylistic waters have been stirred up in a way which allows a different (non-canonical) selection of artists to be influential or inspirational to younger artists. It seems likely that this is a precursor to an upcoming stylistic or philosophical evolution, but it is not yet clear what this will be.

This evolutionary process is complex and may appear random but ultimately seeks resonance between the artists and the audience.

Too many artists have been focused on the marketplace, viewing it as a proxy for some sort of cultural resonance, when in fact it is nothing more than a market driven face pasted on another variation of the old academy.

So the question asking "Have we lost our way?" should be rephrased to "Can we see the leaders?" At the moment, obviously not.

7/20/2010 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

The cynical view would be that the artworld has gone the way of Hollywood and is mining the past for "proven properties" instead of sticking their neck out on anything new.

Another, maybe slightly less cynical view is that people have gotten into the mode for something edgy (i.e. conceptual/critiquey) and can't find anything suitable in what's currently being produced. (Not that that there isn't any.)

Or else it's just the "value investing" that goes on in every recession.

7/20/2010 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Gam's sideways shuffle idea. Yeah, we're like crabs that only stray a measured distance from the safety of the rocks.

About the idea of losing our collective way: has it ever been found? When did that happen? Perhaps we were led astray by those who claimed to have found new territory. Retreat in the past is good for sustenance before striking out fresh again. There is so much muck to wade through.

Cathy

7/20/2010 02:34:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Another factor at play here is that in the mid-twentieth century, the artworld could really accommodate a limited number of artists. Prevailing tastes, US politics, domineering critics, gender bias and other factors tended to marginalize artists who did not strictly fit the current mold.

A prime example would be Alice Neel, arguably one of the best figurative painters of the twentieth century, and who is only now getting the acclaim she deserved. In general figuration was marginalized (not avant garde) for the middle half of the twentieth century and only rescued by the advent of Pop Art.

7/20/2010 05:13:00 PM  

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