Monday, February 16, 2009

Re: The Boom is Over. Long Live the Art!

My response to a very interesting piece in the NY Times by Holland Cotter about the current state of the art market and where it might be going - perhaps the most interesting piece on art I've read in a long while:

1) Cotter's mention of the artists doing everything in terms of media is interesting. William Lamson's video pieces come to mind, which have gained prevalence on his website (and are a joy to watch). Is being a photographer alone not enough anymore? Was it ever?

2) I found the bit on the gatekeepers and figurative circle jerk fascinating (in the sense that someone dared mention it) especially in contrast to traditional business and how this would never fly in other industries for obvious reasons.

3) "Students who entered art school a few years ago will probably have to emerge with drastically altered expectations. They will have to consider themselves lucky to get career breaks now taken for granted: the out-of-the-gate solo show, the early sales, the possibility of being able to live on the their art."

- How is this significantly different from the boom times?

4) Using Henry Darger as an example of an artist with a day job? He was an outsider artist who never intended his art to be seen and was blown away when his landlord mentioned having seen it and it's potential worth on his death bed.

Do yourself a favor and order In the Realms of the Unreal immediately if you haven't seen it yet.

5) Aside from the Darger mention, entirely true (and I hope the art world comes to accept this):

"It’s day-job time again in America, and that’s O.K. Artists have always had them — van Gogh the preacher, Pollock the busboy, Henry Darger the janitor — and will again. The trick is to try to make them an energy source, not a chore."

6) "But with markets uncertain, possibly nonexistent, why not relax this mode, open up education?"

- When will art education ever be "opened up" with it's time and monetary restrictions? Is 120k really the buy-in price to be considered a "legitimate" artist or for having doors opened for us?

7) "Why not make studio training an interdisciplinary experience, crossing over into sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, poetry and theology?...My guess is that if you did, American art would look very different than it does today."

- Ed Winkleman recently posted something about not listing unrelated education on an artist resume. I respectfully find fault with this. Should not an artist have knowledge of an array of topics which then infiltrate their art, whether directly or indirectly? Why not an educated artist, outside the traditional gatekeeper mode? Doesn't Roger Ballen have a PhD in Geology? Does this make him more or less "valid?" Does it influence his art in a unique and positive way or negatively?

8) "But there will be many, many changes for art and artists in the years ahead. Trying to predict them is like trying to forecast the economy. You can only ask questions."

- This is what I've tried to do with this post - ask questions. I invite you to ask your own.


Anonymous said...

I thought this quote was salient as well, especially given the number of photography collectives, zines and online galleries that have emerged in the last few years.
"At the same time, if the example of past crises holds true, artists can also take over the factory, make the art industry their own. Collectively and individually they can customize the machinery, alter the modes of distribution, adjust the rate of production to allow for organic growth, for shifts in purpose and direction. They can daydream and concentrate. They can make nothing for a while, or make something and make it wrong, and fail in peace, and start again."

Anonymous said...

As a recent BFA Photo graduate, I completely agree with you that not much has changed in regards to expectations of art students following graduation. Outliers exist, but the vast majority of artists and creatives end up carving their niche somewhere beyond the fine art pool.

As for securing a "day-job" and "making them an energy source, not a chore", I found the David Edwards book, Artscience -
Creativity in the Post-Google Generation
, particularly enlightening, even if it does approach the subject from more of a science first point of view.

Unknown said...

Spot on with your #3 comment. I wanted to ask, "what color is the sky were you live?"

On #6 I don't think "opening up" education is the answer, but rather opening up what we teach in what we already have. In other words, teaching students to use what they have already learned in the other wide spectrum of courses, that they are required to already take, and put it to use. In my mind this is a teaching opportunity and not so much a need for an educational bureaucracy overhaul-though I'm not necessarily against that on some issues.