Well the long expected correction of zombie abstractionist artists has begun
(other young artists with absurdly high prices too). Dont get me wrong, there's nothing absurd about a young artist making 25-65k on a painting after only a few shows but it should be rare and by 2014 many zonie abstractionist works were going for 500k+. Only a carefully orchestrated economy produces that effect.
I can see 1-3 very special even "exceptional" artists being "worth it", sure that's fine but a hoard of artists pulling down over 100k per painting after only a few shows and a short career... that smells funny. Also, artists who stack some junk on top of other junk with some pastel colors + foam or lumpy clay pots are not any better and art schools are pumping them out in droves (I call it hoarder art and Robert Rauschenberg
pioneered The Combine before most of these artists were born). A few months ago this story on the Lisa Cooley Gallery seemed to say it all
. Now I'm not applauding any closures or corrections... the Art Life is difficult, even for people whose lives are comparatively easy but when art is treated like an asset class it skews what is created and why. It seems the world has lot of very complicated problems and opportunities to tackle... so we shouldn't be awash in uncomplicated art that is easy on the culture that creates it, but we are. Does that invalidate abstraction? ...of course not (the most simple paintings can complicate any viewer's understanding but why buy some kid out of art school when you can buy a dozen very good Mary Henry works
for half as much? The issue is one of scale and depth of understanding and it takes that to have mid level galleries that sell art between $2000-$25000. Most of the greatest works of art were bought in that range initially. Hopefully a return to some connoisseurship will result from this contraction. Of course, the most important, already historically "vetted" art wont be affected by this, which should make the best Gen-X and Millennial artists ask more difficult questions of the art world. I hoping the most sought after art becomes more like wild caught salmon rather than the farmed stuff I've noticed a lot of lately.
On a related note Jim Behrle thinks the art world is trolling you
with art that isnt as radical as it presents itself to be. Well, sorta... institutionally things have gotten very tame in the past 15-20 years with curatorial power being ceded to the director's chair. Directors answer to the #'s ultimately (someone has to, and it is important)... so the art at institutions often chases its audience and its why Gen X and Millennials are less interested in museums than the baby boomers (who themselves were less involved than their parents). The short term solution of course is to take on an educational role but that can become a slippy slope without the integrity of connoisseurship, a practice which polices things against becoming too easy and predictable and creates better patrons. Curators used to be intellectual interlocutors somewhere between artists and the directors/patrons but its being lost. For example, Great
curators like Robert Storr and Paul Schimmel have been pushed away from museums. Some directors do have curatorial chops but it is also telling how many college galleries are now run by "directors" rather than "curators" now. I'll revisit this topic in a longer piece soon.
Jerry Saltz is right about art history
, it has a problem of adumbration but you still have a few days to catch "The Keeper" at the New Museum. Generally their shows are a bit light on content (see post above) but I applaud the curatorial choices here... they took risks rather than chase audiences. Maybe its because Im a capital "H" Historian and we tend to see art history in institutions as a sanitized and adumbrated.
More locally, the creepy and somewhat bad Vera Katz sculpture was vandalized with a swastika
. Not surprising with the presidential election kicking up a lot of hate. Perhaps people will start taking the roots of this sort of behavior more seriously again? Time and again human history has ebbed between terrible events and eras of peace only to forget what had happened. Sadly, reminders only work when heeded.
Despite our massive housing shortage and homeless innundation Portland makes Metropolis' top 10 cities to live in list
and we are the only US city. The thing is Portland is pressuring the artists and eccentrics that give it its character. It is a moral test of the city's character... instead of taking the arts for granted we need to build artist pockets into new development. Once again, instead of just any
art doing the job we need to start rewarding art for the caliber and challenge their presence gives the city on a civic level
. Our awards... rather than celebrate well worn stereotypes (intellectual fallacies like craft = only handmade or celebrating soft or non-threating artists that don't rock the boat) should reward the artists that make difficult work (often times doing well outside of Portland but too edgy for our institutions. I'll have more on our institutional organs needing to find the edge I see in Portland studios and on display in other more challenging institutions outside of Oregon.