Gallery Girls, you slay me.
In the last decade, art fairs mushroomed and became all-encompassing, fully comped VIP monstrosities and entertainment complexes for the one percent. So I went off art fairs. Way off. I’ve never told anyone this, but I hit my art-fair bottom at Art Basel, in Switzerland, where I was invited to be on a panel in the mid-aughts. I checked in alone to a hotel and had a meltdown. Feeling alienated, realizing a critic had no business there, intimidated by the socializing yet afraid to be excluded, I freaked out. I made up a story about an imminent death in my family, packed, and flew home early. I’ve been too scared to ever leave New York for an art fair again. But I’ve made peace with them. Last month I went to seven local fairs. I’ll go to Frieze and NADA in May. I’ll smile. I now like leaving my office and refrigerator, putting on real clothes, facing the larger world.
Jerry Saltz, on breaking down at an art fair.
I love that he wrote about this. But I call bullshit that he never told anyone.
(Source: New York Magazine)
But now, all of a sudden, more art is coming from private places, looking almost outsiderlike, untaught, odd in ways that feel pressing, impatient, and important. In from the wilderness. A lot of it is smaller, made of less expensive or found materials, and more provisional, or at least bad in ways that aren’t so annoying. After too much art that made too much sense, artists are operating blind again.
—Jerry Saltz, “Reject the Market. Embrace the Market.”
(Source: New York Magazine)
Not everyone has the ability to differentiate between what is new and what is novel on the art market. This fact is mainly responsible for the confusion of the general public and the art world. Contemporary art objects have become a commodity. Today’s artistic manifestations are considered particularly modern or avant-garde the more they lack the power to arouse feelings of both emotional and intellectual satisfaction in the beholder. […] There are practitioners of the arts today who proclaim complacently that they love to be boring and, I agree, they succeed.
Richard Huelsenbeck, July 1966.
That’s right, 1966.
- NOWNESS: Tell us a secret about the art world.
- DANIEL BIRNBAUM: Nothing is hidden.
Fail for me, but fail flamboyantly. Don’t fail the way we’re doing in Chelsea, which is mediocre. We can’t help it, because our airwaves are so expensive […] it gets out of scale in New York. And as a result we have great shows, but that’s all we have. Even if they stink, it’s always the same top of the Himalayas. You don’t know how high the mountains are unless you see the whole picture.
Jerry Saltz, to curators and artists at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis
(On kind of a JS kick, please forgive me, I promise something else soon.)
The art world had been academicized, and I’m afraid that we lost a generation of critics to the academic discourse. I believe in that discourse, because without it… women would not… there’s a… liberation philosophies and theories are part of that discourse — so never throw out the baby with the bath water […] We lost a generation that was afraid - I think it was fear - to simply put out opinion - to say, “I like this and this is why.” […] If you put out the reasons in a clear and articulate way… a generation is lost in language, seduced by the very high level, intense English translations of French theory, never read in their original. Which is fine […] The language is what became inaccessible and defensive and kind of authorative. The opinion is gone, the juice is gone, the life is gone, everything is gone. The taste of the fathers is worshipped by the children in this generation. A Freudian nightmare takes place. And this is no good. And it’s changing right now— right now — right now. I’ve been seeing it over the last four or five years that the language has been loosening up, and the language is smart.
“Mixing neo- or hyper-realistic motifs with lyrically abstract or conceptual ones on a single surface is saying that everything is equal because everything is easy to consume. It means establishing and ratifying new ‘taste.’ This ‘taste’ is not Taste. Eclecticism panders to the habits of magazine readers, to the needs of consumers of standard industrial imagery, to the sensibility of the supermarket shopper. That kind of post-Modernism, to the extent that it exerts—by means of critics, curators, gallery directors, and collectors—intense pressure on artists, aligns pictorial inquiry to the current state of ‘culture,’ and strips artists of their responsibility to the question of the nondemonstrable. That question is, to me, the only one worthy of life’s high stakes, and of the world of thought in the coming century. Any denial of that question is a menace—and one that cannot be ignored, as it threatens to relax the tension between the act of painting and the essence of painting, when it is that very tension which stimulated one of the most heroic centuries of Western painting. This menace implies the corruption of painting’s honor—which thus far has remained intact in spite of the worst temptations of the state and of the market.”
- J.-F. Lyotard, “Presenting the Unpresentable,” Artforum, 1982.