Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What will be the impact of the financial crisis on artists, galleries, and auction houses?



I was writing a really tender reverie induced post about winter, childhood memories and snow...but it will wail till later because I got this article about the economy and the arts in my The New Republic Newsletter...

I've just begun to read the article...but just the idea that artists would even notice any economic change either rise or drop is hilarious.

We don't notice that shit...99.9% of us are always living hand to mouth.

Because 99.9% of people don't go to local galleries, look at art, buy art think about art or read about art.

Anyways...I'm going to read this article...and then work on my tender childhood memories of snow and snow activities...

Art, so it seems to me, represents the triumph of private feeling over public pressures, or at least the ability of private feeling to assert itself in the face of public pressures and public values. I would argue that true art is always characterized by its unto-itself-ness, its freestanding-ness, its independence. This is not to say that the arts are untouched by the rest of life, only that they are affected by it in their own fashion. I cannot insist too much on this point. It is certainly a marginal view at present, when most discussions about contemporary art tend to focus on the artist's social and economic success. Artists such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons are famous for being famous, and what generally interests people about their work is not what they do but why the particular sort of thing that they do has found favor in the marketplace. Such questions, which keep journalists working overtime, are by no means regarded as merely journalistic. Contextualism has a great deal of intellectual cachet: in the past generation, the work of artists from Rembrandt to Picasso has been interpreted by some of the most widely respected art historians as fueled not by imaginative necessity but by market forces, and the argument goes far beyond the perfectly reasonable supposition that some artists have been savvy salesmen.

It is true that there is no artist who has ever stood entirely apart from his or her time. But whatever the complexities of the artist's shifting social and economic situation, the artistic act is also an individualistic impulse rooted in the sense of self that is at the heart of the human condition. Meyer Schapiro believed this to be the case not only among the artists of Romantic Europe but even among the sculptors and painters of Romanesque Europe, and although his views remain controversial, I am convinced that they are incontrovertible. If you believe that art is, in all times and places, a reflection of the possibilities of individuality, then you must embrace this as an a priori conviction, a matter of philosophy.

If I insist on this point, it is because when I go to the galleries and the museums I am looking for something with the power to push away the particulars of the moment, to demonstrate the power of the individual as an arbiter of his or her own imagination. We do not need artists to tell us that these are perilous economic times. And we do not need art to tell us that Barack Obama's victory signals a magnificent new direction in American political life. Art is not a mirror of society but an essential part of the fabric of society, with a unique role to play, and more than anything else its role has to do with affirming the stubborn particularity of a person's experience.

Related Links:

-2004 review of Elizabeth Payton
-some examples of Mary Heilmann's paintings.


Stagg said...

Sometimes artists do notice economic trends-and even if they do....a lot of artists are in la la land.

L.M. said...

that's refreshing to read. (and a much neede confirmation for many)

Gardenia said...

My yummy and brilliant marketing teacher told me, when I asked him once, how the economic ruler affected art, and he said - never mind, art is a necessity of life.