“A great art critic is the last thing any civilization gets. You start with a house, then you get a streetlight, a gas station, a supermarket, a performing arts center, a museum. The very last thing you get is an art critic. You’re not going to get a good art critic in St. Louis. To be a good critic, you have to be able to make a new enemy every week and never run out of people to be your friend.” –Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The New Yorker
And I ask myself why there is no serious discussion or critical analysis of the art that the middle class collects. It seems to be a vastly under-appreciated art marketplace considering that so much more art trades hands amongst collectors of middle-class means than does amongst the elite collectors. You have to ask yourself ‘Without people to condescend to the middle class would there be one (a middle class, that is?)’
Contemporary art of the aught years has taken a turn that few would have expected.
Collectors, critics and haute art consultants are regularly enticed by the marketing genius of a handful of artists who have plugged into the zeitgeist of despair exhibited since 9/11. Irony sells. Witness Takashi Murakami’s complete obseiance to the gods of luxury goods, LVMH, and collectors mad dash to own what any good product designer could have dreamed up in an afternoon’s work.
Please don’t get me started on Damien Hirst. Spin paintings? Please. We used to make them at the state/county fairs (and most likely still do.) (Hirst first exhibited animals diced and sliced and captured in formaldehyde…actually an auspicious beginning, but it’s been downhill from there ever since.) The latest marketing craze does not an artist make. Hirst and Murakami are excellent marketers who are skillfully artistic. Is that all it takes these days? Let me remind you that money does not care who owns it. We should not care what Jay-Z, Beyonce or a young hedge fund manager are acquiring.
We should care about we ourselves collect. And I posit that it would be a good idea to have an art critic writing for middle-class tastes. (Instead of middle-class, please insert ‘bourgeoisie’, if it makes you feel any better about yourself.) Not only would it be good for the middle-class, it would be good for the art gallery business that caters to those collectors. I am all for supporting the business of art and you should be too. Art enriches our lives, period.
“Great art is essentially work that has proven inexhaustible in terms of the value it gives to those who pay attention to it. It says, ‘I am in the present tense despite the fact that I was made five or fifty years ago.” — Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art
To read more on collecting art, these recent articles by Barbara Guggenheim, “Where Smart People Are Investing Now” and James Wilentz’s “The Art Worlds’ Hot Investment” are featured in Tina Brown’s blog, The Daily Beast. Check it out by clicking here.