April 11, 2007

The Art World Thinks Flat

(Read the following, bearing in mind that most dealers out in our art world are talking loudly about an immanent collapse of the art market. They think we are living in a bubble that has to pop sometime soon.)

Marc Spiegler for ArtWorld Salon highlit breaking achievements in cradle robbery at this year's ArtChicago:

However, one innovation strikes me as likely to draw criticism: The NEW INSIGHT section, described as ?an amazing display of the future emerging talent in the art world? comprised of artwork from 24 graduate students at 12 of the country?s most influential Master of Fine Arts programs,? including CalArts, Yale, RISD and the Art Institute of Chicago. Especially given the fact that these students were selected by renowned Renaissance Society director Susanne Ghez, I?m predicting a stampede by neophiliac collectors to buy their work. Unless some draconian mechanism has been put in place to make sure that doesn?t happen - an idea which might be considered advisable in some quarters, but would almost certainly be a) an infringement of some Constitutional right and b) totally ineffective in the face of aggressive collectors.

Offhand, I cannot recall ever seeing a section of exclusively graduate-student work displayed as part of an art fair. (Although one certainly comes across the occasional artwork by a graduate student who?s already joined the roster of a participating gallery.) In this sense, New Insight marks the latest stage in the crumbling of the wall between art schools and the art market, the earlier stages having been 1) the prowling of art-school studios by dealers and collectors, 2) the growing professionalization of degree shows, and 3) the ?School Days? show at Jack Tilton last spring. Honestly, this is a topic on which I feel divided. Part of me sides with the logic that led Columbia arts dean Bruce Ferguson to close the studios of first-year grad students to collectors. Then again, I think, maybe it?s totally reactionary to think that we can sequester students from the art market, or even that doing so would be a good idea. Thoughts?

The last time I taught ('91-'99), I noticed that some of my students wanted to boot to the bottom line: "What do I do to get the 'A'?" Well, first you have to demonstrate competence specific to the objectives of this course as outlined in the curriculum, that would get you a "C". If you did this with a minimal panache, we're in "B" territory. If you light it up with inspiration, that's an "A". I was taken aback at the lack of concern for the realm of the imagination.

If the market asks, students of this persuasion will submit. Formula will be codified tacitly, everyone will move smoothly into position. What we are heading towards is a feedback loop that will choke off innovation. (Maybe the hive mind has determined that innovation rocks the boat too much?) Once implicit value will be engulfed by explicit value (PA#5), we will be left with an imitation art world, a facimilie of creativity. What good is this for students? What good is this for academia -or have we/they defaulted into the vocational school mentality? What does higher education really mean anymore?

I'm with Bruce Ferguson, he's got the right idea.

Meanwhile, we will have our intelligencia taking the dias with agendas like this, perhaps fresh from the NEW INSIGHTS opening. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?


Posted by Dennis at April 11, 2007 7:52 AM

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