The Banality of Venality

As if to punctuate our previous post on the changes going on in the art world the NY Times article by Dorothy Spears gives us a run down of the winners and losers of the current economic pounding.

“Aside from slashing prices or deepening discounts, art dealers across the city have been coping not just by laying off employees but by dropping artists with poor sales records, creating partnerships with other galleries and reaching out in desperation to tried-and-true customers, many of whom were priced out of the market during its peak. Still, with the exception of several blue-chip galleries who show well-known artists, foot traffic in Chelsea and other gallery precincts has thinned markedly where crowds jostled just a year ago.”

What we are seeing in all this misfortune is a consolidation of power at the top. Just as the early 90s downturn paved the way for the continuation of Postmodernism’s theoretical dominance, this downturn may be used to fully cement its hegemony. The artists that remain will be those who SELL and those who sell will want to remain in power. It is in their best interest to promote and recommend art that furthers their aims and their careers. That’s how it happened in the early 90s, and 10 years later, we found ourselves having to reconnect with POMO mid-career artists and their progeny. This will make our job all that much more difficult. To take on aesthetic problems is one thing, to take on political and economic challenges is quite something else. Many of the artists I know have moved on. Others are struggling to survive. Still others, rightfully, couldn’t give a shit about the art world. They make their work – share it with friends, attend to and love their families, and live as sweetly and generously as they can. Which is why I get the usual eye rolling when I start on about Postmodernism and art – well you’ve read the blog. I’m grinding an axe against a very abrasive wheel…

“Lisa Spellman, the owner of 303 Gallery, who will be consolidating her headquarters above a vast second space she opened last fall in the center of Chelsea, said: “What drives me crazy are these clichés that say only the very, very best survive. I don’t believe that recessions are Darwinian systems.””

Survival isn’t about good ideas or fantastic aesthetic innovation. It’s about strength and power. But don’t we deserve an Art that doesn’t just “survive.” Isn’t Art supposed to be BIGGER, more fantastic than that. In the end it really doesn’t matter what we may believe, only that we stand up for what we believe no matter the consequences. When everyone is losing – it’s obvious that we have absolutely NOTHING to lose.

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