Painting

Driven By Its Market

The art world tends to be driven by its market, and throughout the ’50s and the ’60s it was a relatively small art world with dealers and collectors and one or two small museums. It was during that period that the most powerful and permanent American art in this century was made—from Abstract Expressionism and Pop, to Minimalism and Post-Minimalism. It was, in a real sense, a great Mediterranean moment created by 4000 heavily medicated human beings. And then in the late ’60s we had a little reformation privileging museums over dealers and universities over apprenticeship, a vast shift in the structure of cultural authority. 
All of a sudden rather than an art world made up of critics and dealers, collectors and artists, you have curators, you have tenured theory professors, a public funding bureaucracy—you have all of these hierarchical authority figures selling a non-hierarchical ideology in a very hierarchical way. This really destroyed the dynamic of the art world in my view, simply because like most conservative reactions to the ’60s it was aimed specifically at the destruction of sibling society—the society of contemporaries. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Sari Carel the Postmodern Art World]

I think there’s a tendency not to want to divorce yourself from your art. I always told my students you make orphans—like Little Orpan Annie—they’re supposed to go out into the world and find their own Daddy Warbucks, and you don’t have anything to do with it. But these people seem so perversely close to their art.
They say there are two kinds of artists: if you go see their art, the good kind of artist stands next to you and looks at it again, in your presence. The other kind of artist goes and stands beside their art to protect it, and/or explain it to you. You know, I prefer Ed Ruscha who just stands there beside you. But I get the feeling that Ed is not as tired of this as I am, because he makes art. It begins to feel like it’s all so thin. It’s like if I put my pen to the paper it will go through to the floor. Nothing there.
And that’s hard because I’m in the business of liking things. I was thinking the other day about the Rodgers & Hammerstein song from Showboat called “Falling in Love with Love”—well that’s what I do. I’m not only obsessed with things, but I’m obsessed with being obsessed with things, and that’s why I don’t write much negative criticism—I have to kind of be obsessed with it first… or get paid five dollars a word, at which point everything looks good. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Rainey Knudson]

Another reason it is changing is that in the history of art, the tides of influence tend to go back and forth, they tend to be reactive. One generation reacts against another; the next generation, reacting against the previous one, goes back to the generation before that, which is to say the tides of influence in the art world tend to skip a generation. So now I have students who are really into Bridget Riley and Richard Serra; students who study Warhol, mostly as a colorist. When you are a young artist, you look around and you say, ‘Gee everything sucks, I am going to go back to the moment right before everything started sucking, and try to find a new way out of that’. So you have a lot of artists trying to find a new way out of ’60s art, much in the same way artists in the ’80s tried to find a new way out of ’40s art—in the sense that Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente looked back to the early figurative sources of Abstract Expressionism as a place to start. 
So that’s perfectly natural, and it happens all the time. The problem today, of course, is that art cannot change so fast because it is so highly institutional. The people in the museum are going to be there forever, the people in the university are going to be there even longer. The institutional super structure of the art world, which is always out of date by definition, is really out of date now. I think that you do begin to see small undergrounds, although its hard to stay underground for very long just because if you’re any good at all, people really want to look at it, because there is so much boring fucking art. Anybody who sees anything they like, they go crazy. I know artists just coming out of school and they already have a waiting list of 40 paintings, and that’s not because they are great artists, it’s just that they’re not bad artists. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Sari Carel on the Postmodern Art World]

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