The Art World: Where are We Now?

I’m an extremely neurotic person who often wakes up in the middle of the night to have conversations, in my head, with myself. Tonight, my brain asked, “if you were to be alive 100 years from now, and looked back in time at this point in Art History…what would you think?” And I thought to myself, “that is a really good question!” (Definitely should be declared insane).

It’s hard to say for sure where we are headed, but there’s no denying that we are at a richly interesting but complicated period. First of all, I think we are simultaneously rushing towards two polarizing extremes.

On the one hand, there is SO much experimentation – artists are really trying to push boundaries. We have Internet art now! How weird is that? (Weird, but not surprising). This is particularly intereresting because so many boundaries have already been crossed. We already have Die by Tony Smith and Seedbed by Vito Acconci…it’s hard to push boundaries when it all seems to have been done before. And yet artists still manage to do it! They are diverging in what seems to be a million different directions.

On the other hand, we seem to be converging on a monoculture. I think that we can thank the commercialized art market for this. It’s a world where, according to the Art Newspaper, “almost one third of solo shows in US museums go to artists represented by just five galleries.” There is a sameness pervading the art market – as stated above, galleries and museums show the same artists, while artists are trying to be like other artists that have gained commercial success, while collectors are playing it safe by buying art that they know will turn a profit. I once asked my Museum Studies professor “why are all museums trying to be exactly the same? Why can’t they maintain something special?” Because even museum branding is the exact same across the board and I’m kind of sick of it. My professor flat out ignored my question by the way, because god forbid she be critical of Ze Museum.

Those two forces are pulling at one another, but I’m not sure how aware we are of it. Will that gap become wider and wider (as it currently is), or will we be able to stop it before we have two separate entities?

Sometimes I think we will look back at this moment in art history and think “how silly we all were!” Or “how horrible Jeff Koons/Damien Hirst/basically-any-middle-aged-white-male-artist was!” Perhaps we will say the opposite. I just don’t know.

But I once saw a quote, I don’t know where, maybe it was from one of those really good artsy miniseries, that said, “the current art movement is the art market.” I wholeheartedly but sadly agree with this statement – instead of sifting through the boundary-pushing works of thousands/millions of artists, we have latched on to the second of the two extremes: the commercialized art market. That is where we reside.


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