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<nettime> Holland Cotter: The Boom Is Over! Long Live The Art!
Naeem Mohaiemen on Mon, 16 Feb 2009 11:14:03 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Holland Cotter: The Boom Is Over! Long Live The Art!

Excerpts from Holland Cotter's latest NYT piece....


Last year Artforum magazine, one of the country's leading contemporary
art monthlies, felt as fat as a phone book, with issues running to 500
pages, most of them gallery advertisements. The current issue has just
over 200 pages. Many ads have disappeared. The contemporary art
market, with its abiding reputation for foggy deals and puffy values,
is a vulnerable organism, traditionally hit early and hard by economic
malaise. That's what's happening now. Sales are vaporizing. Careers
are leaking air. Chelsea rents are due. The boom that was is no more.


Never has there been so much product. Never has the American art world
functioned so efficiently as a full-service marketing industry on the
corporate model. Every year art schools across the country spit out
thousands of groomed-for-success graduates, whose job it is to supply
galleries and auction houses with desirable retail. They are backed up
by cadres of public relations specialists — otherwise known as
critics, curators, editors, publishers and career theorists — who
provide timely updates on what desirable means. Many of those
specialists are, directly or indirectly, on the industry payroll,
which is controlled by another set of personnel: the dealers, brokers,
advisers, financiers, lawyers and — crucial in the era of art fairs —
event planners who represent the industry's marketing and sales
division. They are the people who scan school rosters, pick off fresh
talent, direct careers and, by some inscrutable calculus, determine
what will sell for what.


Despite the professionalization of the past decade, the art world
still likes to think of itself as one big Love Boat. Night after night
critics and collectors scarf down meals paid for by dealers promoting
artists, or museums promoting shows, with everyone together at the
table, schmoozing, stroking, prodding, weighing the vibes. And where
is art in all of this? Proliferating but languishing. "Quality,"
primarily defined as formal skill, is back in vogue, part and parcel
of a conservative, some would say retrogressive, painting and drawing
revival. And it has given us a flood of well-schooled pictures,
ingenious sculptures, fastidious photographs and carefully staged
spectacles, each based on the same basic elements: a single idea,
embedded in the work and expounded in an artist's statement, and a
look or style geared to be as catchy as the hook in a rock song.


Which brings us to the present decade, held aloft on a
wealth-at-the-top balloon, threatening to end in a drawn-out collapse.
Students who entered art school a few years ago will probably have to
emerge with drastically altered expectations. They will have to
consider themselves lucky to get career breaks now taken for granted:
the out-of-the-gate solo show, the early sales, the possibility of
being able to live on the their art. It's day-job time again in
America, and that's O.K. Artists have always had them — van Gogh the
preacher, Pollock the busboy, Henry Darger the janitor — and will
again. The trick is to try to make them an energy source, not a chore.
At the same time, if the example of past crises holds true, artists
can also take over the factory, make the art industry their own.
Collectively and individually they can customize the machinery, alter
the modes of distribution, adjust the rate of production to allow for
organic growth, for shifts in purpose and direction. They can daydream
and concentrate. They can make nothing for a while, or make something
and make it wrong, and fail in peace, and start again.

Will the art industry continue to cling to art's traditional analog
status, to insist that the material, buyable object is the only truly
legitimate form of art, which is what the painting revival of the last
few years has really been about? Will contemporary art continue to be,
as it is now, a fancyish Fortunoff's, a party supply shop for the Love
Boat crew? Or will artists — and teachers, and critics — jump ship,
swim for land that is still hard to locate on existing maps and make
it their home and workplace? I'm not talking about creating '60s-style
utopias; all those notions are dead and gone and weren't so great to
begin with. I'm talking about carving out a place in the larger
culture where a condition of abnormality can be sustained, where
imagining the unknown and the unknowable — impossible to buy or sell —
is the primary enterprise.

Full article is here:

Full article here:

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