I spend a lot of time chatting with people in the contemporary art world.
One of the things that I find so intriguing is the fact that there’s this consensus on what the problems are, but no one seems even remotely inclined to do anything about them.
For example, many artists seem to agree that artist-organized art fairs and artist-operated galleries are decent ideas … IF you can find the right people to do the work. However, very few of them seem motivated to actually follow through. I know, I know. Artists who take on such projects wouldn’t have time to create art.
Artists are artists first. We all get it. This is an understandable reality because “start ups” of any sort are all-consuming.
But here’s another example. Many artists seem to agree that contemporary art needs to be more accessible to everyone, but few of them seem to be taking action – like marketing and promoting their own work online – to actually make art more accessible. There seems to be this disconnect in the minds of artists. Many of them just don’t GET that when they’re promoting their own work, they’re actually promoting contemporary art in general.
I don’t know. Is it me?
Here’s yet another example. Why don’t more galleries actually operate during hours when more people can actually visit? Look, we all understand that galleries have overhead expenses just like everyone else. Yet wouldn’t it make sense to have extended operating hours on weekends when more people have free time to visit? Shouldn’t some galleries be open on certain holidays? With proper security, what about evening hours? Macy’s and Target are certainly open for business and they often do BIG business on holidays and at night.
I know, I know. Art galleries aren’t Macy’s or Target, but you know what I mean.
And one final example. We’re constantly hearing ALL art professionals talk about the importance of contemporary art and yet, contemporary art has literally been hijacked by money, power and celebrity culture. Believe me, I understand the business model aspect of attaching galleries and gallery shows to celebrities.
This ploy often results in media attention and it sheds light on art brands. But does this ultimately do anyone but the celebrities any real good? Damien Hirst is doing great and by the way, I actually love his work, but I’m more concerned about the thousands of other artists and even galleries that continue to limp on amid insecurity, if not obscurity.
It just seems to me that there’s so much duplicity and hypocrisy in the art world. And here’s perhaps the biggest problem of all ...
Everyone - and I mean everyone - I’ve engaged with can name numerous art world problems, but everyone - and I mean everyone - disconnects themselves from those very problems. They objectify the issues and treat them as if they themselves play no role whatsoever in perpetuating the actual problems.
If you don’t roll up your sleeves and do something, aren’t you actually allowing the problems to continue unchallenged? Aren’t you actually playing a role by being apathetic? Aren’t you actually contributing to the problem by sitting this one out?
I mostly hold artists responsible. Why?
Because artists have phenomenal power in the art world. They’re just not using it. Artists don’t want to get their hands dirty outside of their studios. Artists only want to paint, sculpt and photograph things.
Granted, this is completely understandable. Yet this is also akin to the person who gripes about their elected officials and they’re not even registered to vote. I mean, how do they expect things to work when they’re not even participating?
I’ve come to the realization that when artists moan and groan, they should really be looking at themselves in the mirror and then looking at one other.
Artists are by far the most powerful players in the art world. They are almost omnipotent, but they’re in a mid-winter’s sleep. They OWN the means of production outright. Their power comes straight from God. There are no intermediaries. No, not one. Why else would galleries get them to sign contracts in which they give up their power?
Whenever I hear an artist say something silly like, “I need a gallery,” I always want to scream…
“WILL YOU PLEASE WAKE UP!”
If artists got on the same page and united, they’d be unstoppable, but artists want to be the “Good Guys.” They don’t want to be responsible for start ups that fail. They don’t want to be blamed for anything. They’d rather blame overwhelmed galleries that are limping along on their last, fiscal legs.
So many artists out there are full of crap. Yes, you heard me. I’m serving it up. You know this is true. Artists need to get off the pot.
Do you know what I think whenever I leave a great art exhibition?
I always think … “If these artists could only see the POWER they have!”
Look, I know. It’s difficult enough to work at a full-time job that you hate just so that you can pay your bills and buy materials with whatever money remains. I get it. But I still believe that artists have the power to kill the duplicity, hypocrisy and lack of transparency that exists in the contemporary art world. They absolutely do, but like charity, change begins at home.
All they have to do is unite. Create artist led and owned projects. This will not happen overnight. The effort would literally take a decade. Also, it would take decades to undo the poisoning and brainwashing that many artists today have.
And then you have to factor in the artists who are actually benefitting from the status quo. There are lots of them out there. I’ve spoken with many of them. This isn’t necessarily always bad, I’m just calling it like it is. There are plenty of artists out there who like things as they are. I’m simply saying this to let you know I’m calling you out.
Art dealers and galleries need to be very afraid because if and when artists wake up … it’ll be like awakening a cranky woolly mammoth.
GAME OVER. Dependency model … over. Step aside or get crushed.
Far too many artists are toiling away and waiting to be “discovered.” Discovered by whom? A billionaire art collector? Billionaire art collectors can only do so much. Even if he tried, Eli Broad cannot own everything. He knows that. He and wife Edythe do what they can which is a lot, but it’s not everything.
Nor should it be.
Also, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard an artist say to me …
“Sorry Michael. I was going to do THIS, but …”
Believe me, we’re all human. I’ve said this myself on numerous occasions, but I hear artists say this A LOT.
I don’t know. I’m just sitting here on a lovely Sunday afternoon spouting off. Yet you know as well as I do that I’m on to something. I wouldn’t be writing these words if I weren’t. This literally sprung to mind moments ago.
You know I love my artists, but come on guys. It’s time to wake up. You can only hit the snooze button so many times.