You can feel it.
You can smell it. You can hear it in the trembling voice of any art professional who wants to take a risk, but dares not.
It's like the peer pressure you felt back in high school, only worse. At this stage in life, there's so much more at stake; your professional standing, your social position, maybe your job and then, almost certainly ... your mortgage.
And then, fearful thoughts flood your mind ...
"What about the kids?" You ask yourself. "Can I afford to lose this house?"
"The economy still sucks despite whatever they say. Where can I possibly get another job that pays what I'm making now, which isn't a lot, but at least my head is floating above water ... for the time being," you add.
"Should I leave New York or Los Angeles or London and move back to Springfield? Will my marriage survive this? I don't love her/him anyway. Maybe I should just leave."
It's a slow and certain depression spiral that you choose to avoid by keeping your mouth shut and not challenging convention ... or anything for that matter.
You know that you should speak up, but you don't. It happens when you read an absolutely unreadable exhibition statement plastered on a museum wall. It happens when some blowhard art critic is being rude.
It happens when some insecure gallery staffer snubs you and you don't call them out on it. It also happens when your boss dumps on you and you just take it and take it and take it.
One of the most comical things about the art world is this unspoken air of terror. Because the atmosphere is often rarefied due to the very exclusive, mysterious and precious nature of blue chip contemporary art, no one wants to say or do anything that might give the impression that they "don't belong."
I've had art dealers tell me that even THEY are intimidated by the thought of walking into other galleries. This is ridiculous. The air of terror in the art world has so many people walking on eggshells. I sense this every single time I visit a gallery or museum.
I dare say many people probably feel more comfortable inside St. Patrick's Cathedral than inside any art gallery. The hushed tones inside any church are generally the result of being in the presence of God whereas the solemn faces inside any museum might frequently be traced to the fear of making an ass of oneself. You know, saying the "wrong thing," whatever that might possibly be.
I really do believe that where there is an air of terror, there's little possibility of learning and growing. This problem could be resolved almost overnight if we reintroduced substantive arts programs back into school curriculums.
Whenever I see kids safely frolicking about inside museums and galleries, it always makes me smile. This means that contemporary art still has a chance to fly. It means that maybe these kids will grow up with an education that includes art and the knowledge that it exists to serve us and not the other way around.
It means that perhaps these kids will become completely comfortable with art and will always respect and welcome it rather than dismiss or disrespect it because they had never been exposed.
This air of terror in the art world is so silly and counterproductive. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Aren't we long overdue for some progress here?
Say what you will, but I say evolution is a choice. We choose to grow.
If you really want to be creative and artistic … risk humiliation. Walk through that fire. Let the art crowd think that you're not very sophisticated. Grab your fear by the throat and just go with it.
Can I let you in on a little secret? There's no need to walk on eggshells.
This air of terror thing is a joke. It only has the power that we give it. It keeps us from asking so many questions and doing so many things. Yet when we face up to it, we realize that it's nothing more than a fart in the wind. It stinks, but disperses eventually ... like a rotten egg.
I cannot believe you made me say that. You are so gross.