First off, let me just remind you that I typically do NOT read the work of other art writers.
But God bless them. The art world needs them and I hope they stick with it because there are so few real advocates for contemporary art out there.
But here's the thing ...
Moments ago, I glanced at an article written by an art connoisseur. Notice I said connoisseur and not writer. More on that in a moment.
I swear to you, by the fourth sentence, I could no longer stomach it and logged off. Why? Because there's clearly some unspoken dictum in the art world and art media that insists that art writers, publications and even bloggers speak with this air of elitist, haughty, mysterious and pretentious exclusivity.
This is why so many people outside of the art world see the art world as a joke. It's also why the contemporary art world remains so embarrassingly easy to parody. Everyone is IN on the joke ... EXCEPT the art world. The art world is full of seemingly intelligent people. Why is this still a problem?
Guess who and what are hurting as a result? Nothing but the art world itself. I'm talking about art galleries, museums, fairs, arts organizations and so on. So many people insist on maintaining and perpetuating the silly charade.
It's the same principle behind the Will Ferrell "Anchorman" movies. Everyone sees the folly and the over-the-top ridiculousness of "the serious anchorman" who speaks with that "anchorman voice" ... everyone that is except for the anchorman himself. He takes himself seriously to the point of comedy.
Here's another weird example. Years ago, I was buying a suit in a high-end specialty shop. The suit was stupidly expensive for me at the time, but I worked hard, saved my money and bought the thing. Fine. During the entire time that I unfortunately had to deal with the snobby sales guy, he behaved as if there were no way I could afford the suit. When the purchase went through, he had this look on his face as if he had seen a ghost.
At this point, he asked me if I wanted to get it tailored there. "Oh, no thanks," I said. "I have my own tailor. I'll take it to him," I added. With that, I smiled, politely took the box and continued on my way.
Here's my point. Who did THIS guy THINK he was kidding? He works on commission! Trust me, even WITH his employee discount, I assure you that he himself could NOT have afforded to shop in the very store where he worked.
It's the same with some employees in top art galleries. YOU yourself CANNOT afford to pay for the very art you're selling, so can we DROP the attitude please? You're not fooling me. Nor are you fooling anyone else who actually has a brain.
Today, I'm much smarter than I was back when I bought that expensive suit. These days, I simply don't tolerate any snobby behavior by retailers or art galleries. If I encounter it, I simply - and politely - walk out, never to return again. In a nutshell, at this stage in life, I no longer have time for nonsense.
This also applies to things that I read ... and write. For me, they need to be authentic, compelling and inspiring, yet down to earth. Contemporary art is inherently precious, beautiful, mysterious and almost, by its very definition, exclusive. Art is naturally a high-minded, profound thing that is not for everyone. That's a given.
However, art and the art world do NOT need or require the obsessive, grand-sweeping hyperbole, over-intellectualization or shrouding in mystery and pretense that many people in the art world give it.
Trust me. I've been an art lover for many years and I've been a writer for longer than that. I'm here to call, "bullcrap" when I see it. And I certainly see a lot of it.
For some reason, brownies have come to mind. YUM. Have you ever visited those brownie shops in malls where you see all of these dumb, brownie concoctions using nuts, candy, whipped cream and even cookies on brownies? However, you're hard pressed to find a simple, elegant, chocolate brownie that hasn't been bastardized and turned into something almost unrecognizable. All of the other junk that's put on the brownies amounts to smoke and mirrors built on fear that the brownie itself isn't enough to entice customers to buy.
Brownies alone are enough for me. Contemporary art by itself is enough. Oh my, am I actually comparing contemporary art to brownies? I don't know. Nevermind. Just erase the whole brownie metaphor from your mind.
Anyway ... Do you know what I think this is all about? Oftentimes, we feel very insecure. Consequently, we feel the need to trump things up and create this "aura" around them - and ourselves - so that we'll appear credible and more desirable. We feel better about ourselves when others are "convinced" that we're authorities and "connoisseurs." It's more about self-esteem and social climbing than it is about contemporary art.
I prefer to take the opposite approach. I want to take you on the journey with me. I WANT you to see me stumble and learn about contemporary art as I go. This approach goes against art world convention, but I can assure you that it’s tested and true.
Call me crazy, but isn't that the whole, fun part about contemporary art? Whenever I attend a big art fair or visit a gallery or museum or even meet a new artist, I feel like "Jason and the Argonauts." It's a blast. It's fun. It's something brand new. It's joyful. It's a never-ending, all-consuming, properly-precarious, drop-dead joyride.
I don't WANT you think that I KNOW everything. I do NOT want you to feel that I've got it all figured out. That's SO Oprah. No offense Oprah. I love you. But do you know what I mean?
Let's actually do this art thing together. Isn't THAT the whole POINT of art anyway? Communication, expression and the sharing of human questions and vulnerabilities? Aren't we always trying to figure it all out? Art is the eternal canvas of our exploration.
I'm no better or smarter than you. I'm here to share and talk WITH you about art, not AT you ... or at least I hope I'm not talking AT you. So many art writers are either talking AT you or they're completely ignoring you. Their writing style - if you can call it that - is all about creating this closed language reserved to impress their colleagues or whomever. They're talking with one another and they're leaving you out of the picture.
In my book, this is an utterly cowardly practice. Because it's the "ART WORLD," people are being who they think they're supposed to be as opposed to being who they really are. Trust me, when you're being your authentic self, you are enough. Isn't it better to be enough than too much? Oh well, I guess it's what you have to do for that doctoral thesis. I guess.
Contemporary art needs us to step up for it in a real way. It needs authentic warriors who are on the journey WITH it. Contemporary art needs advocates ... not fluffers. Leave the fluffing (literally) to Robert Mapplethorpe. I know. Gross. Sorry.
I don't know. I just think that maybe I'm at the point where I'm tired of seeing folly all around me and no one seems to be calling it out. The last thing I want to do is read something fake, phony and full of pretense.
You should be your best self around art, but that doesn't mean you have to behave as if you're, "to the manner born." Silly. Let's do art and the art world a favor by talking and writing about it in a real, accessible way. Reality and realness are SO worth it and - here's a secret - you don't have to work as hard. Keeping up appearances can be so draining ... even in print.
In short, true art warriors keep it real. Can you tell I'm not much of a fiction guy?