The USA is very unhappy. In particular the poor and the near poor who are mostly women and minorities are unhappy. Frustrated. Bordering on angry.
The art scene has lost all gusto and art no longer enjoys the support and prestige it had even in recent memory. Social media has utterly changed the cultural landscape. The president is unique in his persona. He is ”making America great again” through various hard-headed strategies , starting: trade wars, tightening up on immigrants, and subsidizing the wealthy through enhanced tax advantages only they can activate.
Confidence and the ability to energise the will of the many was a hallmark of American life and was reflected in the art scene. But the art scene has changed. To put it simply, private dealers are vanishing as a source of energy. It is more difficult to keep their shop open. Money is scarce. Now Art Fairs dominate the sales structure. They are modelled on the stock exchange, and more specifically the futures market. At the other end of the scale, gentrification is eliminating low rent neighbourhoods pricing artists out.
Then in academia most colleges and universities are struggling. The abuse of adjunct faculty is well documented. In particular art departments give out art degrees that no longer directly secure employment.
The heady excitement and gusto of Abstract Expressionism is over as is the shock value of POP art. Curators hope their world will throw up new, original, or unappreciated art. A very few actually go looking for it.
The one thread that binds these observations together is ‘celebrity’. That means consideration of popular culture has to be factored in to presentation, whether in Hollywood politics or any other theatre seeking political or cultural affirmation. Criticism is swept aside as if it is now redundant. PR has replaced critique. Most artists cannot discern the difference.
The NAE can and does depend upon very limited, if any, resources. We come from a tradition of humanism originally defined by Jane Addams, who cared more for people than status. Her message came out of Chicago which then and even today, was the dark side of the USA. The fate of many immigrants there was appalling.
The USA today then, has to reclaim meaningful language and not give in to the fake news cycle. The art world has been effectively seduced into fake news and bombast.
We try to draw a line in the sand.
Volume 33 no 2 November / December 2018 p 3