The market driven art establishment and its complicit media are a catastrophe for the arts. That annoying hum you hear in the background, is being provided by the arts for the powers that be, and it is not just a hum. I have come to realize that the equivalent of the current state of the art world is, to state it plainly, gas (and it does not smell of “Soir de Paris!”)
Literally everything is “up in the gas.” Museums have become churches, galleries have become museums, museum curators and museum directors have become gallery directors and gallery owners have become museum directors. Welcome to the Merry go round. And then there is this gasbag in a bubble, who states that there’s no epidemic. Can one say WTF?
Art’s principal social role has come to be investment capital. The idea that art can morally influence the world has become an idea of the past; much like capitalists refer to socialism as an idea of the past, bluntly omitting that capitalism is the older of the two systems and therefore, in my opinion, more outdated.
Art now hangs on the wall or stands or lies on the ground in order to get more expensive while its actual value is bluntly being repressed in favor of a purely economic reason.
Collectors, those incredible patrons of the arts who used to display a vision, no longer make an effort to find artwork at its source. They –and I generalize– prefer to visit art fairs, the Ikea for the rich and famous with complimentary amusebouche (although my bouche is not amused). At those malls of preposterous vulgarity, the artwork has already achieved sufficient commercial exposure, so there is less danger of buying something, which, God forbid, would not generate a financial return. It is a bad, but yet, very useful business.
To me, art fairs look like busloads of seasick people were dropped off and threw up all over the place without anyone there bothering to clean up. They were accompanied by another busload of people, those of the zombie variety. Up to seven years ago they used to come to shop. Mind you, not like they shop at Gucci, because they wouldn’t dare to ask for a discount there, nor ask if that’s the “right” price.
If one of them bought a work by AI Wei Wei, they all wanted an Ai Wei Wei, if one bought a twelve foot turd, they all bought a twelve foot turd (hence that gas like odor). There is after all safety in numbers
These days they do not even buy anymore. They stick to being pampered and being catered to. They love all these little people snorkeling up their behinds. At the art fairs one also finds armies of personal shoppers, with 40,000 followers on Instagram. They replaced the once honorable business of art advisory services. Strutting along as if they just came out of that famous cave with JC himself, they actually represent several of the biblical plagues that descended upon earth to make sure art would be ruined by the business model.
If one has any doubt about the tragedy of it all, one has to simply refer to Andy Warhol, who claimed that “Business art” is the step that comes after art. No wonder so many collections now are a representation of unbearable dullness. In other words, first there was art, then came business art. I would prefer to stick with the first step. Thank you.
More than ever, art should be the collective dream of humanity. It should be the expression of a deep-seated feeling that our lives are not what they ought to be. It should be a passionate or even unconscious striving for something different.
Meanwhile, art fairs have to go, put them online, like everything else. It is after all more cost effective.
Jimi Dams is a contemporary artist, a native of Belgium and graduate of the Royal Academy in Antwerp. He ran the the Envoy Enterprises Gallery in New York for 10 years.
Volume 32 no. 1 September/October 2017 p 8