I’ve never been inspired by the dynamics that take place within the high end art industry. When the YBAs, very successfully circumvented the art establishment during the mid-nineties, they went on to install their own establishment (sort of like when one dictator overthrows another) which now has its own barriers to entry. To get in you must ‘play the game’, sort of like ignoring the fact the emperor has no clothes along with everyone else and then you have the community’s blessing to work your way up the ladder.
Let me start with a statement I read by philosopher Graham Harman, on the condescendingly sounding subject of ‘Speculative Realism‘: “artists sound pathetically naive if they refer to their works as motivated by beauty.” (I have recently created an artwork specifically in reaction to this, you can see it here).
What these sorts of people represent helps me realise that contemporary art has been hijacked by an untalented, academic elite (AKA The Art Mafia).
It appears to me as if there is an un-acknowledged “cheeky factor” operating in the high end of the contemporary art world. What can an artist get away with as calling art? At the top end they are like a cross between a con man and a magician. Instead of using a wand and a hat, they bring abstract arty language and influential contacts to bear, and hey presto…
Once the artist has a sufficient amount of theory (or bullcrap, in most cases, in my opinion) behind the ‘artwork’ then all the arty people (gallerists, curators, critics, collectors, media etc.) can get behind it adding their lofty opinions on said artwork. Now the snowball effect has been initiated and “value” is apparently being added…
The point I’m trying to make is that there is a growing community of arty people (not necessarily the artists themselves) who rely on controversial artworks in order to apply their trade-craft of adding value (through over analysing and over theorising an artwork, thereby inflating the importance of that work) to earn a living and validating their role in the art world.
In other words these art world academics require controversial material to consume and then regurgitate their version of arty gibberish to seem clever and ‘in the know’, ultimately getting paid from inflating the value of a work (taking their cut, by playing their part, somewhere along the line).
It’s obviously a sensitive topic to discuss because it debases the positions these thousands of people hold in art. But it’s a subject with too little discourse!
This is because you would have to be in the art world to have the valid insight to make this clear. As a practising artist at an early stage in my career I have been advised to play along with this game (by arty people). I have that insight but don’t feel I need to play along. I believe in my work enough and have the self-respect to play it my way. I don’t even rely on galleries to sell my work, I’m lucky to have enough buyers that come direct to me to support my practice. I don’t need either their blessing or support structure (not that I turn it down) I can work as an artist outside of their rules of acceptance, likely at my own risk.
I regularly interact with the art world. I have many friends within the art game and they are all lovely people. But the industry they are operating within is rotten & corrupt (most wouldn’t even try to deny this, although they might need a couple drinks first before openly admitting that).
Perhaps part of my role within art is to bring the issues I’ve outlined here, out into the open.
I certainly know the public is ready to have this all clearly illuminated. As I write this, Paul McCarthy’s butt plug sculpture has been vandalized in Paris and the Jeff Koons retrospective in New York has been tagged (saying “PPPriceless”) by a graffiti artist.
I think more people sympathize with these actions than actually condemn them…
Below is a take on the subject by Paul Watson,