Time to Reconsider Modern Art?
In July I wrote a piece titled Art Investing has Nothing to do with Art. This topic followed a few older pieces written about the bizarre practices of the uber-wealthy who locked away so called investment art after spending far too much in the first place. I do admit that these articles may have sounded like sour-grapes, but honestly these ludicrous purchases are far removed from practically all artist's wildest dreams - or nightmares - depending on your views.
In recent news it was reported that prominent American art critic, Dave Hickey, has "turned his back" on modern art. The article can be read in the UK Guardian. Hickey's scathing comment on the purchasers:
"They're in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It's just not serious," he told the Observer. "Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It's not worth my time."
Hickey goes on to suggest that a change of outlook in modern art is required:
"Money and celebrity has cast a shadow over the art world which is prohibiting ideas and debate from coming to the fore," he said yesterday, adding that the current system of collectors, galleries, museums and art dealers colluding to maintain the value and status of artists quashed open debate on art.
"I hope this is the start of something that breaks the system. At the moment it feels like the Paris salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It was the Impressionists who forced a new system, led by the artists themselves. It created modern art and a whole new way of looking at things."
Of course I enjoyed the reference to impressionism challenging the status quo of the Paris Salon. So where does art move to from here? If everything has been said already then what is the point of art. I would like to suggest that modern art still has an important part to play in the world. Whether as social commentary or to tweak the noses of the establishment. I have no problem with art that is committed to its cause by artists with purpose. Whether that cause is to show beauty or satirise a president's backroom antics. It is about freedom and credibility of art.
What does not work for me is art that panders to the hedge-fund brigade and the commission-greedy hangers on who cynically promote such works as significant. It is no wonder that prominent art critics feel they cannot win. There is just too much money involved.
Do we even need to take note of this state of affairs? After all is it not enough to buy what you like and let everyone get the art they want. The issue is one of credibility. In a world where great and beautiful art is still created by honest artists we need to see that those who influence the art world recognise these artists.
If prominent critics can speak out we will see credibility return to art and that is good for everyone.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa