Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jackie Wullschlager on the art world

Jackie Wullschlager speaks out in a remarkable piece about the art world in Financial Times Weekend (24-25 Nov, 2012), in its Collecting section, no less, under the title "Beyond the froth and jargon".

She writes that "the faster and louder the art world spins, the more it harbours doubt about its obvious froth and mediocrity. And that doubt hides behind two things: prices, and professional jargon."

Wullschlager discusses "the billionaire careers of kitsch merchants" and the "new breed of (...) historically illiterate international collectors for whom art is a refuge for surplus funds and a bid for status in a globally competitive world".

In these circumstances the gallerist David Zwirner notes that "connoisseurship is really not valued, sometimes it is even looked down upon". According to Wullschlager, "the connoisseur has declined" as "the art professional has risen". Professional jargon "legitimises anything, especially weak, dry, overtheoretical art that cannot stand on its own legs".

"Since today's curators tend to be products of a conceptually-driven rather than connoisseur-based education, this jargon dominates group shows, which have political not aesthetic agendas and rarely include great art for fear of exposing the rest as second-rate."

"What could not have been predicted, however," Wullschlager writes, "was that within a generation of critical theory hijacking academe, a revolution in humanities teaching – employing semiotics, structuralism, the idea that culture and society form a system of self-referential signs and symbols – would empower a conceptual art that depends on curators and advisers to explain it. As this became a professional business, the chatter of deconstruction-lite morphed into a self-contained, deliberately obfuscating gallery-speak that, Robert Hughes already noted in 1989, “extorts assent as the price of entry”, and urges a critical vacuum. “If all signs are autonomous and refer only to one another, it must seem to follow that no image is truer or deeper than the next, and that the artist is absolved from his or her struggle for authenticity,” the late art critic wrote."

"The concept-drenched curator becomes the artist", writer Wullschlager, but "the best response is what Cyril Connolly called 'the resonance of seclusion'. Hundreds of artists still battle alone in studios to make authentic work that does not need a curator to explain it."

No comments: