Weird Theatre of The Contemporary Art World

April 2, 2012 § 5 Comments

Clearly, I’m doing something really wrong.

According to cutting edge L.A. gallery owner Tim Blum (interviewed on 60 Minutes at Miami’s Art Basel, one of the biggest, most lucrative art fairs in the country), the contemporary art world has become the ‘wild wild west’ of our time, a place with no rules and a multi-billion dollar economy.

As 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer said (I paraphrase), art fairs like the Art Basel are not necessarily the places you’ll find art that stirs the soul or shows you beauty, gives you a sense of peace or upliftment. No, here it seems the more bizarre, the better. With outrageous price tags.

Artist: Sam Durant

So I’ll admit that a small little part of my brain is saying, hey, maybe I could do some crazy s#%t and get on the bandwagon here! Because apparently art buyers want avant-garde, controversy, angst, and things projecting off walls that leave you feeling bafflingly unsettled.

But I can’t go there. It wouldn’t be authentic. And art, if nothing else, should come authentically from the artist’s heart.

There are many amazingly talented artists going without notice who have something quite real to share. Very different from a more theatrical art-speak world developed by god-knows-who-who-pulls-the-strings about what should “be worth” millions of dollars. But then maybe I’m just jealous that I didn’t think of creating a piece of art consisting of faucet fixtures placed on a wall.

Artist: Haegue Yang

I’m also guessing this post won’t win me any calls from highfalutin art dealers or earn me a show at the MOMA. Mind you, I have nothing against unusual interpretations, those who might feel, say, that a blue toilet seat is a deeply profound statement on some important aspect of life that I’m not enlightened enough to understand ~   but I am blown away by what brings the highest bidders.

There’s room in this world for all kinds of expression, and I applaud artists’ works being received and financially rewarded. I just don’t “get” the phenomenon of this particular, and kind of peculiar, corner of the marketplace. The jaw-dropping checks written for works that are at best “intriguing” for a moment or two. (But that’s just my opinion. Obviously some folks find them intriguing for longer than that; and those same people would most likely find my work incredibly boring.)

I suppose it all boils down, at some level, to the old unanswerable question “what is art”? And what will the market bear…?

Makes you wonder though. Where are the Michelangelo’s and DaVinci’s of our time? Where would Van Gogh, Homer, Innes, Benton and O’Keefe fit in all this? Where is the quiet but lasting emotional response as opposed to an immediate surface “shock”? Or will time, the great tester, find us nostalgic for dangling lightbulb art? I guess it could happen. And those who had the vision to see what so many of us don’t, will be hailed.

What a strange world we live in. Maybe I’ll just go out back and grab a banana from my van.

Artist: Paulo Nazareth

The full 60 Minutes segment can be read here


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§ 5 Responses to Weird Theatre of The Contemporary Art World

  • jayadeva9 says:

    As we move from linear mindsets to multidimensional visionary perspectives will also expand.

    Remember as humans our visual experience is limited.

    We see an equivalent of a speck of dust in the totality of the Empire state building as it would relate to all of the light spectrum.

    Allow man to advance even though it rubs against your preferences.

    I will admit the monetization of life on planet earth is loaded with nonsense.


    • saxtonstudio says:

      I agree with, and do understand, shifting visionary perspectives. Along those lines ~ though not quite as deep, but perhaps equally valid ~ is the fact that throughout time emerging artists have tossed the world into a tizzy and been considered “outrageous!” by a public that prefers the comfort of the familiar. That all said, and forgive my defensiveness, I was not so much making a statement on the art ~ which admittedly, I do not care for, but that is secondary to my reaction to the determination by an “elite” few with money to burn as to what constitutes amazing forward thinking art and how much monetary value it is deserves. Because someone in the right circle says that the blue toilet seat on the wall is the epitome of greatness, it gets elevated to top collector status with a price in the millions, and those in the circle will nod and say “yes, so profound” to justify their investment. It’s a game I know little about, but just enough to have an opinion that there’s absurdity within it. So, please understand, while I may not care for the art dubbed “worth millions”, I do not judge the artist’s freedom of expression but the process in which it becomes a commodity.


  • Diane says:

    It would be interesting to know who pulls the strings on what should be worth millions of dollars. In my humble opinion, none of those pieces of “art” you show in your post warrant a hefty price tag. I had to laugh at your comment on the blue toilet seat. One year when we vacationed in Hilton Head, one of the toilets in our condo was blue. And it had a fuzzy blue toilet seat cover on it. The kids dubbed it “The Blue Fuzz Potty.” Hmmm…maybe that could be my million dollar art creation! Hello, retirement!

    Keep doing what you do, Pat. You make people think, appreciate and smile. xo


  • leslie says:

    I could not agree with you more my friend…WTH??!! Though I do see it to speak clearly about where the media and Hollywood have steered the evolution of the, shall I say, delicate psychic of our minds…easily and shallowly impressed….


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