The triumph of commerce that art fairs advance and symbolize—the subject of my most recent piece in the magazine—gives me philosophical indigestion. The very wondrousness of Frieze New York’s production values made it worse. The spectacle seemed a gesture of noblesse oblige from King Mammon to the non-collector masses, or else a potlatch bonfire of profits that accrue to the Frieze folks, from facilitating intercourse between art and money. The signal drama in new art lately involves a struggle not for esteem and influence—the wonted dreams of artists—but for commercial viability. If you like a certain artist now, it’s hard not to be caught up in rooting for him or her to sell. Simply no other way to gauge, affirm, and discuss quality is in working order.
This will change. Any situation so extreme has a tightening spring of change built into it. Meanwhile, we are subject to a suffocating hegemony of assumed values, proper to an age that is Gilded, of course, and also practically neo-Victorian in its blanketing pieties about the edification and prestige to be had from art. The will of artists and their agents to please us, while pleasant in itself, fosters a vast complacency—a cloud castle of self-approval, with no foundation and only a billowing afflatus of success for success’s sake. If you’re young, you should make a point of enjoying the hell out of the mania while it lasts; it is the theatre of your future memories, nostalgia, and remorse. If you’re old, like me, and bedevilled by recalling times when developments in art mattered more keenly, though to fewer people, join me in a forbearing sigh."
#Art #Peter Schjeldahl #Criticism #Modern Art #The Free Market #Consumerism #The New Yorker