A recurring theme in my blog and career is wondering why go on making art and finding reasons to not quit. I recently read about an Art F City art blogger, Whitney Kimball, throwing in the towel after only four years of covering the art world. In fact, not only was she quitting the art blogosphere but possibly the art world all together. It only took her four years to feel defeated. I can understand her disgust for the transformation of a the art world to a hyper commercialized scene of high priced work and the even crazier display of art investors flocking to über priced art fairs. She pitied her own friends trying to break into the gallery world and has thrown up her hands and declared, ‘I quit!’ But wow, four years is all it took?
The Art F City blogger is not the only one who sited the rise of art as an investment as a contribution to decline of the contemporary art world. I never expect or even aspire to be an art star. In fact, all I have ever wanted is to earn a living at my job. Most people who graduate from a top university, as I did, and go on to invest 20 plus years in a career, reap the rewards of that time and experience. And for the most part, my contemporaries are at the height of their own chosen profession.
The art critic, Robert Hughes, made a documentary about the horrors of art becoming monetized and treated as a commodity. He was an art critic for 50 years and I was half expecting that in the documentary (I recently watched) called The Shock of The New 2004, he was going to tell artists like me to forget it. But at the end, he profiled the work of Sean Scully, of whom I’m a big fan, with an optimistic view of the future of art and why we need it. Hughes described Scully’s paintings as “not instant art” and that beauty can be radical. Imagine that. At the end of 50 years immersed in the world of art, he was optimistic for the future of work like mine; my work was needed in the world.
I felt this huge sigh of relief and the realization that quitting was no longer an option. Hughes said that there was more to life than our everyday concerns and needs and that good art had the ability to remind us of that. He said that art had a responsibility to manifest beauty and to allow for free thought and un-regimented feeling. An unexpected ending indeed. In the face of work he dismissed by Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Damien Hirst, here was Sean Scully. A thoughtful abstract painter who made him feel that there was art to be made that was not falsely ironic. Scully’s work was described by Hughes as consisting of spare, refined forms that were subtle and prevented the eye from roaming too freely. Hughes said that there are those of us who desire to experience radical beauty-Yes! Sadly, Hughes died in 2012 and so did a voice of dissent against instant “just add water” art made with and sold for a lot of money but with little thought or creativity. My preoccupation with “making it” and thoughts of quitting have subsided, for now. I plan to enjoy the experience and the journey of who I am and not cloud the path with the insecurities of what I am not.
It is always nice to hear from a client half-way around the world and I was recently sent this photograph by one of my collectors in Valencia, Spain. She had just installed a painting of mine in her living room:
This Month’s music: Björk