Art, and the experience of looking at art in galleries or museums, has dramatically changed over the last few decades.
We believe that the forces that are driving this change have by now distorted art to a degree that we feel compelled to not only declare this a crisis, but to urgently call for a dramatic and fundamental revision and rethink of art in every area of its agency to avoid its own complete obliteration.
Whilst the last three decades have been characterised by an unprecedented rise in complexity and access to information, the contemporary art world responds by completely turning its back. Art must now be excessively simple and simplistic in its form, content and intention, and must, first and foremost, be easy to get, provide entertainment and headline-grabbing spectacle. Excessively low-level and vacuous work has become the new standard. Museums and galleries have come to resemble playgrounds and mere social venues for adults as they attract and cater for ever growing numbers of visitors -and buyers- who increasingly show a complete lack of interest in, and lack of knowledge of, art. Art is marginalised in its own domain.
The sidelining of art itself / the sidelining of complexity and in-depth knowledge of and interest in art, is the core feature that has made the boom in the art market over the last few decades possible.
The requirements of the art market now act as a new form of censorship, controlling art not by silencing it, but by promoting it on a global scale, perpetuating the same vacuous formulae worldwide.
Art-internal forces and standards have completely been replaced by art-external forces/standards. Market mechanisms, together with ‚the media‘, are now the main force driving and shaping what kind of art is produced and shown, by dictating that art must feed the need for entertainment and spectacle, and by dictating that the source for art -in order for it to be deemed ‚relevant‘- must be external to artist and art. Powerful and all pervasive mechanisms exclude any work that does not comply with its own requirements and definition and dangerously attacks and perverts the very core of artistic freedom.
Globalisation and information technologies co-produce and exacerbate their reach and all-pervasiveness, but at its very foundation this crisis in contemporary art is made possible by artists who willingly produce the kind of work, which this art world and market demands.
Complex work, knowledge-based, ambitious only with regard to the problems which have arisen from within the art work, made by artists who develop and follow their own unique inner vision of how a problem could be formulated and addressed whilst taking into account the unprecedented complexity of our time, the unprecedented access to knowledge, as well as fundamental paradigm changes in science over the last 150 years particular, work which measures itself against the highest standards set by art in the past and which consequently must develop extraordinary strength to avoid failure, art which is not reproducible, which is developed slowly over decades in a life-time of dedicated and focussed work – and so on – these works cannot feed and meet the demands of this market. They are thus sidelined altogether. They are absent from the public realm to the degree that they appear to not exist at all. The absence of these artists, art works and their discourse dramatically distorts culture on the whole.
The utmost level of complexity, depth and intellectual poise which characterises many art works made in the past, which still offers the audience a seemingly inexhaustible potential for exploration, nourishment, sense of meaning, and food for thought for a life-time, has been replaced in museums and galleries today with only a fast-food equivalent. Art has completely lost its role as a leader of avant-garde thought and practice. The idea of art being at the forefront of our time with the power to drive, examine and express our understanding of the nature of reality has been completely abandoned. Intellectual rigour, true artistic ambition (not to be confused with today’s career ambitions) and true individuality are suppressed.
On the surface of things today it appears as if artists enjoyed limitless freedom and seem to be able to do whatever they want as there really are no rules left to be broken. Really anything goes. Yet this disguises the fact that the contemporary art world confuses freedom with arbitrariness. Being able to do anything whatever, and potentially even to become successful and famous for actually having achieved nothing at all, makes this arbitrary and shallow work the preferred choice, thus distorting and forcing art into a role where it has completely surrendered its own significance and power. The very notion of art and what it is to be an artist is under attack.
Art students are tacitly fed the contemporary lie and insistence on the idea that no definition of art is possible, desirable, or even necessary. High- profile award schemes ensure that only those receive attention and develop a career who work according to the dictates of the market. This cements this low-standard work in the public consciousness as the acceptable definition of what art is.
As increasingly external criteria shape the art work, intuition -the most fundamental source of artistic freedom and of art- is neglected and under attack. The artist who is not guided by intuition will find it impossible to crystallise his or her real problem in art. The work cannot find its strength, as it does not know of its boundaries. Without this inner guidance the artist is left to an arbitrary, random and thus utterly weak and empty pursuit – and only this empty pursuit is rewarded in the contemporary art world.
Art critics and art journalists have conveniently and dramatically lowered their own standards to the same lazy, shallow and entertaining level as the art works on show, and now focus almost exclusively on superficial, entertaining or spectacular works. Excessive and repeated coverage of the same substandard artists over and over again promotes them at the expense of any work of complexity and depth, and thus manipulates the public perception of art. Museums and galleries, ever under pressure to increase their visitor numbers and profit, and for this reason increasingly emulating the fashion and entertainment industry, need the media and art critics to perpetuate this particular narrative of art in order to feed this by now vast global culture industry. The artist themselves do not seem to be able, or even want to, resist the lure of celebrity-style fame and the near obscene financial rewards which are now within relatively easy reach with work that achieves nothing much at all.
This situation, which can only be described as crazy and dangerous, is consequently – and obviously – met with a disturbing critical silence. As if under a hypnotic spell curators, gallerists, art critics, artists, academics, star architects, art students, investors and journalists all nod with approval in front of spectacularly vacuous work and thus together weave an ever thicker cloak of cultural amnesia, drowning out any serious discourse and obscuring art that might present any challenge to this new status quo.
JUST WHERE ARE THE VOICES OF DISSENT?
The impact of the crisis on art production, art reception, art education and artistic freedom is dramatic. Serious artists worldwide, in order to protect themselves and their work from this completely contaminated art world, are driven underground and work in isolation, which impacts negatively not only on their ability to find professional discourse and an audience, but also on the cultural landscape on the whole.
A vacuum is created in the public realm/ the public realm is created as a vacuum.
go to: Call for an Urgent Review of Art in the Context of the Whole
We warmly invite art professionals and students worldwide to get in touch, to join our debate and our academy, and to contribute to our website in order to shape a narrative of art which is a radical / fundamental departure from the one currently dominating the public realm.