Tuesday, December 05, 2006
The weirdly named Art Basel Miami Beach is about to start. Art Basel sounds about right, but adding Miami Beach sucks all the seriousness out of it. Meanwhile, the Turner Prize has been won by a painter and Damien Hirst is exhibiting his collection. Contemporary visual 'art' is highly successful. Like gold, it works as an absorber of surplus cash. But, unlike gold, it is not clear what it is. I have often heard fashionable gallery owners, over-excited critics and verbally-challenged academics explain works in terms that I can only describe as illiterate and ignorant. They are doing so, of course, because an unprecedented number of rich people, often with 'art advisers', want to fill their walls and spaces with stuff labelled as 'art'. But they seldom, if ever, make any sane distinctions between art and not-art. Instead, they just seem to endorse the whole lot. Yet I like looking at contemporary 'art'. It is often highly decorative and well-done. Occasionally, it is, without question art. But, most of the time, it is just pretty things done by pretty young things seeking to 'subvert' something or other. They are all in desperate pursuit of the avant-garde, the one thing they cannot have because what was avant-garde has become the orthodox mainstream. There is nothing to subvert and nobody to shock. There's too much 'art' because there's too much money. As for art, well there is as much as there always was - very little.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 7:08 am