With sources telling me that the new editor of New York magazine's award-winning website has ordered a cutback in contemporary art coverage in favor of more film and television items, and the likelihood that contemporary art journalists will be laid off in the newsroom cutbacks to be announced at the New York Times, one has to wonder if the art world realizes how tired it looks to the cultural world at large.
Sylvester Stallone making paintings is more embarrassing than newsworthy, though reports that another washed-up leading man, Val Kilmer, is building a sculpture ranch in New Mexico have a certain appeal. When it recycles the same half dozen Hollywood personalities and tries to market news about a handful of art dealers and collectors as fresh stuff, the art world is advertising the fact that it contains a couple of thousand not very interesting people who are awfully satisfied with themselves long after their celebrity shelf date has expired.
Add to this the fact that the artworks themselves are simply a long parade of tired visual one-liners that would embarrass Marcel Duchamp and bore Andy Warhol and, Miami, we have a problem. The way that chic society types and serious critics who should know better have jumped all over the derivative Bruce High Quality Foundation, which is really the Low Quality Douche Brigade, is indicative of the desperation of the munchkins in our tiny world to associate with any low spark of potential creativity.
The BHQF is the bastard offspring of the mighty visionaries at Art Club 2000, its Cooper Union predecessors, who were charismatic, omnisexual, hip Urkels and Girkels who undergirded every ‘90s art happening from American Fine Arts to the great Alex Bag. Adding the anonymity of the Guerrilla Girls to some class taught in a hotel bar by a group of mask-wearing potato heads does not a movement make.
Looking at the whole panoply of art ejaculations from recent seasons, Shepard Fairey's Obama, Dash Snow's indulgences from Slobland, Banksy's wall musicals, bad performances from FischerSpooner and the Scissor Sisters in a gallery context, and so many other postcards from the Spectacle, one feels that, when art tries to compete with film and digital media, it always comes up short, esthetically, technologically and socially.
The way forward lies in the direct political action we are seeing from Ai Weiwei and Shirin Neshat, action that will recapture the public sphere in the manner of Joseph Beuys (whatever his shamanlike pretentions), General Idea and Survival Research Labs. A critical mass of this kind of art action, and the need for fairs, stars and phony collectives will evaporate, while new esthetic vistas blossom.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).