With the collapse of the Dia Art Foundation’s plans to build a new museum on the High Line near the Hudson River, a number of critics and other observers have called upon the Whitney Museum to build a contemporary museum on the same spot and salve the sore that is supposed to be the under-representation of new art in a New York museum context.
How often have we dreamed with museoexecs of such a curatorial Oz? Well, first there was the Guggenheim’s dream of a Frank Gehry building near Wall Street. Then, there was the Drawing Center’s dry hole at Ground Zero. The New Museum, always a problem area, broke ground on Rivington Street. The Whitney has heaved and sweated for decades through satellite spaces downtown and around and limp attempts to expand. MoMA devised a tasty little boite in Queens, then abandoned it while subsuming P.S.1. Does one detect a pattern here?
The diffusion of these good intentions is reflected in the diffuseness of what art-making is now. While Vanity Fair heavily attempts to manufacture "stars" in its current "Art Issue" (only 10 percent of whose contents is actually devoted to visual art), the reality of art-making now is that, independent of the market created by a handful of rich hedge speculators, its creative impact upon the wider culture is more marginal than ever, and it must contextualize itself in postmodernism, i.e. the perpetual experience of the past, to justify its existence. Hence there is no need whatsoever to put this art in a museum context (the Chelsea galleries and art fairs do fine in a narrow experiential context for those who are interested), and the purpose of museums such as the Whitney is to continue to manufacture the past for those concerned with making and experiencing new art.
This diminishment is mirrored in other worlds such as those of contemporary poetry and classical music composition.
While this reduced modality may seem permanent to the myopic, it’s not. We are simply living through what is, creatively, a mediocre era.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).