"The man who is tired of London," Samuel Johnson observed, "is tired of life." But the man or woman who is tired of art is perhaps tired of artifice, of anti-life.
Last Saturday we journeyed to Baker Field with a female painter of our acquaintance to watch Yale play Columbia in football. While the Bulldogs thrashed the Lions 37-3, we looked at the changing colors of Spuyten Duyvil where the Harlem River joins the Hudson. Next to our companion, it was the most beautiful thing we’d seen in weeks.
"When I moved to New York last year," she said, "I couldn’t adjust to the New York art world, it was too intense and I was depressed."
"You had to stick to your guns," we thought.
"But now I no longer care," she added, pointing to the river. "All I want to do is go over there tomorrow afternoon and paint."
We thought on all the "all I want to dos" in the art world of 2005: all I want to do is get a gallery, into the Armory Show, into the containers at Art Basel Miami Beach, into that Columbia student’s studio to buy up her work, into that auction party at Phillips, everywhere that’s not into the heart of the heart of art -- the heart that was beating next to ours as she gazed out on a late autumn afternoon.
The veteran dealer Brooke Alexander used to say, in a more intrepid era, "when you want to find out what’s happening, look for a strange poster on the wall, for something surprising on the street."
In this fat, satisfied art world of 2005, there are no surprises, just hundreds of dreamy ads in Artforum, heralding another fair, another destination, another dollar. We whipped out the magnifying glass and checked out Artforum’s circulation numbers: the same 35,000 people as always. How long can the same 35,000 people circle-jerk each other until they are blinded by the come?
Emerson observed that art must be "as new as the foam and as old as the rock." The question is, are we art worlders getting the solace and beauty art provides in this mercantilist art world we’ve created? Is there still room to astonish and surprise or are "power and greed and corruptible seed," to quote Bob Dylan, crowding art out?
And will external circumstances finally overthrow the golden calf, or the worm destroy it from within? We can’t wait, but then we vacillate, because we’re careful what we wish for.
What’s your wish for art?
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).