Always bubbly and bright, Creative Time maîtresse Anne Pasternak can also be refreshingly frank, as when she remarked on the PBS special, The Waterfalls: Making Public Art, that "for better or for worse, we are part of gentrification. Creative Time has always been on top of change in New York City." What bothers me about public art groups like Creative Time and the Public Art Fund is that they are artistic masks for the machinations of the powerful, the elite and the economically obtuse controllers who are driving the world economy to hell by swapping and trading financial instruments that no one understands.
The de facto purpose of these groups is to make the rich feel good about themselves by proffering the illusion that temporary art installations are enlightening for the public. True public art rises from the public itself. It is Keith Haring getting busted for his drawings of radioactive babies in subway stations. Or, it is the permanent celebration of a political reality, which survives the deaths of generations, such as the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi in Washington Square Park.
The art of the Public Art Fund and its ilk is really the art of private interests forced from on high into the public square, and the message of such art cannot fail but be elitist. Take The Waterfalls (please). It occurred to the world-class phony Olafur Eliasson that New Yorkers, whose thoroughfares and daily walks are obstructed by scaffolding which, for insurance purposes, often lingers for years before and after its use on a site, would like to be bludgeoned by huge scaffoldings dubbed "Art" with a dollop of water added as window dressing.
Even more depressing is the lockstep way that all the sycophants sucking up to Mayor Bloomberg praise The Waterfalls without a dollop of insight or explanation. Let us look at Bloomberg. He is celebrated by the establishment for making $30 billion by perfecting a monopoly on an information box which allows a 22-year-old trader in commodity swaps to jack up the price of oil to $146 a barrel and hammer the lives of regular people from here to Denmark and back. Shouldn’t Bloomberg be condemned for this hubris and shouldn’t his cronies be locked up for their manipulation of credit and the financial markets? While, we’re at it, shouldn’t their art-world enablers be denied the dirty dollars and nonprofit status which floats them in luxury while ordinary people suffer? You won’t find Obama or McCain calling for such redress (but Nader does!) and thus true change, other than economic collapse, will elude us.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).