A glance at the opening rosters of New York's contemporary galleries this fall shows that, typically, in bad economic times, dealers are the last to "get it." Exhibitions of young unknowns, just out of art school, doing derivative pattern-and-decoration painting or puerile installations based on their "experiences" continue to proliferate.
Is it too much to hope from the not-trendy vantage point of late middle age that the classic postwar American pattern of an artist's career will return to market with a sweet vengeance? You know the drill: art school, studio apprenticeship, solo shows that don't sell, a breakthrough followed by a crisis of creativity, back to obscurity, a rediscovery, and then everybody cleans up after the artist is dead.
This pattern described the career of my late mother-in-law Anne Truitt, for example. It resonates in figures as disparate as Willem De Kooning and the failed electrician painter played by Willem Dafoe in Basquiat. Deborah Kass, a.k.a. "The Broadway Baby," epitomizes the paradigm. She triumphantly opens with a show of pop painting chronicles this week at Paul Kasmin Gallery, with the powerful joint backing of Kasmin and Andymeister Vincent Fremont, after years without representation, and a creative struggle to get from under her self-created identity as Andy with a vagina.
If you've been around the contemporary scene since, at least the 1980s, any number of names will waft through your head on the mid-career model: Richard Tobias, a grid painter of subtle complexity who showed with Brooke Alexander for years; the great Jack Whitten, whose supple palette reflects years of living in the light of Greece; the Op artist Michael Scott; video comedienne Alix Pearlstein, who had a minirevival a few years back.
The hedgies, who just figured out who Martin Kippenberger and Richard Tuttle were last year in order to wreak their Manichean share-swapping games, might wish to step back and actually look at their collections, and, as Aby Rosen told The New York Times last week, start buying a few works for "$10,000 or 20,000." The way things are going, they and the young, immature artists that the hedgies bought up in droves will soon be waiting tables together. . . in China.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula(Smart Art Press).