A Currrent Perspective for Visual Artists
The Auction Houses, now privatized, are setting record-breaking sales and profits on artwork from the last century however well beyond the likelihood that will have any effect on your immediate future.
The museums and galleries, once the only foot-in-the-door for emerging artists are closed, their revenue is dwindling, and laying off employees many of whom are artists dependent on a bi-weekly income. The museums remaining budgets are earmarked for management salaries, collections and building maintenance. Most of the commercial galleries are facing the same predicament, paying rent on premium storefront properties, also closed to public while the average collector is forced to limit their spending on necessities.
Sadly, it doesn’t appear that on-line exhibits and sales are making up the difference as artist collectives and cooperatives are likewise facing an uncertain economic crunch due to Covid-19 restrictions and a generally poor economy overall. (Who wants to attend a virtual art opening when the dominant activity wasn’t looking but being seen?)
Art Schools and University Art Departments are laying off teachers and adjuncts while the remaining teachers have yet to renew their contracts – the consequence being a loss of academic credentials, a loss of subsidized studio spaces within the institution, and a loss of income for those artist/teachers who would use a portion of that income for studio rent, materials and labor for large projects, if and when those opportunities might resume.
Arts Agencies and Foundations responsible for disbursing monies for public arts projects and individual merit are also likely to be facing the same staff and budget cuts.
So… what are individual artists to do without the promise of an income from their work or exposure to potential collectors? (A promise that never held any potential for a sustained income for all but a handful of artists even in the most lucrative years of art market sales.)
Can artists expect to see emergency government subsidies for the arts? Again, not likely. Governmental funding for the arts rarely goes directly to artists. And even if there were a push to fund artists in such an emergency that is certain to go to commercial artists with a proven business record (or academic credentials), not to everyone who claims to be an artist with a minor record of exhibitions.
One scenario will be that many artists will simply throw in the towel; give up art making and look to other less demanding, more stable means of income. Fine Arts departments will drop studio classes for lack of enrollment and replace them with those who seek careers in arts management, curatorial studies, art therapy and cultural history.
Another more positive scenario dependent more on the artists own initiatives could be as simple and cost effective as actual solidarity; foregoing the competition for individual success for the joy of mutual accomplishment, sharing resources and materials, building community within existing communities for active long-term support opposed to pandering to outside agencies for one-time awards or to anonymous collectors for a token sale. – making art to actively spite false hopes, fantasies of artworld success, and unrealistic expectations never intended or offered for sustained fruition.
The Garden _ 11.2020
Dark Angel _ 11.2020
Yakshi _ 10.2020
Slideshow Books 1-7 -2010/20
Drawing 45 (Romeo and Juliet social distancing) _ 05.2020
Drawing 44 _ 05.2020
Drawing 43 _ 05.2020
Drawing 42 _ 05.2020
Serpent scroll _ 2020
Serpent Mask _ 2020
Scrolls and Banners
Holiday greeting 2019.
ART AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Rather than creating an individualized and select culture of “Support for the Arts” in service to wealth and global marketplace values, we should be relentlessly challenging the institutionalized direct and indirect economic exploitation of artists and Their Immediate Communities.
The effective difference between support for the arts and support for artists universally mirrors precisely the economic difference between the most impoverished and the super-wealthy.
As most aspects of capitalism are found to be ultimately unsustainable so is the relative stability of artists or any group that perceives its existence dedicated to the line-item budget of government largesse. Free universal college and trade-school tuition and healthcare aren’t merely giveaways in a Socialist agenda, it is an address to poverty, a vital investment towards a stable workplace economy and the permanence of indigenous and self-sustaining communities rich in their own defined cultural values.
We live in a world tipped in a precarious balance. If the earth were to wobble off-course or alter its gravitational pull for one moment we’d fall flat on our faces in the dirt. If the average worldwide temperature were to rise permanently 10 or 20 degrees most of the landmasses we live on would soon be underwater. When CO2 emissions exceed the amount that the remaining forests can absorb efficiently, we will have poisoned the air we breathe. When we have sufficiently polluted the water table there’ll be nothing to drink but acid rain. The medical effects of contaminated food supply are already being felt.
We live in a culture of self-destruction and unsustainable consumption in which that what we refer to as “cultured” or culture such as the arts do not reconcile. We create not to grow or to pass along valuable information to subsequent generations, but to market. Values are reduced to their immediate profitable economic viability – a standard to which many artists in current society are fully complicit with no concept for an alternative.
Those multitudes of both large and microscopic cultures within our wholistic natural environment are reconciled with one another intrinsically. The various cultures with the living world outside of humanity are vitally interdependent. Sadly, and tragically, much of human culture believes itself to be dominant and independent of everything else. In the natural world, there is no dominant culture or culture that is independent of any other living organism. Likewise, socially in the human spectrum there is no community that is dominant or independent of any other community. We depend on one another whether we like it or not.
If artists are tasked with any tangible or constructive purpose it is to underscore this; to represent our chosen community in moral and life-sustaining cultural relationships to other communities within our complex growing environment. Creativity is only one aspect of human accomplishment. Preservation is all.
Against Extravagant Monumentalism, Art Spectacle and the Cult of Billionaires.
“Billionaires shouldn’t exist.” – Bernie Sanders
Until the 1960’s a painter generally might attempt three or four wall-sized paintings in their lifetime and the limits for a large sculpture were roughly the length of Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais” or height of his “Balzac”; the sculptor David Smith’s oeuvre comes to mind. And it wasn’t simple modesty on the part of artists that kept the dimensions of artwork from becoming grossly inflated, it was an economic practicality. Unless a patron came forward with the funds to commission a large work prior to its creation most artists simply couldn’t afford the cost of materials, storage and handling.
Since then, however, and particularly at present there appears to be no limit to the space that the average artwork is entitled to consume. Promoted largely by museums, biennales and art fairs in search of greater spectacle and record-breaking attendance numbers from the public, monumentalism in art has taken on the aspect and funding of a minor NASA space project.
Who pays for such ostentation? Answer; you the public in the increased cost of individual ticket sales and attendance fees, in the corporatization of art institutions towards a culture that both reflects and promotes the lifestyle that only a 100 acre estate with a 50 room mansion full of expensive artwork could support, tax laws that favor wealthy collectors and corporations with prominent board members who “donate” to large short-term vanity projects in return for advertisement, and the same laws that permit the same large corporate-driven intuitions to operate tax-free under a “non-profit” umbrella while still largely supporting a record profit-making art market with your tax dollars.
Who are the artists who gain from large museum-size works? The list grows every year after every new exhibition season from a pool of cherry-picked artist celebrities with “factories” of low-paid or volunteer “helpers” and the ability to hedge the costs of large projects towards a return in profit for anyone willing to underwrite their fabrication, insurance fees, installation and ultimate storage or wasteful demolition – and certainly not the average artist living on a less-than-average budget filing the allowed tax loss on the sales against their self-employed business every two or three years.
How to reign this absurd trend and put a final end to it? As the bulk of these incursions on public property can safely be categorized as oversize art-school assignments it might also be safe to conclude that the ‘bigger is better’ phenomenon can and should be abolished as a standard in art school curriculum as frankly, unsustainable, not only in environmental terms, but as the cost in materials, space, and individual manpower is far beyond the scope that all but the wealthiest or wealthiest-connected artists could ever afford economically. As publicly-funded billboards for the moneyed-class in an urban environment that otherwise regulates the size and placement of visual and traffic obstructive commercial promotions, such ‘art in public places’ should be included. And, just as a border wall or the redundant Civil-war general on a pedestal in the public square is seen to be both obsolete and more often offensive, so are many of the monstrosities currently replacing those.