Sales: Galleries and Critics
Now, everyone wanted to be the next famous gallery owner or art critic to discover “the next big thing”. They became the rock stars as much as, if not more so than, the artists. For they made money and went to parties, which people like Woody Allen made infamous. Artists were romanticized, their lives captured and presented for consumption in huge coffee table books, so everyone could not just understand and appreciate art, but actually get into the minds of heroically hyped “Gods’ of Art, and therefore be them. But no true artist wants to have his life dissected and simplified for consumption. They are workers, making objects to stimulate and connect people to life, to feel it intensely, and find meaning. The artists lives themselves are irrelevant, the work is all. When successful, it should trigger spiritual feelings of fulfillment, and purpose. Passions should be the same as when entering Yosemite Valley in the spring, the works of God surrounding us, of eternity, of life, of belonging in the immensity of creation. The Sistine ceiling conveys this powerfully, as does Stonehenge, the Pyramids, and Goya’s Third of May. The Olympics have now been similarly packaged, sentimental stories told by sympathizing, emoting hucksters, while the purpose of the athletes work, their performance, gets lost on hidden cable channels. Their stories are soon forgotten, to be replaced by others, and their hard work in competition never seen or appreciated.
So now artists, like pop stars and athletes, are packaged for consumption. For pop, the package is the product. Meant to be viewed, used, and disposed of. It has no shelf life. It is the product of media, to be sold by the new self-promoting Vollard, or professional hypester Rosenberg. Critics and gallery owners now become more famous than the producers they hype, by naming new movements, and attaching their stars, paychecks, and careers to their stable of wannabe professional artists.
But the product was disappearing. After a last gasp of Modernism in the WWII generation, from Pollock to Diebenkorn and Tamayo, inertia grasped the art world. What happened? The media and salesmanship had overtaken meaning itself, with critics quoting Marshall McLuhan every other article, to justify their paychecks. When the quote itself had been a warning, not a goal. A burgeoning need for product hastened a new academy. Not a limited structural hierarchy as before, one that could easily be discredited and replaced by “the next big thing”. But one that could be controlled and defanged, one based on fallacy and vanity, serving the needs of the wealthy. One that became so marginalized mediocritized, and self absorbed, it was irrelevant to real life, and so removed as a true threat to the powers that be. Removed from everyday concerns, the masses lost all interest in it.
The art school of the nineteenth century was run by the official Academy, court appointed hacks that backed the status quo, with a few exceptional artists, like Delacroix and Ingres. After that all great artists were self-taught, or as Cézanne said, the Louvre is my teacher. All early moderns went to, and dropped out of, different art schools. No great artist has ever graduated from an art school. Or taught at one but briefly. Schools by definition are self-perpetuating and teach accepted techniques, and so self interested and conservative. They are professional and standard creating, analyzing past life, as an autopsy is to breathing. Infatuated with the individual, the paying student and themselves, and fundraising. In music also, artists from Miles Davis to Wynton Marsalis have dropped out of Julliard and Berklee, going on the road with the real teachers, performing artists who had actually created themselves. In art it is always true, those who can do, those who can’t teach, and get a degree. It is a commodity toward professionalism, not creative art.
The American art school had always been used both as a training academy to produce work acceptable to the current ideas of the wealthy, and as a finishing school for young ladies preparing for marriage into society. The two have now been blended, as grants are given by trust funds and charitable organizations run for and by the rich. They are playgrounds for their children, and others who have bought into the castrating ideology of “Meism”. A few are publicized as rebels and trendsetters, such as Basquiat, a middle class black youth of rather limited ability. A promising student at his best, romanticized to both promote and excuse the excesses and irrelevancy of sheltered privilege. A token, who had bought into the pop lifestyle and self absorbed ideology, using drugs not out of rebellion, but decadence. Government funds are lobbied for, and administered by, wealthy interests whose tax deductible contributions therefore come right back to them, rather than paying for essential public needs, such as education, healthcare, ecology, jobs, and funding a war they created.
Creation and Purpose
For what is creative art? “Art” covers a huge array of activities, such as applied arts, learned skills necessary for life and everyday activities, that utilize creativity for a given purpose. But art lacks subdivisions to explain purpose, and one word covers a huge variety of quality and intent. Music has categories, for better and worse. Miles hated the term jazz, saying it was a white mans word, he was just making more music. But when categorizing by type, at least one can wind ones way through the variety of purpose and quality of music. Jazz is the quintessential American art form, blues, bluegrass, R&B, even country often having great worth also. But most is entertainment. Creative artists seek to master their craft to get beyond their own individuality, to become one with the universe and contribute to its growth. They aim to trigger in the viewer or listener an intensification of life, of caring for, and becoming part of our world. It is losing oneself in Nature, the Universe, God. Entertainment, pop in its current form, is about glorifying the individual, and so by identifying itself with a pop god, the mass becomes more than itself. Losing ones cares, not dealing with them, and feeling superior through their chosen deity. This can be addicting, a drug, and so easily marketable.
What is its purpose? For Purpose is everything. It is what it has always been. From cave art to Michelangelo to Picasso, it is about, who are we? Does life have meaning? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Gauguin asked these questions, as did John Coltrane. It is about God. Not of dogmatic religion, though art has always been at its service, but of the eternal. The search to build upon our past, not ignoring it, but adding our current experiences on those who came before, to understand what makes us human. It is about We. Understanding who we are as humans and our culture, moving into the future as a society, and world. It is bit-by-bit defining who we are and bonding together.
All great explosions in art have come about not because of individuals, but changes in society, knowledge of who we are, and our place in the Universe. Egyptian, Hellenic, Pre-Columbian, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic art all exploded into life when societies formed, civilization crystallized, and ideas about life matured. Tribal arts from all over the globe appealed to gods for life to continue, nature to spare them and nourish their crops. It defined a people, giving them identity as a whole, not individually. Ones identity within the group came next, and art strictly for group religion became a personal quest for meaning as well. Western art developed in the Renaissance because of new knowledge, that uncovered from the ancients, and physical knowledge, science, which redefined their presence in the universe, and who they were. Another bigger explosion, from Darwin, Einstein, and the Industrial Revolution led to Modernism. Attempts to redefine who we are led to new art built on the past, with our new knowledge added, much changing our notions about our very being. Artists such as Braque and Picasso no longer bothered to sign their works, they knew they did not matter any more than anyone else, we were all built of the same stuff, trees, animals, rock, air. It was not about individualism, not self-expression, which is for children, and those who wished to market them.
Psychology and fetishism now rule the day, forms of decadence, not vitality. The market are those who can afford over priced and hyped work, to both exhibit their wealth, and speculate on their investments. Pop has focused on music and film. It brings in more money on a mass scale. Interior decorators create atmospheres matching furniture and flooring, buying abstract designs and figurative art as wallpaper, for clients who seldom know what they truly want. But the majority of galleries for the wealthy are either accepted Masters, or work that reflect the needs and vanities of the clientele. Many have psychologists to deal with their unresolved issues and frustrations, finding success in monetary terms has not translated into happiness, which has become fools gold. Happiness actually being a short term state, which drugs, entertainment, and societies fixation on instant gratification, has made all important, mistaking it for life’s goal. When in truth it is a by-product of fulfilled purpose and contentment. Most painting is now their children’s work, reflecting insecurities and need for self-validation. They seek bought self worth, instead of earning it.
Modernism went beyond the previous prosaic and illustrative work with ones based on music and poetry, the oneness of all in the chaos. Line as melody, color became harmony, and the structure built by Cezanne on knowledge of our physical oneness with the world, gave rhythm. A rhythm European music could never build, but came about in Modernisms musical equivalent, jazz. But Modernism split Cézannes atomic apple over and over, until finally there wasn’t enough left to work with. As building a signature style for commercial purposes became more important than the works own integrity. Art is built of relationships. Stripped of them, it is simply decoration. Then, first pop, now self-expression and willfully ignorant self-adulation has taken over. Leading to decadence and arrogant distancing from the rest of humanity.
And the art schools supply their needs. The film Art School Confidential has a good bead on it. Ones about the sprawling myopic gallery scene and bloated museum industry have yet to be created. As Eisenhower warned of the Military-Industrial Complex threat, so the small art world should have taken heed of the Museo-Artschool-Gallery Complex, a self perpetuating agenda based on its own needs, not the real worlds. Culture is based on the past, adding links with acquired knowledge. Sciences are not taught in these schools. Not economics, history, religion, physical activity and development, all the things that make us human. No sexuality, no love, no passion, no sacrifice, no charity. Only a bloated sense of self-importance, as if the rest of the world should pay attention to their unknowing ramblings and desires. The lessons are dated, mediocre, and redundant. Creativity cannot be taught, it must be earned. Talent is nice, but many hacks have some of that. Cézanne by schools definition would have little, as did Einstein, but their devotion, study, and ability to bring together supposedly disparate ideas created new ways of viewing the Universe, so we are able to understand it more, from the information we are constantly receiving. This took years of self disciplined study, of the best and newest solid information, not a few years in over aged daycare centers. As Cézanne said, art is a priesthood. These are no monks.