Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The D.I.Y. Artist

In Lauren Collins's article on Banksy in The New Yorker (the May 14th issue), the elusive artist says:

I don't think art is much of a spectator sport these days. I don't know how the art world gets away with it, it's not like you hear songs on the radio that are just a mess of noise and then the d.j. says, "If you read the thesis that comes with this, it would make more sense."

Really! How do they get away with it? One wonders. But they do because there are so many more people wanting art—people who are willing, it seems, to spend millions of dollars on absolutely anything ($11 million for a Peter Doig? c’mon!)--than there is good art out there. On the other hand music, creatively, is thriving. (I happen to be stuck on the Silversun Pickups, at the moment, and the new Shins, waiting for the new Spoon, Sigur Ros...one could happily o.d. just on bands whose names begin with S.) A roundtable of critics and d.j.s on NPR recently agreed that there’s more good music out there than one can reasonably keep up with—because bands are no longer dependent on record labels, and musicians are not necessarily aiming for ultimate stardom as much as they are into their music and wanting to perform it.

With music we have a voice. The money we spend on downloads and concert tickets are like votes for what we like. But there are a million gatekeepers between us and whatever art could be possible: art schools looking for well-heeled applicants who’ve been good students and are inclined to fill out forms, galleries who won’t talk to artists without knowing where they went to school, curators with careers at stake, collectors wanting to protect their investments. It’s a conglomeration of financial and social self-interest that seems more like a Second Life art world than a real life one—and into which we, as artists, and even critics (Jerry Saltz is fond of pointing out that in spite of his constant bashing of her work, Marlene Dumas’s prices only go up) have zero input. It used to be our art world and then suddenly somebody bought it out from under us, changed the carpeting and put up the wrong curtains.

Maybe Banksy, who seems to be making a lot of money in spite of himself, will help us buy it back.

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