What Happens When Art Becomes a Luxury Accessory? Martin Herbert, δημοσίευση στο ArtReview [21/12/2022]Marilena Pateraki
From ‘NGO aesthetics’ and OKish painting to the increasingly blurred lines between culture and high-end lifestyle: 2022 in the artworld
To misuse Édouard Glissant’s best-known metaphor, the contemporary art scene in 2022 resembled an archipelago. And one, moreover, in which there was limited interaction between its scattered isles. The Island of No Money, for example – as exemplified by the so-called ‘NGO aesthetics’ of ruangrupa’s problematic but conversation-changing Documenta and by a substantial tranche of reparative, ‘care’-inclined institutional programming – appears far removed from the Island of Almost All the Money, aka the auction houses. In the latter, prices of $100–150 million for a painting are being normalised (and if you were buying a Warhol Marilyn at Christie’s this May, make that $195m), and hardly anyone in these gilded salesrooms is looking at those noisy, righteously indignant protestors chez No Money, with their resistance to commodities and fondness for limited-time events, music, food, etc. The chief manner in which protest and expensive art connected this year – aside from ongoing fundraisers for Ukraine, where seven Banksy murals also showed up recently, and Pussy Riot funding themselves by performing at Art Basel Miami Beach – was through the Gen-Z media savvy of the Just Stop Oil activists. The latter’s divisive, virality-chasing dousing of glassed museum artworks with comestibles more arguably constituted 2022’s most visible aesthetic innovation, inside of galleries at least: mixed media for end times.
The common hallmark of all the above is extremity, along the vectors of finance and feeling. Outside of this there were – as always – some great individual exhibitions; but this isn’t a top-ten list, as single shows don’t tend to concretise trends. Contrarily, as was apparent if you foolhardily entered any art fair this year with ambitions other than ethnography, the commercial scene (aka the Island of the Rest of the Money) remains primarily infatuated with OKish painting. In an upgrade on the last few years, though, the market increasingly favours both kinds of OKish painting, figurative and abstract, like that bar in The Blues Brothers that offered both kinds of music, country and western. Plus, it’s skewing younger and towards figures comfortable being profiled in fashion magazines, with galleries increasingly keen to chivalrously rescue adept young daubers like Anna Weyant, Louise Giovanelli and Jadé Fadojutimi from spending any time languishing in the post-graduation wilderness. In museums, too, and on the level of plaudits, representation continues to improve for women and artists of colour – Black women won the Turner Prize and Golden Lions at Venice this year – though, according to the latest Burns Halperin Report on the demographics of institutional purchasing, this isn’t translating into museum acquisitions, and the relative permanence and visibility they represent.
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