From the Editor
When I sat down on Sunday evening to watch Morley Safer’s 60 Minutes exposé on the contemporary art world I went in with low expectations. His first story, circa-1993, hadn’t set a very high bar and as it turned out, this one maintained the same standard. No real surprise there, I don’t look to CBS for a nuanced look at art. Wandering the isles of Art Basel Miami Beach, or, as Safer called it, “an upscale flea market,” he cloaked his aesthetic judgements in the guise of a story about the shocking amount of money a portion of artists and dealers are making. Monetary gain is apparently an artist's new worst crime. Smugly, he plugged just how controversial his 1993 art world story had been, proudly flashed his philistines badge, flippantly questioned whether or not objects qualified for the label of art, schmoozed with market luminaries Jeffrey Deitch, Larry Gagosian, Tim Blum and Eli Broad amongst others and moaned about artspeak. Standard uninspired fodder for attacks from people for whom contemporary art will always represent a travesty and artists a gaggle of tricksters.
The trouble is not Safer’s dislike of contemporary art or his confusion in front of it, but that it manifested itself in a series of sweeping generalizations that assumed much about artists and the art world without acknowledging that he was addressing a singular, über-minute slice of that world—the art market. Semi-informed white knight-journalists storming the art world castle to expose some perceived injustice is nothing new. The lack of regulation, clear ethics, quantifiable truths and definitions of success that align with traditional value systems stymie the reporters of the world for whom truth, clear ethical guidelines and hard facts are a touchstone. Network television's portrayal of one small, stereotypical aspect of the art world at the expense of all others, while disappointing, should come as no surprise. After-all, it's easier, and far more lucrative, to perpetuate popular generalizations—the myth of the art world as a monocultural behemoth full of ‘strange’ people, for example—than it is to contradict them.1
Contemporary arts naysayers rarely offer an alternative in their traditionalist sniping, though it’s understood that everything that came before was better than what's happening now—a situation not unique to art. Impressionism! Back to the 60’s! Viva Realismo! Sadly that brand of nostalgia reflects a shallow understanding and ultimately bleak vision of art and culture wherein all artists work in an approved manner, forever cranking out digestible widgets with unchanging techniques, adhering to a rule book and seeking approval by popular vote. Ironically, the historical idols—Manet, Van Gogh, Monet, etc.—championed by many as an antidote to the contemporary were once popularly decried in the same manner as the Jeff Koons of the world are today. Safer’s story reflects a larger cultural ill. Too often when we’re faced with something that sparks confusion, is difficult to understand or doesn’t align with our personal taste and value system, it is promptly dismissed without thought and labelled illegitimate. When followed to its end this is dangerous logic. If a time comes when everyone agrees on what art is, isn’t ever troubled by it and all of the messiness, difference and incomprehensibility has been hygienically scrubbed from it, that's when we’re in real trouble.2
Our first issue this month reflects, on a modest scale, the diversity of perspectives, media and locales that make up the art world and contemporary art practice. Color Photography, curated by Francis Colpitt, at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts is the topic of University of Dallas Assistant Professor Catherine Caesar’s skillful review. Continuing the thread of interviews with directors and curators, Yale M.B.A candidate Claire Ruud sits down with The Blanton Museum of Arts director Simone Wicha, who’s flying under the radar yet making some key new hires after her appointment last year. From Houston Rice University PhD student Melissa Venator writes thoughtfully on New York-based artist Demetrius Oliver’s exhibition, Azimuth, at the Inman Gallery. The Public Art Fund’s outdoor exhibition space at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn is currently host to the group exhibition A Promise is a Cloud, which writer and curator Sarah Demeuse offers her insight into. Rounding out this issue our Project Space comes from New York-based artist Ryan Lauderdale, whose engaging work should be familiar to the Austinites amongst our readership.
As always we welcome your feedback and participation in the little slice of art world pie that is ...might be good. Email us at: email@example.com.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
1. Roberta Smith’s response concludes with a sentence that rings true: ‘The obsessions of others are opaque to the unobsessed, and thus easy to mock. Nascar, jazz, baseball, roses, poetry, quilts, fishing. If we’re lucky, we all have at least one.’ http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/02/morley-safer-launches-a-halfhearted-salvo-in-his-war-on-the-art-world/#.
2. Jerry Saltz’s Safer rebuttal, which leads with the sentiment: ‘Art is for anyone, it just isn’t for everyone.’ is worth a read and can be found here: http://www.vulture.com/2012/04/jerry-saltz-on-morley-safer-60-minutes-art-world.html.