This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY and Art Fag City. Disclaimer: This author's views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
A recent FineArtViews comment exchange between Kimberly S. Reed-Deemer and Amy Guidry -- in response to an article by Mark Edward Adams -- suggested that art collectors (and I'll add, art lovers and professionals in general) should look for art away from the beaten path of the mainstream art world / art market. I agree with this call for exploration. Those who follow my writing know that I feel that the mainstream museum and gallery 'worlds' have failed to look at art in the United States with a wider scope. Their searches tend to stop just outside the city limits of major cultural centers (New York City, Miami, Chicago... etc.). The US art world needs an Age of Discovery now more than ever.
The 'big city' art scenes are important -- I won't deny that. However, there is a WORLD of art outside of those respected communities. You WILL find great art in NYC, for example, but there is also potential to discover great art in smaller communities throughout the United States. Only someone who is ignorant of our times -- and the wider world of art within the United States -- would suggest otherwise.
There has long been more than enough professional bigotry within the mainstream art world to go around in regard to how art and artists outside of these major cities are generalized -- lumped together. Over the years I've heard/read it all -- everything from "small town artists only make 'Jesus art'" to "any artist who does not move to *enter big city name* does not take his/her art seriously". Statements like this only serve to reveal the ignorance and prejudice of the individual spouting them.
Statements like those mentioned above are made by individuals who wish to place boundaries over the wider world of art (some due to convenience -- and others out of pure ignorance). Unfortunately, I've read/heard said statements made by artists and art professionals -- two groups one would assume would have a more open-mind when it comes to art in general. The boundaries they create-- specifically professional boundaries -- offer a comfort zone for the individual who adheres to them. I for one think that it is time to look beyond those comfort zones.
In my opinion, if we are to take art in the United States seriously we must take art outside of those 'big art scene' communities more seriously -- the US art world, in general, needs more consideration. Art professionals need to stop clinging to the comfort zone of the usual locations -- and look beyond the nest, if you will. Anything less is a water-downed version of what is happening with US art in the 'here and now'.
I'm not going to tell commercial gallery owners what they should be doing per se in regard to discovering marketable art outside of their professional comfort zone. After all, most galleries are a private business -- so those owners can cling to whatever standard they desire. However, I do think that influential museum directors and art curators should be thinking outside of the box -- and outside of their city limits when it comes to art in the United States in general. Instead it often appears that we see more of the same -- same faces, same names, same art, same connections. It has become a cycle that rarely focuses on discovery.
In my opinion, this cycle of familiarity (or should I say, comfort?) within the museum 'world' happens because museums have become such a fixture within the mainstream art market (both at gallery and at auction) in the sense that involvement with museum exhibits tend to increase the value of an artist within the art market overall (I'm sure we can all name an art museum director who was once an art dealer). Thus, I'd suggest that the art museum 'world' -- in general -- has been carefully guarded for decades... rather than focusing on a legitimate exchange of education and preservation. The public has not received the whole story about art within the United States.
If our museums were to truly embrace a pure direction of discovery and preservation of art today -- overall -- it would be a cog in the mainstream art market machine... and yet these professional positions come with responsibility -- and part of that responsibility should be to preserve the art of today in general. They owe it to the public -- especially if the public helps fund their efforts in some way. If that were to become a museum focus (as it should be) -- the mainstream commercial gallery owners would catch on. Trust me -- they would have no other choice if they desire to remain culturally viable.
Establishing an age of wider art world discovery among the majority of art professionals within the United States is no easy task. The professional fortifications, if you will, are as strong as ever -- and they all link back to the mainstream art market if you read between the lines ( or should I say, exhibit catalogues?). The cycle mentioned earlier is spurred by professional influence regardless of what the public knows IS happening in art today. We KNOW that our art museums have failed us -- and that institutional examination/critique of art rarely goes beyond professional elbow-rubbing. Professional influence defeats reason when dollar signs dictate the direction of how art is preserved in our museums-- it has weakened our museums and our culture.
The cycle makes a mockery of art in general. When an influential art collector (and art investor known to support art initiatives in general -- think the likes of Charles Saatchi) barks you can bet that a long line of art critics, art historians and gallerists will yap back due to the name drop and dollar signs alone... sniffing around the purchase -- wagging their tails -- all rearing up as close as they can get to the dominate dog. The mainstream art market is so phallic -- so primal. The mainstream art market is so obvious. The mainstream art world is oblivious to what is going on in the wider world of art. You know this. I know this. Those 'esteemed' professionals know this. The public -- as a whole -- knows this. The mainstream art world money machine should NOT be the sole consideration for deciding what ends up preserved in our museums -- yet it appears to happen all the time.
(Note: I'm not against 'big money' or the art market in general. I am against dollar signs dictating what is preserved within the context of our collective visual heritage. Documentation of current directions in art on the museum level should be about us -- who we are in the past, present and future-- not about bank statements. Our museums should be open to a plethora of ideas expressed visually -- representing ALL walks of life and ALL directions in art... not just the visual 'playground' of the wealthy and influential based on the boundaries they allow themselves to be contained in. I'm against institutions that are supposed to capture the spirit of our times from one generation to the next being reduced to a mere gear in the machine mentioned above.)
I do think that it is time to explore art off the beaten path in the United States 'art world' -- it is time for an age of discovery, if you will, to take place within the art world as a whole. Our museums have -- for the most part -- failed to discover and preserve art outside of major city limits. There is a 'world' of art in the United States that has gone under the mainstream radar simply because most professionals within the mainstream gallery and museum 'world' fail to really 'look' for art today. Discovery is the furthest thing from their minds -- they tend to only explore known waters. Their collective incompetence has created a facade that has no chance of remaining stable within this age of information. It is as if they are telling us that the 'art world' is flat when we know it is round.
In closing, a new age of 'art world' discovery in the United States is long overdue. The art is out there -- and now it can be seen -- and secure a strong base of admirers -- due to the Internet. The US art history books of tomorrow are going to be a joke if art critics, museum directors/curators and art historians cling to the old system -- the same old cycle -- and continue to disregard art that is not exhibited within the professional strongholds of their comfort zone. The time to venture forth is now. Those who take steps back -- cling to standards fueled by dollar signs alone -- will certainly be discredited in the future. In the end art will proclaim "Vae victis" over all who strive to contain it within boundaries. Explore.
Take care, Stay true,