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. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 17,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. 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.
Artist Lorette C. Luzajic, writing for Canada Free Press, recently offered criticism of art-focused Occupy Wall Street splinter movements -- such as Occupy Art World (OAW) and Occupy Museums (OM). Luzajic placed most of her critical attention on Occupy Museums due to the fact that OM has clear leadership whereas other art-focused Occupy movements tend to be directed anonymously. Long story short: Luzajic implies that the most vocal members of Occupy Museums are opportunists -- and suggest that their supporters, if successful in protest, will usher in an age of socialism / communism within our cultural institutions. Point blank -- Lorette Luzajic implies that art-focused Occupy Wall Street splinter movements are dangerous and that the United States art community should not be supporting them.
I do appreciate some of the criticism offered by artist Lorette Luzajic concerning Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums -- opinions concerning the roles of these Occupy Wall Street inspired movements should be open for debate. Unfortunately Luzajic does not offer much room for amicable discussion in that she lumps 'Occupiers' together as a single-minded mass of protesters. She stated, "I am NOT the 99%- I am an individual human being. You cannot lump me in with the lowest common denominator clamoring for a return to the destructive systems of socialism or communism. You do not speak for me.". In reality these individuals -- as with Occupy Wall Street in general -- take up the banner of the movement for a variety of reasons. In other words, one Occupier may not agree with another Occupier on specific issues. In that sense, the movement -- in general -- is very fluid... it is a diverse community.
Luzajic makes it very clear that she is pro-capitalism -- and implies that all Occupiers support an anti-capitalist agenda. True, there are some Occupiers who would like nothing more than to see capitalism overthrown -- however, the average Occupier I've spoken with simply wants those in financial power to take more responsibility / accountability... which -- perhaps someone should remind Luzajic -- is a basic principle of capitalism. In the case of Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums -- they represent individuals who want our cultural institutions to take more responsibility / accountability... and to be more open to the arts in general. I personally don't see anything wrong with that demand -- especially if tax dollars are involved.
Concerning the individuals behind Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums Luzajic stated, "As an artist, and a person on the lower rungs of the class ladder, I am furious at the audacity of these self-serving freeloaders who spew viciousness, ignorance, and hatred and pretend it's all about community.". Again, the average Occupy Art World / Occupy Museums protester simply wants more diversity in our cultural institutions -- diversity beyond the strongholds of the mainstream art market. Point blank -- many OAW and OM supporters want museums and other institutions -- specifically those that receive public/state funding -- to discover art beyond the mainstream art world. As I've pointed out in past FineArtViews articles -- museums should already be doing that...
In her criticism Luzajic is missing (perhaps by choice) a large chunk of what movements like Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums are about. This is how I view it -- museums in the United States have failed to document and preserve the expanding world of art within the US art community as whole. Museum directors and curators tend to focus on what is going on within the mainstream art world -- for example, the gallery world of NYC (and we all know how limited it can be). That narrow scope of attention is focused almost entirely on what is trending within specific circles of wealthy art collectors and prominent art dealers. Thus, our museums end up preserving art based on dollar signs and name-dropping rather than cultural/societal significance.
For clarification -- I'm not suggesting that expensive works of art are not significant -- specific works of art involving big financial transactions may very well be of cultural / societal importance -- HOWEVER, there is a lot going on within the United States art community overall... a lot going on outside of the prominent NYC galleries -- a lot going on outside of the mainstream art market itself -- a lot going on that has cultural / societal significance... but will never be mentioned by the top US art magazines. That is why it is vital for our cultural institutions to look beyond bank statements, glossy pages and red carpet art galleries.
Sadly, entire directions of art within the United States -- including art movements -- are often ignored by our cultural institutions until an extremely influential art dealer OR wealthy art collector takes notice. That is NOT how our visual heritage, if you will, should be preserved. Our museums should be doing more to discover what is going on in the wider world of art within the United States. It is time to enlarge the scope. It is time to discover, document and preserve. I'm certain that Luzajic would agree -- and find common-ground with Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums -- if she put her own prejudice aside.
Toward the closing of her article Lorette Luzajic implied that supporters of Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums -- and I assume Occupy Wall Street protesters in general-- are cowards. She pulled the 'guilt card' by stating, "It's time to bite the hand that doesn't feed us, the hand that takes away the rights and freedoms of our fellow artists in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia et al. Of course, that means real risk- risking prison, risking death. None of these protesters have the balls to "occupy" communism or Islamism.". I 'get' what Luzajic is saying -- even though she lacks tact and is clearly trying to make US protesters feel guilty. Again, she is missing the point of art-focused Occupy movements in general.
Luzajic's sensationalist approach to criticizing US citizens for criticizing cultural / societal issues in their own 'backyard' is absurd. Like them or not... these Occupy fueled art movements are a clear expression of our liberty. By all means, question them -- but don't imply that they are cowards for taking on one of the most solid 'fortifications' of the mainstream art world in the United States. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with tackling issues at 'home' -- these protesters should not feel guilty for raising their voice.
Lorette Luzajic ended her article by warning that Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums protesters are attempting to "usher in more of the most extreme oppression, suppression and repression in the world." She went on to suggest that these Occupiers don't appreciate the "blood that has bought our freedom to paint, to have paints, to pursue a living wage, and to paint any message we see fit.". She ignores the fact that both movements appreciate liberty -- and display it. Both HAVE been fighting for art, better wages for art professions and for more diversity within the United States art community overall. Aspects of the mainstream art world with the United States ARE oppressive / restrictive at this time -- in my opinion we need more groups like Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums to expand the conversation about art in the United States.
In closing, I for one would like to remind Lorette Luzajic that the 'environment' of our cultural institutions in general -- and you can add our art schools to the list -- have long avoided specific themes in art... and clearly show favoritism for specific themes that oppose the themes that often end up being 'silenced'. The art world -- in general -- needs to be more open-minded... and learn to tolerate a plethora of ideas expressed in art. You may not like the message of the artwork -- but that does not mean it should be 'blocked' from the realms of institutional critique. If you follow my writing you know exactly of what I speak. Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums appear to be like-minded when it comes to an appreciation for openness... we need to see more of that coming from the United States art community.
Take care, Stay true,