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Artist takes stand against Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums

by Brian Sherwin on 1/26/2012 9:45:20 PM

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,


Brian Sherwin

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Related Posts:

The Occupy Art World Problem

Occupy Wall Street: Should the Art World be Occupied?

Occupy Museums: What do you want from OUR museums?

Art World Age of Discovery: Is it time to discover art off the beaten path in the United States?

Social Media and Art -- What can Facebook tell us about Art and Public Opinion?

Why Occupy Wall Street makes some art world insiders nervous

Of Art Movements and Trademarks...

FineArtViews Interview: James Panero -- Art Critic and Managing Editor for The New Criterion

Art and Politics: Why there should be a balance of political views expressed visually at public funded art museums

Topics: art criticism | art museums | Brian Sherwin | FineArtViews | Think Tank 

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While I agree you have to be suspicious of leaders as opportunist.
The other parts are less agreeable.
Let's start with the "lowest common denominator" of OWS:
1. Audit the Federal Reserve
2. Reinstate the Glass-Stegall act and stop bank deregulation.
Support H.R. 1489: Return to Prudent Banking Act of 2011
3. Reverse #08-205 by Amendment and end corporate person hood. Get money out of politics.
4. Overhaul the 1 percent corporate tax code. End the Bush Tax Cuts.
^ That's it. That's the point of OWS.
OWS is not against capitalism, it's against corruption.

Why should an artist care about the 99 percent?
Simple: you cannot sell art to people who do not have walls to hang it on.
Goldman Sachs stole 13 billion in illegal naked short CDs and bet against sub-prime mortgages with AIG. Collapse of Lehmon Bros. and AIG triggered global financial crisis. A global recession that costs us $20 trillion of dollars, made 30 million people unemployed and doubled USA finical debt. Banks concocted $14 trillion of toxic assets that SandP rated AAA between 2003 and 2008. These banks now store $1.6 trillion of excess Treasury debt on reserves at the Fed.
And people lost their homes. The lost their jobs.
Do not lose sight of that.
Mocking the anarchy of OWS is a pathetic way of saying “I will never be free,”¯ and a very cynical view of your fellow man: Saying “I cannot trust my fellows not to resort to barbarism when given their freedom.”¯ Saying, all of us must be slaves for my own protection.

Brian Sherwin
Samthor -- Excellent points. Hell, in this economy a lot of people have to think twice about buying a $6 poster.

I'd say that your average citizen likes art -- at least some kind of art -- but not enough to choose buying art over other expenses that are vital just to get by. Point blank -- your average Joe will think about rent and his car payment before thinking of buying art.

Kind of hard to support art when you can barely support yourself... and as you imply -- there are a lot of people just trying to survive.

Tim Holton

Excellent entry. I think your perspective is very sensible. Methinks Ms Luzajic doth protest too much. She's defending the indefensible for precisely the reasons you state.

But my first reaction in reading this piece was gladness to hear there IS an Occupy Art World and Occupy Museums. Especially since your post on Damien Hirst I've been thinking it would be great if there were. As Hirst's stature in the Art World (self-proclaimed) shows, it is every bit as decadent, if not materially destructive, as Wall Street. Museums rarely reflect the life of the whole community which they're typically supposed to serve, or the state or nation they're supposed to serve. Instead, they try to make themselves into another in a network of playhouses designed for the exclusive entertainment of a miniscule number of the world's billionaires.

Luzajic isn't a force to be reckoned with, though, because by insisting she's an individual detached from the rest of us, another subscriber to the absurd and absurdly undead philosophy of Ayn Rand, she's neutralized herself politically -- which accounts for the shrill, strident and irrational rant.

Brian Sherwin
Tim -- Thanks for reading and for offering your two cents on the topic.

You said, "Instead, they try to make themselves into another in a network of playhouses designed for the exclusive entertainment of a miniscule number of the world's billionaires.". Powerful statement.

If you think about it the mainstream art world itself -- as in the gallery world of NYC, London and so on... and the art magazines and other media that support them -- makes up a very small percentage within the wider world of art. We are told 'what is art' by a few voices that have the influence and money to cultivate the idea -- and those same voices DO tend to ridicule anything outside of their circle. The scope of our cultural institutions needs to widen.

Brian Sherwin
Caren -- Shepard Fairey stepped in with a poster contribution... but was quickly criticized for it. I seem to recall that he released an official apology. The main issue was 1.) he waited months to get behind Occupy (some have argued that he waited until it was 'safe'). 2.) the poster looked similar to images used by the Black Panthers in the late 60s - early 70s. A lot of people -- including some involved with the Panthers -- were offended by it.

Ronald Gillis
You do realize,Brian,that you have been describing a very traditional and historical path for recognizing art movements and the buying and selling of art.I am reminded of stories of how the impressionists and the fauvists and all manner of minor and major artists had to slog uphill against the status quo of the major galleries of the day.

We are watching and participating in a major shift in how we make,display and sell art.There will be false starts,glitches,failures,hucksters and shining successes.

Not to mention the learning curve that goes into mastering all this tech that previous generations never had to deal with.We will get this right....Ms.Luzajic will be swept away into the "dustbin of history"if she doesn't embrace change.

Brian Sherwin
Ronald -- I realize and can't put my popcorn down. ;p These ideas have long been around among artists and art lovers. Hell, the Stuckists were fighting a similar fight a decade ago -- and the mainstream art world scoffed. Occupy has been a game-changer in that the mainstream art world can't look away so easily. I see writers walking on eggshells -- nervous to be stamped as 'elite'.

I also know that a lot of people have compared -- long before Occupy -- the mainstream art world -- specifically the gallery world of NYC and London -- to the Academy of old. In other words, they have an iron grip on the direction of art... and may eventually lose it... or at least 'learn' to be more open-minded. Trust me -- that charge angers the Chelsea crowd.

If we are to see major change I'd say the time is now -- though this spirit of 'calling out' fueled by Occupy may just be the groundwork. The concern has always been there... but now it has a wider -- louder -- voice.

Kenneth Jensen
It appears the real intent of OWS and OM is being missed. All a person who is seeking real answers has to do Is look at their messages, what their actions and demands are. It is a simple matter to get of the internet the letter of intent sent to the Acquisitions Committee at the Museum of Modern Art. I Quote from that letter. “The immediate purpose of our protest was to call for an end to the nearly 6 month lockout of unionized art handlers from Teamsters Local 814 by the Sotheby”¯s auction house.”¯ It is a misrepresentation to characterize that statement as the average Occupy Art World / Occupy Museums protester simply wanting more diversity in our cultural institutions as you say. The letter even boldly admits a part of their protesters were union members. As a matter of fact the unions are infiltrated throughout OWS, OM, OS, etc. which makes their purpose not so pure or simply, as you infer, as being just for the arts. I think Lorette Luzajic is more on point than you would like to give her credit.
A big percentage of OM's letter of demand is about the banner they illegally hung from the 5th floor of the balcony in the museum. The irresponsible acts and disrespect for law do not add creditability to the idea that they are “simply”¯ wanting our cultural institutions to take more responsibility / accountability”¦ and be more open to the arts in general. As I see it actions speak lowder than words and their actions are more about a labor union dispute than about the arts even though they tack on the end of their letter to the museum the statement, “We believe that art and its history is part of the commons, and we are acting to take it back from corporate interests.”¯ The way I see it their real intent is in support of a labor dispute and their last statement is tacked on the end as an after thought in an attempt to lend credence to their disruptive demonstrations. Another point that substantiates my perspective is their use of the 99 percent number. They the OWS, OM and other splinter groups can justifiable claim that they represent 99 percent of the population. Again it shows their movements lack of creditability by trying to say they represent the 99 percent. In summery, the real intent of OM is mearly about the labor union dispute with Southby's and is not simply about responsibillity in art.

Kenneth Jensen
correction in my comment. They the OWS, OM and other splinter groups can't justifiable claim that they represent 99 percent of the population.

Brian Sherwin
Kenneth -- Occupy Museums has shown support for art workers (you will find that a lot of NY gallery owners and other art professionals also support the workers). True. However, that is not the only focus of OM -- and I'm fairly certain that alliance was forged after the founding of OM.

The banner dispute is recent news -- that was not their first protest. As far as physical protest goes... OM has been extremely active at several events. In other words, you can't look at just one protest among many in order to define them as a whole. It is not just about unions.

I realize that some people get upset when OWS, in general, uses the 99 percent line. If you don't agree with said use by all means speak out against it -- HOWEVER... I don't think it is right to stamp them all as 'communists' -- which is exactly what Luzajic did.

Brian Sherwin
Kenneth -- Luzajic also makes statements like:

"Money did not “dirty”¯ art- this was a bombastic bit of lunacy that could only be dreamed up by those basking in the lap of luxury and freedom and prosperity."

Money influences the direction of the art market, which influences prominent gallery owners, which influences what art critics write about, which influences what museum curators follow, which influences art historians. If you view art as mere investment I suppose that is fine -- but what about the cultural / societal significance of art beyond dollar signs?

The art history books -- for the most part -- might as well be printed on dollar bills. I for one have a problem with that. I agree with these groups on that issue -- I don't think our museums should be an addition to the art market. We have museum directors who are former art dealers -- that is just asking for bias. They should pay attention to the mainstream... but also actively searching beyond the mainstream art world / market. There should be more balance.

Tim Holton
In looking at OWS and its many splinter movements it's important not to miss the forest for the trees. Given the scale and scope of inequality and effective disenfranchisement in this country and in the world, along with their cultural aspects such as a decadent and insular "Art World," OWS is clearly a natural reaction of discontent felt on a vast, societal level. We should expect such an upwelling of sheer anger to be highly imperfect, often misdirected and incoherent. Like all organic creatures it isn't fully formed and articulated at birth. Those who condemn, often rightly, particular instances and expressions of outrage shouldn't ignore that that outrage is fundamentally justified and so categorically condemn the movement, but should try to help correct its missteps, find its way, and fulfill its authentic mission.

For myself, if that mission is, "We believe that art and its history is part of the commons, and we are acting to take it back from corporate interests," as cited above by Kenneth Jensen, I can work with that.

I will say, though, that I think we have a lot of work to do to extricate real art from the last 200 years of corruption; knowing nothing about them, I'm skeptical that OM and OAW (Occupy the Art World) leaders have a clear vision I'd subscribe to, but maybe they do. (I can't make sense of a gazillion "Tweets" that seem to comprise these groups' online presence.) In any case, we need a real (not virtual) and serious, widespread conversation -- accompanied of course by actual production -- about the true place of the arts in our communities, our lives and our work. In other words we need to re-frame our understanding of the arts; in a world where the arts have become thoroughly unreal (what else can you call the take-over of the arts by "conceptual art"?) and debased, we need to restore their foundation and frame. If the point of these groups is to change what's hanging on the walls of the museum and art gallery, to replace those who currently occupy an insular "Art World" with new occupiers but leave those insular walls in place, that's a failure in my book. We don't need new pictures in old frames; we need new frames.

Along with A Great Turning in society, we need A Great Re-framing of the arts.

Kenneth Jensen
David--Even though the banner dispute may be OM's latest protest it has been my experiance as orginizations gain momentum the pretense cause they hide behind becomes more thinly veiled and their real purpose becomes more exposed. I agree with you that probably varied reasons within the group that individuals have, however the actions that the group take paints them all the same color. I find it interesting that the banner they hung was as they decribe it red and black when artist have such a broad pallet of colors to choose from especially when they are claiming it was an art piece even when illegally hung. Is their choice of colors an indication of communist leanings? Is their use of the 1 percent against the 99 percent any indication of a extreem liberal leaning towards the ideas of Marksist thought? Again I don't want to label all those as leaning that way however if they are not then they should remove themselves from that group so they will not be guilty by association. With the laws of the land when a group commits a crime even though someone in the group mearly stands and watches doing nothing to prevent it they are judged as guilty by association and are held accountable to be punished. Is it just possible that Luzafie got it more than you would like to give her credit for?

Brian Sherwin
Tim -- I'd be content with the public having more of a say about art that represents them... specifically within museums that the public -- I'll pull the tax card -- helps fund.

If part of the goal of a museum is to preserve the art of our times... shouldn't they be doing just that? Does a museum honestly need another Warhol while current regional directions -- especially those outside of NYC -- in art go unnoticed by institutional critique? That is what concerns me.

In addition to that -- I think the public, in general, would be more open to art if our museums had a wider focus on art in general.

Brian Sherwin
Kenneth -- I have nothing to hide. I've made it clear for over a decade that I think reform needs to happen in our museums. I'm a history buff -- and I know that a lot of visual art history is being ignored. I think something should be done about that. Does that make me a communist? I don't think so.

Luzajic's article basically challenges the right, under the very concept of liberty, to criticize the 'powers that be'. I don't agree with all of the tactics that have been used by some Occupiers -- please, no bonfires in the streets -- but I do support the idea that 'we the people' can openly criticize structures that impact our lives... and do so without being automatically labeled as communists. Is this 2012 or the 1950s?

I also found it interesting that she suggests people should be focused on foreign art-related issues instead of issues at home. The issues she mentioned should be explored -- but why is it so wrong to question 'systems', what have you, that impact artists here? She is playing right into the Guilty American rhetoric.

Brian Sherwin
Point blank -- people were questioning these art world issues in the US long before Occupy. The concerns have always been there -- and for whatever reason it took Occupy to make the media notice. I doubt ArtInfo and GallerstNY, for example, would have offered information about these concerns had it not been attached to an Occupy splinter movement.

Kenneth Jensen
Tim---I found your final statement “Along with a great turning in society, we need a great re-framing of the arts”¯ very humorous since you are in the framing business. That would be a real financial windfall if you were to get a lot of that business. But really where in this great society does there need to be a great turning, where is it to turn to and who is to specify in what direction it is to turn? Also what is the “real art”¯ that you feel needs to be extricated, “from the last 200 years of corruption”¯? Could you clarify with something tangible so I can better understand where you're coming from?

Kenneth Jensen
Brian--let me make it clear, I meant no inference that you were a communist in any way. I do still maintain a need for caution with regards to OWS and OM. Even though their stated goal comes into alignment with yours, there needs to be caution with how
exactly to go about change in the art
world. Also I think it is a mistake
to use rhetoric which lumps all rich
people who invest in art as instrumental
in sidetracking art culture. No one wants
to be lumped into a cause that they do
not agree with as you felt offended to
think you might be tagged as a communist
and as Luzajie didn't want to be lumped
into OM's 99 percent inference.
I cannot argue with the need for change
as to what is art and what is not in the
art world, only there are some very
important questions that need to be
answered. What exactly needs to be
changed, Who is to determine what it
is, How is it supposed to take place,
and when.

Kenneth Jensen
This text box is flawed as it change Quotes and cuts of text if copie in.

Brian Sherwin
Kenneth -- do you have any thoughts on how it should be determined? What would you suggest to people who want change in the art world? Just curious.

Kenneth Jensen
Brian””That's real good question isn't it, and you are right to ask it. How does a person go about facilitating constructive change, correcting problems, and resolving issues, they see in the art world? I commend you for being brave enough to even tackle the problem. Many people would rather sit back and not be involved. I can see why you can empathize with OM, since they appear to be fighting for the same cause and are boldly speaking out. I am just concerned with how they are going about it and if that is their real cause.
Aside from that, I will attempt to answer your question; but you will have to excuse me if I wax a little philosophical at times. Sometimes my thoughts run faster than my ability to put them down on paper, or into the computer, so they may be unclear. The following are some steps I have used in business to approach and solve problems. Before we determine how to go about making change we need to do some important things.
1. Clearly and concisely define the problem. Generalities will not do. A good method I have found to do this is to use the 5 questions of why. The problem may very well not be that which appears on the surface. It may be the tip of a huge iceberg or just a floating bit of ice on the surface. It was not the tip of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, but the problem hidden beneath the surface. When we can clearly define what the real problem is we are better empowered to attack it and hopefully solve it. Only when the problem is clearly defined can two or more people come to a unity on a course of action.
2. After clearly identifying what the problem is, we need to determine what the root cause of the problem is. Again the root cause may not be what it appears. We may even need to do some research to help identify the extent of the problem or it's significance in the grand scheme of things. When we can clearly see the problem and what the root cause is, we will better prepared to work on a solution.
3. This is the part of where we decide how to go about change. Sometimes the solution or direction we need to take will become glaringly simple. Again using the iceberg example we may have learned that all we need to do is go around the iceberg or how close we can come to it. This example may seem like an oversimplification of the problem, but if we don't even know where the iceberg is we can run into it and sink our ship. So next there may need to be a brainstorming session to generate solution ideas and there is a process for effective brainstorming. The next step in not always necessary but I think in this case it is.
4. Define what the boundaries are that are needed to control the direction we want to go. The human body grows into the boundaries which define it. When a cell or cells in the body decides not to follow those boundaries they may become cancerous and if not checked destroy the body that gives the cell it very life and reason for existence.
5. Now we are ready to take action. A good point here is that we can off times test our course of action on a small scale to see if it indeed works. If not we need to go back to step 3.

Tim Holton

The instinct for restraint evident in your last comment seems to have failed you in your reply to mine. I would love to have this conversation with someone who, right out of the gate, doesn't accuse a fellow artist of having no other aim but personal financial greed. The general tone of your argument seems to be unduly conspiratorial. For one thing, you seem to have staked out the untenable position that the only artists who would challenge the current state of the art world are doing so purely out of financial self-interest. At the risk of trying to reason against the cynical and misanthropic point of view that all points of view but the misanthrope's are self-serving, that no one ever does anything except for personal financial gain, that is not in fact the object of my argument -- nor is it what drives any decent artist. Speaking for myself, as a small business owner dependent by virtue of my line of work on a certain number of wealthy customers, the financial incentive is to NOT rock the boat. As a framer serving the Art World, my business plan is to NOT encourage a shake-up of the status quo that is in fact working just fine for me personally. As a small business owner, I value stability; I do not, from a strict business standpoint, particularly enjoy seeing the world in upheaval or invite financial uncertainty. I'm selling picture frames, not pepper spray or bumper stickers.

People who know me know that I'm deeply conservative, which is why I object to having the world run by a carelessly destabilizing financial oligarchy. But in this Orwellian age in which the most anti-conservative forces boast the "conservative" label, in which those most adamantly opposed to the public interest call themselves "republican," people who think we should protect the public interest, the social fabric, get labeled as immoderate and self-serving rabble-rousers.

Does your art shape your perspective? I assume -- and in fact hope -- it does. Should I dismiss that perspective for being based on greed? If my only interest were my own greed I wouldn't make frames the way I do, which is by hand and from scratch, carefully designed to each picture that each customer brings to me, but would instead buy in to the standard and highly standardized profit-driven business model for the framing industry. If you've studied art history you know that society's whole understanding of art, the place of art, has from time to time been re-framed, reflecting broader changes in society. As a framer, am I naturally attuned to that? Yes. Does my particular art form and trade provide a window, if you will, on that? Yes. Should an ordinary craftsman's point of view be dismissed because it's that of an ordinary craftsman? Not in a democracy that's SUPPOSED to be built on the participation of ordinary craftsmen -- which is to say productive citizens.

My work is providing people with framing that honors and protects their pictures and connects those pictures to their daily lives. It is not, as you suggest, a purely self-serving matter of moving money out of other peoples' and into my own providing them with as little as possible in return. The latter is in fact the business model of a large part of our financial sector, and a model that Ms. Luzajic, and perhaps you as well, defend from the popular reaction against it, perversely regarding that model as synonymous with freedom and those who challenge it as enemies of freedom.

You ask, "where in this great society does there need to be a great turning"? If your position is that things are going just fine... If you're ignoring the abundance of evidence all around you, it would be a waste of time for both of us for me to try to point it out to you here and now.

You ask, "who is to specify in what direction it is to turn?" As an American, I find appalling the lack of political imagination in this oft-heard framing (excuse me) of the matter, as if our choices of government don't include democratic ones but are between individual rulers -- monarchs, tyrants. Who? The people, that's who. Is it too much to ask that American society live up to American ideals of democratic government, broad participation, and that our institutions, including art institutions, represent and reflect the citizenry as a whole?

As for what's real and what isn't, if you're an artist it's your job to see the world, see reality. I won't judge your work, as you have judged mine, or presume to try to help you there; if you take your work seriously, there's no need for me to elaborate. I made the point about conceptual art. Other than that, to see beyond the debased conception -- i.e., framing -- of art we currently tolerate, I always recommend Larry Shiner's _The Invention of Art_ as a great concise starting point. But the history of civilization -- the commonwealth of the arts, if you'll allow me to frame it that way without accusing me of being merely self-promoting -- is what I'm referring to, and defending.

Sorry to unload on you like this, pal, but it's a passionate time, isn't it?

Whoa! Tim---I guess I realy stepped in itthis time(I grew up on a farm). I see my poor attempt at humor to lighten things up was a total failure. I honestly apologize. I ment no inference that you were greedy, I was just amused that you used the term frame in that you are a framer. I am sure that the quality of your frames are good. In fact I will even buy one of your frames for one of my painting when I am able to afford it, in order to make ammend. I am a conservative to the core and agree with you that much in the art world needs to be changed and that we the people are responsible to facility change for the betterment of our culture. My questions are honest questions to help me be better informed as to what you see the problems are and to promote honest dialogue on how we can come together, clearly define the problems and finaly devise the best actions we, as likeminded individuals can take. I really apprieciate you passion and in that respect am not sorry I riled your ire as I now know you even better. That being said there could have probably been a more tackful way of going about it. Our true feelings and motives are better --framed-- when they are framed with passion. If you read my response to Brians question of what I would suggest to someone who wants to change the art world should do and if I made myself clear, I don't think it can be done with generalities. I have been in business and studied lean manufacturing and have a green belt in Six Sigma where the object is to use a logical method to solve problems in business and manufaccturing for continues improvement. It is something that I am passionate about and hence I strive to approach problems by asking pointed questions to better facilitate framing problems correctly and hence be better able to solve them. My wife oftens gets upset with me because I ask her pointed questions.
Tim I hope I have explained better and that we can truly be friends. I will admit that I do not know many of the problems that are in the art would and woould apprieciate information that will help me get a better handle on them.

Tim Holton

Apologies accepted -- and offered for being less tactful than I might have been. I may have been responding more to Ms L's irrational ideological rant than to you.

I respect your reasoned approach to this issue in your comment to Brian. I'm more focused on the broader fundamental problems, so my perspective as expressed here is generalized for that reason. But I agree that solving problems requires defining them in concrete and specific terms.

I would look forward to a new thread, based perhaps on another essay by Brian, on possible ways forward rather than simply reaction to an ideologically extreme opinion piece. There is much consensus even within the art world that modern art has reached a dead end. (Even while he goes on covering dead shark art, Peter Schjeldahl at the New Yorker acknowledges the shark is dead.) But they've been saying this for a while, so the current art oligarchy seems to have proven its impotence -- maybe because their current financing depends too much on the current model. What choice is there but to take a turn? And how do we do that? Here's one idea: restore the eternal basis of art in MAKING -- not ideas, not found stuff, not UNmade beds, etc -- but the actual ARTS. And honor the artists who actually make things. Wild and wacky idea, huh?

Brian? Anyone?

Tim Holton
You're so right, except that I think values are instilled less through teaching, although that's obviously key, than through the other things you bring up -- daily life activities of making and growing. Manufacturing and agriculture are the foundations of the economy as well as the fine arts, which is what most people mean when they use the word art. But you can't have the fine arts without the more commonplace arts. Civilization is composed of all the arts.

Our economy is debased from real wealth creation; our art establishment is debased from real art. It's the same problem.

Ronald Gillis
Here is my humble contribution to this comment thread.Beside being an artist all these years I was also in engineering and design.Everything from structural steel to interior design .I think the solution may lay not in the art being created but in the delivery and customer ownership end of the business.

Allow me to play the futurist here for a moment.I see a convergence approaching in the future.A convergence happens when different technologies combine to create a new technology.Without the floppy disk mutating into the disk drive that came from entertainment technology.
Right now we rent movies to watch on our flat screen tv's.

Someday soon that flat screen will become paper thin and inexpensive.Someday,in the near future,some enterprising artists will band together to form a media delivery company.There will be "old fashion" art,to be sure.But the common man will have a dedicated screen device(or one on every wall)where he or she or a business or whatever can have "rented" images beamed to their screen for a rental period.You and I would share in the residual earnings and the customer could have the rental fee put toward the art.

We would have another avenue for our work.The entire electronic world would be our art gallery.The key is the convergence of the technologies.
In the meantime,those of us actually creating hand-made art,will continue to push forward by looking back and embracing our past(check out the resurgence of realism)which often happens prior to a new direction in art.

God is not dead and neither is art!!

Ronald Gillis--I think your viewpoint is prophetic. With the rapid advance in technology it will happen in the near future. I to have an engineering background and have seen and used the advances in this technology via CAD/CAM software that improve and enhance life. With the rapid advance of technology, none artists and artists alike are finding new art forms for using their creative desires. When I look at gaming industry where billions of dollars are spent and the influence it has on our youth and its rapid advancement in visual reality, I am amazed at the level of artistic skill it must take to create it. Not to shunt the traditional methods of oil on canvas or water color on paper, etc. But we as art lovers and creators of traditional art need to be aware of where the younger generation is going and try to keep up. I do not mean we need to create computer generated art but it is an option which has and will continue to have a direct effect on us. Final point--The rapid advance in new technology is having a greater and will have longer lasting effect on our art culture than the mainstream art world will ever have and the demonstrators against the affluent can even conceive with their diluted purpose by demonstrating for the labor unions.

Tim Holton
Ronald and Kenneth
What does this have to do with the mission of museums and other art institutions and who they serve? Are you suggesting technology will someday make them obsolete?

Brian Sherwin
I've heard that argument before... that technology will make museums obsolete -- and brick and mortar galleries for that matter. Personally, I think there will always be physical spaces for art.

Tim -- I will most likely address these ideas further. And yes... I'd say the public wants to see more than unmade beds with a ridiculous price tag attached. Conceptual art can be interesting... that said, there are examples of conceptual art that make Tracey Emin's bed look like.... well... just a bed. LOL

Tim Holton

Yes, physicality will always be with us.

What is non-conceptual art? Mindless art? Doesn't all decent art have a conceptual aspect? Is conceptual art art that's careless of its physicality?

How did we get to this level of abstraction? When will we get back to earth?

Ronald Gillis
Probably.It seems a given that our delivery systems will change.....they already are.Most likely our museums will change as well.We ,as artists,will change with the times.I am an eternal optimist about such things.We are going to okay in the future which really is now,isn't it?

Tim, Not at all, I believe museums and other institutions will always be an important part of our artistic society. I am only suggesting that what they display and how they display it will be greatly influenced by the advance of technology. Case in point is the FASO website that we are using to discuss these topics. Every artist's website is a personal gallery. How much will public galleries and what they display be effected by this advance in technology? How much responsibility do we as both viewing public and artists have for what is displayed? The iceberg is so much bigger than the tip that is visible.

Tim Holton
IMHO notwithstanding the general blind faith in virtual reality replacing actual reality, such faith reflects more our culture of abstraction and disengagement from reality than any objective truth that reality is going away. Our current obsession with and faith in our own technology is the latest chapter in the story of the arrogance of western humanist ideology. The notion that virtual reality will replace actual reality is hubristic, and plainly silly. "Delivery systems" may change, but they'll always need something to deliver. The essence of a painting, or any of the other arts, isn't in the image of it but in the actual thing. Architecture, i.e., shelter, of which painting is a subordinate art form, isn't very effective as an image. If you don't have a roof over your head, then a picture, digital or otherwise, of a house doesn't do you much good. Furthermore, a painting as a crafted thing, beautiful in its materials, brushwork, in its physical embodiment of the artist's work and actual devotion to that work, isn't the same as a digital image of that painting.

It's great to be optimistic, but it's necessary to be realistic as well.

Tim Holton
My reply to Ronald is in part reply to you. The reality of a painting, a sculpture, a building, a pot, a frieze, a mural, a drawing, etc. isn't the same as its reality. To use Ronald's language, we can't mistake the "delivery system" for the thing it "delivers" without fatally uprooting it from the arts that create it in the first place. The logical conclusion to draw from such thinking is that once we have nice pictures of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we shouldn't care what becomes of the Chapel itself.

The real thing matters; MATTER matters. Reality matters and can't be virtualized away. Museums and other institutions whose mission is to preserve the arts must not be sacrificed to our current technological obsession and collective delusion that actual reality is rapidly being made obsolete and will someday be replaced by virtual reality.

Tim Holton
Obviously meant to write, "The reality of a painting, a sculpture, a building, a pot, a frieze, a mural, a drawing, etc. isn't the same as its IMAGE" (digital or otherwise).

Kenneth Jensen
Tim Holton
I don't disagree with your line of logic and I was not trying to down play the importance of the reality of a painting, a sculpture, a building, a pot, a frieze, a drawing, etc. and suggest virtual images are better or are going to replace the reality. You misunderstand me. I am a hands on person and enjoy the real thing by carving in wood to create a sculpture or running my hand over a carving. No amount of virtual imagery can ever replace the sensations that one has by touch and feel as well as getting up close to a painting and really seeing how the artist has created the illusion of the reality he paints. An oil painting, water color, pastel, etc. not only presents us with the reality it depicts but the artists skill as well.
Now coming to my point, I believe that the decay in the art world as evidenced by conceptual art in art museums is only symptomatic of a much bigger problem which lies beneath the surface. The bigger problem Is not the lumped together rich under the label ”“1 percent-- as OWS, OM, or any other occupy mobs and liberal news media would like to have us believe but is the moral decay in America propagated by Atheistic Humanism. The atheistic liberal minded approach they try to propagate is that there is no right or wrong and their god of evolution is why they push the idea that virtual reality will replace actual reality. They are a major part of the dreaded disease that is tearing down the defense of God based Judao/Christian morals upon which this country was founded and has preserved our freedoms. Whether we like it or not, we must become more aware of the enemy and fight against it. We must clearly identify and define the problem and the root cause. That which is not obvious on the surface.

Ronald Gillis
Well,you folks are all missing the point.The point is we cannot see the future.I agree with Kenneth up to a point.I would have left out the references to religion,Kenneth.I agree with what you are saying,but once you introduce religion or politics into the discussion everybody gets crazy.
Tom,I think I need to reread what i wrote because you so missed my point that,out of respect for you,I must have totally screwed up my point.I was talking just about the systems of viewing,shopping for and buying art,not the art.I don't like digital art,virtual reality,conceptual art or performance art very much.I am a realist painting often in the techniques of the middle ages ,but yet I advertise on this virtual universe called "The Web".What will be available tomorrow?I plan on buying an IPad so I can take advantage of that technology as well.My art is photographed with my digital camera and uploaded to my website.
May I remind you none of this was around 20 years or so ago.

Kenneth Jensen
Caren Hyde
No Caren, I don't believe a brown shirted police force, book burning, nor occupying movements are what is needed. What needs to happen is the main point of Lorette C. Luzajic article which Brian seems to have missed or simply ignored. She says””Despite the ups and downs and absurdities of the art market, never before in history have so many had so much access to such a variety of art. The blindness of OM and all the offshoots is astounding- posters calling for the return of Maoism? Yeah, that'll be good for art. Even the most cursory knowledge of art history shows clearly that the --commons of art””never existed. There is nothing to --reclaim--. There needs to be gratitude for what we have and not protest for what is professed by some that we don't have. Are there some problems in America today? Of course there are. While there may be a problem of favoritism in the museums it dwindles too little significance in comparison to the problems created by the lack of jobs as a result of bumbling politics. That I might add is a result of the moral decay propagated by Atheistic Humanism with their philosophy of no right or wrong.
Caren, you made a suggestion with regards to improving conditions in the art world, that you think a place to start is with the values instilled in us especially through education and I agree. Where should those values come from and just what should they be?

Ronald Gillis
A thought.The Atheistic humanism that does not recognize any moral absolutes gave birth to the current ideas in art in which there is no good or bad.Now everything is art.

I especially love the story of the invisible art that was sold last year for $10,000.00.The artist was a hustler and the buyer was an idiot.But,it did match the decor.

Kenneth Jensen
Ronold, that is a great illustration of Atheistic humanism. Will the value of his invisable art grow as there become more mindless idiots in the world?

Kenneth Jensen

Ronald, Did you mean the invisible art matched the decor of the buyers mind?

Lorette C. Luzajic
Greetings. Thank you to Brian Sherwin for taking the time to respond thoughtfully to my Canada Free Press rant. I appreciate the discussion generated as well. Contrary to the suggestion that I don't appreciate the OWS movement's liberty to speak, I most definitely DO uphold the right to free expression for all, from OWS to the Tea Part and everyone, everywhere. We don't need to agree politically to agree on that right, and I remain open to learning from such free exchange. A great many of these comments are insightful and passionate and since you have taken the time to read and examine my ideas, I am happy to consider your responses. Best wishes, Lorette


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