80s New York art star, Eric Fischl, is showing his age in his latest rant in The Brooklyn Rail:
Galleries are so over. Museums are so over. Biennials are so over. It is the auctions and the art fairs and private museums and public works that are driving the art world. Right now we are in the midst of a perfect storm: an uneducated consumer, an image obsessed merchandiser, art writers who confuse moments with movements, and artists who know little about their own history, can’t distinguish between storytelling and metaphor, and have absolutely no ambivalence about pleasing the collectors.
He laments that the “collector” isn’t some patron/genius that, like a Medici, is commissioning today’s Sistine Chapel:
What stands squarely at the center of the art world is a collector (but not The Collector!). Everyone who is making the art machine run is tailoring it to the money, and the money is the collector. What the collector hasn’t yet grasped is that they are being sold a bill of goods. They think that because they have the money and the power, they can buy what they want. But they are only buying what is being sold to them, they are being sold what artists make. That is not the same thing as paying for something you really want.
Fischl’s article is in response to critic Irving Sandler’s saner article in the Dec/Jan. edition of the Rail that asked the art world and critics to engage in a soul searching after their relevance has slowly been eroded by galleries and curators eager to by-pass critical scrutiny (article).
The February Rail published four responses to Sandler’s call to arms (letters), the responses ranged from the paranoid leftist response (Imperialist America and all that jargon) to someone who politely told Sandler that he should stop being an alarmist:
Art critics who actually produce texts are of little direct relevance to those who do not read: collectors (too busy competing with other collectors), many curators (too busy courting collectors), academics (no patience for jargon not their own), and other art critics (no patience for jargon not their own)….
How can art criticism be made more relevant? Figure out a way to divorce it from the art market, for therein the temptations are too great and only the truly heroic can survive with their eyes and brains intact.
I also agree with John Adams Griefen (who is a wonderful painter) when he writes in the Feb. edition, “Critics help the artist. The trained mind and eye can be, and I think always have been, a great help to the artist.” That’s right, why is it about the market anyway?
Maybe Fischl should concentrate on painting, specially since his last batch at Mary Boone weren’t exactly inspired (link to Fischl entry in Wikipedia).
Original Fischl article in the Rail here.
My two cents: As a trained art critic who refused to work in traditional “arts” venues (magazines, galleries, museums) I am often looked upon with suspicions by those who ventured the conventional route. I always felt that my outside perspective freed my criticism to reflect learned opinion rather than fades and personal connections..I’m glad others are affirming my gut instinct.