Conceptual Drag

Something feels flat in the state of the art

Curators' lack of awareness alarms me. Can they understand the distinction between the interests of museums they serve and their duty as purveyors of aesthetic and ethical lucidity? At a recent event, thrown for an exciting future Latin American art venture in town, I had a rare opportunity to meet curators from all over. They were in Miami, planning the big opening show. Shortly I realized most of their aesthetic criteria converged in almost everything. I wonder about this unbiased consensus, especially when one takes into consideration they'll be working in a closed community run by big interests, like a big family, talking constantly to one another and rehashing the same stuff.

In fact the repetitious motifs are getting exhausting: faddish subject matter, globalization, gender and cultural identity -- all dressed up as self-deprecating post-minimalist installation or conceptual art. I have problems with curators approaching cross-disciplinary issues as though they were ideologically sampling. They want people's attention, but don't necessarily get it. At Basel I carefully watched people momentarily being diverted by high-tech videos or sound bites before they drifted off to the next art station. Many simply did not pay attention.

As a homogenized, incestuous art market targets the Design District and people party in South Beach waiting for Basel the sequel, the world for the time being keeps looking. Museums and collectors bank on it, producing celebrities who in turn bring prestige to the collections, while important local artists who deserve exposure are not given a solo show or support structure.

An originator of original exhibits: Locust Projects' 1999 show of Tatiana Garmendia
An originator of original exhibits: Locust Projects' 1999 show of Tatiana Garmendia

We are also deceived by a façade of seriousness and attention to detail, plenty of well-dressed exhibits with profusely footnoted essays and interviews between curators and Poststructuralist theorists; frankly all the words mean little. More than ever, what matters is the art. And week after week we come back and talk about the last show, defending our turf and lending credibility, but in the process we lose something. Where is the artist's pain, the anguish? Where, the curator's keen eye and candidness that fights the fad and breaks the mold? Is there a collector with enough commitment to support local talent without a nod from an eye-for-hire?

Okay, so this is a rant and maybe spending a whole column on it only proves our inferiority complex -- oops, hope I'm not falling for my own fifteen minutes of fame.

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