The Slave Market..... Jean-Leon Gerome
What!? You think bloody body parts floating in pools of blood, bobbing about, detritus, stirred by my five foot dorsal fin is a spooky sight? .........wooooOOOooooOOOOOOO!!......... Hah!..... You ain't seen nuthin' yet...!......just wait until this weekend at The Merchandise Mart. You want a horror show! -just keep telling yourself as you stroll from one b gallery nightmare to another, to remember what your therapist told you: 'this isn't really happening to me,' 'stay calm!,'' I'm going to my happy place now...'
I hate it when I'm wrong! Barreling up from the deep, ready to chomp the head off some innocent little baby seal -only to find out I've just latched on to the leg of some mangy surfer dude (quit crying for mommy! I didn't mean to take your leg off!...oops I just chipped a tooth!) or worse yet some pelagic researcher's towed rubber seal dummy (-who wants to have tire mouth?!) and to what end? so I can end up on some low-rent, 'man is the real predator, now that we said it don't we feel good?' piece of pulp on Shark Week?......So, imagine the extent of my mortification when Tony Fitz (the whale shark) patrick proves me wrong about...anything! (an exceedingly rare occurrence) But, in this one isolated incident, he has. Three years ago, after a meeting with the Mart/Art Fair people that included Tony, Paul Klein and myself, Tony walked away saying 'I'm done'.....and he was, and he was right. 'These people weren't going to really treat or think of artists in any way other than commodities, indentured servants, serfs' - and they, haven't. Tony went on to say, this isn't about art or an art fair, this is about political ambition and low and behold......read the political pages of The Chicago Sun-Times in the last few days? Read the list of people on the host committee, or the middlemen/ panelists for ancillary events for this years fair? Lots of players, very few artists. Lots of art world bureaucracy, played out and washed up, manning a decaying, and decadent, outmoded system and a failed scene -and by this I mean the infrastructural end of the Chicago Art World.....
With all the money under one roof, whats is there to complain about you ask? Well for one thing, if we are discussing Chicago money -lets face it, its never been supportive of the Chicago art world. Institutions have been built here true, and mostly to house imported fare -whether we are discussing a French Impressionist Painting or a trendy piece of garbage 'painted' by Karen Kilimnick, the conceit persists and insists that what comes from elsewhere is by the very nature of its geographical origins, superior.
To dig themselves out of this mess, the Mart has obviously decided to retrench -bringing in all of the 'players' that helped create the cultural ghetto that now passes for an art world here in Chicago: (-note I say players....to the exclusion of almost all artists here-) apparently choosing to ignore, or, in their ignorance, thinking its a good thing, that these are the very provincials who given the opportunity, race down to River West to scoop up those crappy Josh Smith paintings (Saatchi owns this work! He is from New York City!), who have sat on the board at the MCA no doubt supporting show after show of NYC/LA locals -Kilimnick, Currin, Pettibone, Kelly -while essentially refusing to support and take seriously the art world here, to have even a semblance of originality.
How many people reading this are even aware of the existence of 'The Society For Contemporary Art' James Rondeau's own little fawning coterie of societal sycophants? Presided over by one Ms Deborah Lovely, bubble head bleached blondes in tow......ever heard the one about Carroll Dunham coming to town and the woman throwing the Societies party for him racing out to buy a couple of his works (at how many 100ks a pop?) for the evenings window dressing? Does anyone really believe this same person or these people, ever gives any thoughtful, serious support to anything? Let alone anything created here in lowly Chicago?
....Every year these people purchase new contemporary art for the Art Institute: anyone here in Chicago (conceptual clones/pet artists excluded-) ever had them by for a look? Of course not! They are busy flitting of to NYC to lunch with GoGo (Larry Gagosian) and pick up some expensive piece of pedigreed NYC pablum...Look at the host committee for this years Art Chicago: its a veritable who's who of these very people -the ones that got us to where we are. The ones that helped cause an art world here so diminished, so marginalized and degraded, that the Chicago Tribune thought nothing of terminating Alan Artner, the one remaining art critic working for a major publication here in Chicago. The socialites, the middlemen, of a failed situation, the Deborah Lovely's, Hamza Walkers, Suzanne Ghezs, these are the people the Mart has turned to, the apparatchiks -rather than the artists, or art. This is why Tony walked away, and why I am now doing so as well. With the huge changes happening in the art world, the bursting bubble of the international art market, the growing ascendancy of the internet, of artists taking charge of their own situations, who wants to hang with these losers? Why would anyone want to go to a panel on how to survive in this new economy -when those on the panel are the problem, are exactly what needs to get lost?
In 2006 Jed Perl wrote an article Laissez-Faire Aesthetics: What money is doing to art, or how the art world lost its mind.
"In this supremely sordid season, I visited Art Basel Miami Beach, the fair that now anchors nearly a week of events in early December that extend well beyond the Convention Center on Miami Beach. And what struck me most forcibly as I wandered the aisles was the noisiness and vehemence with which prices were announced.Dealers wanted to tell anybody and everybody, whether they were potential clients or just art world rubberneckers, not only what everything in their booth cost, but how much the discount would be. It was an orgy of money talk. When you take a look at the art market,what you are really seeing is the stock market. The whole art world is like Nobu during bonus week, a freak show of conspicuous consumption. The point is not what the booze or raw fish tastes like; the point is how fiendishly expensive it is.
-No More- or, well, well, how things have changed: " When you take a look at the art market, what you are really seeing is the stock market." .........indeed.
Tony, Paul and I tried to get the Mart people to get it: that the bubble was going to burst -that to be on the other side of this curve, ahead of the game, would be a good idea. I argued for a year around website about Chicago culture -culminating with the fair, for non-traditional ad campaigns -a twenty billboard project -featuring say twelve Chicago artists and eight from elsewhere.....new ideas -with a new focus not only on art, but how art exists in society, to move decisively away from the glutted bloat of Art Basel Miami Bling, Festivalism if you will, and embrace a less vulgarian, more interesting/sophisticated culture. Tony argued for all artists to be included in the artists project, in effect, HE ARGUED FOR THE ARTISTS! Paul spoke to, or for, Chicago, in terms of community -all to little avail. So now, what we have is a fair consisting for the most part of Chicago's increasingly mediocre gallery scene complimented with galleries from the hinterlands you have never heard of before, peopled with the ineffectual societal trendoids/lightweights that hang like an albatross around our collective necks as artists here, not to forget the medallions being given out for excellence in 'realism'. What, an appalling embarrassment. This is the third largest city in America, not Bumfuck in the sticks, people.
The MCA's involvement: I would say to Madeleine Grynsztejn, the road to hell is paved with good intentions: rather than yoking your museum up to the 'trendsetters', socialites, art world apparatchiks involving themselves with this particular business event/very mediocre art fair, how about some serious, real involvement with the art community here? Lets do some killer shows at the MCA -cannon creating - and not just another tedious re-run of the rancid academemia induced conceptual 101ism of the Kirchner/Hoffman/Manilow cabal that has had your institution in a veritable stranglehold for decades now.
Sharkstock will be held this year in October, It will be about art, not, the art market. Stay tuned.