Monday, December 18, 2006

Next Stop Philadelphia?

Has everyone in the art community seen the piece in the New York Times travel guide about Philadelphia becoming a major art destination? No, you say? It made me think of the last one about the invasion of Brooklyn artists seeking cheaper rents. You didn’t see that one either? All these rumblings about the Philadelphia Art Renaissance are a disturbing thing mainly because these things have occurred before and did not take hold. So don’t believe it. Sure, all the buzz and development over the last ten years has transformed both the landscape and the cultural climate but still leaves us with few legitimate contemporary spaces. They come and go. I’d rather forget all about it except I am constantly reminded by these fluff pieces in the Times that hint at a new hipster mecca between the Schuylkill and the Delaware. Philly, the next Chelsea? You must be kidding. Philadelphia Magazine’s recent piece on music critic, Joey Sweeney – more important fluff – and the hipster scene intimated the same thing, but being a hipster and being an artist in an art world are not the same thing. Do hipsters own galleries? I do, however, appreciate Sweeney’s uncompromised take on the Rocky statue, “It’s not fucking art!” or something to that affect – well, he’s got that right. It shouldn’t be a debate should it? Art should only be “subjective” when the art discussed is art. Why is that so difficult to understand? Personally, I don’t care about these little squabbles between the Fairmount Art Association and Sports Promoters, but they seem to set the cultural norm and get plenty of air time. What a complete waste of energy. It’s either the Barnes or the Rocky Statue. Then, for a change, there is intense furor over a bloody Eakin’s being sold by Jefferson Hospital. Artists protesting in the streets!? Who cares. Neither Stallone or Eakins do much good on the contemporary level, though I confess to loving Tom Conti’s original theme song. I know, I sound like a broken record, but all this looking backward is pathetic; it lumps all history and art together in a disilluminated mush. As for community? Just because we have big healthy mass of artists and loads of bloody neighborhoods with thousands of murals doesn’t make up for a dearth of market. It actually suppresses it and helps create a culture of subsidization and promotion of art lauding artists that are not ambitious enough to compete. This gives the public sector a weird monopoly on art practice and renumeration. If there were more commercial spaces, there would be pressure to exhibit, compete and grow as artists. People might even deign to criticize each other’s work. That is tough to do, I know, but it is healthy. Showing work in a “community” is a waste of time and nearly akin to never leaving your studio. So don’t let all the buzz fool you. We need to grow up and start businesses that promote real contemporary art. This is not the same thing as going corporate or selling out and should not be confused with that at all. Why is everyone so hung up about being labeled snooty, selling art and being elitist? The rest of the world is built on that principal; I am better than you and I am going to kick your ass.


dan said...

finer chiming has not chingled the critic's page for some time in these parts, dear Jim. glad to see your making a room for yourself, and your voice. Keep up with the bile and spleen. This is truly an age of art indigestion--like eating a Happy Meal that's marked with healthy tips for nutrition!


dan s.

richard Metz said...

i for one and happy the rocky statue is back at the museum.Who is to say what art is and what art is not. We certainly shouldnt listen to a new york art critic. Aethetic appreciation of Rodin's sculpture is great, but look at the wonder in people's faces when they stand next to the Rocky statue. Its like a Greek god,a nd we are the people of athens. Or maybe we have a really long way to go, and the Rocky statue points that out. Okay and maybe there has been no progress on the aethetics front for 2400 years.