“Cattle-pieces and sea-pieces and fruit-pieces and family-pieces, the eternal brown cows in ditches, and white sails in squalls, and sliced lemons in saucers, and foolish faces in simpers.”—John Ruskin on English art of his day
“During the Medieval period, literacy levels were low and images became important. Symbolism and iconography added meaning to images which took the place of text. There was no need to write about art to explain it; it was the other way around: art itself was used to teach and explain Christian texts.”—Kate Nicholson, Art Radar Asia
“The creative economy normalises and justifies prominent features of labour markets and employment relations based on non-standard employment relationship; one that in its core characteristics is absed on employment and income insecurity, excessive overtime, contract, freelance or self-employment, and where risk is both individualised and devolved from the employer to the worker. It is also a landscape that is largely devoid of unions and collective bargaining.”—Coles, Amanda L. PhD, (2012) “Counting Canucks: cultural labour and Canadian cultural policy”. Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7453. p. 14
“Self-actualization is not a top priority for everyone. However, UBS’s clientele is uniquely positioned to ensure that they have their self-actualization needs met. Absent any other differentiating factors, an audience that is relatively free from the constraints of material wants will choose the wealth management service that provides the extra value of meeting these higher-order self-actualization needs. That’s why the UBS-Guggenheim collaboration makes good sense.”—BJ Bueno (2012) Leveling Up: Why The UBS/Guggenheim Collaboration Makes Good Sense
“Criticism is a style of thinking, [freeing oneself] from the cant that reduces everything to one razed field of banality.”—Jonathan Jones (2011) Only critics can tell us what matters about art, The Guardian
“It is becoming increasingly difficult to justify current valuations purely on the basis of rarity and on the historic or cultural significance of the art works. We are increasingly relying on exogenous factors such as economic uncertainty, the super-rich and their increasing appetite for alternative assets, to back up the arguments for what is now defined as the -new era- of art valuation and prices. Whatever our perception of the value of art is, it is clear that it increasingly has less to do with the art itself, and maybe this is what the market defines as the new era.”—Anders Petterson (2013) The Beginning or End of a New Era?
“[During the Heian period], the aesthetics of China ruled in Japan. Chinese was considered the language of educated man, while women wrote only in Japanese, which was taken less seriously but which, because it was their spoken language, also allowed for more personal sentiments. Out of women’s writing, mono no aware was born and it caught on. Soon, men were even adopting female pen names in order to write poems and diaries in Japanese.”—
Mary Mann (2013) Mono no Aware: The Female Essayist of Medieval Japan
While I am still grappling with the concept of mono no aware - the Japanese view of the pathos of things, I’ve found this anecdote incredibly interesting. It explains why Sei Shonagon, being a female writer during a time where those who were wealthy enough to be educated were often confined to the life of a courtesan, benefitted from conventions of language and culture of its time.
The entire curatorial profession agreed to participate in this well-organized charade that had as its premise the notion that we are living under some sort of McCarthyite terror in the arts. The names of Hitler and Stalin were bandied about by people—not only in the museums but in the media as well—who plainly hadn’t the foggiest understanding of the realities of life under a totalitarian regime.
Hilton Kramer (1990) The Prospect Before Us, The New Criterion
“Art has the potential to expand commodity exchange and also deaden the critique of capitalism as a system of domination.”—Travis English (2007) Hans Haacke, or the Museum as Degenerate Utopia, Kritikos: Journal of Postmodern Sound, Text and Image, Intertheory Press
“Great art must not be measured by a popularity contest. Otherwise the art that appeals to the lowest common denominator will always be deemed the best.”—Michael Kaiser (2011) ‘The Death of Criticism or Everyone Is a Critic’, Huffington Post
“When every Midland Artscard holder used the card for the first time, the bank contributed 5 pounds to the arts. After that, every time a cardholder spent 100 pounds with the card, the bank donated 25 pence to the arts. For all its talk of supporting the arts in the press, the Artscard was just an ingenious marketing strategy designed to enable the bank to break into the over saturated credit card market by attracting an arts audience, which happened, by and large, to be the affluent upper-middle class, the most welcome customers of any financial institution.”
— Chin-tao Wu (2002) Privatising Culture: Corporate Art Intervention since the 1980s, London: Verso, p. 67
“The lack of participation in the arts is a predicament unique to modern industrial societies. The exploration of creativity may be achieved only through personal participation and most people are culturally deprived of this experience. ‘Art’ is something done for them, and to them and can even be used against them, to reinforce divisions between art and life.”—Donald Horne (1985) ‘Comments’, Artforce, vol. 49, p. 8
“Critical art is an art that aims to produce a new perception of the world and therefore to create a commitment to its transformation. This schema, very simple in appearance, is actually the conjunction of three processes: first, the production of a sensory form of ‘strangeness’; second, the development of an awareness of the reason for that strangeness and third, a mobilisation of individuals as a result of that awareness.”—Jacques Ranciere (2010) Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, p. 136-137
“Objects that were created without value beyond the cost of materials, become more prized due to scarcity and a sort of symbolic connection to a larger cultural framework.”—
This excerpt comes from an article about the discrepancy between two streams of performance art: visual art performance and contemporary performance. The former is largely done by practitioners from an art school background and the latter is largely done by practitioners from a theatre background. Whereas the former often perceives performance is an object, owed to the habits of artistic practice, the latter often perceives the performance as experience design, owed to their theatrical practice. The article is largely critical of the industrialised art market framework, but it does provide a balanced exploration of difference between both approach and outcomes.
Andy Horwitz (2011) Visual Art Performance v. Contemporary Performance
“We now have generations of would-be and practicing artists who live in a context-free world without history but tons of information. Google it. Look it up on Wikipedia. The problem is that information doesn’t equal knowledge.”—
Yesterday I learnt something new about why there is a ‘crisis’ in contemporary art criticism. In the past, my frustration with art criticism was largely focused on the fact that it resembled not much more than ‘high brow copyrighting’ and that there was an absence of a valid conservative voice in the debate.
However, during the talk by Dr Justin Clemens, I was made aware that art criticism served another function. Apart from the entertainment value that accompanied the razor sharp tongue of the art critic, art criticism, much like art history, recorded what came before, and was able to delineate derivative art from what is actually ‘new’.
This function sounds a bit snobby but it is important because it prevents us from forgetting what has been forgotten. Without a salient memory of what has come before, everything will be recycled over and over again in the high-turnover news cycle of contemporary art media. Popular culture tropes continue to leech off questionable French cultural theories and bland activist art continue to parade manifestos as if it were still 1945.
“I hope to be able to articulate a way of describing and legitimating interesting and important art that does more than simply replicate activist stereotypes and leftist cliches derived from historical circumstances and the once-potent practices that came out of them”—
What a mission statement - and this is just the introduction!
Alana Jelinek (2013) This is Not Art, London: I. B. Tauris, p. 10
“If we boycott companies, and criticise politicians, or even indict the people we know for the reprehensible things they say or do, why would artists be exempt from the same scrutiny?”—
This topic really drives me up the wall because I had the exact same argument a while ago after viewing a documentary on Joy Division. The film left me feeling that Ian Curtis was quite awful, and that the band, which derives much inspiration from his personal sentiments are a by-product of some very distasteful events.
My partner, usually unsympathetic to immoral conduct, happened to be a huge Joy Division fan and grew very irritated and offended by my remarks. While my feelings were completely overwhelmed by the narrative, making it impossible for me to appreciate their music, my partner was able to completely overlook this detail even though he’s usually the outspoken one on moral issues. It’s totally bizarre.
The author of the article, Bryant Apolonio, considers that a possible explanation is that artistic work transcend the individual artist and is therefore able to be judged on its own merit. I suppose that could be one possibility because I too have experienced instances where I overlooked unfavourable biographical details of my favourite artists. But the question remains, what is the final word on this issue?
Bryant Apolonio (2013) This charming man (or: Morrissey is an asshole but whatever, Honi Soit, May 22 2013
“During the Dutch Golden Age, works of art were created for sale on the market as well as being commissioned. The significance of this demand was that is had nothing to do with the court or aristocratic patronage.”—
Debunking some common perceptions about arts patronage in the past:
The art market flourished in the Low Countries as the increasingly wealthy middle class of the seventeenth-century ‘golden age’ bought paintings and etchings, hand-painted tiles and books with engravings for their homes. Some artists were very entrepreneurial and not only ran workshops producing a huge output of works of art but also were dealers in other artists’ works. Rembrandt ran a workshop and was an art dealer, as was Rubens. Rubens also built his studio so that the public could view him at work – a privilege for which he charged.
Ruth Towse (2010) A Textbook of Cultural Economics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press p. 66
“We should be asking researchers to spend less time generating new research and more time critically evaluating other people’s research. That’s the only way it’s going to enter the public consciousness.”—
Arts policy commentator Ian David Moss talks about how there is almost no meaningful connection between the academic research infrastructure and the professional arts ecosystem because lots of research relevant to the arts is published in academic journals each year and are typically behind a pay firewall, which most arts organizations don’t have subscriptions to.
Academics are accused of self-serving behaviour, always trying to reinvent the wheel instead of building on and critiquing the work of their peers. Moss laments that the fragmentation of research in the arts policy field results in a concentration of research serving narrow interests that are discipline-specific, organization-specific, methodology-specific.
“Theory and positions are important, but they often lead to dogmatic thinking, obscure writing, and rigid taste.”—Jerry Saltz (2002) Learning on the Job: Anticipating the New Season, the Critic Reflects on His Role, Village Voice, Tuesday, Sep 10 2002
“Denying the content of art and its social responsibility, moving in the direction of art for art’s sake, these are the fundamental symptoms of bourgeois art’s decline.”—
Jiang Feng (~1956) “Impressionism is not Realism - 印象主义不是现实主义”
Jiang Feng was the vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Arts before being ironically and wrongly persecuted by the Communist Party during the Anti-Rightist Campaign in 1957 being sympathetic to western painters.
Original source: Melissa Chu & Zheng Shengtian (2009) Art and China’s Revolution, New York: Asia Society in association with New Haven: Yale University Press p. 26