Saturday, December 06, 2008
Finally, five respondents to my current blog poll have noted 'art' as among the things they want for Christmas . I was beginning to worry. As it is, I'm having a hard time convincing myself of art's relevance as I review the results of this year's Turner Prize and scan the daily round-up of offerings from the 200 galleries participating at Art Basel Miami Beach ("The art fair as outlet mall," The New York Times calls it). The only interesting side-show at the latter was the presence of former alternative fashion and punk rock impresario turned art hustler, Malcolm McLaren, who, at 62, makes the so-badly-wannabe Mark Leckey, the 44-year-old Turner Prize winner, look like an anaemic, dandy-ish poseur. Hell, Leckey tells anyone who'll listen that he wants his own prime time TV show: "... a variety show, with his band, Jack Too Jack, as the house orchestra," according to English newspaper, The Guardian. "It would have musical numbers, and a little play or sketch, and Leckey sitting in a leather armchair à la Ronnie Corbett telling an anecdote - except the chat would be 'about art and ways of seeing'. John Berger meets The Two Ronnies, he says." Ugh. I can't imagine McLaren wanting so badly to make nice with the middle classes.I can't wait for the recession to bite even harder than it has done already on the art business. Note that I said the art business not artists. Art and business have become inextricable over the past couple of decades. Art is now a high-end consumer product, like French handbags, hand-tooled sports cars and beachside second homes, with big, shiney, obvious works with low-pressure intellectual demand – think Koons' Balloon Dog or Hirst's encased shark – being the most popular among New York's corporate raiders, London's hedge-fund managers and Moscow's oligarchs. With a little luck, the bad times will reduce the over-inflated physical scale of works and revalue intimacy and artisan-like skills. They might also encourage artists to communicate more clearly and frankly with each other and their audiences, eschewing the strangulated, meaningless jargon of post-modern theory for real, human language – maybe returning art from the high-rent salons to a genuinely enlivening, proletarian cultural function that might even be curative during the darker days ahead.