Fall of the Art WorldOctober 13th, 2006
Looking back at this piece (first posted 4 May) I can laugh at the melodramatic style. But I confess that I am still under its spell. Fall of the Art world continues to influence my world view, how I look at things like the Painting a Day movement. Which is to say, I could use some serious criticism of this piece. Tear it down, if you can.
Fall of the Art World
The art world as we know it is the product of the historical era between the invention of photography and the development of the internet.
Photography took away the artist’s monopoly on creating images of reality. Art survived this challenge because, as Cennino Cennini wrote several hundred years ago, art is about more than merely depicting that which exists.
But the challenge of photography led to a crisis: it became difficult to answer the question, “What is art?” In this context, control of public exhibition space became key. The answer to the question “What is art?” became by default, “That which is in museums and galleries.”
In this context, art is created not in the studio, but in the gallery or museum itself. Art is created not with the paintbrush, but with the wire that attaches the work to the museum or gallery wall. The curator and dealer become the creators of art; the artist’s productions are merely their raw materials.
The internet changes the equation; it allows for the juxtaposition of all art, removed from the bounds of physical space. The museum or gallery art-object, stripped of its mystic surroundings and exposed in the harsh light of the computer monitor, must compete on the basis of its own merit with every other artwork.
By diminishing the importance of the physical exhibition space, the internet strikes at the core of the dealer’s and curator’s power. The answer to the question, “What is art?” will no longer be “That which is in museums and galleries”, but, “That which looks good on the internet.”
This will be the end of the art world as we know it. Decision-making about art will be widely distributed. The art world, as a closed and controlled system, will cease to exist. The creative power unleashed in the new era might astonish us.