Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Business of Art

When different artists combine their works into a group show, there is always the risk of an inconsistency and an awkward result. With “Comfortable”, I didn’t feel that at all, and I think it’s because of the setting within an actual apartment. In a home, things don’t need to necessarily match in order to feel right, and that response carries over into this show, - it was comfortable. There was something natural about the way the gruop of artists got together to exhibit their works. I particularly liked the room with the foam and tiled floor. It simply was very cool and unique. The whole exhibit was actually rather unique; the way each installation contributed to the greater picture but was able to stand on its own, with its own meaning and purpose while really connecting with the idea of the artist existing within a community outside of a formal institution.

This sense of pure community I was feeling dissipated quickly upon arrival at the “ShContemporary 08” art fair. I feel the need to preface this entry with a disclaimer about how I really am not into the commercial side of the art world. What I saw, was a market of new wealth that has lead artists and galleries to create and support really commercial works of art in order to cater to this new group of customers who may now know anything of art except that it is fashionable and shows off their status. A booth at the fair, occupied by a magazine held a sign that put this manipulation and pretention best, “No one knows china’s rich better. Influencing the spending of china’s richest.” I saw a trend of works that tried to be very provocative, deep, and revolutionary, but just came off as contrived and un-unique. An example of this is a statue of a monk (I think it may be Gandhi but I’m not sure) with an ipod, a juxtaposition that I find to be extremely obvious and boring –shock value that fails to shock. Of course I understand that it is a business after all and catering to your market is just smart, but I can’t help but feel it is being done at the expense of the art, that art wasn’t being created for a reason other then to be a commodity.
It wasn’t all bad though of course. There were works by artists whom I knew of, and other I hadn’t head of before. In this way, I really appreciated the fair for exposing me to new and different talents, and to show me old favorites. I really enjoyed checking out the whole show –even the parts I didn’t agree with. Especially, I really was taken with Miao Xiaochun’s re-imagining of Heironymus Bosch’s ‘garden of earthly delights’, “Microcosm.” Using digital imagery and adding modern accoutrements such as phones, lamps, and other electronics, he has created an extremely fascinating piece of social commentary. Unlike the statue mentioned above, here I do think the inclusions of items of contemporary pop culture are appropriate given the nature of the work and for the message conveyed. It’s very cool that the work is a complete take on such an old classic but can definitely stand on its own. I have since done a little research on Miao Xiaochun and have discovered that he has digitally interpreted several classic works, each containing his own take of course. All in all, I can put my feelings about the business aside because even with all the mediocre, there always seems to be something special to find at these big group shows.

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