Waldemar Januszsak is a very good art critic for the Times of London. This week he has a review of a few gallery shows that, to his mind, show off the value of the credit crunch to the production of “good” art. Within his justification, however, there’s an interesting view of what the art world should be, according to a critic. This vision does not seem all that appealing when you consider it. Here’s what Janszsak says:
the crunch is the best thing that has happened to art in recent times. It is not only a question of providing art with vivid and meaningful subject matter, although that is a definite plus. The crunch is helpful in so many ways.For instance, with luck, there will be a slimming down of the number of galleries operating in Britain. There are far too many. Art was never meant to be mass-produced on an industrial scale like this. The map of London’s art venues looks like a close up of Seurat’s La Grande Jatte: spots, spots everywhere. Also near the top of my wish list would be the dooming of art fairs. If Frieze and the rest go down, perhaps we can all go back to recognising that peddling art and looking at it in a meaningful way are entirely different experiences.
The best thing the crunch can do for art, though, is inspire it: give it energy, meaning, pertinence and bite. Judging by what Richard Grayson has come up with in his new unveiling at Matt’s Gallery, that has already happened. Matt’s is perhaps the most heroic art space in London. It opened as long ago as 1979 and, although I have missed more shows here than I have seen, everything I’ve encountered has been ambitious, high-minded and worthwhile. This is what proper galleries should be like: risk-taking ideas spaces in which the envelope is stretched and definitions are challenged.
Let’s work this vision out to its logical conclusion. Art should be limited and inaccessible. It should only be challenging and artists should not have a way to make a living. Viewers, buyers and artists should all be forced to make great sacrifices for the privelege of experiencing art.
Worse still, one wonders how much art would exist if these strictures were maintained indefinitely. On the other hand, allowing art to experience the same patterns of growth and retrenchment that all other economic activity experiences should be a good thing. Also, the proliferation of trite or mediocre art cannot be elminated without losing the great breakthrough moments. But that’s a discussion for another time.
Credit Crunch Art at East End Galleries (Times of London)
In the old days, Matt’s was in Martin Amis country, on the edge of London Fields. The development of the East End, though, has pushed it further afield, and these days getting to it on foot involves a serious wander through the outer reaches of the Olympics wasteland, past Bethnal Green, past Mile End, to a converted warehouse across the road from a go-karting arena.