Jerry Saltz, in his inimitably self-absorbed way, wrestles with the changes brought upon the art world (gallery system) by the dramatic success of Contemporary art. Pinioned between his envy of (and contempt for) the rich and his desire to see a democratic distribution system for artists and their work, Saltz eventually works his way to an interesting place. You’ll have to read the essay itself to get there. In the meantime, Saltz sets the scene admirably here:
The clustering of hundreds of galleries in several neighborhoods has meant that a huge swath of the art world is continually being presented at our doorstep. That is changing, and changing fast. These days, the art world is large and spread out, happening everywhere at once. A shrinking fraction of galleries’ business is done when collectors come to a show. Selling happens year-round, at art fairs, auctions, biennials, and big exhibitions, as well as online via JPEG files and even via collector apps. Gallery shows are now just another cog in the global wheel. Many dealers admit that some of their collectors never set foot in their actual physical spaces.
The beloved linchpin of my viewing life is playing a diminished role in the life of art. And I fear that my knowledge of art—and along with it the self-knowledge that comes from looking at art—is shrinking.
Artists and dealers are as passionate as ever about creating good shows, but fewer and fewer people are actually seeing them. Chelsea galleries used to hum with activity; now they’re often eerily empty. Sometimes I’m nearly alone. Even on some weekends, galleries are quiet, and that’s never been true in my 30 years here. (There are exceptions, such as Gagosian’s current blockbuster Basquiat survey.) Fewer ideas are being exchanged, fewer aesthetic arguments initiated. I can’t turn to the woman next to me and ask what she thinks, because there’s nobody there.
Saltz on the Death of the Gallery Show (New York Magazine)