What is it with art critics and the art market? Here’s John Seed taking to the Huffington Post because the idea of Dan Colen’s birdshit paintings offends his sensibility. Fine. It is understandable to be perplexed and, even, put off by the sight of buyers paying good money for art that seems irrelevant or trite.
One of the roles criticism plays is to separate the ephemeral from the meaningful. The art market
makes has no valid claim to that. Prices are not measures of merit but of current demand.
Seed clearly thinks otherwise:
The job of art critics is supposed to be to protect us from really bad art, but Robert Hughes has been gone nearly two years now. Alberto Mugrabi — the brother of David Mugrabi, the dealer who bought Colen’s “Untitled” — told BusinessWeek after Hughes death that “In another year, nobody will talk about this man anymore.” The curse doesn’t seem to be working among my Facebook friends — we still talk about Hughes — and in regards to protecting us from Colen and some of the other artists who are “pushing boundaries” Jerry Saltz is doing some heroic work on Twitter.
Since he understands the social dynamics surrounding art auctions, he has been using sarcasm and ridicule to make his points.
What is incomprehensible here is the linking of understanding with ridicule and sarcasm, two defensive tropes that indicate feelings of threat. It has been clear for a number of years that art critics feel usurped by the market.
So they rail against it which just ends up depriving us all of valuable critical writing about artists and art.
Can Jerry Saltz Save the Art World and Dan Colen’s Pigeons? (John Seed)