This strange Telegraph review of a German show reveals something striking about the world’s expectations for art. Although Ivan Hewett laments the lack of a coherent political voice in Contemporary art, he somehow imagines that art’s obscurantism is a function of a willful elitism:
More serious is the sheer obscurity of much of the art, which is worlds away from the demotic vigour of Depression-era art. This is surely linked to the fact that these artists have no connection with ordinary people. They flit around the globe, moving from one hot-house art environment to another, speaking a strange language only understood in the art world.
This is art made by an élite for an élite, speaking only to that tiny sliver of society which is fluent in the ways of contemporary art. The show is excellent fodder for earnest conversations at arty left-wing dinner-tables, but most of the people who’ve actually suffered in the crash will surely be baffled by it.
And yet he happily admits that art is only a reflection of the wider political confusion of our time:
one clear difference between Depression-era art and the art on show here. In the 1930s, art was prompted by a strongly political vision of the world, which called for a vigorous response. Labour had to stick together against capital, and on the local level, people had to help each other out. In the Dresden show, the vision is so complex that commitment and action seem to be ruled out. There are just too many evils to face, which seem to have no political solution, at least not with the political parties we have now.