The Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian has put on a show of art works from Burning Man. It’s disappointing to read in The NYTimes that the curator of that show frames the art in opposition to commodities.
“This is an area of contemporary art that has been completely overlooked by the commercial world because it’s been so non-commodified,” said Nora Atkinson, the Renwick’s curator. […]
Ms. Atkinson, who recently attended her first Burning Man, contrasted that experience with the frenzied marketplace of Art Basel Miami, another annual fair of similar size and duration. In Miami, art is a product; an investment. At Burning Man, art is a manifestation of communal values, like inclusion and participation, that generate playful work emphasizing interaction and feeling over economics.
We’ve long advocated for taking Burning Man’s art-centered ethos seriously. In fact, one of the central issues for art in our time is the gap between the growing audience for art and the quality of public art that appears in “alternative” venues like the Grand Rapids Art Prize.
But Ms. Atkinson doesn’t seem to take either Burning Man or Art Basel seriously enough to understand that the selling a work of art doesn’t make it a commodity nor does building a rickety tower in a remote desert location makes it inclusive or communal.
Given how exclusive and privileged an event like Burning Man is, one might expect to see better works of art. After all, the attendees are drawn from some of the wealthiest occupations and regions in the world.
Will the Spirit of Burning Man Art Survive in Museums? (The New York Times)