If we look back into the art world in 2013, one cannot help but feel a sense of disconnection. While the world has been experiencing the after-effects of recession and a series of natural castastrophes, the art world kept booming and, allegedly, blossoming. This is due to the growing polarisation of wealth that we are experiencing. This will be remembered at the year that, in November, Christie’s New York broke records with a $692 million postwar and contemporary art sale -over half a billion dollar in business on just 67 works of art. Having said this, I keep asking myself whether these figures are real or whether they are part of an artificially created bubble in an shockingly still unregulated market. We could say that the polarisation between rich and poor is mirrored by another polarisation of sorts that occurs between lack of regulation and over-regulation. Who is keeping an eye on the Mugrabi’s control of Warhols and/or checking whether Christie’s are not artificially inflating their prices to maintain market confidence?
As the money poured in, the big galleries got bigger this year. Hauser & Wirth, Galerie Perrotin and David Zwirner all debuted flashy New York branches; Lehmann Maupin followed White Cube and Gagosian in Hong Kong; Marian Goodman announced plan for a London outlet, joining her New York peers Zwirner and Pace, who arrived in 2012. In spite of this apparent development, the level of creativity in the art world fell and Clement Greenberg’s worst fears are becoming a reality. Art is abandoning any modernist ambition and has embraced that postmodernist pastiche driven by size and celebrity. During 2013, art unashamedly decided to go in the direction of entertainment.
Continuing its recent trend, the art pieces got this year ridiculously big. It is not just about entertainment but about size both metaphorically and literally. There has been also a trend towards having simultaneous shows as if they were movies being released at the same time, worldwide. This was the case of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, who had simultaneous shows of new work at Gagosian and Zwirner in May, turning out a fresh line of larger than life baubles and photorealist paintings. But it was the strangely similar impression left by the blockbuster’s gods’ simultaneous beatification of Paul McCarthy and James Turrell that really illustrated how Bigness has taken hold and has its own logic, independent of local artistic style. McCarthy embraced entertainment by blowing up to IMAX size and projected onto the walls around Park Avenue Armory, his Walt Disney’s Snow White fable. He inflated a massive dwarf in the Park. What does it mean at this point?
Turrell, for his part, owned summer in the US with, again…,three simultaneous shows at the LACMA, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts and NY’s Guggenheim- not to mention a pair of splashy projects in Las Vegas (at a mall and a Louis Vuitton store). The NY outing, at least, was a disappointment, transforming the Frank Lloyd Wright building into the walk-in equivalent of a comforting nightlight. Paul Mc Carthy represented that super-sizing trend to the point of the ridiculous and the problem with his artistic project is that his installations cannot be taken seriously anymore. The same thing happens with Turrell, whose installations have ceased being about purity of perception and the spiritual quality of live and instead have joined a class of gee-whiz civil spectacle like, say, firework displays but a little bit more chic. I think this has been the year in which a particular way of thinking of art in relation to public institutions has got to a deadlock that to be honest, bores me to death. To be continued. Just a thought.