ZOMBIE PROFESSIONALISM

11 Mar

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An interesting article by Daniel S. Palmer about what ArtNews calls the “hyper-professionalization” of some artists. I’d go further and call it something like “jobification”; the reduction of a vocation to a mechanical and wholly uncreative grind. As Palmer points out, it’s not even the best way for an artist to make money or for anyone to make money from an artist’s work, because it’s so shortsighted:

“The entire system seems designed, predominantly, to disappoint. What has arisen from these failures is a marked distinction between product- and project-based artists. Product-based artists have been led to think of an artwork as a product serving a demand, rather than a single step in a longer, sustained development, as is the case with project-based artists. Consider the most visible trend in recent years of Zombie Formalism, a kind of reductive, easily produced abstract painting, sold quickly to collectors queued up on waiting lists and hungry for innocuous, decorative works in a signature style, so much so that the name of the artist himself becomes the brand.

However, product-based art isn’t specific to abstraction or figuration (as an even more recent market shift may be demonstrating) but is the result of dealers and collectors encouraging artists to create more of the same kind of popular work. All too often, museum curators cave to these pressures, too, validating the trend by staging exhibitions of market-darling artists collected by their trustees with a lack of scruples that gives the worst insider traders a run for their money. The path of commercial success may be increasingly easy, but it narrows what could otherwise be probing, expansive, and serendipitous careers. This results-oriented focus can be contrasted to the idea that an artist should be allowed to follow a sustained project of creating art in a passionate and independent way, regardless of market feedback. That might mean changing styles over the years and being less commercially viable at points, but this long-term project will have a notable through-line of a consistent set of questions and issues. The project and its many manifestations are best identified retrospectively, but wandering and doubt are a generative part of it. With some notable exceptions (like Warhol and Courbet, who churned out work like machines), the most fascinating and important artists in history exemplify this approach by remaining true to what drove them to create, rather than caving to external responses. We should all be worried if these artists start disappearing.”

Read the rest here.

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One Response to “ZOMBIE PROFESSIONALISM”

  1. Alistair 18/04/2016 at 4:12 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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