I have to say, ArtNEWS’s experiment earlier this month, in having “experts” predict which artists from today will be famous in 2112, is, on one hand, quite amusing. On the other hand, however, it’s completely galling, a sign of everything that’s wrong with the art world.
Of course if you poll a bunch of art collectors and curators, and other art worlders who have a stake in the reputation of certain artists today, you’re going to get a lot of short-sighted, self-serving, and cynical answers. Alex Katz, for example, was the first person mentioned by the article. Does anyone really think that his unaccomplished, craftless, unappealingly flat style of painting will even be remembered, let alone acclaimed, just five years after the artist is gone?
I love, meanwhile, that a good percentage of people mentioned Andy Warhol, even though he’s been dead and gone for more than twenty years. That doesn’t really qualify him for contemporary status, sorry to say. But no matter, another artistic director mentioned, along with Warhol, a host of safe-bet, high-modernist heroes like Joseph Beuys, Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Marcel Broodthaers, Robert Smithson. Welcome to the 21st Century, daddio!
I understand that people are most comfortable with what they know, but doesn’t it seem like it should be the job of so-called art experts to look, every once in awhile, outsider their own visual box? Shouldn’t Christopher Knight be open-minded enough to mention an artist or two not from his own L.A. neighborhood? Shouldn’t the incoming Walker Art Center director mention an artist or two not part of that institution’s canonical holdings? Couldn’t any of these people have responded with real clarity about what it is in the art of today that will speak to people of the future? Shouldn’t the blending worlds of the nonprofit art museum and for profit art speculators strive for enough separation and distance so they can truly examine what makes art that will have lasting value?
Only one thing’s certain in the end. The art of today that will last in popularity into the future is art that has real power to speak to people—beyond the limited agendas, professional biases, profiteering mindset, and short-sighted cheerleading of the people quoted in this article.