15 Nov Where is Your Art World?
As I was watching the Price of Everything last night on HBO, the latest documentary to examine the white hot contemporary art market, I found myself one more time, in fascination with the art world. I love these sorts of documentaries, probably not for the reason the producers would hope for, because I imagine they would want me to walk away from this sort of project with a bit of amused skepticism, or exuberant cynicism. However, after this show was over, I was once again inspired, hopeful, and sentimental for what often gets singularly described as “the art world.”
Now to be clear, I don’t move around in the circles portrayed in this documentary. I have attended large art fairs here in north America, and abroad. I have visited some of the galleries mentioned in the doc, and I am familiar with many if not all of the artists featured. But this art world, as seductive as it is, is not my art world. As a matter of fact I have come to understand that I have art worlds, rather than one defining art world. The art worlds I move through are both local and global. I am fortunate enough to get to travel far and wide and visit galleries and museums in many different countries. Whenever I visit a new city my first google search is for the contemporary art museum, and where the local galleries are located. These sorts of experiences are cherished and provide a rich opportunity for learning about new cultures and communities. This is one of my art worlds.
And then there’s my local art world. Through the experiences I have had over the last almost two decades (this blog has been around in some form now for 15 years) of making art, showing other people’s art, supporting artists financially, curating art, and of course writing about art, here in southern California. I have had the wonderful opportunity of experiencing the art world I cherish most, the one in my own backyard. Because of a willingness to approach my own art community with the same curiosity I bring to the larger art world found in my travels, I have made many cherished friends, had many experiences I could never buy, and have been personally transformed by the art made here in quiet studios, by folks that may never break into the world outlined in the Price of Everything.
I guess I am writing this just to say, that it could be easy to become cynical in our contemporary times. Point to documentaries like the Price of Everything and paint all possible art worlds with the wide brush of cynicism, or worse, certainty and satisfaction. But I know something about art that was not stated in the Price of Everything. It will always be stronger than commerce. And it’s alive and well in your neighborhood. You just need to go find it.