boy, do i agree...

From the Times Online July 9, 2008:

Why it's impossible to find an art-free space

The cleverest trick the dealers have played is to make us believe that the price of a work of art reflects its quality

I have collected contemporary art since the White Cube was two little rooms up a narrow staircase, 20 years ago. I have been a friend to modern artists and modern art for a very long time, but now - there's no escaping it - I've got contemporary art fatigue. I am swamped by art; it's on the Tube, in restaurants, bars and offices, on the street, at airports, stations and all over the telly. It's impossible to find an art-free space.

It was different 20 years ago when art was confined to galleries and specialist publications, and artists were sensitive, amusing and modest. They were fun to be with, and to champion. Now, art is everywhere, and the artists are overconfident, over-sober, self-important breadheads. I remember fondly the days when artists were dirt-poor. It was before they lost their sense of humour. They craved our approval and patronage and were prepared to work hard for it, but now scorn both.

I don't blame the artists, who are in many cases well-intentioned simpletons drawn to the cash. The people in the dock are the gallerists, the curators and the collectors who have made a religion out of art. They talk up every semi-talented dauber and try to convince us that the worthless splinter of old pine we're thinking of buying is part of the Calvary Cross. Global economics have created a huge number of very stupid rich people, who had nothing to do with the creation of their own wealth, and who have but one overriding wish: to be thought clever.

If I go and see a film I can tell if it's any good, and I am confident about my opinion; if I read a book, I can tell if it's successful and can explain why. We all can. But with art it's more tricky. If we are unmoved or unimpressed by a piece of art we worry that the fault lies not with the work but with us. It's madness.

The cleverest trick the dealers have played is to make us believe that the price of a work of art reflects its quality. It's no surprise that artists just keep churning the work out. Why shouldn't they? Damien Hirst's spots are the new Burberry check, but it doesn't seem to stop them getting more and more valuable.

Lots of children are piling into the business of being an artist. But this country needs electricians and teachers, not artists. If Isambard Kingdom Brunel were alive today, he wouldn't be building a transport system; he'd be ligging around in Hoxton selling half-baked ideas to a fool like me.

We must stop encouraging artists. I have made a resolution to find at least three paintings or sculptures a week to say are useless. I'm struggling against my reflex to be in awe of art, rediscovering a capacity to be bored by a painting, and proudly to declaim the fact.

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