Today’s Hierarchy of Values in the Art World



by Masha Tupitsyn

This could not be truer. I think about this all the time. This plus the general loss of real personality, humility and integrity in most people. “What one ends up dialoguing with is success and recognition” is exactly what my peers today consider artistic achievement and success. For me, everything is always about the work, and living life deeply with all my heart and soul in order to do the work.

From the 60′s to the early 80′s there was still standards for excellence that were upheld by a very selective and demanding audience of connoisseurs. Since the scene was intergenerational there was a longer time before people were expected to make their “own” work. This meant that one could see what was possible in terms of artistic development by seeing work that was more refined, more complex, that held dimension. This situation that was brought about with the focus on emerging artists has coincidentally effected not only the quality of work one sees but also the economics of art, meaning before artists were able to make some money from their work, as they earned their turn on a greater professional basis because there was an audience partially made up of younger artists who paid to see the work of more developed artists. With the ever growing onslaught of emerging arts, this crucial audience is gone because this emerging class of artists is busy making their own work so they rarely go to see other,older artists unless those artists receive the kind of publicity these new workers in art hope to have. Fran Lebowitz has spoken rather eloquently on this disappeared audience of connoisseurs who demanded excellence. One of the things that is misunderstood in the current climate of the erasure of history is that one of the things that happened because of the AIDS crisis of the 80’s is that when those generations of people died wholesale, it left a vacuum that was then necessarily filled by younger, less developed artists and the whole culture fell several notches from what it had been. All it took was the professionalization of the arts with it’s inherent careerism to bring the whole thing down to a rather mediocre level compared with what had existed before. I have continued on an almost daily basis to put myself in worlds far removed from art, allowing me to develop my point of view and my memory, both of which continually feed my art practice. The ambition I encountered in the 60′s and 70′s was perhaps as desperate as today’s; desperation being one of the basic elements of ambition but this earlier drive for ambition held other desires that included the desire for ability and the desire for excellence, both which seem to be largely missing now, leaving mostly a combination of fame seeking and careerism. What do I mean by that statement? I mean that the rush to get acceptance and recognition sits at a twisted place in today’s hierarchy of values in the Art World. What no one will tell you is that ‘recognition’ is a two edged sword. You can use ‘hype’ to bring you into a higher arena but another truth is that one is judged very harshly in that arena… Talent is just one part of what one needs to succeed artistically. The muse is jealous of us splitting our attention with mundane things like ego gratification and approval and will withhold artistic growth. The artistic journey is the hero’s journey, and often contains many trials and setbacks. One needs the strength that comes from our inner dialogue with the muses of creation.If ones life between 18 and 35 is only grounded in the desire for achievement and recognition without any concept of development or rigorous inquiry, the possibility for continued development as an artist is severely compromised. The first generations of “academic artists” hit NY in the late 70′s to late 1980’s. I can tell you that very, very few of those artists were still making work in the late 1990’s and even among the successful ones,only a small handful are still making art today. Why? Because it is very hard to sustain any kind of real personal dialogue with art, if you come out of school and start making your own work right away. There is no period of failure. No striving to develop the true inner dialogue on which art is based. What one ends up dialoguing with is success and recognition. The all important period of developing your own vocabulary which is best done in the shadows is truncated, starved.Instead what one sees are people copying what seems to work for other artists and this is a betrayal to ones own budding vision, which cannot be rushed to fulfill some ego based need for recognition. There are many of examples of people who got that recognition early, shows, tours and grants from age 26 on who are empty and artistically exhausted by age 39, just at the moment that ones own vocabulary starts to naturally coalesce. In my early 40’s my personal vision was just starting to assert itself in an integrated way.

Penny Arcade

Piece crossposted with Love Dog