So the busiest week of the year in the London art world is over. Visiting the multiple art fairs this week was on the whole a slightly depressing experience, regardless of the particular fair be it Frieze, Scope, Year 06 the overall impression was the same, stylistically art across the world is homogenising into a core of several rigid styles, no doubt this is market led homogeneity but where is the space for experimentation or risk?. The Zoo art fair offered a little more variety and risk but the signs of market capitulation simmered in the background, however the inclusion of galleries from Mexico and a handful of UK galleries based outside London provided a small crumb of hope. There were a few galleries and artists scattered around the fairs who are pushing boundaries and creating something out of the ordinary and I strongly applaud their integrity and nerve, unfortunately a huge majority seem to be exerting massive stylistic control over the market, I am aware that art fairs are by their very nature a purely commercial, capitalist beast but in the past more variety could be seen even within this arena, national characteristics were in the past recognisable and distinct, art from the Far East, Latin America, Spain, Italy, Germany the US and UK would hold a geographical character despite its varying media but although this can be somewhat observed the variety is diminishing.
I have no problem with galleries, dealers and artists making money but for those of us either unwilling or incapable to adopt or appropriate the market ‘look’ it is a time of sombre reflection and doubt, for some, like myself it turns to rebellion and pride in ones own unique approach but perhaps for younger or unestablished artists the doubts may weigh too heavily.
Society gets the art it deserves but how many talented, hard working artists with strong integrity will be able to tough out this market led obsession with homogeneity and will be lost. Artists are often alienated from their own culture with public opinion lagging behind the vanguard of progressive artistic practice, visual art suffers from stylistic appropriation by the commercial arts through advertising and graphic design, only the very successful wealthy artists can test the potential legal implications of this.
With these thoughts in mind I was grateful for the respite and warm glow provided by the Centre of Attention’s look at the artistic world of the late 20th century with their show "fast and loose (my dead gallery)" at the Fieldgate Gallery in Whitechapel, it is a show tinged with sadness at the loss of projects, galleries and movements of our artistic predecessors. Karen D’Amico’s reflection of the past week and the parting shot of her latest blog entry shows the fears of many artists and reflects on the losses to come.
The rumblings of dissent against the current art market trends are there and regular readers of my ramblings will be aware of the varied galleries, artists, project spaces and studios across London quietly but strongly developing their ‘own thing’. Perhaps we are not so much a counter culture but certainly a counterpoint.