“I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all its meaning.” Andy Warhol (from Brainyquote)
Could the New York art world be coming to grips with its own mortality? The smell of desperation slamming headlong into the forces it seeks to win over is the main impression left after reading two different takes on the Whitney Biennial Art Exhibition in New York. The Whitney Biennial is supposed to be the place for emerging art, the next big craze in the art world. At least that’s the way it’s billed every year. All those “in-the-know” art world inhabitants have the Whitney Biennial down as the “must-go” exhibition to prove they are still “in-the-know.” But what happens when the “in-the-know” people start trashing the “in-the-know” exhibition? The results aren’t pretty.
First up is Jed Perl of the New Republic who calls this year’s Whitney Biennial, “an orgy of navel-gazing that can leave a bad feeling—a sense of unease if not disgust.” That statement goes beyond mere dislike. Perl continues on along that vein with a virtual feast of bashing statements. Read the article if you’d like a taste of the art world cannibalizing its own. Or if the whole spectacle is more than you can take, move on to the next example.
Jerry Saltz throws more salt on the wound in an article for The New York Magazine by calling the Whitney Biennial an “optically starved, aesthetically buttoned-up, pedantic biennial.” Ouch!! There were other juicy bits from this article but to continue on is the like watching a trainwreck. Some people have a fascination for looking at a horrific event hoping to see a bit of blood and guts. Others must avert attention. The horror is too much. If you are in the first group, check out the article.
Rather than the blatant take-downs these articles represent, wouldn’t a healthier response be to just stand back and walk away? The New York art scene has been the reigning authority on art in the U.S. for a century. Others have made some inroads like San Francisco and Chicago but the art world has still focused on New York. New York has steadily pushed for more and more craziness to the point that many people have been turning away to seek art in other places. Is it possible that New York has, at last, “jumped the shark?” We’ll see.