Art has become utterly risible. “Groundbreaking” is the art hagiographer’s euphemism for “vacuous”! Jason Farago’s New York Times advertisement, uh, article, “A Discrete Jubilee for a Groundbreaking Chelsea Gallery,” incarnates the sad situation, as does its sub-headline: “Paula Cooper Gallery, a model of integrity in a market gone crackers, celebrates 50 years of art and activism with an exhibition featuring artists from its very first show.” Integrity? What might that constitute or simply imply? Absolute melding into the art establishment’s m.o. of coop, castrate, and commend! That’s what it means in the art world today.
The three images of the art, presented in the article, back the statement 100%. How can one actually not laugh at Carl Andre’s “Twenty-Eight Red Brick Line,” which is precisely what it is. And how about Jo Baer’s “An untitled diptych” (i.e., two framed blank white canvases)? Robert Murray’s “Surf” looks like yellow plastic boards that go up and down, you know, like surf. 100% safe for the chamber of commerce and grant-according machine!
Farago begins his advertisement, uh, article by arguing that “Many dealers have influenced art history through the works they’ve bought and sold, but only a very few have done something more profound: reshape how we see art and transform what we value.” In other words, moneyed interests are the key determiners of what art has become… and transformers of “what we value.” But who is “we”? Well, “we” certainly does not include “me,” nor should it anyone else with an independent mind not anchored in the elite (moneyed) Chelsea art scene. And of course one of the “very few who have done something more profound” includes the Paula Cooper Gallery, “defined by an embrace of music, dance and poetry, and by a political activism uncommon in galleries of its prominence.”
Farago describes some of the art pieces with fluffy, wordsmithy verbosity, as in “sequences horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines in various combinations across a grid; its austere precision still packs the same philosophical and visual bite” and “a pair of yellow aluminum zigzags nuzzle on the floor, like snakes in the grass offering a sly rejoinder to Donald Judd’s nearby matte brown aluminum box” and “a towering totem of red steel.” Then Farago concludes, “Ms. Cooper’s taste has diffused throughout the world of contemporary art, her ethics and engagement have not — and what feels finest in this discreet jubilee is its vision of integrity in a mad, mad market.” But where the “integrity” in all the descriptive fluff? What does “integrity” even mean in that context? Well, it means nothing… or, if it means something, then it means fully systemic/fully establishment (e.g., Cooper pushes the gun-control narrative at the exhibit).
When art becomes a commodity to be promoted by the New York Times or marketed and sold like stock on Wall Street, then art is in serious trouble. And when artists and their praisers like Farago cannot bear to be criticized, then it is really in serious trouble. It is truly pitiful that art critics today tend to be anything but critical of artists. All they seem to do is promote establishment art and artists. They’ve become lackeys of gallery owners and art organizations—arms of chambers of commerce and the tourist industry. Sellouts! Well, probably not that because likely they were never critical to begin with. And indeed the only way to climb up the careerist art ladder and get published in newspapers like the New York Times is by not being critical…
NB: Farago is editor of , Even Magazine, which aberrantly states: “We’re tired of hearing about culture as elite, opaque, and unapproachable.” Aberrantly because Farago’s article did nothing but add to the “elite, opaque, and unapproachable.” The magazine stipulates, “Our serious, at times irreverent writing bridges the misunderstood gap between culture and the world.” And yet Farago’s article was anything but “irreverent.” Now, would Farago and publisher Rebecca Ann Siegel publish “Risiblement Coopté” in their magazine, let alone any of the numerous other anti-art-establishment essays I’ve written or anti-art-establishment cartoons I’ve drawn over the years? Of course not!