I didn’t get a chance in my last column to talk about art critic Dave Hickey’s announcement about being fed up with the art world and “quitting.” This is old news by now, but I feel compelled to continue the discussion. When I first read the U.K.Observer article, it felt celebratory. The interview ended with Hickey calling the art world “nasty and stupid,” and he doesn’t care if he’s invited to the parties anymore. Good for you, Dave!
That’s not to say I think all art sucks. There’s plenty of fresh and powerful work being made (see inside these pages), but have you noticed a lot of the work at the top of the spectrum does sort of suck? Many of the artists that have “made it,” seem to be just cashing in and going through the motions. But for some reason they are still on top.
The main thing I like about Hickey is his sassiness and spunk. Unlike a curator quoted in the same article, who wished to remain anonymous, Hickey is not afraid to speak his mind. You don’t have to agree with Hickey—although it’s pretty easy—point is, you gotta love his confidence in saying what he thinks, no matter how eloquent (or not) he chooses to be.
As for that cowardly curator, he (or she) wished to remain anonymous when voicing the opinion that maybe, just maybe, big-deal artists like Tracey Emin might be a little overrated. Ya think? Someone was afraid to say that?
I feel a segment of “REALLY?” coming on from SNL’s Weekend Update skit. Really? A curator? A curator that maybe had to include Emin’s work in a show, and really, underneath it all, that curator thought the work stunk? A curator—who the general public looks up to as an arbiter of taste—was afraid to assert themselves on matters of taste? Perhaps a sponsored exhibit funded by investors that have a lot of Emin work kept them silent? Perhaps? Really?
We all know what’s required to make it in the art world: Play the game. Kiss the right ass. But truly, that’s not where art comes from. In his interview, Hickey longed for the old days when artists were independent thinkers and creators and cared about life and communication. In the same article, a BBC arts editor put it this way: “We need artists to work outside the establishment and start looking at the world in a different way— to start challenging preconceptions instead of reinforcing them.”
To tell you the truth, that’s precisely why I started this magazine. I was an artist getting nowhere, trying to get somewhere. It wasn’t because my art stank… who can really determine such matters these days? It’s a free-for-all as far as I can tell. I knew my art was good. But I also knew that I was in a world of doublespeak—of false idols and price points—and I wanted to challenge that.
I’ll close with an anecdote. One big-time dealer (whose name shall remain anonymous) told me recently that he simply did not like the magazine. He put it plainly. “The reason I don’t like Artillery is because you tell the truth.” I think that was supposed to be a criticism, but I think I’ll take it as a compliment. Thank you Mr. Big Shot Dealer. What can I expect from your next show? Beauty? Truth? Really?
— Tulsa Kinney