Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Trends

  
Went to a talk the other night given by the director of a well known university art gallery in a rather classy Southern town.  He discussed several recent exhibitions he had curated and what became obvious very quickly was that obsessional art is still very popular. One show was all about patterns made on the floor with thousands of pounds of salt in a little salt pourer.  Try it for yourself!  Take a box of salt and doodle on the floor...If you do this with a sewing machine on fabric, you can create similar patterns, but it won't be art till you reach about 500 square feet!

  Gompertz, in his book What Are You Looking At, suggests that the current art "-ism" is entrepreneurism.  Entrepreneurism in art is defined as the ability to make art, market art and build a profitable art business.  And being able to build a hugely recognisable trade mark - in Hirst's case it's currently The Painted Dot.  Hirst has painted dots for a long time - the paintings look like color charts only the colors are in rows of circles rather than rectangles.  He made his name with the shark in formaldehyde, and flies feasting on a cow skull but these are less marketable on a world wide scale than the dot paintings.  Amazingly he managed to persuade a well known gallery with premises in most of the world's art capitals to put on a solo show of his dot paintings all around the world simultaneously!  What a brilliant marketing ploy. He's a marketing strategist par excellence and there is something very obsessive about the dots too - though I doubt he crouches down and makes very many of them himself.


Rusty Answer (detail)

So how does this relate to the art quilt world?  I think we do see evidence of both of these trends - the obsessionalism has always been evident.  Nothing, if you think about it, is more obsessional than an art form that requires millions of stitches taking months of work.  There is such a meditation involved in repeated simple manual gestures that gradually build up into an art piece.  When I left school I went to get a job at the local chocolate factory, I wanted to be the one that did the squiggles on top of the chocolates. In those days (maybe now too though I've not had a classic box of chocs for a long time, alas) every chocolate had a different pattern on top reflecting its contents.  I thought it would be really neat to sit there with my little chocolate pourer making up all sorts of designs!! (a lot better than salt if you think about it!)...but alas the personnel department told me that people like me "ruined an assembly line".   Just imagine a gallery filled with chocolates !!! a chocolate installation!
Electric Fields (detail)
Obsession and marketability are two of the trends.  But what else?  I'm afraid to say I think it's a certain blandness - there's enough horrible things going on with really scary climate change, the eternal human appetite for dispute and war, and the, alas also eternal, belief that "my religion is the true one and you are an infidel".  So, people don't want to be "irritated" (as my friend described her feelings looking at one of my most recent quilts) by any reminders of these important issues.  Another friend said that he wanted art that calmed him down not aggravated him.

I think I'm going to make a cup of tea...now what about a gallery installation of 4,000 cups of tea? hmmm....

one room with tea and one with chocolate and both very marketable.....
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!
Elizabeth
PS if you're in or near Athens, GA, this Saturday I'm one of the featured artists at the opening of the Classic Center (2-6); I'm off to buy some salt now....

9 comments:

pam in sw florida said...

Did I miss the blog about your pop up art shop a few months back?
Did any fiber sell? Price range?

Looking forward to your teaching gig in Sarasota this spring.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Looking forward to being there!! Are you Pam M? in which case I'll be in touch!
I did write a blog after the pop up show; it was entitled:
Rara avis: the fiber art collector
and was mid December..
I sold 14 watercolors and no fiber! I did get a small commission for a small quilt!! which was quite fun - but certainly won't come anywhere near the new shower I was hoping for, not even a tap!! maybe a plug....
I had quilts available from $100 - $2000....

deemallon said...

quilt sales are baffling... aren't they? the idea that your work should be soothing, where does THAT come from?!!

Nina Marie said...

hmmm - it seems that lately I've been to a lot of art shows that feature work that is disturbing. Maybe its just this part of the country - but does every show need to feature the angst and annoyance of the artist? So no haven't seen a lot of "calming" art here. As for the other - well - there is a reason why "Art is what you can get away with" is my fav quote - LOL!

Linda Bilsborrow said...

Interesting timing. I made a piece last year for a challenge themed 'A Fine Living'. I'm not a particularly political animal but for some reason it made me think of excessive consumerism, which I loathe and the cost of that to other human beings. So I made my small piece which appeared to be a blue and white cup and saucer, "More tea?", with a blue border. Except that the border was printed with the cell patterns of the asbestosis suffered by clay workers. People either loved it or were repelled by the explanation, one person even went so far as to say - we don't need that kind of thing in quilts. This piece was 12" square - there's very little that it could comfort or keep warm! I'm all for rattling some cages!

Linda Bilsborrow said...

Oops, I meant to go on to say that I visited an exhibition this last weekend which was full of angst and annoyance - but it was very personal, an autobiography in paint. I did find it disturbing and I'm not sure that I'd want to meet the artist if she were as angry as her canvases - but I'm glad that I saw the exhibition.

Elizabeth Barton said...

I think you're right - sometimes we just need to rattle! Art has many purposes.

Leigh said...

I think "calm" sells because the buyer wants to hang it in his/her home. Home tends to be held to the standard of a quietish place of peace. Displaying an angry irritating piece of artwork in one's home sortof messes up that homey feeling.

Anger and irritation will likely produce a very good show, but buyers won't buy it unless they feel extremely comfortable with their economic and political environment. Given the current semi-shaky economy & world political turmoil, most buyers will likely want pretty, calm, or bland art. It is safe. Plus, they don't know how to mentally process/appreciate the more challenging pieces.

Leigh said...

Oh, I was going to add something else. As a buyer myself, I can't spend $500-$1000 on just any piece of art. I have to really love it to a) spend the money, b)boot something else out of my limited display space, and c) really want to look at it every single day. I want to look at it and say "yes!" in my head. A flood of positive emotion when I look at a piece of art that I own is way better than irritation. I can get irritation at work all day long, or in my email, or driving in rush hour.

I appreciate the 'statement' art, but I don't buy it.