Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What defines 21st Century Art? Who is at the top? What is the current era? How does the art system work? Who decides what / who is important? + FOOD: Pan-Seared Salmon

{ART ZOMBIES - 21st Century Art}

Artist: Brett-Murray's "Somnambulance" series, 2014

Metal, paint, gold leaf - each 6 feet +/- tall

(art courtesy of goodman-gallery.com)
What is 
21st Century Art?
Who are the top artists now
and why? 
What is the name 
of the current era in art history? 

So far in 21st century art, there have been no styles or "-isms" (that have stuck) defining our current era in art history. Riding at the top of the market today are individual artists, not a unifying style. These few artists have become famous working in their own "signature style" and some in multiple styles.

It has always been true, the role of "the artistic theory" behind the image or object defines art and creates it's value, aesthetically and within the art world's marketplace! Of course there is value in beauty, perfect presentation, talented technique, time in creation and certain favorite mediums, but those pale in comparison to the importance of the "intellectual concepts" and "human emotions" that are the substance of all great artworks. 

Many collectors today still want painterly oil-on-canvas "paintings". Across the US and around the world, MFA programs produce artists who can draw well and are great painters or have perfected other traditional art techniques, but classic oil-on-canvas paintings, pastels, watercolors and realistic drawings are "rare" at the current international art fairs showing the best art of today. (see Zombie Formalism below) Conceptual works in all media, digital photography, sculpture, video, neon/light, digital output, documented performance art, installations, constructions, awkward drawing styles and simple graphic paintings seem to rule-the-day and attract the attention of top tier art collectors.

"Pluralism" (multiple styles at once) has been suggested to describe the art of the 21st century. The video series titled "Art21" has tracked many of the various incarnations of art since 2001, but "Art21" is a trademark and is not descriptive about the artworks, what-so-ever. In reality, no styles or "-isms" have risen to the top to define these current times.

Recently there has been a BACKLASH termed: "Zombie Formalism". (Zombie=because the movement brings old styles back to life, much like a retro-fashion trend, & Formalism=because the techniques are formal and old-school / paintings, pastels, watercolors and realistic drawing.)

Riding at the pinnacle of the art world today are a few dozen artists, working in individual styles, but they have one thing in common, they have all been anointed by galleries, museums, the art press and collectors as famous "Art Stars". When we look at contemporary culture in the world today, fame seems to be the driving force in so many areas: Chefs, Entertainment, Music, Politics, Law, Architecture, Entrepreneurship, and now the "Art World".  

Q 1: How does the 
art system work? 

A: The art world's "MARKETPLACE" over the past 150 years or more has operated by a simple and basic process. Recognition of an artist has come through a combination of: savvy gallerists selecting and promoting the artist's work; constant and major discussion of the artist in the "art press" (both good and bad); and verification of worth through acquisition of the artist's work by top tier collectors; then acquisition by major art museums in the art centers of the world; and finally by rising prices on the secondary market (at the major art auction houses, when the artist's work is re-sold).

There it is, this is how the art system has worked ever since the end of the academy system in the mid-19th century. No artist can "make" this valuable recognition of their art happen, the artist must have an organic rise to prominence.

Q 2: Since Impressionism, 
who has decided 
which art pieces and 
what artists are important?


Paul Durand-Ruel, an art dealer in Paris and then London, recognized the artistic potential of the Impressionists in the early 1870s and provided support to his painters through stipends and solo exhibitions.

Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, a German-born art historian, art collector, and a prominent art dealer in Paris, became one of the first champions of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Cubism.

In the United States:
Alfred Stieglitz from 1905 to 1917 ran the "Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession" which he renamed 291 Gallery (because it was located at 291 Fifth Avenue, NYC). 291 became an internationally famous art gallery and single-handedly pioneered the future of artistic photography. 291 showed the works of Stieglitz himself, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand and many, many more "art" photographers. He also created the publication Camera Work, to showcase photography as an art form. Equally important, Stieglitz used his 291 space to introduce the United States to the most avant-garde European artists of the time, including Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brâncuși, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, etc. He showed the paintings, drawings or sculpture of great 20th century masters like Georgia O'Keeffe, Max Weber, John Marin, Marsden Hartley, Elie Nadelman and many more. Indubitably the most important early embracers of modern art in America was Alfred Stieglitz. He launched America into the art world it dominated for three-fourths of the 20th century. New York continues to be the epicenter of the art world.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney advocated on behalf of living American artists and in 1914, Mrs. Whitney established the Whitney Studio in Greenwich Village. Here she presented exhibitions by living American artists whose work had been disregarded by the traditional academies. By 1929 she had assembled a collection of more than 500 works, which she offered with an endowment to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. When the offer was refused, she set up her own museum, one with a new and radically different mandate: to focus exclusively on the art and artists of this country. The Whitney Museum of American Art was founded in 1930, and opened in 1931 on West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village. The Museum moved to West 54th St. in 1954, the Marcel Breuer building on Madison Ave. in 1966 and the Piano Whitney building at 99 Gansevoort St. on May 1, 2015.

Peggy Guggenheim used to say it was her duty to protect the art of her own time, and she dedicated half of her life to this mission. In 1921, Ms Guggenheim traveled to Europe, and soon found herself at the heart of Parisian bohemia and American expatriate society. Many of her acquaintances were great artists and become her lifelong friends. Between 1939 and 1940, in the midst of World War II, Peggy busily acquired works for her future museum, keeping her word to “buy a picture a day.” In Oct. 1942 she opened museum/gallery named "Art of This Century". She held temporary exhibitions of leading European artists, and of unknown young American artists such as Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Mark Rothko, David Hare, Janet Sobel, Robert de Niro Sr., Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock. Pollock was the “star” of the gallery, who was given his first show by Peggy late in 1943. She went on to create the Guggenheim Museum which still carries her name. 

Ileana Sonnabend of Sonnabend Gallery first opened in Paris, in 1962, and then on New York's Madison Avenue in 1970. In 1971 she relocated to SoHo where she helped make the POP artists famous and NY's SoHo Arts District the international center of the art world. From the early 1970s until the 1990s, SoHo launched most of the great artists of that era, we see in modern museums today. In the 1990s the Art World started shifting to "Chelsea" between 10th & 11th Avenues and by dawn of the millennium Chelsea was the undisputed "Contemporary Arts District" of New York City.

"Charles Saatchi invented an entire art movement in the '90s. Mary Boone had the magic formula in the '80s. Larry Gagosian sits at the center of his own solar system…", as do scores of the larger galleries in the Chelsea contemporary arts district and around the world. These galleries select and anoint the artist who rise to the top tier, today. "Museums, art schools, and art magazines are also power centers in their own way, as are the new digital communities." writes Walter Robinson of Artspace.

The top tier collectors today number in the thousands and they live all over the globe. For these collectors art acquisition is a passion and for many of them it is also looked to as a good investment and the best place to protect a portion of their money.

There are many great collectors like Ronald S. Lauder (Neue Galerie New York), Philippa de Menil (Dia Beacon), Alice Walton (Crystal Bridges), etc. who are building or have built their own museums to showcase their personal collections and their particular passion within the visual arts. 

The New Museum (director Marcia Tucker until 1999) joined forces with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, American Center Foundation, the Peter Norton Family Foundation to become a resource to buy, commission and exhibit the work of promising, emerging and young artists. The New Museum has mounted ambitious surveys of important figures such as Ana Mendieta, William Kentridge, David Wojnarowicz, Paul McCarthy and Andrea Zittel before they received widespread recognition. The New Museum building, at 235 Bowery St., opened in 2007 and was erected through the help of Michael Bloomberg and the Carnegie Corporation. 
Currently Lisa Phillips the director and Massimiliano Gioni the associate director and director of exhibitions, work with many curators including Eungie JooLauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin, in selecting the artists and exhibitions featured in the New Museum's galleries. Massimiliano Gioni focuses on the presentation of international artists who have not previously shown in American museums.

Adam Weinberg, the Director of the Whitney and a major supporter of contemporary artists today, has put an exclamation point at the base of NYC's Chelsea Arts District, with the spacious and newly opened "Whitney Museum of American Art" at 99 Gansevoort St. and Washington St., in the West Village/Meatpacking District and near 13th St. and 10th Ave. Also the southern-most part of "The High-line" which snakes through the center of the Chelsea Arts District, ends at the new Whitney Museum. 

Thank goodness ART and THE ART WORLD is constantly changing, constantly evolving, and always new. It's probably too soon to put early 21st century art into a box or "-ism", as we will not accurately know the outcome and the winners, until years from now, when the wheat has been separated from the chaff / those who are merely charismatic players have been separated from the truly talented contributors. 
Pan-Seared Salmon Fillet

- Rinse the fillet in cool tap water 
- Dry the fish on all sides with paper towels
- Heat a large pan over high
- Add a few tablespoons of high smoke point oil, like grape seed oil 
- Season the salmon on all sides with ground sea salt and fresh ground pepper. 
- If skin on, place skin side down in pan, if no skin put bone side down and watch the heat, you may reduce heat to medium, but you don't want the fish to cook too slowly.
- DO NOT move fillets, let them form a crisp crust 
- When the "opaque" is half-way up the side of the fish (3 or 4 minutes)
- Turn fillets over and cook a few minutes more 
or until the fish is barely pink in the center (or 140º F in the thickest part of fish)
- Remove fillet to paper towels & drain for a second.
Serve with the crusty side up.

If you want a sauce…
- Wipe out the oil in the pan
- Add a glass of white wine
- 1 Tbs of lemon juice
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 small minced shallot
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- Stir constantly until reduced by half
- Add 2 Tbs of COLD unsalted butter. 
- Melt the butter slowly as you stir into a silky sauce
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
- POUR over the plated salmon fillet.

Until later,

ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness through the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved. Concept, Original Art, Text & Photographs are © Copyright 2015 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. Any gallery, event, museum, fair or festival photographs were taken with permission. Images © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.

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