Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Art Review Survey and the Erasure of Philosophers

Art Review publishes 'Power 100' in the art scene. Another art magazine artsy.net breaks down the list of these powerful 100 people in the art world and has come up with some interesting findings. It is not surprising that the global art scene is still dominated by the white male. (68% male, 32% female). When it comes to race, 70% are whites, 16 % are Asian, 7% Latino, 5%Black and 3% Middle eastern. If we go by the place of origin track, we get to see 51% hailing from Europe, 22% from the US, 13% from Asia, 8% from Central and South America, 3% from Africa and 3% from Middle East. While the Professional field is dominated by 35% of Gallery / Dealer, 23% artists, 22% curator / museum administrator, 14% collector, 3% Fair Director, 2% School Administrator, and 1% Philosopher.

If you ask me, I am not surprised. The data cannot be more revealing. But something really surprised me, the still not fading one percent of philosophers or to see from a different perspective, the pathetic representation of philosophers in the global art scene. It could be further broken down using certain other sociological and economic tools The diminishing numbers of philosophers within the tribes that constitute the global art scene directly says that the art no longer runs on grand philosophies. It could also be seen as a certain time in the history of the world when art happens without any philosophy. I do not know yet whether it is a good symptom or a bad one. A work of art which has no philosophy or that resists philosophical interventions in reading maybe a sort of hollow art that does not hurt, therefore finds easy routes to the hands of the art collectors and investors.

This particular data analysis gets curiouser and curiouser  when we come to know that a work of art which does not have any philosophical anchor could be custom made for the market. The whole data tells us where the art scene stands today. It is not at a crossroad as popularly believed. It does not have any hesitation to move further to the already personified white male dominated route. That means the supremacy of art market is still in the hands of the white world. The not so impressive representation of the other parts of the world in this list shows the either they are included because of the growing markets in those regions or they are represented because of their exchange, both aesthetical and financial with the white world.

Coming back to the issue of the almost nil representation of the philosophers in the list, a closer look would reveal that it does not underline the drastic and unceremonious removal of the philosophers from the art scene, but emphasises without any room for doubt that the other actants including curators, artists, and galleries don the mantle of the philosophers; and they do it convincingly. By treating philosophers as a separate constituency, these players have extracted a great purpose of ideation and engagement meant for sublime from the works of art.

Reduction of the presence of philosophers from the art scene also heralds an era of art without historical continuities.When the art field players decide for themselves that because of the complete triumph of capitalism, history is no longer relevant to the case of art. the fallacy that they do not understand or refuse to recognise is pertaining to the very experience of history in various forms creating further fields for historical as well as ideological engagements with a larger world. That means discounting the philosophers from the art scene more or less reflects its own bankruptcy, that too in an urgent race for making profit.

Yet another view on this would be the lack of market value that the philosophers could generate for the uses and perpetuation of the art market. Ironically, the findings of the philosophers from the world over are used in the generation of art literature with or without acknowledgement. When the curators and art administrators double up as philosophers too, the automatic ejection/ rejection of the philosophers takes place in the art scene.

The question then arises is this: Can the art world exist without the philosopher? As of now the market driven art world has proven that it could exist without their presence, assistance and contributions. However, in the long run it would not be the same case. Any work of art produced without a philosophical content as recognised by the artists and the other players in the field of art would start looking like hollow shells signifying nothing.  Philosophies are always not expected to please. They at times make incisive critiques on the existing situations and conditions within which aesthetics is produced; this is currently not palatable to the art world.

'Centre fails to hold' is the dictum of the modern world. When the centre fails to hold the peripheries, perhaps the peripheries start deciding the nature of the centre. This engenders a new philosophy which could move in opposition to the existing philosophies. But the market's ability to subsume the new peripheries, and make it a part of the centre could collapse the emerging philosophies. To find a way to resist the allure of the market, thereby parting way for the philosophies to tread  more steadily and safely without feeling the threat of immediate erasure.

Maybe the survey, and lists published by the economic interests do not matter much to many artists and the other art world players. However, such lists show how cruelly the balance of the art world has been tilted by the white western world. The data that the percentage of participations of various entities including gender and region need not necessarily be a finality as it is purely based on the economic positioning of the considered people in the lists. This could change as the human presence and success are always not determined by economics alone. It is one of the factors that ultimately decides the artistic worth of the people in different parts of the world. When economic factors pretend  that they could bleep out the sociological, political and cultural factors that determine the presence or absence of many, these kinds of lists and surveys would enthral the unsuspecting artists in the world.

(Images Courtesy: Internet)

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