Saturday, December 23

Youth and Beauty

Edward Winkleman remarked on his blog yesterday that at the art fairs in Miami this year many collectors seemed overly concerned with the age of the artists. In the comments thread he then added that collectors seemed more interested in artists under thirty.

What I can’t reconcile in regard to Winkleman’s comments is the following train of thought. Isn't the art world supposed to be mostly of the Left (or at least Liberal)? Aren’t Leftists and Liberals supposed to be progressive? Isn't progressive thought opposed to (or at least uncomfortable with) discrimination? Because discrimination is a social injustice, right? So, what we are talking about is a form of discrimination, ageism, practiced by those who, in general, claim to be of the Left (or at least Liberals) and thus progressive. I know some will argue that the collectors are really a bunch of Republicans (because they have money). I heard João Ribas recently claim as much but until I see empirical evidence that proves it I find it difficult to believe. I am, however, very much inclined to believe that most collectors are, in fact, a bunch of wealthy Democrats (or, in the very least, more sympathetic with the Democrats and/or the Left). Just as I am also inclined to believe that most art-loving Europeans also lean to the Left. So, what can we conclude? That either my generalization that the art world is mostly of the Left is incorrect? That my assumption that Leftists are progressive is wrong? Or, rather, that those who claim to be of the Left (and thus progressive) are just as likely to practice discrimination as those on the Right?

Is ageism an example of the return of the repressed? Is it an acceptable form of discrimination in an era when most others—race, sex, and class discrimination, for example—are very much repressed (and rightly so)? There is another acceptable form of discrimination, probably related to ageism, and it has to do with being attractive. Research has proven that someone who is attractive is more likely to win a job over someone who is less attractive—even if the less attractive applicant is more qualified.


Mike @ MAO said...

Nice blog...

I think using the word discrimination in this context of art collecting was a bad word choice.

It's an issue of preference. If today one were to choose Vanilla over Strawberry.. that doesn't imply discrimination.

We're in a world of sky high prices, for most sucessful artists. So collectors prefer to 1) Not loose money, and 2) think of a young artist as cheap and up and coming.. while older and cheap would suggest, not up and coming.

It may be silly.. but I think that's the current state of art fair and youth mania! But what do I know!! I prefer to collect dead artists!!

Anonymous said...

Many art people enjoy the smug privilege of having the world assume they are progressive because that's been part of the prevailing stereotype of artists and art people since the 19C. They just think it comes with the territory. But many have never done anything to work on themselves in this regard--a true progressive is a work in progress and always has a lot of work on themself to do--always questioning assumptions, etc-- it's not a static position or state of being. That is why there is still so much sexism and racism as well as ageism in the artworld and will continue to be if it isn't significantly challenged.
I realized this with dismay when I tried artschool in the SF Bay Area in the 70's after going to a really progressive college for a couple of years. The teachers were mostly men and the students were mostly women. No one really knew anything about feminism --it felt like a culture of dinosaurs--and all my professors were either asking us to get them coffee or trying to date us regardless whether they were married or not using pickup lines like "you're a sexy broad you must be good in bed" and just thinking they were the coolest. Has it essentially changed that much since then?

Anonymous said...

"That either my generalization that the art world is mostly of the Left is incorrect?"


"That my assumption that Leftists are progressive is wrong?"


"..that those who claim to be of the Left (and thus progressive) are just as likely to practice discrimination as those on the Right?"


Choosing a young artist who just graduated from Yale and whose work is selling on the cheap over an older artist whose work goes for a higher price and has a more stabile market is NOT discrimination. It's BUSINESS, which is exactly what a lot of people in Miami are conducting.

Anonymous said...

I think that the younger the artist, the easier they are to exploit (i.e. do what you want, jump through the hoops, etc.). Try getting an older artist to bend this way or that way, or to do other things you want. They are more developed (mature)for that.
Interesting that with so much discussion about the age of the artist, no one seems to be interested in the age of the collector or dealer. THESE are the people in power, NOT the younger artists, alright? These older, sexually withering adults need a shot of something to awakening their dulling senses. The can't get it up anymore. Go get a really young artist, flash your UV-bleached smile in their face and see if they don't bend to your will.

Anonymous said...

Today I heard someone say that there are a lot of collectors out there who just want to buy the lifestyle they wish they could have, i.e. young &rebellious.