Black Bucket Essays
Volume 1, Issue 4
What if there is no next new thing? Do we sit around and mourn the fact that we've seen it before? There's a way to look at creativity that doesn't necessarily have to do with creating something we've never seen before. It can be about reinterpreting or misinterpreting the world that's already around us.
- LAURA HOPTMAN
Kristen Letts Kovak
“We are at now, now”
We give names to the present so we can pretend that we are in the future, and distance ourselves from the past. Each time we name our new newness, we imagine our historical contribution. Newly urbanized, we called ourselves Modern. Newly pluralistic, we became Post-Modern, and newly inter-disciplinary we entered the Contemporary. We have come to define art by this scramble for speculative newness and the predilection to disregard all evolution once it is seen as normative. Perhaps our next evolution could be called “The Temporarily Newfangled”.
In its most meta move yet, the art world’s newest trend is “the now”. Instead of searching for the next big thing, museums have largely turned over their reins to a few New York gallerists who assign the “now.” (AKA: Gagosian, Pace, David Zwirner, Marian Goodman, and Hauser &Wirth). A recent article in The Art Newspaper confirms the ever-narrowing monolith of major exhibitions. Almost 1/3 of solo shows at the top 85 art museums in the country featured artists represented by these five galleries. MOMA’s figure coming in at 45% and the Guggenheim at a whopping 90%. Rather than searching for a diversity of voices, institutional curators are now competing to show the same artists. Why search for the new, when the now is so certain? Guaranteed press, guaranteed admission fees, and at times guaranteed financial support from the cooperating galleries… In an era of little federal and philanthropic support for the arts, showing “no-name” artists is financially risky. Everyone is so scared to look provincial or passé that even city-specific art events focus on the global superstars rather than the regional. Biennials now read like class reunions where Orozco and Eliasson can catch up with the YBA’s.
Yes, consolidation is always natural at the top, but in a field dedicated to self-negation such repetition is alarming. The search for the new certainly chewed up and spit out a lot of artists, but the streamlining of the now guarantees that they will never even be invited to the table. I am not expecting Gagosian to somehow discover me and hand-deliver my paintings to the Guggenheim. However, I do expect that if curators will not accept proposals directly, that they will search high and low for a variety of artistic perspectives. The current lack of diversity in the art world may not be due to an historical saturation of ideas, but rather a lack of diverse voices appointing shows.
 Halperin, Julia “Almost one third of solo shows in US museums go to artists represented by just five galleries.” The Art Newspaper. April 2, 2015.