Apolitical Artists: “War? What War?”

Without a sign of sacrifice back home

In Artnet Magazine’s year end report, The 2004 Revue, editor Walter Robinson unconsciously laid bare everything that’s wrong with the art world. The first remark he made to raise my hackles was, “we don’t have art movements any more… we have market movements.” And in what part of the 20th century have artists not been buffeted and controlled by market forces? For better or worse, capitalism has always exercised hegemony over artistic production - art under socialism being the obvious exemption, but that’s much too pithy a subject to get into here.

As for Robinson’s assertion that there is no contemporary art movement, I’m sure today’s Re-modernists would passionately disagree. Robinson’s year end report offers obsessive commentary on the role of high finance in the art world, as if there was nothing else of importance to speak of. When he finally gets around to reviewing the works of artists, you wish he’d stuck to his financial reporting instead.

As an example of the best art made in 2004 he praises postmodernist Andrea Fraser for having videotaped herself having sex with one of her collectors for the alleged price of $20,000. Robinson suggests the pornographic video “represents eros, the life force, the one universal positive.” But Robinson’s ultimate statement of insensitivity, aloofness, and sheer downright stupidity came when he wrote the following:

“After a rather extended period of uncertainty - during the recessionary first term of President George W. Bush, as it happened -the art biz has finally realized how obscenely wealthy America is. The U.S. is so rich, in fact, that it can finance a foreign war - ably chronicled in these pages for the last 18 months by artist Steve Mumford, by the way - without a sign of sacrifice back home.”

“Without a sign of sacrifice back home.” Look at the photo of the young US Marine just returned from Iraq and tell me about sacrifice Mr. Robinson. That soldier is just one out of an estimated 15,000 - 20,000 American GIs who have been wounded in Iraq. Some of the maimed are missing limbs, eyes and sanity. As of this writing 1,340 GIs have been killed… 5 just today. All of these soldiers have family, friends, and associates. A few of the lucky ones might be able to find work. Reflect on this Mr. Robinson, and the next time you write a review about the useless celebrities of the art world and their vain and frivolous works, perhaps you won’t embarrass yourself.

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