It’s always surprising to me at the degree in which people brown-nose and lick ass to make it, particularly in the early 2000’s. Less surprising is how much the art wold, based on my limited time on Earth, looks and acts similarly to a typical high school with a skewed value system based on popularity. I went to an opening at Gagosian last night and the only other person of color I saw in the building were the workers kindly telling everyone else not to lean on the artwork. Even though Joshua Citarella’s show at Higher Pictures left me in very good spirits, seeing the whiteness of the rest of the openings left a bad taste in my mouth. I know this is much bigger than the art world, stemming from years of colonialism and imperialism but still, it’s wild, even incomprehensible at this point. Akin to this waggish Onion article, I believe some of the people in charge of the systems we live in have completely lost touch with reality.
I’ve always understood the whiteness of the art world to be a manifestation of the straight white cis male default. To explain: SWcMales are celebrated in the art world for a variety of reasons but primarily because the majority of people who collect art (read: “the majority of people with enough $$$$$ to collect art”) are SWcMales or their wives who are most likely SWcFemales. SWcFemales as evidenced by Daniel Shea’s recent post/survey have a tendency to support/celebrate the careers of SWcMales for a variety of psychosocial reasons too varied to get into in a Tumblr communication. The SWcMale perspective is default due obviously to the legacy of colonialism and because wealthy SWcMales collect art made by other SWcMales (making them, in turn, wealthy - think Koons, Hirst, et al). The art world is stuck in a holding pattern - if you are not a SWcMale, if you are Female, or LGBT, or not white, you are expected to make art about your difference from the default perspective (read: “universal perspective” and/or “valid perspective”) the significantly different way you surely MUST see the world since you are not privileged enough to be a SWcMale. The most successful female artists tend to make work that is overtly feminist or that can be read in an overtly feminist way even if it isn’t intended to be feminist. The most successful LGBT artists make work addressing gender and sexuality. The most successful non-white artists make work about race or ethnicity, or in the case of many artists, work that has an aesthetic that can be viewed as overtly ethnic or racial(for example, the way asian-american artist’s work is often described as having a simple, minimal, or clean aesthetic, the way black artists who don’t make work about race will often have their work described as “street” - euphemisms abound). Whether this is perpetuated because many of the most powerful people in the art world actually see the world this way, that they can’t fathom of a non-white, non-straight, non-male American creating work that is just as valid and universal and default as their SWcMale counterpart or because it’s simply easier to market an artist to rich SWcMales and Females if you reduce their art to the artist’s obvious physical difference from the SWcMale default is unknown. Probably a little of both. Regardless it’s a sad state and should change but probably won’t until the community of people who buy/collect art become more diverse. Cash Rules Everything Around Me.