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Contemporary artists must do better

November 4, 2009

London has never teemed with as many celebrated artists as it does now – but how many will we remember?

Open Ended (2007-8) by Richard Serra

One that stands up to scrutiny … sculptor Richard Serra’s installation, Open Ended (2007-8). Photograph: David Levene

When it comes to quantity, art lovers in 21st-century Britain have got it made. The range of exhibitions and events on offer boggles the mind, the number of famous artists defies all the laws of cultural gravity. I mean, we have – how many art stars? Dozens. You might even be able to count our artist celebrities in hundreds.

In New York in the 1980s, there were probably five or six artists who were famous in this way, and that was a time and place when people thought art was turning into pop. There has simply never been a moment in modern history when a city so teemed with celebrated artists as London does now. There is a real sense in which to be an artist at all here confers a kind of fame on you.

But is there any chance of anyone in 20 years giving a flying fondu about even 5% of our famous artists? And does that matter? Presumably the answer, in many people’s eyes, is no. We don’t care if, say, Bob and Roberta Smith is going to be remembered as a significant artist – that’s for the future to fret about. Perhaps this is an apocalyptic mood, this present-mindedness: why should we care about history’s verdict on us when we suspect there won’t be much future history anyway?

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Contemporary artists must do better

One Comment leave one →
  1. artistatexit0 permalink
    November 4, 2009 4:24 am

    I think you are right. Will anyone give a fig about art and fashion when the very basic elements that make up a quality of life are threatened globally? There are artists who are trying to make and place their work in some other service other than money and celebrity. Art is stronger when it merges with life and loses its ego in the process.

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