Conundrum : Dichotomy – art wants what it doesn’t want

I read a pretty fabulous article this morning about how the artworld (specifically galleries) have to stop using jargon.

“You could plough through some exhibition catalogues, and some visual arts criticism (which often doesn’t seem to be all that critical) and look at some galleries’ websites, and wonder how it was that people who are often quite young learnt to speak the kind of language that would have gone down very well on a cultural studies course in the 1970s, but which seems very, very, very old-fashioned now.”


The artworld wants to keep itself in a level of pureness (there is this perception of elevation in the artworld with artists being something more than human, and art being something more than cultural production… which on some level it is, and yet it is as produced as anything else – artifacts are treated as cultural product. It just usually isn’t mass-produced. Does this imbue it with some higher form of spiritualism? Currently, I would argue that it may. However, the total postmodern nihilism in the art world is slamming it into irrelevance rather than maintaining it as an elevated form.) This endorsement of non-belief, but the elevation of individual through product (cult of personality) is really kinda problematic – what a dichotomy. Artstars.

So here’s a question: the artworld is set apart from the rest of the world in action (non-mass-produced, manufactured product) and word (jargon heavy statements). How can it speak to a broad audience? The artworld wants a broad audience, but it doesn’t want to corrupt the existential spirituality of its club.  Artists want jammed packed openings, and yet highly focused and celebratory groups of appreciators. The better monied, the better the club – but we really want to problematise the existing hierarchies.

Wealthy art lover

Here’s a crowd of wealthy art lover(s).


2 thoughts on “Conundrum : Dichotomy – art wants what it doesn’t want

    • Not entirely tangential, but based on Kierkegaard:

      Levelling at its maximum is like the stillness of death, where one can hear one’s own heartbeat, a stillness like death, into which nothing can penetrate, in which everything sinks, powerless. One person can head a rebellion, but one person cannot head this levelling process, for that would make him a leader and he would avoid being levelled. Each individual can in his little circle participate in this levelling, but it is an abstract process, and levelling is abstraction conquering individuality.
      —Søren Kierkegaard, The Present Age

      I liked the levellers so much more when they were the British early social radical movement. (

      But really, the art world really thinks it tackles this. And yet, in many ways, is a massively levelling force – as much as any other commercial market.

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