The journalist and sociologist Sarah Thornton was interviewed about her latest book, 33 Artists in 3 Acts, at the New York Academy of Art, where she was also the school’s commencement speaker for this year’s graduating class of MFA students. The book chronicles the upper crust of the contemporary art world—the kind you read about in the Scene and Herd section of Artforum.com—from 2009 to 2013. Benchmarks in conversations and studio visits with the dozens of artists that Thornton interviewed were Jeff Koons, whom she considers to be conservative, and the high-risk Damien Hirst. Other recurring characters include Maurizio Cattelan, Ai Weiwei, and Andrea Fraser, as well as the artist couple Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons and their daughters, Grace and Lena Dunham.
It’s no secret that the tuition for all kinds of schools has increased significantly over the last thirty years, and thousands of students take out huge government and private loans to cover their educational expenses. Those armed with BFAs are unlikely to make tons of money right out of the starting gate, as the familiar narrative goes. Yet we live in a time in which euphoric articles pronounce the MFA as the new MBA appear with alarming regularity. What should a young artist do?
“Is it ethical for an artist to make work that sells?” was the first question asked of Randy Cohen, who responded by saying that terms like “sincerity” and “ethics” do not apply in aesthetic situations—you judge an artwork on its own merits. He then asked the room, “Is it shameful to produce work that people enjoy?” If a person has an urge to make money, he mused, then art is a quirky field in which to earn a million.
This panel celebrated and promoted the release of a new anthology called Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present (2013), edited by the event’s moderators, the art historians Alexander Dumbadze and Suzanne Hudson. Published by Wiley-Blackwell, Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present is a collection of short essays by critics, curators, historians, theorists, and collectives on discursive themes such as biennials, participation, and activism, with three essays on each topic. The contributors—four of whom spoke on the panel—are names familiar to anyone who regularly reads Artforum, October, and related cultural journals.
Liam Gillick, an English-born, New York–based artist and educator, sneezed three months ago and became half deaf. He highly recommends the ear flush that corrected the problem. As the recipient of this treatment several years ago, I concur with the artist.
Influence is a tricky, elusive thing. The organizers of an exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery in Chelsea, Amy Smith-Stewart and Carrie Lincourt, confront the topic as it related to BFA and MFA graduates from the School of Visual Arts in New York. For The Influentials, the two curators selected nineteen women artists, among them Inka Essenhigh, Kate Gilmore, and Yuko Shimizu, who chose a second artist whose work has had a significant impact on their own.
Did you get into the Paul Chan lecture? Someone at SVA said they called Columbia and were told only Columbia grad students can attend those lectures. I forgot that Jerry Saltz was also giving a talk last night. I arrived at the studios just as some fellow students were headed over there. So I went with them. It was good in Jerry’s “I’m-not-gonna-beat-around-the-bush-with-you” way. His thing is this down-to-earth, no bullshit thing. There was nothing revelatory in his talk. He said many of the same things one finds in his writing and that he regularly seems to mention.