Today we visited with Meg Linton at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis. Her programming there is quite eclectic, showing local and international artists, shows curated by others, and shows that highlight design, like the Misfit Toy Show and the current exhibition on local green products. It was a bit difficult to get a handle on her programming, as most of the other curators we've visited tend to have some sort of focus or agenda.
Towards the end of our talk we did get into some of the more interesting issues that are being debated in the art world. Meg talked about no longer writing art reviews in part because gallerists are some of the same people she may ask to borrow art from. Even in a review that's more descriptive than critical, it's easy for an fragile artist or sensitive dealer to take umbrage. There was a prescient mention of this by Chris Bors in his ArtInfo piece, "The Unspoken Gorilla." Near the end of the article he relates a story by an SVA alum:
SVA faculty member and noted art critic Jerry Saltz took students on class trips to galleries, he warned them not to say anything openly negative in front of dealers. Instead, Saltz told them to use a series of secret hand signals to indicate whether they liked the work or not. It seems the risk of upsetting a potential connection was simply not worth it.It makes me realize that all they hype that accompanies the current art-fair-related boom is tenuous and fragile indeed.
Meg also bemoaned the lack of any substantive alternative movement in art, as our vast and speedy consumer culture absorbs the radical and subversive and transforms it into commodities as quickly as it's produced. (My take on her ideas) Even the idea of artists creating alternative spaces is quickly becoming a historical tradition.