Art into fashion

by Rob Horning

1 June 2006

 

Some more on that director from Sotheby’s astounding declaration in BusinessWeek that China is “an exciting, hip and cool place to be collecting.” Art, Chinese or otherwise, generally just sits there inert, unchanging. But by claiming that it is “cool” and/or “hip” one inserts it into the fashion cycle, which allows it to be used up, even if it doesn’t make the art entirely useful. In other words, because it can be used up, it can suddenly be consumed, something we all understand without any special art-history instruction. Better still, in consuming its “cool”  we are really consuming our own ability to keep up with cool rather than the specific artwork itself, which gets left behind and is actually insignificant to this process. “Cool” always elevates us to the level of the abstract, wherein we ourselves are the only real substantial thing. We are raised to a heightened awareness of ourselves, and our own ability to anticipate fashion’s flow, or at least follow it adeptly and belong to an elite status group. We become all-meaningful and Chinese art means nothing, a temporary signifier, a placeholder for ourselves, the people who are actually important.

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