Monday, 7 December 2009

New! 'Who Gets To Call It Art?'

What does contemporary art look like? What a ridiculous question! It doesn’t look like anything, does it? No one in their right minds would want to begin to map out a common style across the thousands of different approaches littering the white floors and gray walls of contemporary art galleries all over the world. There have been attempts to bracket artists together, notably by Jerry Saltz in a lovely unprintable phrase that’s apparently still in style (judging by this year’s Venice Biennale), but they only ever glance at comprehensiveness. Talent contests like the Turner Prize begin to look like meaningless conflations of the Oscars, the Pulitzer, and the Nobel. Future students of art history on a tight deadline may opt to avoid the obstreperous unwillingness of 21st-century art to slip into easy categories. Yet we still call it contemporary art, and we know it when we see it. Or rather: we think we know it when we don’t.

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