• gerard van weyenbergh

There is something rotten in contemporary art.

It's not every morning that I wake Shakespeare to hijack that famous Hamlet quote, " There is something rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark ."

Why ? Because the signals multiply and converge around a center: criticism of contemporary art or rather of its system is no longer the simple fact of a bunch of hostile reactions to new forms of art.

This critique of contemporary art is today the plural and complex manifestation of a real saturation. The essence of art is flawed. This is my theory . And in fact, all chapels and all support combined, the calls for air are increasing.

In Le Monde, the journalist specializing in contemporary art and its market, Roxana Azimi, has just signed an article on @jerrygogosian . This anonymous Instagrammer " makes fun of the starched world of art " she says, and that feels good! The satirical posts of this frilly insider in the medium for 17 years carry a salutary criticism. Notably, they do not stupidly attack artists but the entire circuit: museums, foundations, dealers, collectors, patrons, and auction houses.

On one of her posts, we will see a turtle grimacing, its shell covered with a Gucci print with the caption " when you finally climb the sewers to rub shoulders with collectors ". Suppose these virtual spades amuse a few tens of thousands of subscribers. In that case, they have the gift of annoying the big fish, like the mega German gallery owner David Zwirner who sweeps away the approach of a condescending " Yes, I was told about it, but I prefer journalism to satire . "

Precisely, the art world needs internal and systemic satire—an increasingly absurd, even clearly problematic, valve. The infiltrators are, therefore, timely. Finally, a little self-criticism and second-hand! As Loïc Prigent did in the world of fashion, by showing the aberrations of a disconnected and sufficient world - or, in another register, like Zoé Sagan who sprinkles all cultural circles with her radioactive posts.

But to come back to contemporary art, the criticism that emerges in its ranks is not seen only in satiric mode. The case of Bernard Chenebault, former president of the Friends of the Palais de Tokyo and Tokyo Art Club circle of patrons, deposed after his racist remarks and his calls for the murder of the activist Greta Thunberg on social networks, was like the signal of drifts silenced for too long.

The self-promotion of a taste standardized to the requirements of a small clique, conflicts of interest, or even the conditions imposed on galleries and artists: it is the entire padlocked functioning of the emerging French scene that is called into question.

The practices of the Association for the International Dissemination of French Art (ADIAF) have also just been denounced by an investigation by the documentations.art site as well as the negative impact of this association on the Marcel Duchamp Prize.

Even the FIAC supplement of the Journal des Arts, which is not, as far as I know, an underground pharmacy, underlines the lack of risk-taking of the Young Creation space which relies on "emerging" talents, in fact already very confirmed. In general, it's a closed system that loops around the same superstars - including on the side of young artists. Basically, in recent years, faced with speculative obsessions and the atrophy of spaces for renewal, the pact of the defenders of contemporary art has been broken, opening a debate much less Manichean than that of the ancient and the modern. Yes, there is something rotten to the realm of contemporary art and it's time to face it.

by Mathilde Serrell

© France Culture