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Not Buying It


It’s possible that Heiss might tap into herself and find a way to carry her beloved institution forward. Failing that, she might assume a much-deserved emeritus role and allow others to step in and make good on the extraordinary thing that she put in motion. Whatever happens, P.S. 1 is still too important to be squandering itself on botched exhibitions like this one.

At best, 1 percent of 1 percent of all artists—probably fewer—make any kind of money from their art. Yet today’s fixation on the market has created two ridiculous camps: the moralists, who sneer that artists and dealers who sell a lot of art are insufficiently radical, and the idiots who believe that art that sells is better than art that doesn’t. For a little perspective—or to get a grip—those hand-wringers might turn to that coolest of all customers, the great German painter Gerhard Richter. On October 24, 1990, Richter made the following entry in his journal (a must-read, now available from the MIT Press under the title The Daily Practice of Painting) that might help untwist a few panties. “The much-maligned ‘art scene’ of the present day,” he wrote, “is perfectly harmless and even pleasant, if you don’t judge it in terms of false expectations. It has nothing to do with those traditional values that we hold high (or that hold us high). It has virtually nothing whatever to do with art. That’s why the ‘art scene’ is neither base, cynical, nor mindless: it is a scene of brief blossoming and busy growth, just one variation on the never-ending round of social game-playing that satisfies our need for communication, alongside such others as sport, fashion, stamp-collecting and cat-breeding. Art takes shape in spite of it all, rarely and always unexpectedly; art is never feasible.” J.S.

Not for Sale
P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center. Through April 30.


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