Martha Buskirk (photo by Robert Moeller)

by Alexis Clements (

Following up on the essay I wrote about the ZERO1 Fellowship sponsored by Google, I wanted to speak with someone with a wider perspective on the shifts that have taken place in the past few decades in the arts, particularly shifts that relate to the interface between art and the marketplace. Martha Buskirk came to mind as an ideal interviewee.

Buskirk, an art historian and critic who teaches at Monserrat College of Art, recently published a new book titled Creative Enterprise: Contemporary Art between Museum and Marketplace, which presents a dynamic and dryly skeptical account of the nuanced and complex relationships between artists, museums and the marketplace.

The book is informed by Buskirk’s deep knowledge of art history and contemporary art practice, as well as her keen eye for the constantly morphing role of the museum and the curator (among others) in the creation of new work. She nicely summarizes the issues she’s grappling with in the book in a discussion of the artist Carey Young’s work: “… it has become ever harder to distinguish between artistic activity and other forms of commerce or production, even as the residual separation is what gives works of art their cultural and commercial authority.”

read more …


Workshop “On Beauty”

July 25, 2012

In 2013 (August/September) I will conduct the workshop “On Beauty” at Summer University of the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst, Schwerte (Germany), together with Prof. Dr. Knut Berner.

1945 wurde Willem Sandberg (rechts im Bild) Direktor des Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Hier diskutiert er mit Künstlerfreunden eine Plastik

Kunstgeschichte: Der Mann aus dem Westen | Wissen | ZEIT ONLINE

Wie der niederländische Widerstandskämpfer, Typograf und Ausstellungspionier Willem Sandberg das Museum revolutionierte und der deutschen Kunst nach 1945 auf die Sprünge half

Das erste Jahrzehnt nach 1945 gilt nicht gerade als Höhepunkt der deutschen Kunstgeschichte. Die einstige Freihandelszone der Moderne fand sich als Provinz am Rande des internationalen Kunstgeschehens wieder, und die Künstler wussten nicht, woran sie anknüpfen sollten – an ihren vor 1933 gepflegten Stil oder an die seither im Ausland weiterentwickelten Formen? Mit Ruinenversionen von Surrealismus und Expressionismus erprobten sie die Chiffrierung überstandener Katastrophen, bevor sich im Westen die »Abstraktion als Weltsprache« und im Osten der »Sozialistische Realismus« durchsetzte.
Read more …

REPOartist Jim Costanzo (today a.k.a. Aaron Burr Society) with his sign “Advantages of an Unregulated Free Market Economy” just outside the New York Stock Exchange building on Wall Street (by coincidence it was the 200th Anniversary of the Exchange). REPOhistory, NYC, 1992 Photo Tom Klem.

Gregory Sholette:
“Artists, Embrace your Redundancy,” An Introduction to Gregory Sholette’s “Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise”

As early as 1984 art historian Carol Duncan pinpointed a fundamental, though typically overlooked feature of high culture: that the majority of professionally trained artists make up a vast surplus whose redundancy is the normal condition of the art market.

More than twenty years later, a policy study by the California-based Rand Corporation reinforced and updated these observations describing an even more unsettling picture of the 2005 art world. Its key finding was that although the number of artists had greatly increased over the previous decades, the always-evident hierarchy among artists “appears to have become increasingly stratified, as has their earnings prospects.” Read more …

In: Manifesta Journal #15