Art’s Corrosive Success: An Interview with Martha Buskirk

July 29, 2012

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.”

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