Monday, January 24, 2011

A matter of degree

Sometimes you see something that sums up a moment. We spotted such a piece of weirdness in Los Angeles. 

Anyone who is not comatose will have noticed the growing influence of the tertiary education sector as the selector and funder of a defined set of artists (also known as the staff). This trend looks set to shape much of the visual arts in NZ over the next decade. Artists inside the education system can readily access additional funds via the research patronage of their institutions and this makes such subsidised exhibitions and publications virtually irresistible to museums and publishers. If it continues the way it's going, and there's no evidence of it slowing down, an academic position is going to become a crucial component of any ambitious artist's portfolio. 

You can see a rather tragic result of this trajectory at the MOCA and the Geffen Contemporary in LA. On every label along with the title, date and medium is recorded the artist's academic position. Even more strangely, academic positions held in the past are also included. Is this just an indicator of LA's famously hierarchical mindset and obsession with credentials (as in top 10 lists, Academy Awards, stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame etc etc) or, more likely, an indicator of what's to come? Follow the money.

Images: details from biographical info on MoCA labels in Los Angeles