Art is big business. The economic crisis may have pricked the bubble but it hasn’t popped it. Sales of modern art remain in the hands of the key players. Auction houses, galleries and the important collectors continue to decide which artists reach the big time, and which ones end up scratching out a living painting pavement-murals by the Brandenburg Gate or in Trafalgar Square. But for how much longer?
In Britain and Canada the dictates of the market are leavened by government intervention, in the shape of lottery and arts council grants. The National Endowment for the Arts supports artists and arts organisations in the United States, as do countless independent foundations. In Germany, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst is the world’s largest funding organisation supporting the international exchange of students and scholars. Its Berliner Künstlerprogramm – Berlin Artists-in-Residence Programme -- is among the most renowned programmes offering grants to visual artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and dancer/performers. Each year, some 20 grants are awarded to international artists for a one-year stay in Berlin. German universities and regional arts councils (there has been no national Ministry of Culture since Goebbel’s abuse of the office during 1933 – 45) also provide vital financial support. Nevertheless here – as elsewhere -- the vast majority of artists struggle to live off their creative work alone.
One of the triumphs of blogs is their ability to bypass hierarchies, enabling individuals to communicate one-to-one, allowing artists to reach their audience without the involvement of agents, recording companies or galleries. This ‘democratisation’ of communication has its failings – forget about earning a living from the Long Tail if you are a creator – but it does enable people to spread the word about a new song, book or YouTube clip. These days it’s word-of-mouth – or click-of-mouse – which can make a creative career.
Over the last two years I’ve had the privilege of interviewing dozens of contemporary German artists, and writing about them on the adjoining Meet the Germans pages. I’ll never forget author Thomas Brussig’s laughter and incisive wit, or architect Jens Casper’s boyish enthusiasm for his awesome Sammlung Boros, Berlin’s most idiosyncratic art space. I remain humbled by the technical brilliance of Jorinde Voigt’s precise, music-filled drawings and moved by Friederike Feldmann’s familiar yet totally new Persian Rug series. Ute Mahler’s outstanding East German photographs continue to haunt me, as do sculptor Nadine Rennert’s ominous, hooded figures, lying prone on the floor, miniature lights glowing at the tips of their gloved fingers.
This month I’ve interviewed the young Berlin artist Heike Gallmeier. Over the last couple of years Gallmeier has recreated in her studio Giotto’s Annunciation from discarded plasterboard, reinterpreted Botticelli’s Birth of Venus by standing naked on a rough cardboard shell, and refashioned a classic image from Kabuki theatre with a cast-off sofa and a tattered Ikea cardboard box. Her ‘living images’ are part-set design, part-performance, part-painting, part-photography ... and wholly unique.
‘I wanted to find my own way of “painting”’, she told me when we met. ‘I am interested in the point where illusionary spaces meet every-day-reality. Within my work, alongside the narration, I want to show the process of how an image is constructed.’
In her interpretation of Giorgione’s The Tempest, Gallmeier became the nursing mother, surrounded by roughly-hewn trees, torn backing paper hills and a plywood bridge. As with every creation, Gallmeier assembles the elements together over weeks and months, deconstructing and then reconstructing, dressing the elements to camera. The image layers are staggered in rows like on a baroque stage. A photograph is her final artwork.
The poet and critic Craig Raine once said, ‘The task of the artist at any time is uncompromisingly simple – to discover what has not yet been done, and to do it.’ Ezra Pound was even more concise. ‘MAKE IT NEW’, he wrote in The Cantos. Have a look at the interview and I’m sure you’ll agree that, in her audacious and cheeky reinventions, Gallmeier does create the New.
Arthur Miller once said, ‘Fashion and rejection are experiences felt by all. Know that, or go mad.’ In the future popular artistic success need no longer be dictated by auction houses, galleries and key collectors alone. By spreading the word about remarkable young artists like Heike Gallmeier, bloggers and browsers can celebrate, even help to support, a creative career. In the internet age, every one of us can be a virtual Medici.
Donnerstag, 2. Dezember 2010
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