Monday, January 7

2007 in Review: Top Trends of the Year in the Art World

By David Grosz, ARTINFO

Photo by Linda Nylind, courtesy Frieze
"Artforum" publisher Knight Landesman in front of Richard Prince's muscle car "Untitled (Original)" (2007) with model Carly, at the 2007 Frieze Art Fair

Courtesy TDIC
A rendering of the Saadiyat Island Cultural District with the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi

NEW YORK—Last week, ARTINFO kicked off its 2007 year in review, with a list of the top 5 stories of the year and a look back at five notable auction lots. Next week, we have a personal account of one writer’s favorite exhibitions. Below is a list of what we dubbed the top five trends of the year.

1. Laissez Fair
The proliferation of art fairs and their increasing centrality in the art market is hardly particular to 2007, but the trend continued with such fury this year that we had to include it on this list. The 2007 fair debuts included, among so many others, the first contemporary art fair in China, the first international art fair to focus exclusively on contemporary Asian art, the first Latin American contemporary art fair in New York, the first art fair that floats, and several newcomers to Miami. Established fairs kept growing with more exhibitors, beefed-up curated sections, and larger and larger audiences, while satellites sprouted around them at rates that suggest some perverse genetic engineering. Carrying this trend to its furthest extreme is Art Basel Miami Beach, now in its sixth year and already boasting, by some counts, upward of 20 offshoots. Soon it may rival Jupiter for most moons in the solar system.

2. Art World Shifts East
Chinese contemporary art has been the next hot thing for a while. But the art world’s new Eastern focus is multipolar. Consider these developments of the past year: the discovery of the deep wallets and expensive tastes of Russian collectors (and the auction housescatering to them), the emergence of the tiny United Arab Emirates as a major art destination, the continued eastward migration of brand Gagosian to Rome and Moscow, and Art Basel and Design Miami’s plans to found a Beijing show. And while at this point it seems only to be the temporary effect of a weak dollar, should the new preference, even among American dealers, for European currencies over dollars, persist for much longer, then this eastward shift will be much more dramatic than we ever anticipated.

3. Art World Shifts Lower East
Well, the New York art world at least. In the city’s game of real-estate musical chairs, it now seems that the Lower East Side, once home to hipsters and drug addicts and before that an immigrant mecca, is becoming the new Chelsea—which, you may remember, was hailed only ten years ago as the new SoHo.

Several upstart galleries have popped up in the Lower East Side during the past several years, including James Fuentes LLC, Reena Spaulings, Rivington Arms, Salon 94 Freemans, Smith-Stewart, Sunday, Thierry Goldberg Projects, and most recently, Eleven Rivington and Rental. But this fall we saw something new, as established galleries moved to the neighborhood (Luxe Gallery, formerly of 57th Street) or opened outposts there (Lehmann Maupin, which has its main gallery in Chelsea) and the whole gallery row seemed to lose some of its frontier-like edginess with the arrival of an anchoring institution: the newly reopened New Museum.

Meanwhile, in Chelsea the ratio of chichi boutiques and trendy restaurants to galleries grows ever higher, and Dia’s decision, years after closing its 22nd Street space, to finally sell it off means the neighborhood has officially lost the institution that once served as its gravitational center. Is it only a matter time before we’re living a post-Chelsea universe? As SoHo, so Chelsea?

4. Canonization of late ’60s/’70s radical work
Just as scrappy neighborhoods gentrify, radical artwork eventually finds mainstream respect and enters the annals of art history and the hallowed halls of encyclopedic museums. Making the leap from the cultural margins to the belly of the canon this year is art from the late ’60s and ’70s that aligned with the leftist politics of that era. Topping the list of newly arrived movements is feminist art. This spring, the Brooklyn Museum inaugurated its Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, anchored by Judy Chicago’s mammoth installation The Dinner Party, a once controversial work that is now less likely to provoke outrage than trips to the encyclopedia (who was Kali, anyway?). The same museum also recognized the iconoclastic feminist artists the Guerilla Girls with an award and put on an important survey of feminist art from the past two decades, while the traveling exhibition "WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution," organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, focused on the period from 1965 to 1980.

Also gaining new stature within the mainstream art establishment is some of the time-based work from the era—in particular video art and performance. The second edition of Performa again brought the once-renegade art into museums, and one of its leading practitioners, Marina Abramovic, has announced plans to start a foundation to preserve the particularly strenuous sort of work for which she is known. Meanwhile, early video art continues to enter the collections of major institutions, where—due to the rapid pace of technological development—it can look as antiquated as a fading Hillotype.

5. Private Museums
It’s a collector’s world. Why not build your own museum?

Or, to put it another way: Imagine you’re a big-time contemporary artist and your gallery tells you that two potential buyers are interested in one of your works. The first is a small but well-reputed Midwestern museum that, following the typical museum discount, is offering to pay 80 cents on the dollar for your work; the second is a rich collector planning a private museum in the palm-treed metropolis where he has one of his seven homes. Who are you going to go with?

The advantage for the collector, on the other hand, is less for the wallet than the head. The tax benefits are relatively small, but it sure must be nice to hang your entire collection exactly as you like, and in a building named after you.

Just consider some of the stories from the past year: London collector Anita Zabluowicz opened an exhibition space this fall, Christie’s owner Francois Pinault beat out the Guggenheim for the purchase of Venice’s Punto della Dogana, where he plans to open a museum in 2009; Igor Markin opened Moscow’s first private museum (and inspired others to follow suit). Charles Saatchi plans to reopen his gallery/museum early next year. Celebrities like Elton John and George Michael are each getting into the game. The Chinese are said to have hundreds of private museums. (But doesn’t China always elicit these sorts of rumors?) And in the United States, Gap founders Donald and Doris Fischer are among the latest to announce plans to open a private space—envisioned for downtown San Francisco—following the lead of fellow megacollectors like Eli Broad, Craig Robbins, Rosa de la Cruz, Alice Walton, and Adam Sender.

For art lovers, it’s certainly a positive development—more places to see art!—but you can’t help but wonder about the long-term fates of these museums. Consider the ongoing litigation over the Barnes Foundation, a private museum that has become something of a public treasure. What becomes of a private museum after its benefactor is no longer around?


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