Art Souterrain


Theme 2016


The shift toward a marked aestheticism has become inescapable in some parts of contemporary artmaking.

Has this inclination insinuated itself in the minds of artists to respond to the expectations of the public or of the art world?  Does this mannerist tendency seek to reassure, or does it criticize our confusion in the face of crucial questions?

At a moment when the art world is questioning its alignment, its institutions and its economy, it is timely to challenge the work itself as well.  New issues are influencing the nature of exhibited work, the priorities of the art-going public and the choices of art collectors and disseminators.

Does the contemporary artwork lie in the object itself, or in the experience evoked in the context of the work?

The foundations of modern society, hinging on ephemeral and aesthetic concerns, each have a partial impact on artistic production. 

Symbols created by consumer culture through mass media are now a part of our daily visual world and influence the way we choose to express our identity. This homogenizes viewers’ expectations and cultural reference points, by default bringing to the fore an experience far from the subversive or conceptual.

Glamour - as a search for seduction and attraction - is required when creating standards of beauty that respond to common tastes. 

This trend translates, for example, into installations characterized by a catchy, spectacular visual language,  in the production of monumental works, or works of art in situ.

Similarly, with the development of international art fairs, we further perpetuate attractive, alluring art bolstered by bold, prestigious or provocative gestures.

Until the nineteenth century, notable patrons who supported the arts generally asked for reciprocation, be it in the form of image, recognition or propaganda. What is the impact of the contemporary art market, with its growing number of collectors - neophytes and connoisseurs both - on creative production? How does it influence the trends and direction of the art world?  Do collectors have an impact on the creation of those they support, and do they expect a return on investment?

Certain precursors and major players in this scene (one could say self-styled ‘art stars’)like Jeff Koons, Damian Hirst, Maurizio Cattelan, Takashi Murakami, or in other styles, Mike Kelley et Tracey Emin, resort to provocation, humour or pop imagery in their work.

They raise questions, however, about the production of an industrialized and globalized art and play with the extent of this ‘glamour’ society. Alluring visual language, then, can be a tool to bring the viewer toward a means to further thought rather than an end in itself.

All of this problematic news raises a discussion as to the origin of artistic choices.

“For some, contemporary art has been among the most childish and distressing, but also revelatory, caricatures over the course of history.  Conversely, for others, it is a fascinating tool for reflection, even for healthy and desired catharsis.”. - Nathalie Heinich, (2014)The Paradigm of Contemporary Art. Paris, ed. Gallimard

What then are contemporary artists addressing through their increased use of spectacular aesthetics?

Can contemporary practices find resonance without glamour?

background photo : Gérard Robert



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