In loco parentis (emphasis on loco)

Further examples of the academy and the market jumping in bed together. Which aspect of this is strangest:
A) The fact that this Goldsmith’s MFA 2007 Survey opens a full two semesters before the school’s degree show?
B) The fact that the MFA 2007 Survey is taking place in Chelsea, Manhattan, not Chelsea, London?

Apparently, Goldsmith’s does not share Columbia’s concerns about exposing young students to the marketplace.

Subject: AUG 30 Invite/Goldmiths Exhibit at White Box
What: Goldsmiths: MFA 2007 Survey
When: Date of Exhibition: August 28th – September 16th 2006
Where: White Box, 525 West 23rd Street
Who: Curated by Jennifer Thatcher
The exhibition will be a survey of the Goldsmiths College MFA class of 2007.

The show is being curated by Jennifer Thatcher, a London-based independent curator and critic, and will include works by 14 artists from the first year class working in painting, sculpture, photography, installation, and video. Goldsmiths has one of the most competitive Visual Arts programs in the world; numerous past graduates have won the illustrious Turner Prize

6 thoughts on “In loco parentis (emphasis on loco)”

  1. Strange, but not such a novelty. This whole business about exposing the kids too soon to the collectors, and that somehow this is all very news, surprises me. I remember vividly in the early nineties, in those allegedly darker than dark times, I was at Columbia and had lots of involvement with the art department. And there was a huge hullabaloo because there was a dilemma about doing the senior show at a gallery in SoHo, or to do it at the impossible-to-find and horrible Wallach Gallery atop the art history building. The students were all dying to show downtown, of course, in the hope of being able to sell a work or two to pay off their debts.

    Much of the art-world rhetoric in the 80s was similarly about the early corruption of youth, whether in the form of being picked up by dealers too soon or being given museum retrospectives too soon. Same in the sixties. So whenever there is a market acceleration, you can expect this kind of scooping up of talent from the art school barrel. I see no great qualitative change here, except perhaps for its brazenness.

    The deeper question here, as with sex, is when is too soon? Now that we have academic qualification of artists, we have in effect created a novel cultural category of “adult,” fully mature and realized artists. This, in turn, gives rise to the concept of the unformed and pure “child” artists, whom we must safeguard against patron corruption at all costs. I see analogies here between premodern societies, where girls are wed off at age 14, no questions asked, and modern and postmodern societies where entire national political discourses seem to be obsessed with whether a 17 year-old can have sex. I am not condoning the practice of marriage at the time of puberty here, merely noting the distinctions in the moral code that emerge with the advent of modern societies.

    What age, then, should be the age of consent in the art world?

    One more thing: There is a body of sociological and anthropological theory which holds that at times of great transition, there tends to be an unusual amount of societal focus, even obsession, with liminal groups, most notably adolescent girls. Concern over the corruption of adolescent girls is a manifestation of a larger and inchoate anxiety about change processes in which old norms are being questioned and upturned. These anxieties are focused on a group that is not only impacted by the changes, but also serves as a perfect symbolic battle ground for them. The nascent art student who is professionally coming into his or her adulthood is an appropriate locus of anxiety for critical rhetoric at a time of concern about the corruption of the art world by nontraditional forces.

  2. András: Thanks for that bracing reminder of the history on this topic.

    While we’re drawing sociological parallels here, maybe all our hand-wringing is akin to manifestations of “symbolic ethnicity,” in which ethnic groups that are rapidly losing the true signs of strong bonding – living in the same neighborhoods, marrying within the ethnicity, etc – tend to be over-the-top in the easier intermittent displays, i.e. St Patrick’s Day in the States.

    My point being that when it comes to saving artist’s from the market’s influence, the battle’s perhaps lost and we’re just slamming the barn door demonstrably while the horses go sprinting into premature MFA surveys and designing handbags. Okay, that was a horribly mixed metaphor…it’s late and I’m worn out from the Zurich gallery openings.

  3. The historical sociological perspective is helpful in that it reminds us that social mores, like market trends, come and go. Life cycles may vary in duration, but cycle they do.

    In the comparison of 90s NY and 00s NY, there is, however, a difference: Columbia has just restricted First Year Students (i.e. three months into their first year at U.!) from exhibiting, whereas András was talking about seniors getting SoHo shows, way back when. Detail granularity that is probably important if we are trying to track where we are in a cycle.

    Marc’s original questions were (as I heard them) how long before the wheel turns full circle; what impact upon the various sectors; what impact on which individual artists; is there anything new in the current cycle (factors, types of players, broader market implications, longer term impacts, etc.).

    Aside from short term market considerations, I am interested in discerning whether there are any real long term step function changes going on, or is it all just deja vu? Even with the new players.

  4. I agree that there is acceleration. I don’t recall first year students even dreaming of being picked up by galleries.

    My personal theory is that each expansion pushes the parameters outward, then you have a cycle of contraction, but then the following expansion pushes the parameters outward again.

    The parameters of what?

    I guess you could chart a continuum from an ideal type of a “pure” art world that runs purely on discourse on one end (i.e. values equal some kind of distillation of critical judgment, sans market) and a pure commodity market on the other hand (automatic and electronic buying and selling based purely on quantitative market expectations). Neither of these perfect worlds exists of course.

    But we are moving from the left side of the continuum to the right side. The more we destroy the traditional validators, the harder the crash will be — the eighties crash was really hard because so many of the traditional validators had been squeezed out, so that when new collectors and speculators left there wasn’t much to hold values in place.

    These are very difficult questions and it’s fun to think together about them.

  5. I agree with all these statements. And in the absence of pure market conditions (like any type of economist) we need to approximate and postulate from what we have.

    Am interested in the derivative delta (elasticity) of the expansion-contraction cycle; i.e. are we changing the boundary points of either contraction or expansion with successive cycles (we must be) and at what point do these boundary points start contracting in (bigger crash versus small crash).

    Crash we all know there will be. Will this be large or a mere hiccup, and can we say why, now? And what will the recovery be like?

    These are fun questions.

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