A new barometer of global culture has been set in motion by Google, which launched an “Artist Themes” function that allows people to customize their personal Google pages.
The gallery of custom images doesn’t amount to a vote of confidence for visual artists, especially American ones. I dutifully set my iGoogle page to the “Jeff Koons” theme. Every time I do a search I now see a different Koons work at the top of my screen.
But Koons is pretty much the only artist in the pack. There are many more choices of fashion people (Diane von Furstenberg, Todd Oldham, Dolce & Gabanna) and designers (Philippe Starck, Michael Graves) than of artists in the conventional sense. Most of the custom themes are from the hands and keypads of web designers and animators whose names few gallery-goers would recognize. Many are from Asia (but no Murakami here). Then there’s Coldplay, Beastie Boys, Lance Armstrong, and Mark Morris. Lesson? Though Google’s developers are clearly not trying to draw an all-inclusive map of global visual culture here, what if their selections are, in fact, faithful to what our society understands under the rubric of “artists”? Is Koons the best choice for this virtual Noah’s Ark?