[The Seven by Nine Squares home page] [YAWN 6] [Art Strike 1990-1993]

Artist Sucks

Most of Richard Serra's commentary in "Artists have rights to their work" (Des Moines Sunday Register, October 29, 1989, page 1C, 3C) is irrelevant, because Serra's predicament is not a First Amendment issue. Serra has every right to reconstruct his razed work "Tilted Arc" using his own resources. The issue is whether the government has the right to correct its mistakes or not. YAWN believes that it does.

When art participates in culture as a commodity, as it now does, it should expect no less than to be treated as such. Goebbel's famous quip "when I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver" is aptly rephrased as "when I hear the word `culture' I reach for my checkbook". Serra sold "Tilted Arc" to the US Government. "Art" was the object of a real estate transaction. It was decided that the property lacked the value it was originally thought to have. The property was removed. It is very simple. And absolutely consistent with the culture in which we live.

Serra's egotistical bellyaching does nothing to change the facts of the case. He created a work of limited cultural value. The public, fed up with the irrelevance of contemporary art, not to mention its manifest hostility toward them, finally rebelled, and the work "Tilted Arc" was quite properly removed.

The real issue is whether or not art has the responsibility to address the concerns of its culture. Modernist and Postmodernist art, for the bulk of this century, has been quite smug in its insular self-referentiality and cynical profiteering. This art really only appeals to other artists, and their ancillary functionaries-critics, curators, and collectors. They see art as an investment for realizing a profit, while simultaneously enhancing their social status. At the same time, they create and foster the myth that "Art" and the "Artist" are wellsprings of special knowledge. YAWN rejects this model as elitist and self-serving.