Deep Thought Thursday

What will become of all the art that is being produced today?

The late museum theorist Stephen E. Weil openly speculated that perhaps there was too much art that we were trying to preserve. Not too much art being produced, but too much that we were trying to save for all time.

In his 1989 essay “Too much art?”*, Weil argues that museums do not have the funds nor the space to care for the enormous output of artists. And that was almost 20  years ago. I imagine his numbers would be much higher today. Weil asks:

To what extent must their families or surviving friends care for their undistributed oeuvre–finished, half-finished, and scarcely begun? Are these works a burden that they are obligated to carry indefinitely? And, if so, with what diligence, at what emotional cost, with what outlay of funds for conservation, recordkeeping and storage, and unto what generation?

He concludes by calling for a different attitude. That not all art should be considered sacred.

“Art,” after all, is only a noun. The adjectives used to modify it can range from "sublime" to "superfluous." To acknowledge the reality of the latter might be a sound first step in approaching what can for the nonce–pending the evolution of some euphemism–only be described as an art glut.

*First appeared in Art News and then in Weil’s book of essays Rethinking the Museum.

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3 comments to Deep Thought Thursday

  • Not only family and friends, but the artist herself must address this question, lol. At what point should the artist preserve or keep old work around if it hasn’t found a new home? Sometimes it means the artist is sacrificing space, energy and thought that should be devoted to new work. I ran into this problem a few years ago, and that’s one reason that I switched mediums and threw out the old stuff.

  • Yuck! I have a brilliant idea: Now that this lawyer/ critic is dead, let’s dispose of his superfluous opinions. Reading just the excerpt you included today, I would judge there is a glut of HIS work out there. Good riddance. Art will find its way into museums or the trash heap by the accord of the people that value it – or don’t. Too much art? Absurd.

  • The museum’s mission is not to preserve the total output of artists. It’s to pick and choose. If there’s a lot to choose from, then I guess they have their work cut out for themselves. As for my own art, I don’t really care what happens to it in the distant future. I have already derived my own personal joy from it, through the immediate act of creation. I hope someone will still be appreciating it decades down the road. But if not, that’s life I suppose.