In Search of Powerful Objects: The Strange Game of Contemporary Art

It’s very rare in a contemporary art exhibition to encounter something as powerful as a great piece of Aztec sculpture or a great painting by Picasso because I think we live in a world of image overload. 

I think the issue of artistic integrity has been difficult ever since certain artists made it part of their shtick not to have integrity.  The 'new integrity' was being superficial and being deliberately banal and being in your face and making lots of money and not being ashamed of it.


So what does integrity mean anymore?  I think it’s really, really hard to say because artists are so clever.  How you are an artist has become so much part of being an artist.  How you play with your own image and play with your own persona and other people’s perception of who you are and what you do has become so much part of this strange game.  

Personally I prefer artists who don’t do all that and who just make really powerful work.  I like Gillian Wearing.  I like Michael Landy, if I look at contemporary artists.  I used to like Damien Hirst very much -- his early work was absolutely brilliant. 

I think what has been lost in contemporary art is any strong sense of how to make an object really powerful.  It’s very rare in a contemporary art exhibition that you encounter something as powerful as a great piece of Aztec sculpture or a great painting by Picasso because I think we live in a world of image overload.  Artists have forgotten how to make compelling objects because they don’t spend enough time with them.  It’s an old-fashioned view, but I do feel it’s true.

It can be overcome.  Someone like Candy Chang is a terrific artist.  She works with video, but she has a very good sense of how to install something so that it compels you.  She has a sense of the object even though she doesn’t deal with objects.  She deals with images.  She sort of traps you in the screen. think it’s that attention to an object, that is what makes a work of art really, really powerful.

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