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.
Born in London in 1960, Andrew Graham-Dixon is one of the leading art critics and presenters of arts television in the English-speaking world. He has presented numerous landmark series on art for the BBC, including the acclaimed A History of British Art, Renaissance and Art of Eternity, as well as numerous individual documentaries on art and artists. For more than twenty years he has published a weekly column on art, first in the Independent and, more recently, in the Sunday Telegraph. He has written a number of acclaimed books, on subjects ranging from medieval painting and sculpture to the art of the present.
He has a long history of public service in the field of the visual arts, having judged the Turner Prize, the BP National Portrait Prize and the Annual British Animation Awards, among many other prizes. He has served on the Government Art Collection Committee, the Hayward Advisory Committee, and is currently a member of the board of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.
In the course of his career, Andrew has won numerous awards for writing and broadcasting and his achievements have been acclaimed by many of his most distinguished peers.
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.
The ability to speak clearly, succinctly, and powerfully is easier than you think
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Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?
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