For at least a decade now, the Western art system has found itself faced in the international arena with new players who appear to want to play according to rules of their own making. The first inklings of change came in the 1980s, when art became a financial opportunity of global potential. Thanks to the use of more accessible languages, postmodern art appealed to increasingly vast audiences, prospering as it expanded onto new terrain: the soaring art market paved the way for the artwork becoming a status symbol, and a broadening of horizons to include countries like China, Russia and India, in search of recognition on the Western stage.
The euphoria of that period, however, was soon dampened by the current climate of uncertainty, caused by the break-up of the old system and the declassing of its constituent parts – the intellectual component (the critics, who lent legitimacy to artistic practices) and the institutional component (the museums, which conserved the works for posterity). The current measure of success is the speculative spirit – in all senses – of the new players, who, with the ease of those used to wielding hefty amounts of capital, lay down the law in the closed circuit of gallery-collector-auction house-museum. Even artists, previously the system’s driving force, risk being reduced to the status of mere cogs in the machine. Well aware of the setting they operate in, they have acquiesced to the impoverishment brought about by globalisation: while in the past they sought to innovate, now they stick firmly to linguistic standards that are instantly recognisable in all corners of the globe.
In this short work of global scope, which surveys the past in order to have insight into the complex transformations under way in the present, Marco Meneguzzo identifies the dividing line between before and after, namely between art as exclusive and elitist and art as a popular, globalised phenomenon, envisaging a future that wavers between a soft process of change in the art system and the conception of art itself, and a more apocalyptic scenario.