from an interesting article by Sola Agustsson (part 1)
For the last few years, I’ve hovered above the refreshments table at art events, guzzling free wine like a peasant and stuffing napkins full of bread and cheese into my purse. Usually the art is mediocre, I am alone covering an exhibition, and making small talk is excruciating without the encouragement of alcohol.
I have been to thousands of art events over the course of my life. I come from a family of artists: my grandmother is an African-American assemblage artist, and my mother and aunt are artists as well. Growing up, I was dragged to all kinds of art openings and museum shows. Some art school students would love that kind of exposure, but as a kid, I found them painfully boring. Though informally trained in painting and drawing, I have always considered myself more of a writer and an academic. Nobody wants to be like their parents, even if they are bohemians. But alas, I fell into writing art reviews, despite not having a background in art history, deferring my aspirations of becoming a fiction writer.
I’ve written about art for about three years since moving to New York, though I never managed to really write as an art critic; I was more like a junior copywriter for art. Writing for certain art magazines and blogs allowed me a Gatsbyian entrance into the lives of the extraordinarily wealthy. I got to interview art collectors, gallery dealers, models, artists, and designers who probably spend more on handbags than I do on rent. I’ve sipped champagne in a Bentley and feasted on caviar in penthouse apartments. Though I disliked some of the art I was assigned to cover, as a grad student I couldn’t really be choosy about what I wrote about. I wanted to get published, and getting paid to write, no matter the topic, felt like a blessing.
I approached writing about art from a literary perspective, aiming to uncover some significant meaning by contextualizing the work within the artist’s life and perspective. This made uninteresting art exhibits easier to write about, since a lot of artists are more inspiring than their work. I’m shy, and interviewing people proved to be a valuable experience.
Yet art events continue to make me uncomfortable. Whether it's a press preview at a huge museum, a commercial art fair or a packed gallery opening in Chelsea, I’m always anxious to leave. The lighting is always too bright and everyone acts as though they, like the art, are on display, smiling grotesquely as if a camera is lurking. It’s usually so crowded you can hardly view the art, though it doesn’t seem as though people look at the art as much as they schmooze, and you have to stand the entire time. The social discomfort is the least of my qualms with the art world, though. Here are the main reasons why the art world nauseates me.