Quality in art part 6

Let us say that one of the main factors for quality is relevance. To be possible as a quality work an artwork must be relevant at a certain time. A relevant art for example at the time of Documenta in 2002 and the following years deals with questions about post-colonialism, migration, gender and the like. The media is less important but preferably a video. This is of course not an absolute rule. There are exceptions especially somewhat older artists whom already have become established and keep on working in their particular fields. And it is possible to find new artists who are making a career outside the mainstream of quality. But they are not many. 

We should also keep in mind that quality has a strong relation to time. To specify quality we should also look at a time scale: 

  1. Short-term quality (“one-timers”) which means a fast and high raise in quality for an artist but only for a short period.
  2. Trend quality which means an artist who is seen as representing a high quality during a trend which is considered being important and thus a quality in itself. When the trend is loosing its impact and importance or is interpreted in another way its level of quality will decrease.
  3. Historical quality, background. Artists who remain on a high level of quality for a very long time though as a part of an important movement where they are not the absolute key figures.
  4. Historical quality, foreground. Artists who remain in history of art as leading represents of an art movement or a strong and lasting individual career.



When looking at the curators as creators of quality one should notice the conditions. Curators engaged in biennials and the like are normally following an accepted set of structure in the exhibition. The exhibition will consist of 1) A group of well-known and established artists 2) A group of rather known artist regularly used in other biennials 3) Lesser known and local artists. The short label for this structure is: Reference, standard quality and “new blood”. 

Hitherto I have stressed the importance of the chosen artist: A chosen artist will be chosen again. But, of course, curators will make their own choices from what they believe in. But again the work will be looked upon through a set of standards: Relevant according to existing trends and what is considered as interesting subjects. Relevant but also surprising and expanding the themes (of course, the way of looking at an artist is a matter of the interpretations made by agents of the artworld). A clear profile concerning form and content. And we must remember that the most basic law for choosing an artist is Relevant Newness or the even better opportunity Upcoming Relevant Newness. 

The curators are also looking for artists in gallery exhibitions, in all kinds of projects or experimental scenes and within programs for artists in residence and in art school exhibitions.  

It is most likely that the first exhibition an artist will make will be in a gallery. And this makes the gallery owner to one of several persons choosing artists.  

The artwork itself is a minor object in the story of quality. To make a relevant work of art which also contains newness and being recognizable as a brand is not too difficult. All artists are of course not capable of producing such works but too many are. It is rather obvious that the difference between the successful artist and the lesser successful or forgotten artist is promotion.  

In the very beginning of a career the artist probably has to be his or her own promoter. But this is certainly a temporary situation. Artists with international aspiration must be connected to a gallery and/or a part of a curator’s group of artists. The promotion work of these institutions has a good possibility to increase the artist’s value.  

There are more to take into consideration. The art critics and theoreticians play their part in saying yes or no to an artist as well as producing discourse. The power of these players is limited nowadays and actually the artist is most concerned about whether being written about or not, no matter how the outcome is. These text producers and judges are also useful as they can be bought to write catalogue texts and presentations. But it would be unfair to look at them as totally corrupt or without influence. They form a part of the art community and share the idea of relevance with the other players. And it is not unusual to have a critic and a curator in one person. 

Finally, in this section, we have to remember one more important person for creating artistic quality: The collector. The persons who are paying for the art are both important and active. 

The borders between the different agents are nowadays blurred. Notice the discussion at artworld salon. 

Next part will discuss some examples of quality artists.

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