Contemporary art should lose the hype

Written on November 9, 2009 by Felicia Appenteng in Arts & Cultures & Societies, Philosophy

The fanfare for this autumn's exhibitions belies the forgettable nature of much of the art – and drowns out any serious criticism


'Grandiloquent misfire' … Miroslaw Balka's art installation in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

So, that happened. In a blinding flash of fuss, London's galleries and museums simultaneously launched their autumn events, greeted by the now traditional crop of seasonal arts features declaring the British to be a nation in love with modern art. But what does it all add up to?


Get down to brass tacks and the most hyped event was a failure by Damien Hirst, a colossal self-exposure and an enormous joke on those of us who have tried to defend our youthful attachment to his work. But it was not the only disappointment. Serious fans of contemporary art might have wanted to contrast his farcical old master paintings with the sombre installation by Miroslaw Balka in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. But that too is a grandiloquent misfire. My first reaction was to praise Balka and attack his audience. I was wrong. It's the work that doesn't give its public enough.


The more noise art makes, the less it seems to matter. Taking in all this art is like remembering everything you'd see on the conveyor belt in The Generation Game – and about as rewarding. Once you've spotted the toaster, the Ryan Gander photographs, the Charles Avery drawings and the Grayson Perry tapestry, what's left to meditate on? Is any of it even worth telling Brucie about?


I don't believe great art thrives on endless hype and hysteria. I don't believe young talents are served by such babble. I believe new art needs a concentrated, serious, critical culture. There are the rudiments – or the remains – of culture in this country.


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