At least Marcel Duchamp was clever.
Though he was a silly old cynic he knew how to play devil’s advocate and he didn’t mind throwing away any talent he might have had. His Nude Descending a Staircase has its interest, Duchamp took the concept of overlapping sketches and turned them into a painting. Hardly original because that honor would go the Chauvet Cave painters. He was honored because he threw everything away so he could disintegrate in to crustiness. A dream the disgruntled have at their most disgusting low points and which normal people watch in morbid curiosity. The 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship Awards for “Fine Artists” would be a tribute to Duchamp except the judges, referrers, and artists have no self-awareness. If they did they would not inflict their anti-humanism on the public.
Art is a singular human phenomenon — it is the system in which we evolve has whole humans. The nature of visual art, for both the creator and viewer, networks visual perception, thought, and emotion. A great artist develops each of those and coordinates them to show us transformative things: to reveal unknown things about our visual perception; to uncover unconscious ideas that add to our existence; and to elicit our enormous emotional capacity to aspire.
The 2020 Guggenheim winners fail as artists and as humans. The standards for the judges appears to be incompetence in visual art (but one); absence or disgust for emotion; and feeble-mindness in philosophy (again except for one). I can only speculate on why these “artists” and their supporters bother.
There are only four good psychological reasons why an institution would promote this dreck:
1. Everyone involved must not have shred of self-esteem. Rather where their esteem should be there is either a void or an acidic out-pouring of loathing. One quality of art is that it is a reflection of the artists’ souls and their supporters.
2. All those involved knows that in the outside world there are super talented artists, with good hearts, with an abundance of vision, and unlimited capacities to make great art. They all know it is not them. They will never have the goods to be the real deal.
3. The greatest cultural way to suppress genius and genuine visionaries is not to smear them, but to promote utter incompetents. When worthless scum are elevated to the highest reaches in the art world the institutions have effectively sowed chaos — opening up possibilities to con, intimidate, and manipulate the masses. Normal good people exposed to this duplicity, leave the field, who would have been natural supporters for great art.
4. The fourth psychological reason is that people with little to no self-esteem don’t just wither away and die, they keep manipulating to rise to positions of power. They become collectors, directors, curators, critics, and teachers … The feeling of being in charge gives them a temporary state of being right, otherwise they couldn’t have risen. This feeling is always short-lived because deep-down they know they are frauds.
The one practical reason why an institution and its supporters would support dreck is for the potential to launder trash. It is a fantasy with many people to wheel and deal in huge sums of money when it is unearned. Not that any of these artists are making money now, but with the Guggenheim reputation it might serve as a launch pad for these kinds of investors.
But I don’t think it is about money but the psychology of the players.
Full-disclosure I applied for the 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship, reversing the role, I did it blind without knowing about past winners or researching who the judges might be. I did it to introduce myself to the elite in the art world. I know my friends and collectors were very hopeful, a feeling I didn’t share. But the goodwill in doing it was the reward, which I enjoyed tremendously. It also was a great exercise in going through the hoops and whistles, just to see how it works
One dear, but naive friend, was optimistic about me applying again for next year. But glancing at the 2020 winners will tell you the chances that I could win it are literally zero. The Guggenheim did manage to kill my enthusiasm in its good faith. And now I have to go through my social media stuff and remove that I was finalist, the shame of the association is nauseating. No one with an ounce of sense could feel that the Guggenheim Fellowship is credible.
Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 4/22/2020