Talk: Elite art, populism and the fate of criticism

Jeff Koons, Puppy, 1992, stainless steel, soil and flowering plants, 12 meters 40 cm x 830 cm x 910 cm, Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, Bilbao

  • Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth

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As in politics there has been a large realignment of contemporary art, in which a considerable number of 'populist' works have come to the fore in a strange alliance of popular tastes and those of billionaire art buyers. When thinking of the branded works of Hirst, Murakami, Koons, Wool and many others, it can be interpreted that some of the same forces underlie both of those alliances. These include long-term financial crises, the overweening power of the super-rich and the transformative power of social media. The success of street art in the art market, after decades of clashing values and mutual hostility, is one register of this development.

In this talk Professor Julian Stallabrass contrasts market art versus biennial art, and pliant, promotional art criticism versus a resurgent and critical art writing. While in many ways these are opposed, there are also links between them: where do the two meet? One place is in the market-friendly political art work, another in the art writer as an extraordinary performer, a celebrity brand out of which writing emanates.

Julian is a lecturer, writer, photographer and curator with a particular interest in the relations between art and political issues. He is the author of Internet Art (Tate 2003) and Art Incorporated (later published and updated as Contemporary Art: A Very Short Introduction - Oxford, 2004/ 2006).

Date: Tuesday 10 March
Time: 19:00 – 20:30
Venue: Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building
Ticket information: £6 /£4 for Concessions /free to UoP students via SPiA

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