Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where is Modern Art Now? - Blackpool Art Fair!

This week has seen a veritable cornucopia of art programmes on TV. Art on Your Wall, BBC2 Mon; Where is Modern Art Now?, BBC4 Wed; Ugly Beauty, BBC2 Sat and on our own doorstep, The Blackpool Art Fair at the Grundy Art Gallery till January. It was after my visit to the Grundy that the question posed by the BBC2 programme, "Where is Modern Art Now", struck me. If I had thought the BBC programme clouded by obfuscation and pseudo-ism, it had not prepared me for the Blackpool Art Fair. We expect obfuscation and pseudo-ism from art experts such as Dr Augustus Casey-Hayford and Waldemar Januszcack but not from Stuart Tullock.

I arrived at the Grundy on Saturday morning as a privileged preview ticket holder, I had a piece in the exhibition. I was looking forward to an exhibition of the work of Blackpool's artistic best. My reaction, confused and rather disappointed. What did we have here. I walked in the first gallery space to find Blackpool Art Society exhibition sparsely spread over the relatively large wall area. But where was the open exhibition? In the large gallery maybe. No, this space was filled with a strange mishmash of installations based on Blackpool Model Train Society, Blackpool Model Boat Club, Cake Decorating, Knitting, Dog Decorating and a cutting edge avant-garde conceptual art installation by Supercollider (I will come back to that in a moment). Where the hell was the open exhibition? Ah, here they are stuffed into the two small side galleries!

Why? I had trouble finding my A1 size piece of work amongst the mishmash that confronted me. The hanging was 2 to 3 works high, titled with small postal labels typed in 12 point text. Just not good enough for a Gallery of the Grundy's stature. Half an hour later with a crick in my neck and rapidly deteriorating eye sight I still had not found two pieces of work I knew should be in there. As a contributing artist I feel affronted that my hard work should be crammed into a shoe box. Particularly when the rest of the gallery is given over to work which can hardly be considered suitable for an "Art Fair"! What was the rational behind extravagantly hanging the work of Blackpool Art Soc in a huge space at the expense of the Open exhibition?

Back to the beginning, had I missed the point? Was the "Blackpool Art Fair" really one big Post-Post-Modern conceptual nay, avant-garde "Modern" art installation? Was the analist art of the hobbyist (leisure) artist, the hobby sculptors (modellers) the conceptual "true" art (Supercollider Embassy) where modern art is now! Oh, and the work of those pretentious professional and unattached arty types will make up the numbers and help fill the rest of the space!

You have to question what sort of relationship the Grundy Art Gallery is trying to foster with the local art community and the public at large. Why have they chosen to place the polarised art of Blackpool Art Soc and Supercollider at the centre of miss titled "Art Fair". Is this an effort to be even handed? I don't think so, there has to be another agenda. Questions need to be answered! Maybe a clue to the answer lies in one of the handouts I picked up at the "Art Fair" (As I have no wish to embarrass the author)

------------------------------ ---------------------- committed to the dissemination of contemporary arts practice in the town by presenting a diverse and dynamic programme of temporary contemporary art projects. ----------------------------------------------------- is well positioned to provide the community with a forum for intellectual engagement, debate, participation and appreciation. ------------------------------------dedicated to delivering a programme of exhibitions and events which reflects the diverse and dynamic nature of contemporary arts practice, embracing artists at all stages of their careers working with a wide range of contemporary issues and concerns, ----------------------------------will also act as a point of exchange between the audience and contemporary arts practice, providing a dedicated forum for engagement. ---------------------------------- aims to develop reciprocal relationships with other institutions, groups and initiatives. --------------------------------------non-profit, artist led organisation, run by unpaid volunteers motivated by an intense passion for the arts and the cultural development and regeneration of Blackpool. Through the programme of exhibitions, projects and events ------------------------ aims to make an effective and meaningful contribution to the re-development and regeneration of culture of Blackpool.
Obfuscation or what? I clearly need to update my personal statement! Why was there was no reference to Post-Post-Modernism in the BBC2 programme "Where is Modern Art Now" is Blackpool ahead of the game?

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