“Nobody talks about talent anymore . . . ”


Eric Fischl, from L.A. Times

From the L.A. Times, an interview with Eric Fischl, on the occasion of his book, Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas:


You write about how the art world became all about the art market after Wall Street soared in the ’80s, and that the art market, which involved conflicts of interest, went on to determine intrinsic value. Can you talk about that?

It was almost like a perfect storm. There was a tremendous amount of money being made by people who were very young, were not broadly educated but were more mono-focused educated. They didn’t have a broad sense of history, of culture. Then all of a sudden there’s this infusion of money into the art world, where they’re looking for things that are not deeply understood but are entertaining, and the lifestyle of it is entertaining. They’re hedging their bets, so they’re buying lots of different young artists. And it’s getting younger and younger. In the ’90s, collectors started to buy work directly out of studios in graduate schools by artists who hadn’t even become professional artists, let alone mature.

And the impact that has on artists is enormous, because if you start selling work as a student, it’s very hard to change, very hard to let go and progress and find your own true voice. So you see a lot of younger artists who’ve been selling work since they got out of school but have yet to do their second show, so to speak. They started speaking, not in art terms, but in business terms. People wanted to know how to be branded, they wanted to know about price points.

Something else that’s continued since then is the growing gap between rich and poor, with the rich getting richer and the middle class, which was your subject matter early in your career, diminishing. How is this influencing art?

It’s an awkward situation for people who make objects because they’re aware that they put them into a system that essentially only the rich see or buy. Museums have gotten to the point where they’re so expensive to go to, you’re also limiting access to people who don’t have to buy the art, so they can’t even get in to see it. And then there are a lot of younger artists who are rejecting the gallery system pretty much altogether. They’re trying to engage communities directly and are doing nonobjective type of work, so they can’t be commodified as easily. It remains to be seen whether that’s going to be something that becomes a dominant form for art. My primary thing is to make a painting, not necessarily to make a painting to sell for gazillions of dollars, but just to make a painting. But somehow the market has made it such that nobody talks about talent anymore. It’s almost politically incorrect to talk about an artist having talent, because then it’s exclusive.

Whereas the price tag isn’t?

It’s weird. The price tag has replaced it, and it’s certainly not a critical dialogue. It’s just something that’s a symbolic thing where it must mean the person who sells for the most money is the best artist.

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