Tuesday, May 6, 2008

East Village, NYC 80's v. Dafen, China '08

Back in the mid to late '80s when the New Wave music scene had long run its course and gentrification had reached well past the darkest corners of the fabled isle of Manhattan and into Brooklyn , a slew of small art galleries began to sprout in the East Village (yes, even before the Chelsea migration). No storefront or empty space was safe from being converted into yet another exhibition space as galleries multiplied exponentially overnight. Everyone knew it was a joke, and yet they kept appearing. The whole "movement" however, seemed not so much about fostering up and coming art (and artists), as it was to kick start young wannabe gallery owners into the NYC art scene. The Reagan Era had invaded the Lower East Side, and with it the hopes and aspirations of Punk and New Wave went the same sad route of its iconic 60's sibling. Meanwhile, reality came even quicker to the self deluded art scene schemers as the inevitable implosion from their gentrified overpopulation forced their successive overnight closures. And everyone was glad to have their bodegas back.

I was reminded of that brief, sad and ridiculous period when I came upon this article about Dafen, China. Here's a town so utterly obsessed by art that they supposedly make some sixty per cent of all the oil paintings in the world. Of course, most people are apt to call it anything but art, and the people who make it, anything but artists. They would prefer to call them craftsmen, factory workers, or worse- but the latter could have also been said of many of the East Village artists back then (or now), and their would be dealers. Regardless, this current Chinese "art" scene is a most curious social and economic anomaly, perhaps not least of all because it makes no pretension whatsoever as to the relation between product (a rose by any other name) and consumption. What would the NYC art scene be like minus its well honed facade of chic and pretension? Think WWE without the costumes and pratfalls.

And for a look behind the art...

No comments: