In a roaring heat-wave, I’m walking down Queen St. in Toronto, Canada. It’s a run down, low-rent area full of decaying storefronts, pizza joints, print shops, art stores, alfalfa bars. Every few doors there’s an art gallery. “Alternate,” artist-run, as well as pricey satellites from up-town. I’m people-watching. The smart and the not-so-smart. Panhandlers. Street meat. Smoothies. A woman in low-rider shorts, bare midriff, lip and brow rings, pedals slowly by. She’s balancing a huge virgin canvas as she rides. A sleepy guy in torn pajamas is trying to get one more canvas into the trunk of his Volvo.
Recent worldwide studies undertaken by Co-Sight, a Paris-based media company, have uncovered some demographics that affect artists and the future of art. The study looked at what they called “cutting edgers” — the 15 percent of the population who are known as early adopters of technology, aesthetics, food, drink, personal care, health, etc. Statistically these folks are less likely to vote, go to church, join a club, or have kids. But they are a focused bunch, a bit self-indulgent, even hedonistic. They don’t care for hierarchies, but they love to network. Above all they like things that stimulate, alter and extend their intellects and senses.
Looking into the future is a risky business. Only last year I was privately predicting the demise of shopping. “Shopping is a religion that has run its course,” I was saying to my closest friends. Right now I’m watching a well-dressed woman carrying a loose penile painting out of a gallery. “Thanks,” she shouts over her shoulder. The cool proprietor gently closes the white door of his refrigerated gallery.
What’s happening? Because of the potential independence, self-realization and non-hierarchical nature of the artist’s life, millions now see art as a desirable vocation. Furthermore, art connoisseurship has democratized. Art collecting these days often aligns with personal passions. (Have you been in a motor-sport gallery lately?) With the cutting edgers, decoration, life enhancement and individual aggrandizement rule the roost. Every quirky, kinky, funky and kitschy indulgence is honoured. Oh, and retro has re-returned. It’s life on the cutting edge.
PS: “And this too will change.” (Arabian saying)
Esoterica: “Alternate,” is abuzz in our cities. Media loves junk chic. Detritus art prevails as the cutting edgers reinforce the anti-establishment. Individualism prevails as art schools and universities continue to launch the artistically literate who then feed the system.
This letter was originally published as “Cutting edgers” on June 27, 2003.
“An artist is an explorer. He has to begin by self-discovery and by observation of his own procedure. After that he must not feel under any constraint.” (Henri Matisse)
Enjoy five full days of drawing and painting at Mill Road Studio in Port Rexton, NL. Work in the studio overlooking scenic Trinity Bay, and en plein air in the stunning coastal landscape with dramatic cliffs rising up out of the North Atlantic.
Sessions run from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each day.
The cost is $1,250.00 CAD including lunch and all materials.
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There’s a hush… a palpable electric presence radiating from some of the paintings in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the galleries of the Frick Collection.