With Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts opening its new contemporary art wing, expansions and renovations going on at the Harvard Art Museum and the Gardner Museum, and five years after the Institute of Contemporary Art moved into its new building, people are talking about how lively Boston’s contemporary art scene is. As the New York Time writes today: “All these developments are making Boston’s contemporary art lovers positively buoyant.”
But are we just a city of lookers? Or are we a city of art makers too? People constantly and incorrectly conflate the two. Note that the New York Times makes no mention of art being made here.
The rash of local museum building is a sign that the people with money here want Boston to be a great art community. But what makes a great creative community is not just lots of cool venues to look at stuff in. We must be a place that produces cool stuff too. It’s the difference between being a service economy and being a manufacturing economy. Or to put it another way, it’s the difference between living in a town that has some nice movie theaters and living in Hollywood where they actually make movies.
We don’t remember art communities because they had cool venues. We remember art communities that produce cool art. And art communities that produce cool art attract more artists who produce cool art, and so become even cooler. Our big institutions—our museums, our schools, our publications—can help foster this community of art making by paying attention to and showcasing cool stuff made here.
But curators and museum directors and art critics who just talk about what great venues we have and ignore our artists are part of the problem.
The Yokelist Papers:
Yokelist Manifesto Number 1: Boston lacks alternative spaces?
Yokelism at the 2008 Boston Art Awards.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 2: Montreal case study.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 3: Hire locally.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 4: We need coverage of our living artists.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 5: We need local retrospectives.
Yokelism update: Coverage of our living artists: Sebastian Smee responds.
Yokelism update: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelism update: Re: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 6: Could the CIA help?
Yokelism at the 2009 New England Art Awards.
Re: “Yokelism with your wallet out.”
Globe: The revolution begins with Harvard – a Yokelist response.
Yokelist questions Globe diss of Boston.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 7: Can you love Boston art and still love the Foster Prize?
Yokelist Manifesto 8: We need local art history.
Yokelism and the Maud Morgan Prize.
Yokelist Manifesto 10: Is the architecture against us?