The global art community is composed of thousands of different art communities. Some are global, to be sure, but many are regional, national, or local. Leadership in any art community is likely to be problematic, as artists overwhelmingly tend to dislike being followers. Artists become leaders by following their inner visions in new directions that others recognise as exciting concepts to explore for themselves. Although the traditional arts remain popular, in the 21st century art exploration has inevitably involved incorporating technology, video (they don’t even manufacture film anymore), and multi-media. Most importantly, however, genuine art community leaders lead conceptually.
A Few Leaders
Jorge Pardo Combines’ designs, architecture, and art continually challenges his viewers’ concepts of what art is. For one show he designed everything in the gallery, such as the walls, the admission desk, the bookstore, the floors, and the coat-check desk, thereby making the gallery itself the work of art. In love with light, he also makes many coloured lamps, some the size of a house, with radical forms and lighting effects.
Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla collaborate on visual art experiments that examine whether such concepts as democracy, borders, nationality, and authorship are adequate for describing the global culture of consumerism. Their multimedia combinations of photography, video, sculpture, sound, and performance explore the complexity of the conceptual and physical relationships between objects and their meanings.
French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno bought the shell of a second-rank manga character from a Japanese animation firm, put her in their movies, and loaned her out to other artists, creating an international conceptual-art starlet. By satirising the enormous global intellectual-property market they made an obscure commercial item a centre of attention among the global art community.
Ai Weiwei’s leadership is political as well as artistic. His public artworks, photographs, and sculptures often use historic and recognisable Chinese art forms to express political and social criticism. Many of his sculptures include such salvaged materials as ancient pottery and wood from destroyed temples to connect tradition with current social issues. He also uses social media to communicate globally and to engage with other artists in massive projects.
What Art Leadership Is
These are but a few of the thousands of artists who lead their communities, large and small, in the 21st century. What they share is having unique visions of what art is and the ability to make their audiences see the world differently to how they saw it before.
Picture: Henner Damke – Fotolia