top of page




  1. Contemporary art is in an existential and unprecedented situation of crisis.

  2. This crisis in art has developed parallel to the crisis which is engulfing Nature.

  3. Both are driven by the same forces/the same logic. 

  4. Whereas the catastrophic destruction of Nature is now reaching the forefront of public debate and media attention, the crisis in art and culture continues to be hidden in plain sight and receives hardly any critical attention.

  5. In Nature, we are facing a potentially ultimate limit and end. The development of the culture industry(1) which experienced an accelerated growth spurt in the 1960s, has re-defined art, artistic freedom and culture to a degree that their very essence is under threat.

  6. For the first time in the history of art a potentially ultimate limit, boundary or end of art is brought about which is not driven by art-intrinsic quest but instead by exclusively art-external forces and interests. 

  7. In the today's culture industry (1) art is no longer driven by individual vision, excellence, innovation, and intellect, or an art-internal quest for the extension of the scope and boundary of art, or the quest for a fundamental renewal of art in ever-changing circumstances. 

  8. Instead, the success of the art-external interests requires the very erosion and suppression of excellence, intellect, innovation, and individuality which had defined Western art for centuries.

  9. This development has dramatically reshaped art and every aspect of its agency in the public realm - the experience of looking at art in galleries or museums, art discourse, art production, art education and media coverage over the last few decades.

  10. A small number of strategies/standards have emerged which today shape and control what kind of art is made, shown and discussed. 

  11. These predefined and unquestioned standards represent a powerful belief system that the culture industry has successfully defined, promoted and cemented into the public consciousness as absolute and unquestioned givens: they are readymade definitions of art.

  12. These definitions/standards today dominate, control, shape -and effectively censor- art shown in the public realm to a near-total degree. 

  13. (A summary and overview of these standards in the form of a matrix can be accessed here )(opens in a new window.)

  14. Accepted, copied and repeated over and over again by artists worldwide they standardise/homogenise artists and art,  and eviscerate art and culture.

  15. The predefined strategies determine which type of art can appear and be successful in the public realm and thus attack and undermine artistic freedom and autonomy.

  16. Works which /artists who are autonomous and self-determined and do not comply with these standards struggle to emerge and function in this highly homogenised public realm and are instead pushed into the private underground realm.

  17. The absence of these artists -the absence of autonomous art- from the public realm leaves a vacuum and distorts our culture.

  18. For a definition of what substantiates the autonomy, freedom and self-determination of artist and art go here.)(opens in a new window.)

  19. Art professionals and critics have deeply imbibed the culture industry's standards and are thus are oblivious to this vacuum. 

  20. The critical silence in the face of these developments is eerie.

  21. The more predefined strategies an artist applies, the higher are the chances of extraordinary, if not obscene, levels of art world/art market success. (for example Ai Wei Wei who employs all of the readymade definitions of art.)

  22. The widespread acceptance of these readymade definitions has allowed for the production, promotion, and celebration of the lowest level artworks ever produced in the history of art on an industrial/global scale. 

  23. The market is flooded with similar-looking works devoid of any substance, intellect, innovation and so on.

  24. ​The shaping of these -today's firmly established- standards began in the late 1950s when some of the most progressive artists at the time -inadvertently- provided the perfect ideology which enabled the culture industry's rampant global growth.

  25. The combined effect of Joseph Beuys' "Everyone is an artist" and his idea of a 'social sculpture', Duchamp's readymades, Andy Warhol's serial production and introduction of everyday/consumer objects and pop culture into art, and John Cage's de-hierarchisation of musical material was interpreted and paraphrased by the industry as a general call for a 'democratisation of art'.

  26. This 'democratisation' coincided with -and  facilitated- the emergence of the 'culture critic' (concerned with the study of everyday objects and life, who over time has come to replaced the art critic), as well as the first art fairs (treating art as a currency), and the rise in the number of collectors with no interest in art beyond its role as a financial investment. (2)

  27. The idea of and call for a democratisation of/in art, over time amended by the call for political correctness, became absolute standards.

  28. Democratisation and an alleged idea of 'fairness' thus came to override and exclude other criteria and standards in art.

  29. In order for art to be democratic -fair and inclusive-, it must include every one and every thing. Everyone is now declared an artist and everything is declared art/art must be made by all and for all. The call for democratisation erased the distinction between everyday life -its agents and objects- and art.

  30. This enabled the culture industry's/the art market's unprecedented exponential global growth, spread and success, ushering in a new era.

  31. Democratisation as an absolute rule requires and legitimises the excessive lowering of all standards in art to the lowest and most infantile base level - which we are today confronted with en masse. Only the lowest-level art can be understood and made by everyone.

  32. The most infantile, if not outright stupid 'work', is, therefore, most fair and politically correct.

  33. We thus today have museums, such as the National Gallery in Scotland, for example, catering for babies (nappies provided by the museum) and people suffering from dementia. The museum must first and foremost be seen to be politically correct, democratic and thus all-inclusive. (3)

  34. This overriding demand for an absolute democratisation and political correctness in art is the"triumph of a repressive égalité"(3) comes at a cost. (click here to read the essay 'Democratisation of Art - a Curse in Disguise')

  35. 'Democratisation' has, paradoxically, become one of the most destructive and anti-democratic forces in 21st-century societies.

  36. As a form of censorship, it suppresses the self-determination, autonomy, and freedom of artists and individuals, resulting in the unprecedented homogenisation and standardisation of artworks and individuals which we witness today. (for an in-depth analysis go here).

  37. It infantilises artists, artworks and the audience.

  38. The free, self-determined artist has become as endangered as the last remaining tigers and elephants in the wild. This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate description of the current status quo.

  39. Art as an autonomous, meaningful, intellectual agent, as a leader of avant-garde thought and practice at the forefront of our time, with the power to drive, examine and express our understanding of the nature of reality in ever-changing circumstances, producing works of the utmost level of complexity and lasting value, offering the audience a seemingly inexhaustible potential for exploration, nourishment and deep sense of meaning has today been abandoned altogether.

  40. Deemed 'elitist'/ i.e. undemocratic, 'autonomous art' and the art professional, knowledge-based/intellectual approach have tacitly become socially unacceptable and are thus suppressed and framed as 'irrelevant' and obsolete.

  41. The relevance of an artwork is no longer defined and measured by its art-intrinsic quest and achievement but by its art-external function - such as, for example, 'raising awareness' about the refugee crisis, gender or racial issues etc.

  42. As the artwork must now be simplistic in every possible sense, must be easy to make and get, be immediate in its effect, demand no in-depth knowledge or understanding and must not generate any questioning, the notion of failure has been eradicated - and with it also the possibility of achievement. 

  43. The question 'What is art?', and the quest for an extension of the scope of art/the extension of a boundary in art, along with the quest for the new in art has thus become obsolete and is abolished. 

  44. Without this question/without the notion of a boundary in art, development in art -and the freedom of the artist- ceases to exist. 

  45. The artist, as a standard and paragon in society for autonomy, self-determination and freedom, working at the forefront of his/her time has been lost.

  46. This loss contributes to a society's (in)ability and confusion about what freedom and individuality are and could be.

  47. Artistic freedom is today confused with random and purely arbitrary choices within the predefined remit. 

  48. Artistic freedom is suffocated by a literal 'anything goes'. Limitless choice -the lack of boundaries, criteria and art intrinsic problems- renders the contemporary artwork impotent.

  49. The in-depth understanding of the history of art and its intellectual complexity is seen as 'elitist', 'exclusive' and thus politically incorrect. It is therefore suppressed, banished and effectively censored from the public realm.

  50. Today's vast audience, largely oblivious of the history of art, does not have the criteria, nor the knowledge of art history which would provide them with criteria for the judgement of contemporary art. The audience is not equipped to discern that a majority of contemporary art on show is actually a perpetual repetition of works made -often decades- before.

  51. Serial production, reproduction, supersizing and the use of 'readymade' objects are today used as mere recipes/strategies which guarantee a work's functioning within the Industry. They are copied and perpetuated over and over again without having any artistic power and merit per se.

  52. The art market has become flooded with similar-looking works, each a version of work already produced by the same artist, or all copies of earlier work made by many others. 

  53. The predefined standards shape the public's expectation of what art -and artistic freedom- look like.

  54. The opinion of the general public has replaced the art critic/the art professional judgement.

  55. The perpetual repetition of the ever-same strategies has created a qualitative vacuum in contemporary art and culture.

  56. This vacuum is distracted from by an ever-increasing quantity of artists, exhibitions, galleries, museums and visitors, and the media narrative of an alleged art world boom (with 2017 dubbed a 'Superkunstjahr' / 'mega art year' by German art critics).

  57. The narrative of the success of the Art- and Culture Industry obfuscates the actual vacuity of the majority of contemporary art.

  58. A ​superficial treatment of Western art traditions is imported wholesale into Eastern and African cultures.

  59. These imported notions are simply adopted.

  60. Geographical histories, identities and traditions are undermined, extinguished, forgotten -replaced.

  61. This new version of global colonialism now undermines identity and culture everywhere.

  62. The fast-growing number of art fairs, biennials and triennials worldwide play a significant role in this levelling out of standards. They legitimise and shroud this fact in the language of political correctness and waffle about so-called 'postcolonial studies', seemingly oblivious to the fact that this very culture industry they are part of and promote is itself has morphed into a ne wkind of global colonial power the reach and consequences for art and cultures worldwide is unprecedented and we believe catastrophic.

  63. The art world / the art- and culture industry is a major driver of the negative impact of globalisation.

  64. Just as everyone is wearing the same clothes the world over, artists worldwide now produce highly standardised work. Art consequently now looks the same all over the world. 

  65. Artistic ambition today is career ambition.

  66. The work by artists taking part in the art world is designed to maintain their position in the market place, to the detriment of the development of their work.

  67. In order to feed the market, the artist must today produce large amounts of work very quickly and ideally have many shows at once in different places globally. 

  68. The contemporary Culture Industry's demands disturb the natural development process that a work in itself requires.

  69. Intuition and deep concentration are under attack.​

  70. For artists to have lost a true understanding of their own freedom is the epitome of the wider crisis engulfing societies worldwide.

  71. In Germany, much attention is currently given to the question of 'freedom of art'. However, in the public debate, this is framed as the question whether art and artists are today also free to express views which are regarded as politically incorrect, such as fascist or racial views - and which thus (appear to) contradict one of the Culture Industry's most central tenets: political correctness and democratisation.(4) 

  72. However, fascist or racist views expressed in a medium associated with art (ideally oil paint and canvas) only purport to contradict the Culture Industry's standards (of democratisation and political correctness).

  73. Expressing extreme fascist or racist views is simply one of the most provocative acts possible at this moment in time.

  74. The provocation creates a spectacle which functions as click-bait, provoking and providing guaranteed and instant -if not vast- amounts of attention. It guarantees that the media, journalists, critics and audience alike are attracted to this provocation like flies. The success of the provocation is expressed in 'clicks', articles and books.

  75. Rightwing provocation in art, including attacks on gender and religious equality, guarantee that the artist and the work will be given not only vast amounts of media attention but will be given a place within the contemporary art history. 

  76. Expressing fascist or racist views in a medium associated with art is therefore fully compliant with the Industry's standards - and not an expression of freedom.

  77. Expressing fascist or racial views in art must be seen as a coup by the career-oriented media-savvy artist or art critic (or politician).

  78. Anyone entering into the public debate about this type of work automatically receives attention and thus raises their own public profile.

  79. "Those who thrive in this world are the ones who understand that it is about spectacle and not substance. Spectacle is the central feature of the media and substance is peripheral. Fascism is all about symbol, sensation and spectacle. So by creating a political world of spectacle, as opposed to a world of substance, you actually create outlets and openings for fascism. The rise of the far-right across the world to some extent is the result of the complete degradation of journalism [the complete degradation of art and culture]. Good reporting [serious artistic enquiry] requires real depth, it requires knowledge, it requires research, it requires time, it requires money. Sure there are still some great journalists [artists], but they work at the margins. Whereas the journalists [contemporary artists] whose work is central are the ones who do the least actual journalism [original, autonomous and self-determined work]. They are the ones who mouth pre-existing positions. In the extreme case, they are the newsreaders who read somebody else's script."(5)

  80. Thus the debate about whether, for example, artistic freedom is restricted if the audience demands the removal of politically incorrect content from a gallery space, is flawed and misplaced as it is ignorant of the fact that it takes place within the culture industry's predefined remit and logic.

  81. Freedom in art is confused/equated with 'Meinungsfreiheit' / freedom of speech or press freedom. 

  82. This highlights the confusion in the contemporary culture industry about what freedom in art actually is, where it comes from and how it could be protected.

  83. The call for total freedom of expression in art, under close inspection, turns out to be merely an extension of the call for a total democratisation of/in art - the demand that the artist can say whatever s/he likes.

  84. Just as the call for a democratisation of art has, paradoxically, not increased, but catastrophically undermined diversity and difference, has led to an unprecedented standardisation of art and suppression of true individuality, autonomy and freedom, in the same way the demand for an absolute freedom of speech in art devalues and undermines difference/that which is specific. 

  85. The demand for an absolute freedom of expression in art is a demand for an absolute rule of the law of sameness, of a total equality of everything, everyone and every idea.

  86. Every one is an artist. Every thing is art. Whatever the artist says must automatically be art. Every content and opinion must be accepted as the content of art in order to prove the absolute freedom of art.

  87. This demand, instead of extending the boundary of art, reigns it in and smothers difference, quality, substance and freedom.

  88. The demand that the artist MUST be 'free' to say anything is Janus-faced, showing only its alleged democratic face to the media, the journalists and critics who all love to get embroiled in and hyped-up by the provocation, quoting each other in endless circles. 

  89. In the glare of the spectacle, they are blinded to the fact that the nature of freedom of speech is of an essentially different nature from artistic freedom.

  90. The understanding of what it actually means for an artist to be free, self-determined and autonomous, and of what 'autonomous art' is, has become utterly confused in the contemporary 'discourse' (if one can call it that).

  91. The contemporary debate portrays, denounces and sidelines autonomous art as a merely formal and aesthetic exploration.

  92. As so-called autonomous art does not deal with issues of political correctness, the daily news and so on (deemed essential by the CI's standards), it is therefore deemed irrelevant and obsolete. However, this sidelines and suppresses a key feature of autonomous art.

  93. Autonomous art is art which has, and seeks to solve, an art-intrinsic 'problem'​.

  94. This 'problem' is not art-external. 

  95. Art can only produce, address and seek to solve problems defined in and through art itself. ​

  96. The 'problem' is the root, cause, and foundation of the potential, autonomy, and freedom of art.

  97. Without an art intrinsic 'problem' there is no freedom and no potential for real discovery.​

  98. The 'problem' is unique to the individual.

  99. It is not shared or shareable or collective.

  100. It is not a common property or idea.

  101. The nature of the 'problem' is to be unsolvable.​

  102. Only the self-determined /autonomous/unmanipulated individual can discover a 'problem'.

  103. The 'problem' presents an ultimate challenge and difficulty; it is never easy

  104. The artist attempts to 'solve' and explore the problem with each of his/her works. Each work is necessarily only ever an approximation to an ideal which only the artist can sense. 

  105. Failure plays an essential role in the artistic inquiry into the nature of the 'problem' (and is largely absent from contemporary art).

  106. The autonomous work knows -and seeks to define- its own place within the history of art. 

  107. The autonomous work measures itself against the highest achievements in art of the past.

  108. The challenge for a young artist is to find his/her 'problem'.​

  109. The art intrinsic 'problem' creates difference.

  110. Pre-defined standards, by the nature of the self-emerging work, cannot come into play in the radical pursuit of the 'problem'.

  111. Seclusion and withdrawal from 'the world' are essential for any serious artistic quest - for the discovery and the solution to an original 'problem'. 

  112. Retreat, separation and quiet introspection are critical in affording the highest degree of concentration that art/'the problem' requires. 

  113. Only the highest degree of concentration will produce 'problems' that will lead to works of the highest standard - which will demand and evoke the same from/in its audience. (for more on autonomous art in the contemporary culture industry click here.)

  114. The possibility for this essential retreat from the world -in today's circumstances- is increasingly diminished/under attack.

  115. The physical and mental space which would allow for a highly concentrated and unrestricted pursuit is increasingly hard to find and establish. 

  116. Art at the very moment of its emergence is disturbed, and artistic freedom undermined and perverted.

  117. The source for 'art' is no longer perceived as lying within - within the individual and his/her most personal perception/formulation of an artistic problem, within the context of the history of art, but is instead entirely externalised.

  118. Art in the contemporary Culture Industry is conceived as a public property right at the moment of its conception. 

  119. The private character of a work is deemed irrelevant.

  120. The work now merely needs to act as a player in the art market; it is completely non-personal and can be invented literally by anyone.

  121. In contrast to the autonomous work, the contemporary work merely illustrates a simple and quickly conceived idea, the manifestation of which is equally simple and straightforward. 

  122. The majority of contemporary artists have not found a 'problem', which explains the arbitrary and random nature of their 'works'.

  123. Contemporary artworks which utilise the Culture Industry's predefined standards are devoid of a 'problem'.

  124. The contemporary Culture Industry uproots and redefines our relationship to the art and culture of our own Western/European past.

  125. The highest achievements of art in the past are now treated as mere signifiers of art - signifiers of meaning, intellect and gravitas. 

  126. The now widely accepted strategy of quoting or replicating (aspects of) art made in the past lends the otherwise vacuous contemporary artwork an air of meaning, gravitas and intellect.

  127. Meaning transfer from the highest achievements of art and culture of the past to the otherwise vacuous contemporary commodity, which in itself offers no new development or content (whether this is an artwork, luxury handbag or designer clothes), - is a globally accepted and extremely successful marketing strategy.  

  128. Meaning transfer from the highest achievements of art and culture of the past, as a marketing strategy, has been adopted by the art-, fashion, music-, entertainment and tourism industry.

  129. The art market is increasingly emulating fashion and other luxury sectors, where it is clear from the outset that the objective is to present a clearly defined brand.

  130. The contemporary Culture Industry facilitates the merging of these -previously distinct- branches into one.

  131. This merging of industry sectors is sold as an extension of the boundary of art.

  132. The intrinsic quality of artworks and culture of the past is commodified and destroyed. 

  133. The actual, specific and unique quality, the complexity and intellect embodied by artworks made in the past are a hindrance to mass production and the consumption of art in the mass market.

  134. The specific choice by the artist -the material, size and medium- are considered accidental and irrelevant. Therefore a motif from a painting, for example, can, without any awareness of conflict or loss, be transferred into the design of a floor rug, handbag, mug or item of clothing.

  135. Major cultural institutions which purport to protect and promote our cultural heritage have become main proponents of their destruction.

  136. The reproduction of an artwork is presented not only as equal, but superior to, the original work. 

  137. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is the epitome of this cultural barbarism. This museum, for example, presents small self-portraits by van Gogh in glass cases in front of a giant reproduction of a small detail of one of the portraits. The reproduction spans an entire wall, enlarging individual brushstrokes to meter-long blocks. Placed right behind the original painting it dominates the visual field to such a degree that it is impossible to examine the small original.(6)

  138. This presentation prevents and disables any possibility of the audience actually perceiving the original and wilfully pushes the original into a position of inferiority and insignificance.

  139. This situation has so far not received any critical attention. It is accepted as the normal status quo by art critics, historians and artists alike.

  140. The gift shop merchandise promises ownership of the (thus reinterpreted, suppressed and diminished) original.

  141. The Van Gogh Museum's senior management team distinguishes itself by having predominantly business/management degrees and acumen; Qualifications in and knowledge of art history are marginal.(7)

  142. Museums are at risk of losing their relevance beyond being money-making schemes.

  143. The contemporary Culture Industry drains the substance of art and culture of the past. Art and architecture -the Old Masters and old towns in cities all over the world- suffer the same fate.

  144. Air BnB, low budget flights and the popularity of 'city breaks' have increased the demand for 'something to do'. Art and culture offer to bestow an air of cultivation to this global audience with very little if not no real interest in art.

  145. Contemporary art fails to contribute anything new - any meaning, value and substance worth being passed on to future generations. 

  146. Art is the only discipline in which the suppression, ignorance and evisceration of its own history have become mainstream - a development that is enthusiastically embraced and driven by the very art professionals and the institutions who/which purport to be the leading forces in the realm of culture and purport to protect our cultural heritage.

  147. If physicists and major scientific institutions decided to ignore Einstein - because that would make their work easier and would allow more people to have fun and take part- they would be excluded from any professional discourse and shut down. The fact that the same judgment is not applied to contemporary 'art', the unquestioned and total acceptance of the Culture Industry's lowest standards, is an alarming symptom of the Culture Industry's total success, power, and control.

  148. The perpetual repetition of the ever-same strategies freezes art in the present. Development in the future cannot be expected. Art is in stasis.

  149. The evisceration of art goes hand-in-hand with a hollowing-out of what it means to be individual and human.

  150. The quality of work made in the past - and knowledge of the history of art- is suppressed in order to further the interests of the contemporary work, the art market and associated interest groups.

  151. Contemporary work no longer measures itself against the standard that was set by work of the past. 

  152. No comparison is now made between contemporary work and the work of the past. Art of the past has ceased to be a reference point.

  153. The wider context of the history of art and culture as a whole is sidelined and ignored.

  154. The criteria necessary for assessment or questioning of art have been lost.

  155. Without an understanding and awareness of the history of our culture, we lose our ability to self-reflect, and thus the ability to develop.

  156. The contemporary work is produced in a vacuum and produces a vacuum. 

  157. It is only within this artificially isolated domain that it can succeed, or indeed even function.

  158. A further strategy, allowing the contemporary artist to lend their otherwise vacuous work an air of meaning, gravitas and relevance, is the reference to highly emotive/emotionally provocative content, often directly referencing daily news items.

  159. The refugee crisis and issues of gender, racial and sexual (in)equality are particularly popular and successful in this context.

  160. The more emotionally disturbing, outrageous and shocking the subject matter, the more attention a work will receive. Equally the more outrageously stupid, one-dimensional and infantile, the more often a work will be discussed and quoted.

  161. A kind of 'Trumpism' of culture has thus developed, awarding disproportionate levels of (media) attention to that which is excessively provocative - emotive, simple, infantile, outrageously stupid, rudimentary, morally obscene and so on.

  162. Works (must) function as 'click-bait'. Success is measured and generated by the algorithmic logic of content promotion on the internet. The spectacle of in any way provocative content attracts the highest number of 'hits' or visitors.

  163. The spectacle, in turn, attracts art 'critics' and journalists who perpetuate the narrative of this work's 'success' - and fail to draw attention to or even notice its actual absolute vacuity and impotence. The art and culture sections in newspapers and art magazines worldwide are filled with this vacuity.

  164. Dealing with art external issues, such as political, social or environmental issues, is now one accepted definition of art per se.

  165. Exploiting the emotional spectacle surrounding horrific events is a simple -and obscene- strategy which guarantees media attention and success within the art world. 

  166. The work is thus given a veneer of gravitas and prestige designed to distract from or fill its own vacuity. A replica, for example, built by Moroccan artisans of the engine of the bulldozer which had killed the young political activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza, was praised as one of the star exhibits in the Marrakesh Biennale 2016. The horror of the event at this point has served its purpose within the art world and is then even discussed for its alleged aesthetic merit and beauty.(8)

  167. Employing migrants to produce lampshades for the art world superstar at the Venice Biennale is equally obscene.

  168. The obscenity is neither registered by art critics nor seemingly anybody else. 

  169. Instead, with great enthusiasm, this kind of event and 'work' is promoted and perpetuated, and effortlessly functions within the industry.

  170. The 6th Marrakesh Biennale is only one example of many such events worldwide in which artists purportedly address issues and crises, many of which are the result of globalisation, but in doing so they actually foster its negative impact. 

  171. These 'works' are impotent as art and impotent as social tools. They do not intend to make any progress with the 'highlighted' issues, or with art itself, but are instead solely a means to further the career of the artist and the success of the industry. 

  172. Using environmental, social or political issues in art distracts from the fact that the simplistic work cannot, and does not, deal with the exceptional complexities of the contemporary world.

  173. Whilst the last three decades have been characterised by an unprecedented rise in complexity and access to information, the contemporary art world responds by completely turning its back.

  174. Success of a work or an exhibition is now exclusively measured as market success within the 'creative industries' and is gauged by sales figures and visitor numbers.

  175. In order to feed the demands of the market a large amount of work and similar copies of the same work need to be produced serially which has led to an absence of development, depth and quality within the work.

  176. Serial production has helped to develop the notion of work that functions as a brand.

  177. Similar looking works by the same artist can now achieve high prices as this procedure allows investors and speculators to judge accurately the value of their own holdings. It is important, therefore, that as many similar works by any one artist as possible should exist. This ensures that there will always be, somewhere on the market, an example that will allow profit to be calculated. Rising prices today absurdly result from the fact that there are many examples of one particular work.(9)

  178. A painting by Rembrandt is, paradoxically, cheap compared to a work by Jeff Koons, because Koons still produces, while Rembrandts are less and less likely to come to the market. This illustrates the power and role of the brand which disregards the actual 'content' of a work.

  179. The industry's standards have not only been deeply imbibed by the general public but most notably also by highly educated art professionals who comply with and perpetuate/promote them, nodding with enthusiastic approval in front of spectacularly vacuous and infantile works. 

  180. Critical faculty has been largely suspended. 

  181. The near-total critical silence is eerie.

  182. ​​​Museums, galleries and art schools must now be run first and foremost as businesses.

  183. Galleries and museums seek to attract ever-larger visitor numbers which creates a demand for content that is quickly produced, easily digested and entertaining (again in the name of democratisation of art).

  184. The contemporary art world, characterised by  a focus on spectacle and shallow entertainment, draws huge crowds. Emphasis is put on the number of visitors and on 'having fun'.

  185. Museums and galleries as a result increasingly resemble playgrounds for adults with clown, supersized toys and playground equipment such as slides and swings featuring high on the galleries' agenda.

  186. The Tate Modern, with the vast turbine hall at its heart (demanding supersized content), has played a central role in transforming the role of museums worldwide into instruments of the global entertainment industry.

  187. High-profile award schemes endorse and perpetuate the status quo by rewarding artists and young art students for compliance with the Industry.

  188. Award schemes help to cement the acceptance of the Culture Industry's standards ever deeper in the audience's consciousness. 

  189. Art education at colleges and universities focus on immersing art students as early as possible within the creative industries' mechanisms. 

  190. The UK government has even created the role of the 'election artist'. The artist, honoured by the state’s or a party's recognition, proud to fill this role of apparent significance, is caught up in the illusion of his/her own power, importance and status and the belief that the work produced will have political importance. The compliant artists and their works are fully predictable, powerless and the antinomy of self-determination and autonomy.​​

  191. ​The artworld is defined, promoted and buoyed up by a complete absence of critical and informed journalism.

  192. Superficial and lazy coverage creates and cements an unchallenged perception of art in the public eye that is dominated by spectacle and entertainment, thus working hand-in-hand with the art market.

  193. Perpetual media coverage of the artworld's 'superstars' manipulates the public’s opinion of what art is, and controls what art could be.

  194. Contemporary art has become art that ‘looks like art.’ As if a definition was reached by pointing to some image in a magazine and arguing that “that thing there is called art”, therefore, if one makes something which looks like that, one will also have made art. The argument is tautological. 

  195. ​​The cult of celebrity has been completely absorbed by the art world and has become the measure for the success of art and artist.

  196. The artist can now be most famous for having achieved nothing at all.

  197. Extortionate amounts of money are paid for work operating at the lowest possible level.

  198. The celebrity cult and financial success obscure whether the artist’s work is of any relevance, or not.

  199. Whereas up until about two or three decades ago it was still relatively easy for artists to find studios in vacant industrial buildings, today these spaces have become largely unaffordable and/or unavailable. In the process of ever-increasing gentrification, the majority are either demolished or turned into luxury dwellings. 

  200. Even to apply and ‘qualify’ to apply for a studio in studio complexes, the artist must now already be a part of the art market and produce a list of commissions, residencies and exhibitions without which admission is less likely, if not denied completely. 

  201. The majority of studios available to artists today are crammed, box-room-like spaces, designed to function as offices for which there are long waiting lists. They neither offer space for thought, nor for an expanded material exploration.

  202. In these studio complexes art is part and parcel of the entertainment culture on offer, and of the same importance and level as the parties, the coffee bar and the organic cakes.

  203. Residencies in some rare and unusually large and beautiful studio spaces offered by some organisations are usually limited to short term residencies. This only enables those who work 'project-based' on ideas which are quickly developed and executed.  Access to these is again subject to the artist's CV, providing evidence of the artist's deep immersion in the art market.​​

  204. ​​​​Art schools must now first and foremost function as businesses. They must thus promote and encourage quick and loud success stories, such as students receiving awards, taking part in exhibitions and dominating the headlines.

  205. The art student is first and foremost shaped with focus on his/her career.

  206. Art students are encouraged to believe that the current notion of what art is, as it is portrayed by galleries, museums, award shows and the media, is one to be accepted, for it can so easily be copied. The promise of career success follows from this encouragement. The whole process is very simple.

  207. The art student, faced with overwhelming scale of successes in the art world where accepted norms of shallow standards promise success, will find it more difficult to develop work which departs from these standards.

  208. Entry into the art world must be sought at the student level in order to ensure inclusion at later stages. This necessity overrides all others.

  209. The qualification of the art school teacher is not determined by the actual quality of his, or her work, or by teaching ability, but instead, it is exclusively measured by success in the art market.

  210. Students are thus exclusively guided by teachers who are part and parcel of the art world mechanisms described above.

  211. We cannot expect an audience for art, armed with the appropriate critical faculties, to emerge from today’s art colleges.

  212. Art is now first and foremost a currency, identical in its role to that of the worthless piece of paper that banknotes are printed on.

  213. ​​​The globalisation of the art market has led to the emergence of a new species of collector with zero knowledge of, or interest in, art. 

  214. Buyers show no or very little interest in the work itself, nor any desire to communicate with the artist. Bids are made by telephone and after purchase, the work is often instantly transferred to some bank vault in Switzerland. The paintings remain as much in the dark as the collector does.

  215. Collectors form exclusive communities with admission being dependent upon ownership of a work from a single series. As these works exist within a system of easy comparisons any one owner lies in measurable competition with all the other collectors in the same community. Thus with serial production of their works artists not only respond to great demand but also adapt to specific buyer interests and thereby, in turn, change the expectations of those who are actively entering the art market. 2)

  216. Artists with endlessly reproducible work formats, enhanced with the slightest variations, not only profit from, but expressly promote globalisation as they help new market participants from other cultures to enter the market.

  217. To have bought a piece of a luxury fashion or artist's brand is a clearly identifiable signal designed to be read by any third party. The art thus acts as an unequivocal status symbol. Work which does not belong to any known type is seen as less suitable, or often completely unsuitable, for representation and investment purposes.2)

  218. Collectors, and their agents, who might be unable to assess the true value of an individual work can still feel confident when buying a celebrated brand which increases the demand for serial works, which in turn increases prices. The luxury character and status of this type of art are thus perpetually reinforced.(9)

  219. In the case of rapidly growing global markets, new participants often lack expertise due to not being rooted in the cultural background of the artist and the artwork. The behaviour of the new investor is thus based on the behaviour of already established participants. New goods must be comparable with ones traded earlier. To buy something similar to the previous product gives the novice a sense of security and enables entry into the market.(9)

  220. ‘Confidence’ in the belief system that has been created is crucial to the whole enterprise. It is a vague term, yet it is used constantly by politicians, investment bankers and auction houses.

  221. This 'confidence' can also be lost. Consequently, the artists affected may disappear from the public domain.

  222. The boom in the art market, which has grown globally over the last thirty years, has only been made possible by the willingness on part of the artists to readily supply the market in this particular way.

  223. Without this supply – by the artists themselves – this new art mass market would have left new prospective buyers empty-handed and might have even deterred them from buying art altogether.​

  224. This boom in the art market cannot carry on indefinitely. 

  225. It is to be expected that soon there will be no more continents from which new prospective customers can emerge, and even if in some places the demand may still rise, the potential for growth overall is likely to eventually be exhausted. When hardly any newcomers are likely to appear and the market shrinks, the motives of collectors are likely to change. Then, all of a sudden, it may be more desirable to again own something truly unique and incomparable. (9) 

  226. If speculators turn away from art as a currency and turn to other areas of investment the art market - and all activities connected to it - would implode. An implosion of the market would have a dramatic impact on artists, galleries, museums and journalists worldwide.(9)

  227. The current notion of art must thus be perpetuated at all costs. 

  228. Criticism is undesirable and must be silenced.

  229. Criticism is not silenced by Soviet-style censorship, but instead by the very promotion of art and its market on a giant and global scale.

  230. Criticism by western regimes of censorship in the East is designed to perpetuate the illusion of freedom in the West.

  231. The art world, including colleges, galleries, museums and auction houses, together with the media, ensure that there is no sense in which a crisis has engulfed their sphere of responsibilities.

  232. Specific, in-depth and complex work, and work developed over a long period of time, ambitious with regard to its own inner reasoning, and with an understanding and awareness of the wider context, cannot make an appearance in an art world dominated by spectacle and celebrity.

  233. The complex, the intellectual and the serious have all but been eradicated.

  234. Slowly developed and highly focused work cannot feed the demands of art consumerism.

  235. The notion that an artwork might offer something truly individual, necessary and new, something separate and different from the workings of the market, is suppressed.

  236. The current mechanisms shaping every area of the art world prevent the emergence of a serious position and silence any serious discourse.

  237. The public domain no longer provides a meaningful platform.

  238. The contemporary Culture Industry is not equipped to receive strong or radical positions.

  239. The power of those artists who are independent of the mechanisms of the art market, and the power of their work, cannot surface and is not shareable in the public domain.

  240. A de facto form of censorship is in operation.

  241. To operate as an artist outside the art world creates powerful limitations. 

  242. Artists seeking to protect their work from the Industry's logic and mechanisms, and thus operating outside of the accepted standardised notion of what art now is, are under-represented, or not represented at all.

  243. They consequently struggle to find an audience and relevant contemporaries.

  244. New work is emerging which exclusively measures itself against the problem which it itself has produced.

  245. Work is emerging which cannot be accommodated by the contemporary art world.

  246. The exclusion is mutual.

  247. The absence of these autonomous, self-determined artists and works from the public realm creates a vacuum and distorts our culture.

  248. The artistunderground status, the retreat into the private realm and the withholding of the artwork from the public, is a form of exile, a last refuge from the dysfunctional system, which can no longer be found in another country.

  249. ...






The term culture industry (German: Kulturindustrie) was coined by the critical theorists Theodor Adorno (1903–1969) and Max Horkheimer (1895–1973), and was presented as critical vocabulary in the chapter "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception", of the book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), wherein they proposed that popular culture is akin to a factory producing standardized cultural goods—films, radio programmes, magazines, etc.—that are used to manipulate mass society into passivity.



David Zwirner, founder of the first art fair in 1967, admits that a fundamental shift happened in the 1960s when artists became more interested in making a career and earning vast amounts of money, rather than the art-intrinsic pursuit itself, and that in this process the market became flooded with mediocre artists without any inner calling.


The Dialectic of Enlightenment, T.W. Adorno & M. Horkheimer, 1944, Stanford University Press, E. Jephcott, page 9




quote by George Monbiot, Journalist at The Guardian


[photo of enlarged detail]



Artist Eric van Hove recreated a model of the Caterpillar D9T engine that killed the American activist Rachel Corrie. The young activist was part of a pro-Palestinian group and was killed by an Israeli Defence Forces bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003. “Political art should not forsake beauty,” said Fadda, and this work is a prime example: the engine replica, while conceptually loaded, is undeniably beautiful, covered in intricate, decorative patterns.



A passionate and urgent call and proposal for a radical and collective departure from the -we believe- destructive status quo in contemporary art and culture.


A call for a fundamental revision and rethink of art in every area of its agency.

A proposal for a new point of departure -a radical and fresh TABULA RASA situation- from which we can depart with new clarity, vision and power.

A quest for a new approach to art education updated to 21st century circumstances - 'devoted to the kind of self-awareness that makes any kind of manipulation impossible.'

​go to manifesto

The notion that an existential crisis is engulfing art and culture is rejected by many. Arguments such as 'I don't think it is quite that bad'/'But it has always been like this'/'There have always been power structures that have shaped art' are usually followed by an example of an art work that this person has recently seen and liked. This example is given as the -apparent- evidence of everything still being just fine.

However, we believe that we urgently need to stop seeking comfort in the detail/the individual example, and instead take in and examine the situation on the whole

On the whole, it is self-evident that the contemporary art- and culture industry, the very realm that purports to be the main proponent of creativity, individuality and freedom, has in fact developed into a dangerous and destructive global force which eviscerates the very essence of art and culture, attacks individual autonomy and freedom and contributes to an increasing impoverishment of the human psyche.

Just as it is no longer justifiable to say "But the tree in my garden still looks absolutely fine!", whilst right now the Amazon rainforest is destroyed at a catastrophic rate, it is equally no longer justifiable -and even outright dangerous- to continue to judge art and culture based on individual artists who still manage to make reasonably interesting work or whose work we 'like'.

By turning a blind eye to this crisis, the above arguments stand in the way of the unflinching, radical analysis and review that this situation urgently requires and without which solutions and a new vision simply cannot be found or developed.​


The fact that not only contemporary art in museums and galleries, but art education at schools and universities is today controlled by the culture industries standards, and has consequently become not only highly standardised but standardising - with a simultaneous lowering of educational standards producing equally low-standard outcomes - is one of the most troubling aspects of the current status quo.


At the same time, art education is also the single most powerful tool that carries real potential for change. I feel passionate about this potential, and seek like-minded people who would like to join -or support me- in my effort.

Artistunderground is driven by the Utopia that this movement has the potential to initiate real change and can impact on the situation on the whole. At the same time, my outlook is focussed on the small scale - even to develop this utopia as a template as a seed-like potential for the future, and to find even only a small handful of people to work with and develop questions regarding the nature and role of art in the 21st century in a radical manner, I would regard as an achievement.

If you would like to find out more, contribute to this website, get involved or support artistunderground - get in touch!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Milena Burzywoda

bottom of page