Story in my newsfeed this morning about art galleries in New York reopening. By appointment only. No mass reopening’s and no frenzied crowds packing in on the first day of a new exhibit. Experiencing Art, like everything else, becomes a controlled activity.
Over the last century and a half the consumption of Art has been a branch of mass communications, like rushing to see the new movie or listening to the new album. Not universally, of course; Exuberance for Art remains a niched enthusiasm, confined to the great centers of culture. Much as my local galleries – really, anybody’s local galleries – might have hoped their receptions for new exhibits would have attracted broad swaths of the public such gatherings were mainly attended by the artists themselves. Every community generated “movie-nuts” and such. “Art-nuts”, not so much. But in the cultural centers new Art has been events, and the rest of us, while not there to experience it, heard about it. The new Renoir, the new Picasso, the new Warhol, impressionism, cubism, abstract expressionism, modernism, pop art; as those things emerged we heard about it, saw pictures of it, read critiques. It was news because those openings were events. They were happenings. They had impact. Eventually, waves of it rippled out to the rest of us.
Now, there are no happenings. Virtual exhibiting, like virtual movie premiers, have limited impact.
We dodged five bullets over the last 20 years on our way to Covid: SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza, and swine flu. The sixth one, Covid-19 got us. All these things happened due to climate change and its accompanying human encroachment on the natural world. Biodiversity loss creates opportunities for certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites to spill over into humans.
All this is going to happen again. After a vaccine is developed and disseminated for this pandemic, another is on a conveyor line towards us.
All my life I have had to learn to do things differently. To see the world differently.