PRINT September 1972

Network: The Art World Described as a System

The first exhibition of a newly made work of art is in the studio. This first audience of the artist’s friends views the art in the work place in which it was created, in the artist’s presence and associated with the rest of his life. The satisfactions of his contact are obvious, both to the privileged group and to the artist in touch with his peers. The second exhibition, as a rule, is in an art gallery where it is seen by a larger but still specialized section of the public. (The average attendance at an art gallery during a show is rarely more than a thousand people.) From the gallery the work may be purchased by a collector, travel to other galleries or museums, or be actually acquired by a museum. Each change of milieu will encourage different expectations and readings by a changing audience. A fourth context is literary, the catalogues and magazines in which the work of art is no longer substantially present as an object, but is the subject of information.

By this point in a work of art’s distribution a description in stages is no longer sufficient; it has acquired a record, not simply in terms of places shown and changing hands, but a aura of esthetic interpretation as well. It belongs in the context of the art world, with its special opportunities for comparison and meditation for analysis and pleasure. The density that a work accrues as it is circulated means that it acquires meanings not expected by the artist and quite unlike those of the work’s initial showing in the studio. Although wide distribution is the modern equivalent for the classical fame, there is an inbuilt alienating factor. Wide distribution can separate the work from the man who produced it as the variables of other people’s readings pile up and characterize the object.

The alienation by distribution effect is not to be avoided except by withdrawal from the art world, for art is now part of a communications network of great efficiency. As its capacity has increased a progressive role-blurring has taken place. Before World War II, for example, museums worked at a fixed distance from the art they exhibited, which was either of some age or could be regarded as the latest form of tradition of acknowledged historicity. Most American museums have abolished the time lag that previously regulated their policies and now present not only new work but new artists. Though on a different scale and with different motives, such activity connects intimately with private galleries, whose profits can be affected by museum shows of their artists. The Alan Solomon-Leo Castelli collaboration at the Jewish museum in the early ’60s, the Rauschenberg and Johns retrospectives, at the ages 38 and 34 respectively, is a remarkable example of the convergence of intellectual interest and high profits. Art historians prepare catalogues raisonnés of living artists, so that organization of data is more or less level with their occurrence. Critics serve as guest curators and curators write art criticism. The retrospectives of de Kooning and Newman at the Museum of Modern Art were both arranged by the editor of Art News, Thomas B. Hess. (A cross over in the opposite direction was made by John Coplans, former curator of Pasadena Art Museum and now editor of the magazine.) William Rubin, a curator at the same museum wrote a monograph on Frank Stella; he is also a collector and lent a Newman to the retrospective. In ten years I have been a curator, a teacher and an art critic, usually two at a time. The roles within the system, therefore, do not restrict mobility; the participants can move functionally within a cooperative system. Collectors back galleries and influence museums by acting as trustees or by making donations; or a collector may act as a shop window for a gallery by accepting a package collection from one dealer or one adviser. All of us are looped together in a new and unsettling connectivity.1

Henry Geldzahler typifies the interconnections of roles in the system very well. He was—with the dealers Richard Bellamy and Ivan Karp, then at the green gallery and Leo Castelli respectively—early in recognizing emergent trends of the ’60s, and he appeared in two of Oldenburg’s happenings. As a curator at the Metropolitan Museum he has retained his knack for publicity even though his big exhibition, “New York painting and sculpture 1940–1970,” was essentially a recapitulation of his commitments of the early ’60s rather than a view from the later ’60s, when the show was executed. His capacity to expand the traditionally narrow role of curator has been admiringly recorded by Calvin Tomkins:2 the keeper of the flame doubles as a media hero.

In 1910 Apollinaire described attendance at the opening of the annual exhibition of the Société des Artsten Français: “lovely ladies, handsome gentlemen, academics, generals, painters, models, bourgeois, men of letters, and blue stockings.”3 This was written for a newspaper so the 19th-century typology is journalistically apt but the assumption of a recognizable art world is clear. Painters and models were solidly legible in their roles and their supposed system was equally clear—generals, young couples, writers. The art world now is neither as clear nor as simple as it seemed then. Not only has the group of artists expanded in number but art is distributed to a larger audience in new ways, by improved marketing techniques and by mass media. What does the vague term art world cover? It includes original works of art and reproductions; critical, historical, and informative writings; galleries, museums, and private collections. It is a sum of persons, objects, resources, messages, and ideas. It includes monuments and parties, esthetics, and openings, Avalanche and Art in America. I want to describe it as a system and consider what effects it has on art and on our understanding of art. Let me state at once that the system does not mean merely “establishment”; as Tomás Maldonado has pointed out,4 system is often used as a synonym for regime, which vulgarizes an exceedingly useful term.

Recognition of recent art, the art of the ’60s, induces a sense of product proliferation. An example from industry is the big airplane, the DC-10, being followed by the short haul DC-9 in two different versions. Artists use their own work and each other’s in this way, rapidly, and systematically following up new ideas. In addition, the written criticism of the period has supplied visual art with instant commentary. There has been therefore a considerable increase in the number of short term orderly projections and there improvised interpretation. The effect is, to quote Henri Lefebvre, of an “enormous amount of signifiers liberated of insufficiently attached to their corresponding signifieds.” (5) In reaction to this has been wide spread discontent with the existing system of information-handling in the arts. The problem of art for the educated has taken on acute significance with the emergence of an alienated audience, for instance, the youth market and the black community. Reassessment by the artists and there role in society parallels their audience’s doubt about art’s centrality. The market or exchange value of art has been discussed since 1960, not as a source of prestige but as the taint of corruption. Art is a commodity in a part of the system but not in all of it, and at this point I am more interested in differentiation than reduction.

The art world can be viewed as “a shifting multiple goal coalition.”6 It is, to continue regarding it as an organization, “a ‘negotiated environment’. That is, long contracts with suppliers and customers, adherence to industry wide pricing, conventions, and support of stable ‘good business’ practice.”7 The contracts are usually less formal in art and good business practice is pretty vague, but the parallel is there. Decisions in art galleries, museums, magazines, and publishing houses are made close to the working base of each enterprise, as in decentralization. Thus we have a network, not a hierarchic structure. As H. J. Leavitt points out, apropos of individual in a network: “It is enough, in some cases, if they are each touched by some part of a network of communication which also touches each of the others at some point.”8 Such a pattern of partial information fits the complex movement of messages and influences in the art world. Raymond D. Cottoll has referred to “the principle of ‘simple structure’, which assumes that in an experiment involving a broad and well sampled set of variables; it is improbable that any single influence will effect all of them. In other words, it is more ‘simple’ to expect that any one variable will be accounted for by less than the full complexity of all the factors added together.”9 This should be borne in mind for it is absolutely against my intention to reduce the art world to any single influence by describing it as an organization. On the contrary, it is only in this way that its complexity can be kept clear.

“The organization as a system has an output, a product, or an outcome, but this is not necessarily identical with the individual purposes of group members,” observe D. Katz and R. L. Kahn.10 What is the outpost of the art world viewed as a system? It is not art because that exists prior to distribution and without the technology of information. The output is the distribution of art, both literal and in meditated form as text and reproduction. The individual reasons for distribution vary: with dealers it can be assumed to be the profit motive at one remove. Art galleries, museums, universities, publishers are all part of the knowledge industry, producing signifiers whose signifieds are works of art, artists, styles, periods.

F. E. Emery and E. L. Trist have discussed systems in relation to the various forms of environment that they occupy. The art world would seem to be more animated than a “placid clustered environment” but less momentous than a “turbulent field.” Between these two falls the “disturbed-reactive environment.”

This term refers to a situation in which there is more than one organization of the same kind; indeed, the existence of a number of similar organizations now becomes the dominant characteristic of the environmental field. Each organization does not simply have to take account of the others when they meet at random, but has also to consider that what it knows can also be known by others. The part of the environment to which it wishes to move itself in the long run is also the part to which the others seek to move.11

Certainly the art world meets Emery and Trist’s requirement of “the presence of similar others” in a disturbed reactive environment.

The principle of conflict of interest is fully applicable to the situation in the art world. There is, for example, the competition among artists to do a certain kind of work that is potential in the level of knowledge that a group of them shares. It applies also to the relationships among critics: these are rarely antagonistic, but it is noticeable that critics have not as a rule, reviewed one another’s books, though in the past few years Kozloff, Calas, Lippard, and Kirby have all published collections of their essays. The conflict of interest among museums is marked because topicality favors certain shows at certain times and the institutions know it and know each other knows. Thus there is considerable competition for a limited number of desirable properties.12

The essential figure in the system is of course the artist. His is the product on which the system depends. In addition to his initiating act of production the artist has a privileged social role. The prestige of the position was earned by the Abstract Expressionists originally, by the existential and seerlike attitudes they with which they confronted a society not then ready for their art. It has continued into the ’60s, but on a changed basis: early success and media coverage give artists, or some of them, considerable control over their work, and tax problems replace money worries. One aspect of the enhanced social status of artists has been an increased attention to their words. The typical verbal form of the Abstract Expressionist generation was the statement, essentially a first person expression putting succinctly fundamental ideas about art. It is summarizing and authentic in that it originates from the same source as the art to which it relates. In the ’60s the statement was supplemented, maybe supplanted, by the interview which preserves the virtue of the first person, but on a more conversational level.13

On the other hand, statements and interviews both get overused, precisely because of their impeccable origins. Sources become clichés, as has happened to Pollock’s “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing” and Warhol’s machine analogy.14 Since artists are fairly accessible and their prestige high, critics frequently make a new interview in the preparation of a catalogue or book rather than search the existing ones for complexities of intention, unnoticed details, and changes of opinion. The failure to interpret has left us with a backlog of unevaluated interviews.15 This documentation constitutes authenticity without context. Contact with the artist can produce information of an accuracy impossible to achieve in another way, but it can also inhibit writers from taking the discussion in directions that the artists resist or have not thought of. If the critic’s interpretations are bound by the intentions of the artist, there is a corresponding neglect of comparative and historical information. The authority of the interview has the effect of freezing critical discussion of the artists at early points in their development, which is usually the time of the greatest verbalization. Marcel Duchamp has proposed that the function of the audience is to determine the meaning of the work when it is out of the artist’s hands by variable acts of “deciphering and interpreting.”16 This is not a frivolous idea, but one that is confirmed by the history of taste and by the record of artists’ reputations. The statement and the interview are both aimed to correct this slippage of artistic intention by fixing meaning once and for all.

Artists and their works have changed less than the system by which their art is distributed. The conditions of consumption, in which one is faced with the abundance of world art, have changed more than the conditions of production. Art is still operationally what it became in the Renaissance, a situation of one-man control over an object that provides a full record of process at each stage of the work and thus permits the fullest feedback from the artist. The availability of the whole for inspection along the way combined with the crucial fact of sole authority are basic satisfactions and conveniences of painting, drawing, and some forms of sculpture. In this respect Rembrandt is not operationally different from Lichtenstein: personal decision and direct control are fundamental to both.

In connection with the early Pop art term “fine art-pop art continuum”17 was used to describe the interconnections of cultural levels, “low” and “high,” unique or mass-produced, in nonhomogeneous groups. It included the esthetic appreciation of mass-produced goods, the appropriation of popular materials by artists (Pop art), and the mass media’s interest in art. In the ’60s, however, it became clear that the art world itself had become subject to a similar nonhierarchic connectivity. The mass media covered prominent artists or museum shows; the occasions of high culture became the subject of publicity. Abstract paintings in the House and Garden features on collectors, or the Park Place Gallery photographed with fashion models among the sculpture, are two examples. Here the works of art become a part of the lively flow of signs and symbols that populate the environment. In the case of one movement, that of European-based Op art, it was welcomed in the general press earlier and more cordially than in the art magazines.18 Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg have both done covers for Time and Lichtenstein one for Newsweek as well. One of Robert Smithson’s earliest texts appeared in Harper’s Bazaar and the first article on earthwork, by Howard Junker, appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, years before Calvin Tompkins got to it in The New Yorker.19 The literature of art now runs copiously beyond the reviewing of exhibitions by critics as art is assimilated to the sphere of consumption. Thus there exists a general field of communication within which art has a place, not the privileged place assigned to it as humanism as time-binding symbol or moral exemplar, but as part of a spectrum of objects and messages.

According to Roland Barthes “what makes writing the opposite of speech is that the former always appears symbolical, introverted, ostensibly turned towards an occult side of language, whereas the second is nothing but a flow of empty signs, the movement of which alone is significant.”20 Thus he maintains the traditional separation of closed high art and popular culture as an extension of Saussure’s terms language and speech. The proponents of visual art as a closed form, a type of classified information, also suppose irreconcilable levels. To use a statement of Rothko’s, one that has become a cliché: “A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is, therefore, a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world.”21 This view of art, highly estheticizing, but also snobbish, rests on the assumption that a painting processes a deep singular meaning and that correct reception consists of identifying it. The history of taste and the study of human communication does not suggest such perfect matching as plausible occurrence. Though art may be a private act in its origins, this is not we can be expected to see as art becomes part of a system of public information. Art is a public system to which we, as spectators or consumers, have random access.

A work of art consists of at least two levels of information: one that can be translated into other media for reproduction, or that other artists can use, and one that is identified solely with the original channel.22 Any work of art contains both special channel characteristics (unique) and transmissible information (repeatable). The stratification is not mechanically arrived at, but is a consequence of the interaction of the artist’s intention and the spectator’s interpretation. One may be more interested in the unique component than the other, but to restrict the work’s meaning solely to that is restrictive. In addition, it goes against all one’s experience of art to presume that exhausted interpretation is possible. A consequence of the incorporation of art into the fine art-pop art continuum is that the variable responses inevitably evoked by art have been made more fully visible.

This saturation by information, though new in its scale and intensity, has ample historical roots, of which I shall mention two. To quote Karl Mannheim: “the educated no longer constitute a caste or compact rank, but an open stratum.”23 Linked to this is Mannheim’s observation that sophistication is no longer a”an adjunct of status and breeding.”24 Thus the criteria for sophistication are separated from a required level of stored knowledge in certain areas and become a reflex of topical orientation. This is a form of knowledge, of course, but adaptive rather than normative. The fine art-pop art continuum, a disordered realm to orthodox humanists and formalists, is a gymnasium for the development of this sophistication without depth that is characteristic of much of the attention that the public brings to art. Its flexibility is preferable to dogmatic avowals of singular meaning and absolute standards. At least it does not reduce one’s continued exposure to changing configurations by narrowly set prior standards. When the occasions for viewing art were restricted and the spectators were few in numbers and socially uniform, there were agreed-on limits of response and interpretation. Now that art is seen in wildly differing contexts, the diversity of response to art is public too. For this reason it seems that the notion of esoteric art and everyday life in opposition needs to be modified to allow for art’s presence in the quotidian realm.

Protectiveness toward original works of art with their aura of uniqueness, derives from a notion of art as the maximized handmade object. Writing in the late ’50s, surrounded by Abstract Expressionists, Meyer Schapiro even referred to free handling “as a means of affirming the individual.”25 Intoxicated by autographic he contrasted Abstract Expressionists with Leger’s regard for the reproducible products of technology, “but the experiences of the last 25 years have made such confidence in the vision of technology less interesting and even distasteful.”26 This is like blaming crime in the streets on a TV program, but the fallacy is still common, though now expressed by a new generation of naturists reacting against industrial pollution and American militarism instead of World War II and memories of the Nazis. It is presumed that aura is lessoned when art is reproduce mechanically. Some properties show up more than others in reproduction it is true: autographic solidity is lightened and connections with other artists and the rest of the world are facilitated, but these are nondestructive emphases. It is not possible to restrict the meaning of a work to its literal presence; art consists of ideas as well as objects.

One work that has been submitted to mass production in a curious way is Jackson Pollock’s Convergence, 1952. The original painting is in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; it has been reproduced in the form of a jigsaw puzzle. It is therefore an extreme example by which we can test what remains when art is treated not as a self-evolving process but as something added to the continuum of moving daily signs. The original is not destroyed when the colored reproduction is cut up into little Arp-like free form units. The painting is a Herculean late work, one of the two major efforts Pollock made to recapture and extend the big drip paintings of two years earlier (the other is Blue Poles). Is it degraded by its ludic form? I think not, inasmuch as any transmissible image is subject to re-contextualization, whether it is the lion’s feet, derived from Egypt, on Napoleonic furniture, or a Coca-Cola sign in a South American jungle. The continuum of translated messages requires acts of continuous estimation before a succession of alternatives. Is the person who successfully completes the puzzle stimulating the work of the artist and hence being brought close to a creative process? Obviously not, for the arrangement of standardized parts does not resemble Pollock’s way of painting, but it might be like making a Sol LeWitt (“the process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course”27). The variables of context and interpretation released by the 20th-century communications have become the subject of this mass-produced object. A connection can be made between the puzzle: the image of the labyrinth, a structure with blocked routs, continually evoked by writers on Pollock, is appropriate to the initial unordered scatter of the bits; and when it is terminated it becomes a sign for the painting, Convergence.

The ’60s was a brilliant decade in which an exceptional number of young artists emerged, without the tentative or inhibitory starts of their predecessors. Their work, along with the continued work of slower developing older artists, helped to make the decade one of numerical and stylistic abundance. There was undoubtbly a sense of relief and ebullience at having got out from under the gestural form of Abstract Expressionism which dominated the ’50s. The escape from de Kooning opened out a series of options which had been excluded by the esthetics and operational lore derived from him. For museums it marked an efflorescence of retrospectives, or their equivalent. Not only were exhibitions on a large scale, there was lavish duplication, such as two different Liechtenstein exhibitions in two years, and big short-term expenditures, such as Morris’ colossal piece at the Whitney museum or Serra’s at Pasadena. Museums cooperated in the realization of artists’ projects on a vast scale. In the catalogues there is a convergence of art history as a methodology and art criticism as a response to present art. Thus there is has been a complexity of data available about living artists. For publishers the ’60s included a number of monographs on, to name a few, Johns (Kozloff), Oldenburg (Rose), Stella (Rubin), Warhol (Coplans, Crone), Lichtenstein, Kelly (both Waldman), Frankenthaler (Rose). The support system of the knowledge industry was firmly lined up behind the artists.

It was in the ’60s, starting with Pop art, that regular mass media coverage of art began. Previously magazines and newspapers had treated individual stories, often in detail, but now art was recognized as a theme of leisure which was itself named as a subject in this decade. Instead of occasional pieces on defaced statues or extravagant collectors, art was steadily covered as a constituent of culture. Life and Time, for instance, had reproductions of and statements by Pop artists long before the specialized art journals got around to them. Later in the ’60s, however, it is true that the art magazines and general press share the same subjects much of the time. (It is the promptness of the coverage that is one of the reasons for the corrosion of the concept of an avant-garde. A group’s lead-time in new idea is of almost negligible duration now.) When I wrote a piece on Rosenquist for Artforum recently, selection of the color illustrations was delayed until we could find out which of the transparencies available from the Whitney Museum were being used by Time and Newsweek. Although my article was longer and later, it was essentially no less occasional than Robert Hughs’ and Douglus Davis’ pieces. I did not time the article myself; the Whitney Museum did. It is a weakness of the art magazines that many of the articles are as much reviews as the shorter pieces acknowledged as such. Color reproductions in the catalogue are reused in the magazines, a convenience that ties that ties later uses closer than ever to the initial occasion. The effect of criticism as reviewing is to produce a series of suddenly uniform topics in the journals, which gives the appearance, to suspicious provincials, of a rigged scene.

To all this must be added the prosperity of the decade. There was money for museums (new plant, new acquisitions) and for investment in private art galleries (Scull’s backing of the Green gallery, for instance, or the support that several supporters gave the Park Place Gallery which raised cooperatives to a new luxurious space). There was as well a willingness to pay high prices for new art, subject to elaborately negotiated discount: Harry Abrams, Leon Kraushaar, John Powers, Scull were among those who who attached the principle of conspicuous consumption to the newest art. by the end of the ’60s, however, the cluster of social injustice, Vietnam, and inflation had destroyed the favorable situation, for the art world as other sub groups. Robert K. Merton has proposed a method of studying social change: it is “the concept of dysfunction, which implies the concept of strain, stress, and tension on the structural level,”28 of an organization. The smoothly functioning art world of the ’60s exhibits numerous dysfunctions now. The price and turnover of goods at galleries are down. The deficits of museums all over the country are getting harder to make up, sometimes resulting in violent abbreviation of services.

The confidence produced by the simultaneous success of two generations of American artists the delayed recognition of the older and the accelerated recognition of the younger generations coming together, promoted a sense of common identity. At first this amounted too little more than a loose agreement to being part of a professional group in a situation sufficiently stable not to demand continual conscious participation. By the late ’60s, however, artists had developed a sharper sense of themselves as a permanent interest. Typical of a new intransigence and desire to modify the form of distribution of art were the Art Workers coalition and the short-lived emergency Cultural Government, both of which presumed the need for reform of the market and institutions of the art world. Another sign is the move to protect the artist’s power of copyright by the Artist’s Reserve Rights Transfer and Sale Agreement, a contract that a number of artists require their collectors to sign. (It provides for future remuneration if a work is resold at a higher price.) What has occurred, of course, is that the revival of ideology has extended to the art world. It take two forms: first, an increase in one’s own political commitment and, secondly, a fundamental skepticism concerning other positions. Ideology as a method or argument is corrosive in that it substitutes my interpretation for your motive. The discontent of many artists with galleries and museums therefore may amount to a fundamental re-orientation of attitude to the entire system that encloses their work.

To the militant artists who have a place in the system can be added other special interests, such as women artists and black artists. These groups include not only professional but lay artists who work outside the traditional options of 20th-century art in naive forms of realism, expressionism, and abstract design. There is a possibility that the pressure of lay art, the natural product of an educational system that has stressed both the need for art and the easiness of techniques for doing it, may introduce a real revision of our expectations of art in the next few years. If I am right, this pressure from below would be something like the literary history of tribes, cities, and provinces as discussed in the terms of local and indigenous characteristics. The sophistication that is a product of 20th-century information services makes it inevitable that the lay art movement will include people who use it for its career and political potential, but this does not invalidate it. It seems then that there have been a succession of crises at different points in the system that meets Merton’s requirement of “strain, stress, and tension on the structural level.”

It is worth remarking that a majority of writers and curators were trained as art historians. In fact, critics without art historical training often claim the role when all that is meant is an increase in the account of verifiable facts. (Speaking personally, what I write is art criticism with footnotes.) The profession of art historian now shares its own crises with other academic disciplines. It is orientated towards a set methodology suitable for research by graduate students whose incorporation in society afterwards is no longer assured. In the immediate future the important issues may be the devising of alternate methodologies and goals, including analysis of the teaching of undergraduates (who, for one thing, arrive at university with a built-in mastery of the fine art-pop art continuum). It seems possible that the art historian is being displaced as a model for critics, for the reasons given and also because of the activation of conscience by recent political events. This has lead to an ideological evaluation of historians’ supposedly objective techniques.

Both the status of art as an object and the validity of the gallery exhibition as a unit have been questioned. The first sign of the problem may have been in the ’50s when Pollock, Newman, and Rothko made their large paintings. After initial consternation, however, the paintings were assimilated into small spaces, like a gallery or apartment, because the artists wanted intimate, participatory contact. Happenings, though sometimes producing residual objects, like Oldenburg’s, were outside gallery limits; even more so were Events, which could be imperceptible, except to participants, dispersed, and protracted or momentary. Earthworks, which substitute terrain for the object, were originally supported by galleries notably Virginia Dwan’s, and what was shown in the gallery was usually the documentary evidence of work in New Jersey or Nevada. The new expansion of scale was wittily stated by Morris when he observed of his Los Angles Project, 2 (air conditioning and heating equipment buried in a square mile of earth) that there would be “ a little more weather in the area.” Smithson’s dialect of the site and non-site set up a network of signs between the absent signified and the present signifiers, a procedure which assigns the gallery a partial role, as a container of rock samples, maps, and photographs. Andre’s “post-studio art,” has the potential, not followed by Andre himself, of going straight from inventory to site, which would make it post-gallery art, needing no middle stage of display. Conceptual art, when it consists of photographs, schedules, lists, maps, and instructions is better viewed in books and catalogues than when mounted and framed on the wall where it subsides into tacky graphics. Finally performance art, such as Vito Acconci’s, deals with states of low visibility, interaction, exhaustion, vulnerability which dissolve the usual day-long solidity of spectacle at an art gallery.

In conclusion we must ask what is likely to follow from the crisis of confidence that artists (some artists) feel in the distribution system. There is a basic continuity from (1) the public consumption of prints that started on a big scale in the 17th century and (2) the public display of heterogeneous uncommissioned art in annual exhibitions that started in the 18th century to the ’60s. The continuous assumptions are that art is translatable and that public access to new art is desirable. For any development in the ’70s to introduce a real difference, these ideas or one of them, would need modification. It is highly unlikely that any change will originate with the galleries which have never been remarkable either for “degree of flexibility” or “span of foresight” to quote the two criteria of M. P. Schutzenberger’s for evaluating behavior.29 To judge by the recent record museums do not seem a likely source of new forms of distribution, subject as they are to their own institutional traditions and to the ceiling imposed by wages and overheads. Any change would need to originate with the artists, though the difficulty of making viable changes is suggested by the underlying assumption of public access which I take it nobody wants to abridge. However the cumulative effect of post-studio, site-based, and conceptual art forms is a clear sign of stress, requiring changed forms of presentation. The problem is that search-bias, the tendency to look for a new solution to the old solution,30 is pronounced in the art world, because we all tend to conceive the world in the fixed image of our vocation.



1. This passage derives from the author’s “Art and the Communication Network,” Canadian Art, June, 1966, pp. 35–37.

2. Calvin Tompkins, “Moving with the Flow,” The New Yorker, November 6, 1971, pp. 58–113.

3. Apollinaire of Art, ed. LeRoy C. Breuing, trans. Susan Suleiman, New York, 1972, p. 51.

4. Tomás Maldonado, Design, Nature and Revolution, trans. Susan Suleiman, New York, 1972, p. 51.

5. Henri Lefebvre, Everyday Life in the Modern World, trans. Sacha Rabinovitch, New York, 1971, p. 56.

6. D. S. Pugh, D. J. Hickson, C. R. Hinings, Writers on Organizations, Harmondsworth, 1971. Paraphrasing Richard M. Cyert and James G. March, p. 81.

7. Ibid., p. 83.

8. H. J. Leavitt, “Some Effects of Certain Communication Patternson Group Performance,” in Organization Theory, ed. D. S. Pugh, Harmondsworth, 1971, p. 72.

9. Raymond B. Cottoll, “The Nature and Measurement of Anxiety,” Scientific American, 208, 3, 1963, p. 96.

10. D. Katz, R. L. Kahn, “Common Characteristics of Open Systems,” in Systems Thinking, ed. F. E. Emery, Harmondsworth, 1969, p. 88.

11. F. E. Emery, E. L. Trist, “The Casual Texture of Organizational Events,” in Emery, Systems Thinking, pp. 247–248.

12. For an account of one such competition, between The Museum of Modern Art and The Guggenhiem Museum, see the author’s “Art,” The Nation, December 30, 1968, pp. 733–734.

13. For fuller details concerning artists’ statements, see the author’s “Art,” The Nation, May 22, 1972, pp. 668–669.

14. Jackson Pollock, “My Painting,” Possibilities, New York, 1948; Gene Swenson, “What is Pop Art?,” Art News, February, 1964, pp. 40–43.

15. For the difference between data collection and isle exchange, compare John Coplans’ excellent interview in Roy Lichtenstein, Pasadena Art Museum, 1967, with Diane Waldman’s Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972.

16. Marcel Duchamp, “The Creative Act,” in The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock, New York, 1966, pp. 23–26.

17. The concept of the fine art-pop continuum is given in the author’s “The Long Front of Culture” Pop Art Redefined, ed. John Russell, Suzi Gablik, New York, 1969. Originally published in Cambridge Opinion, 17, 1959.

18. See the author’s “Notes on Op Art,” The New Art, ed. Gregory Battcock, New York, 1966, pp. 83–91.

19. Robert Smithson, “The Crystal Land,” Harpers Bazaar, May 1966, Howard Junker, “Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty,” Saturday Evening Post, November 2, 1968; Calvin Tomkins, “Maybe a Quantum Leap” The New Yorker, February 5, 1972 pp. 42–67.

20. Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology, trans. Annette Lavers, Colin Smith, Boston, 1970, p. 19.

21. Mark Rothko, “The Ides of Art,” The Tiger’s Eye, December, 1947, p.44.

22. For a wider discussion of translaterbility, see the author’s “On Translation,” Arts, Summer,1971.

23. Karl Mannheim, Essays on the Sociology of Culture, London,1956.

24. Ibid.

25. Mayer Shapiro, “The Liberating Quality of Avant-Garde Art,” Art News, Summer, 1957, pp. 38–39.

26. Ibid.

27. Sol LeWitt “Sentences On Conceptual Art, 1968” Conceptual Art, ed. Ursula Meyer, New York, 1972, p. 175.

28. Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, Glencoe, Illinois, 1949.

29. M. P Schutzenberger, “A Tentative Classification of Goal Seeking Behavior,” in Emery, Systems Thinking, pp. 205–213.

30. Pugh, Hickson, Hining, Writers. Paraphrasing Cyert and March, p. 84.