A Portrait of the Art World

Vanity Fair recently published a list of the “Six Greatest Living Artists.” This list was created after surveying 100 “art-worthies”—artists, professors, and curators. Gerhard Richter was at the top of the list. Followed by Jasper Johns, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Cindy Sherman, and Ellsworth Kelly, respectively. Mark Stevens, a contributor to Vanity Fair, uses this list to create a “portrait of the art world.” He examines and explores what the selection of these artists means about our modern taste in art. While he is successful in discovering similarities between the artists and ultimately arguing that all artists share a focus on the “I,” his article, and this list, illuminates other characteristics of the art world. First of all, only one woman artist made it into the top six, and she is the youngest of the six. This suggests that historical barriers to women-artists are still only beginning to be dismantled, and that there still seems to be a trend of favoring male artists. While Stevens acknowledges the lack of women in his list,  he does not acknowledge the lack of racial diversity. All six artists are white. Not only is the mere lack of racial diversity striking, and evidence for the remaining presence of exclusionary barriers in the art wold, but the fact that there is no acknowledgement of this fact is further evidence that we are farther away from breaking down these barriers than we should be. Stevens creates a portrait of art society, yes, but perhaps not in the way he was intending. Stevens creates a portrait of an exclusionary and insular society that puts old white men up on pedestals and barely even acknowledges that there are people being excluded.

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