Friday Tips: The American Renaissance Now, and What it Means for You


Wonder Bread vs. Seven-Grain

(Note: This is excerpted from a book I’m working on now) 

When I was growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s, cultural life, if it existed, seemed to me like the Wonder Bread we were expected to eat: bland, devoid of originality, lacking in passion.  For years I thought this was confined to my part of the country, but as I began to travel in the ‘70s, I learned it was a national malaise.  Then when I went on my book tour in 2006, speaking in 60 cities from New York to LA, I learned that the malaise had existed in even the more “sophisticated” regions, from Westchester to Orange County.  Only in certain pockets in certain cities—The Village, Central Chicago, North Beach—had it been any different.  Oh every city had its art movement, no matter how small, but the impact this had on the rest of each city was virtually nil.  These were isolated enclaves whose participants were generally written off as weird.

Now however this country is going through an artistic renaissance unlike anything in its previous history.  In fact the same can be said of Canada and Australia, and to a lesser extent Western Europe (they’ve already had their renaissance).  Now in every region—the Midwest, the South, the Far West—artistic creation is assuming a life of its own outside New York in all the arts, not just visual.  In fact this has been going on since the late ’90s.  What does it mean?  For painters and sculptors who for years were told that if they weren’t showing in SoHo, they didn’t count, the story has changed dramatically.  

The art world is no longer centered in New York, but as been dispersed across the country.  In Austin, Tampa, Columbus, San Diego, and hundreds of other cities, new work is being created that could easily pass muster in New York.  Furthermore, collectors in each region are beginning to realize the new sophistication that is growing in their regions, and are participating—though not without encouragement from the galleries.  Ditto regional art centers, high schools, junior colleges, universities, arts commissions, and virtually every other entity involved in the game.  

These organizations, and the people who staff them, have worked quite hard at effecting this change for years.  The beauty of it?  Their efforts are paying off, though history may not recognize the fact for awhile yet.  With or without that, you can benefit from this renaissance now.  That’s why dealers like myself have labored such long hours, and risked so much, in promoting the artists of our region: we were tired of being frozen out by the closed world of New York.  Fine, we created our own art world, and are now poised to benefit from it.  So are you. 

(I’ll finish this section next Friday.)

2 thoughts on “Friday Tips: The American Renaissance Now, and What it Means for You

  1. Paul, having been part of the “elite” gallery and museum world for so many years, I was shaken six years ago when I began exploring a whole other part of the artworld that I was previously oblivious to. It’s this . . . I believe that the renaissance you mention is being fed by more and more populist arts festivals as well as the online art world. The tremendous growth in those two areas cannot be discounted. What do you think?

  2. Now dad-blame it, Alyson, you can’t go on making more profound points than I. It’s hard on me.

    Actually I hadn’t thought about it, perhaps because it was staring me in the face, but you couldn’t be more right. Of the two, I’d say the online art world has had the greater impact, especially in view of all that one can access through it–including the festivals.

    Well said.

Leave a Reply