Damien Hirst - The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991, formaldehyde

Time is a Gentleman. Or maybe not

Contemporary art is ephemeral, but the money invested in is not.

This simple fact risks to cause a short-circuit that could be difficult to manage.

Our contemporary art museums are full of “perishable” works, or, at least, of works that were not created to last in time, and, in some cases, renovation issues are raising already.

On the other hand, it is normal that collectors take care to protect their valuables and investments, especially when they collect works not out of their love of art, but for the sake of institutions and banks that consider art as a financial asset.

Whereas from an economic perspective, we wonder how we can protect the value of works and if video-photographic proofs will be enough, from a philosophical viewpoint, we ask ourselves if people still respect the human transience manifested in the creation of performances and fragile installations, or in the creation of works that will outlive their authors.

Perishability can also be seen as a gift of time, and, sometimes, as the artist’s innate desire to highlight the fragility of the human condition.

So, perhaps we should not alter these works, but instead, we should let them age, decompose, and permanently be ruined.

Actually, during much of the past century, artists made an effort to overturn aesthetic rules and the very concept of work of art by using rubbish, recycling and recomposing objects, and creating works that involved all kinds of provocation, as well as through the use of cuts, bites, burns, destructions, and so on.

So, perhaps this is all just a stupid, useless, dialectic speculation, and maybe our frequently short-sighted, commercial attitude prevents us from seeing things in right perspective.

Fortunately, the young artists I am following with interest and pleasure do not ask themselves this kind of questions, and they are right.

They work and create art in harmony with their ambitions and hopes.

After all, as they say, time is a gentleman; it rewards but do not forgive, and will tell us the truth about our fears and uncertainties, about the “great dunno” of contemporary art.

Massimo Barlettani