Welcome to 2021, although the bounties of 2021 will not begin until the 20th of January and the second and third quarters of the year. As I compile, at Artscope, my hopes and predictions for 2021, and heartily throw out the disasters of 2020, I’m also contemplative in assessing the larger reasons for changes in the art world, our smaller, but no less important or reflective part of the greater world.
2021 will see Trump and Pence out, and Biden and Harris in, the present First Lady out, and the new First Teacher in, the first Vice President of mixed race, Black and brown in; the Second Lady out, and the Second Gentleman in.
Red is hopefully all out, blue all in. Jello shots are out; Covid-19 vaccine shots in. Claims of the biggest inaugural crowd ever are out, and plans for the smallest inaugural crowd ever are in.
As we pursue our lone lifestyles, ordering for one — or sometimes one pod, magnums for New Year’s Eve are out, single serve in, as are splits for two to split. High heels are out, slippers in. Behind masks, lipstick is out, eye makeup in, in person talking is out, masking in. Beards are in. Pick-up lines are out, lines for pickup (socially distanced) in. Covid-19 was unfortunately in for 2020, and the virus and the accumulated pounds will hopefully be out in 2021, never to be seen again. Toilet paper was out in 2020, and is in again in 2021, let’s add a drumroll for that. Hand sanitizer is also in, after it being so out in 2020 that distilleries were making it instead of the booze that we could use for all of 2020, no doubt adding to the 19 gained pounds.
Car livery is out, home delivery, in; Indoor mega art fairs are out; outdoor installations and land art are in. Indoor restaurants are out. Dining igloos are in, along with the flannel pjs and long underwear that makes for comfy dining, since there is no need to dress up. In-store shopping is out. Window shopping is in. Cities are out, suburbs in. Closings across the board were in for 2020, but openings, especially of art museums, galleries, theatres and performance venues will be in for 2021, aided by the $18 million federal funding in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 for the arts. Miniscule Kusama light rooms are out, spectacular light shows in the sky and on the ground, are in.
So many artists of every ilk are out, and will be missed: Milton Glaser, who so loved New York; James Rosenquist, IM Pei and Zaja Hadid who built so much of a new world; Charley Pride, who revolutionized the music world and Barbara Rose who dared to criticize the art world, but was a friend to all the artists she encountered; and Chadwick Bozeman and Terry Jones who made the theatre world inclusive of skin color and attitude by pursuing excellence are out. Kenny Rogers lost his final gamble and Eddie Van Halen didn’t beat it. Sean Connery: not even his Bond would survive, and Maradona, Larry Kramer whose words weren’t enough for this fight, Diana Rigg and Bill Withers, Leon Fleisher, Terence McNally, John Baldessari and even Christo and so many actors, artists, musicians and creatives are out. May they rest in peace.
We were all in, with close family or friends or mostly, by ourselves in 2020 and the first part of 2021, and hopefully going all out in 2021, once vaccinated. With the whole world changed, the biggest in for 2021 will be our coming together again to plan and change and appreciate the new and better world that science and vaccines will bring.
Often, I go to art exhibitions alone, but there is always someone, a fellow viewer, a museum guard, a gallery attendant happy to discuss the work. Sometimes, I walk out as I did at the Gerhard Richter show at MOMA in 2017, and subsequently at the Hirschhorn, when I abandoned plans to see another show later. The experience was so moving that I could not let any other work interfere with the contemplative mood I was left in.
I look back at the world of Yayoi Kusama as representative of pre-2020. Possibly the most popular artist before and during the first three months of 2020, with light rooms all over the world, was not a favorite of mine. Passing her viral, pox-dotted soft sculptures on the second floor of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C, on the way to her light rooms, I entered, alone, to stand contemplating the miniscule viral particles of light swirling around me, with no one allowed in to talk about them with.
In 2018, standing on the beach in Miami, looking overhead at a drone ballet mimicking swallows forming patterns to piped music, I missed my comrade in art, Kaveh Mojtabai who in the darkness was looking at the installation from another point on the beach. I wanted to communicate the joy of this awesome display, and commune with another person and art lover.
As I looked at online exhibitions, lone at my computer, I had to put off conversing with others, communicating and hearing reactions to the work. My critiques became more academic, less emotional, looking for precedents and motivations for the work. As I looked at outdoor installations, spaced at least six feet apart from fellow viewers, there was no chance of sharing, laughing, crying, expressing wonderment together.
It is the social situations of experiencing art that were out in 2020. Gallerists and artists tried to compensate. All those online exhibitions, zoom sessions, films presented the work. The artists talked about their work and welcomed comments and questions which they eagerly addressed. We all became more technologically adept. But it was not the same Even Santa, tracked by NORAD in his circumnavigation of the world on Christmas Eve, clad in a mask, sat alone, looking envious of the reindeer, running side by side. I hope that 2021 brings people back together, to exult, and exclaim and empathize.
The saddest people were the families of those who died in hospitals and nursing homes, alone, without the comfort of their loved ones surrounding them, and even though artists made portraits and planted flags showing and counting the dead, it was not enough. A miniscule virus broke apart the whole world, but creative scientists using a revolutionary method came up with a vaccine to make it whole again, to make us whole again as social beings. And that is what art does. Artists saw a need to socialize, to come together, even if online, and that was in for 2020. As we know the advantages of reaching more people as everyone accesses art worldwide, and we all came together to protest treatment of Blacks, so we will remain together in 2021. We became a more united world, and that will continue into 2021, and hopefully, forever. Representation of all is in for 2021 in the art world, and representation of racist viewpoints and heroes is so out, along with all the statues and statutes that came down. Inclusivity is in for 2021 and hopefully, hereafter.
So out for 2020, Covid-19 and all its challenges.
In for 2021, all of us seeing if not eye to eye, talking, face to possibly still masked face, applauding achievements and solving problems together.