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This Week in Art: A Shift in Values

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Last year around this time when Francesco Vezzoli collaborated with Lady Gaga for the widely covered -- and hotly debated by insiders -- MOCA gala, (this year Doug Aitken has re-branded it as one of his signature Happenings) I wrote about the relationship of art to the entertainment world:

There is always pain and compromise involved the closer one attempts to bring different 'worlds' together, but there is also great value in the friction. The communication that happens around the edges at a time like this is meaningful, and perhaps paves the way for a tectonic shift.

The conversation about the relationship between the Los Angeles contemporary art community and Hollywood is not a new one, but the kind of conversations that find their way from insider circles to the mass media tend to focus on the surface of issues and, too often, are packaged for entertainment value. These headlines are examples:

"The L.A. Art Boom: How pomegranate-juice magnates, billionaire museum builders and celebrity-packed boards are turning the city into a world-class art center"
-- The Wall Street Journal, or

"Museums roll out the red carpet for Hollywood: Entertainment industry support for Los Angeles art institutions has long lacked, but new museum directors and board members are aligning the stars and moving the shakers to give."
-- Los Angeles Times

The volatile economy around the entertainment industry, which is adjusting to the reality of the new digital landscape, is not dissimilar to the state of the ecosystem around the support of art. Thus, the friction happening at the edges of each continues to be where interesting things are happening.

While entertainment people seem to be giving more to museums -- and are definitely showing up for more events -- particularly the ones with red carpets, there is something potentially larger at stake here -- a shift in values. The headline of the November 11th The New Republic reads: "How the age of austerity will remake American politics." A recent study just found that, according to the Los Angeles Times: "One of the things that most differentiates them (rich) from us...is that they give to the arts." Again, this is nothing new. But does it mean something different that museums are increasingly judged by the number of people they attract?

Rem Koolhaas says, "culture is work, not just passive consumption." What are the implications of this in the city that gave birth to Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian; where in Hollywood circles the "lowest common denominator" is often the target audience?

Just as the middle class is disappearing, are we also facing a potential widening shift in the intellectual status quo as we absorb new technologies and vast amounts of information into our lives? We can "measure" our attention on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. -- what does this portrait look like?

The power of celebrity and entertainment has never been stronger -- but the intellectual status quo has perhaps never been lower. Should we be striving for a deeper connection and reading of this relationship between art and entertainment that goes beyond standing in front of museum logos at parties? This comes at a time when education reform is on everyone's minds -- catalyzed by the film Waiting for Superman. A new film, 2 Million Minutes, addresses the culture issue in high school of placing more value on achievement in sports than math and science. What does it mean that, as adults, our idols are famous for being famous? Robert Compton, the producer of 2 Million Minutes, says that to shift from our sport and leisure culture to an academic or intellectual culture, we must change our culture with symbols, rhetoric, recognition and rewards that support such a shift.

MoMA Director Glenn Lowry told The Wall Street Journal: "You cannot talk about contemporary art today without taking into account what is happening in L.A." You can't talk about what is happening in entertainment today without talking about L.A. either. How can we strive towards deeper connections between the two? Or are they already brewing?

-Bettina Korek, Founder of ForYourArt