museum are going to be there forever, the people in the university are going to be there even longer. The institutional super structure of the art world, which is always out of date by definition, is really out of date now. I think that you do begin to see small undergrounds, although its hard to stay underground for very long just because if you're any good at all, people really want to look at it, because there is so much boring fucking art. Anybody who sees anything they like, they go crazy. I know artists just coming out of school and they already have a waiting list of 40 paintings, and that's not because they are great artists, it's just that they're not bad artists.
SC: I am assuming that there has always been quite a lot of bad and boring art, no?
DH: Not ideologically bad and boring. We have lived with an ideology that says, "If it looks good, it's bad. If people like it, it's bad. If it's appealing it's reactionary". So you have artists consciously making the worst looking art that they can. And it can really be bad, because it usually looks bad even when you are trying to make it look OK. So I'm pretty optimistic.
SC: So you think the whole premise of underground arenas and artistic practice is not a bankrupt idea to try and work from?
DH: It works if you want it to work. It depends on what you want. I grew up in a world in which what artists aspired to was to be able to go to their studio, make art, sell a work occasionally, so they can buy some Wheaties, and some records, and listen to records, and make art, and eat Wheaties. And that was their goal: stay away from the straight world, and stay away from the university, and live their lives. So if that is your aspiration, then yes, I know quite a few young artists that are achieving that now. Most young artists don't want that.
SC: What do they want?
DH: They want to fly to Berlin, and put up press type, and that's fine 'cause there is an audience over there for that. But I argue all the time that painting today is much more like Jazz than it is like installation art. It is a discourse that people who know know, the people who care care, and the people who don't care we don't give a shit about. Painters are famous the way Jazz musicians are famous—which means the people who care about painting know them. I just wrote a piece for Art Forum about John Wesly. He has been a famous painter for 40 years among people who love painting. I can go over to Cal Arts and ask them if they know who John Wesly is, and they would go, "Huh? What discourse does he participate in?" I am in the art world only insofar as there are interesting things for me to write about. When that stops, or when I stop getting offers to write things, I'll be out. I won't be going around looking for work; it's not like its any fun. When I was a kid, I had a gallery in Texas, I met Leo Castelli, and I thought Leo was cool. And I would think, "When I go to New York, maybe I will have lunch with Leo, or maybe I can have lunch with Sidney Janis." I would be hard put to think up anybody in the art world I would like to have lunch with today. Maybe Leo Steinberg.
SC: How was Leo cool?
DH: Well, he liked art and he was a business person who wasn't obsessed with money. He liked gossip and he had a good eye. He understood how it works. He virtually invented the '60s. He treated his artists right: he never let them go, they always left him. When I was a dealer, he told me good things. "David" he would say, "The art goes out, the money comes in."
SC: So an environment working under the title "Museum of Contemporary Art," is that a paradox to you? Say, institutions that produce shows like the "Whitney Biennial" and the "Carnegie International," are they dramatically failing to present us with successful surveys of the present state of affairs?
DH: I think it's pretty peculiar. I think it's a little unnatural. I don't think you should grant appointed conservators, which is what museum people are, the power to determine the course of art. I don't think they are worthy, I don't think they are committed, I don't think they know what's going on. Traditionally, contemporary art museums exhibited artists that had a large constituency in the culture of people who cared about art, and wrote about art, and bought art, so when an artist achieved a certain level, a certain vogue in that world, then they would get a show. Museums represent, in my view, constituencies for people who care about art in that area. The presumption that some fricking teenage curator who went to school in Chicago is going to know more about art than a person who has travelled all over the world looking at it, but doesn't happen to have a degree—it makes no sense to me. I don't see why these people should be telling us what to think. I don't think that contemporary art benefits from being publicly administrated.
The main thing is Americans don't like art, they won't pay for art, they don't deserve art. That's just a fact. This is a Puritan republic in which nobody gives a shit about art. When I came to the art world, there were maybe 2000 seriously committed people who would do it whether they got payed or not. Today there are about 2000 seriously committed people who would do it whether they get paid or not. That's fine, those 2000 people created Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop, and Post-Minimalism in its early days. There have been now for 30 years people working for salaries administering the art world, and what have they done? Art can have public consequences, but it's not very educational. I keep challenging people, "Tell