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world, which is always out of date by definition, is really out
of date now.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 famouswhich 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
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 degreeit 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,