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Coincidence? I think not

an AP picture of a bombed out building, taken on the same day that the Whitney held its press opening

Say what you will about the Whitney, it’s incredibly relevant. The proof to me was in the newspaper the day after we came back from New York, an Associated Press photograph of this bombed-out building in Iraq looking a whole lot like the bombed-out walls of the Urs Fischer piece, The Intelligence of Flowers. At the time, the AP photograph stunned me, because it was real life, because of the sorrow of the men there, and because of its similarity to work at the Whitney.

Urs Fischer, The Intelligence of Flowers, installation at the Whitney, plus Fischer’s untitled candles mounted on a branches spinning like compasses, dripping circles on the floor

But in retrospect, what stuns me is the insouciant art crowd near Fischer’s piece. They are socializing; they are mildly interested; they are oh so sophisticated as they mill around what is an announcement by an artist that the very walls of our civilization are crumbling.

Art needs to come at a time when people are paying attention. I don’t think we are yet. It seems easy to dismiss the activism of the show that the Whitney has put on display, and to call it a failure of business as usual. But business as usual is bound to continue in the art world until the financial underpinnings no longer work because the rubble is where we stand.