Francesca Gavin’s recently published book titled “ Despite moments of clarity, there is no ism in this book” is one of those books whose cover is intriguingly consumerable and it is safe to assume there were many more spontaneous purchases of the publication than meditated acts of erudition. In a universe that adores the ism for its expediency the book attracts the non-conformist and the ever-hopeful free spirit. Unfortunately, the book is much more prosaic and critically compliant than its title suggests. Gavin, a writer and curator based in UK, has chosen 100 artists, all of them 35 or under, from the art arena of the world and interviews them, allowing them to speak in their own words.
The design device of a long, colloquial sentence rather than a pithy summarization alludes to the book’s postmodern outlook, which we quickly remember not to refer to while critiquing it for fear of being caught in an ism. More facetious, is the back of the book that reads “Capturing the breadth of a new generation of international artists can be a bit like sticking pins in a horse’s arse” which leaves us befuddled at the humour as there is nothing else in the publication to suggest levity.
But the artists and their works are the redeeming elements of the work, and the fact that their work is so diverse points to her conclusion that there is no ism in the book. She says in her introduction “No easy-fit mood holds these artists together. Perhaps that is the defining approach of these one hundred artists: an emphasis on individual expression on a global scale” The artists are all young, under 35 and they are from a variety of countries. But on closer inspection, her world map seems to be skewed to Europe and USA, with only a smattering of artists belonging to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
Gavin says in an interview (http://www.anothermag.com/current/view/1292/100_New_Artists_by_Francesca_Gavin) that she spent three months scouring galleries and art fairs to find the artists she wanted to include in the book which seems an awfully short time to find the best of art in the world and it is evident by her restrictive view of the art world. There is not a single entry from India or Pakistan and the lack of diversity shows up in the images. Despite Gavin’s claims that the artists represent the new world aesthetic the issues addressed do not simulate the world order as we are witnessing it today.
This is not to suggest that the book is not a compelling read. Its brevity and lack of critical intervention allows the reader to gain access to the artists with much more familiarity than we are used to and the conversational tone draws us in. Most of the art in the book is scintillating stuff but interspersed with pedantry which actually opposes the on-ground scenario in which more than 80% of the world’s art is pretentious and superficial and only a handful of works stand out due to their integral effulgence and cerebral brilliance