Having now watched the rest more thoughts arose. One of the artists featured is Takashi Murakami who in contrast to many of the artists in the last series is extremely articulate about his work. His manga based work is a criticism of modern Japanese consumer culture – he calls it superflat to refer to the loss of tradition and depth, He is also breaking down the barriers between art and business by mass marketing his art, by transforming it into every possible consumer format. And not content to merely mirror anime culture but to create his own creatures which he then uses as commentary.
The problem here is that while art as cultural critique is pretty old school what is relatively new is the (Warholian et al.) idea that you can criticize culture by copying it….you can say you are making fun of capitalism by being capitalist. Art foremost as irony rather than objection; reproduction masquerading as subversion.
I think Murakami is sincere in his views but has been conquered by capitalism itself – his subversion was already subverted – because to paraphrase Gil Scott-Heron – the revolution will be televised. Murakami’s work is an extension of Che t-shirts; politics becomes style and now art becomes just another means of production.
Of course, on the other hand, why shouldn’t artists be able to profit from their work? I don’t think making money from art diminishes the work in any way but thinking that selling art is somehow smarter or deeper than selling widgets is pretty naive.