January 28, 2012

Diary of a Crazy Artist: Art in America Is Just Like the Khmer Rouge

NYPD van called to MoMA Friday night when an Occupy Wall Street protest was going on in support of union workers.

Last week, when Art in America compared an Occupy Wall Street speaker to the Khmer Rouge, I thought maybe they just lost some of their credibility. Come on. One day Occupy Wall Street is all filthy, dirty, homeless hippies, and the next day they are a cult of genocidal maniacs? You can do better, Art in America. For your information, here’s how Time magazine described the Khmer Rouge:

The Khmer Rouge killed nearly two million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979, spreading like a virus from the jungles until they controlled the entire country, only to systematically dismantle and destroy it in the name of a Communist agrarian ideal.

So, OK, maybe some might think I’m taking it too seriously. But am I? What makes this comparison especially poor is that the the Khmer Rouge actively sought out intellectuals, artists, and writers to murder in their Killing Fields. Hell, there’s even a movie about it. It’s easy to find, too, because it’s even called The Killing Fields. But the Art in America author might not have known that. Of course, there’s the possibility that the author of the piece didn’t know who or what the Khmer Rouge was and they just didn’t know what they were talking about.

It all came about when an Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Occupy Museums was supporting the Sotheby’s art handlers’ union by doing unwieldy and loud protests at MoMA. No one had a gun. No one advocated violence. No one was hurt. There was no vandalism. Yet they are like the Khmer Rouge.

So on one hand Art in America can breathlessly report on Damian Hirst‘s fabulous spot paintings, and on the other it says artists that stand up for union workers are like rampaging murderers. So is it appropriate to say things like that in an art publication, or what? If I don’t like Jeff Koons because he makes giant puppies out of flowers, is it OK for me to say he’s just like Adolf Eichman or Heinrich Himmler?

Here’s what I’d like to see in Art in America (and while we’re at it, Artforum, Flash Art, Art Newspaper, Art News, Frieze, etc.): for them to actually do some investigative journalism for a change. Maybe a series on the wisdom of art schools recruiting 18- and 19-year-olds and encouraging them to get BFA degrees costing $125,000 or more. Or how about exploring the issue of thousands upon thousands of young American artists who live with crushing student loan debt? Or how about some investigative journalism on art education and how many artists end up abandoning art because they never learn how to translate it into even a middle-class living? All of these are huge issues, and they get very little press.

Can I ask out loud who else besides Occupy Wall Street is bringing these issues up? Who else is making economic unfairness in the arts an issue? I mean, is it right and natural that many artists will be doomed to a life of poverty or have to choose to abandon their interests as makers of things so they can become secretaries, waitresses, or accountants instead? Or do we only want to worship the successful and the famous and pretend that all that other stuff doesn’t exist? Is it crazy to talk about this stuff?



Comments (6)


    24TH AUGUST 2012


  • To answer your question, no it is not crazy to be talking about this stuff. What is crazy is that more people don’t see the real reality who have the ability to put it out there like you do. Also is crazy when people speculate and invent things that are not true, thereby trying to make themselves seem wise. This seems to go on everywhere. It’s called ‘leading the masses’ and the leaders are self appointed and everywhere and they are simply trying to bloat their own egos. You are not crazy because you write about this and expose it, and you also draw them out in the comments sections sometimes heh heh. good job Chris!

  • @M.K Hajdin – So are you saying that you feel I am making fun of struggling artists by writing about social justice issues, defending Occupy Wall Street and attacking Art in America? Sure.
    And while I don’t mind being criticized, I would ask that you be more clear in the future so I can actually address your grievances. For example, what would SFMOMA need to do for emerging artists so that it would be “enough” in your view? I am actually curious to know what that would be.

  • I couldn’t agree more, Chris, though you’re working for a fairly elitist organization there yourself when it comes to supporting emerging artists.

    I wonder if SFMOMA hired you to pay lip service to struggling artists so they can sit back and think they’ve done enough? At least they’re not making silly comparisons to the Khmer Rouge.

  • THANK YOU for this Chris. I am curious what other art periodicals on or offline you or others look at, aside from Open Space (!)– via you and other columnists — are regularly addressing issues of economic unfairness in the arts?

  • Vance Maverick says:

    I left a comment, to see if they would delete it. Sure enough, it was scrubbed within 15 minutes. Pretty low.

See all responses (6)
Leave a comment

Please tell us what you think. We really love conversation, and we’re happy to entertain dissenting opinions. Just no name-calling, personal attacks, slurs, threats, spam, and the like, please. Those ones we reserve the right to remove.

Sign Up

Join our newsletter for infrequent updates on new posts and Open Space events.
  • Required, will not be published

Dear Visitor,
We regret to inform you that Open Space is no longer active. It was retired at the end of 2021. We sincerely appreciate your support and engagement over the years.

For your reference, we encourage you to read past entries or search the site.

To stay informed about future ventures or updates, please follow us at

Thank you for being a part of our journey!