I was talking to my brother about the state of the arts. He pointed out that we are in a "age of culture." If you look at history, we have periods of great creativity and periods of culture. Modernism was about 100 years of creativity, from 1870's to 1970, give or take some years. After Modernism, we find our self in an extremely pluralist art world. Styles, ideas, and mediums are as diverse as they have ever been. Some artists are commanding high prices and there seems to be a great deal more artists than there ever was in the past. Modernism ideas and styles are being taught at every academic level. Modernism has been institutionalized, so little is left to shock the establishments in art. True, some art shocks a particular sub-culture or group of sub-cultures, but in general few artists make a real sink anymore. That is unless you live in the UK, where art has managed to get some press.
There seems to be this desperate need for excepting artists' and their vision. So, having value judgements become criticized as being narrow minded. This is another symptom of the "age of culture." You don't have a Museum like the Nasher in Dallas call Martin Creed a fraud when he fills a room with balloons. The museum acts like he was the first to come up with this idea or at least the best to rehashing the idea. Read my piece on lazy art and Creed. I thought I was watching the movie Untitled. In the "age of culture," we find that museums and auction houses taking risks instead of just art galleries and juried shows. That expansion of the market of risk also shows a build up to a crisis point in the market. A great example of market risk taking is the case of Damien Hirst. I the middle of the 2008 melt down, Hirst skipped the gallery for the auction house to rack in a hefty take home. The same could be said for some of the mid to late 1800's artists that didn't become Impressionist or Expressionist. They to were commanding good prices for their work in the French art market. After all, during this time, France was experiencing an "age of culture." Even though these artists were successful in their time, they have lost the magic that the Modernist had captured. Thus the French Academic schools have lost out to the people with new ideas.
Can individuals shine during the period of "culture." Yes, but the trick is to be the precursor to the next thing that sparks the next "age of creativity." Plus, seeing that we only ended Modernism 40 some years ago, we might have another 60 to 100 or more years before we reach our next "age of creativity."