The Provincialism Problem: Then and Now
Published in the September 1974 Issue: of Artforum, my article “The Provincialism Problem” argued that a world art system, centered on the New York artworld, condemned artists elsewhere to misleadingly perceive their situation as necessarily subservient, and their art as lesser, secondary, and dependent. In fact, this system condemned all involved, including New York based artists, to a vicious cycle of mutual inequity. The article called for artists, critics, and curators to radically reimagine these relationships. Often cited in the decades since then, in recent years it is frequently used as a foil to demonstrate how, within the international artworld, the situation has improved significantly. In this essay, I review the acute awareness of these issues in the Australian artworld during the 1960s and 1970s, and the situation in New York in the early and mid-1970s that lead me to write the article in concert with other members of the Art & Language group. I note some of the critical responses to the article since its publication, explore key aspects of center-periphery theory, and conclude by arguing that the provincialism problem has not been solved—it has, rather, been globalized then neoliberalized, and thus remains problematic.
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