Whitehot Magazine

Art in 2023: What Does the Future Hold for the Art World? By Noah Becker

Banksy, Death of a Phone Booth, 2006, mixed media sculpture.


By NOAH BECKER December 2022

Another year in art has gone by. What will the future hold for those pushing forward the history of art and creativity in 2023?

Will the reality of art in 2023 be how smart phone technology and AI art killed a generation of artists who grew up without smart phone technology or AI art? I’m not talking about the generation that ALWAYS had smart phones, I’m talking about the generation that never had them. Will everything in 2023 be so dystopian? Have we finally run this train off a cliff?

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Can’t Help Myself (2016-19)Via Twitter/@Guggenheim

This might date me but I remember rotary phones and I remember phone booths. I was sitting at West 4 subway in NYC one day in the 1990s - well I think it was during the day? It’s hard to tell because it’s never light or dark down there. But I was sitting there and I had just bought an answering machine and I was unboxing it and reading the instructions. Suddenly a deep voice from next to me said, 'NO ONE CAN GIVE YOU INSTRUCTIONS…ONLY GOD CAN GIVE YOU INSTRUCTIONS!!' It was a person dressed head to toe in newspapers, wrapped around the body for warmth. That’s one of the things I love about New York - how you come in direct contact with the reality of human intelligence and human suffering.

Artist, saxophonist and Whitehot Magazine publisher Noah Becker at the end of December 2022. Selfie by the author.  

Around that time, a few tourists asked me for directions in NYC and I said “that way lies success” and “that way lies tragedy” - they weren’t very happy with my directions - but I had learned something from the answering machine incident. What I have learned is: I’m not here for your entertainment - I’m working on something important. Besides, many tourists get directions and walk the OPPOSITE direction - even after you tell them to take a certain route. I've never understood that...

I remember performing on saxophone and hanging in New York jazz clubs like Smalls and the Village Vanguard. I was wearing a pager in the 1990s and having to check my voicemail at payphones to get my messages. I also recall working as an artist assistant in the 1990s and checking my pager as I primed other people’s canvases. I’m not saying that smart phone technology didn’t actually improve conditions for artists but the promise of things like Instagram selling a lot of paintings never panned out. On the level of communication, smart phones are for sure a lot easier than pagers, so I’m not totally slamming them but I think you understand where I’m coming from...

Smalls Jazz Club, New York City

'AI has no sense of humor', is what Anthony Haden-Guest told me. I thought that was a brilliant observation - but not surprising coming from Anthony, who is made up of brilliant observations. My thought is that AI generated art is just another venue for source material or another way of generating images. Although it has raised a lot of suspicion - AI is mostly mediocre on its own. I like to think of the quote, “A sword is useless in the hands of a coward” as explaining why AI can’t replace what artists do. I’m sure Andy Warhol would’ve loved a AI - but we could literally justify the weather in relation to what Warhol would have approved of. My friend, the artist Bibbe Hansen assured me that Warhol would've loved reality tv, so one can only assume that Andy would have loved the idea of AI art. According to leading AI artist Claire Silver, 'Taste is the new skill' - I tend to agree...

Warhol Superstar and artist Bibbe Hansen on the phone in the UK.

If you think of someone like Richard Prince, who uses appropriation virtuosically, you realize that Prince’s use of photography transcends photography itself. Richard Prince could take a photo of an AI image and it would be a whole new conceptual piece. What I’m saying is this: if you don’t understand how artists can instill magic into almost anything, then you’re an amateur and you need to study more art making methods before criticizing something as lifeless as AI.

Artist Richard Prince

Only people with a limited understanding of art would think that something generated by computer has any kind of authorship that challenges the inherent magic making of great artists - after all, it’s the artist that controls the art. Without artistic intention behind it, AI is as useful as a block of uncarved marble. Don't get me wrong, I like AI but I feel like it needs artists.

Mark Zuckerberg

People seeking a non-right wing approach to social media were challenged in 2022 when Elon Musk bought Twitter. Mark Zuckerberg is a controversial figure as well - but I don’t want to get too deep into politics. I will say that those who proudly announced they are leaving Twitter to stay on Instagram and Facebook, really didn’t accomplish anything but an attempt at virtue signalling. I wish someone would invent a social media platform where people just kind of argue things out without turning it into a hall of mirrors. It could be called ‘Adults in the Room’?

I wish people could argue from different sides of politics and come up with solutions instead of blocking each other the minute they disagree. My solution to social media was to publish my own magazine. But after being the first person to post about contemporary art on Facebook, I realized that I actually really needed Facebook to push readers towards my magazine - Twitter later on too. 

Noah Becker, Three Figures, 2022, 18 x 24 inches, oil on canvas

I’ve also posted a lot of my paintings on social media over the years. I think social media is been good for art and definitely also bad for art. I think it’s possible that we will be replaced on social media by avatars that we program. We'll teach the avatars our likes and dislikes and then they will argue on social media for us and we'll just check scoreboards at the end of each month to see how our avatars did.

Social media

The art world in 2022 seemed ok with ‘entertainment criticism’ or figures within the art world who push the personality angle, as opposed to the substance angle of serious but perhaps boring critics. Let’s face it most people don’t have anything to say about art - they would prefer to just look at art. But there are also lots of ‘armchair art critics’ Who want to show everyone how smart they are by commenting on serious writer’s posts.

I’m publishing a lot of different people at Whitehot Magazine and I don’t mind personalities but I also support serious critics and we’ve been lucky enough to publish some of the best in the business. 2023 will see more news stories in Whitehot Magazine and more persona writing. But for us it’s not a numbers game it’s a quality of writing situation...

I don’t recall a lot of art scandals in 2022 but did hear a lot about forged Basquiat works being shown in Florida. It’s so boring in a way to have art related conversations on social media nowadays - it’s so 10 years ago. All of the arguing that already happened hasn’t really accomplished much but made the social media oligarchs rich. I had a great series of talks on Clubhouse but currently prefer Twitter spaces for live talks.

Banksy, Basquiat Tribute, London UK

2022 was also the tipping point and result of a number of years of identity driven justice finally finding its voice in galleries and museums. Identity art was on the rise, while crimes of hate against races, genders and groups continued to plague the world in 2022. Thankfully the art world is an imaginary place and politics is MORE influenced by art than art is influenced by politics - progress in our world is possible.

Those who are really involved in art know that art is one of the shallowest occupations in the world, the most superficial and the most petty - with glimpses of depth and greatness that keep us involved. Art is mostly a field of first-world problems and first-world people, thankfully that is changing... This situation might take 500 years to resolve itself -and we can’t know because we will all be dead by then.

Someone said that money makes a huge difference with who gets to be art historical - that sounds right, especially in the money obsessed art world. One would hope for more great work being made in 2023, with or without controversy.

Agnes Martin comes to mind as an artist I look up to in terms of her lack of pretense in the face of a pop culture obsessed, money-driven, fashion concious art world.  

Best wishes to you in 2023... WM



Noah Becker

Noah Becker is an artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine. He shows his paintings internationally at museums and galleries. Becker also plays jazz saxophone. Becker's writing has appeared in The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post. He has written texts for major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010). Becker's new album of original music "Mode For Noah" was released in 2023. 


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