In the hyper-text, hyper-media, hyper-hype world we live in, the ground of Being dissolves under our feet and we float away like Major Tom, able to hear only the echo of our own consciousness. In response we turn to the past for a firmer footing in history. It's happening in every part of culture in music and fashion-and, above all, in art. Retro is one word for it. I think of it as a necessary reconnection with history. I think it is a breath of fresh air, a final leave-taking of the Modernist idea that there is such a thing as "progressive" art. Actually, the idea died a while ago. It's just that the Curatoria keep applying the paddles, hoping to jolt the monster back to life.
I found it thrilling as I rattled around in my collecting forays, that so many artists were painting antique genres, among them what is arguably the most banal one in the world: flower painting. And they're painting these flowers not as any kind of ironic commentary on commodification or globalism, but rather because they are looking for a way to speak authentically-to speak about beauty and desire and death. It's something of a Romantic time-a moment when younger artists especially are privileging feeling over analysis, the handcrafted over the mechanical, and sincerity over irony. All of which is just great as far as I'm concerned. "The world must become romanticized," said Novalis, "so that we may rediscover its original meaning."
We give flowers to express our love and we give flowers as food to the dead. They're a gift. The works in this show-whatever symbolism they may carry-are, above all, emblematic of the fact that art has been a gift in my life. Sometimes it's been hard to remember that because it's been so easy to get caught up in the "hot" art market of the last few years. But in the end, the value of art isn't set by Sotheby's. Then again, perhaps the symbolism is important. Transience. Mortality. It's probably not an accident that as I've reached middle age and the gravitational pull on my molecules gets sharper, I've come to appreciate more and more those things that express the value of living in the moment. That's why I'm so grateful to these artists for having created these amazing works, and that's why now is a good time-and always has been.
Dean Valentine lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children, and is a collector of contemporary art.