Bohemians No More

Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème. – Karl Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’

This was the world where the struggling young artist found him (or her) self in 1850s Paris. A version of this underworld survived in New York City through the 1990s. No more. The New York City where young artists lived in slums and mixed with the working (and not working) poor has vanished. This transformation of the milieu where artists make their work changes the kind of work they make. A show like Girls demonstrates how isolated these striving artists have become from anyone who isn’t like them. They’re just weird wing of the professional classes.