Like genius, except it is imbedded within the scene, and not the individuals that make it up.
I was an art student and, like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.
As I looked at art more and more, I discovered that that wasn’t really a true picture.
What really happened was that there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving lots and lots of people – some of them artists, some of them collectors, some of them curators, thinkers, theorists, people who were fashionable and knew what the hip things were – all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work.
So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole operation or group of people. And I think that’s a more useful way to think about culture, actually. Let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while, let’s think about the whole ecology of ideas that give rise to good new thoughts and good new work.