GCC ❤️ Modernism

Modernism was not a late stage of Western art. It marked the death of the Western artistic tradition and the beginning of something entirely new — the art of global industrial capitalism….
Abstract art and modernist architecture — the point is far from original with me — together form the official style of global corporate capitalism. Older Western art was conservative and civic or Christian and sought to evoke the Greco-Roman or medieval heritage of Europe and its settler states like the USA. That’s why so many statehouses were built in Roman style and so many college campuses and churches are built in Gothic style.
But industrial corporations, particularly those dreaming of conquering global markets, do not want to alienate potential customers with parochial regional imagery, be it Western or Asian or Middle Eastern. The more placeless and timeless buildings and works of art appear to be, the better. [Michael Lind on mistaken identity]

Since 2004, Deutsche Bank has been the lead sponsor of Frieze, an international art fair that originated in London and expanded to New York and Los Angeles. This sponsorship will continue and only grow, according to Fabrizio Campelli, the company’s global head of wealth management.
“It’s a very important platform that plays a very important role for the wealth-management business,” Campelli said in a phone interview. “There’s a genuine interest that’s leading many of our clients to not just be passionate about art and treat it as object of admiration, but also as repository of invested value.’’ [Katya Kazakina on NY Lobby Art]

Modernity has been globalizing all along, but the realization of global modernity was obstructed by two products of capitalist modernity itself: colonialism and socialism. Decolonization since the Second World War has restored the voices of the colonized, and opened the way to recognition of the spatial and temporal co-presence of those whom a Eurocentric modernization discourse to invisibility and backwardness. Decolonization owed much to socialism as ideology, and the presence of socialist states. But as long as socialism persisted as a viable alternative to capitalism, the effects of decolonization were dissolved into the teleologies of Eurocentrically conceived modernity. The decline and fall of socialism in the course of the 1980s opened the way to the globalization of capital. It also eliminated socialism as a crucial obstacle to cultural appropriations – and, therefore, the proliferation – of modernities, which now find expression in the fragmentation of a single modernity into multiple and alternative modernities. [Arif Dirlik on Global Modernity]

“The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 offer significant philanthropic and marketing opportunities for corporate and foundation engagement through our customized and wide-ranging sponsorship platform. Programs available for sponsorship include exhibitions, performances, film, education, benefit events, public programs, and more. From brand marketing, digital content, and bespoke activations to special events, VIP access, and more, our diverse program allows sponsors to connect with MoMA’s audiences across a variety of platforms.” [MOMA Corporate Sponsorship]

The Last Problem

“…what it shows you is all that you see. This is an interesting point, because the second most striking feature of Gray Mirror is that there is no painted image at all. In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever of the artist’s hand, other than the wall label’s pronouncement that Richter made the piece. Upon examination, we can see that gray paint has been applied to the back of glass panels in a smooth, even manner which reflects anything in front of them with the near-perfect accuracy of a mirror. The only obscuring feature is the gray paint itself, which reflects poorly compared with the silver of actual mirrors. When you stand in front of Gray Mirror, you see a dull reflection of yourself. Technically, this is an abstract painting. There is no representational imagery, and if, as many in the art world do, you generally categorize paintings as either abstract or representational, Gray Mirror belongs squarely in the abstract camp—until you stand in front of it and experience how representational it really is.” [Wayne Adams on Richter’s Mirrors]

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Mirrors” are marvels. With inventive configurations and finely nuanced Ben-Day patterns, the mirrors (five circles, one oval, and two rectangles—one a giant four panel) make profound plays on our acculturated patterns of recognition, continuing the real genius of an art for a long time overly encrusted with Pop enigma and cuteypie banality. Lichtenstein renders “nothing” (an empty reflection, a “reflection” of nothing) with the most emphatic “something”—starkly painted areas, lines, and little balls of Primary School color. But we accept it, slogan for fact. Lichtenstein reminds me of John Updike, another master of the shallow who at first sang a single note (the nostalgia of puberty, to Lichtenstein’s infatuation with “low” art), then applied his swordsmanship to a range of things (essays, reviews, light verse, Couples, to Lichtenstein’s cups, explosions, haystacks, art historical parodies), and finally found himself (with Bech) writing about a writer writing about writing, as Lichtenstein, looking appropriately into the ironic mirror, paints about a painter painting about painting. [Peter Plagens on Lichtenstein’s Mirrors]

“Now, as it happens, exactly opposite the spectators – ourselves – on the wall forming the far end of the room, Velazquez has represented a series of pictures; and we see that among all those hanging canvases there is one that shines with particular brightness. Its frame is wider and darker than those of the others; yet there is a fine white line around its inner edge diffusing over its whole surface a light whose source is not easy to determine; for it comes from nowhere, unless it be from a space within itself. In this strange light, two silhouettes are apparent, while above them, and a little behind them, is a heavy purple curtain. The other pictures reveal little more than a few paler patches buried in a darkness without depth. This particular one, on the other hand, opens onto a perspective of space in which recognizable forms recede from us in a light that belongs only to itself. Among all these elements intended to provide representations, while impeding them, hiding them, concealing them because of their position or their distance from us, this is the only one that fulfills its function in all honesty and enables us to see what it is supposed to show. Despite its distance from us, despite the shadows all around it. But it isn’t a picture: it is a mirror. It offers us at last that enchantment of the double that until now has been denied us, not only by the distant paintings but also by the light in the foreground with its ironic canvas.” [Michel Foucault The Order of Things]

The Third Problem

What is newly original in an artist’s work is never noticed by the public. It frequently is not noticed by the artist himself. What is really new at the time of its first conception is too subjective to be recognized. It is recognized and takes on its full meaning only after it has been repeated a limited number of times. In this case a repetitive series is set up thereby becoming recognizable. I stress “limited number of times” because there is, especially in contemporary an, a tendency to repeat a series until it loses meaning. In its raw state the original either passes unnoticed or is considered to be a mistake. In the arts it is noticed and approved, precisely at that moment when it is on its way to becoming unoriginal. This is also precisely the moment when a work becomes art. Before this moment the work is too subjective, too introspective to have any universal interest. After this moment the work becomes a repetition of an original act. A work remains permanently original if the artist refrains from dragging it through the mud of too much repetition.” [David Hare on Originality]

While distinguishing between the potent and the meretricious, we should all engage with even the most unsettling experiences that originality in art provides. Nothing is more depressing than the attitude of viewers who approach innovative work with all their prejudices rigidly intact, refusing to accept that art has a fundamental right to defy even our most hallowed preconceptions. If the importance of originality is not recognised, academicism becomes rampant, repetitive dullness prevails and artists lose their crucial ability to renew our vision of the world with outstanding, revelatory verve.” [RIchard Cork on Originality]

Lucia Whittaker It’s Arguable Whether I Had Any in the First Place 2009

…so we have to begin with the assumption that within a given stylistic atmosphere, some things are good. We have to assume that, objectively and quantitatively, some things are better than others. How “good” you think that goodness is, is your own business, but the fact remains that some things give us more, give it to us faster, and give it to us longer, and in the cultural economy of this society, that signifies “better.” How we recognize that value is the interesting question, and the great music critic Leonard Meyer, in an essay he wrote in 1959, “Some Remarks on Value and Greatness in Music,” gave me my first inkling of how we might recognize value. Meyer begins with the assumption that all works of art and music presume a community of beholders or listeners who are in possession of certain internalized generic and stylistic expectations about what they are looking at or listening to. He then suggests that those works of art and music that perfectly fulfill these expectations hardly ever exist. They are virtually invisible or inaudible and useless to our purposes. [Dave Hickey “Goodbye to Love”]

My basic idea is that our fingerprints are different, our handwriting is different, that there’s something that makes each of us individual. I don’t mean to be Pollyannaish about this, but I think each of us has a real capacity for originality, but originality is very, very hard to get to. It takes real work. I think people don’t quite realize how much work it takes to be a good artist—the drive and determination and self-criticism. You have to be harder on your work than anybody. But you’re always going to find people like that in every generation. [Roberta Smith on Originality]

20 Twice il Quarto

George Hoffman by Martin Bromirski 2012

The wonderful George Hofmann dropped a line to say he’d been thinking about the 20 Twice posts and ways to change how the art market worked – or maybe – a way to expand it or disrupt it more in favor of artists. He kindly sent this idea the other day.

“Is it possible that we should change the whole system of showing art, and ownership of art?
The current market caters ruthlessly to hype and false hope, in the main. And deprives many of recognition and an honest return.
How about this:
“Selling” changes to Leasing. The “purchaser” pays installments over time that sustain the artist providing for a decent living including working space and materials. At the end of the “Lease”, the work reverts to the artist. The dealer becomes a broker, paid a reasonable fee by the collector. 
Museums need not come up with exorbitant funds, or court trustees, but become trustees themselves, paying ongoing support to artists or their heirs. 
This all to be regulated by law.” [George Hofmann, Feb. 12, 2020]

To our readers – what are your thoughts about George’s idea for the market? What do you think should be done – if anything? Comment below!

George Hofmann at David Richard Gallery

Also want to mention that George is currently having a wonderful show at the David Richard Gallery right now. It comprises his classic work – a beautiful series of abstractions from the end of the 2000s. Highly recommend a visit.

The Second Problem

You seem committed to this idea that “talent” is a thing. You’ve either got it, or you don’t.
Well, I think charisma is real. You know? I met Richard Burton once and he’s a little twerp. But he just had this sssssshhhhh. And I spent two weeks in Muscle Shoals once when Rod Stewart was recording with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. And I like Rodney a great deal. He’s really a great guy and he gave me a cool scarf which I have since lost. If you’re in a room with Rod Stewart, he’s in Technicolor and you’re in black and white. He really has that. I’ve known other people who had charisma. Andy [Warhol] actually had charisma, although he didn’t know it. You know? That’s what attracted him to Marilyn and the stars. To bequeath charisma. Waylon Jennings was charismatic. It’s what Donald Trump has. You have to be able to just walk in there and control the room. I guess sometimes it’s physical. Tim Duncan has charisma. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Jarrett Earnest]

“I contemplated the bust of Koons. Eyelids with carved lashes were closed into an expression of enough sweetness to poison a double batch of laboratory mice. “What were you thinking of when the photograph was taken?” I wondered.
“Having anal sex with Ilona,” Koons said. As when making all his Bad Boy pronouncements, he spoke with neither a nudge nor a wink but with a breathy solemnity. “It’s lost its desire for power,” he said of the portrait. “But it still wants to lead. For me, this is the real perversion. It’s about as perverse as things get. To know one’s limitations and still want to lead people. But it’s always your own ego.”
The abstractions hovered around the marble head, “A lot of people are going to think this is the way you really feel,” I observed.
“I do feel this,” Koons said. He joined in my startled laughter.
Later he told me, “I’m very disillusioned with the art world. I really am. Art lacks charisma. I try to create charisma, and I try to manipulate an audience, and I try to control the environment. But I’m very disillusioned.” [Jeff Koons in conversation with Anthony Haden Guest]

“Charismatic performers are those whom you simply can’t look away from. Their charisma is an almost physical presence, a spark that powers even the most unassuming musical passage. To experience a charismatic performance is to feel elevated, simultaneously dazed and focused, galvanized and enlarged. It is to surrender to something raw and elemental, to feel happy but also unsatisfied. Charisma calls forth a melancholy, a vaguely unrequited feeling. I’ve caught myself, after certain performances of an aria or a movement, leaning forward, as if drawn against my will…
It is a pure, mystifying gift. It cannot be taught, though silly how-to blog posts proliferate (“Eight Keys to Instant Charisma”). Someone who has it will exude it, whether performing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or Scarlatti, Mimi or Marguerite. Charisma is not earned with age; an artist is charismatic at 16 or 60. Rigorous training enhances and focuses it, but it cannot create it.” [Zachary Woolfe on Charisma]

Charisma matters more or less, depending on the business. Says Gerard Roche, the effusive chairman of the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles: “There are professions where charisma bubbles and boils and leads to success, and others where it doesn’t make much difference.” Such as? “Dentists, CPAs, morticians, engineers, architects, and bankers, for the most part, don’t need charisma,” reckons Roche, who has placed CEOs of both varieties. (Larry Bossidy at AlliedSignal has it; Harvey Golub at American Express doesn’t.) By contrast, charisma matters enormously in startups, turnarounds, or whenever a business is ripping through rapid, unpredictable change. Aren’t most companies these days? Robert House, a Wharton School professor who has studied charisma for 20 years, says that when conditions are uncertain, charismatic bosses spur subordinates to work above and beyond the call of duty.” [Patricia Sellers on Charisma]

The First Problem

Here’s the problem… Many things that are good for society are bad for the culture. I know you’re not allowed to say that, but I am not connected to any powerful institution. So, I don’t really care. This is the upside to being old, too. I don’t care. You don’t like me. I don’t care. I don’t even know you… So, I would say that… having every single person on the planet earth think they can become an artist is a ridiculous thing. Because it is not true. It is not true that every person is an artist. It is true that every person can think they’re an artist. I don’t really care what other people think. But there’s such a thing – this the thing you’re never allowed to say now – is that the reason that someone’s good is because they’re talented. Because the thing that has not changed is the American idea that talent is something that you never discuss. You never discuss it because it is the thing that you can not attain. You can not get it by working hard. You can not buy it. You can not learn it. This is why I have a particular distaste for the idea of “writing school.” You just can’t learn these things. I mean you can learn craftsman like things, but you can’t learn to be really good. You just can’t. I’m sure that you’re all very annoyed by this, but, you know, I don’t care. [Fran Lebowitz – The Power of the Artist – David Zwirner Gallery Culture Talk]

Don’t be reined in by other people’s definitions of skill or beauty or be boxed in by what is supposedly high or low. Don’t stay in your own lane. Drawing within the lines is for babies; making things add up and be right is for accountants. Proficiency and dexterity are only as good as what you do with them. But also remember that just because it’s your story, that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to an audience. You have to earn that. Don’t try to do it with a big single project. Take baby steps. And be happy with baby steps. [Jerry Saltz on Being an Artist]

“Beeching explained that when someone writes in a journal, it is intended for self-reflection. It is a space to excavate your own soul–not to shape your soul’s song with the intention of pleasing the listener. This, right here, is the grey area between being an artist and being creative. There are artists who create for a specific type of listener, and there are creatives who write, design, and build from their heart (not their head). The extreme ends of the spectrum, then, would be the artists who clean up that journal and publish it as a novel, or the creatives who design and build for no other reason than to solve a problem in the market–personal self expression is the last thing on their mind.
Which then leads us to the spectrum as a whole, and where we draw the line determining what is worth being called “art” and/or “creative thinking” at all. Some people argue that paint spilled on a sidewalk is art, or that making a quote graphic on your phone makes you creative. How do we decide who deserves those titles? What is the benchmark for “success” and what warrants calling yourself an artist or a creative in the first place? Is effort alone enough?“[Nicholas Cole on artists]

“I can think of about 500 architects who have never built a building. I know a lot of artists who have never shown any art – what the fuck is that about? My rule is: You have to have done something before you can be said to have done something. The title of artist or architect or musician needs to somehow be earned. A lot of these 25 women [from Dave’s excellent book] are like that. They did a lot and felt privileged to do it. Felt no hesitation. Just running through the art world there are people who do things and people who don’t.” [Dave Hickey in conversation with Peter Nowogrodzki]

20 Twice Thrice

And you may find yourself 
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself 
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself 
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?…

You may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
“My God! What have I done?”
[Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime]

Mid-Career is the most difficult part of an art world journey, and most are unprepared for it. When artists first “arrive” it may have taken 10 years to sort themselves out, to find the ideas and styles that would get them that first public opportunity. But after a couple of years showing this work, it’s imperative that they come up with something more, something that pushes those early ideas a bit further.
However, when an artist is in production mode – let’s say they might have an art fair, a mid-west museum exhibition and a speculative introductory show in Berlin coming up – it’s hard to gauge at what point they must begin to develop their work rather than repeat their work. After all they have customers to satisfy.
A mid-career artist might find that they do not have the time to develop – between the needs of collectors, gallerists and the market – they may never get the chance to think their way into a new body of work, a new style, and a more complex vision. Their focus, their lives, have changed.

“It is definitely a sensitive time for male and female artists,” said Mary Sabbatino, who, as vice president and partner of Galerie Lelong, has worked with or represented the estates of artists such as Nancy Spero, Etel Adnan, and Ana Mendieta. Collectors will take a chance on younger artists, especially at a lower price point; artists with established museum track records are considered a surer bet. Curators, meanwhile, would prefer to be credited with the discovery of a new voice.
“In mid-career, artists are kind of in the middle. They’re neither completely vetted, nor are they new,” said Sabbatino.
An artist might make a big splash when they’re younger and then they get into this mid-career phase when they’re not the name any more, and then they kind of disappear,” said Gilrain.
[Anna Louise Sussman on Mid-Career Artists]

Mid-Career is when a lot of “branded” work gets outsourced. Artists whose market has grown and are struggling with production values and scale begin to rely on hired hands to carry that market load. And by expanding the scale of their work, outsourcing the mechanics of production and becoming more of a producer than a director – the work generally becomes predictably commercial looking – clean, cold, object-like and ultimately, decorative.
However, even though market demands can be satisfied by mechanization, the artist must still address the old problems, the ones that caused them to be artists in the first place – the reasons to make art, the subjects of art. The truth is that these artists may need time to gestate, to incorporate and try to understand their lived experiences. It’s the only way to grow as artists.
But the market and the needs of their careers won’t wait. So the artists send out half-baked work or sloppy, unrealized ideas – and no matter how well made, how beautifully manufactured these works may be – their art begins to suffer along with the “promise” their first works once had.

“Back then, I drank a lot, I had a lot going on. It’s no excuse,” he says. “The main thing for a practicing artist is to focus on having a show. What happened to me in 1986 is that I started making paintings of TV dinners. For some reason I had a crisis of confidence. I didn’t think they were any good. So I stopped trying to show.
The TV dinner paintings suggest loneliness amidst lean times. Robinson’s then wife Beatrice Smith (the daughter of sculptor Tony Smith) became sick and died, and he became a single father. “The whole thing is completely odd, but life is odd,” he says. “My life up until then had been one of wandering, being aimless. Suddenly, I was motivated to go to the hospital, to go pick up the kid,” he says. “Even though it was sad and tragic, it wasn’t a grief-saturated experience for me. It’s just something you do everyday. We live our lives while all kinds of barbarism are going on around the world. What the hell are we supposed to do about it, actually? All that personal stuff is complicated but I don’t like the idea that that’s an excuse.” [Walter Robinson]

What doesn’t make the headlines is what happens next: when the difficulties of being a mid-career artist replace the promise of emerging, when the honeymoon’s over, artistic accomplishment begins to count for more than the shimmer of potential, and the long grind sets in.
Collectors are often blamed for not sticking with artists as their prices rise, preferring newer and cheaper works by the next crop of artists or investing in super-expensive pieces by artists whose reputations are well established.
…the situation is more complicated than that — and much crueler: that most artists who make it to mid-career status never get through this often drawn-out phase, instead getting stuck in the purgatory of never quite making it to the next level. [David Pagel on Mid-Career Artists]

The toughest thing an artist can do at these times is to take a pass, risk being left out of the market’s demands and say – “No. I’m not ready yet.” But so many artists don’t have the guts to do just that – their careers have become more important than the art. And so they show and sell empty, beautifully made things that have half the impact, and little of the meaning of the earlier work. Then the artist is faced with the “Mid-Career Slump.” The critics turn away, other artists stop mentioning their names and the collectors stop buying. These mid-careerists are failing in public – to their own detriment, and ultimately, to ours as well.
Take the moment. Back away. Follow your ideas. Experiment. Because if an artist doesn’t do just that – that’s when a reputation can go a bit sideways and a once promising legacy can get loose.

20 Twice Zweimal

“I’ve always been crazy and the trouble that it’s put me through
I’ve been busted for things that I did, and I didn’t do
I can’t say I’m proud of all of the things that I’ve done
But I can say I’ve never intentionally hurt anyone…
I’ve always been different with one foot over the line
Winding up somewhere one step ahead or behind
It ain’t been so easy but I guess I shouldn’t complain
I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane”
[Waylon Jennings “I’ve Always Been Crazy”]

Long ago an immensely respected art-world insider told a sobering story. It went like this. A couple of powerful collectors were working with an equally powerful art advisor to enhance their collections and invest in new talent. For a few days they had been buying up a number of fresh-from-the-studio art works by up-and-coming, “advisor approved” artists, and this was to be the last day of their shopping spree. During the crosstown drive to the rickety studio building one of the collectors gleefully proposed that in addition to buying the work of the artist that they were going to see – they would also randomly choose an unknown artist in the same building and purchase all of their inventory. This would be a gambit to see just how much influence they might have in the Art World. After their purchase of the thrilled artist’s paintings a full-court promotional campaign followed mentioning and lauding the work and the talented “unknown” to other hungry-for-the-new-thing art insiders. Soon the artist was being featured in art magazines, shown in prestigious galleries and traded on the secondary market.
How delicious!

“With spectators, as Waylon put it, it’s a one-way deal, and in the world I grew up in, the whole idea was not to be one of them, and to avoid, insofar as possible, being spectated by any of them, because it was demeaning. You just didn’t do it, and you used the word “spectator” as a term of derision—not as bad as “folksinger,” of course, but still a serious insult. Even so, it wasn’t something we discussed or even thought about, since the possibility of any of us spectating or being spectated was fairly remote. It is, however, something worth thinking about today, since, with the professionalization of the art world, and the dissolution of the underground cultures that once fed into it, the distinction between spectators and participants is dissolving as well.
This distinction is critical to the practice of art in a democracy, however, because spectators invariably align themselves with authority. They have neither the time nor the inclination to make decisions. They just love the winning side — the side with the chic building, the gaudy doctorates, and the star-studded cast. They seek out spectacles whose value is confirmed by the normative blessing of institutions and corporations.” [Dave Hickey “Romancing the Looky-Loos”]

The commercial art world isn’t about artists, ideas or even commerce (because it’s an elite economy) – rather it’s about how the insiders and market players enjoy and covet the power that they can and do exert. As Dave Hickey has said – “care is control.”
Our insider’s apocryphal story shows us that a “career” in the art world is far more complicated than someone just “being an artist”. But that idea of an art world run by the money people hasn’t really changed our understanding of our peculiar circumstances. We approach our careers as if there are pathways, rules, and professional practices to guide us. But art – no matter what the “industry” tells us – does not work this way. Rather as this story tells us, professionalism and the idea of an art career are just fictions – a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

I think the great fact is… that… – it’s fundamental to keep an established art world [so] that the mystery [of art] is kept in place. Because once it falls into the hands of the proletariat – that the ability to make art is, in fact, inherent within all of us – it demolishes the idea of art for commerce and that’s no good for business. And so I think that there’s always a great coming together of a commerce establishment — which the art world is, basically, a commerce establishmentto protect its own
I mean, the perfect example is that there were many signers or graffiti artists working in the late ’70s and in the early ’80s. Why should it be that only two or three of them — Scharf, Haring and Basquiat — should be taken from the sea of signers that were working in New York, some of them incredibly talented guys, and then elevated to a point that there was something particularly special about those three guys? 
It’s– it behooves the art establishment to– to elevate them to a higher plateau as fast as possible, to make them unavailable, aesthetically, to a low-art market. And it does that continually… It [the art establishment] extends its parameters quite widely to capture the new thing and elevate it from low art to high art successfully enough to increase the commerce proposition that goes along with it… to consign the idea of art to a particular world. [David Bowie with Julian Schnabel and Charlie Rose]

David Bowie Masayoshi Sukita 1989

We passed upon the stair 
We spoke of was and when 
Although I was not there
He said I was his friend 
Which came as some surprise 
I spoke into his eyes
I thought you died alone
A long, long time ago
Oh no, not me
I never lost control 
You’re face to face 
With the man who sold the world
I laughed and shook his hand 
And made my way back home
I searched for form and land
For years and years I roamed
I gazed a gazely stare 
At all the millions here
We must have died alone
A long long time ago
[David Bowie The Man Who Sold the World]

If you’re fortunate there may be moments of clarity when the path ahead is laid out, and when that happens – be shrewd and thrifty – take full advantage of good fortune. But most of the time you really won’t have a clue what’s happening or when the next paycheck is coming. The best you can do, maybe the only thing, is to remain dumb like a painter and pretend that tomorrow your ship will come in.
Over the years many other versions of this same story have popped up – told in many ways and with many variables. You, dear reader, have already understood that this wise insider was just pulling a leg – not to horrify – but to teach. In the Art World things only become sacred if the “correct others” make it so, and that always happens through the most profane of experiences.
For instance the artist, the lottery winner that was “chosen at random” in the story, is now well-regarded, collected and having a marvelous international career. It hardly matters how their particular story began, but the work, whether judged good or bad, faux or real, by future collecting generations has been given the economic possibility of becoming something – remembered. And that possibility is a rare and much sought after thing.
But what do I know? This post is really just one more… “tale told by an idiot.”

20 Twice Once

You’re keeping in step
In the line
Got your chin held high and you feel just fine
’cause you do
What you’re told
But inside your heart it is black and it’s hollow and it’s cold
Just how deep do you believe?
Will you bite the hand that feeds?
Will you chew until it bleeds?
Can you get up off your knees?
Are you brave enough to see?
Do you wanna change it?
What if this whole crusade’s a charade
And behind it all there’s a price to be paid
For the blood on which we dine
Justified in the name of the holy and the divine
[Trent Reznor The Hand That Feeds]

“Remember what the fella said: ln ltaly, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. But they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. ln Switzerland, they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce?
The cuckoo clock.
[The Third Man]

The classic enemy of art has always been the marketplace. There you find the merchant and the charlatan—the man with goods to sell and the man with the snake oil. In the old days you had merchant princes, ex-pushcart peddlers turned into Hollywood moguls, but by and large honest salesmen, trying to give the public what they believed was good—even if it wasn’t—and not seriously invading the artist’s life unless the artist was willing to make that concession. But now we’re in the hands of the snake-oil boys. Among the advertisers, you find artists who have betrayed their kind and are busy getting their brethren hooked on the same drug. The advertising profession is largely made up of unfrocked poets, disappointed novelists, frustrated actors and unsuccessful producers with split-level homes. They’ve somehow managed to pervade the whole universe of art, so that the artist himself now thinks and functions as an advertising man. He makes expendable objects, deals in the immediate gut kick, revels in the lack of true content. He paints a soup can and calls it art. A can of soup, well enough designed, could be a work of art; but a painting of it, never.” [Orson Welles in conversation with Kenneth Tynan for Playboy]

Orson Welles by Skrebneski

Modern art was born ugly.It was Matisse who took the first step into the undiscovered land of the ugly,” an American critic wrote, describing the 1910 Salon des Indépendents in Paris. “The drawing was crude past all belief, the color was as atrocious as the subject. Had a new era of art begun?” Even Matisse himself was sometimes shocked by his creations. According to his biographer Hilary Spurling, “His own paintings filled him with perturbation. At some point in 1901 or 1902 he slashed one of them with a palette knife.” [Paul Trachtman Matisse & Picasso]

When Henri first went public with his paintings the audience (and the critics) lost their damned minds. All manner of bad news must have rained down on him. “A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public…” Critics were routinely merciless, fearful, spiteful and vindictive about his painting. How many of us could take that kind of beating? Not many I can assure you.
But even if you are being called the world’s worst you’ve still got to make a living – in spite of the critics and anyway you can. Bring home the bacon – as Andy used to say so that you can keep working. After all you have to feed that money hungry art monkey on your back. But let’s be real here – very, very few of us ever make a living from art. And that monkey is a horrible, greedy beast. That’s why if you talk with an artist during those hungry times many of them sound like they’re in desperate need of a twelve step program.

What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” [Henri Matisse]

Henri Matisse 1930

Always loved the irony in Matisse’s armchair sales pitch. Without any doubt – that Geezer’s work was all about pure rebellion, challenge, questions, and as Hilary Spurling said above – ‘perturbation’. He was trying to upset the system and doing whatever he could to make that happen. Of course he wasn’t serious about that armchair – was he?
And yet – there he is in his three piece tailored combo, posing in that very bourgeois parlor. Why? Well, you’ve got to understand – at times, especially with big money on the line – you just can’t scare the straights – at least not too much. Most collectors are comfortable with the idea that an artist is a “bit off”, but only just a bit. They’re paying for that credenza, the lifestyle in Nice and the next project while hoping that somewhere down the line their investment in this artist will pay off – big. Look, some wild eyed louche douche in a garret doesn’t inspire long-term confidence. Well, maybe in the music business – but not in the art world. Stability, steadiness, reliability – that’s the thing.
Henri’s career-making lesson wasn’t lost on Jeff, of course. Monsieur Koons certainly looks the part of the NeoLiberal CEO. Tom Ford suit – carefully cultured hairdo – private jet – family man with a spiritual plan – outsourced everything – the perfect culturally inclusive rap for the masses. It’s all very tenable and respectable. But he’s also the appropriator, creator and star of “Made in Heaven” – a sybarite’s dream! And it all works for everyone involved…
The 21st Century’s idea of irony is that there isn’t supposed to be any irony – just like IPO valuations, CEO salaries and bankers’ bonuses. Success comes down to this: understand that packaging sells, look like your audience, talk in measured tones, and anything you market, say and do will be acceptable. Anything.


Maurizio Cattelan L.O.V.E. 2010

A few frilly words and you’re counting ceiling tiles.[Steve Martin – Roxanne]

“‘… officially it’s name is L.O.V. E. – so it stands for love – but everyone can read between the lines and take away the message they see for themselves…” [MC]
“… the sculpture created in 2010 was commissioned after 2008 when the economic crisis struck the whole of Europe and Italy in particular. One can only imagine that it sends a giant ‘f..ck you’ to the financial world at Milan’s Piazza delgi Affari. The financial sector in Italy is believed to have contributed to the recession during which Italy sank into a financial crisis.” [Public Delivery on Maurizio Cattelan]

stefansimchowitz Love @mauriziocattelan on making the greatest ready made of the social media era. From Duchamp to this…. excellently played Maestro on orchestrating this instant iconic classic. Boom! Art world still intact and firing on all cylinders. What a cover… Steve Cohen. Donald Trump and Cattelan’s duct tape Banana. I can only wish I got there first to buy it. [Stefan Simchowitz Instagram]

Maurizio Cattelan America 2016

jerrysaltz 🍌 🍌 🍌 🍌 🍌 🍌 🍌  The art world that we see already no longer actually exists – except for 155-people. The cracks are visible. The rot. That accounts for a full 1% of 1 % of 1% of the art world. Meanwhile for the 99.999% we beat on against the tide in this urgently beautiful pursuit. A violent disordering is in the offing- a sub-music of change. 
Art will be fine; so will we. But joke art, shock-your-Nana-art, art about art about art: That’s all been DOA for a decade or more – of course idiot artists, collectors, dealers and critics don’t see that to even take it seriously is to put the gun to your own head. Easy answers. Migrations are afoot – art is on the move
xoxoxo [Jerry Saltz Instagram]

Maurizio Cattelan A Perfect Day 1999

“…real artists are not out to hoodwink you. What makes Mr. Cattelan a compelling artist… is precisely Mr. Cattelan’s willingness to implicate himself within the economic, social and discursive systems that structure how we see and what we value. It makes sense that an artist would find those systems dispiriting, and the duct-taped banana, like the suspended horse, might testify to his and all of our confinement within commerce and history. In that sense, the title “Comedian” is ironic — for Mr. Cattelan, like all the best clowns, is a tragedian who makes our certainties as slippery as a banana peel.” [Jason Farago on Mauricio Cattalan]

Maurizio Cattelan We 2010

“It feels good to express disgust, of course, and when that comes with social affirmation—favorites, retweets, followers, blog posts—there’s an incentive to show more anger. But I think there’s more to it than that. In a world where prejudice and privilege still rule the day, it’s cathartic for a lot of lefties—even straight white dudes—to show outrage, even if it leads to nothing in particular... In a sense, for the social-media left, cultural outrage is a substitute for politics.” [The Year of Outrage]

… with notoriety comes outrage. Overreaction is crucial: the work must prompt commentators to proclaim the end of art, to evoke the cliché of the emperor’s new clothes. But Cattelan also triggered art-world outrage at art market extremes. The art historian and our contributor Bendor Grosvenor bemoaned those “who can only think of—and value—art which is designed to shock” and Jerry Saltz, the critic at New York Magazine attacked the “idiot artists, collectors, dealers and critics” who take “joke art, shock-your-Nana-art” seriously. But Cattelan’s satire—placed in the most ludicrously excessive art-world jamboree of the year—is surely aimed squarely at just those people. [Ben Luke on The Five Stages of Art World Scandal]

Maurizio Cattelan Comedian 2019

Too easily lost in the commotion and over-intellectualizing about the work is the fact that The Banana is meant to be ridiculed. It exists to be mocked…. The sheer absurdity of such a purchase, easily identified by people outside the art world, is a feature, not a bug, of the piece, laying bare what you might call the performative aspect endemic to so much collecting today. Buying art now is about being seen in the right circles and acquiring the right names. And, of course, about having enough discretionary income that spending $120,000 on a fruit doesn’t faze you. What, exactly, you are buying is secondary to the status conveyed by the acquisition itself
Might those buyers have been in on the joke being made literally and figuratively at their own expense? Most likely—these are art-world VIPs, after all. But the chance to be inside the ruckus, to check a major artist of their “To Collect” list, to be one of the few who actually has an Original Banana was too tempting to pass up—critique be damned, grab the checkbook. The fact that there are multiple buyers only further proves Mr. Cattelan’s point.” [Brian P. Kelly @WSJ]

Libertà. Odio. Vendetta. Eternità. 2019