F.U.

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

TLDNR VI

“Even when contemporary art insists on its sincerity, many of its stances — anti-consumerism, say, or anti-bigotryare so predictable as to feel reflexive. It’s fashion without passion, at no real risk. Beyond the West, the risks are real: Ai Weiwei detained in China, Tania Bruguera hounded in Cuba, members of Pussy Riot beaten in Russia. And those are the rare artists who gain international attention. In other authoritarian regimes, artists just disappear.
Their courage shames even the noblest efforts of their peers in the West. Yet one sympathizes with Americans in the arts, whose alternatives are preaching to a meager choir or being booed by a large one, all in near-certainty that neither side will be shifted. This doesn’t mean their only choices are haranguing or remaining silent. To just acknowledge what is happening — however artistically interpreted — is something. When society gets wretched enough, aloofness looks reprehensible….” [Tom Rachman on Contemporary Artists and Politics]

Mortdecai: [arriving at the curb of the Standard hotel in L.A.] Jock! Dear, sweet, sperm-heavy Jock. Behold this America, this new colossus, this fair land of the free!
Mortdecai: [entering the Standard and suddenly aghast at the bikini clad women and louche swingers lounging in the lobby] What kind of hell-place is this?
Mortdecai: [to no one in particular] I feel as though we’ve made a wrong turn and arrived on the set of a pornographic film.
Mortdecai: [addressing the bored clerk at check-in] Have we taken a wrong turn and arrived on the set of a pornographic film?
Hotel Clerk: [with attitude] Checking in?
Mortdecai I am Mortdecai – Lord of Silverdale. I should like to request a bucket of ice, a “Do Not Disturb” sign, and a bulldozer
Hotel Clerk :  [emphatically] Checking in? 
Jock [Losing his patience] Yeah, we’re checking in. 
Mortdecai : [addressing the clerk] I suspect I may need to redecorate. 
Hotel Clerk [holding up a hotel room key card] Room 326. Overlooks the pool. 
Mortdecai [takes the key card]  So… all I must do is show up, and I’m presented with a… credit card? No wonder your country’s in financial ruin
Hotel Clerk : Do you need help with your bags? 
Mortdecai No, I do not need help with my bags. [nodding towards Jock] I have a fucking manservant…. Strange country. [Mortdecai Script]

The art world darling. The term’s ties to youth are not surprising, ever more now that youth in the art market doubles as a texture, a feature of desirability—a quality that is not necessarily bound to age, but to attitude. The cult of youth has held strong since the Victorians, and its associations with affection still stand. While the term darling (dear-ling) and its tender definitions may not have evolved over the past few centuries, the idiomatic media darlingthe darling that belongs to the crowds, not to the individual—certainly has. The contemporary art and art market darlings are young and brilliant, bright and seductive, mysterious and coy—painted as both coquettish and confrontational. There is often something oppositional within their career objectives (i.e. their persona battles the institution, at the same time their work gains value at auctions and fairs for being housed within certain museums and public collections). In a particularly telling formula, which ran in BLOUIN ARTINFO this past September on Danh Vō, “when asked about the practical or conceptual foundations of future projects, his favorite rejoinder is: ‘I have no idea.’ Today, however, Vō is an institutional darling…” In darlings, the modest is conflated with the inflammatory, just as their implied youth—a play on inexperience, false or not in the press—is synthesized with value.” [Stephanie Cristello on Art World Darlings]

Elizabeth Peyton EM 2002

“What all these artists have in common is a desire to find inspiration beyond the pale of what has traditionally been considered fine art. They look to either the vernacular forms of mass culture, such as comics or fashion, or kinds of drawing often treated with condescension, such as architectural drafting or ornamental design. Even those, such as Elizabeth Peyton, who make images that recall conservative realism depend more upon the techniques of contemporary fashion illustration than they do upon schooled ways of figurative drawing…
Artists today feel no obligation to perpetuate the craft and practice of drawing that absorbed artists from the Renaissance until the mid-twentieth century. In a larger sense, they are also free from the arduous submission to tradition that T. S. Eliot believed must first occur before an artist can create work of significant originality. (Few of the artists here would agree with Ingres’s observation that drawing is the “probity” of art.) Although the emancipation of drawing from such restraints has led to many brilliant bursts, the losses are also obvious. Without the ongoing support of tradition, artists often have little but their individuality—reflecting the Babel of selves that is modern culture—and often yield to a kind of regressive narcissism in their view of the world. They resemble self-made folk artists who piece together art from what’s left in the drawers, except that they are so painfully self-conscious. The permissions of postmodernism can create a free-form prison.” [Mark Stevens on Drawing Now MOMA 2002]

Johanna: The Duke told me that Bunny has the painting, but I can’t find him.
Mortdecai: Which Duke?
Johanna: … Of Asherboroughdon – Bronwen’s lover!
Mortdecai: Bunny? “Love, your Bunny!” Eww! The note in the studio… It was not from a child, it was from him. The Duke is Bunny!
Johanna: And it wasn’t his tadger…
Mortdecai: Come again?
Johanna: The Duke kept trying to get me to go into his lavatory to look at his John Thomas.
Mortdecai: Ooh – Randy bugger.
Johanna: Only that wasn’t it at all! He was trying to show me the real painting. “The Duchess of Wellington” is in Bunny’s loo! [Mortdecai Script]

“For much of the mid ’80s the art establishment was held in thrall to David Salle’s addictive brand of bad-boy defiance, which courted misogyny and cynicism in the name of esthetic liberty. No one could top Salle as the artist responsible for the largest number of art-world dinner parties reduced to out-and-out shouting matches. In keeping with the moment, a streak of opportunism a mile wide ran through his project, one that was less a Warholian gesture than a sparring match with Julian Schnabel, Salle’s erstwhile competitor for most all-consuming art-world ego. I’ll admit it now, I’ve always felt a little guilty for loving Salle’s ambivalence and yet at the time it all seemed to make sense as a kind of anticriticality disguised as deconstructivist mischief.
Somewhere along the way, as it invariably does, the air went out of Salle’s will to play the heavy. Brattiness doesn’t last, a little voice said, but great paintings do—and thus another fine upstart went astray. By the late ’80s, Salle’s paintings had become luxurious testaments to a basically smart and ambitious guy’s desire to he remembered foremost as a painter. For a while, there was even a corresponding tension between the remnants of his talent for choosing and juxtaposing images, and the courtly manner in which he rendered them. In fact, the plan would have worked had his painterly talents been anywhere near as developed as his audacity. But like many of his forebears, from Jim Dine to Kenny Scharf, Salle’s ambition is tied to an absence of self-criticality, which caused him to turn his back on the gestures with which he first gained notoriety and to denounce them as mere posturings, thus instantly eliminating his entire support structure.” [Dan Cameron on David Salle]

TLDNR V

“[Amelia] Jones contextualized Wilke’s work within the framework of her “radical narcissism”7 and argued that the use of her own image throughout her art is far from the conventional or passively ‘feminine’ depiction of women as seen in advertising and other forms of mass media. Joanna Frueh, in her essay that accompanied the 1989 Wilke retrospective in Missouri, equated Wilke’s “positive narcissism”8 with a form of feminist self-exploration and an assertion of a female erotic will. Both Frueh and Jones cogently argue for a “positive narcissism” that expunges itself of the negative connotations of Freudian psychoanalytic theory and, in contrast, actively and unapologetically engages in self-love. Wilke enacts an aggressive form of narcissistic self-imaging that defiantly solicits the patriarchal gaze which she then, as Jones writes, “graft[s] onto and into her body/self, taking hold of it and reflecting it back to expose and exacerbate its reciprocity.” 
Wilke’s active solicitation of the “male gaze” as a method of feminist critique is best exemplified in her photographic series entitled S.O.S. Starification Object Series: An Adult Game of Mastication (figs. 1-2), a series which had been originally produced as a box-set artist’s multiple for the 1975 exhibition “Artists Make Toys” at the Clocktower in New York . Wilke commissioned a commercial photographer to capture her semi-nude self-portraits in which she adopts the exaggerated postures of the celebrity and fashion industries.” [Jennifer Linton on Hannah Wilke]

“According to the American Medical Association, narcissistic personality disorder is defined as “a condition in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, and mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others.” Consider, in this light, the late Chris Burden’s self mutilations, which included shooting himself in the arm and crucifying himself onto the hood of a car; Marina Abramovic’s recent entreaties to innocent bystanders in New York and London to queue for hours to share her “charismatic space”; and Shia LeBeouf’s latest grasp for undivided attention, #AllMyMovies, which consisted of a movie marathon complete with bizarro fans, rubbernecking press, and a half-asleep star munching on popcorn in one of the front rows. These and other fresh demonstrations of over-the-top egotism constitute a pandemic of art world narcissism that could, if left unchecked, turn into a serious mental health emergency.” [Christian Viveros-Fauné on Artists]

“Abramović noted that early in her career she felt the need to prove herself and to substantiate the work. In Lovers: The Great Wall Walk performance in 1988, Abramović and fellow performance artist and collaborator Ulay, began on opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and walked towards each other for 90 days, the performance culminating with them meeting in the middle and ending their twelve-year relationship. Following that project, the closure and independence she felt marked a turning point in her career where she was emboldened to entwine and explore femininity in her work, ‘After I finish this Chinese Wall I didn’t need to prove to anybody anything anymore. That was a really turning point for me. . .’ Indeed, if Lovers marked the end of one chapter of her career, Cleaning the Floor marks the apex of yet another; a performance that speaks to the inherent contradictions in what is expected of women. They must look the part of the screen siren while performing the chores of the domestic servant.” [Phillips on Marina Abramović]

“… there does seem to be an overall correlation between self-adoration and monetary success and exposure. A 2013 study similarly claimed that narcissistic people are more likely to consider themselves creative, and thus take part in creative endeavors like art, than their non-narcissistic counterparts. And as Zhou’s study concludes: “More narcissistic artists are offered a greater number of solo exhibitions and more group exhibits. They are included in more museum and gallery holdings and they are ranked higher by art scholars.” [Priscilla Frank on Artists]

Cindy Sherman Untitled #579 2016

“…there are a great many middle-aged critics, collectors, curators, and gallerygoers who regard this artist, who has spent a generation photographing herself as a tramp or a tragedienne, as their hometown heroine. Sherman is the foxy character whose shows at Metro Pictures in SoHo back in the 1980s were Manhattan’s top-rated pop-culture-meets-high-culture roller coaster ride. It doesn’t seem to matter that Sherman’s rise fit ever so neatly with the helium-balloon exuberance of those years when Warholism and Reaganomics joined forces to create the lunatic asylum the art world is today. It was a time when many of the men and women who are now cultural arbiters were young. And bliss it was, or so some will tell you.” [Jed Perl on Cindy Sherman]

TLDNR IV

Kippenberger’s self-performance conflates the persona with the person. This doubling, of himself as himself, is multiplied by the reproductive capacity of his media. The myth of a transcendent (white male) artist is undone by his deliberate and hyperbolic visibility as a performer; by replicating his representation, he not only objectifies himself, but also objectifies the transcendent subject as another replicable sign to be passively consumed in the system of commodity exchange. [Natalie Haddad on Martin Kippenberger]

Picasso Signature

““You know, my data does support that: Narcissistic artists will have higher prices and they will have more recognition in the art world,” Zhou told me earlier today in a phone interview. “If I had a large pool of money, I am pretty confident that this result holds strongly.”
Maybe it’s no surprise that art actually rewards the self-absorbed. But how to prove it?
Zhou’s answer: Measure their signatures.
Evidently, in psychology, signature size is closely linked to self-regard, and there happens to be plenty of accessible data on artists’ signatures. Zhou measured hundreds of signatures, then compared the results to historical auction price data, numbers of museum shows, and “artistic reputation” (as ranked by a crack team of FSU graduate students).
The conclusion is that artists with bigger-than-average signatures—and, it is implied, bigger egos—get greater-than-average attention.” [Ben Davis on Narcissism in Art]

I use the term “relevant artists” in a quasi-snarky and less diagnostic way to describe how certain artists seem to be in a bubble characterized by self-focus, yet it works for them. Relevant artists are prolific or, at least, send a message to others that they are. They give off an impression of their importance and desire to create art that will, in fact, change the world including all people, plants and animals. Relevant artists understand that something big lives inside of them and they have to get it out in the world, at all costs. They can be elegant, articulate, commanding, demanding and/or convincing in their quest.
Relevant artists are intriguing because they get stuff done. They toil away diligently, talk a lot about themselves and do not ask as many questions of others as they should. They are keenly aware of when the listener is listening to them. They are opportunistic and know how to jump on chance. This is important, in fact, as the relevant artists seeks resources for their own survival and even others.
A relevant artist is not necessarily a narcissist.
There is a critical breaking point to narcissism. Is the relevant artist on its way to being narcissistic or at least presenting with narcissistic attributes? Absolutely. [Diana Rivera on Artists]

“On the science, I cannot comment. But after all, it would not be particularly outrageous to argue that artists who have grandiose self-images are better at convincing others that they are geniuses.
Zhou cites one definition of clinical Narcissistic Personality Disorder: “an exaggerated sense of entitlement, exploitative tendencies, empathy deficits, and a need for excessive admiration.” Sounds like behavior that is rewarded in the art world to me!” [Ben Davis on Narcissism in Art]

TLDNR III

Édouard Manet The Monet Family in Their Garden at Argenteuil 1874

“I find myself showing off, which is the idiot’s version of being interesting.” [Steve Martin LA Story]

On July 23, Manet had been invited to paint en plein air in the garden of Monet’s rented villa on the rue Pierre Guienne (a house that Manet had found for him three years earlier). In a vibrating, high-keyed canvas, Manet portrayed Camille Monet and their seven-year-old son Jean seated on the lawn, with Monet in his painter’s smock tending to the flowers behind them. As Sauerländer observes in one of his most endearing insights, a cock, hen, and chick line up in the left foreground, affectionately paraphrasing the family as in an animal fable.
While Manet was at work, Renoir arrived, borrowed paints, brushes, and a canvas from Monet, and executed a vivid close-up of Camille and Jean, joined by the rooster. Irritated by Renoir’s intrusion, Manet is reported to have told Monet, “He has no talent, that boy. Since he’s your friend, you should tell him to give up painting!” [Colin B. Bailey on Manet, Monet and Renoir]

Pierre-Auguste Renoir Camille Monet and Her Son Jean in the Garden at Argenteuil 1874

They shake your hand and they smile
And they buy you a drink
They say we’ll be your friends
We’ll stick with you till the end
Ah but everybody’s only
Looking out for themselves
And you say well who can you trust
I’ll tell you it’s just
Nobody else’s
Money
Money changes everything
[Cyndi Lauper Money Changes Everything]

“Fischl found himself co-opted into the wild and whirling art world of 1980s New York – his first experience of the milieu he has lately been documenting. Warhol visited his studio, and offered his blessing. “He sought out youth, he was always curious about what was going on,” Fischl recalls. “Most of the artists we admired wanted to be outside society looking in. Warhol wanted to be right at the centre of high society and still be radical. It was as if he wanted to infect it from the inside out.
Looking back on what quickly became a frenzy of parties and gallery openings and cocaine and booze and money – which had little to do with his original change-the-world ambitions for his art – Fischl admits it was nevertheless “all incredibly exciting. It was like a spinning world, it had real centrifugal force. Traditional art magazines couldn’t keep up so the dailies took their place. Artist’s photographs were appearing in the arts and entertainment pages next to those of rock stars and film stars. It was like a wave had picked us up.” [Tim Adams on Eric Fischl]

“It was one of the most gratifying moments of my career. The Sleepwalker show in 1980 had been a hit, and Bad Boy was a home run in terms of the reception it got. There was certainly a lot of positive energy coming out of those first two shows. But success felt uncomfortable to me. Perhaps that discomfort was a form of self-preservation, a way of countering my manic sense of hubris and guilt, the dark side of my competitiveness. All I know is that rather than creating a sense of elation, my success stirred up old fears and insecurities in me. I didn’t really believe I deserved the rewards I was suddenly getting.” [Eric Fischl Bad Boy]
“When Fischl compares his early paintings to those of Edgar Degas and Max Beckmann, or when he notes his more recently felt relationship to Edward Hopper, then you see how hard he is to place within a history of contemporary art.” [David Carrier on Eric Fischl’s Bad Boy]

TLDNR II

Sigmar Polke

Poison has consequences. Art has none. Except maybe a slow acting one…. Poison just crept into my pictures. I was looking for brilliance of color, and it happened to be toxic…. In small doses it can be medicinal.” But Polke didn’t do diminutive—he had a voracious, ambitiously scaled output...
“We don’t need pictures, we don’t need painters, we don’t need artists,” he said. “We don’t need any of that. What do you get out of an artist?A self-negating nihilist, Polke nevertheless never quit. “Art is cannibalism,” he noted, and it actually, physically did him in. The art business, which Polke assiduously shied away from, has a tendency to eat away at your innards too. In the end, Polke had no kryptonite to shield him from the well-known, deadly effects of his chosen poisons. It saddens me to think of what might he might have done for another 10 to 20 with such gifts and proclivities. Polke wasn’t a dot, inasmuch as we are all specs in the scheme of things. He was significantly more—a scientist, magician, and great artist who strove to fail as much as succeed. Jesus may have died for our sins, but Polke perished for our pleasures (and enlightenment). [Kenny Schachter on Sigmar Polke]

You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they’d be your partner
They’d be your partner, and
You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
[Carly Simon You’re So Vain]

“Above the doorway entering the Punta Della Dogana, there’s a text that reads, “Somewhere between lies and truth lies the truth,” the first of many quasi-intellectual allegories and allusions. Amotan is not only the perfect kind of figure to inspire (or purportedly inspire) an exhibition of unhindered opulence, but a clear poster boy for hubris, greed, indiscriminately poor taste, and capriciousness in the art world. (In the semi-fictional catalog, former Louvre director Henri Loyrette muses on these as traits of a Gemini, which also happens to be Hirst’s star sign.) Speaking of poster boys, Hirst himself makes an appearance as a bronze, potbelly-up, in Bust of the Collector (2016), shrouded in branches of coral. The aha-moment he’s positing is that since the 2008 auction that wrecked the market for his work, he never went away, he was simply preparing for his grand resurrection in Venice, a gem waiting to be pulled up from the depths.” [Janelle Zara on Damien Hirst]

MAURIZIO CATTELAN — How much ego is involved in your posts on Instagram?
JERRY SALTZ — There’s ego in my Instagram, for sure. I’m not sure “how much” or exactly what “ego” means in this context. People who say, “This isn’t about my ego” are egoists. The better question might be: “Is there id in your Instagram?” Yes. In the West and in the current art world, pleasure is seen as suspect. The superego wants the id out. Especially any id not preapproved or somehow tamed. It strikes me as impossible that a platform made entirely of pictures wouldn’t be almost all id. This makes Instagram an unexpected vent of pleasure open to anyone, a way of communicating without words — fractured for sure, imprecise always, odd and unformed at best, a temporary thing that repeats but that feels slightly different every time. Somehow, our idiot ardent pictures make online tribes form and reform, then ossify and die like everything else. Instagram isn’t deep, but it’s easy to spend long cerebral seconds, ring bells, shake cages. If it causes a ruckus up in the office, that’s fine, too. That’s what images do!  [Maurizio Cattelan and Jerry Saltz in conversation]

TLDNR I

Talent updated the image of the artist from that of modern art’s tortured genius to, instead, a more complex portrayal of a willing participant in the entertainment industry. The piece was instrumental in modernizing the art context for the Information Age. Visual artists such as Degas and Picasso had long depicted musicians, harlequins, and actors using fine art media, and the Pop artists had introduced commercial production techniques such as silkscreen to create images taken from popular culture, but Talent collapsed the distance at which visual artists had previously held entertainment culture.” [David Robbins On Talent]

“… it’s the more marginal developments that start to bug you. And one of the least appealing, and, yet, for me, most significant trends of 2014 was the rise of the noisy, empty celebration of the artist-as-ego. Or maybe that should be ego-as-artist. I’m not sure. Of course, the art world has always been full of pretty massive egos, so what’s new, right? Yet 2014 seemed to be the year in which the obsession with the most narcissistic expression of the individual started to take center stage. It points to the apparently unstoppable merging of art with a new form of celebrity culture, one in which individual self-expression has become an obsession above all other considerations.” [JJ Charlesworth on Artists]

I’m ending the 20th Ccntury. There’s no one else out there doing what I’m doing. And the reason I have this position is that I want this position more than anyone else. Many people think that they want to be in a position to communicate and to be a leading artist, but if you would give them what they think they want, they would run from it right away. And I want it more than anyone else. I think that I’m going to be looked at as a very strong artist, and I would say within the 20th Century the only parallels would be Picasso and Duchamp.” [The Jeff Koons Show directed by Alison Chernick]

“The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest. He is a fellow who thoroughly enjoys his work, just as people who take bird walks enjoy theirs. Each new excursion of the essayist, each new “attempt,” differs from the last and takes him into new country. This delights him. Only a person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays.” [E.B. White on artists]

My parties all have big names
And I greet them with the widest smile
Tell them how my life is one big adventure
And always they’re amazed
When I show them ’round my house, to my bed
I had it made like a mountain range
With a snow-white pillow for my big fat head
And my heaven will be a big heaven
And I will walk through the front door
[Peter Gabriel Big Time]

“… Basquiat, which was made for $3.3 million put up by art collectors and newsprint moguls Peter Brant and Joseph Allen and by Schnabel himself, definitely has commercial possibilities. As the director of the first widely distributed feature film ever made about an artist by another artist, Schnabel has opened up the art world to outsiders without simplifying its sophistication or sensationalizing its excesses. “The whole point,” says Schnabel, who also wrote the script, “was not to have a tourist make this movie, and not to turn everybody into stereotypes.” “What’s so lovely is that this film helps belie Julian’s reputation as a monster,” says David Bowie, who plays Basquiat’s idol and mentor, Andy Warhol. “The guy just has this marvelous swirling romantic sense of the mysteries and journeys of life, which perhaps doesn’t come through in his paintings, because the statements he’s making are much more oblique. Julian understands how to tell a story. He knows how to empathize with the feelings all of us have.” [Vanity Fair Schnabel’s Basquiat]

Franchise III

With Chelsea growing increasingly expensive, Tribeca has seen a recent influx of galleries, joining stalwarts such as Andrew Kreps and Postmasters, and newcomers are learning from the experiences of their forerunners. “You can’t do this by yourself,” says Robert Dimin of Denny Dimin Gallery, which has opened a larger space in Tribeca after six years in the Lower East Side. 
Resource-sharing has facilitated the Lower East Side’s growth over the past decade, but Dimin says it was more “peer-to-peer” with most spaces being relatively new to the market. It was also the area hardest hit by the market’s recent contraction—between 2016 and 2017 around two dozen small- to mid-sized galleries closed. 
Newer dealers in Lower Manhattan have found valuable support from those who have weathered the shifting scene. Becky Elmquist, of the two-year-old gallery Larrie, says she received guidance from Jasmine Tsou, who helped her with skills such as writing consignment agreements while introducing her to collectors and brainstorming business ideas. [Tess Thackara on Mid Market Galleries]

The superstar phenomenon is pervasive in the art market.  My research of the last few years has documented the increasing dominance of the top end of the market. A very small number of artists, and the galleries representing them, drive the bulk of sales value, while others struggle to survive. While this top-heavy bias has increased over the last 10 years, the superstar effect has been observed for at least a century. In his 1920 book Principles of Economics, British neoclassical economist Alfred Marshall wrote: “There never was a time at which moderately good oil paintings sold more cheaply than now, and there never was a time at which first-rate paintings sold so dearly. A business man of average ability and average good fortune gets now a lower rate of profits on his capital than at any previous time; while yet the operations, in which a man exceptionally favored by genius and good luck can take part, are so extensive as to enable him to amass a huge fortune with a rapidity hitherto unknown.” [Clare McAndrew on Superstar Galleries]

Damien Hirst Levorphanol 1995

In 2018, less than 5% of dealers accounted for 50% of the sector’s sales. Dealers in the two lowest brackets of annual turnover, sub-$250,000 and $250,000 to $500,000, saw sales decline by 18% and 4%, respectively, while dealers in the two highest brackets, $10 million to $50 million and $50 million-plus, saw their sales increase by 17% and 7%, respectively. This uneven growth has been a subject of concern and conversation across the industry in the past year. Combined with anxieties over Brexit, the trade war between the United States and China, slowing global growth, and a sense of political uncertainty, it contributed to a general feeling of consternation within the industry about the immediate future.
McAndrew said this apprehension reflects a general level of macroeconomic uncertainty to which smaller galleries and those that haven’t modernized their business practices are especially vulnerable.“Those older business models are not working as well as they used to,” she said. “The market is fundamentally changing and the macro environment that people are working in is unpredictable.” McAndrew added that, among the roughly 6,500 dealers who responded to the survey on which the report’s data on gallery sales is based, many noted feeling that they had been fortunate to come out of 2018 in the black. [Benjamin Sutton on the Global Art Market]

gallery owners and other art professionals say the mega model makes sense, particularly when the contemporary art market itself is so strong, with multimillion-dollar sales of individual works becoming everyday affairs.
The idea, said Magnus Resch, a specialist in art economics who teaches at Columbia University, is for the galleries to reflect the booming nature of the business.
“Every collector wants to buy museum-quality art so the galleries say, ‘Let’s just show it to them in what looks like a museum,’ ” said Mr. Resch.
West Chelsea is the logical locale for such galleries, owners and art professionals add. For starters, the neighborhood has a long history as a gallery hub, even as it has become equally defined in recent years by towering high-end residential developments and the tourist-friendly High Line elevated park.
… Still, the West Chelsea area has its doubters in the art community, many of whom say the neighborhood has become too commercialized and touristy. Indeed, several gallery operators have moved from West Chelsea to Tribeca for such reasons. [Charles Passy on Chelsea Gallery Scene]

Franchise II

The smell of fresh paint hung in the air on Tuesday morning as guests were ushered into Pace Gallery‘s new lobby on 540 West 25th Street, a medium-sized room which gives way to a ground floor exhibition space, a long corridor leading to the elevators and a beautifully robust library. Overall, the building, which will serve as the gallery’s new global headquarters, is anything but medium-sized.
When the mammoth eight-story structure opens to the public on Saturday, September 14, the first thing that attendees will probably think to compare it to is a museum; one that’s complete with several different exhibitions on simultaneous display and a stunning sculpture terrace that provides near-panoramic views of the Hudson River.
Amidst an incredibly competitive and complex art market, smaller galleries are suffering from their lack of resources and bigger institutions are devising creative ways to stand out. Pace’s new headquarters is likely to completely reorient the Chelsea scene around its gravitational pull; according to Pace president and CEO Marc Glimcher, the space can retain 600 paintings in storage and play host to artist talks, dance performances and all manner of multimedia exhibitions. Plus, a new crop of curators including Mark Beasley and Oliver Shultz (formerly of MoMA PS1) are sure to enhance Pace’s clout globally. [Helen Holmes on the new Pace Gallery]

“The alarm bell on this subject rang immediately, as opening keynote speaker Daniel Templon walked us back through his more than 50 years at the helm of present-day powerhouse Galerie Templon.
When asked about his first consistent collectors, Templon admitted that he could not name them because they were all “nobodys”—doctors, lawyers, and dentists who were otherwise run-of-the-mill, even within their own respective fields. Their equivalents today would be hopelessly outgunned by millionaires and billionaires.
And while Templon noted that the 1990 economic crash reduced him to selling only about 14 works per year until the market recovered, his average sales in the rosy period before the crash only comprised about 40 pieces annually. That’s about one good month for a mega-gallery sales associate in 2018.
In fact, Templon went on to argue that buyers now have so much money that the art market—a term that he and his colleagues “did not talk about” when the gallery was founded in 1966 —“absorbs everything,” including works by mediocre artists.” [Tim Schneider on Mid-Market Galleries]

…. Hauser & Wirth now employs a total of 253 people; Gagosian’s staff between its 16 locations currently stands at about 250. (All numbers were provided by representatives of the respective galleries.)
The other two galleries in the mega-orbit, Zwirner and Pace, report having staffs of 200 people, Zwirner with five locations, and Pace with 10. Zwirner added 15 artists and estates during the period examined, Pace 14.
The rates at which these galleries add artists and estates, and the number of employees, do not, of course present the full picture of the businesses. As Michael Shnayerson reports in his new book Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art, released earlier this week from Public Affairs, their annual gross income is a matter of constant speculation. “Gagosian was reputed to gross the most: roughly $1 billion a year,” Shnayerson writes. “The others were said to be closer to $250 million each, but claimed to do better…than that. [At the end of 2017] Arne and Marc Glimcher [of Pace] purported …they had broken the $1 billion threshold. … Who knew? All four mega dealers’ galleries were private, their profit reports tightly held.” [Claire Selvin on Mega- Galleries]

Maurizio Cattelan Comedian 2019

“The found object assemblage, priced at $120,000garnered mass media coverage, drew huge crowds at the fair and prompted a flood of parody works. The banana sculpture “offers insight [into] how we assign worth and what kind of objects we value”, according to a statement from Perrotin gallery.
The work has a certificate of authenticity that includes exact instructions for installation, confirming that the work is by Cattelan. “Without a certificate, a conceptual art work is nothing more than its material representation,” the gallery says.” [Gareth Harris reports on The Comedian]

Franchise I

Martin Scorsese The Irishman 2019

In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever. The equation has flipped and streaming has become the primary delivery system. Still, I don’t know a single filmmaker who doesn’t want to design films for the big screen, to be projected before audiences in theaters. 
That includes me, and I’m speaking as someone who just completed a picture for Netflix. It, and it alone, allowed us to make “The Irishman” the way we needed to, and for that I’ll always be thankful. We have a theatrical window, which is great. Would I like the picture to play on more big screens for longer periods of time? Of course I would. But no matter whom you make your movie with, the fact is that the screens in most multiplexes are crowded with franchise pictures. 
And if you’re going to tell me that it’s simply a matter of supply and demand and giving the people what they want, I’m going to disagree. It’s a chicken-and-egg issue. If people are given only one kind of thing and endlessly sold only one kind of thing, of course they’re going to want more of that one kind of thing. [Martin Scorsese on Art]

Gagosian himself is estimated to clear $1 billion in sales annually and is among a small group of gallery owners whose appetites are omnivorous: He works across the contemporary and modern eras, representing living artists like John Currin and Mark Grotjahn while also dealing on behalf of the estates of Alberto Giacometti, Richard Avedon and Helen Frankenthaler. He exhibits a wide range of work, from Instagram images appropriated by Richard Prince to boulders-as-sculpture by cerebral artist Michael Heizer. At the same time, he conducts sales on the so-called secondary market—a term he hates—by privately buying and selling artworks to clients. He was also an early proponent of the museum-quality show within a private gallery, securing sought-after loans of historic works that are often not for sale. Such wide-ranging exhibitions have included a show on Baroque master Peter Paul Rubens in 1995 and 2009’s Picasso: Mosqueteros, co-curated by Picasso biographer John Richardson, which drew 100,000 visitors to the gallery to see the artist’s less-examined late work.  
Gagosian does all of this on an unprecedented scale, with 16 locations from Hong Kong to New York’s Chelsea, around 200 employees, a publishing arm that produces 40 books a year, a quarterly magazine and an in-house newspaper—even a retail storefront that sells Warhol Campbell’s Soup candles and butterfly-print deck chairs by Gagosian artist Damien Hirst. (Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner galleries, both helmed by people a couple of decades younger than Gagosian, and both perceived as strong competition, have galleries in six and three locations respectively. Pace, which predated Gagosian’s first art gallery by 18 years, has 10 branches worldwide. Along with Gagosian, these galleries dominate the global art-fair circuit.)” [Elisa Lipsky-Karasz on Larry Gagosian]

Good middle market dealers rarely get the praise they deserve. They get a fraction of the press of their blue chip counterparts—regardless of show quality. When their artists succeed, they leave for larger galleries. Those who stick it out in this segment of the business have to hustle constantly, often with no recognition or reward.
Last month, Toronto dealer Clint Roenisch eloquently discussed these issues over Instagram in a tribute to Toronto-based dealer Katharine Mulherin. Writing of her death, and the importance of honoring and preserving her work, he worried that the culture was not up to the task. “The legacy is often fragile and gossamer thin,” he wrote of Canadian gallerists. In truth, though, that legacy is in jeopardy everywhere. “We are essentially the background, the stagehand with the ladder, the barker on the sidewalk: people should remember the shows more than the venue.”
As Roenisch points out, artists need dealers who are every bit as daring as them to make their work possible, and that’s a rare breed. [Paddy Johnson on Middle Market Galleries]