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The Discussion Spreads

It seems others have gotten involved in discussing Popular Culture and its workings in the art world. I saw this article on Art Info and this article on Edward Winkleman’s blog. We have already touched on some of these ideas in our post entitled the Hero Myth. We briefly discussed the way artists can be and have been marketed. We pointed out the similarities between the way Hollywood markets their heroes and how the art world follows suit. Linda Yablonsky’s piece has some interesting insider takes on the star system and Edward’s post is interesting because of the comments left by other artists. A while back I read a fascinating book by Robert Greene called the “Art of Seduction.” The book is a history of, well basically, publicity – how one builds a reputation and how one might capitalize on one’s own personality.

Today we have reached the ultimate point in the evolution of seduction. Now more than ever, force or brutality of any kind is discouraged. All areas of social life require the ability to persuade people in a way that does not offend or impose itself. Forms of seduction can be found everywhere, blending male and female strategies. Advertisements insinuate, the soft sell dominates. If we are to change people’s opinions-and affecting opinion is basic to seduction-we must act in subtle, subliminal ways. Today no political campaign can work without seduction. Since the era of John F. Kennedy, political figures are required to have a degree of charisma, a fascinating presence, or they will lose their audience’s attention, which is half the battle. The film world and media create a galaxy of seductive stars and images. We are saturated in the seductive. But even if much has changed in degree and scope, the essence of seduction is constant: never be forceful or direct; instead, use pleasure as bait, playing on people’s emotions, stirring desire and confusion, inducing psychological surrender. In seduction as it is practiced today, the methods of Cleopatra still hold.

The book makes clear that for EVERY personality there are ways to seduce and problems that must be overcome. As an example – here is a summary of a chapter that has probably been memorized by every ambitious gallerist with an eye on the Gagosian prize:

SOFT SEDUCTION: HOW TO SELL ANYTHING TO THE MASSES

The less you seem to be selling something-including yourself-the better. By being too obvious in your pitch, you will raise suspicion; you will also bore your audience, an unforgivable sin. Instead, make your approach soft, seductive and insidious. Soft: be indirect. Create news and events for the media to pick up, spreading your name in a way that seems spontaneous, not hard or calculated. Seductive: keep it entertaining. Your name and image are bathed in positive associations; you are selling pleasure and promise. Insidious: aim at the unconscious, using images that linger in the mind, placing your message in the visuals. Frame what you are selling as part of a new trend, and it will become one. It is almost impossible to resist the soft seduction.

These techniques have been and continue to be at play in the art world 24/7. One can still see them hard at work even as the art economy dries up. Maybe we’ll begin to see a new more earnest type of artist rather than the POMO dandies or maybe a return to primary archetypes – the toothless, earless, syphilitic crazy. Whatever it is you can be sure that it will be packaged, promoted and promulgated according to the rules of the new electronic media world we live in! First the bits of flash in the fashion mags, followed by breathless reviews of shows, a well-placed media blurb by the gallerist or collector that confirms the quality of the work through its sale-ability, and finally, the one-on-one interview with the artist published in an upscale lifestyle magazine. We’ve seen it a million times and we’ll see it a million more. The New New is always hard at work!

One Comment

  1. Hans wrote:

    I do not think this strategy helps, as almost every artist does the understatement for two years by now. Its the philosophy of “lets speak the work for itself” its not very smart and more a sign of helplessness. I believe that art does not exist at all these days, but I have the hope that “it” is somehow coming very unexpected back in the middle future.It’s very easy though to make valid true art in our time.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

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