Crying in Public, pt. 1: Inflatable Palaces and Diamond Slums

October 16, 2013 · Print This Article

The Art Market is inflating out of control, making all but the wealthiest few cry foul. Like it or not, this is affecting the way contemporary art is viewed and thought about. Meanwhile, Jeff Koons continues to be the perfect Poster Boy for the inflation, and it just so happens he has work depicting the nothingness inside the bubble. Simultaneously, Banksy goes for a stroll in New York’s neighborhoods proposing a different model. Is this the beginning of the end of the glutonous market? Or is this merely a long beginning?

The most inspired album art ever

Pure Genius

 

Don’t make the mistake of trying to analyze the Jeff Koons album cover work for Lady Gaga as if it were art. Think of it instead as a publicity stunt to drum up hype for his upcoming retrospective at the Whitney this summer. On the day the album cover was released, mtv.com ran a story with the headline: “Lady Gaga is Jeff Koons’ Biggest Fan…But Who is He?” This collage of leftover studio remnants and a Botticelli print gets him access to a generation of people who are not likely looking at a lot of contemporary art, beefing up his celebrity status which he craves, at the same time adding to ticket sales. This, and the animosity from art enthusiasts will help make his retrospective THE BEST EVER!! Just a couple weeks before the Lady Garbage cover, T magazine – the glossy pulp supplement in the NY Times – had a stereotypically vapid conversation with the artist about his recent commission from Dom Perignon to made a limited edition DNA – shaped champagne bottle. Low end and high end commodity containers from ol’ Koonie Balloonie. Not too different from anything he has done in the past, but the labeling becomes ever more irksome. Consider his output for the last decade, where most of his work is sold before its finished, and may only show at auction instead of a gallery or museum. Not that this is such a terrible thing. What has basically become a high end boutique practice is frustrating mostly because it is helping fuel the glut of the art market, and then regurgitated into the art world as important to the production and dissemination of art, to negative affect. As long as we wallow in the crystal palaces of Koons, Hirst and Murakami, we’ll think that art is as uninspired as Gormley, Marden and  Whiteread.

 

This bottle will appear in Kanye's next video as a prop.

The newly designed bottle will appear in Kanye’s next video as a prop.

 

Koons is in this rare position of being accessible to everyone but only collectable to a small handful of the richest in the world. As Carl Swanson recently stated in Vulture: “Koons can be the art world’s great populist artisan, even as he operates as its most exclusive salesman.”  Everything about the work is right there, so there’s nothing to get. It is perfection and simplicity, the kind of thing that mocks you for looking too hard at it. Since critics are trained to look hard at things, they tend to hate Koons. And its boring to write about art just by describing what it looks like, so people tend to write about his career, his collectors, his record breaking prices at the market, his studio and the process of making his work. This only helps to build a persona around the artist, giving him the superstar flair that these major collectors are after. (And with this week’s art fair, London’s Frieze officially bigger and more bloated than ever, superstars have never been more in vogue.)

 

This car comes with the Eiffel Tower as a complimentary gift.

This car comes with the Eiffel Tower as a complimentary gift.

 

Both interesting and frustrating is how Jeff Koons’ rise to the art commodity machine that he is may have helped shape the way the art market is an increasingly insiders game of fewer and fewer players more knowledgable about trading commodities than how to tell good work from bad. And with the auction prices soaring, the big named galleries just keep getting bigger in a kind of go-for-broke mentality* (not breaking them, just the artists they rep, in less of a financial type of broke and more of an artistic quality and integrity type.)

[*for a throughly depressing take on this, see Jerry Saltz’s article on Vulture this week.]

 

 Feeling Butter: "For the parts that feel, make 'em feel butter"

Uncle Jeffie’s Feeling Butter: “For the parts that feel, make ’em feel butter”

 

At the same time all the grumbling about Koons’ latest fart hit the web, Banksy has been doing a residency in NYC, creating work in the city in his typical fashion – covert and unannounced – the opposite of how you’re supposed to make art. While seemingly on the other side of the art world, there are a lot of similarities between the two artists. Maybe Banksy isn’t able to sell his graffiti work for 33 mil, but he is still operating inside the art market, selling regularly and at high prices. Lately, his work is often either garishly covered by a piece of plexiglass bolted to the wall he painted it on or is removed and sold, either way being seen by an enterprising public as separate from graffiti art and reborn as high art/commodity. His work is no stranger to auctions, museum and gallery shows, while being loved by mainstream society. His imagery is understood at first look, you don’t need to read into it, and if you are, then you probably don’t get it. Also like Koons, art critics hate writing about Banksy, saying there isn’t enough to write about, because it is too surface and he isn’t playing the game. But this game is being co opted by the wealthiest of collectors who have realized there is a market that won’t burst and can’t crash, so they’ve taken advantage of it. Buying a Koons gets you a ticket into  a very exclusive club. Buying the Banksy at auction though, means that you probably don’t get it, because his work is to be freely viewed and is mocking the very lopsided system of capitalism that allowed you to buy it at auction in the first place. Getting it, though, is no longer important. Its having it.

 

As his position in the art world becomes more clear, Banksy’s art frequently criticizes the market, and the latest example of this was a street sale of many of his iconic works on white canvases for $60 on the sidewalks of NYC. The work and the sale later appeared on his website, which is his way of providing provenance. These single color spray painted politically charged images lost all meaning shoved within the borders of these small store bought canvases, sold on the street among vendors hocking watercolors and prints of impressionist styled paintings. Subverted now to talk about the politics of class, taste and accessibility in a market that is more often hurting artists and keeping way too many people out of collecting art. It stifles artistic creativity to the point where every idea is either a recombination of greatest hits by the artist or an experiment to see how much money can prop up a bad idea. Artists start to flounder when they should be thriving. Shows are created for the specific tastes of the market and of a few clientele. Everything becomes dross and it feels like you are wading through a lake of effervescent puke whenever you go to a big exhibition, and anymore, they’re all big. ‘Cause if not, they may as well not happen at all. More and more, it sucks harder and harder to be a practicing artist in this climate. Unless, of course, you’re Jeff Koons.




EDITION #14

July 29, 2013 · Print This Article

Hope Esser performing “Telegraph Progress” at The Watermill Center’s 20th Annual Summer Benefit.

Celebrites fawn over Chicago artist at Watermill

Reportings coming in this evening from sources from Facebook to Bloomberg indicate that Chicago performance artist and occasional What’s the T? correspondent, Hope Esser, painted The Watermill red at the art center’s celebrity studded annual summer benefit. Esser could be viewed from on high, performing in a red dress with flag sleeves from atop the performance lab’s building. Her figure was made more striking by the red fabric draped rapunzel-like directly under her.

Bloomberg.com revealed celebrities from Abromavic to Gaga to bankers no one care about were seen at the event. The article smartly shouts out Esser as well. Watch out for Esser’s performance in the next Lady Gaga video, featuring Marina Abromavic.

Real collaboration at The Hills.

Drain & Reeder Create “On The Spot” Art Exhibition

This past Monday (yes, an opening on a Monday) evening at The Hills Esthetic Center “Jyson Deeder and Tim Rain” debuted “A Nerdier Red”, “community organized” by Josh Reames, at everyone’s “favorite” Garfield Park “gallery”, The Hills. The collaborative exhibition came together as it opened with Reeder & Drain turning the notoriously useless loft above the gallery into the command center from which the art was generated and then incorporated into the official gallery space.

Reeder & Drain tell it like it is.

Down in the gallery, visitors feed off the artists’ frenzied energy and joined in, painting a huge canvas, random hats and eventually joining in on a “drum circle.”

Visitor’s in various states of gallery attendance.

We highly recommend checking out the fallout from last Monday. Email The Hills Esthetic Center to make an appointment.

The Weatherman Report

Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field, 1977. Long-term installation in
Western New Mexico. Photo: The New York Times.

Reading is Fundamental

  • Some Unrequired Reading: As Jerry Saltz opens his piece on Deitch’s depature from LA MoCA, “It was always only a question of when, never if.” That being said, the internet is ablaze with opinions on the development. If you’re into that sort of thing, more here, here, and here.
  • Gay Marriage is Trending and TotallyFab-u-lous: The Gossip is that The Gossip’s Beth Ditto recently married her partner, Kristin Ogata, in Maui. Ditto and Ogata has my dream wedding: Ditto wore a Gaultier gown and it looks like they made all their guests coordinate. To. Die. For.

    Don’t worry beaus, Buxom babes aren’t the only one getting hitched. Recently, our personal fav queen Latrice Royal made news by becoming ordained in order to officiate over a good friend’s wedding ceremony. Catch this great interview on Latrice’s killer outfit and her controversial opinions on gay marriage on Dragofficial.com.

  • Thought hyperallergic.com was just #selfie fluff? No longer. Recently some seriously drama erupted on the site where I most frequently read “news stories” about emojis and cats. Soon after Peter Schjeldahl posted his Jonathan Swift-esque piece for the New Yorker about cannabalizing the Detroit Institute of the Arts a hyperallergic writer, Hrag Vartanian, shook Schjeldahl to his knees. Ending the article with the terse but powerful, “Peter Schjeldahl should be fired” the T? is sure that Vartanian was no small part of what eventually led the tenured art critic to rescind his opinion on the matter.
  • Notes on the Art of Conversation: We’re really excited about what Claudine Isé has to say about all things art conversational during her Much Much More lecture hosted by the Humboldt Park branch of the Chicago Public Library and Philip von Zweck. Even more educational than reading, this event is not to be missed.

Printer’s congregate to prove printing not dead

This past Saturday the Printer’s Ball, hosted by Spudnik Press with the support of the Poetry Foundation, took over the Hubbard Street lofts, once again proving print media’s vitality with displays, demonstrations, lectures, conversations and empanadas. WTT? was especially impressed with the Riso demonstrations provided by SPARE residency in the Post Family space.

Tony Fitzpatrick in conversation with Printer’s Ball founder, Fred Sasaki. Fitzpatrick regaled the audience with tales of Studs Terkel, Lou Reed, Haiti and Cuban cigars.

Spotted at the Printer’s Ball: Momentarily back from Ox-Bow, Lauren Anderson checks out photos and posters at Johalla Projects.




The Naked Roundup

November 5, 2010 · Print This Article

McGinley-Tom Golden Tunnel

Tom (Golden Tunnel)" 2010 by Ryan McGinley

Photos from Artissima, Turin’s contemporary art fair
“We make money not art” has uploaded a few of the many images they took at Artissima, Turin Italy’s contemporary art fair. If the photos shown are indicative of the rest of the show it looks to be something not to be missed. Read more here

This week in “Can’t Muster the Engergy to Not Even Care About This” is a toss up
Cant decide which is of less interest, work begins on Lady Gaga’s 8 wax figures at DC’s Madame Tussauds or Sophie Crumb (daughter of Robert Crumb) releases a book of drawings that make her father look like Albrecht Durer. Read more here & here

Someone is selling off their VIP Access to Art Basel Miami Beach
Someone has put their VIP packet up on Craigslist for a minimum of $500 which gets you access to all the major events hosted by Art Basel and the Satellite Fairs. It doesn’t get you into the Delano Hotel though unfortunately you still need an even rarer commodity to do that, an actuall young & sexy woman on your arm to get the pleasure of paying $16 for a mojito. Buy your way in here

The British Government denys export license in effort to keep a Turner Painting Sold in Auction to Getty Trust  in British Hands
The British government has announced Wednesday that the required export license for “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino,” which Turner painted in 1839, will be held up through Feb. 2, and potentially until Aug. 1, to give potential buyers who want to keep the painting on British soil a chance to match the J. Paul Getty Trust’s bid. Read more here

Rochelle Slovin Director of Museum of the Moving Image To Step Down After Renovation
Read more here

Amedeo Modigliani Nude Painting fetched a record-setting price of nearly $70 million
A wise woman with striking red hair told me a few weeks back that the nude is coming back stronger then ever and she may just be right. Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu assis sur un divan (La Belle Romaine) [Nude Sitting on a Divan (The Beautiful Roman Woman)], a canvas from an important series of nudes, drew five telephone bidders into a heated competition at the fall sale of impressionist and modern art ultimately selling to an anonymous buyer for $68.9 Million US. Read more here & here

The New York Times covers Olivier Zahm & Purple magazine
Read more here & here NSFW

The LA Times Wrings it Hands over Art Walks
The LA Times asks do Art Walks help or hurt the local scene, they might as well ask does wine production effect gallery openings; its a zen question that keeps getting asked and its ultimately pointless. Just be glad people show up at all since the overlap between the two worlds is so small if it was a Venn diagram it would look like a pair of spectacles. Read more here

The Art Newspaper Asks Does Sex Sell at Frieze
Read more here