November 25, 2013 · Print This Article
“Who owns the internet?”
Josh Baer -Â Baer Fax
Forrest Nash -Â Contemporary Art Daily
Paddy Johnson -Â Art F City
Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie -Â Bad at Sports
In case you thought we maybe glossed over the epic amount of blood sweat and tears that went into last week’s art fair extravaganza, I thought I’d repost a few articles that came out in the last few days including this one from Art in America:
Strong Sophomore Outing for Expo Chicago
byÂ Brian Boucher
“I’ll tell you what distinguishes this year from last year,” Expo Chicago director Tony Karman toldÂ A.i.A.Â at the fair’s sophomore outing on Saturday, “and I’ll tell you in one wordâ€”sales. It was very important that big dealers like David Zwirner and Marianne Boesky do well, and they have.”
Featuring over 120 international galleries at the capacious Navy Piers (up from 100 last year), with views of Lake Michigan, Expo Chicago (Sept. 19-22) represented dealers from 17 countries and 36 cities. Some were returning, like Zwirner (New York and London), Matthew Marks (New York and Los Angeles), and Kavi Gupta (Chicago and Berlin). There were also many first-timers, including Marianne Boesky (New York), Cabinet (London), Massimo de Carlo (Milan and London) and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.
While almost every exhibitor acknowledged that sales were little to none in 2012, nearly all said that business was better this year. Dealers reported a range of sales, starting as low as $4,000 for works on paper by Chicago’s own William J. O’Brien at Boesky. Works in a modest price range found the most ready buyers, but there were outliers. Boesky toldÂ A.i.A.Â of serious interest in an assemblage by Salvatore Scarpitta,Â Drummer SeargeantÂ (1963), which was tagged at $750,000, and one dealer who declined to be named toldÂ A.i.A.Â that he had sold a million-dollar artworkâ€”and to a walk-in customer, no less.Â read more
A handful of additional EXPO 2013 accounts can be found here:
Paul Klein onÂ The Huffington Post,Â with some lovely installations shots to boot:
This is the second year of this wonderful mid-sized art fair, with substantial galleries bringing some A quality art and almost enough cutting edge galleries showing off exciting artists to watch.There are some gorgeous treasures to be seen.Â
Many reports via Art Fag City over the course of the week/end, beginning with from Paddy Johnson’s mixed reaction:
Importantly, the fair seems an enormous step up from anything Merchandise Mart offered, a mega-fair corporation thatâ€™s been largely unsuccessful at handling art. Much as the company does for Volta in New York, Merchandise Mart used their own real estate to house Next Art Chicago, even though its low ceilings were unsuited to showcasing art. Last year,Â when they closed,Â the organization claimed that collectors were only purchasing art on the coast lines.
A photo collection courtesy of Paddy Johnson, with “the good, the bad and the ugly:”
And AFC’a closing word from Robin Dluzen:
A main concern for EXPO and the exhibiting galleries was last yearâ€™s absence of collectors and museums from the wider midwest region and beyond, and this year, EXPO managed to draw them in. William Lieberman ofÂ Zolla/Lieberman GalleryÂ (a veteran Chicago dealer, first time EXPO exhibitor) saw his clients from St. Louis and San Francisco;Â Monique Meloche, also exhibiting for the first time at EXPO and the founder ofÂ Gallery Weekend ChicagoÂ running concurrently with the fair, had museum groups from Kentucky and Denver buying for themselves and buying for the museums. â€œMoMA is not going to buy here,â€ she explains, â€œBut this can be a strong regional place.â€ Itâ€™s not just the out-of-towners making themselves known, but also the more reclusive local collectors. â€œI hadÂ Sanford BiggersÂ in my windows for months,â€ said Meloche of the artistâ€™s recent exhibition at her eponymous gallery, â€œI brought him here to the fair and there are Chicago collectors discovering the work for the first time.â€
Dmitry Samarov writes inÂ Art on its Own Terms:
My strategy at these fairs has always been to run through the entire thing quickly, then return to anything that made my eye stop. Most years that amounts to four or five paintings or drawings and this year was no different. There was a good corner where a David Park portrait was next to an Elmer Bischoff figure painting, with a Richard Diebenkorn drawing round the corner. I was also happy to see a Leon Kossoff painting along with a couple of drawings. There was an Alice Neal childrenâ€™s portrait too, that made all the work around it look like newspaper clippings. The thing I liked best though were a couple small Harold Haydon cityscapes.
And finally â€” Artslant Thomas Connors interviewed Tony Karman:
TC: A fair of modern and contemporary work must be something of a balancing act. Youâ€™ve got the de Kooning collector on one hand and the Simon Starling fan on the other. And Iâ€™m guessing the blue chip collector isnâ€™t looking to acquire an emerging artist.
TK:Â Let me disagree with you. To some extent, there are certain collectors who will only want to buy that de Kooning. But other lifelong collectors want to be in the vanguard; they are going to look to the younger work because that is equally exciting to them. Thatâ€™s probably more the norm. A great collector likes to have a balance of contemporary work and historical material.
Last week was, by many accounts, a humiliating one for Chicago, ending as it did with the announcement that the Second City had been knocked out of contention for the much-coveted 2016 Olympics–in the first round, no less. Given that Chicago had already beaten out numerous other international contenders to reach the final four in the first place I don’t exactly see why it’s considered such a crushing embarrassment to have come in fourth but, whatever…I have no dog in that fight. It’s probably just one of the many “Chicago things” that I’ll never fully understand. As an art person, however, I’m far more interested in looking at the blows to civic pride that were delivered earlier last week in the wake of the Tribune’s story on the positive public reaction to J. Seward Johnson Jr.’s outdoor sculpture “God Bless America.” Yeah, you know the one. This one:
Written by Trib reporter Steve Johnson, the article was framed by this headline: “What does popularity of God Bless America sculpture say about public art in Chicago?” This, I think, was precisely the wrong boldfaced header to attach to an article about a sculpture that has been borrowed from the Sculpture Foundation and is not, in fact, meant to be a permanent part of the city’s landscape of public art. Although the Trib’s article does make passing reference to this fact, the headline seems to imply that “God Bless America” somehow holds similar status as the Picasso, Calder or Kapoor pieces do in the city’s world-class lineup of public art.
For better or worse, Steve Johnson’s story gained a degree of national attention, not as much from Chicago’s art crowd as from arts writers elsewhere in the country. On September 30th the L.A. Times’ chief art critic Christopher Knight linked to the Trib article on his Twitter feed with the comment: “Is J. Seward Johnson trying to be America’s Worst Artist?” A few days later Paddy Johnson of Art Fag City wrote a post titled “Bad Public Art Finds Audience in Chicago” containing a point-by-point takedown of Steve Johnson’s main arguments, which he set up as follows:
“Critics can wag fingers at it — and some do — but God Bless America meets some of the fundamental tests of public art. It is noticed, it is appreciated, and, in many cases, it provokes reflection on what makes an art work original.”
I drove by “God Bless America” last week. Parking is monstrous downtown so I couldn’t stop to get out and walk around it, which is too bad, since public art–like all art–needs to be experienced in situ in order to be fully understood and appreciated. Nevertheless, I can’t offer any viable counter-arguments to Knight and Paddy Johnson’s assertions that the sculpture makes for some pretty bad art. Sure, I could attempt some sort of cultural studies-style analysis of how people actually relate and respond to the sculpture in real life (a more populist form of which Steve Johnson was basically attempting in his Trib article) but my heart wouldn’t be in it. Knight’s snarky question was a valid one, and Art Fag City’s post was in keeping with its editor’s ongoing deconstructions of the more egregious myths about contemporary art and its reception–the Trib’s article, sadly, providing a prime example of just the sort of superficial arguments that so often inform those myths.
As far as I know the Trib’s Steve Johnson isn’t an art critic or an arts journalist. He’s a thoughtful and smart culture reporter who was interested in the popular reaction to a popular work of public art in his city. My beef certainly isn’t with Mr. Johnson or with the quality of the article he wrote. It’s with the fact that Johnson’s was one of the rare “news” stories about art in Chicago that the Trib has published over the past few months. And I straight-up disagree with that particular choice of story.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even though I’m not saying anything everyone who lives here doesn’t already know: it’s a damn shame that a city of the size and cultural prominence of Chicago does not have a national voice for its art scene, a newspaper art critic of the stature of Christopher Knight who could have written about Seward’s sculpture from a critically informed art historical viewpoint as well as the more straightforwardly populist one put forth by the Trib (or, better yet, would have chosen not to make this into a story at all, given that there’s nothing particularly timely or newsworthy about it).
This is not a city of people who know nothing about art and architecture, nor do Chicagoans evince a “fear” of the rigorous discourse that often accompanies discussion about those subjects. So why does the Trib cover art as if it its readership needs hand-holding and spoon-feeding via articles that essentially give us permission to look no further than a work of public art’s most spectacular effects?
Chicago needs at least one real art journalist with a national platform to represent this city to the rest of the country, if not the world (and by “art” here I mean fine art, not theater, dance, music, etc. if that’s not already obvious). Clearly, other arts writers across the country are still paying attention to the Trib’s art coverage and looking specifically (and exclusively) to that paper for news and insight into Chicago’s art scene and its art public. The problem is that the Trib is relying on reporters who have no in-depth art backgrounds to cover art news in this city–no dog in the fight, as it were–and frankly I find the effects of this to be somewhat humiliating.
Chicago needs a high-profile newspaper writer who is both a critic of and an advocate for the city’s art; not a booster but a person who will draw attention to bad decisions and art world folly while at the same time placing new developments within a larger cultural and historical context. Chicago’s art bloggers simply aren’t able to bear that responsibility, not because of a lack of talent but from a serious lack of time, money and resources. My advice to the Trib: get freelancer Lori Waxman on staff and make her a reporter or something–I don’t fucking care, but Chicago needs to cultivate its own Christopher Knight some way or another. Until we do, we risk letting writers from other cities steer the discourse on Chicago art. We owe it to ourselves not to let that continue.
On this weeks roundup we check out the conservation of contemporary art, AFC’s recap of Venice and Basel, and most importantly cats getting stoned via boing boing. Hope everyone has a great weekend and maybe well see you at galleries tonight.
- Paddy Johnson’s recap of this years Art Basel and Venice Biennale. It didn’t sound like we missed much.
- Ed Winkleman’s post on starting a commercial art gallery in a poor economy.
- “Millennium Park’s tradition of dazzling and delayed public art goes on“
- Becky Smith is closing Bellweather in New York after 10 years.
- Art 21 has a great post by Richard McCoy about the the conservation of contemporary art.
- Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen will be showing his Deadpan in Times Square.
- Dieter Rams on Plural Blog
- “Judge Slams MoMA, Guggenheim on Secret Holocaust Art Agreement.” That doesn’t sound good.
- Offworld has a sneak peak at a follow up to my favorite Iphone game Rolando 2!!!