Art, Treasure Hunts, The Tribune & Why I Feel Like Michael J Fox

February 12, 2010 · Print This Article

Over the last 48 hours a story has been jumping around the Chicago art world stirring the minds and causing the hand wringing of countless people. Much of the talk has sadly been via email, Twitter, Facebook & other secondary venues of communication. That story is of the article in the Chicago Tribune about the artwork & marketing done by Patrick Skoff. Mr. Skoff has been taking his work and leaving it around town for people to take for free while giving hints as to locations over the internet.

Some people said it’s bad arts coverage, some people railed against it as playing to the base of humanity, some even wondered what Chicago art coverage has come to post Artner. The general consensus was that this isn’t Art’s coverage and better work is getting skipped; my thoughts are reprinted below from facebook (yea classy I know)……

It’s Entertainment coverage not Arts coverage (and correctly categorized). Honestly is anyone surprised since we continuously seem to exclude/ignore/insult/talk-around the main stream people who read the tribune?

I agree the work/story isn’t that notable (even though I do give kudos to the artist arranging this with the reporter, don’t think for 1 second Christopher Borrelli just happened to be there, this was coordinated, the reporter is as much the artist as the artist in this event) but am I shocked that people will eat this story up in the lack of anything else? No.

People want art in their life, I have seen it, everyday Joe and Jane urban, suburban & rural people love art they just are not being spoken to or at least not spoken to in a vernacular they have any chance to engage in.

Is this new? No. Will this change soon? Probably not. The only thing that grinds me is how everyone is so “shocked” that this is going on every time it happens. I don’t mean you guys as much as people I have had conversations with over the last 5-10 years.

Every time this happens everyone is “amazed” that this gets coverage and not something of more merrit. That is because we don’t talk to them in a way they would be interested or understand and we leave it to people like Borrelli & Skoff to fill the gap.

I swear I feel like Michael J Fox in the “American President” some days, I know I can come off as venal at times but people want Art, they want what that can offer (the creativity, the hope, the joy for the new) and the only people who are doing the talking are people that have nothing really to say. I don’t blame them but we can’t be shocked when the only words that get out are treasure hunts. When by and large everything they love and want we label as modernist and scoff at. There has to be a way to bridge the gap?

Feel more then free to comment by calling 312-772-2780 or emailing us and keep up the good work Chicago even if no one is writing about it.




Mark Staff Brandl, TV Art Evangelist

July 29, 2009 · Print This Article

Every once in awhile, it’s good to have one of those “Come to Jesus” moments where you ask yourself if the work you’re producing is really for you or for somebody else. Bad at Sports’ Zurich correspondent Mark Staff Brandl (who reports on Art Basel for this week’s podcast) has just completed a new video, “TV Art Evangelist,” in which he (or rather, a miniaturized version of himself as an action figure), installed at the pulpit of an equally diminutive white cube “church” aka Brandl’s Collapsible Kunsthalle, delivers a sermon “calling the artworld back to inspiration, away from hypocrisy and sophistry,” as the artist himself describes it. This 16 minute long oration is both tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious in its intent. I love the wielding of a paintbrush in lieu of a microphone. Also check out the teeny tiny versions of Brandl’s own paintings installed on the walls behind him–incredible. Watch the video, and then go check out Mr. Brandl’s website to see larger versions of these paintings along with additional series of works, critical writings and news on upcoming projects.




Rant of the Week: Damien James at Newcity

June 17, 2009 · Print This Article

Dear Art Thief.

This is actually more of a stealth-rant, deploying reverse-psychology tactics and appeals to the culprit’s sense of fair play. Some creep stole an artwork by Chicago artist Damien James right off the walls of the Flatiron building, and what’s worse, the piece had already been sold.

“My initial reaction, not surprisingly, was anger. Intense, red piping-hot anger. “What the fuck!?” were my words, to be exact, extra emphasis on the “f.” Who steals art at a small neighborhood show? From an “emerging” artist? (”Emerging” = “starving”) Even more, who steals a piece of art that’s already been sold? Now I know it was small, and as you passed by, maybe you thought it would fit perfectly in your bag or pocket or whatever, but did you not see the sticker above the drawing that said “sold?” Could you not have chosen a piece that hadn’t already been paid for? Because you see, some artists who do shows in the Flat Iron, especially in the halls of the Flat Iron, are struggling; they’re artists who are desperately trying to carve out some tiny, peaceful existence. We’re trying to do something good, to make and share something outside the ever-present web of invasive consumerist insanity. I get (but don’t condone) stealing an iPhone, an X-Box, cash; but a drawing? Not only did you steal something I made, but you took money out of my pocket. So: what the fuck!?

Really, what were you thinking? Was it, “this’ll look awesome on my bathroom wall?” Was it the thrill of stealing something? Are you some kind of Vincenzo Peruggia? What’s next, a Steven Soderbergh art-heist caper?”

Hats off to James for channeling his justifiable rage into a piece that actually transcends the circumstances behind this unfortunate incident to say something larger about the need to show some basic human decency, even if you’re drunk off your ass, and even (especially) when it comes to small art shows at neighborhood galleries.

Damien James, from the 'small person' series

Damien James, from the 'small person' series