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Post #909 • November 17, 2006, 7:56 PM • 33 Comments

With the surfeit of auction news in the art world lately - the season's take is closing in on a billion dollars - one might feel tempted to speculate on the larger picture. What does it all mean? I think I have the answer: Nothing.

Oh, one could analyze the data and draw fascinating conclusions, I'm sure. But I've read through quite enough of it, thank you, and as a result I wanted mostly to stop writing about art for a couple of days and go see the new James Bond flick. (It's great.)

The time has come to recognize that money is having the effect on art that it is having on religion: providing a humid breeding ground for cynicism. Sure, we have no measure of perceived quality except its expression in dollars, but let's remember that the dollars are indicators, and poor ones at that, for the worth of the objects. One of these hedge fund guys loses more money behind his couch cushions in a month than I make in a year. You could fritter away hours trying to correlate the dizzying closing prices with the quality of the prizes they win. The charge that good art makes one feel lies beyond measure, description, and, yes, purchase. Let's try to do better next week, shall we?




November 17, 2006, 8:06 PM

Well, maybe it is the start of a new renaissance.



November 17, 2006, 9:11 PM

On a less monetary note, for those in the Miami area, there's a very nice little show of classic Japanese prints at the Bass Museum in Miami Beach. Some of them are exquisite. It's fascinating to me that such prints were made as an inexpensive, popular, more or less mass market art form, and yet the quality can be breathtaking. They're a great antidote to the vulgar excesses now showing everywhere, as they say, much like the new Bond flick (which I've no doubt is rather more satisfying).



November 18, 2006, 9:01 AM

Did anyone read the Michael Kimmelman essay in NY Times sunday magazine on Kiki Smith? Nothing about her art, only on her hectic schedule. And her townhouse as studio. Big deal.

Can someone explain? What's so great about Kiki Smith's art?



November 18, 2006, 9:36 AM

Nothing at all, Chris. If you could explain that you could explain the art world.



November 18, 2006, 9:46 AM

A new Renaissance? It will take more than money.

That show at the Bass is a nice one, especially given the dearth of Asian art in Miami. I couldn't help but feel, though, that the Sackler Museum could have coughed it up by accident. Sorry. If you're around, its worth a visit.

I've seen a handful of work by Smith and have been underwhelmed every time.



November 18, 2006, 12:42 PM

Smith is in. That is all that far too many people need to know. It can mean absolutely nothing, but all too often it's more than enough.



November 18, 2006, 1:45 PM


There was yet another Kiki Smith article in yesterday's Times. Here's the link:

This one is a review of the Whitney Exhibit which runs through
Feb. 11.

I feel the same about her work. Would love the answer to the eternal question for the rest of us working our asses off.



November 18, 2006, 4:01 PM

Franklin, I love your post, seems not only me is desperate. I think, art is dead for a while, it needs a reshape. But dont stop your posting ! Best regards, Hans

PS What the hell is so great with Neo Rauchs paintings, it seems like a Hans Makart (this guy was so popular as Rauch is today)

Best regards, Hans



November 18, 2006, 4:16 PM

There is a nice post by Vvoi from New Art:



November 18, 2006, 5:34 PM

i guess this relates to 2days topic



November 18, 2006, 5:53 PM

I am in Buffalo visiting family for the weekend. Last night I went to the Albright-Knox Gallery, the gallery of my chidhood and adolescence, where I grew up with Gaugin's "Yellow Christ'," Gorky's '"The Liver is the Cock's Comb'", several majestic Clyfford Stills, and many other memorable examples of early twentieth century and modern art which were great to revisit and for which the Albright is justly famous for.
The featured exhibit by conceptual artist Andrea Zittel, 'Critical Space', I found to be pedantic, boring, and just plain lame.
Here are some gems from the catalogue: "...Zittel is one of the most exciting artists of our time because she makes art about the questions that nag us everyday: what to wear in the morning, what to fix yet again for dinner, how to deal with all the stuff you have accumulated..."And this sage quotation,"It is a human trait to want to organize things into categories. Inventing categories creates an illusion that there is an overriding rationale in the way that the world works".
Like, wow, man. And all this time I have been trying to make aesthetic decisions based on color and light, when I really need just to worry about my studio wardrobe and what to eat for dinner and that will solve all my artistic dilemmas.
I know this kind of detritus is all over the place and passes for critical thinking in contemporary art, and I generally avoid it. It's just that actually seeing it surpassed my already low expectations.
Needless to say, after giving this as much time and consideration as I could stand, I ambled my way downstairs again, where an expertly executed Soutine side of beef told me all i really need to know about my culinary decisions...



November 18, 2006, 6:49 PM

Write a note to the director of the museum, Germain. Tell them how disappointed you are. Most institutions pay attention to this kind of correspondence. It's like a poll. They figure that one actual letter = x-thousand disappointed visitors.



November 18, 2006, 8:29 PM

Franklin (#5), the Sackler cannot help me or anybody else in Miami, unless we had the sort of art institution here who would coordinate a local showing of Sackler holdings. We don't have any such thing. The Lowe, especially given its director's interest in Asian art, might want to do something like that, but it's not a high-enough level outfit to be likely to swing it.

I'll tell you one thing, I'd take a modest show of Japanese prints over Andrea Zittel any day. The prints are also about (what used to be) everyday, ordinary life in Japan (or Tokyo, at any rate), but that's not really the issue. The point is that they're great art. That's should always be the primary and overriding consideration in putting a show together. Tell Zittel to work out a deal with Oprah, but leave me out of it.



November 18, 2006, 8:37 PM

Good suggestion, OP. It's hardly guaranteed to have the desired results, but if nothing else, it'll give some sort of reality check to people who sorely need it.



November 18, 2006, 11:55 PM

de Kooning 1952-53 oil on canvas, “Woman III,” painting sold for $137.5 million!



November 19, 2006, 12:52 AM

... Mr. Geffen, who has been collecting art for decades, is known to have raised about $421 million in four private art sales since the beginning of October.

Let's hope the trickle down theory works.




November 19, 2006, 2:12 AM

Hans, I couldn't find your work on the url that you provided - are you a painter, photographer etc.?



November 19, 2006, 12:35 PM

Another splashy trophy hunt concluded. They should really space these things apart more; it's getting monotonous. I see it's the hedge fund guy again, the one who paid millions for the rotting shark carcass. He must be getting better advice these days. I'd never use him as my art advisor, though.

Still, this Vogel woman from the NYT sounds impressed and breathless enough. Heaven forbid anyone should question what any zillionaire art collector does or why he does it. Let's just keep the ball rolling and the cash flowing. Makes good copy. Ah, enablers! They're so plentiful, so accommodating, so useful!

I see Gagosian was the broker of the deal. Nothing but the best for Mr. Hedge Fund, of course. Luxury casting for every role in the play. No doubt the target audience is delighted with the performance. I can't wait to see the next trick, I mean trade.



November 19, 2006, 1:48 PM




November 19, 2006, 3:05 PM

Follow the link given in #15, George.


Bunny Smedley

November 20, 2006, 4:09 AM

For anyone desperate for another story related to the current art auction price-bubble, here's another angle:

(And for those who understandably can't be bothered to follow yet another link, here's a precis. A local council near Manchester, UK decided to flog off a painting by local artist L. S. Lowry which they'd acquired for £175 in 1951; at auction last week it fetched a headline-grabbing £1.25 million (payment to the vendor).)

Would Bury Council have bestirred themselves to sell off the family silver in an age of more sober auction prices? Probably not. Although for me, personally, Lowry is more the evocative illustrator of a particular strand of local history than a proper 'artist' - and please don't fire-bomb my house because I've said that, oh all you very nice people from the North! - there is no question but that he's very greatly and genuinely loved on his own home patch.

And Thatcherite though I'm proud to be, I am deeply uncomfortable with what the Council's done. Symbols are important, and that Lowry meant something to the inhabitants of Bury. (Also, anyone who's looked at council accounts knows exactly how far £1.25 will go - i.e. not that far.)

Earlier on, the Council undertook to ensure that if the Lowry painting were sold, it would remain on public display so that the people of the Greater Manchester area would continue to benefit from its welcome proximity. Well, as far as I know, the buyer of the work is still unknown. Let's see if local government keeps its promises, shall we?



November 20, 2006, 10:18 AM

Your post has made me rethink the art range. True, it's the only universal standard that we have, but it's so faulty and unreliable that the dollar is not even worth anything. (No pun intended) I mean, you may pay $2 for what i consider a $500,000 work. Art is, and was [in my opinion], all about personal taste and expression. The question is then, has the foundation corrupted the house? Have we taken too much pride in the work of our hands?

If you were to ask a father what he would more like to have on his desk, would he pick the original Van Gogh or a painting his daughter made for him when she was five. (Of course i realize that it's not that great of an example but it works.) And the unfortunate reason that it is unreliable is because nowadays, people don't take as much pride in their children. But that's another topic entirely.


Bunny Smedley

November 20, 2006, 10:44 AM

Caleb, your post made me laugh.

On my desk, I've got a painting by myself of one of my cats, another painting by an early British abstract painter (Edgar Hubert), an engraving by a 19th century British artist (Edward Calvert), and a little drawing of a tomb, quite early, by British neo-romantic painter called Michael Ayrton. And covering all but the latter, there is an early abstact by George Smedley - a toddler with whom I have very close connections. He is not yet represented by a gallery. I am pleased to have got in early, as it were, as his drawing is my favourite thing on my desk.

But as for Lowry - there are lots of reasons to love 'art' other than the usual art-related ones, and some of them are very good at giving markets a boost. (And, I should say in all fairness, there are intelligent people out there who love Lowry's draughtsmanship, his clarity and his compositions - and who am I to tell people they are wrong in what they love? I wasn't brought up in the north west, and I don't catch the resonances that mean so much to so many of them.)

But as for auction prices ... most people who post here post as artists, which is fascinating. Few, if any, post as that despised thing: people who buy the work of dead people at auction. Well, as one of the latter, I cannot say, selfishly, that the current high prices delight me. Some of us our, in truth, sitting on our hands, dreaming of the values to be achieved once the bubble bursts.

(And yes, I also own and love work by living artists, and not only my son, either! But I am luck enough to get them at studio prices.)



November 20, 2006, 11:33 AM

to bad the artist (estate) doesnt receive royalties.
can an artist have a contract on the reverse of a painting saying that if this painting is ever sold at or above a certain amount in the future the artist recieves a %.
we need a new law!



November 20, 2006, 12:10 PM

I hope George gave you a good deal on his painting, Bunny.

Lowry is a likeable painter, but that's a lot of dough, local love notwithstanding. His work reminds me of of a primitive Bernard Buffet, cleaned up and made neater.

There have been amny atempts made to do what you propose, Gorky, but they have never come to much, although I think it may be possible to legally attach such a condition to a work. Generally in law when you sell a physical object you sell all the rights to it. If you work out the consequences of changing this you will soon see the problems.



November 20, 2006, 4:16 PM

A childs art work is priceless ...I am guilty of keeping far too many of my daughters masterpieces....her first drawings of the figure at the age of two with stick arms and a bubble body and lines for legs, hands and feet.........ahh the memories I have of watching her what end? now shes in law school....maybe she will help artists when they get into trouble :)

I have an idea for ongoing payment to the artist; the viewer stands on an electrical pad ( no shocks this time:) and attached to the painting is a taxi -meter and it runs till the viewer leaves.



November 21, 2006, 11:26 PM

A while back, it was Louise Bourgeois, this time Kiki Smith. Are there any contemporary female artists held in respect by you boys? It brings me back to my grad school days, when I ran the projector for the good old boys on the faculty while they reviewed the incoming graduate student candidates. Every time a woman's work came up, one of them would say, "what's this about? I don't get it.... next!"



November 21, 2006, 11:42 PM

Helen Frankenthaler. Anne Chu. Sarah Sze. Cecily Brown. Paula Rego. That's without trying.

Autoresponse: Sexism



November 22, 2006, 7:01 AM

Don't try to reduce it to a political matter, Kathleen. That's the easy way out. No race, creed or gender has a corner on overblown, overrated, third-rate art or good art, for that matter, and I certainly can detect no such bias in this neck of the woods. Very little of the art made at any time is much good. It is beside the point who makes it.



November 24, 2006, 2:23 PM

Well, I would have thought it was obvious, especially to anyone at all politically correct, but evidently not. The less-than-reverential response to Kiki Smith's work is, of course, a classic case of K-ism (prejudice against anyone whose first name starts with a K). I suppose we should be ashamed, but we are what we are.


Marc Country

November 28, 2006, 1:57 AM

"A while back, it was Louise Bourgeois, this time Kiki Smith. Are there any contemporary female artists held in respect by you boys?"

Telling, that Kathleen would use the word 'boys', and leave out Joanie in her smear, who also posted a negative assessment of Smith's work in a comment above... different rules for different genders it seems... disgraceful.



November 30, 2006, 9:37 AM

In my comment above my "negative assessment" as you called it, was in response to chrisingallsmindfreak's questioning "Can someone explain? What's so great about Kiki Smith's art?".

My post read "I feel the same about her work. Would love the answer to the eternal question for the rest of us working our asses off." Not exactly a negative assessment in my book, but an honest inquiry.

My medium of choice is textiles, traditionally considered to be "women's work" and if anyone is bucking up against the "boys" (as it has been called) art network, it's me. However, it’s essential that I believe there is room for all of us in the broader art world, or I'd quit working today.

I work way too hard at this to allow gender bias issues to bother me, but on the other hand, I don't have blinders on either.


Marc Country

November 30, 2006, 12:10 PM

Did I misunderstand you Joanie?
"chrisingallsmindfreak" seemed to be suggesting he is unimpressed by Smith's work, and can't understand why other people are so impressed. That is definitely a 'negative assessment', I think we can agree.
Your comment, "I feel the same about her work. Would love the answer to the eternal question for the rest of us working our asses off", is not a "response" to his question (it doesn't answer it), but a reiteration of it and a basic agreement as to its premise, therefore, comes across as an equally 'negative assessment'.
Sorry if I misread you.



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