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Thus it ever was

Post #962 • February 27, 2007, 3:35 PM • 30 Comments

Irving Sandler, A Sweeper-Up After Artists:

In the process of pursuing a Ph.D. I grew to hate the system of graduate education, which struck me as the last bastion of medieval authoritarianism in the Western world. ... Take my own case. In the school of education at NYU, a graduate student is required to submit a full dissertation outline that generally takes him or her a year to coplete. An anonymous profesor is supposed to read it, evaluate it, and make suggestions to the student. No one fails, but a lukewarm recommedndation to proceed is a sign to the student to quit. I received a halfhearted approval. The professor's comments were so irrelevant and asinine that it was clear to me that my outline had not really been read—scanned perhaps, but not read. Furious, I stormed into the dean's office and demanded that he read my outline and evaluate the outside reader's comments. A few days later, I received a letter from the dean upgrading my evaluation. I would not let the matter rest and again accosted the dean. I told him that I could meet with him because I was a faculty member, and a distinguished one at that, but what of a lowly graduate student who had spent a year working on an outline only to have some irresponsible creep toss it off? What about that? The dean mumbled some apology. When I was on the board of the College Art Association, I tried to raise the issue of academic fascism, but my fat-cat associates would not listen.




February 27, 2007, 4:15 PM

But then he went out into the world and became a "sweeper up after artists", so it was all worth it, right?



February 27, 2007, 4:46 PM

this sort of thing happens all the time doesn’t it, favoritism or convenience........whether its a paper or an artwork some get dismissed unfairly while others are praised, its a part of life and unfortunately a situation which affects peoples did the right thing, the lowly graduate student who feels they were judged unfairly should do the same, the artist who’s work was dismissed by one should take it to another or simply out do themselves. some people might read what your saying and accuse you of being bitter or saying you suck and that’s why this happened, I don’t think that’s so....people do have agendas and with such few "spots" available they try and fill those with what they feel will benefit speaking out is a benefit to anyone who has been unjustly judged or criticized. Thank you.



February 27, 2007, 5:11 PM

Opie, as it happens, he had already been widely published as an art critic for twenty years, if I have the numbers right. Plus he had written a highly regarded book on abstraction with the help of a Guggenheim fellowship. It's galling that, one, NYU would have tried to pull that crap on him, and two, even as a CAA board member he couldn't get the organization off of its inertial rear end.



February 27, 2007, 5:25 PM

Merely a little ironic jest, Franklin. I use his book "Triumph of American Painting" in my AE course. It is still the only usable general text on the subject.

But one wonders what he was thinking when he came up with that "Sweeping Up" title.



February 27, 2007, 5:26 PM

when was this?



February 27, 2007, 5:34 PM

Opie, it sounded better when Frank O'Hara called him "the balayeur des artistes," as he did in one of his poems.

George, he was in school in the early seventies. I don't know when he was on the CAA board, but the passage makes it sound like it wasn't much later.



February 27, 2007, 6:42 PM


Thanks, I was just curious about being able to put it into a timeframe, i.e. what's the mindset of the other guy looking at his thesis outline?



February 27, 2007, 6:52 PM

Speaking of sweeping up (or scooping up, as the case may be), I ran across this little item on artnet. I assure you I was NOT looking for anything of the kind:

Piero Manzoni, Merda d’artista no. 19 (1961), est. $50,000-$70,000, at Christie’s New York, Feb. 26, 2007

For those of you who can't read Italian and don't know Manzoni, the, uh, work in question is artist's shit, literally, tinned in a lovely little can. Just the thing for the rich idiot who only has pieces of shit that are not quite the real McCoy (biologically speaking).



February 27, 2007, 7:54 PM

But Jack, this is important art. It has to be, because the Tate in London bought one a few years ago. They were smart. They only paid $30,000.

I often wonder if anyone has ever opened one of these things to see if the contents have spoiled.



February 27, 2007, 8:00 PM

so you guys would be thrilled that h.bas paintings have sold for 60,000-80,000 at auction



February 27, 2007, 8:43 PM

Ah, well, OP, if the Tate bought it, I mean, what can I say? Surely they know their shit--no pun intended, of course. No doubt there are numerous art scenesters with impressive credentials (scene-wise) who hang on the Tate's every move, and I'm sure many of them have even more impressive financial resources (the ultimate in credentials, for practical purposes).

I suppose a dealer or auction house type duly flattering the potential or actual buyer of this kind of shit would merely need to modify the standard "S/he has a really good eye" to "S/he has a really good nose."



February 27, 2007, 9:35 PM

Canned Shit

Sold For 96,000 US$ PREMIUM  Currency Converter



February 27, 2007, 9:47 PM

It figures. Not sure if it's more comical or pathetic. How could the buyer even remotely expect to be taken seriously, except by the seller and fellow idiots? I don't care how many people are willing to swear on a stack of Bibles that such a dork is a major collector. Talk about full of shit.



February 27, 2007, 10:06 PM

they spend 96,000 on canned shit.........ask them for a quarter for the bus and they'll tell you to fuck off.



February 27, 2007, 10:09 PM

Well Jack,

Printed right on the bottom of that tin, it says...

"Best if used before 2008"

It appears ol' Pierre Huber might have looked like the fool, but he cashed out while the cashing was good.

Roughly 600 Billion dollars went to money heaven today in the US stock markets alone, probably close to a Trillion dollars evaporated worldwide. The filthy rich don't quite feel so rich tonight. That muffled noise you might have noticed was the first shoe dropping, the second one will come in a year or so. Put a fork in it.



February 28, 2007, 8:41 AM

As a self-described "recovering academic" I agree completely. A number of years ago I heard Dave Hickey describe the university system in a similiar vein at SECAC. He described every reason I left my tenure and I applauded his nerve. At the same time I realized that everyone else in the room was VERY hot under the collar!

Hey, its all about turf and choosing one's battle. I applaud the fight you've chose to enlist in because so many academics can't be bothered, are too overworked to try or are distracted by mundane departmental politics that get in the way of seeing the bigger picture.



February 28, 2007, 8:57 AM

Why do you think there's another shoe to drop, George?



February 28, 2007, 9:58 AM


Yesterdays market drop was fairly extreme.
Using a statistical tool which measures the degree of panic it is roughly equivalent to the 1987 crash but less severe in terms of the actual percentage loss.
(i.e. there was 15 times as much volume in the declining stocks as in the advancing stocks. The "normal" or "balanced" value for this indicator usually falls in a range between 1.5 and 0.68, with the numbers above zero indicating selling pressure, below zero indicating buying pressure, i.e. yesterday was a panic day.)

This kind of lopsided behavior can indicate exhaustion of the selling pressure and one would typically expect the US markets to firm sometime over the next week. Since the panic occurred within days of a market high it may indicate something more ominous or just a momentary setback before another advance. I don’t really know which, time will tell. BUT, overall, it probably signals that the current positive cycle is close to an end. Historically, there is a roughly 4 year (peak to peak), ‘presidential’ cycle which peaks in the year before the election and troughs two years later. It’s not exact but reasonably close.

The second factor is China, their market dropped 9% and world markets followed. In the past the US markets dominated world economies but this is changing with China and India playing a greater role. Over the last few years, the economic growth in China and India has been a significant contributor to the overall world economies and if this wanes, it will probably be felt world wide. See this article

Other factors, such as US debt loads, the national deficit, the weak housing market ,etc. will inevitably become more significant negative factors for the US economy, leading to at least a moderate recession within the next two years. So over the short term (one year) the US financial markets may stage a recovery but I think this will be followed by a protracted decline into the 2010-11 timeframe. (the other shoe)

What does this have to do with the art market? First, if I am correct, it indicates a global slowdown could be in the offing. The art market is statistically correlated with the US stock market (S&P 500) and with globalization probably the other world markets as well.

Typically, the art market lags the US stock market, peaking about six months to a year later (this lag is caused by money shifting from ‘paper’ assets into ‘hard’ assets like gold, art and real estate) Real estate has already peaked, leaving gold, collectibles and art as alternatives for capital inflows. Never the less, when the markets contract, these capital inflows are reduced. The very wealthy may not feel the pinch, but lower down on the wealth scale, people feel the contraction.

Given the assumption, that for the last few years, the art market has been exhibiting the classic signs of a bubble mentality, it is extremely vulnerable to a severe contraction. Bubble mentalities assume that because prices went up last year, they will go up next year. While this can continue for a period, it implies that new buyers are ignoring the risk factors inherent in any auction markets, i.e. prices can also decline. Since the art market is not as liquid as other markets, when buying interest disappears, prices can drop fairly severely or sales may not be possible at all.



February 28, 2007, 10:17 AM

AOK, I think part of the problem, at least for me, is that one expects more from academia, that it should operate on some kind of "higher level". I don't feel like bitching and complaining about it because I came to it after 25 years of sustaining myself in the NY art world, so tenure, teaching kids how to paint and actually getting paid regularly seemed like a kind of vacation, and the politics and problems are relatively pretty much mickeymouse stuff. But there is a real air of unworldliness about academia and academics. They have a very hard time with simple reality.

George, we can always expect a thorough answer from you. I scanned what you said and will read it more thoroughly later. I guess if that "presidential cycle" holds true it might be wise to sell stock-based investments at this point.



February 28, 2007, 11:32 AM


"I guess if that "presidential cycle" holds true it might be wise to sell stock-based investments at this point."

I would avoid abrupt decisions based upon yesterdays market behavior. By all measures it was a market panic and it is too soon to tell whether or not it will lead to a substantial decline immediately.
See this story for the "computer glitch" explanation of yesterdays decline. It appears that what occurred was partly driven by the decline in the China markets, this accounted for the initial 200-250 point decline in the Dow Jones Industrials. The exchanges implemented certain technical trading restrictions, designed to moderate trading activity but at one point there was a serious lag in the reporting of prices (like a late tape in the days of old). When this was finally sorted out, the market fell another 250 points in about 2 minutes (around 3:00 PM EST) which freaked everyone out.

So what happened yesterday is difficult to evaluate from a financial point of view. It could have just been an ‘accident’ sparked by a news event. None the less, it created a situation which more likely than not, sets the markets up for a reversal higher. This process isn’t complete and will take a couple of weeks to fully develop. During this period one should expect the markets to be choppy (volatile) and most likely test or exceed yesterdays price lows. This process, which is often driven by fear, acts as source of supply in the market, with the shares being sold by the ‘weak hands’ into the ‘strong hands’. The strong hands are the market insiders and once the selling abates, prices rise so they can unload all the stocks they bought at lower prices.

In real time, it is very difficult to tell where the market "top" is, in hindsight it often looks easy. As I noted in my previous comment, the US stock market looks long in the tooth and is probably due for a relatively significant corrective period starting later this year or sometime next year. This may or may not begin from higher price levels than we have seen in the last month.

My point here is that one shouldn’t panic at this point and sell ones investments out of fear. Typically, the most productive point to sell is when you are feeling good about your investments, counting your profits and probably hoping for more.

Playing defense:
1. Pay attention. Most of the time investment mistakes occur because one isn’t paying attention. Prices decline, and one quits looking. It’s fun to watch when the prices are rising but for some reason, when prices start declining investors pretend it isn’t happening.

2. Be realistic. If one has gains in equity investments which exceed what one could make in US Treasury bonds or notes (essentially riskless discounting inflation), you are doing great. Equity investments have a greater risk and should give you a higher return. However, it is unrealistic to expect consistent returns which are higher than the norm (roughly 10%) over an extended period of time. So if one has mutual funds which have performed very well this year and last, it is not reasonable to project that they will necessarily behave that way next year. Greed is dangerous.

3. Scale out. It is hard to pick a top, so don’t try. By this I mean that it is not necessary to make an all or nothing decision. If one has better than average profits in equities, consider scaling out of the investment positions as the markets are rising by. One can do this by switching a percentage of the equity investments to fixed income investments. You will reduce your total return IF the markets continue higher but you also reduce your risk to a declining market.

4. Avoid "high yield" bond funds and the like. These are ‘marketed’ based upon their higher yields but "high yields" are also an indication of higher risk. This type of investment is vulnerable to significant losses IF there is a structural problem in the US economy which causes loan defaults. While nothing is guaranteed, there is the potential for problems here which the marketers of this type of investment tend to gloss over.



February 28, 2007, 12:41 PM

Who's shit was it>? what was the "artist" name? i have plenty of shit to go around if anyones interested



February 28, 2007, 6:00 PM

Off subject, but can anyone recommend a good book on Art History. I know it's a big subject and it could be divided into different categories. I'm just looking for a good starting point. Thank you.



February 28, 2007, 7:03 PM

GARDNER'S ART THROUTH THE AGES...whatever latest edition....



February 28, 2007, 10:23 PM

BMD72, Are you into reading or looking at pictures, or both ? A lot of Art History Texts are filled with fluffy mystification. I found that David Summers' book "Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism" to be quite objective and rich. It's about $ 70 - $80 bucks. No glossy pics here though.



February 28, 2007, 10:28 PM

JM, I'm kind of into both but want to get a better understanding of the history of art, so text is important too. I'll check out that book. Thanks for the recommendation.



February 28, 2007, 10:28 PM

Please, look at pictures! Good grief!



February 28, 2007, 11:16 PM

By all means, before anything else, look at the pictures.



February 28, 2007, 11:27 PM

Naah, pictures are too slick, flat and the color is always wrong - no surface tooth either. Look at art and read about developements in science, culture, and math. Then look at art in person. This is why slide lectures render art criticism moot (adjective).



February 28, 2007, 11:55 PM

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!
once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.
Thus it ever was



March 1, 2007, 2:24 AM

Amen, Jess.



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