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A second tulip mania

Post #1264 • December 8, 2008, 7:18 PM • 120 Comments

Mark Brown sends in an essay by Ben Lewis and Jonathan Ford in the December Prospect:

The bubble in contemporary art is about to pop. It has exhibited all the classic features of the South Sea bubble of 1720 or the tulip madness of the 1630s. It has been the bubble of bubbles - balancing precariously on top of other now-burst bubbles in credit, housing and commodities - and inflating more dramatically than all of them. While British house prices took six years to double at the start of this century, contemporary art managed it in just one, 2006-07. (Over the same period, old masters went up by just 7.6 per cent and British 17th to 19th century watercolours actually lost value.) Contemporary art in the emerging economies did even better. The value of its sales in China increased by 983 per cent in one year (2005-06). In Russia they rose 2,365 per cent in five years (2000-05), while its stock market increased by "only" about 300 per cent.

Speculation ensues, perhaps a bit more than one would want, but the authors drop plenty of facts. Sotheby's share price has defenestrated itself, from $57 to $9 in the space of a single year. (They also report its nearing the company's all-time low - $8 during the '80s. It's trading at $10.07 today.) Also, this bubble maps rather nicely to the pattern described in Manias, Panics, and Crashes by Charles Kindleberger: displacement (an initial goad into the flank of speculation), diffusion (in which legions of new speculators and suppliers pile onto the dinghy), and a final pop in which the participants find themselves in possession of properties that pretend to extraordinary worth. Lewis and Brown duly liken recent Hirsts to collateralized debt obligations, a delicious if slightly stretched analogy. More to the point:

The way was led by people like Charles Saatchi and the Miami property magnates, the Rubells. Saatchi laid down a blueprint in the late 1990s that others have tried to copy—he bought the work of young artists, established a museum in which to display it or lent it to public museums, and used the media interest that such shows attracted (by virtue of the outlandish works involved and the association of celebrities) to sell on part of the collection at auction at greatly inflated prices. Some of the proceeds would then be reinvested in the work of other new discoveries. Saatchi's famous 1997 show, "Sensation," demonstrated that this "specullecting" was a great way to make a splash as an arbiter of taste. Others took an earthier view of the collectors' instinct. Amy Capellazzo, the co-head of Christie's contemporary art department [and former Miami art-worlder - F.], observed in 2007: "After you have a fourth home and a G5 jet, what else is there?"

The whole thing merits your attention, as do the comments, in which one Terrence O'Keeffe convincingly compares the present meltdown to the market for 19th Century salon painters, and opines:

Bascially the human mind is a poorly (conceptually, emotionally) organized mess that has the virtue of infinite value for comedy.

After basking in the schadenfreude for a spell, I'd think it worthwhile to ask what opportunities, if any, the new situation offers us, besides a tempting price for Sotheby's shares.



David Rchardson

December 8, 2008, 8:42 PM

It's an opportunity to make the best art we can and hustle to pay the rent and the bills. Sorry for the jaded view, but if the art market collapses, what evidence is there that when it finally does reconstitute itself it will be any different than it has been in the past. On the other hand, a client of mine says, having lived through many previous recessions, that there is a pent up demand for quality goods, hence, make the best art you can and try to get it out into the world, same as it ever was.



December 8, 2008, 9:02 PM

Sotheby's may suffer, but Hirst is safe and more than set with his mucho millions, even if he never sells another piece. The only thing that may be hurt is his pride, assuming he has any.



December 8, 2008, 10:28 PM

Well it's a little late to be calling a bubble top, considering the stock market just endured the greatest loss in history ( a bit over 52%, the '29 crash was 47% )

I've been writing about all this for the last two years on FutureModern, and suggested we had a top last year and that definitely the party was over in August of this year.

at Futuremodern.blogspot...

I've also been tracking Sotheby's stock, with a high target of $60 which was met and now has a low target for BID of $4.00 a share, if it happens it will be in 2009. The price decline in Sotheby's is inline with other stocks on the NYSE. Sotheby's has exposure in the real estate market which is also weak. I haven't read their 10K SEC filings so I'm not going to come out and say they are bankrupt, but it's a possibility. Insiders have been steadily selling the stock for the last 5 years. It had a good move today but at $10 I believe there is a 50% downside risk and would avoid buying it here.

Franklin muses, "what opportunities, if any, the new situation offers us?"


The auction market (the high end and secondary markets) will continue to be soft for another couple of years. There's a bit of hype from Walter at Basel that sales haven't disappeared, this is cheerleading at best.

What's going to happen is that a new generation of young artists are going to have a fun playing in the sandbox for a couple of years and then spawn a new crop of artists that everyone hates because they become famous overnight.

The culture is undergoing a rejuvenation and the old garde isn't invited to the game. Sorry but all the fantasies about "good art" and "quality" which are so often expressed here, will be seen as hopelessly out of touch with the real world. The new art will reframe these issues and find a fit within the entire history of art as well. Of course as their comeuppance, the postmodernists will also be crying and whining about all the lousy 'new art' as their sacred views are relegated to the dust bin along with everything else.


On the good side, the major US stock indexes are in the midst of a rally which will carry the DJIA 20% higher from here to roughly 10,500 on the DJIA. This is the minimum upside target.

There is a possibility, but only a possibility, that the bear market low is in and that the ensuing bull market will exceed the 2007 highs. If this happens the art market will have a softer landing. At this point I can't tell.



December 8, 2008, 10:56 PM

BTW, 50% of LG's revenues are from Russia.



December 8, 2008, 10:58 PM

The bear is not through, George. I'm still even worried about my treasuries.

As for art, you may be reading the future from old tea leaves. Who knows? Maybe better art will come forward, rather than the same old round. The bad stuff always gets flushged when the economy goes down.

Here's a quote, written over 20 years ago, in the heyday of Postmodernism, a couple of crashes before this one:

"When the crash comes a lot of money will be lost and a lot of reputations will lie twitching in the rubble. But painting, cut back to its roots of refined craft, ingenuous seriousness, uncomplicated delight, playfulness. subtlety and surprise, can rise, vital and refreshed, free from this orgy of belligerent silliness and far-out affectation, free from poisonous irony, predatory intellectualism, and the perverse abhorrance of ordinary pleasure, free from the arrogant posturing of no-talent egomaniacs. It will be a hard lesson, but I can't wait."



December 8, 2008, 11:15 PM


I don't think the new art will be 'bad', just like I don't think Jasper John's is 'bad', and I believe it will enter history like all other great art has in the past. The old garde will resist it, just like every old garde in the past.

Regarding the market, we're in a short term rally which will approach the targets I suggested, after that I'll have to consider what comes next. I feel this is the correct call EVEN IF the markets have farther to fall. This is not an Idle speculation on my part, I looked at all the major bear markets including 1929 and they all fit the pattern.

However, I don't think this is the case, stocks appear to be undervalued on an historical basis and bearish sentiment is excessive, both these things lead me to believe there is a possibility we have seen the price low for this bear market.



December 8, 2008, 11:16 PM

That's a hell of a quote.



December 8, 2008, 11:18 PM

Aw, not this shit again. Me, chez Winkleman, November 28:

George is using "the culture" to describe a contemporary dispersion of art media and aesthetic priorities as if it were quattrocento Florence. I doubt the existence of the aggregate and as such I don't find myself "at odds with the current culture." I find myself at odds with particular cultures in the contemporary cultural landscape, but in others I fit right in. This is what I see happening: what we have traditionally referred to as "the culture" is giving away to subcultures that don't have much to do with each other. The irony of George's position is that his belief in "the culture" and the consensus it presumes is already putting him on the wrong side of history, as far as I can observe it at the moment. Personally, I don't worry about being on the wrong side of history, but he sure does.



December 8, 2008, 11:21 PM

Franklin, you lack any vision for the future, you are just a follower, sombody has to do it.



December 9, 2008, 12:04 AM

As for what George lacks... I could go on, mind you, but I like to keep my comments brief.



December 9, 2008, 12:28 AM

Lots of art experts have worried about being on the right side of the future, especially since the embarrassment of the late Academy. Myself, I'm worried about the present.



December 9, 2008, 6:54 AM

George, you have no vision of the future. "Something BIG is going on right now that's going to change everything forever. I don't know what it looks like, but it's definitely not what you guys are talking about..." That's not a vision for the future, it's cheerleading for the not yet extant.

Maybe I'll write about my vision for the future. At the moment, it includes making my train this morning. Pardon me.



December 9, 2008, 7:35 AM

You are correct about undervaluation and market sentiment, George, but that is not going to be enough. Participants in the market are being falsely led into a belief that we are entering the curative period of relative stability which precedes the recovery of the patient. That will tempt people to buy, sometimes eagerly, driven by the perception of undervalued securities.

But too much of the you know what is still hitting the fan. Right now, for example, the effect of lost value and unemployment, which is killing purchasing power, and, in due time, inflation. We never reached the point of real desperate panic selling. I'm afraid that is still coming.

If not, wonderful. But I am not getting into the market yet.


that guy

December 9, 2008, 8:46 AM

Ah, back to the stock market / art market / tulip mania! As George calls his 5th bottom of this bear, I'll update my earlier call from October. We might be in for a nice pop here as George predicts. But I agree with Opie that this sucker is far from over. The S&P 500 will be between 400-600 in about 3 months. I'll be a buyer there. Sotheby's stock is going to around $0.10.

Meanwhile, the art market will continue to dry up and this should push a lot of artist's into public works projects like road construction and sewer upgrades. This is ideal, as it will force the hand of about 99% of the artists that should never have become artists in the first place. As art departments around the country start to realize they are just teaching the swill that led to this crash, many will shut down for lack of funding or be cannibalized or downsized into smaller 'art/history' areas. The great correction has finally begun. Around 2012 is when I see the start of a new era. Frankly I'm with John, the present don't smell so great.



December 9, 2008, 9:09 AM

In fairness to George, when we discussed the market here a month or so ago he said no way the bottom had been reached. Maybe he has forgotten that, but, in any event, he may now be our resident contrarian indicator.



December 9, 2008, 9:42 AM

I still have a requirement for a retest of the recent price lows. So far, for the last year, these have all failed and I want to see what happens on the next decline.

However, the markets are oversold enough on a short term basis to produce a rally of 25% from here BEFORE the retest I expect. This is consistent with the price behavior in previous crashes -- I looked.

The retest does not have to go to a lower price low, just approaching it is enough. What is required is an indication that market breadth is resisting the decline and we won't know that until we get there.

Part of my market observations are written on FutureModern2.blogspot , part are posted on a private traders forum. But, the blog has the core of it there, warts and all. I use very precise language which allows for conditions to vary and usually give an indication of what to watch for in case conditions change.
It is important to KNOW WHAT TIME FRAME you invest in. On the blog I have continued to tell IRA investors to remain in cash. Traders do it differently.

On the FM2 sidebar click to "Enough Already" for a blow by blow on the Nov 21st turn. This was a turn I thought shoud have occurred but with a caveat of what needed to occur for it to be sucessfull. The post was updated continuously during the day with the turn higher called at 3:30. This was accompanied by news, which I was unaware of but the market breadth finally improved significantly enough for a rally to occur with little chance of failure.

Nobody is right all the time, not even close. As for me being a contrary indicator, I am, the majority of advisors AAIA, II etc. are bearish.

That's all I'll have to say about this here, I'm done for awhile.



December 9, 2008, 9:56 AM

For those who are interested, I changed the FutureModern2.blogspot settings so the "Enough Already" and "Obamarama" posts are still on the first page.

Also, I've been doing this since 1978, I charted the stocks and indicators by hand on graph paper for 10 years. The black charts on the blog are produced by a piece of software I wrote, which means I know how the indicators work.

I've was a moderator of an investment group between 1997 and 2003.
I recently started the blogger site as a free way of hosting my charts. On some days I was getting 600 hits which was taxing the bandwidth limits on my own server.



December 9, 2008, 10:05 AM

we never reached the point of real desperate panic selling.

LOL, I read this article too. She is wrong. Since everyone is looking for this now it occurred differently than in the past. The best model was the 911 crash where the panic was spread out over several days.

Volumes are extraordinarily high over the last year, that's a result of panic and short selling (short selling increases the float)



December 9, 2008, 10:06 AM

I'll take deep blogspot links off the blacklist. It will have to wait until tomorrow, though. Sorry for the inconvenience.



December 9, 2008, 10:41 AM

I agree with you about a bounce, George. This is happening more often than at a Harlem Globetrotters ball game. I just think we are in deep doodoo.

Who is "she"?



December 9, 2008, 10:50 AM

re 20,

"She" was a B movie in the 50's I think....

I read a lot of financial stuff every day, it may have been an article on Bloomberg, I can't remember. But the subject was was posted on the traders board so I looked at the situation and decided that people were again missing what was really happening and that a panic had already occurred.



December 9, 2008, 11:13 AM

My feeling about it, and I emphasize "my feeling", is that real panic has not occurred. We have had a succession of minipanics but these have closely matched actual known conditions.

Real panics come from a public feeling that all is lost. Minipanics are always followed by a feeling that OK we had our selloff now let's buy before it is too late. That's what we are doing right now. The shit is not flushed out of the system yet. When it is we will know it.

Hey George, I don't have all those charts, but I sold everything in Oct 2007 simply because of the smell that was coming up off Wall St. It's still there.


that guy

December 9, 2008, 11:18 AM

Plus Opie, you gotta admit, you got some good advise from your friends!



December 9, 2008, 11:44 AM

Selling in October-07 was a good call, sometimes instinct works ok. So does pain and after the decline in August-07 the idea of lightening up should have been on peoples minds.

I've spoken with several people who took big hits in the post internet bubble period. I always asked them when it did it start to hurt? The general reaction was to ignore the 'hurt' and 'wait for it to come back' Heads in the sand.

If it 'hurts' sell the next rally. In almost all cases you will be able to do so and come out ahead of where you would have been if you kept your head in the sand. This year (aug-oct) was one of the very few exceptions (there was no rally)



December 9, 2008, 12:02 PM

Talk about heads in the sand. The universal reaction I hear right now is "I just don't look".

These people have to change their tune. When they start saying "I better sell now or I will be wiped out" we will have the real sell-off.



December 9, 2008, 12:41 PM

Like That Guy, Derek Guthrie (former editor and publisher of the New Art Examiner) thinks hard times are good for serious artists. He has other interesting things to say too, such as printed publications are more influential than web based ones. I think that he is right about old fashioned print. He describes the art world in terms of "landfill" where anything and everything is allowed in, without regard to good and bad. I would add that the same metaphor applies to the web, which simply has grown so large that its influence is collapsing out of sheer weight. There are no sources that are widely regarded as autthoratiative, everyone migrates to their own corner and squats there because it is impossible to evaluate them all.

Trouble is, you are going to have to take my word for it he said these things because the site's streaming audio and download section appear to be out of order. There is a lengthy and sometimes insane discussion that follows, though, which makes the ones we have here seem pretty damn civilized and focused.



December 9, 2008, 12:43 PM

I just heard that Fleckenstein (sp?) closed his short hedge fund. He said he was tired of trying to stay on top of every little wiggle, that it was harder to find stuff to short and that he didn't want to be associated with the "hedge fund" industry's poor ethics.



December 9, 2008, 1:09 PM


It's what I meant by "playing in the sandbox" If there is no market, artists have time to explore stuff with less pressure. Once the market becomes strong, everyone is jockeying for a position, trying to establish a brand identity, and sell their soul to the devil or Larry Gagosian, as the case might be. This seems like it would be obvious.

What the internet is doing is driving art forward. It's not about criticism or dialogue, it's about images and information. The kids are just assimilating what they need off the web, it's happening in a freeform way which is different from how the older generations took to it.

Print is for the coffee table but I can tell you there is a huge difference between seeing it in Artforum or on Saatchi's website and seeing it in person. That's why stuff gets so confused, people don't really know what's going on, they just know what's in the art magazines and they usually are not as comprehensive as the gallery websites.

Middle America Magazine Mentality - MAMM

MAMM wants to reduce everything down to an idea icon, neatly categorized for consumption, and artists buy into it, or use it to tersely dismiss what they cannot accept.

I am so fucking tired of hearing why Hirst stinks or why Richard Prince stinks, it's tritely easy to do this, beat up a bum who can't fight back.

You know, it's not like there are no good or great paintings being exhibited, for in fact, there are.


George not Gerge

December 9, 2008, 1:38 PM

Talk about heads in the sand. The universal reaction I hear right now is "I just don't look". These people have to change their tune. When they start saying "I better sell now or I will be wiped out" we will have the real sell-off.

Well, that is one view which is popular.

I have a different take on it, some very big, very smart money, made a very risky bet in this market over the last three months. This is the smart money which want's to make 10x returns on their investments and will not sell coming out of the hole. In fact they will continue to be buyers.

The short interest is HUGE, and while shorts are generally more sophisticated investors who are on the right side of the trend, they also represent pent-up demand, for to profit they must cover, buy.

So finally we have Mr. and Mrs. Head in the Sand, who aren't looking but who also didn't panic along with everyone else. People are not stupid, they are emotional, but not stupid. They saw the panic in the markets and when it recovers a bit they will sell, not at the bottom, but on the way up from the bottom. They will miss most of the rally though.

I don't know what's going to happen next year, or in 2012. I think I know what will happen in the next three or four months. Why? Because it is hard to imagine any fundamental catastrophe which might happen over this period that hasn't been already discounted.

Six months out, we are speculating on the success of the Obama stimulus plan as well as the economies in the rest of the world, and that is more difficult. Right now the market is looking forward towards Obama's presidency and we are in the most favorable seasonal period for investing -- so the market will go up.


that guy

December 9, 2008, 1:53 PM

Well Opie, you are right to worry about your Treasuries, the 3-month just went negative! Yikes

Zero chance for a rally here with this kind of news.



December 9, 2008, 2:04 PM

LOL, Zero %, scratchin and screaming no-no-no all the way to Dow 10K

Greed, Ya gotta love it.



December 9, 2008, 2:27 PM

George even huge short covering will not sustain a recovery. It just makes the markets seesaw.

All the bad news has not been discounted. We don't know all the bad news yet. there will be more, believe me. More and different and unanticipated.

Mr Smart Money can afford to buy because he has a zillion dollars and probably wants to own the world, which eventually I suppose he will, even if it costs him right now.



December 9, 2008, 2:30 PM

Negative? How the hell does that work. You pay the government?


that guy

December 9, 2008, 2:44 PM

The yield goes negative. So they are worth less than face value if I understand them correctly. Participants buy bonds at a discount to face value.



December 9, 2008, 3:01 PM

It is very hard to make money in this market. The long side is very very heavy. You can only scalp there at this moment, which is tricky because it is against the trend.

The short side has the trend in its favor, but governments and all institutions are fighting the trend with every resource they have or can invent. So if you are short you must fight them and their various interventions. The easiest time to make money on the short side was when the SEC outlawed shorting many stocks (effectively shooting itself in one of its feet). Of course you had to short an index or buy puts or write calls, but without shorts to run, the downward trend was less volatile. Even then it was not as easy as those long might have thought.

It is easiest to make money in a steady, relatively non-volatile uptrend, as we had from 82 to 2000. I doubt that anyone over 40 is going to see such a situation again in their lifetime.

For those who love the idea of a "new era", October 07 was the beginning of one in which gorging on debt issued its first death rattle. Once the market finally settles on the meaning of debt, current ideas about "valuation" will no longer hold. Most companies will still hold debt and that wlll drive their value downward. While I have lots of doubts about the future and my capacity to grasp it, DOW 5,000 seems much more likely to happen than Dow 15,000 in the next 5 years.



December 9, 2008, 3:06 PM

I might have said it better in #35 if I had said "gorging on debt as if that is the same thing as real economic growth issued it first death rattle".



December 9, 2008, 3:07 PM

"The meaning of debt". Indeed. We do not understand debt - how it works and its implications, and what happens when it gets out of hand,

I think Dow 5000 is quite possible fairly soon. I would only hope it is somewhere near a bottom.



December 9, 2008, 3:53 PM

True Washout: I was talking with a friend this afternoon about "true washout" and the stock market. I used as an example the time in my 20s when I drank way way too much Everclear (190 proof). I did not exactly pass out and could remember the next day what I did. But when I woke up I had the usual hangover problems (wretching, headache, chills, etc.) plus every cell in my body simply hurt and it lasted all day. I could not function, could not even move. All I could do was continue to exist huddled in bed except for shaky trips to the john. I never drank Everclear again - now more than 40 years later.

That was a true washout. That is the kind of washout that it will take to end this bear market.


Chris Rywalt

December 9, 2008, 5:58 PM

I don't know why most of this thread holds no interest for me, but I am interested in the tulipmania. I was just reading about it. Turns out the common version of the story is, as usual, all wrong. Funny how that is. It seems every time I hear a story where humans behave in a way that's entirely irrational, ridiculous, and beyond imagining, and that story then goes on to be used to illustrate how "those people over there" will at times behave like crazy monkeys, at some later date it turns out the original story got it wrong and everyone was reasonable and sometimes even intelligent.

In the case of tulipmania, the behind the scenes story was, like now, one of the few changing the rules of the game mid-game when it looked like they were losing. Because the few don't play the same game the many play; they play the meta-game.

Here: Go read about tulipmania. While you're at it, read about Kitty Genovese. Then think about the Wal-Mart stampede and ask yourself, what was the real story here?



December 9, 2008, 6:31 PM

"I am so fucking tired of hearing why Hirst stinks or why Richard Prince stinks, it's tritely easy to do this, beat up a bum who can't fight back."

So George, are you saying that if somebody criticizes poor, hapless, helpless little Damien H. or similar, that makes the critic some sort of bully? Are you kidding, or just trying to get a rise out of us, as usual? Hell, Hirst could finance the bailout all by himself. Give me a break.


Chris Rywalt

December 9, 2008, 6:40 PM

I think George is saying it's easy to say Hirst or Prince are awful because there's no way they could (or would probably want to) defend themselves from awfulness. I think he's saying they're whipping boys -- need to complain about the current art scene, pull out Hirst or Price and beat them up.

And he's got a point, I think. Personally I like to trot out John Currin or Hirst whenever I need to pick on the art world, although there are days when Warhol or Beuys will do just as well.

Judging by what George says after that, he wants us to try, rather than robotically picking on Hirst, which pretty much everyone does, he wants us to try looking around for the good stuff, or anyway the better stuff, and grapple with that.

It's hard to do, though, because there's just so damned much stuff. It's easier to beat up on Hirst because we're all familiar with his work -- because of reproduction.

Although today I was with his pickled shark in the Met again, and once again I'm just mildly irritated. I think it's actually decayed since I saw it last. My son looked at it with some confusion. He liked the Assyrian carvings a lot more -- art from 6000 to 10000 fucking years ago. God how I wanted to touch a sphinx, just to see if I could feel the eons.



December 9, 2008, 7:29 PM

What's your point, Chris? There was such a thing as Tulipmania, ands Kitty Genovese's screams were largely ignored. Details may differ froim published accounts, but the basic facts are there.


Chris Rywalt

December 9, 2008, 8:45 PM

My point is that the original stories make humans out to be insane, or monsters, or both, while the more accurate versions are more easily believable, more humane. Tulipmania is one perfect example: It's often used as an example of unbridled greed and unfounded optimism in the free market followed by justified comeuppance; my reading of the full version, however, puts it in a different light. From what I read, it was more about a slightly unhinged, but still reasonable, market, badly skewed by a small number of individuals in pursuit of personal gain. I like that explanation better than the one requiring mass hysteria, thanks.

And the Kitty Genovese story, at least the way I heard it originally, is about as horrifying a story as one can imagine (especially for a lifelong New Yorker). Just the other day my psychiatrist, an amazingly well-educated and intelligent man -- vastly more so than myself -- related the story to me as true. To this day people still believe a large number of New Yorkers not only didn't call the police but actively spectated as a young woman was noisily raped and murdered before their very eyes -- which isn't even remotely what happened. (Noted authors and essayists Harlan Ellison and Alan Moore -- both known, not just for their fiction, but for their erudition -- based stories on the original account.)

Both stories are examples of a yarn badly tarted up to show humanity in the worst light possible. It seems to me we do enough for real that's bad without adding to it with fiction.


Chris Rywalt

December 9, 2008, 8:49 PM

Also, I get annoyed with writers who can't be bothered with a modicum of research given how easy it is these days. Harlan Ellison can be forgiven since he wrote his story back before the Internet and Wikipedia. (On the other hand, he's always prided himself on his research skills and often preens about the effort he puts into the facts, so maybe I shouldn't forgive him after all.)

These days, geez, Mark Brown, before you refer to tulipmania, throw the damned thing into Wikipedia and make sure it still makes sense.



December 9, 2008, 11:09 PM

I just came back from seeing the Francis Bacon's at Gagosian...... wish you were here.



December 9, 2008, 11:32 PM

It's all according to the spin, Chris, but still, the basic facts don't really seem to have been contradicted.

As for media exaggeration and mishandling of facts, how come no one is getting exercised about the media and the recent election?



December 10, 2008, 12:17 AM

Geez, I was thinking all day about Franklin's challenge to find the opportunities of the moment and you guys are talking about money. Well I'll jump in and post anyway:

My predictions:

DIY culture will spread of course.

The steam will go out of political art and cultural critique, although incompetence and corruption will continue of course. I think the Obama election was, at root, about skill. There was much more in the air, but when average people got into the polling booths on election day, I think they voted for skill, and much thanks to McCain and Palin for crystallizing this issue. So in art, skill will come back. Museum curators and academics will still hold onto the avant-garde dream, so we will still see a lot of de-skilled, junk art in curated exhibitions. There is also the fact that the deskilled culture in art schools will take years to work out of the system. Of course with cut backs at universities, it's possible skill will not come back. In that case, look to DIY and self motivated artists rather than universities for the re-emergence of skill.

Rich people will still buy art, but middlebrow art will prevail. The art establishment will continue to push the de-skilled, theme driven, political and cultural critique type art of the last 10 years. This will become the middlebrow art of the period. Above all, wealthy collectors will buy names, the names that were established during the previous boom.

Global terrorism will replace the Bush doctrine as the major destabilizing force in the world, but hopefully, the Obama administration will take the steps necessary to reduce terrorism and neutralize global jihad by helping the worlds hot spots to lift themselves out of the desperate poverty that breeds terror and jihad against western societies.

Artists will rediscover local and regional art scenes as part of a re-evaluation of community and home.

Hopefully we won' all be working on rebuilding roads and bridges. I'm too old for that now and you need to know somebody to get those jobs anyway.

So find a good place to hunker down, write if you find work, hell write anyway. We're going to need some good conversation to get us through a rough patch.



December 10, 2008, 7:38 AM

David, what is DIY culture?


Mark Brown

December 10, 2008, 8:05 AM

geez, Chris. I wasn't advocating or verifying, just throwing something I thought interesting out for discussion. Lighten up.



December 10, 2008, 8:43 AM


Do It Yourself. In the contemporary craft field, it's a hot topic. Etsy is the huge online market where DIYers as well as professional craft artists can sell their wares. There are events like the Radical Craft Fair. It was first spoken of as a radical anti-consumerist phenomenon but then has become highly consumerist, so it's rather ambiguous. As a web phenomenon, it's also thought of as anti-elitist, anti-gallery, democratic capitalism, which it is. It has no effect at all on the art world.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 9:32 AM

Mark, don't take me too seriously. I'm not that annoyed. Just briefly annoyed as I write about it. It's just a blog post, after all. Seriously: No sarcasm intended. You just happened to catch me right after I'd read up on the tulips. A week or two earlier and I wouldn't have said anything.

George, I'm uncertain about Francis Bacon. I've seen very little of his work in person and what I did see didn't hit me too hard, but I still feel I haven't seen enough to have an opinion. In reproduction, his work looks to me like it could go either way: I could like it or I could not care. I'm not sure.

I did see Morandi at the Met yesterday with Franklin, Supergirl, and my son, as well as a friend of Franklin's. I could see why Franklin likes him so much: You can see he's intently working on very specific problems of composition and color, but not in a dry, academic way. It's clear Morandi really cared about what he was doing and was excited by experimenting, and like a good experimentalist he limited certain things while varying other things. I could see him saying to himself, "Okay, that worked well with thin glazes. Now let me try it with an impasto approaching a paste!"

Perhaps the exclamation point is a bit much. Morandi easily conjures up words like "ascetic" and "monastic." In an earlier age he might've been in the monastery fields breeding peas.

I personally liked his earlier work more, but Franklin disagreed. He thought Morandi's heart wasn't in it. Morandi was fooling around with some quasi-Surrealist stuff, kind of stripped-down de Chirico, which I liked a lot for how clean and straightforward it is. I think Franklin found it perfunctory. Certainly it lacks the intense focus of Morandi's later work.

As I mentioned earlier, we also saw some Assyrian carvings which were really excellent. The Art and Love show (which Franklin kept calling "Lovin' Art") was pretty bad, I think, although it had the salutary effect of bringing out a lot of incredibly mediocre painting which made me feel better about my own work. One tends to think of the Renaissance as a time of unparalleled art, but one doesn't perhaps realize that there was a lot of crap made, too -- not everyone was Titian, and even Titian wasn't always on the ball. So seeing a Venus reclining on pillows which looks less Michelangelo and more Peter Max is a relief -- not everything one does has to be perfect.



December 10, 2008, 9:45 AM

Re #41. Chris

"... he wants us to try looking around for the good stuff, or anyway the better stuff, and grapple with that."

Close enough.

"... It's hard to do, though, because there's just so damned much stuff. It's easier to beat up on Hirst because we're all familiar with his work -- because of reproduction...."

That's the truth, the easy way out.

I mentioned Bacon earlier, not a peep of interest here.

FYI, DIY. The exhibition, Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, is at Gagosian on Madison Ave, it's up through Dec 12.

It is a must see if you are in NY. There's little info on the website, so you'll have to go to the gallery and just look at the paintings. It's the buzz show among NYC painters.



December 10, 2008, 9:50 AM

Except, Chris, that the painting you link couldn't possibly look like Michelangelo, because it was painted in the mid 15th century, a good generation before he was born, by a fairly obscure artist. It may not be a great masterpiece, but if you rank it with Peter Max, I'm afraid you're rather off the mark. It has considerably more substance and graphic punch than what I know by Max (unless, of course, one is looking at his stuff while high on something).



December 10, 2008, 9:54 AM


Go see the Bacon's at Gagosian, some of the small paintings are masterpieces and would hold up against anything.

As it happens I also finally went and saw the Morandi's at the Met. I was really hoping to see something I would like. I was hoping that maybe the paint would pull them off, but no, they do look like the jpegs. These are repressed, brain dead, repetitive, empty paintings, as boring as can be. I walked out on it.



December 10, 2008, 9:58 AM

Except that there was something a little bit Yellow Submarine about it - a likable naive thing. Chris more or less just wrote today's post for me. No problem - makes my job easier.

The non plus ultra online Bacon treatment was penned a couple of months ago by Bunny.



December 10, 2008, 10:04 AM

re #55,

You were in town according to chris, did you see the Bacons?

The show closes Friday.

And regardless of Bunnies nice article, what I was noting was that other artists were asking "have you seen the Bacon's yet?" which is something that doesn't happen too frequently



December 10, 2008, 10:17 AM

No, we aimed squarely at the Met, to see Morandi. Too bad about missing those Bacons, though.



December 10, 2008, 10:33 AM

Gee, too bad, the LG Madison gallery is at 77th and within walking distance of the Met. Also the Alberto Giacometti paintings were very good



December 10, 2008, 10:41 AM

Re the last sentence of 55, precisely. It's not that there's "not a peep of interest here," but rather no interest, at least on my part, in discussing Bacon (or much anything else) with someone who pompously boasts of walking out on Morandi and waxes rhapsodic over...Neo Rauch. Thanks, but I'd just as soon get into it with the bag boy at the supermarket.



December 10, 2008, 10:47 AM

George, it is obviously futile to waste time disagreeing with you about Morandi, but in my opinion your comments reflect badly on your judgement. Take another look.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 11:33 AM

If I can get in I'll try to see the Bacon show. I'm going to be in the city tomorrow but I'll be going to the SVA MFA show in which a friend of mine, Cathleen Cueto, will have something. That's after most galleries close. If I go in earlier I'll try to hit Gagosian, but it's out of the way. So it may wait for another day.

As far as Michelangelo, I know he's not strictly contemporaneous there, but I couldn't think of anyone else to drop in. Blog post, you know. Can't research everything.

As far as Peter Max, I found the flatness of the painting and something about the figures' proportions -- especially Venus' feet -- were Peter Max-like. Or anyway Yellow Submariney.

As far as Morandi, I have to admit I probably wouldn't have looked as hard as I did if not for Franklin. (He also accused me of doing a drive-by on Ghirlandaio. I think that's who it was. I walked past it without looking as closely as Franklin wanted.) I wasn't excited by his work, or even deeply moved. I could see how Franklin would like it, but I think Franklin's more intellectual than I am. Me, I could understand the appeal to a degree, but wasn't blown away or anything. Franklin got actively excited -- "He was doing this while Futurism was going on! You know what Futurism is like! Can you imagine?!" -- but I was only interested insofar as thinking about how Morandi had clearly carved himself a timeless niche amidst the insanity (literally, while he lived under the Fascists) of the 20th century. To see that some of the paintings were done in the early 1960s was a surprise, because they all looked like they'd been done in 1912, right next to Picasso and Braque (during their more mellow phases). That was intriguing as far as it goes, but, honestly, I do like more than that out of art.

Still, the work was better than Motherwell or Still or Newman, if you ask me (to name three other painters I wandered past that day).



December 10, 2008, 11:46 AM

Sadly, Morandi seems to be an"acquired taste" or "a painter's painter" or whatever other tired euphemism we choose to apply to really good painting that doesn't go over.

Of course, there it is in the Met. Somebody likes it, obviously.



December 10, 2008, 12:05 PM

Morandi goes over just fine, OP, though of course not with those who are too with-it for their cat, like the song says. I suppose great graphic work, which sells for next to nothing compared to spectacularly fraudulent rubbish like what Hirst's hired help churn out, doesn't "go over" either and never has. It's still great work, nonetheless. Just like the rubbish is still rubbish, regardless of price.



December 10, 2008, 12:48 PM

re#62 opie,

I went to see the Bacon's because someone told me the show was worth seeing. I haven't seen too many of his paintings, and up to now I would have withheld expressing judgment. I had seen a large painting of his at MOMA which I thought was weak. In general the others I've seen were ok but didn't stick in my memory. So when I went to the gallery I was pleasantly surprised by the smaller paintings (& diptychs, triptychs, which were tough but extraordinarily beautiful paintings. They seemed timeless.

I walked out feeling good and ten minutes later was down the stairs into the Lehman Collection section of the Metropolitan to see the Morandi's.

I was terribly disappointed with the Morandi's, I went in good faith with high hopes. I didn't say or think they were bad paintings, obviously they are not but they did nothing for me. I said I felt that they were repressed, brain dead, repetitive, empty paintings, as boring as can be, and that is what I felt — I left to look at something else.

In general when I go to look at paintings, especially in the Museum, I tend to walt through the entire exhibition before looking closely. I will usually have an immediate general emotional response and it has never failed me. In a really good exhibition it borders on elation. The Morandi's are in the same space the Fra Angelico's were a few years ago. For Fra Angelico I was elated, I couldn't wait to stop and look. In the same space, the Morandi's felt dead to me, nothing. I looked anyway, they are nice, but they aren't in the same league with the Bacon's I saw earlier, not even close. Why would I want to stay in that roomful of drab dreary paintings when just outside there is a Van Gogh, a Balthus, a Serat, etc, etc, sorry but they don't work for me.

There show a lot of things in the Met, including Neo Rauch, now Morandi, so what?


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 1:07 PM

Franklin was very taken with the big Balthus. I like it. I find its pedophilic overtones mildly disturbing, but I could just be imagining them.



December 10, 2008, 1:12 PM

Somebody take away George's apostrophe key, please... he's going to break it.



December 10, 2008, 1:15 PM

Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 1:16 PM

I didn't want to say anything, Marc, but yeah. Come on, George, there are supermarket vegetable department's that need tho'se apostrophe's more than you do!



December 10, 2008, 1:18 PM

...Courtesy of Edmonton native cartoonist Stephen Notley, I might add... although I never took to BTAF, myself. This one, however, is fine with me.



December 10, 2008, 1:19 PM

Me, I broke my ellipses key a long time ago... So, now I have to hit my period key three times... I'm bound to wear it out, too...


Bunny Smedley

December 10, 2008, 1:28 PM

I'm claiming the em dash before anyone else does — not that anyone else probably wants it quite as much as I do. (I went through an ellipsis phase when very young, after reading John Reed's 'Ten Days That Shook The World', but managed to get over that — and John Reed — before any real harm was done.)

PS I sometimes wish you all lived in London, or that I lived nearer to the exhibitions you discuss — relying on a decade-old memory of too many Morandis, and then on a slow drip-feed of Morandis thereafter, isn't quite the same somehow.)


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 1:31 PM

I'd suggest you come on over to New York but I don't think we allow anyone named "Bunny" in. Once here you can change your name to Bunny, but it can't start out that way.

I'm a big fan of the semicolon myself; I use them frequently and correctly. Em dashes are good also -- although I find I use the double-hyphen to ensure proper reproduction. Ellipses...should be avoided.



December 10, 2008, 1:35 PM

I would be surprised if a Morandi or a Bacon were ever seen in Edmonton, or ever will be, for that matter, so count your blessings, Bunny. The only Morandis I've ever seen in the flesh were in Spain, and the only Bacons this past spring in Dublin (and I didn't think much of them at all, truth be told).

Thanks again for writing that long and lovely piece, Bunny, which I just read again via Franklin's link...



December 10, 2008, 1:36 PM

MC apstrophee keez, fuckin deep man. paint it gray.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 1:40 PM

Oh, and Bunny, your essay on Byzantium 330-1453 is really well-written. Crisp and evocative.



December 10, 2008, 1:40 PM

Too late, he broke the whole keyboard. Darn...



December 10, 2008, 1:42 PM

All praise for Bunny's writing should go here, in order to make Franklin work harder...



December 10, 2008, 1:47 PM

The linked Balthus is like a Swiss Ingres.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 2:01 PM

Reading Bunny's work makes me feel like trashing my whole blog.



December 10, 2008, 2:05 PM

Yeah, if I work to make each post here as good as Bunny's, I'm going to end up posting half as often as Bunny.


Bunny Smedley

December 10, 2008, 2:13 PM

Chris, the name 'Bunny' descended upon me, gratuitously, during a four-year sojourn in western Massachusetts, for reasons at once more innocent and more obscure than posterity will doubtless assume. Does that make it any more admissible? Answer that, and I'll avoid trying to work out whether your use of the word 'crisp' in reference to the most shambolic, messy thing I've ever written was, in fact, ironic. (What to do when hopelessly overwhelmed by an exibition? Enact that whole feeling of utterly helpless incompetence in prose. Or, err, don't, which might have been better.)

For MC: do, though, always praise me on Franklin's site - because it's important that people never, ever comment on my own site - and also important that almost no one comments on Franklin's own amazing posts, e.g. the recent Rouault one, sharper and smarter than most of us deserve - Rouault was never on my mental map before, but all that's changed now. And what more can one ask from art writing than that?

Finally, though, Chris in particular - I am entirely serious about wishing that I saw more NYC shows, or that all of you were transported en masse to London - I very much enjoy your blog, but would doubtless find it even more interesting if we were able to compare actual experiences of the same exhibition, at the same time, rather than only experiences of the same artists, often at a chronological distance that outstrips even its geographical rival.


Bunny Smedley

December 10, 2008, 2:17 PM

Err, that word was meant to be 'exhibition'.

The dropped 'h' here and there, it's a London thing ....


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 2:31 PM

When I wrote that "Bunny" wasn't admissible, I was under the impression that you were an older gay man with large round spectacles. I'm not sure "Bunny" is admissible under any circumstances, but now I'll put in a good word for you.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 2:34 PM

I meant crisp very sincerely. Your prose is...well, it's British. Crisp and clipped and solid. Altogether the whole things holds up wonderfully. I tend to think I write all over the place, wandering from personal observations on the weather through pointless rants on, well, pretty much anything that comes to mind. With some occasional on-topic bits thrown in. Compared to mine, your essays are focused like lasers. In fact, to restate and amplify Franklin, if I tried to make every post on my blog as good as yours, I'd never write.

I can tell I liked your review because the style is rubbing off on me. You might not see it, but I can feel it here.

I don't comment wherever it is you write because I haven't been following you. But I think I might now. And if I'm ever in England, I'll look you up and we can go see something together. Unlikely, since I almost never go anywhere, but you never know.



December 10, 2008, 2:53 PM

re #67,
Thank you Franklin but I actually do know the correct usage of the "'"

I was thinking of Morandi's in the possesive sense not the plural, like they're his paintings, paintings he was responsible for.

It is interesting that no one bothered to explore my reasoning, rather they just take a quick dive for the mat.

I will also note that I thought the visitors in the Met were not very excited either, it wasn't just me. So if Morandi is supposed to be a painter's painter then there must be something there which connects to some painters, something they can identify with emotionally and psychologically. Fine, but not for me, I have no sympathy with his work.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 2:58 PM

I know of absolutely no one who refers to paintings in that way, George, so if you intended "the Bacon's" as the possessive, then you're really odd. Also, who uses the definitive article with the possessive? I would never say something like "the Rywalt's cars." The closest I could possibly come would be "the Rywalts' cars." Is English your first language?



December 10, 2008, 2:58 PM

Oh, your reasoning. That's what you call it. Morandi no more needs a defense from you than Oscar de la Hoya needs a defense from Kung Fu Panda. You just impugned your eye, is all.



December 10, 2008, 3:06 PM

By the way, I found Met visitors at the Morandi show to be quite absorbed. I got into a conversation with a couple of them who had driven up from Philly to see this show, just I had taken the train down from Boston, and we got to talking about one of the landscapes. I turned them on to the Kuretake brush pen I was sketching it with, and a good time was had by all.


Bunny Smedley

December 10, 2008, 3:08 PM

I was under the impression that you were an older gay man with large round spectacles.

Would you less surprised to learn that (a) I'm an older [than what? than some of you, anyway, although perhaps younger than others] heterosexual woman with medium-sized, largely horizonal, not quite trendy spectacles or that (b) at least four other online correspondents have assumed the same thing you did? (Tweed has also been mentioned, but that's not exactly a big departure from your vision, is it?)

Oh well, to paraphrase Nabokov (friend of 'Bunny' Wilson, if memory serves) in the somewhat overwritten but marvellous 'Ada', if I wasn't a heterosexual woman, then I'd have wanted to be a gay man.

And as for Morandi - what's extraordinary about his painting is, surely, something quiet? It seems odd to expect (most) other viewers to emote very obviously about what they are experiencing.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 3:15 PM

Oh, Bunny, dear, I found a photo of you and am now deeply in love. In fact I'm planning a good stalking. Long-distance stalking, of course, because, as I mentioned, I never go anywhere. But stalking nonetheless.

Then again, I might have been in love with you as an older gay man, too. Who knows?


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 3:17 PM

Have we seen George's work? I'm wondering now if it's so wild and maybe that's why he doesn't connect with Morandi.

As for me, clearly I didn't connect because his paintings don't involve naked women. Or telephone poles. Although a couple did involve landscapes with power lines.



December 10, 2008, 3:20 PM

How odd. It never occurred to me that Bunny was anything other than what she, in fact, is. I must not be reading enough Truman Capote these days. Or something.



December 10, 2008, 3:36 PM


Your stature is shrinking in my eyes. If you bothered to read what I said about Morandi there is no way you can impugn my eye. I saw the paintings, I said they were "good", not great but good. I've bothered to study him at an earlier point in time.

But what I don't get is an emotional response from the work and that has nothing to do with whether or not I'm "seeing" the paintings. Why would you think that it implies Morandi's paintings need some sort of defense from my remarks?

If I don't respond, I don't, it's not like faking an orgasm. There is a lot of work I don't respond to, usually I just won't say anything about it. I commented on the WDB's new work post, because I responded to his paintings, at least in the reproductions, enough to offer some commentary.

There is no rule that says good art will evoke a response in all of the audience, it is very clear that this is not the case. I question whether or not 'great' art can even do this, although that might be a characteristic of greatness.

So in the end I found Morandi's paintings boring, and I think he is a minor artist. But that is just my take and in the culture I get one vote. You are all allowed to disagree with me but it doesn't change how I felt about the works emotionally.



December 10, 2008, 3:56 PM

"Franklin, your stature is shrinking in my eyes."

Oh, dear. First Morandi, now Franklin. It appears no one is safe. Except Neo Rauch, of course. How very distressing. I suppose I will have to radically alter my entire outlook on art lest I become proscribed by some pontifical bull or other (and am thus forbidden, like poor Bunny, from so much as setting foot anywhere as fashionable as NYC).


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 4:13 PM

Trust me, Jack: If they'll let me in, they'll let in anybody. Except people named Bunny.

As far as what Bunny is, or is not, I often don't do research on people, unless they put up a helpful link, and sometimes not even then. So to me "Bunny Smedley" is a name on a screen associated with some text; in this case, with a review or two and some comments.

From that, because I'm strange in this way, I often cobble together an idea of who the person really is. Usually this is entirely fanciful and unrelated to the actual person. So, knowing nothing about Bunny Smedley beyond the name and a few words indicating their location in England, I came up with an older (late 50s) confirmed bachelor in tweed (possibly with elbow patches) and an oversized pair of round spectacles, kind of like Philip Johnson, only more effete. Bunny Smedley certainly sounds like a good British boarding school name, doesn't it? "Smedley old chap, fetch the butler and have him bring up more tea. There's a dear. Now, what were you saying about Whitefarthing-on-spitschapel and his ironic use of iambic pentameter?"

Anyway. I do these things. Some day I'll tell you what I think you look like.



December 10, 2008, 4:28 PM

Where is that picture of Bunny, Chris? I wanna see.

I first read Bunny as she was describing ambling through some show pushing a stroller, so that's have I imagine her. She is not tweedy and intellectual looking at all.

And I am sure she is better looking than Bunny Wilson, who was not gay but actually bore some resemblance to Truman Capote.

George, your dismissal of Morandi was a good bit stronger than you seem to recall.


Chris Rywalt

December 10, 2008, 5:37 PM

Is it okay with you, Bunny, if I link to your photo?



December 10, 2008, 6:10 PM

I'll save you the trouble of imagining, Chris. I look like Richard Gere, only younger and more intellectual. Hope that was helpful.



December 10, 2008, 6:19 PM

If it's on the web it's public, Chris.



December 10, 2008, 6:26 PM

Yeah, but Bunny's identity is slightly less hidden than yours and slightly more hidden than mine. We'll wait for her approval.



December 10, 2008, 6:36 PM

Fortunately, there's no problem with my picture. Just google "Richard Gere" images and you'll be pretty much seeing me. Just remember I look fresher but more profound.



December 10, 2008, 6:37 PM

fresher but more profound

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new tagline.



December 10, 2008, 6:52 PM

George: I said they were "good", not great but good.

This is false. Among other things you called them "brain-dead," which you've thrown out against abstraction in general, and I hope it's bait in this case because these are some of the most considered, self-critical paintings of the 20th Century. If you don't like them, fine, they didn't thrill Chris either, but "brain-dead" tells me that you're not using your eye.



December 10, 2008, 7:03 PM

Franklin, you're a spoil sport. It would be awkward for her to respond to this.

Bunny, forget it.



December 10, 2008, 10:03 PM

In comment #64 I clarified my position to Opie

"I was terribly disappointed with the Morandi's, I went in good faith with high hopes. I didn't say or think they were bad paintings, obviously they are not but they did nothing for me. I said I felt that they were repressed, brain dead, repetitive, empty paintings, as boring as can be, and that is what I felt — I left to look at something else."

Sorry if it hurts your feelings but that's how I felt.



December 10, 2008, 10:05 PM

Sorry if it hurts your feelings to point out that you have a serious lapse in your taste.



December 10, 2008, 10:43 PM

Franklin, you are so predictable, childish.

Why don't you just ignore me and write a blog post about Morandi, do you think you can do it?

Be sure you cover the dry Holiday Inn color schemes, the fantastic compositions and the metaphorical references to his sisters.

Please tell us what they are all about, I'll shut up and wait with baited breath.




December 10, 2008, 11:09 PM

Likewise, I'll look forward to your response - that what Morandi represents isn't going to be a part of the future, because that's not where the culture is going, and you know because you talk to younger painters. Sorry, but in terms of predictability, you're like a clock.


Bunny Smedley

December 11, 2008, 12:04 AM

Re linking to that photo, my only (mild) reservations are that it isn't one I put up myself or approved, that the set of photos include a lot of people I know socially who might not want to associate themselves with my view on art or in fact anything, that my son figures more prominently in it than I do - and also that I look like a boss-eyed, pot-bellied madwoman!

But do what you like, Franklin - as Opie rightly says, once it's on the internet, it's public. Maybe someday I should post a photo that's slightly less hideous?

On the other hand, it's sort of fun to see what sort of image people derive from my prose alone, which I suppose is why I chose a photo of a half-Burmese cat batting with pointless belligerence at a Christmas tree ornament to represent myself, rather than anything more literal.

But that's really quite enough about me. Let's get back to arguing about Morandi.



December 11, 2008, 12:26 AM

Maybe George has been eating too many worm's (sic), but I think he meant "bated" breath... he probably just, um, meant it in the plural, or something...


Bunny Smedley

December 11, 2008, 1:05 AM

Right - there's now a recent, officially sanctioned photo of me here, in which I am not wearing tweed, not wearing glasses, and not at my computer. Stalk away.



December 11, 2008, 8:49 AM

Thanks Bunny. That's about how I expected you to look, except with dark hair. Not at all horn-rimmed, tweedy and "intellectual", but with an expression of pensive skepticism.

Pictured or not, you seem to have a fan club here.

MC, I think George meant "baited", a kind of poetic way of saying that his words are bait for us to take.



December 11, 2008, 10:17 AM

No, no, Bunny. That's not right. You're not supposed to look like Kate Winslet's more interesting sister. You're supposed to have dark hair and look more Bloomsbury-ish, though not as pinched and underfed.



December 11, 2008, 10:21 AM

Franklin, don't waste your time. You're dealing with an octopus-like creature that not only spews ink to get out of a jam, but also happens to be made out of Jell-O. Just let it slink away. Besides, the ink is not fooling anybody.


Bunny Smedley

December 11, 2008, 1:20 PM

How on earth can I fail to defer to the wisdom of someone who's coincidentally the author of that Kate Winslet comment - and is it ever worth trying to argue Opie out of his well-considered critical judgements?

Doubtless you two are right - I'll try to be less blonde henceforth. It's only a short-lived seasonal effect, anyway. Rather like a ptarmigan, I look completely different when out of the summer sunlight. Only the prose style, weird politics and lack of enthusiasm for the great bulk of contemporary, 'Frieze'-type art remain unalterable.

Now, isn't there a painting or something that someone wants to discuss?



December 11, 2008, 2:58 PM

"...and is it ever worth trying to argue Opie out of his well-considered critical judgements?"

I wish someone would, Bunny. Anyway, you are not too blond.

Forgive us for taking such undue interest in you.

Franklin has posted Morandi, so we can talk about that now.


Chris Rywalt

December 12, 2008, 9:55 PM

The photo I found of Bunny was much, much nicer than the official one.

Maybe I searched on "playboy bunny smedley". I forget.


Chris Rywalt

December 12, 2008, 9:59 PM

By the way, Bunny, I hope you're not seriously upset about our talking about you here. I only did it because I was really impressed by your writing. I wouldn't have thought about your gender at all except partway through the Byzantium piece you wrote "I'm a treasure kind of gal" or something like that and I was like, what? Female? Then I thought, wait, an older gay man might call himself a girl also. I need to find out now!

The thing that's weird for me is your voice, when I read your comments here, has actually changed for me. Online stuff is just strange, isn't it?

Anyway, my point is, if your writing were bad, I wouldn't care about any of it. I'm only playing around because of your talent. I have almost no image in my head of George, for example.


Bunny Smedley

December 13, 2008, 5:29 AM

By the way, Bunny, I hope you're not seriously upset ...

Not remotely upset, Chris, seriously or otherwise - vastly amused, more like!

You are, however, absolutely right that online stuff is just strange. Often in an entertaining way, though.


Chris Rywalt

December 13, 2008, 11:39 AM

Oh good. I'm often...inappropriate. Which would be fine, I guess, if I knew when I was doing it, but I usually don't. So nice to know this wasn't one of those times.



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