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Interview with an art baron

Post #1287 • February 2, 2009, 7:10 AM • 30 Comments

Via Artsjournal, Art Basel co-director Marc Spiegler talks with the Japan Times:

I think the market will become more consolidated, more serious, and the people who remain will do so because they truly love and want to support art. Collectors are defying the conventional wisdom that you shouldn't buy art in difficult times. For them, this is exactly the time to buy. It's a commitment test. If you're in it now, you're not in it for the money.

Sounds like something we could take advantage of. But hold on:

You can't expect a conservative program to succeed because that entails appealing to the lowest common denominator. The only thing that can succeed is something that's unique, something that collectors only have one chance to buy because there's only one like it.

Oh well - after all, he has illusions of progressiveness to sell.




February 2, 2009, 10:44 AM

How about appealing to the highest common denominator, instead?

p.s. All my works are unique.



February 2, 2009, 11:06 AM

Art Basel, at this point, must be seeing the bottom of their vast garbage bin loosening up and about to fall out. I would have to take anything from the director of that vulgar mess with a pound of salt. If the recession does anything good, it will flush out that sideshow with a fire hose.

I don't understand the second part of the quote. Most artwork is unique. What is his point?



February 2, 2009, 11:27 AM

I think he means "unique" as defined by current artiness, works that meet that expectation. Trendy + unique.



February 2, 2009, 12:35 PM

Which of course is as ununique as you can get.



February 2, 2009, 12:42 PM

I am increasingly of the opinion that interviewing certain people on certain subjects is too much of a waste of time to make it worth the bother. In other words, when it's pretty much a foregone conclusion what the person's going to say, why even ask?



February 2, 2009, 1:28 PM

I thought the opposite of unique was ique...



February 2, 2009, 2:20 PM

Asking Spiegler about the art market is like asking Al Gore about "global warming" or Nancy Pelosi about the "stimulus package." What the hell are they going to say, except exactly what one would expect? Spare me. I don't have the time for this foolishness.



February 2, 2009, 2:45 PM

Very good MC.

So lady sees mouse.
She goes "eek!"
Man says "naw, I see them all over the place".

Or, "Like everyone else, I just ique out a living"

Or, "what's so unusual about that old insect?"
"Oh, he's antique"

Sorry. Can' t help myself.


Chris Rywalt

February 2, 2009, 3:38 PM

How do you catch a unique rabbit? You nique up on it!

How do you catch a tame rabbit? Tame way!



February 2, 2009, 4:04 PM

I highly recommend the video of Marlene Dumas that Chris linked to above. It is clearly a TYPE SPECIMEN of what we have come to. And, it would appear, of early Alzheimers.

The paintings, amply presented, are beyond belief. This show is at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART in NEW YORK CITY.



Chris Rywalt

February 2, 2009, 4:13 PM

I actually feel a little bad for her because that video makes it amazingly clear that she's completely bewildered and bamboozled. She has absolutely no idea what she's doing. I thought her paintings were pretty bad when I thought she was doing them on purpose that way. Her rambling makes it clear she's not even painting badly intentionally like DeKooning; she just doesn't know any better.



February 2, 2009, 4:37 PM

I would watch the video, but my doctor advises that I have to cut down on sneering. He says if I don't get it under control, I will either become a homicidal maniac or a cult leader. Still, I truly feel OP's pain regarding what MoMA has become. Let's not even begin to reflect on the significance of Koons balloons at the Met.


Chris Rywalt

February 2, 2009, 4:38 PM

Jack, I didn't LOL, but I did smirk a little. Pretty good! Cut down on the sneering. Snort.



February 2, 2009, 5:12 PM

Not to push Jack over the edge, but did anyone see the panel talk at the Hammer for Oranges and Sardines? Besides Gary Garrels who vainly tries to get a conversation going, Charline von Heyl is the only one who can present an idea and a complete sentence at the same time - and I like some of the painters in the show very much - Amy Sillman, Von Heyl, Christopher Wool. The painter who can both paint and talk, let alone write, is a rare breed.


Chris Rywalt

February 2, 2009, 5:36 PM

Even for a painter who can't talk, Dumas makes herself look bad. I understand that some painters are cantankerous and communicate mostly in grunts. That's okay. But being willing to talk aimlessly and heedlessly about fluff, that's bad.



February 2, 2009, 6:05 PM

"present an idea and a complete sentence at the same time"

Really, David. That's asking a lot, don't you think?

I just went through one of those things. I won't say where. Painful? There's nothing like a shy, hesitant, inarticulate moderator to jazz things up. I was driven to tell stories I more or less made up on the spot.


Chris Rywalt

February 2, 2009, 8:18 PM

Next time take some jokes.



February 3, 2009, 9:44 AM

The trouble with Dumas is not Dumas. Nobody has to be smart, witty, articulate and/or paint worth a damn. The trouble is where she's been placed by art world "authorities" (massive snorting) and "major" collectors (dangerously high sneering levels), all of whom are clearly supposed to know what's what and most certainly presume to do so.

I have far more contempt for the enablers of Dumas and comparable artists than I do for those artists themselves. This is why I've lost respect for the system, pretty much all of it. I'm not primarily referring to the dealers, who are out to make money and act as one would expect. The real scandal involves the institutional types, ostensible experts and would-be connoisseurs.

OK, I have to stop now. My doctor says I may have to be put on medication soon.


Chris Rywalt

February 3, 2009, 11:10 AM

Jack sez:
The trouble with Dumas is not Dumas.

I agree to an extent. It's not her fault she's in waters too deep for her. On the other hand, she isn't turning them away. No one forced her to blather on idiotically for the camera. No one is making her sell her crap paintings.

Cezanne was known for destroying his paintings. Sometimes even ones he'd sold. He'd get them back to "fix" them and fix them by burning them.

This is what Yeats meant when he said the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.



February 3, 2009, 11:42 AM

That phrase first became widely used back in the Mcarthy era, in the early '50s, when it was not only true but true for the whole country.



February 3, 2009, 12:39 PM

Chris, I wasn't referring to the wretched interview per se. That would be nothing if she were anywhere near as good as the system makes her out to be. I don't need visual artists to impress me with how well they talk on camera, just as I don't need opera singers to impress me with how well they play chess.

The problem here is the glaring disconnect between her status and her actual talent. MoMA should be embarrassed, but of course embarrassment, apparently over anything, is now considered hopelessly outmoded. Just ask Mr. Rangel, Mr. Geithner or Mr. Daschle.


Chris Rywalt

February 3, 2009, 12:39 PM

Over the past few years I've come to believe that the best's lack of conviction is a huge problem. Or as someone else once said, evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

I've made it my new policy, for example, not to tolerate littering. When I see someone litter, I confront them (if possible). I guess it helps that I'm six feet tall and three hundred pounds, and also that I've got enough gray in my hair. I can be a cranky old man and not get beat up for it. (Or as one of my studio mates put it, guys on the street have to make quick decisions: That big guy may not in fact be a ninja death master, but do I want to chance it?)

Littering may be a small evil, but, you know, I don't bump into murders in progress all that often. I do what I can. I've tried to steel myself, in my mind, to do the right thing, as I see it, when I see it. It's become a conscious decision. Every week I recite the Boy Scout Promise and the Boy Scout Law, but I'm trying more to really live them.

In other words, I'm trying to be one of the best with conviction. It's not easy but I think it's worth it.

But it does make me less happy when I see someone else falling short.


Chris Rywalt

February 3, 2009, 12:42 PM

Jack sez:
I don't need visual artists to impress me with how well they talk on camera, just as I don't need opera singers to impress me with how well they play chess.

Agreed one hundred percent. If her art were fantastic, she could be an idiot savant for all I'd care. I might be amazed, but it'd be fine.

I just think I was happier with my mental image of her as a depressed brooding spectre angrily beating on her canvases with ugly paint because the world sucks. Instead she's a deluded bimbo. Very sad.



February 3, 2009, 1:26 PM

Well, Chris, it's true that if someone's art stardom has no real basis in artistic talent, s/he should at least have a sufficiently striking persona (and deluded bimbo won't cut it). People like Hirst, Schnabel, Warhol, even Emin obviously knew that instinctively. But with so many people "in the know" tripping all over themselves (and each other) to enable Dumas, she could have an IQ of 60.



February 3, 2009, 1:52 PM

It occurs to me the Dumas case is like that of anyone who becomes immensely popular and materially successful based on a distinctly dubious "talent." It happens. And not infrequently. The main difference here is how seriously she's taken by people who are extravagantly exhibitionistic about their art(sy) seriousness. In other words, the main difference is in the degree of pretentiousness.



February 3, 2009, 4:19 PM

I'm reminded of an article by some literary type (apparently legally blind) who went into raptures over Lisa Yuskavage (who may have lost out to Dumas for not being sufficiently, uh, "dark"). The poor woman (the writer) went on about "beautiful painting" as if she were discussing a cross between John Singer Sargent and Velazquez. I was not amused.

There comes a time when one just has to say, Enough stuff and nonsense. I'm not putting up with this bullshit any more. The hell with all of them.



February 3, 2009, 6:39 PM

Literary types are usually legally blind, Jack. Staring at small type and thinking about stories does that.

Maybe we can get a mob to go to MoMA and howl "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" like Peter Finch did in NETWORK.


Chris Rywalt

February 3, 2009, 9:31 PM

I'm actually working up a very angry manifesto. Thinking of changing my blog and everything.

The trouble is I'm hot for it right now because my depression has lifted -- no idea why, it just has -- and been replaced by ANGER. My psychiatrist would say that's good. He considers anger a positive emotion: It means you don't like how things are right now and you want to change them. So he'd be thrilled to hear I'm angry.

That's all okay. The trouble is, if my depression descends again, I'll retreat. I'll go back into my bed and pull the covers over my head. And the righteous anger will have been for nothing.

If I can keep it going, though, it could be fun.



February 6, 2009, 5:31 AM

New name for you: the AntiChris.


Chris Rywalt

February 6, 2009, 6:52 PM

If only.



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