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Do the hustle

Post #1413 • November 4, 2009, 8:02 AM • 145 Comments

Pretty Lady:

...a business that generates a $75K monthly overhead for a white room filled with arcane, useless objects can only be sustained by the kinds of people who happily pay themselves multimillion dollar bonuses in taxpayer money after their personal actions torch the global economy. It can only be sustained by the kinds of people who are driven to accumulate infinitely more than everybody else, no matter how many others go sick, hungry or unemployed. It can only be sustained, in other words, by sociopaths.

Annie Bissett:

I faced these issues this week as I wrestled with the question of how to best take advantage of the fact that one of my prints will be in New York City for the next month. I decided to act like an illustrator and have a postcard made, and I've been collecting a short list of people in the NY metro area to send cards to. First: friends and family. Next: all my NY-based illustration clients. And then I looked for galleries to alert. The IFPDA Print Fair will be happening while my print is hanging, so I looked at the list of exhibitors and added a few who deal in contemporary prints to my list. Then I got a copy of the August issue of Art In America and went through the NY gallery listings. About 800 of them. I was able to eliminate quite a few of them just from the descriptions, but I looked at the web sites of maybe 1/2 of them. I found about 40 that deal with work something like my work and are open to emerging artists and added them to my mailing list. All of this took about 3 days. I have a list now of about 100 people to send cards to announcing the IPCNY show.

Frank Stella:via

Kazakina: You have been a working artist for 50 years. Do you wake up every morning and go to the studio?

Stella: No, I wake up every morning thinking about servicing my debt. I have to pay for what I do. And in the last 20 years, I've done it all by myself.

Kazakina: Don't you have a dealer supporting your production?

Stella: No. There's just not enough capital to keep going at the rate that I make work.

Kazakina: How much is that?

Stella: Take a guess.

Kazakina: $10 million a year?

Stella: No, not that much, but half of that would be close. That's not so easy to come up with.

Kazakina: Even if you worked with someone like Larry Gagosian?

Stella: I've been with Larry. It's hard to get money out of him. He's responsible to, essentially, the stockholders who are putting up the money. Those guys want 17-18 percent return on their money. I am not that successful.




November 4, 2009, 9:00 AM

The problem is not so much the hustle, but what it's based on, what it's really for, and what it really accomplishes.



November 4, 2009, 9:24 AM

Speaking of sociopathy, who's got time or energy or money or all the other resources spent on envy? Too much effort for too little gain.



November 4, 2009, 9:31 AM

Who's envious? I think PL figured out her place in the scheme of things.



November 4, 2009, 9:38 AM

Well, I guess that's a place to be if that's what PL wants.


that guy

November 4, 2009, 9:52 AM

Make art for yourself and those who care about you. A loan shark wouldn't give Stella money. As shady as a loan shark is, he knows how to be on the right side of a bet. The banks who got us into this mess, are not nearly as savvy. The entire system is utterly unsustainable.



November 4, 2009, 10:56 AM

Stella appears to be in need of a little reality check. Or a little humility. Or both.



November 4, 2009, 11:09 AM

Right, Jack, but you could say that about the whole deal. Stella tries to come off like he's a victim of the deal, but he's really just the other side of the coin, a coin which has no existence or relationship to anything outside itself. It exists inasmuch as people acknowledge it.



November 4, 2009, 11:37 AM

The Hustle has its roots in swing dancing, an old-fashioned, with a real partner, type of movement that has some real substance behind it. Funny how it has come to connote something sub-rosa and mischievous.

The NYT article on Larry Gagosian can be read without paying attention to the editorializing and sheds some light for an outsider like myself. I can't see any reason to want to exclude myself from his operation and understand well why Ed Ruscha would donate a painting to plug a hole in his ship. On the other hand, like Pretty Lady, I also understand that I never will be part of it - so I just move on to something I can be part of, like Artblog. I don't see the point, however, in calling Gagosian a name like "sociopath", though he certainly is no Mother Teresa - nor could he be and perform the function he has chosen for himself.

Stella's comments are interesting, but leave me wondering to what extent they are true. He doesn't seem like the martyr type.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 11:42 AM

Yes, Tim, it takes a special kind of person to be envious of a sociopath, and I'm not that special.

And yes, that is what I want.



November 4, 2009, 11:46 AM

I'll take some issue with Jack (a rare circumstance) because I know Frank, and can came come to his defense here.

This may sound like Hollywood flak but he is one of the most unassuming, unpretentious people around. His problem is that he is an obsessive maker. Last time I had dinner with him he was drawing all over the tablecloth, talking about helixes and materials and such and joking about how much his production addiction costs him. I suppose he could get more realistic, but there is no ego problem there.



November 4, 2009, 11:50 AM

John, in the politics of envy, the one with the most gets demonized.

Nice to hear from you, PL. If that's what you want, then good for you. But then, you have no complaint.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 11:57 AM

John, I'm not so much 'calling a name' as calling it like I see it. I might not bother except that when I read that article, during a discussion about it on Ed W.'s blog, it seemed like a glaringly obvious and disturbing fact that nobody was mentioning.

It also helps me to put things in perspective for myself, personally, because I have worked closely on two occasions with an artist that Gagosian represents, getting burned in the process. Something as simple as realizing 'oh, that's how these people think, and I'm not signed up for that, so I shouldn't engage with them' does a lot toward helping me move past it.


Oriane Stender

November 4, 2009, 12:22 PM

"It can only be sustained by the kinds of people who are driven to accumulate infinitely more than everybody else"

Isn't that the essence of capitalism? I don't quite understand why this is news.

The business end of the art world, the buying and selling part, is a completely different arena from the making end. But I'm not sure why people get so hung up on this distinction. Many - probably most - artists are not temperamentally suited to working in the business end, or even to having much to do with it. That's one reason for having a middle man (the dealer). There are many reasons not to have a middle man, but that only works if an artist can do the work of a dealer - the marketing, schmoozing, networking, etc., herself. I don't think Gagosian is a sociopath. He's a capitalist, a businessman.

I think this is a different issue from PL deciding to show her work in a different context. (Which isn't really an issue; it's a personal decision which makes PL happy and productive, so I'm all for it.)


Oriane Stender

November 4, 2009, 12:39 PM

ps Sorry to comment and run - I'm interested in the discussion - but I'll check back in later.



November 4, 2009, 12:41 PM

PL, in case it wasn't clear to you, I didn't mean that you envy a 'sociopath'. I think O. Stender's comment in #13 gets closer to my meaning.

BTW, I hope the little one is well.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 12:46 PM

you have no complaint.

If you really can't see the difference between "I'm pissed because I want all those resources for myself" and "I'm pissed because I'd rather see those resources going to the millions of people who need them and would make good use of them," I can't help you. The essence of a democracy is that I, personally, don't run things. It's a pity that some people have found methods to bypass that.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 12:52 PM

Isn't that the essence of capitalism?

Again, there's a big difference between "I will use my resources as I see fit, to benefit myself and the things I care about" and "I will use my resources to decimate the competition in any unscrupulous way available to me." The former is a truly free market; the latter is anything but free for the vast majority of people.



November 4, 2009, 12:57 PM

OP, no doubt you're better qualified to analyze Stella's mindset than I am, but given the kind of operating budget he's talking about, and the actual artistic worth of what he's turning out, I'd say he could definitely do with a better sense of proportion. The same could be said, in principle, of the Becky Smith/Bellwether meltdown.

Even if, with Stella, there is no hubris involved in the usual sense, there does appear to be some sort of folly, not to say cluelessness. Justifying the kind of overhead he's talking about is mighty difficult unless one's so rich that money is no object, or unless one is, without question, a Great Artist for the Ages who simply cannot be denied whatever one wants to do in terms of making work.



November 4, 2009, 12:59 PM

OK, I see now. You're upset because the world isn't fair.

Who determines 'good use'?

Artists of all kinds bring ENDLESS grief on themselves by not having much understanding of or appreciation for capitalism.


Oriane Stender

November 4, 2009, 1:06 PM

If "the things I care about" are "to decimate the competition in any unscrupulous way available to me" then there is no difference between those two statements.

But I read that article about Gogo and I don't remember any unusual decimation of the competition. It seems to me that the things he cares about are success, money, reputation, fame - basically the American Dream but without the warm homey frosting on top.

I don't mean to argue semantics with you, but I just don't really get the connection between
"People like Becky Smith and Gagosian are (or depend on) sociopaths to keep their business going" and
"I've decided not to have anything to do with the art world."



November 4, 2009, 1:09 PM

#19 was in reply to #16. Re #17, PL, seems like you're trapped in some sort of idealism.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 1:11 PM

Oh, I appreciate capitalism just fine; I anticipate that getting installation shots of my work looking splendid in some nice capitalistic businesses will assist my capitalistic marketing of said work immensely.

I am pissed about avoidable predation. Also about gross and pejorative oversimplification of my motives.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 1:16 PM

The connection between the two statements, O, is, as Tim correctly points out, one of idealism. The art world manipulates people by paying lip service to a certain set of ideals, while operating under the opposite set. I'm annoyed with myself for falling for it, but I note that I'm not the only artist to do so. Not by a long shot.



November 4, 2009, 1:19 PM

PL, what exactly are your motives? So far, what I know is how disappointed you are that you've not been let in (on your terms, perhaps) to a world that you don't seem to have any use for.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 1:20 PM

Oh, and when you read that article about Gogo, you must have skipped the part that explains how he sells works of art that he doesn't own or have the title to, to people who don't know who owns them. I call that an invasion of boundaries, which is a primary trait of sociopathy.


Pretty Lady

November 4, 2009, 1:34 PM

What are your motives in asking that question, Tim? So far your tone has consistently come across as condescending, dismissive and reductionistic. What's your complaint? Why on earth would you immediately assume that anyone who comments on an obviously screwed-up system that touches directly on their professional livelihood is only motivated by envy? That perhaps I'm motivated by 1) physical survival, 2) creative survival, 3) community, 4) social justice, 5) spiritual drive, 6) aesthetic outrage, and any number of other things?

Plus, I now have a daughter. It is of immense concern to me that the environment she grows up into is supportive of her needs as a human being--physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional. Can you really not understand that a parent might look around the world as it is at the moment and freak out a little bit?



November 4, 2009, 1:47 PM

From the NYT Gagosian piece:

"Mr. Gagosian... quickly developed a refined eye for great art."

Really. You don't say. Let's see: Hirst. Koons. Richard Prince. Julian Schnabel...

But of course. I just don't get it, is all. It comes with being a pothead.

Still, maybe I misread that astonishing statement. Maybe the writer meant that Gagosian developed a refined eye for art that would sell for great sums. To Gagosian, I expect, it amounts to the same thing anyway, or might as well.



November 4, 2009, 1:47 PM

"...any unscrupulous way available to me." It's a nation of laws, not ethics.

'Avoidable predation.' In capitalism avoiding predation is up to the individual or the individual's representative. Caveat emptor. Ya pays ya money, ya takes ya chances. Got a better plan?

Idealism: Pragmatism trumps all other isms.



November 4, 2009, 2:08 PM

PL, I have no complaint that I know of. I have reactions and (I hope) at least thoughtful replies. The comment that Franklin posted seemed, out of context, hugely about envy. If you've made anything clear with your blog and commentary, it's how bitter you are about not getting into a world you (rightly, in my opinion) decry, a world which has no practical existence outside of itself. All of the energy you expend on that 'system' you intend to have nothing to do with... Hmm...

The world you are so concerned about is what it is and was and will be.

As for my manner, well...



November 4, 2009, 2:13 PM

Oh, and, PL, instead of answering my question, you changed the subject. Very good.



November 4, 2009, 2:55 PM

Tim, PL answered your question as clear as day in #26, while skewering the question itself, rightly so, because this whole angle about the writer's motives lives next door to ad hominem. I read her blog as well, and detect neither bitterness nor envy. Irritation, sure, but intelligent irritation, otherwise I wouldn't have quoted it.

Postmodernists used to come here every so often to remark on my bitterness and envy as well. It's a facile charge to make and an impossible one to refute. Instead I would talk about good I feel about life. PL is one of the most well-adjusted people I've ever met. I'll vouch for her integrity, and her motives are not up for discussion.



November 4, 2009, 3:18 PM

As for Gagosian as a person, a human, he would appear to be not that far removed from Bernie Madoff, even if his dealings are at least technically legal. He would appear to be simply a business man, or business machine, who happens to deal in very pricey art, the artistic merit of which is incidental (or at best quite secondary to what it can be sold or traded for). I expect he would operate essentially the same way if he dealt in real estate or some other commodity, even though the details would necessarily differ.

No, there's no law that says he has to care more about the art than the money and the other perks that come with it, and there's definitely no law that says he has to even remotely resemble Mother Teresa. No doubt he can be very useful and rewarding, certainly materially, to very select artists (select obviously implying nothing about artistic merit, but rather degree of marketability).

So yes, I can understand why someone like Ruscha would be perfectly OK with Gagosian. Still, Ruscha can keep him.



November 4, 2009, 3:21 PM

Franklin, you're welcome to your interpretation. I don't share it, especially the 'intellegent irritation' part.

The part about PL being well-adjusted I'm glad to know. But I'm responding to what is being written, not about people I don't know.
And I stand by my comments.



November 4, 2009, 3:24 PM

Well put, Jack.



November 4, 2009, 4:06 PM

I understand from Madoff's testimony that he expected to get caught long before he did because apparently the mechanics of the scam were easily exposed and in fact were noted several times by the SEC and others. I guess he just went ahead scamming and waited for the knock at the door. Ya gotta love it.

I would not be at all surprised if Gagosian is quite aware that he is selling garbage, but quite pleased that he does it better than anyone.Why not?

If I had a Richard prince painting I would certainly exchange it for $5 million, in fact, as quickly as possible.



November 4, 2009, 4:24 PM

Oh, I agree that Gagosian may be perfectly aware that he's selling garbage, but I think that's neither here nor there as far as he's concerned. That's beside the point, or a moot point. What matters is what he can get for the stuff, whatever the stuff may be, of whatever quality. I'm sure he's more than happy to sell good work if it's marketable enough to suit him, but again, good or bad is not the key issue (assuming it's an issue at all).



November 4, 2009, 5:12 PM

Jack! Larry Gagosian is "not far removed from Bernie Madoff"??? While Stella's complaint that it is hard to get the money from him is quite plausible (many art dealers are like that to their artists), he is a broker, not a ponzi scheme operator.

And Pretty Lady, "broker" describes his role in the deals that were detailed better than "invasion of boundaries". He knows who wants the goods and who has them that is willing to part with them, and he takes something for arranging the deal. As long as everyone gives their consent, there is no invasion.

While I am not quite sure what Jack meant at the end of #32, Gagosian and Ed Ruscha have been friends for a long time. Ruscha has a record of providing substantial help for his friends. For me, that explains what he said as well as it needs to be explained, though the remark he included about Twombly adds some humor to the statement.

I feel strange defending "the system", but really, bad taste is not a moral issue.


Chris Rywalt

November 4, 2009, 5:27 PM

John, it's not that Gagosian knows who wants something and who else is willing to part with it. He's been known to take money for a painting he doesn't own and only then approach the painting's actual owner with an offer. In other words, Gagosian has sold objects he doesn't even own.

The art world is different from real estate or stocks or a lot of other markets because it's opaque. That's why Gagosian is in art and not any other field: Because what he does would be, in any other field, illegal.



November 4, 2009, 6:04 PM

"He's been known to take money for a painting he doesn't own and only then approach the painting's actual owner with an offer. In other words, Gagosian has sold objects he doesn't even own." If that's true (and I'm not doubting it), then why hasn't he been sued down to his underwear?



November 4, 2009, 6:29 PM

Tim: my guess is Gagosian either delivered the painting or returned the money, assuming we are dealing with facts here.

Again, it feels strange defending the system. But my only beef with it is the fact so much bad stuff is participating.



November 4, 2009, 6:33 PM

I don't know Chris. "Investors" sell shares of stock they don't own but someone else does (short selling) and shares no one owns because they don't exist (naked short selling). Right now, neither practice is illegal.



November 4, 2009, 6:36 PM

John, my Madoff comment explicitly referred to Gagosian as a human being, or a human type if you wish; I was not implying that anything Gagosian does as a dealer is illegal, so you either missed my point or misread what I wrote.

What I said at the end of #32 was not meant to be cryptic, and it was not specifically concerned with Ruscha. He simply served as a representative example, being one of the select group of artists I referred to in the previous paragraph. My saying that Ruscha can keep Gagosian should need no explanation.

As for bad taste not being a moral issue, that's rather debatable when it comes to someone in Gagosian's position and with Gagosian's pretensions, whether those pretensions are stated, implied or assumed. Surely, if he doesn't sell "the best," or at least "very high quality," why would anyone pay him such very serious money for his wares or services? On what basis could he expect that or justify it, if his taste or judgment were questionable? Is this not a kind of fraud? Is fraud moral?


That guy

November 4, 2009, 6:38 PM

He also may have had an option to sell the work, although he didn't have physical possession.



November 4, 2009, 6:57 PM

Tim, I don't have an interpretation. I have the author's own words (none of which apply "envious" or "bitter" to herself), fleshed out over many gratifying hours of conversation with the author. You have an interpretation, and it's wrong. Just because you're responding to what's written doesn't mean you're taking the words at face value - quite the opposite in this case.

Strictly speaking, sociopathy has been replaced with Antisocial Personality Disorder as the preferred term, and it sounds like Gagosian has a mild case. This is neither here nor there except in reflecting on how to conduct one's own affairs and who, or what kind of person in general, one wants to conduct those affairs with. I read PL's post as a successful reflection in that respect.

I have no proof that anything Gagosian has done is illegal (except for his settlement with the Feds regarding tax fraud - that's on the books), and the moral considerations seem like minutiae in light of whom might be getting defrauded and on what scale. To me, the true fraud is what was done with my money when Shrub "abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system," as he put it, and his successor continued to do so. It's either the far reaches of hubris or the signs of initial-onset sociopathy to go about your funny business as if bad consequences will never befall you - I'm not sure the distinction is worth making. Of course, if bad consequences don't befall you, either you're a shrewd capitalist or you've gotten a bailout. And Ruscha did bail Gagosian out in a minor way...



November 4, 2009, 7:15 PM

Franklin, if you really want to pursue this, what are you getting at?



November 4, 2009, 7:16 PM

That you don't want to pursue this. 'Nuff said.



November 4, 2009, 7:22 PM

More broadly, it's interesting to me to see people at such different stages in their career - PL, Annie, and Stella - all struggle to find their way and pay their way, busting their asses all along the way. It illustrates one of my favorite quotes from Dogen: there's no privileged state of existence.



November 4, 2009, 7:23 PM

Here I am, Franklin. ????


Chris Rywalt

November 4, 2009, 7:23 PM

I've mentioned before having recently read The $12 Million Stuffed Shark by Don Thompson. Larry Gagosian has nearly a whole chapter to himself as a "branded" dealer. The book isn't as good or revealing as I wanted it to be; it mostly consists of "can you believe this?" kind of revelations. Among them is the story that Gagosian has been known to sell works to which he has no title whatsoever; he's just confident that he can convince anyone to sell anything if there's cash on hand. The stories are as well-sourced as can be.

Gagosian has reached the point where his involvement in a work of art raises the price of that work. The same painting sold by someone else is worth less than when he sells it, just because the new owner can say, "I bought this from Larry."

You can't compare what Larry does to the stock market, Jack. The stock market is heavily regulated. In fact I know people whose job it is to keep up with the vast amount of paperwork required by Wall Street firms and the amount keeps going up all the time.

There is no such regulation of the art market.



November 4, 2009, 7:26 PM

As I perceive it, there are many kinds or varieties of fraud, and all of them are by no means illegal. Immoral, or amoral, is another matter. Of course, someone like Gagosian doesn't force anyone to do business with him; there are plenty of rich idiots and/or major poseurs and/or delusional types and/or art players all too willing, even eager, to deal with such an operator. In many cases, I expect it's like taking candy from a baby, only it's not a baby, but people who should know far better--so maybe it's not immoral, exactly. Maybe it's only stupidity or folly getting what it asks for and deserves.



November 4, 2009, 7:30 PM

And Chris, you meant John, not Jack, re the stock market vs. the art world.



November 4, 2009, 7:36 PM

Jack, you're hot tonight. I don't mean to say that I like what is.



November 4, 2009, 7:49 PM

"It illustrates one of my favorite quotes from Dogen: there's no privileged state of existence."

Exactly. That's been my point all along.



November 4, 2009, 9:18 PM

I do my best, Tim, to maintain a constant or consistent temperature, such as it is.


Chris Rywalt

November 4, 2009, 10:24 PM

Sorry I mixed up John and Jack. I was typing while doing something else, never a good idea.

Now I'm watching baseball. Whee!



November 4, 2009, 11:09 PM

As for the Stella pieces shown on the Kasmin gallery site, the best ones to my eye are the ones with little or no color (1, 2 and 6), even though the show is called Polychrome Relief. Of the colored pieces, I liked #4 best.

Compared to previous 3-D work I've seen by him, this Kasmin group is rather less bombastic, less "everything including the kitchen sink," less excessive or self-indulgent, all of which is welcome, but for someone with an apotheosis at the Met, it's not that impressive. Of course, Koons had a Met gig. Sigh...



November 5, 2009, 10:12 AM

I think it's pot time again:

Hagi 1
Hagi 2
Hagi 3

Maybe I'm too far gone, but I'm getting more out of gazing at a pot like this than I am out of many of those very expensive Stella contraptions in his Kasmin Gallery show.


Chris Rywalt

November 5, 2009, 1:35 PM

I was just in Manhattan yesterday and I didn't see the Stella show. Dammit, I knew there was something I wanted to see.

I think what struck me about the Stella interview -- and I wrote this to Franklin -- is hearing that even an established artist like Stella has to work to find ways to pay for his materials. Granted he's using a lot more than I am, but it's a problem I'm facing today: How do I keep up with materials cost for new work? It's interesting to see that he's still struggling with the same thing 50 years on. Well, 35 or so years ahead of me, anyway.



November 5, 2009, 2:26 PM

stella's personal net worth is probably pretty darn high, but stella the corporation could be month to month if things remain slow or get worse.

it does look like he is possibly mixing up the size of the pieces to compensate. could be wrong though.


Chris Rywalt

November 5, 2009, 2:33 PM

Also, I'd like to note that you may get more out of the pots, Jack, but that doesn't mean the cost of Stella's materials are the issue, nor does it mean Stella shouldn't keep trying. Every artist, whether they're drawn to make tiny clay cups or Mount Rushmore, are, at their best, driven by the same concern: To make the best they can, to realize their personal vision.



November 5, 2009, 2:33 PM

Chris, that's always been the way it is in the USA. The two big challenges for an artist here are more or less having to invent a life and getting it paid for. I for one had rather it that way than to have to rely on and likely get pulled down by some system or other. My resourcefulness, such as it is, works better for me than politics ever could. I think it's more fair and square that way. I really don't need help or support, (though I can always use it). I just need to be gotten out of the way of. But that's just me.



November 5, 2009, 2:52 PM

stella's personal net worth is probably pretty darn high, but stella the corporation could be month to month if things remain slow or get worse.

it does look like he is possibly mixing up the size of the pieces to compensate. could be wrong though.


Chris Rywalt

November 5, 2009, 2:54 PM

At this point I'd happily take welfare of any kind. I'm not sure when I lost my pride but it's long gone by now. To hell with the hand up, I'll accept a handout.



November 5, 2009, 3:19 PM

Chris, what Stella does is his business regardless of what I may think of it, and he obviously doesn't need my approval, but if a simple clay pot made for everyday use is more intriguing or aesthetically satisfying than some big contraption selling for six figures in a fancy NYC gallery, I think there's a problem with the contraption and the kind of money that it not only costs to buy but costs to make. Maybe it's just my problem, but trust me, there is one.


Chris Rywalt

November 5, 2009, 6:34 PM

My point is that there's nothing inherently superior about the pot versus the contraption that makes one worth pursuing and the other not, at least a priori. When they're done and you look at two of them next to each other you make your determination, but you can't tell before you start which one's going to work, just because one is homey and cheap and one is weird and expensive.

And if Stella isn't driven to make pots, he can't really help that.



November 5, 2009, 6:49 PM

Chris, I'm not talking about or commenting on anything a priori here. I'm talking about known, existing work. And I'm most certainly not asking or expecting Stella to take up ceramics. The point is not what kind of stuff he makes, but how good is it, especially in light of what it reportedly costs him to produce it and what is being charged for it.



November 5, 2009, 8:32 PM

To be more specific, the asking prices for the Stella pieces at Kasmin range from 275K to 850K. If I had 275K, let alone 850K, to spend on art, you'd better believe I'd expect FAR better work than one of those Stella pieces (which are nice enough, at least some of them, and respectable enough, certainly compared to some Hirst crap, but there's no way I'd spend that money there as opposed to elsewhere). As I said previously, I think Stella needs a reality check, though his career is strictly his business.



November 6, 2009, 7:43 AM

jack, but i doubt you would spend that 275K on pots and prints as well. at least not on the level you are at currently. what would jack drop 275k on?



November 6, 2009, 7:51 AM

and by "level at currently", i mean, you may still continue buying some pots and prints, but the market price of those objects would go to a different level. or you could abandon that direction for a minute. and basel is right around the corner, lol.



November 6, 2009, 9:22 AM

1, while I certainly wouldn't mind having hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on art like it was petty cash, I actually enjoy the challenge of finding good work that is quite affordable. It makes me work but also look harder, and looking hard is critical to developing one's eye (although the eye has to have sufficient innate potential, otherwise there's little or nothing to develop).

In addition to that, the rewards, when they come, are sweeter if the means to get them were limited. There's rather more merit in finding good work on a tight budget, by yourself, than in calling up Gagosian and saying "Get me X and I'll pay whatever it takes." When I manage to land something I really like at a good price, which can be done, it's a great feeling.

Regardless of the size of one's budget, one should always strive to get the best that can be had for the money available, which is why I cannot respect people with big money who wind up buying glorified mediocrity or outright garbage. I mean, it's embarrassing, not to mention sad. In other words, it's not how much you spend on art, it's how well you "shop."



November 6, 2009, 9:45 AM

jack, i agree.

the 275k art lottery is an interesting challenge to contemplate. do i go one easel size hofmann, a couple rembrandt prints and a caro table piece, or try and pick-up 10, 20, 50 or 100 lesser priced items? is brand name a factor when spending that kind of money? and to what degree?



November 6, 2009, 9:48 AM

"brand name" should really be market value.



November 6, 2009, 10:00 AM

If someone offered me $275,000 worth of Stella, I'd hope they meant Artois...



November 6, 2009, 10:24 AM

Well, market value will be a factor insofar as it affects what one has to pay to get whatever it may be, but the goal should always be to get the best possible value for money. What is actually bought will naturally depend on the interests, taste and circumstances of the buyer, but it's obviously not just a money or budget issue.



November 6, 2009, 10:33 AM

There are many stories of superb collections being assembled by people of clearly limited means, but who really knew their stuff and had the persistence and dedication (or obsessiveness) to pursue something they really loved and understood. Money obviously helps, but so does being a real collector, as opposed to a "major" (budget) one.



November 6, 2009, 10:51 AM

A black Raku tea bowl:

Raku 1
Raku 2
Raku 3
Raku 4


Chris Rywalt

November 6, 2009, 10:54 AM

At current prices, $275,000 is about 26,000 gallons of Stella. That should be enough for a couple of weekends, if you're Canadian.



November 6, 2009, 11:15 AM

Black Raku for purists:

Raku 1
Raku 2
Raku 3


Chris Rywalt

November 6, 2009, 11:51 AM

I prefer Black Uhuru.



November 6, 2009, 11:58 AM

Thanks, Chris. By my reckoning, that'll give me 5-6 pints of Stella a day, for 100 years.

Like any kind-hearted collector, I'd be willing to share my collection with friends and other enthusiasts, of course. No need for greed.

Sorry, poor ol' Frank's work just can't compete with that kind of pleasure...



November 6, 2009, 2:03 PM

Chris, we're talking about pots, not pot.


Chris Rywalt

November 6, 2009, 2:42 PM

To heck with the tea, give me 100 years of Stella Artois and Black Uhuru and I'm set.

Look at the foot, to say nothing of the head. Aaaaah.



November 6, 2009, 5:40 PM

Chris, there's a reason why your name is not Philippe de Montebello. And you don't even have the excuse of being Canadian.



November 7, 2009, 11:44 AM

Dealers like Gagosian exist because there are investors (aka collectors) who will buy his kind of art, as well as "artlovers" who will go to look at it. Have you ever noticed how crowded his gallery almost always is? The problem is public taste, not those who capitalize off it. As for Stella, my nose bleeds for him.



November 7, 2009, 12:04 PM

Further re Stella, if he doesn't have the money to pay his armies of studio assistants, he should try working small & making his art all by himself, the way thousands of artists do who don't enjoy his inflated reputation. I thought his current show at Paul Kasmin (closing Nov.7) was a real eyesore.



November 7, 2009, 12:25 PM

Honestly, Canadian or not, is there anyone here who wouldn't rather have good beer for the rest of their lives than literally anything by Frank Stella?

Anyone? Bueller?...



November 7, 2009, 1:14 PM

Oh, I quite agree that the problem is not Gagosian, or Hirst, or Koons. The problem is clearly those who enable them and play along with them, and that includes not only rich idiots, but plenty of supposed experts and institutional types.

I just saw several images in art mag (which of course I did not buy) of the Hirst paintings now installed at the Wallace Collection in London. To say they're poor BFA-level work is an understatement. Like the physicist said, they're not even wrong. They're simply fraudulent, risibly so, but who's really to blame? Not Hirst, contemptible though he surely is. Follow the money and the recognition.



November 7, 2009, 1:21 PM

As for Gagosian being always crowded, I expect that has rather little to do with art as such and far more to do with fashion, image, social considerations and so forth. See and be seen. Something to talk about and presumably impress others with. In-crowd issues. As has already been said, the whole business is about an inch deep, substance-wise (and obviously I'm not talking about money).



November 7, 2009, 2:34 PM

The reason Gagosian is no doubt chuckling at the comments on this thread if he's seeing them is that, most likely, for him and the art world in general as it now exists, any attention is good attention. Reaction to a trainwreck just focuses more attention onto the trainwreck.

What has maddened me about things like the Hirst paintings at the Wallace Collection is that on the occasions when I've talked with people who are taken with that kind of thing, I find that, for them it represents a genuine aesthetic which they are emotionally involved in. Those encounters are like ones I've had with religious fundamentalists. Their minds are made up.



November 7, 2009, 2:53 PM

By 'genuine aesthetic,' what I get from the encounters I've had with people who sincerely go for Hirst, Koons, etc., (and admittedly I haven't spent that much time with the work itself because I don't really see that much time needed. In the spirit of the benefit ogf the doubt, or perhaps moment of weakness, I've found myself looking at it like a lab tech viewing a specimen slide, trying to see what I can find. Was I a sucker, or what?!) is it's a kind of anti beauty thing, the more crummy and cheesy it is, the more attractive it is.



November 7, 2009, 3:07 PM

Well, among other things, Tim, I suppose the attitude you're describing makes taste and a good eye irrelevant, which must be a great relief to those who have neither. It also fits very nicely with the pretensions of fearless cutting-edginess so prized (and ostentatiously displayed) by this crowd. It's all rather a dreary farce, but there's so much money involved that nobody cares.



November 7, 2009, 3:15 PM

I think the most consequential result of the whole business is that it has given 'everybody else' the impression that they've been let into the world of art, that the world of art is now part of their world. Now it's something that doesn't have to be attained or aspired to. It's just part of the birthright. The flower of the Democratization of The Arts.



November 7, 2009, 4:05 PM

As for Stella, my nose bleeds for him.

That was funny.

Tim, that's definitely how it has ended up. The art world has figured out how to involve more people: by making taste irrelevant.



November 7, 2009, 4:28 PM

The system has also, effectively, made artistic talent irrelevant. Hence someone like Hirst as an art god. I mean the guy has talent, only not as a visual artist.



November 7, 2009, 4:39 PM

Then it's no longer the art world. It's the circus come to town. I keep thinking we should have the funeral and move on.

Some clarification, Franklin, if I may: My initial reaction to PLs comment on this post was just that, an initial reaction, and, admittedly, a bit wrecklessly put (Apologies.) Having read that comment in the context of the post on PLs blog from whence it came, I see that what you and PL said about what PL meant adds up, and you know from many of my comments on here that I essentially agree with the gist of what PL is saying. But, there is still the tenor of sour grapes to a lot of it, especially against the backdrop of many posts on her blog (Maybe that's just a way of processing.) I offer that as feedback for what it's worth.

I did see on PLs post an indication that PL might be getting what I once had to get; PL will likely have to make her own forum. If that's the case, I support PLs efforts in that direction.



November 7, 2009, 4:45 PM

What the system really cares about is numbers. Not just the dealers and speculators, but even the ostensible bastions of truth and integrity, such as museums. It's all about the size of the crowds, the amount of traffic, and obviously the flow of money. To get ever larger figures, pandering and watering down, not to say prostitution, are pretty much required. I don't know how else to explain the obscenity of that appallingly ghastly Hirst travesty at the Wallace Collection in London, unless the Wallace people are desperate for media attention and some sort of "relevance," but we're still talking selling out and exceedingly questionable motives.



November 7, 2009, 4:57 PM

If I'm not mistaken, the pandering game was taken up by publicly funded institutions like art museums, dance companies, etc, in the late 1970s when they started panicking over loss of private contributions during the first energy crisis. Someone wrote a book that taught the institutions how to market themselves. So, whenever the Dallas Museum of Art is in need of the readies, here come the Remingtons, Russells, Tiffany, Wyeth...



November 7, 2009, 5:58 PM

This dish is called Tokaji, for cherry blossom, relating to its color. It's a crackled celadon glaze, but on stoneware, not porcelain. I especially like the contrast between the jewel-like glaze and the rich dark unglazed clay at the base and foot. It's by a female Kyoto potter.

Tokaji 1
Tokaji 2
Tokaji 3

Celadon work, by the way, is technically difficult and can have a very high failure rate, so even in Japan most potters shy away from it.



November 7, 2009, 7:58 PM

Someone from a newspaper called me this evening to ask me what I thought about Frank getting the Medal of Freedom.

I said I had no idea he was getting the medal of freedom but good for him.

Maybe there's a cash award to help out with the art manufacturing problems.



November 7, 2009, 9:39 PM

Or maybe he can take Piri's advice, or mine, though I think that's highly unlikely. Like Piri, I can't say I have much sympathy for his particular predicament.



November 7, 2009, 10:04 PM

I mean, let's face it, we're definitely not talking Michelangelo needing money to get his hands on some really prime huge chunks of marble to make monumental sculpture. Stella needs to stop thinking so big, because, frankly, his talent isn't.



November 8, 2009, 9:50 AM

It's his ambition he's buying for, though, Jack, and that's clearly huge. Besides, he's got his work in so many museum collections, why on earth wouldn't he think he's a "name for the ages".
Hell, I hear they're even giving him the "Medal of Freedom" (whatever that is, whoever they are)...



November 8, 2009, 10:24 AM

The US government hands out the Medal of Freedom. They pick about ten figures from "the arts" every year, a category which includes everybody from country music performers to movie stars. I don't think their choices in the visual arts are any more enlightened than any other largesse (like NEH or NEA grants) that the US government hands out, but I didn't mean to imply that Stella has no talent, either. Back in the 60s, he produced much creditable work -- even Greenberg thought his bronze paintings had something. I myself reproduced two of his "protractor" paintings in color in Time in 1967 (color photography still being the exception rather than the rule in the media in those days). At the time, I couldn't yet relate to Noland, or see for myself how much better Noland was at making much the same sort of painting. By the 80s --- the next time I became aware of Stella --- he was going in for a flashy vulgarity that I found a real turnoff, and his most recent work is a direct descendant of this sensibility. As he seems to have no trouble getting shows for this kind of art, I can only assume that some people buy it -- though obviously not in sufficient quantity to satisfy the artist. Well, isn't that the way it always is?



November 8, 2009, 10:27 AM

I may be inaccurate about the Medal of Freedom. He already won that, and the lady who called wasn't even clear about what the actual name of the medal or award was.

Few of her facts were accurate, come to think of it. Journalism is not one of our noble professions these days.



November 8, 2009, 10:28 AM

PS In 1967, I had also never heard of Darby Bannard, who I understand was making protractor paintings before Stella.



November 8, 2009, 10:58 AM

When Stella started doing those things in the 80s, I raised my head up from what I was doing and noticed it and thought that he's just doing an uglied up version of the protractor things so he can fit into what was going on then and persists to date, like he was saying "See, I'm still relevant; I can make my protractor git down.' I went back to what I was doing.



November 8, 2009, 11:12 AM

I was spending some time in NYC in the 80s and I remember seeing subway cars with layers of the style of graffiti that was popular then and areas where the graffiti had been ground off, leaving that circular brush pattern on the metal. I recall thinking maybe Stella's taking some kind of cue from that.



November 8, 2009, 11:32 AM

I'm not much for the "I painted the first stripe" sort of controversy, but you are right, Piri, I had been drawing curves inside the painting since 1959, started doing "protractor" paintings (curves drawn from edge to edge) late in 1965 and did a whole series in 1966, using what is called a beam compass and picture wire anchored on the edge of the painting (picture wire is flexible and doesn't stretch).

Frank was aware of these but I have no direct evidence that he was influenced by them. He may have been more influenced by Celtic manuscript illumination, which, as I recall, was his senior thesis subject in college.



November 8, 2009, 11:47 AM

The most successful decade for pluralism was the 60s. I'm not sure it was even called that then, but the spreading out of the path art could take started then and did not immediately result in its becoming just an inch deep. The expansion excited quite a few artists. Some pretty good stuff got done, including Stella's protractors and Tony Smith's peculiar tetrahedron based sculpture. Sparks flew on the West Coast too, which is where the original Artfourm started up and published true to its name.

Carol Sutton asked why did pluralism generate such exciting work at first but now is so boring? The answer might be it ran out of gas a long time ago, sometime in the early 70s.



November 8, 2009, 12:15 PM

"...the 60s.... the spreading out of the path art could take started then..."

What about Duchamp and the Dadas. No pluralism in the early 20th c.?...



November 8, 2009, 12:41 PM

MC, if I recall my history correctly, the sociopolitical movement that art took a cue from in the early 20th Century was interrupted by the period of the two world wars. It didn't get back on track until that sociopolitical movement, which had returned in the 30s, was really accelerated in the 60s.



November 8, 2009, 12:55 PM

Clarification: by 'art' I mean pluralist art. By 'It didn't get back on track...,' I mean pluralist art.

John, I saw it like you describe. It was like after the initial splashing around in Do-your-own-thing 'freedom,' OK, now what? The clever gamesters took over from there.



November 8, 2009, 1:27 PM

The bloated, garish, vulgar 80s work Piri alludes to in #103 was my first exposure to Stella in person. It was in the latter 80s at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The first thing that struck me about it was that it had clearly been made with a museum or a large public space in mind, as if it were a given that it would wind up there. This immediately made me leery (not that it takes much), especially given the character of the work in question. I've looked askance at Stella ever since.



November 8, 2009, 2:34 PM

MC, you have a point. However, Duchamp's anything-can-be-taken-aesthetically method was tied to abject pranksterism, though it certainly was as inclusive as is mathematically possible.

The expansion that took place in the 60s included, in some instances, an aspect of the prank, but in the context of something more sober. Many, however, like Stella and Smith, avoided the prank altogether. As I said somewhere else, Duchamp's anything goes is so empty that it can be associated with just about anything, including the work of the 60s that I'm thinking about. But it misses the seriousness with which pluralism started; in fact, once pluralism fully embraced Duchamp, it began to lose what substance it had managed to generate. Or so it seems.



November 8, 2009, 2:34 PM

There has always been pluralism of a sort in art of all kinds, but Modernism jumpstarted pluralism in the late 19th/early 20th C. because of the growing insistence on innovation. Innovation means reinvention and reinvention means change and branching out, just like the branches of the tree on those drawings Ad Reinhardt did years ago.

I don't think pluralism as a verbal entity was current until Postmodernism got going in the 70s, - I could be wrong - but we certainly had de facto pluralism at least by the early 20th C and certainly by the AE period, which was the first "movement" which featured very different styles of work, and then in the 60s & 70s it really went wild.

Probably the reason pluralism peters out is because innovation, after a point, is toxic; it destroys conventions, and solid working conventions are necessary to art and to all human acheivement.



November 8, 2009, 2:37 PM

"innovation, after a point, is toxic"

Well said.



November 8, 2009, 2:46 PM

"innovation, after a point, is toxic"

The same is true of virtually any medication, no matter how beneficial it might in the proper dose. There's a lesson in that, at least for those who are not beyond instruction, not to mention sense.


Chris Rywalt

November 8, 2009, 3:12 PM

I don't think it's fair, though, to say that Stella's not Michelangelo, therefore he should work more cheaply. First, how is Stella to know he's not Michelangelo? He's on the inside and you can't see from there. And second, as we've discussed here many times before, the cost of making a work of art (in time or money) isn't related to the quality of the work; you can spend very little making a great work of art and a lot on junk, and vice versa.

I see the two problems -- Stella's work costs a lot to make and Stella's work is notso hotso -- as completely separate items. And he can only do what he can do. He's moved to make what he makes, and he can't make it better by merely wishing.

We might argue that he should work harder at making it better, I suppose, but I'm not sure that holds water, either, because quality isn't related to effort. I imagine Stella is working as hard as he can making the best art he can, and if it's expensive and not great, oh well.



November 8, 2009, 3:21 PM

Chris, again, what Stella does is up to him, but I'm not cutting him any slack if he wants sympathy because he insists on working on such a large and expensive scale. Besides, if he (or anybody) truly cannot afford to work on such a scale, then the merest common sense or practicality dictates he needs to scale down. It's hardly quantum physics.



November 8, 2009, 3:24 PM

And don't even ask me what I think of the notion that Stella must, absolutely must, do monumental or industrial-strength work. I mean, please.



November 8, 2009, 3:35 PM

Re too much innovation being toxic I always think of those little microbes that turn the grape sugar into alcohol in wine and, after a certain point, die as a consequence. Their timing is perfect.

Innovation is only beneficial when it evolves and refreshes the basic form.



November 8, 2009, 6:31 PM

#119 was written by Jack.



November 8, 2009, 7:04 PM

Mr. Bannard if you're still following this thread, we saw one of your paintings from 1971 at the Boston MFA today - "Pioneer", gift 2006, btw. Nice painting. The museum itself is feeling a little downtodden in the midst of construction. Bannard's painting is upstairs in the atrium of the "old" new wing across from the special exhibition galleries which now have the stuff found in an Egyptian tomb in the 20's - the tomb of an obscure but wealthy functionary - tons of boat models which made me think of Twombly's paintings of boats - beautiful large cedar caskets with delicate painted and carved hieroglyphics - spiritual eyes painted on them so the soul could see out - clay figures of naked girls to ensure vitality in the afterlife.



November 8, 2009, 8:12 PM

Thanks, David. Several people have told me about this. Apparently it is hung at an entrance, or some other prominent place.

I believe the title is "Prairie", but "Pioneer" is pretty close.


Chris Rywalt

November 8, 2009, 8:48 PM

Clay figures of naked girls hopefully filled with little blue pills.



November 8, 2009, 9:18 PM

There are 7 Bannard works listed in the Boston MFA's collection, ranging from 1961 to 1978. The work under discussion here is apparently listed as Prairie.



November 8, 2009, 9:34 PM

A new bowl:

Ohi 1
Ohi 2
Ohi 3
Ohi 4

The amber glaze is typical of Ohi ware.



November 8, 2009, 9:48 PM

I must have this:

Tanba 1
Tanba 2
Tanba 3
Tanba 4
Tanba 5



November 8, 2009, 10:06 PM

I am, of course, quite addicted to Japanese pots now, so I can hardly claim to be objective, but when something, anything, succeeds as well as these pots do, it's a rush. Yet, again, these are functional objects for regular use; they're not made by glamorous celebrities and they don't cost big money. So why do they work so well, and why is so much Serious Art by Big Names that costs a fortune so very, very disappointing? What is wrong with this picture?



November 8, 2009, 10:42 PM

Nothing at all wrong, Jack. Good minor art beats bad major art, every time.



November 9, 2009, 7:26 AM

Bannard - yes the painting is Prairie. I probably was thinking of wagons and sod busters so it is close. I scribbled it in my sketchbook and mis-read my scrawl.



November 9, 2009, 7:30 AM

And Chris, if you saw the mummie's head (which is on display - just the head), I don't think all the Viagra in the world would help, but the faith and foresight displayed is touching.



November 9, 2009, 7:45 AM

Jack- the Tanba bowl has a wonderful stance, doesn't it? It's the kind of balance and movement I try to get in my furniture designs. I'm working on an essay about tea bowls titled "The Perfect Object." and btw I understand that Mallarme used the metaphor of a Chinese painter painting on a bowl for his own approach to poetry.



November 9, 2009, 9:45 AM

Yes, David. One of the things I like about these bowls is that they seem so organic, so natural and alive, like they just grew out of the ground (which, in a sense, they did). The best ones seem inevitable, as if the potter was a sort of midwife who simply delivered them. And yet, they are the products of human hands and minds, informed and guided by centuries of experience and achievement.



November 9, 2009, 9:54 AM

Those minds and hands know that to master is to serve. The feeling of inevitability in those peices is what tells of those minds' and hands' respect, reverence for the material.



November 9, 2009, 10:04 AM

bannard, do you have a photo of prairie?



November 9, 2009, 11:08 AM

The latest issue of Art + Auction has a Koons on the cover, a large vase of flowers carved in wood and painted. He did not, of course, even make the thing himself; it was made by skilled artisans. It's on offer at Christie's with an estimate of 4-6M. Yes, that's millions. Words fail me.



November 9, 2009, 11:23 AM

OK Jack, I'll see if I can supply some words.

There is a probability, perhaps greater than 50%, that whomever buys said vase of flowers can sell it later for a profit.

That's the free market for ya.

BTW Jack, you are getting really good with those click-on URLs.



November 9, 2009, 11:59 AM

!, yes, someone sent me a shot of it hanging currently in the museum. Do you want me to send it to you?



November 9, 2009, 12:25 PM

Well, John, it's easy enough to explain or rationalize the matter as a commercial or business or investment issue, which of course it is. My problem comes when one looks at this as an art issue, which of course it isn't.



November 9, 2009, 12:31 PM

Oh, and yes, I'm enjoying my image-linking powers. It took me long enough to get them.



November 9, 2009, 12:58 PM

Words will never fail you, Jack.



November 9, 2009, 2:43 PM

yes please send it. is it from the labrador series? or is it more like the one coming up at bonhams, liberty garden?



November 9, 2009, 3:58 PM

"is it from the labrador series? or is it more like the one coming up at bonhams, liberty garden?"

Neither one. It is from a group some of which went to a show in Germany and the rest I bought back and painted over because I decided I didn't like them. However this one, which I haven't seen for 30-some years, looks pretty good. Perhaps I was too hasty destroying the others.

I guess I painted a lot of pictures in 1971.


Chris Rywalt

November 9, 2009, 8:07 PM

Regarding the Koons as investment vehicle: That book I keep mentioning, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark, cites research showing that art -- even the most profitable -- vastly underperforms nearly any other investment you can imagine.

Golden Age comic books are actually a better investment.



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