Critics, curators and collectors who have complained recently about how the super-rich are ruining the art market should know better
By Julian Stallabrass
Published online: 05 December 2012
A minor squall has blown up after the American art critic Dave Hickey’s announcement that he has “retired” in disgust from writing criticism. Art is now too popular—“I miss being an elitist and not having to talk to idiots,” Hickey said in a recent interview. Art, he contends, is made for a bunch of extremely rich people for whom the critic acts as “intellectual head waiter”. The Observer newspaper also reported that a number of prominent curators have complained anonymously of having to defend overrated works that happen to be worth a lot of money. One of them even described Tracey Emin’s art as “empty”.
Hickey, we may remember, became well-known as one of the more eloquent champions of “beauty”—that is, of a cheery, market-friendly prettiness in art. Once a dealer, he assured his readers that art buyers following their tastes would produce a various and salutary beauty that could be held up against the dreary run of grim and grimy politicised art found in public spaces and on the biennial scene. It was a version of the Republican “market good, public bad” reflex, applied to contemporary art. Hickey even staged a counter-biennial at Site Santa Fe in 2001, filling it with happy, bright and colourful sculptures and paintings, along with a lot of flowers.
So, coming from him, the complaint that the market has become too unpleasant is odd. It is like Charles Saatchi’s recent assault on dealers and collectors as vulgar and self-regarding. It is, in fact, the effect of failing to recognise your reflection in a mirror, and for an instant seeing yourself as others see you. All this has quite a bit of comedic value, but is there a more serious point here? If critics, collectors and dealers not only fail to recognise themselves but recoil in disgust at their reflection, we may ask: why?
First, there is the matter of art’s coyness about its business side, which Olav Velthius has written about in the pages of The Art Newspaper and elsewhere. There continues to be considerable art-world resistance to the idea that a gallery is just a shop, the art fair just a mall, and the art just another luxury product to set alongside jewellery, antiques, yachts and the rest. In the boom years for contemporary art, huge numbers of new collectors were drawn in, and the art world lost its Euro-American axis. As it became globalised, its distinct minority culture was eroded. In its stead, celebrity, publicity, branding and the glitzy display of riches came to the fore—vulgarity, if you like.
Second, since the super-rich who buy the most expensive contemporary art have been most immune to the financial crisis, and since they also use art as a hedge against the movement of other investments, the top levels of the market have appeared relatively unaffected. The vulgar business of flaunting consumption goes on, while around it everything has changed.
It is not just that something seems wrong with the art world. All now appears in a strange new light: bankers are reviled, the political elite is revealed as corrupt, and capitalism itself has been stripped of its ideological cloak, standing naked as the engine of rampant debt, inequality and environmental devastation. In that new frame, the picture of the elite continuing to spend their fortunes on vacuous geegaws is bound to look less pleasing than it once did.
So Hickey (and Saatchi) may not like the world they helped bring into being, but its direction and impetus lie entirely within the logic of what they represented and defended.
Hickey points to the disappearance of the middle class, who leave behind the super-rich and a courtier class, including those unfortunate enough to write about art. The evaporation of the Euro-American middle class, as its professions are automated or outsourced, is one of the great developments of our age, and it has been greatly accelerated by the financial crisis. It attacks not just art but the roots of liberal democracy as the class that defended the system is disenfranchised by it.
If works of art are vulgar and empty, why should people be any more upset by that than by, say, garish packaging on supermarket shelves? Within the system, the arts are supposed to be the repository of self-expression, set apart from bureaucratised working lives and the standardised fare of mass culture. The durability of this view has less to do with the market than the State, and particularly with those reverence-producing machines known as museums.
With the increasing visibility of its material base (of its being put to use by States, the super-rich and business), art’s ideally free character fades, along with its hold on the imagination. Think of the strange clash of cultures at the recent Damien Hirst blockbuster at Tate Modern: the branded artist set against the branded museum. The staid display techniques sought to impart gravity to what was shown, while Hirst’s glitzy, self-consciously branded work undermined it.
Museums are also responsible for the persistent feeling that works of art have something deep to say about society. If this is so, what does hedge-fund art say about ours? The belief in that link, perhaps, is why we recoil from art’s reflection: we see ourselves, not in a momentary misrecognition this time, but as a cogent, unified image produced by a systematic and consistent causality—money. Do we take a knife to the portrait of our own corruption, as Dorian Gray did? And if we do, what survives?
The super-rich dominate the mainstream image of the art market, just as they do much to control the political agenda. Yet huge and diverse realms lie beyond the culture and the politics of this tiny elite. The years of the art boom were also those of social media, as millions started to show their photographs, videos, writings and art online. Many of them found that it is not so hard to make things that look like contemporary art. Another reflection—complex, contradictory, vulgar and popular, and in some respects less desolating—lies there.
The writer is professor of art history, Courtauld Institute of Art, London
WE BEGIN WITH EQUALITY: “LINCOLN” AND “DJANGO UNCHAINED”
January 3rd, 2013
Two recent films made by two very different directors have accomplished something a bit rare for a mainstream Hollywood production: They not only bring to the screen glimpses of American history, they are timely commentary on contemporary American existence.
The wizardry of Spielberg and the ridiculously superb performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln” made me leave the theater feeling like I had just spent three hours with Honest Abe, and “Django Unchained” is among Quentin Tarantino’s best—twisting a revisionist Western tale of the same era into a modern-day sociopolitical allegory.
Beyond a window into mid-nineteenth century America, “Lincoln” shows a society at war with itself—particularly over equality and slavery. Whether you hold to the idea of slavery being the primary dispute or just one of many that led up to the Civil War <http://tinyurl.com/bcvhj2n> , the way this film depicts the legislative end of slavery sort of takes your breath away (in the same way the HBO series “John Adams” did with the formation of the Constitution). And of course slavery didn’t then magically dissolve and everyone lived happily ever after. In that way, the film also points to how our country’s modern culture wars have branched out from that historical milestone—to the civil rights movement and beyond issues of race.
I noticed people snickering when lines insulting Democrats went by (such as Secretary of State Seward’s remark of avoiding “the indignity of actually speaking to Democrats”). But I would bet you money that those giggling spectators have little knowledge of how drastically those two parties have changed over 150 years, even as Seward’s comment of Congress being “a gang of talentless hicks and hacks” seems to remain rather true. Those bitter feuds have not died out—they’ve taken on various shapes, bursting out from different corners and pockets of America, funded by quiet interests and inflamed by louder voices that cash in on making things black-and-white, us-versus-them hogwash. Yet any of us who passionately disagree in today’s political circus act could probably agree that “Lincoln” is a great film, and that he was a great president.
Beyond Lincoln being portrayed as a leader with poise and calm during the bloodiest, costliest (in terms of casualties) war in American history, his desire for eliminating slavery becomes the focus of his presidency only after it becomes clear that the war must be won on something—something significant. That something is really the notion of equality—even more grand and complex than abolishing slavery—and it is addressed in a most profound way by Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) when he is forced to claim that the fourteenth amendment by no means endorses the equality of races (or the sexes even), but simply “equality before the law.”
Now before we get into that, let’s jump to “Django Unchained”—arguably at the opposite end of the spectrum from “Lincoln,” but not so far off as to exclude it from the larger conversation about how the Civil War era connects to the modern one.
“Django Unchained” is a Tarantino through and through: If you’ve seen his movies, you know what I mean. He mixes genre, narrative and humor in a very specific blend. Django (Jamie Foxx) is a slave being transported two years before the Civil War, and is picked up by Shultz (Christoph Waltz)—a well-educated, fast-shooting bounty hunter who needs Django for a job. Becoming a bounty hunter himself, Django crusades to reunite with his lost wife, now owned by a notorious plantation owner at “Candieland,” where he and his Anglo-partner Shultz journey to save her.
Don Johnson plays “Big Daddy,” <http://tinyurl.com/ben3qkz> a charismatic plantation owner whom Django and Shultz visit on a bounty hunt. You might remember him from another Anglo-and-African American duo with a slightly different focus in “Miami Vice.” <http://tinyurl.com/2d3ms>
First and foremost, the film is a Western. Tarantino himself has stated <http://tinyurl.com/cuaehe2> in interviews that this isn’t a revelation about the cruelty of slavery, though it does depict such incidents with gut-wrenching horror. Tarantino knows that addressing the worst episodes of human history comes with controversy, especially by combining it with genre humor and a heroic narrative. He does in some ways what Cattelan does with sculpture <http://tinyurl.com/cc2bffw> . Tarantino knows where cinema has been and from whence it has come. He stirs archetypes and stereotypes like spices in a pot—turning a traditional gunslinger film into a cathartic story that attempts to equalize the cinematic playing field.
I don’t remember too many American Westerns helping me understand the helpless hell that so many African Americans endured in America for well over a century. The American Western narrative that is embedded almost genetically in the heart and soul of mostly American white men emphasizes and champions the idea of the independent, self-guided hero like Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) riding his horse just beyond the limits of civility and lawlessness. It’s that cowboy justice mentality—one that a lot of white men identify with—that still holds a heavy weight on the heart and mind of our collective macho identity: Anarchy is hell, but governed society ain’t much better. Best to ride alone, armed and with one eye open. Best not get attached to anything, because even though I’ll usually do the right thing, I’m a real nasty son of a bitch.
The Wild Western was born out of the Civil War era—a time when the ideals set forth by the founding fathers broke down into bitter differences about what equality (and a host of other words and sentences written at the end of the 18th century) really meant. So as (spoiler alert!) Django, one of the first true black cowboy-justice heroes, rides away after killing as many ruthless, despicable racist white men as he can (all of whom have been chomping at the bit to punish him in the most self-righteously brutal way, as they do to countless other slaves in the film) one feels a satisfying retribution—a triumphant moment of good over evil as the pure, white-painted plantation home of Calvin Candie (Leo DiCaprio, whose character takes a sordid interest in Mandingo fighting and phrenological superiority of whites) burns to the ground. It symbolizes in a sensational way what “Lincoln” does in an understated way (like when Lincoln subtly utters “slavery is done” near the end of Spielberg’s film). Both gave me goosebumps, and both, like I’ve been saying, point in the direction of the present.
“The white establishment is now the minority,” said conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly the night President Obama won reelection. True, and perhaps not so inflammatory if taken to mean that the electorate has indeed shifted from mostly white voters to a more, say, equal representation of America’s ethnic and gender diversity. But Mr. O’Reilly continued: “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things? The demographics are changing,” he said. “It’s not a traditional America anymore.”
Apparently, if his statement is taken literally, white men are the only race/gender that don’t feel they are entitled. Women, Hispanics, and African Americans however, do. Really? After contemplating the details of both “Lincoln” and “Django Unchained” (and probably gobs of other historical and fictional content about American history), I’d argue that the ones who have been standing on the platform of entitlement would be none other than the “white establishment.” Those who for decades and centuries chained up and beat slaves, kept women silent from public discourse and participation, bulldozed over native populations, burned the suspicious at the stake and lament up to this very day over “entitlements” that have taken centuries to be granted to those other than white men. Now I don’t for a second hold that all white men are evil (since I am one myself), but I wouldn’t dare insinuate that traditional America is changing because every other demographic than mine feels entitled. That seems like a weak justification (and perhaps a last-ditch cannonball) for what may be the white majority’s denouement.
Yes, it may have been the white-established consortium of early Americans that wrote “all men are created equal,” but I don’t think it was the white establishment that further demonstrated this principle by any solely comprehensive means. I’m not sure what O’Reilly has in mind when he refers to “traditional America” other than white establishment rule, and I’m not sure I’d want to live in his particular version. (O’Reilly did write a book called “Killing Lincoln” and another, “Killing Kennedy.” I haven’t read either of them, and though the books seem to act as primer-novels about the assassinations of two presidents instead of say, two presidents’ efforts to further the idea of equality—specifically for African Americans—I think even if I did read them I’d still prefer Tarantino’s take on assassination—”Kill Bill.” Oh no I didn’t!)
Which brings me to the controversial part of this essay (you thought you were already in it?). Equality may have nothing to do with race, gender, class or genealogy. In fact, those are the distinctions that define our God-given differences—and find us wanting more regulations to help level the playing field, so it’s claimed. Another controversial idea then is that very thing: Perhaps we all aren’t created equal. It’s a novel idea—and noble one—that we are. But is it true? This is why Thaddeus Stevens’ address (in Spielberg’s “Lincoln”) is so important. Stevens responds to the House during a debate about the fourteenth amendment. His enemies (one of which is Ohio Representative George Pendleton) think that if Stevens will admit that he believes in the equality of all races, those on the fence about voting for the abolition amendment will surely vote no—fearing that blacks, after being granted freedom, will then be given the right to vote and possibly more, say, “entitlements” that whites enjoy. Instead, Stevens restrains his personal conviction for a more profound argument about equality:
“How can I hold that all men are created equal when here before me stands, stinking, the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior? Endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason, with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood? You are more reptile than man, George. So low and flat, that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you. Yet even you, Pendleton, who should have been gibbetted for treason long before today, even worthless unworthy you ought to be treated equally before the law!”
If Spielberg’s “Lincoln” teaches us anything, it’s that our differences run deep, dark and through the heart: particularly the subject of equality and what that term means both ontologically and constitutionally. The term goes beyond race, gender, class, all of it. Stevens’ remarks in the film suggest that perhaps even two men of the same race are not “created equal.” The term “equality” is then one of the most difficult ideals left to us by our founding fathers (not to mention the term “created”). It might be that we do not come from equality. In fact the reason we strive for more equality in our laws is precisely because all of us don’t start with the same socioeconomic identities, advantages or resources.
A year or so ago I was at LACMA, and on special display was an Ed Kienholz installation that had never been seen in America before, called Five Car Stud <http://tinyurl.com/asbag44> . It’s probably the most harrowing and nauseating piece of art I’ve ever experienced. You walk into a large dark room, where a life-size depiction unfolds: Five big automobiles surround a group of people at night, the headlights gleaming to illuminate the scene. The figures, as you begin to notice, are all wearing masks—creepy old man and clown-face latex masks. One of them stands with a shotgun by his truck where inside, a woman sits with her hand in front of her face as if she’s about to vomit. Turning towards the center of the scene, you start to get the picture. Two men hold down a black male, two more stand in the distance. One holds a flashlight, the other yanks on a rope tied to the man’s foot. A fifth man hovers over the victim with a knife, poised to slice off the victim’s testicles in an act of supreme perverse brutality. The victim wears a shirt with the “n” word across the chest. Walking around to each of the cars, a young boy sits alone in one of them, staring at the scene through the windshield. You feel a sense of frozen time, like a photograph, but one that you walk around in as if it were a piece of the Akashic record on pause, a sickening reminder of humanity’s undeniably disgraceful, haunted history. A similar scene occurs in “Django Unchained.” A white ranch hand almost has the chance to squalidly enjoy giving Django his castration-punishment moment.
Where’s the equality here? I’ll tell you. No matter what race, country, family, or era you come from, we are all equally capable of savagery. Those with all colors of skin have committed equally atrocious acts of violence. No one is exempt, not even the so-called “white establishment.” Our human condition is wrought with acts like these toward people of different races, genders—hell, even people of the same. Our propensity for violence and hatred knows no constitutionally drawn lines, it has no sympathy for inequality: It is equally horrific whether it’s one enslaving and killing many, multiple torturing one, or brother against brother. We can thank the notion of superiority, not equality, for most of that.
There’s a scene in “Lincoln” where he cites a notion of Euclid: “It is a self-evident truth that things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” He asserts the statement is a mathematical certainty, two thousand years before the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence were written. Thus, confronted with both mathematical certainty and the words of his ancestors, Lincoln states “we begin with equality.” However, I don’t think he meant to restate the claim that “all men are created equal.” Instead, I believe he meant that if we are in fact created with, and continue to war over, an infinity of differences, then it must fall to society—and its laws—to strive for equality in the treatment of its citizens.
As Lincoln seemed to realize, even if being equally created remained in dispute, we nonetheless deserve equality before the law, which then stems to equal rights and equal opportunity. Surely we are rational, compassionate and responsible enough for our society to begin with that. Because if we do not, we risk the all-too-familiar behavior of superiority of one race, gender or establishment over another. We are equally capable of savage behavior, yes; but also equally able to recognize, evaluate and dignify character (a notion that wouldn’t get introduced for 100 more years), which transcends skin color, gender/partner preference, religious belief, whatever the inherent differences may be.
Our story of equality, our definition of it, is still working itself out. Even if equality is as self-evident and certain as Lincoln and Euclid claimed, it isn’t certain that human behavior will use the notion for our greater good. Thus we have to be reminded of our collective propensity for violence and discrimination, and learn to evolve into the more perfect union we consistently fall short of. Seeing a film like “Lincoln” helped me revisit why the struggle for equality still matters while capturing a tumultuous and fascinating period of human history. A film like “Django Unchained,” while radically different, plows right over the textbooks to make cinematic history. Both films, even with fictional embellishment, reflect our real relationship with the past—and equally our present.
MET REPORTS ONE MILLIONTH VISITOR TO NEW ISLAMIC GALLERIES In the 14-and-a-half months since the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened its new galleries devoted to the arts of the Islamic world — which it calls the galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia — they have become one of the Met’s most popular attractions. On Friday, officials there reported that attendance at the galleries had topped the one-million mark — meaning an average of about 2,550 people a day, and 14 percent of the total attendance for the museum during the same period._NYTimes
SALTZ: MOMA’S INVENTING ABSTRACTION IS ILLUMINATING—ALTHOUGH IT SHINES THAT LIGHT MIGHTY SELECTIVELY
By Jerry Saltz
Early-twentieth-century abstraction is art’s version of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It’s the idea that changed everything everywhere: quickly, decisively, for good. In “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925,” the Museum of Modern Art’s madly self-aggrandizing survey of abstract art made in Europe, America, and Russia, we see the massive energy release going on in that moment. Organized by Leah Dickerman, the show is jam-packed with over 350 works by 84 painters and sculptors, poets, composers, choreographers, and filmmakers. The sight of so much radical work is riveting.
Yet art of this kind still poses problems for general audiences. They look on it warily. Indeed, even we insiders sometimes don’t get why certain abstraction isn’t just fancy wallpaper or pretty arrangements of shape, line, and color. It can take a lifetime to understand not only why Kazimir Malevich’s white square on a white ground—still fissuring, still emitting aesthetic ideas today—is great art but why it’s a painting at all. That’s the philosophical sundering going on in some of this work, the thrill built into abstraction. Insiders will go gaga here. But I wonder whether larger audiences will grasp the way this kind of art thrust itself to the fore in the West, coaxing artists to give up the incredible realism developed over centuries by the likes of Raphael, Caravaggio, Ingres, and David.
For 400 years, starting in what we now call Italy round 1414, a highly codified form of picture-making took hold in Europe. It was based rigidly on perspective, and all subject matter was soon depicted in the same perspectival space. Surfaces got smoothed out; traces of process all but disappeared. Thus came into being one of the greatest picture-making cultures of all time. By the nineteenth century, decadence was setting in. You could see it, painfully clearly, in the sea of stylistically similar salon paintings: frolicking children, middle-class life, society ladies, romantic views of nature and animals, and lots of voluptuous nude women seemingly worn out from masturbating. Constable, Corot, Courbet, the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, Cézanne, and others loosened the pictorial stranglehold. Yet by the early-twentieth century their painterly perestroika was no longer enough. A total break had to happen. Even Cubism, as radical as it was, wasn’t enough to do the trick: As the painter Robert Delaunay put it, “Cézanne broke the fruit dish, and we should not glue it together again, as the Cubists do.”
Which brings us to the first work in “Inventing Abstraction.” This being MoMA, I don’t have to tell you that it’s by the museum’s macho honcho Picasso. It’s Femme à la Mandoline, an intriguing, dusky-colored 1910 work with cubistic compartments, shapes, and slants. Apart from a curve that could be from a mandolin or a hint of hip, there are almost no defining real-world features. This is Picasso coming this close to pure abstraction. Then he blinks. “There is no abstract art,” he stated. “You must always start with something … even if the canvas is green—so what? In that case, the subject matter is greenness!” He’s right, of course. Even so, the rest of the show is dedicated to artists who didn’t blink.
Some sights that follow overwhelm. A wall of nine 1915 Malevich paintings wows with its all-out commitment to form, shape, and color arranged in ways that will never look like intellectual wallpaper. Back up, so you see these punctuated by Brancusi’s rough-hewn Endless Column, and you’ll witness astral geometric visions through some metaphysical Teutonic timberland. The sight of these two artists going for broke is unforgettable. As is the alcove of eleven Mondrians that lets us witness this Dutchman taking Cubism beyond the nth degree, transforming it into one of the most instantaneously recognizable and clear visual styles since the ancient Egyptians’. Starting with a 1912 rendering of bowing trees, Mondrian moves through fields of waterlike marks to crosshatched grids of wavering space, all the way to pure geometry. Absorb yourself in his infinitely rendered edges; see how your inner eye perceives pings of light (visible, but not painted; they’re all in your retina and your mind) where Mondrian’s lines cross. This isn’t just abstraction. This is the movement of visual elements, micron by micron, in ways not seen since Van Eyck.
A large Picabia from 1912 is so deadpan, ironic, and visually aggressive that you see in it future artists like Polke, Kippenberger, and Oehlen. Not far from there, seven different-colored geometric shapes, each on a white ground, by Russian Ivan Kliun radiate calibration and nuanced surface, and point directly to artists like Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and Robert Mangold. The British painters (Wyndham Lewis, David Bomberg, Lawrence Atkinson) all surprised me by looking better than I’ve ever seen them. They’re still self-conscious to the core, contriving every effect, much as recent British artists do. Even the Futurists like Giacomo Balla and Francesco Cangiullo, whose cartoony ideas about movement can be annoying, look good confined to a small space in small numbers. Their posters and diagrams far outshine their paintings.
The show will still leave general audiences in the dark about why abstraction came into being. But careful observation reveals how powerful abstraction can be, how it is still a tool that circumvents language, disrupts identification, dissolves narrative, delays the crystallization of meaning, and becomes a reality unto itself. These days, abstraction is normal, not shocking, the expected thing in schools, galleries, and museums. Too many artists still ape the art in this show, throwing in Abstract Expressionism, post-minimalism, or surrealist twists and tics, adding things their teachers have told them about. Their work is as boring as it is derivative. The exciting news is that artists are doing away with purist cant, getting rid of academic dogma, dumping Clement Greenberg’s rigid nonsense about “flatness.” Artists are polluting and expanding abstraction in fabulously impure ways, bending its armature into whole new configurations. And abstraction, old and new, can still leave us floored. These days, I am stunned by Uri Aran’s sculptures, which conjure the logic of imaginary maps with objects laid out on tabletops, and by the painter Lisa Beck, who hangs pairs of canvases in corners, one with a mirrored surface that reflects the other; somehow the parts meld, become a whole that seems to act as a telescope into unknown dimensions.
At MoMA, it’s great that Dickerman allows masterpieces to share the stage with lesser-known works. She smartly puts stained glass, needlepoint, wood carving, posters, photos, and illustrated books on equal footing with painting and sculpture. For MoMA, which rarely mixes and matches media in its permanent collection, this is a big, praiseworthy step. Yet even with much to love, there’s something demented, even dangerous about this show. Only an institution this besotted with its own bellybutton would title a show “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925.” Abstraction wasn’t invented in the West in those years. Abstraction has been with us since the beginning. Westerners discovered it, or rediscovered it. In many cases, it soon became insular and overpurified. Consciously, conceptually, purposefully, fervently. Abstraction is there in the caves. It’s been practiced ever since, all over the world. All two-dimensional art is abstract, in that it’s a representation of something in the world rather than the thing itself. Neolithic stone sculpture and Chinese scholar rocks are as abstract as Brancusi’s Column and Vladimir Tatlin’s tower monument. Missing at MoMA are visionaries like Adolf Wölfli, whose manic abstraction can make Kandinsky look tame; George Ohr’s biomorphic ceramic configurations; Rudolf Steiner’s cosmic diagrams; and Olga Rozanova, who was making Rothkos and Newmans of her own. What about Antoni Gaudí, who’s about as out-there abstract as it gets, on a giant scale? All would have dovetailed perfectly with the wild-style work here by Nijinsky. The American sculptor John Storrs is MIA. Ditto Hilma af Klint, who was making fantastically abstract paintings as early as 1906. The deeper you dig, the worse it gets. There’s an empty gallery devoted to music by Stravinsky, Debussy, and others: Fine. But there’s no Scott Joplin! No Dixieland, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, or Jelly Roll Morton. All are as original and as “abstract” as these Europeans.
Really, the title of MoMA’s show could be “High Museum Abstraction: History Written by the Winners.” Or “White Abstraction.” On some level, this show is MoMA talking to itself, looking for ways around its ever-present deluded, limited narrative. If it doesn’t open up this story line soon, MoMA will be doomed to examine the imagined logic of its beautiful bellybutton, alone and forever.
Warhol’s relationship to food is manifest not only in his art but also in the frugality and deprivation of his childhood, the time he was from—America in the 1930s, ‘40s and ’50s—and in his flip philosophy and deadpan sense of humor.
Anyone with a slight interest in his work is aware of how prominently Campbell’s Soup and Coca-Cola figure into his art. Some may own, or have at least seen, the first Velvet Underground album <http://tinyurl.com/7872qhr> , which has a Warhol cover featuring a bright yellow banana. (You could actually peel the banana open on the original copies back in 1967.)
Dedicated fans of the pop artist might be familiar with his Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Boxes <http://tinyurl.com/7gl5b6s> and his Tunafish Disaster <http://tinyurl.com/7bbov64> painting of 1963, which is based on a newspaper story about two older women who died from eating a can of tainted tuna. There’s even a later Warhol series of works based on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper <http://tinyurl.com/74t7doa> .
The frequency of Warhol’s food references declines in his ‘60s films. (It’s possible that the actors in many of Warhol’s movies don’t eat because they were fueled by amphetamines, and speed freaks are notoriously indifferent to food.) Warhol’s film Eating Too Fast, which is also known as Blow Job #2, is a sound version of BLOW-JOB <http://tinyurl.com/79lytha> , and is obviously not about food. Still, there are Eat (1964) <http://tinyurl.com/7jc7sj2> , starring Robert Indiana; Restaurant (1965), with Edie Sedgwick and Bibbe Hansen (future mom of Beck); and The Nude Restaurant (1967) <http://tinyurl.com/7axodrd> , filmed at the Mad Hatter on West Fourth Street, which had been a lesbian bar in the ‘50s called the Pony Stable Inn and is now the Washington Square Diner.
Among these films, Eat is the only one in which the activity of eating is primarily depicted. For the entire duration of its 45 minutes, Indiana silently and glacially consumes a single mushroom, and not of the psychoactive variety. When Warhol was asked why the movie was so long, he matter-of-factly said that was how long it took Robert Indiana to consume the mushroom. Warhol was probably the only director in the history of film who never said the word “cut.”
And then there is the very curious Schrafft’s Commercial (1969), described thusly by critic Harold H. Brayman:
The screen fills with a magenta blob, which a viewer suddenly realizes is the cherry atop a chocolate sundae. Shimmering first in puce, then fluttering in chartreuse, the colors of the background and the sundae evolve through many colors of the rainbow. Studio noises can be heard. The sundae vibrates to coughs on the soundtrack. ‘Andy Warhol for a SCHRAFFT’S?’ asks the off-screen voice of a lady. Answers an announcer: ‘A little change is good for everybody.’
Commissioning Warhol to come up with an ad for their restaurants was an attempt by Schrafft’s to attract a hipper audience. Their image in the late ‘60s wasn’t vastly different from how they had presented themselves in the late ’50s. Tied in with the Warhol commercial was a new product, advertised on their menu as the Underground Sundae: “Yummy Schrafft’s vanilla ice cream in two groovy heaps, with three ounces of mind-blowing chocolate sauce undulating within a mountain of pure whipped cream topped with a pulsating maraschino cherry served in a bowl as big as a boat.” Priced at about a dollar, it was a pretty good deal.
What isn’t seen in that 60-second spot is what Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro <http://tinyurl.com/72ajh34> recalls from the day it was filmed. He and Viva <http://tinyurl.com/87cj3nm> were in the studio, both topless, she spread out on a table, with Dallesandro smoking and standing behind her, his muscled arms modestly but provocatively covering her bare breasts. They were, of course, removed from the final cut of the commercial, but it’s clear that Warhol originally wanted the sundae to have more than a cherry on top, and instinctively knew that sex helps to sell even the most dubious product.
Given that he was surrounded by all sorts of drugs and freaks throughout this period, it’s surprising that Warhol’s most psychedelic filmed moment is reserved for a sugary trip down memory lane—an ice cream sundae with all the extras. There’s even an all-American take on the image to be found in an illustration of Warhol’s from the ‘50s of a triple-scoop sundae whose glass boat is festooned with a little American flag on either side: a patriotic Fourth of July dessert.
Image by Walter Green.
Despite having plenty of assistants around the Factory, which was what his studio was called, Warhol thought that he was the only one who really worked hard, that it was somehow up to him to support everyone in his employ. Success hadn’t diminished his work ethic. If anything, the opposite was true. Warhol liked to say, “I’ve got a lot of mouths to feed.” When asked why he kept himself running more or less nonstop, his favorite response was, “Someone has to bring home the bacon.” Although it’s been 25 years since Warhol died, he’s still bringing home the bacon. At a November 2010 auction at Sotheby’s, his 1962 painting of a single Coca-Cola bottle sold for a whopping $35.36 million <http://tinyurl.com/8y6xxey> . That’s one very expensive bottle of pop.
Pop Art may not have been a purely American phenomenon, but, with the strongest postwar economy, America gave birth to an art form that would comment on and critique a consumer society that was especially well-fed. After the war, years of food shortages, and rationing, the horn of plenty for many was, of course, the supermarket. And yet the artists whose images reflected American popular culture—cars and gas stations, the flag and comic-book superheroes, hot dogs and apple pie—were all children of the Great Depression: Wayne Thiebaud (born 1920), Roy Lichtenstein (1923), Robert Indiana (1928), Claes Oldenburg (1929), Jasper Johns (1930), Tom Wesselmann (1931), James Rosenquist (1933), and, to a lesser extent, the youngest among them, Ed Ruscha (1937).
Warhol, whose first birthday was celebrated fewer than three months before the stock market crash of 1929, came from very humble means, his childhood marked by the hardship of the times. His parents were Slovak immigrants who settled in Pittsburgh. His father, unable to speak or write much English, worked there in construction and as a laborer, and as a miner in West Virginia, and died when Warhol was only 14. His mother and two older brothers had to provide for the family as best they could. As a wealthy, successful artist in 1975, Warhol sat down to write his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol <http://tinyurl.com/6wzx9r2> . In it he made a number of confessions about how the privation of his early years had affected him later in life. Despite the breeziness of his style, when he admits that he “can’t tolerate eating leftovers,” his admissions are accompanied by guilt:
"Food is my great extravagance. I really spoil myself, but then I try to compensate by scrupulously saving all of my food leftovers and bringing them into the office or leaving them in the street and recycling them there. My conscience won’t let me throw anything out, even when I don’t want it for myself. As I said, I really spoil myself in the food area, so my leftovers are often grand—my hairdresser’s cat eats pâté at least twice a week. The leftovers usually turn out to be meat because I’ll buy a huge piece of meat, cook it up for dinner, and then right before it’s done I’ll break down and have what I wanted for dinner in the first place—bread and jam. I’m only kidding myself when I go through the motions of cooking protein: all I ever really want is sugar. The rest is strictly for appearances … ."
Strictly for appearances? What about all the beluga caviar he spooned onto toast when he attended dinners at the Iranian embassy in New York in the late ’70s?
In The Andy Warhol Diaries <http://tinyurl.com/6ulpt5a> , he mentioned that he knew things weren’t going well for the shah. Not from the number of protesters out in front of the embassy, but because the once enormous bowls of caviar had gotten progressively smaller. The more they shrank, he realized, the more the Pahlavis’ hold on power in Iran was slipping away. And why was Warhol there in the first place? His real meal ticket in those days was a very lucrative portrait business, and being able to land commissioned portraits of the shah and his wife, Empress Farah, was foremost in his mind.
Unfortunately for Warhol, by the time the paint was dry and the portraits were ready to ship to Tehran, the shah had been overthrown. As much as Warhol lusted after the fame and money—and preyed on the vanity—of the rich so that he could keep painting portraits and “bring home the bacon,” he probably didn’t even like caviar that much. He was drawn to what it represented (the riches of royalty rather than the grim reality of authoritarian rule), but its saltiness was something else. If no one had been looking, he might well have washed it down with a sugary, syrupy soda. Because no matter how much money Warhol made, nor how many wigs he owned, he could never really deny his proletarian roots or his own contradictions.
The same man who could order anything he wanted from the menu at La Grenouille would volunteer to serve meals to the homeless at churches on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The son of working-class immigrants who achieved wealth and fame through hard work and the sheer force of his ambition, Warhol had a much better grasp of potentiality than the average Pilgrim blue blood. He understood the democracy of mass production, whether in terms of the fluidity of images or of soft drinks. As he mused in The Philosophy:
"What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it."
Warhol may have famously professed to wanting to be a machine, but what he really liked was the idea of mechanization as it relates to magic, particularly as it comes down to us in childhood. His two main means of working were recording and imprinting images by way of the Polaroid camera and the silk screen. Pictures could be developed instantly, and images could be repeated over and over.
Of course, Warhol loved the Automat <http://tinyurl.com/8y3yw2f> . You put your nickel in the slot, opened the little windowed door (just as if you had a private box at the post office), and there was a piece of pie on a plate, ready and waiting. Instant gratification, and more or less the same every time.
And don’t forget that Warhol was an unrepentant voyeur. With the windowed doors at the Automat and the post office, there was a whole world on the other side, and these little portals, once open, allowed one to spy, if only momentarily, on the people and goings-on behind them. There is clearly a libidinal aspect to the situation, and it could not have been lost on Warhol—a private peepshow, a quickie, for a nickel a pop. And to what extent was there a sexual charge of possibility in the dining room itself? Was the Automat a pickup place in the ’50s? Horn & Hardart may have been a family-oriented business, but in cities like New York and Philadelphia, where they first opened, almost any public place was a cruising area, especially in the buttoned-up and more naive ‘40s and ’50s. When you add in the fact that food and sex have always had a rather amorous relationship, suddenly the banana split doesn’t seem so innocent anymore.
Warhol in the ’60s, looking back to a decade earlier—when he started to become well-known, to make and be able to spend money—may have begun, in effect, to live his second childhood. That simpler time had to have included meals at the Automat. Ever frugal, Warhol probably also cherished what could guiltlessly have been a tip-free dining experience. For someone who felt perennially on his own, especially when he was surrounded by an entourage and hangers-on, the Automat may have represented a way to be sociable without making the least effort, which is part of why movie theaters remain popular. As he remarks in The Philosophy:
My favorite restaurant atmosphere has always been the atmosphere of the good, plain American lunchroom or even the good, plain American lunch counter. The old-style Schrafft’s and the old-style Chock Full o’Nuts are absolutely the only things in the world that I’m truly nostalgic for. The days were carefree in the 1940s and 1950s when I could go into a Chocks for my cream cheese sandwich with nuts on date-nut bread and not worry about a thing. No matter what changes or how fast, the one thing we always need is real good food so we can know what the changes are and how fast they’re coming. Progress is very important and exciting in everything but food. When you say you want an orange, you don’t want someone asking you, “An orange what?”
I really like to eat alone. I want to start a chain of restaurants for other people like me called ANDY-MATS—“The Restaurant for the Lonely Person.” You get your food and then you take your tray into a booth and watch television.
This was in 1975. Within two years, Warhol had moved closer to his dream, but one that was never meant to be. There were still Automats at the time (the last closed in 1991), but the Andy-Mat would be very different from the coin-operated system that had been in place since the early 1900s. In Warhol’s restaurant, diners would make their selections from the menu and, rather than rely on a waiter or waitress, would order their meals by speaking through a kind of phone system set up at each table, connected directly to the kitchen. The food, however, wouldn’t be cooked on the premises, but zapped and served there, just like on an airplane. The kitchen of the Andy-Mat, as befits its creator’s particular disposition, would be push-button—for all intents and purposes, a large microwave oven. Envisioned as an international chain, the first one was scheduled to open in the fall of ’77 in New York at 74th Street and Madison Avenue.
There is a picture of Warhol <http://tinyurl.com/cpnnhrv> in which he’s seated at a conference table, with three men standing around him dressed in mostly dapper suits and ties, as he is himself, and holding small plates of food and glasses. An Andy-Mat sign is tacked to the wall behind them, along with a photo and floor plans for the proposed eatery. Although an uncorked bottle of champagne is prominently displayed on the table, no one looks particularly enthused. Warhol himself can only be described as appearing worried and empty-handed, pretending neither to eat nor drink. According to GOOD <http://tinyurl.com/2d987lv> :
"This photo shows Andy Warhol with his Andy-Mat restaurant business partners, architect Araldo Cossutta, developer Geoffrey Leeds, and financier C. Cheever Hardwick III. According to restaurant historian Jan Whitaker <http://tinyurl.com/c6vx9hj> , “Warhol’s concept included pneumatic tubes through which customers’ orders would be whooshed into the kitchen. The meals served in Andy-Mats, in keeping with the times, were to be frozen dinners requiring only reheating.”
Warhol’s friend Maxime de la Falaise, the former model, food editor of Vogue, and author of Seven Centuries of English Cooking <http://tinyurl.com/cnzsl3l> , had designed the menu for the restaurant, which was to feature entrées such as shepherd’s pie and Irish lamb stew, key lime pie for dessert, and the signature “nursery cocktail” of milk on the rocks. Warhol’s tastes and Americanness inclined him to celebrate what was satisfying and unpretentious, what was tasty, not what was necessarily expensive. Again from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:
"In Europe the royalty and the aristocracy used to eat a lot better than the peasants—they weren’t eating the same things at all. It was either partridge or porridge, and each class stuck to its own food. But when Queen Elizabeth came here and President Eisenhower bought her a hot dog <http://tinyurl.com/7yh2mwd> I’m sure he felt confident that she couldn’t have had delivered to Buckingham Palace a better hot dog than that one he bought for her for maybe twenty cents at the ballpark. Because there is no better hot dog than a ballpark hot dog. Not for a dollar, not for ten dollars, not for a hundred thousand dollars could she get a better hot dog. She could get one for twenty cents and so could anybody else.”
After Warhol’s death, an auction of his belongings was organized, and it was noted that he had a large collection of cookie jars. But in Warhol’s world, these could have been places to stash valuables, small velvet bags of uncut gems, for example, rather than baked goods. To be found with one’s hands in the cookie jar would mean that you had been caught stealing, an Americanism Warhol would have grown up with. His eating habits may have been simple, but with all his self-confessed fondness for sweets it’s surprising that he was always slim (and that he never suffered from scurvy).
Usually when artists—especially male artists—make a lot of money, they start to get wider and more rotund, their success visibly tipping the scales, and not in their favor where physique is concerned. This never happened to Andy Warhol. Warhol’s secret to staying in shape was easy enough: When you go to a restaurant—and he dined out frequently—never order anything you’re actually interested in eating. Once again you have to keep in mind that while Warhol was forthcoming with reporters and in his writing, he wasn’t always truthfully so. Better to offer an evasively interesting response and tell a good story or come up with a quotable one-liner than to answer a question directly and be completely honest. And yet on the subject of what he identified as his New York Diet in The Philosophy, you can’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt.
"… [W]hen I order in a restaurant, I order everything that I don’t want, so I have a lot to play around with while everyone else eats. Then, no matter how chic the restaurant is, I insist that the waiter wrap the entire plate up like a to-go order, and after we leave the restaurant I find a little corner outside in the street to leave the plate in, because there are so many people in New York who live in the streets, with everything they own in shopping bags.
So I lose weight and stay trim, and I think that maybe one of those people will find a Grenouille dinner on the window ledge. But then, you never know, maybe they wouldn’t like what I ordered as much as I didn’t like it, and maybe they’d turn up their noses and look through the garbage for some half-eaten rye bread. You just never know with people. You just never know what they’ll like, what you should do for them.
So that’s the Andy Warhol New York City Diet.”
Warhol, who wasn’t straight, and never had a life partner, and lived long before gay marriage, somehow felt obliged in The Philosophy to identify a perfect mate, whom he referred to as a wife. As a man who always felt that he was the one who had to be the provider, he wished that the tables were turned. And of course he still wanted to be famous. As he writes:
"My ideal wife would have a lot of bacon, bring it all home, and have a TV station besides."
MUSEUMS ARE ABOUT THE ART, NOT RACKING UP BIG NUMBERS ON CROWDS AND REVENUE
The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s founding chairman justifies the ouster of its chief curator by saying the facility has to grow its client base and head down-market to do so—but museums are about great art transporting people, not pulling in bigger audiences.
by Blake Gopnik
Jul 9, 2012
• “Home of the D-Cup: The Topless Girl in 20th-Century Culture.”
• “You Love Their Songs, Now See Their Paintings: The Art of Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan.”
• “Collaboration and Conflict: Great Football Plays and Their Players.”
Those are just a few of the exhibitions I think we may be seeing in coming years at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and possibly at other museums around the world, if current trends continue.
Two weeks ago the board of the L.A. MoCA fired the museum’s chief curator, and at the time it struck me as a mostly local affair. Paul Schimmel had been a world-class figure, of real substance, and during his 22-year tenure his shows had sometimes changed how people everywhere thought about art. But who knew the particular internal dynamics that made him a bad fit with the MoCA board, and with Jeffrey Deitch, the showy New York dealer it had named director in 2010?
On Sunday, however, when the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Eli Broad <http://tinyurl.com/6ov6ywt> , the real-estate tycoon who helped found and fund the museum, it became clear that the MoCA affair spoke to much larger issues. Broad said his letter would “set the record straight” about the museum’s fortunes and why Schimmel needed to be fired. I’m not sure it did that, but it did clarify something else: it showed how far astray the museum world is headed because of the big-business brains at its helm.
Broad laid out a history of successes at L.A. MoCA. And he discussed some recent and very real troubles, as its endowment was whittled down. But Broad’s recipe for solving those troubles was phrased in essentially a businessman’s terms and had nothing to do with art or museums. He said MoCA needed to grow its client base (of course he used the term “audience”). And he said that should be done by heading down-market (of course he phrased that in terms of making MoCA more “populist” and less “insular”).
A museum that drew a billion people a year, and made billions in profits, would count as a disaster if minds weren’t changed about art in the process.
But whereas growth itself is by definition a good thing in business, at least where profit’s concerned, it makes no sense in museums. What’s the right number of people to have in your galleries? The “record” attendance of a million you were so proud of in 1985? That later record that came to twice that, which you trumpeted in 2000? Or the 10 million you’ll have to receive in the year 2100, if endless growth is what your board demands? Are your shows better—more enlightening, enriching, mind-altering—when your guests are packed in like sardines and have 10 seconds to look at each picture?
It’s not that hard to ensure larger crowds. You could simply host some of the shows that I imagined at this article’s start. But ask people what art and museums are for, and I doubt that they’ll list “crowd parking” as central. They’ll say that great art should take you somewhere you’ve never been. That it should provide feelings and thoughts that you don’t get in the rest of the culture. That, if it’s at true masterpiece level, it should have the kind of heft we assume in Shakespeare and Beethoven. And they’ll say that museums should make such art available—to the absolutely largest number of people who are looking for that kind of thing, and not for something else.
Audience’s don’t mind coming to a museum to get experiences they are used to getting elsewhere—a dose of pop culture, or some light entertainment. Some men might come for vintage soft-core. But in those cases the museum’s just another venue, like a stadium or cinema, without any special claim on our hearts or our minds, or on our generosity. Attract more people by making the museum more like the rest of the culture—find success on those businesslike terms—and you’re guaranteeing the failure of the enterprise as a whole, at its most fundamental.
A few years ago, Philippe de Montebello, the great director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, explained to me that “if we wanted 100,000 people one evening, all we’d have to do is to bring the Doors—or whatever the group is—and, end of story, the place would be packed. But then change the charter to call yourself something else. The museum first of all is the only chartered, formal body with the responsibility for collecting and exhibiting works of art … The one mantra that every museum director should have: First comes the work of art. Everything else devolves from it.”
An exhibition like Schimmel’s Out of Action, which opened a few viewers’ eyes to the worth of performance art, is a more “profitable product” in a museum’s true cultural currency than is Deitch’s Art in the Streets show, which told 200,000 people that they could have fun with graffiti, as we’ve all known for 40 years. “It is my mission to increase MOCA’s attendance and to engage new audiences,” Deitch said when his show’s gate was announced. He didn’t mention how that mission would profit his new attendees.
Now, I have total respect for the particular skills of people like Broad who earn piles of money. They understand numbers, and profits, in ways that seem magic to salaried bumblers like me. But what they need to learn—as do all of us who have surrendered our art institutions to them—is that the metrics they use to judge profit and loss have no meaning in cultural terms. Simply counting heads (or even dollars and cents) doesn’t tell you a thing about how a museum is doing. A museum that drew a billion people a year, and made billions in profits, would count as a disaster, if minds weren’t changed about art in the process.
In the Gilded Age, when robber barons founded great museums such as the Met, they proved that their souls stretched to more than a businessman’s numbers. Their descendants need to do the same proving.
NYPD FREES “I LOVE NY” BOMBER Now, after originally being ordered to 30 days in jail, officials released Miyakawa yesterday, May 23, 2012. A judge has ordered that the artist still undergo a psychiatric evaluation and return to court late next month on charges of reckless endangerment and planting fake bombs. Good luck to Miyakawa; one can only hope the forces of law and order come to their senses. Do they realize how many plastic bags are hanging from the city’s trees?_artnet
ALEC MONOPOLY MURAL ON THE BOWERY TAGGED The graffiti battle outside 199 Bowery just started. In the touch of a few spray-strokes, street writer Leeto completely sullied the new Alec Monopoly artwork <http://tinyurl.com/dx7n4cr> that was thrown up last week. It was only a matter of time, though, especially for a mural of that magnitude on a highly-trafficked area of the Bowery. After hours Tuesday, Leeto painted his tag name alongside the following sentence – “Pirates don’t like you Alec. Leeto is back.” Gotta be some bad blood between these two._BoweryBoogie
MARIAN GOODMAN WELL REPRESENTED AT DOCUMENTA Our eagle-eyed compatriots over at Art in America noticed that Marian Goodman gallery is especially well represented at Documenta 13, which opens next month in Kassel, Germany. Over a quarter of the gallery’s artists, 10 in total, made the list. They are as follows: Tacita Dean. Pierre Huyghe, Amar Kanwar, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Giuseppe Penone, Anri Sala, Tino Sehgal, Lawrence Weiner, Adrian Villar Rojas. Tied for second in New York are Barbara Gladstone and Casey Kaplan._NYGallerist/Observer
FRIEZE MASTERS EXHIBITOR LIST RELEASED Frieze has unveiled an impressive line-up of international dealers for the inaugural outing of Frieze Masters, which is due to coincide with the ninth edition of the contemporary fair in London (11-14 October). The diverse roster comprises an assortment of Old Master connoisseurs, Oceanic art dealers, experts in Indian miniatures, a rug specialist, as well as a sizeable chunk of modern art dealers In total, 96 galleries have signed up for the “historic-to-modern” fair, with 75 dealers scheduled to show in the main section of the fair and 22 in “Spotlight”, which is dedicated to solo presentations of works by 20th-century artists (there is one crossover, Galerie Hubert Winter from Vienna)._ArtNewspaper
BLUE STAR MUSEUMS RETURN WITH FREE ADMISSION FOR MILITARY FAMILIES The renewal of the Blue Stars Museums program, which starts Memorial Day and goes through Labor Day, was announced Tuesday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The major sponsors are the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and the museums._WashingtonPost
THE PRICE OF BEING FEMALE Much fanfare greeted the $388m made by Christie’s post-war and contemporary evening sale in New York earlier this month—its highest total ever. Few seemed to notice that the auction was unprecedented in another way: it had ten lots by eight women artists, amounting to a male-to-female ratio of five-to-one. (Sotheby’s evening sale offered a more typical display of male-domination with an 11-to-one ratio.) Yet proceeds on all the works by women artists in the Christie’s sale tallied up to a mere $17m—less than 5% of the total and not even half the price achieved that night by a single picture of two naked women by Yves Klein. Indeed, depictions of women often command the highest prices, whereas works by them do not. An analysis of data provided by artnet, however, suggests that the prospects for women are slowly improving. Pics “The Top Ten Most Expensive Female Post-War Artists” <http://tinyurl.com/d28e278> _Economist
BROOKLYN DESIGNER ARRESTED FOR “PLANTING FALSE BOMBS” Brooklyn-based designer Takeshi Miyakawa was arrested on Saturday, May19, 2012 at 2am for “planting false bombs” – he was installing a new series light sculptures inspired by the I LOVE NY plastic shopping bags around the city in trees and on lamp posts as part of NY Design Week 2012. A passerby called in a bomb threat after noticing the sculpture installation. The NYPD arrested Miyakawa while a bomb squad verified that the sculptures were non-threatening. The designer and four of his colleagues co-operated with the police, repeatedly explaining that the hanging bags were an art-installation, and not explosives. At an arraignment on Sunday, May 20, 2012 the prosecution recommended that the judge fix bail, while his lawyer, Deborah J Blum, characterized Miyakawa’s arrest as a gross misunderstanding as evidenced by his many accomplishments in the field of design. The Honorable Martin Murphy decided to hold Miyakawa for a mental evaluation, extending his detainment for an additional 30 days. The 50-year-old designer relocated Tokyo to New York City 23 years ago, working for the renowned New York architect Rafael Vinoly. Miyakawa established his solo design practice, Takeshi Miyakawa Design, in 2001. <http://tinyurl.com/cpymecw> _Spoon&Tamago