The Ivory Tower erodes, evermore…

artchicago_logo.gifAs a former Chicagoan, I was delighted to read Ed Winkleman’s very optimistic note about the rebirth of Art Chicago. I think the strategy – folding the fair into a larger civic cultural festival called “Artropolis” – makes a lot of sense. It will be interesting to see how much overlap there is between the crowds for several contemporary-art events, for the almost equally large antiques show that will run concurrently in the Merchandise Mart (the largest commercial building in North America), and for the symposium on “hegemony and resistance in the global cultural economy.” Compared to last year’s fiasco, when the once-mighty fair (before the Armory, before ABMB) was barely saved in extremis from not opening, this is an excellent development.

However, one innovation strikes me as likely to draw criticism: The NEW INSIGHT section, described as “an amazing display of the future emerging talent in the art world… comprised of artwork from 24 graduate students at 12 of the country’s most influential Master of Fine Arts programs,” including CalArts, Yale, RISD and the Art Institute of Chicago. Especially given the fact that these students were selected by renowned Renaissance Society director Susanne Ghez, I’m predicting a stampede by neophiliac collectors to buy their work. Unless some draconian mechanism has been put in place to make sure that doesn’t happen – an idea which might be considered advisable in some quarters, but would almost certainly be a) an infringement of some Constitutional right and b) totally ineffective in the face of aggressive collectors.

Offhand, I cannot recall ever seeing a section of exclusively graduate-student work displayed as part of an art fair. (Although one certainly comes across the occasional artwork by a graduate student who’s already joined the roster of a participating gallery.) In this sense, New Insight marks the latest stage in the crumbling of the wall between art schools and the art market, the earlier stages having been 1) the prowling of art-school studios by dealers and collectors, 2) the growing professionalization of degree shows, and 3) the “School Days” show at Jack Tilton last spring. Honestly, this is a topic on which I feel divided. Part of me sides with the logic that led Columbia arts dean Bruce Ferguson to close the studios of first-year grad students to collectors. Then again, I think, maybe it’s totally reactionary to think that we can sequester students from the art market, or even that doing so would be a good idea. Thoughts?


Clippings from the salon floor, #3

This random assortment of 10 web clippings is much more than normal. Not sure why. Maybe the artworld is heating up again after the lull that followed February’s fairs?

GP FakePlagiarized Pottery, I: After a Grayson Perry piece up for auction at Christies London was revealed to be a forgery, the cross-dressing, Turner Prize-winning potter/quotemachine commented in his regular Times of London column: “I thought maybe I had made it and blanked it from my memory. Then I realised that it was too well made for an early work of mine… My early works are lively but technically inept.”

Plagiarized Pottery, II: From the Times of London article on the forged crockery (via ArtsJournal): “Christie’s said in a statement that it devoted ‘considerable resources to investigating the provenance of all objects we offer for sale’. This did not extend to approaching Perry or his gallery, the Victoria Miro in East London.” Ouch.

Art Market Maxims, I: Chelsea gallerist Ed Winkleman’s Easter present to artists? Advice on getting a gallery. The whole thing is well worth reading, not least for the tough-love notes like: “Never, never, never, never, never…walk into a gallery with your actual artwork in tow. Let me repeat that: NEVER. Regardless of how convinced you are that if the dealer could only see it in person, they’d immediately offer you representation, this approach smacks of desperation.”

Art Market Maxims, II: From the blog Art Market Insider’s article Ban New Art From the Big Auctions?: “Gagosian director Bob Monk once told me, when comparing the current bubble (his word) to the boom and bust of the 1980s art market, ‘It’s like a game of hot potato, and you don’t want to be the schnook holding the damn thing when the game is over.'”

Domino-Effect Crash: From the Christies press release announcing it was selling Andy Warhol’s Green Car Crash, 1963 Estimated $25–35M (and likely to score twice that): “This sale is bound to set a new price structure for the artist.” Which roughly translates to, “You better buy this exceptional Warhol, because after we sell it, all the other ones are going to cost you twice as much anyway.Continue reading “Clippings from the salon floor, #3”

Boats on the Bund

boatlogo.gifDown in Shanghai for a few days to visit people and galleries (and the 12th China International Boat Show…). A first chance also this year to sit outside at the really quite good Shanghai MOCA 3rd floor terrace cafe, wishing I had brought sunglasses. Samuel Kung (Chairman) and Katrina Chang (Chief Representative) kindly stopped by to say hello. Katrina was busy preparing for the arrival of the contemporary portion of the 300 Years of American Art exhibition on its way down from Beijing. I still think it is sad that local problems mean they have split the show across two venues. “Bureacratic issues” was the phrase used, but that can cover a multitude of sins from disagreements between overseeing ministries down to inefficiencies within the institutions themselves. But she seemed pleased to have the contemporary works they were getting.

The lunch, however, was the highlight of an otherwise dull day of gallery visits around both the centre of town and out at 50 Moganshan Road, Shanghai’s mini-798 (798 being the trendy gallery cafe area in North East Beijing). Silly bright pink- -and-green landscapes, with the occasional image of Mao or Stalin in the clouds, asking US$25,000 to US$70,000, from someone barely known, were among the worst of the day. The two university display spaces at 50MR might be interesting to watch, though there was a preponderance of traditional monochromatic brush paintings this week. (Perhaps a year-end compulsory-technique show?) Overall there was little to inspire, or amuse, at any of the galleries I visited. Shanghai just doesn’t have the volume or depth of Beijing. Though I did see some nice catalogues, Marc. %-).

We are at an interesting stage for contemporary galleries in China. Because of the high prices for Zhang XiaoGang and others at auction, prices have risen across the board for any contemporary artist at galleries all over China (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou) no matter how little track record they have. For many galleries it is clearly a case of shifting canvas while the China fever lasts. For buyers I have no idea what is in their minds when they pay high prices for what is clearly derivative or vacuous painting. Perhaps they are just playing the pyramid game (last buyer is the loser) that we last saw in dotcom stocks in ’99?

Fortunately even China fever has its limits. It was good to see how many works missed their high estimates at the recent (March 21) New York Sothebys Contemporary Art Asia sale, and that a significant number were unsold.

Pinault beats Guggenheim – on a TKO? Weird.

Punta_della_Dogana.jpgAccording to François Pinault remporte la “bataille de Venise” contre Guggenheim, just posted on Le Monde’s site, the French tycoon has won the mano-a-mano battle to take over the 50,000-square-foot-plus Punta della Dogana museum, a prized location in Venice for which he had been battling the Guggenheim since last fall.

This story has taken some weird turns. First, the Guggenheim butted in after it had looked like Pinault would simply be accorded the site by local allies. After Pinault marshalled starchitect Tadao Andao to his side, the Guggenheim riposted with Zaha Hadid. Then things got a little biblical. Echoing the tale of King Solomon and the disputed baby Venetian officials, after reviewing extensive proposals, decided the two collections had equally good ideas and proposed they share the space. Guggenheim leader Thomas Krens seemed amenable, but Pinault’s camp nixed the idea as “impractical.” Now the Venetians have suddenly discovered that the Guggenheim overlooked a key aspect of the proposal. My rough-and-ready-at-1AM translation from Le Monde:

The director for cultural patrimony in Venice, Luigi Bassetto, justified the decision in favor of Francois Pinault: “The project for the Guggenheim foundation did not specify which pieces would be permanently displayed in the museum. Yet that was one of the indispensable conditions in the call for proposals. The commission [charged with designating the best project] considers the Guggenheim to have excluded themselves from the running.”

Um, yeah. And a month ago, no one had noticed that this CRUCIAL requirement had been overlooked by one of only two candidates? By the time we hit Venice, much more Machiavellian explanations should be flowing freely. Apparently, the Guggenheim’s bid was backed by Italy’s political right, whose power waned after the fall of Silvio Berlusconi. Then again, it might be something far more local. Theories, anyone?

Vanishing lines: the collector as curator?

For those who follow the sometimes tempestuous marriage between art and finance closely, there was not much new in “Wall Street meets the art world” (via Culturegrrl), even if the language was appropriately mercantile for an article in Fortune magazine. Describing her husband’s relationship to art, Chelsea dealer Marianne Boesky recalls, “He had never been in a contemporary art gallery until we met. But as soon as he started understanding the numbers and seeing the margins, he became serious about art.”

To me, however, the most interesting part of this article was the very end:

Glenn Fuhrman, who manages Michael Dell’s family money and has become an active collector and philanthropist, is opening an exhibition space in Chelsea to display works from private collections, including his own.

What’s noteworthy here is not the fact that a collector opens an exhibition space, something Saatchi et al have done, though rarely (never?) smack-dab in the middle of a gallery district. The weird part would be the showcasing of multiple private collections in that space. Assuming it actually happens, this is an interesting development and one for which I cannot easily think of a precedent. Although apparently, a Swiss friend just informed me, it’s an idea also being mulled in Europe by some loose coalitions of collectors.

When Los Angeles collector Dean Valentine curated “Now is a Good Time” at Andrea Rosen Gallery, it ignited a fair amount of private grousing among artworld insiders about some ethical-moral line having been trespassed. Then again, that was in 2004 – a long time ago in today’s amphetamine-speed ConArt world – before Charles Saatchi Continue reading “Vanishing lines: the collector as curator?”

Clippings swept from the salon floor, #2

New term alert: China fatigue. The Telegraph’s Art sales: Rampant market, rising fatigue used the phrase “China Fatigue” in two quite different ways: 1) The Chinese churning out of tired but highly saleable work, e.g. “Tate’s Simon Groom believes that the rampant market may have produced what he calls ‘China fatigue,’ encouraging artists to make saleable pastiches rather than ‘genuinely good, creatively interesting art’. 2) The seemingly inevitable state when the current high demand for Chinese ConArt falters, e.g. “Over the next 12 days, contemporary Chinese art will be auctioned in Paris, London and Hong Kong. No one doubts that the speculation will continue, but some will be watching out for signs of China fatigue.” I’d propose another, synthetic, definition: 3) The market condition arising when demand for Chinese ConArt finally flags, because people tire of endlessly seeing similar pieces.

Chris Burden, Shoot, recreated by  Eva and Franco Mattes Tech Gone Wrong: “Synthetic Performances,” in which classical pieces of performance art – Joseph Beuys’ “7000 Oaks,Valie Export’s “Tapp und Tastkino,” Vito Acconci’s “Seedbed,” Chris Burden’s “Shoot” – are recreated in Second Life, the newest machinima platform. An odd project made even odder by the gym-bot physical culture in Second Life – Burden and Acconci look like buffed-out surfer dudes and Export is working a Daisy Duke/Pris look. (See also at Art Review Blog, via Ed_W.)

Those who can’t make, sell? While there are some New York dealers who are also active artists (Guild & Greyshkul ‘s three founders – Sara Van Der Beek, Johannes Van Der Beek, Anya Kielar – all had shows at other very solid galleries in the last year), apparently Chelsea and LA are larded with artiste manqué dealers. The Kantor/Feuer Window gallery (literally a window on 10th avenue, open 24/7) will be featuring the work of 20-plus such dealers starting today. Those include heavy-hitters and hot young names such as Roland Augustine, John Cheim, Zach Feuer, Continue reading “Clippings swept from the salon floor, #2”

More private museums: Good or bad? Yes.

I’m still digesting Wednesday’s NYT special section on museums, especially “Immortality, or a Museum of One’s Own,” in which Geraldine Fabrikant explored the trend of collectors building private museums for their treasure troves. Despite the massive fortunes funding them, the article underlines, there’s a certain financial precariousness to such institutions:

Small or large, [private museums] are costly, and it is not clear how many will survive once the people who started them are gone. The yearly budget for Ronald Lauder’s Neue Galerie in Manhattan was $9 million in 2006… In that same year, the museum brought in $5 million.

The Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan, a haven for the Himalayan art collected by Donald and Shelley Rubin, had a budget of $12 million last year and received about $6 million from sources that included admissions, donations and dues…. Mr. Rubin has created a $75 million endowment for the museum, but he is realistic about its long-term odds. “We have some money and we are doing great shows,” he said. “We have 5,000 members, but the bottom line is that the public has to come to the aid of museums.”

This is where it gets a little strange for me. Because when Rubin talks about “the public” coming to his museum’s aid   despite the $75M endowment, what that suggests to me is that money will have to come from donors great and small, and perhaps even the local government. In that sense, the founding of private museums often functions as a sort of incredibly expensive trial balloon, floated out into the cultural sphere to see whether that collector’s taste enjoys broader support or fails to find traction.

There’s another angle to this question, which is whether the surge in private museums is a good or bad thing for the artworld in general, Continue reading “More private museums: Good or bad? Yes.”

Clippings collected from the salon floor

A random assortment of the recently amusing….

From The AI Interview: Damien Hirst“: “If you ask people on the street in England who is a famous artist, I think they’d say: Rolf Harris, Prince Charles, David Hockney and Damien Hirst, in that order.Is Hirst being modest or merely accurate? (FYI: www.rolfharris.com)

From ARTINFO’s “Artworks Missing from Philadelphia Schools“: “Eighty-five artworks valued at $838,000 are missing from Philadelphia’s public schools, according to a preliminary audit conducted by the city controller’s office, the Philadelphia Daily News reports… Another 220 artworks, estimated to be worth as much as $30 million, are being held in storage.” Hmm: $30M/220=$136K. Either that’s a typo or the Philly public schools are hiding some serious masterpieces.

Understatement of the week, from the Guardian’s “Emin’s bed stays made, but Beijing finally embraces modern British art“: “‘The whole Chinese scene is on a bit of a roll,’ said Richard Riley, head of the visual arts section of the British Council.”

Understatement of the week, 2nd place, from the Globe and Mail’s “Thieves run off with $2-million gold bar at Japanese museum“: “The Ohashi Collection Kan museum in Takayama, central Japan, had kept the 220-pound gold bullion unguarded by sensors or even a case because it wanted visitors to be able to touch it, according to local police officer Shinji Kurake…[who said] ‘We were very shocked… but of course this was a big block of gold, and there was no security. I suppose they could have been a little more careful.‘”

A Bit of White, Center for Contemporary Non-Objective Art, BrusselsThe E-Flux announcement for the Brussels show A BIT O’ WHITE had me doing doubletakes. Drug reference show title + total whiteness + hyperspeed text (“we do not see anything – it’s white, all white. And yet it opens our eyes, tickles our senses, let’s us be – we see so much. WHITE, which hints at a whole range of possibilities without expressing them, yet puts us on the alert. WHITE, which triggers our emotions, our fears, yet is so familiar to us. WHITE we fear – WHITE we embrace.”) = Terence Koh? I emailed Koh, and he responded: “o me god how did you know its me.” Caveat lector: Koh lies, often and unapologetically.

Revolution is Not…

Revolution Is Not A Movie

Noticed: title creep. On two sides of the Atlantic, similar words are being applied to visual extravaganzas tied to the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

Revolution Is Not A Garden PartyA billboard in New York’s Times Square last fall declared, “Our Revolution Was Not a Movie” (it was put up by the Hungarian Cultural Center to commemorate the uprising’s 50th anniversary). And this April, the Norwich Gallery will open an exhibition titled “Revolution is not a Garden Party.” Gee, really?

And for a little bit of inside baseball, which didn’t make it into the press release: one of the Hungarian artists in the show, Péter Rákosi, is a namesake of the dictator whose regime the uprising intended to topple.

Sanitised Sensation

Jake And Dinos Chapman, UbermenschAfter last week’s visit to the “Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation” exhibition I was prepared to be underwhelmed by the “Aftershock” show of YBAs at the Capital Museum here in Beijing. Arriving at the imposing new museum building on FuXingMenWai DaJie, a mile or so West of the entrance to the Forbidden City, I was slightly perplexed by the lack of any external indication of the show (though there was a large banner proclaiming an Italian Heritage exhibition) and the fact that it was clearly a museum for antiquities found in and around Beijing. After confirming that the British show was indeed there, and buying my 50RMB (€5) ticket, I was gently directed to a small unmarked door to the right of the main atrium hall and shortly thereafter found myself staring up at Jake & Dinos Chapmans’ homage to Prof Stephen Hawking: Ubermensch.

The show is essentially a smaller (12 artists), milder, version of Saatchi’s YBA Sensation show at the Royal Academy a decade ago. And yes a smaller, milder sensation is what you get. Tracy’s bed is neatly made without a condom in sight. There is no Hirst formaldehyde and the only totally naked form is that of Marc Quinn’s medical milk formula and synthetic polymer wax baby (Innoscience).

Mark Quinn, InnoscienceBut none of the Chinese I saw at the show (art students and casual middle class visitors alike) were complaining. We may find it all a little humdrum now but these two shows (300 Years and Aftershock) are both firsts for China; groundbreaking in their display of particularly contemporary western art in China, in a prestigious forum, and are welcome for it.

The reticence to promote and slightly odd, if impressive, location are therefore forgivable in the context of exposing local Chinese to art they have only ever been able to see before in books and online. The organisers are thus to be commended.

Perhaps, as a result, local art students will be encouraged to be a little more adventurous again. I, for one, am getting a little tired of the current vogue for cartoon style paintings…

Virtual museum tours: Time for an upgrade?

Kunstmuseum Basel, lobby, virtual tourSpinning off last week’s discussion of catalogs in the age of digital production, I’ve been thinking about the possibilities (and limitations) of visiting shows online. So I spent some time clicking on the virtual-tour links in Ian’s post from Beijing’s National Art Museum of China. (“360-degree scans of a 19th Century room here; a more contemporary room here.”) More locally to me, there are examples such as Zurich’s E. G. Bührle Collection, the Kunstmuseum Basel and Le Louvre. That’s a very random sampling. But of these four, I like the Buhrle’s best, if only because one can click on each image and get a full descriptive text, and then click again for a screen-size image.

Still, I think there’s a lot of untapped potential here. Because as with digital art, the standard by which we judge virtual tours is set less within the artworld than outside it – animated movies, console videogames, virtual worlds/MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), etc. My closest friend is writing her PhD dissertation on Second Life, and I used to do a lot of videogaming, so maybe I’m over-demanding. But these museum virtual tours would benefit greatly from being true walkthroughs (not just 360-degree views from fixed positions). Also the images often pixelize into near-abstraction as soon as you zoom in. And the viewing screens tend toward the tiny. (Yeah, yeah, I know, bandwidth issues. But museums could just offer users different bandwidth options, as do many streaming-video sites.) Now, I’m not a museums expert, so I’m betting that there are some best-practices examples out there and I’d love to see them. If you know of any, drop me a line (marc@artworldsalon.com) and I’ll update this post with links to the best ones.

On a related note: A friend of mine was stunned to witness a major international curator sprinting through a huge retrospective in a few minutes with a video camera in hand. Sometime later that day, during an apparently dull conference, that curator was spotted “visiting the exhibition,” already downloaded onto on the de rigueur white MacBook. Maybe what’s needed here is a sort of MuTube, where people upload their walkthroughs of museum shows for those who can’t make it in person.

Americans in China

“Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation”, a show that has spent a decade in gestation, is on display at the National Art Museum of China, here in Beijing. (360-degree scans of a 19th Century room here; a more contemporary room here.) It is an ambitious show, as anything trying to cover 300 years of art in a single show would be, and generally succeeds at both informing and entertaining. Supported principally by the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art, it contains many of the names you would expect, if not, of course, their best works. But it is surprisingly broad church from the 1700s right up to the present.

20070210_mgyssbn_36.jpg - 193.11 KbIt is quite something to walk through rooms starting with Benjamin West’s Penn’s Treaty with the Indians and Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington, and end up with Matthew Barney (Cremaster Cycle) and Kara Walker (Insurrection). On the way you will have seen: Albert Bierstadt (Sierra Nevada), Frederic Remington, George Bellows, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer (Watching the Breakers: A High Sea), Childe Hassam; then jumped to Edward Hopper (Dawn in Pennsylvania), Georgia O’Keefe (Red Poppy VI), Walt Kuhn (Clown with Drums); and then Pollock, Motherwell, Rothko, de Kooning, Lichtenstein, Ruscha, Bell, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Twombly, Judd, Serra, Nauman, Weiner, Schnabel, Haring, Gonzalez-Torres, Basquiat, Koons, Currin, Wiley and more. As I said, quite something. For those interested, the only artists that merited two works (as I recall) were John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Thomas Krens of the Guggenheim led the curatorial team.

I went partly to enjoy the walk, and encourage my art-student daughter to go, but also curious to see local public reaction.

20070210_mgyssbn_22.jpg - 312.50 KbPerhaps predictably, the members of the Beijing public I saw on the two days I went seemed to be most perplexed by the room containing works by Judd (Untitled 1970), Serra (Right Angle Prop), Flavin (Green crossing Green: to Piet Mondrian who lacked Green) and Nauman (None Sing – Neon Sign). Many walked straight across Carl Andre’s 10×10 Altstadt Copper Square without being aware of their intimate experience with a work of modern American Art. There were many more people looking at the more accessible 19th-century works and the, I suppose, more conceptually familiar late-20th-century video works. Indeed Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycle had its own room packed with people sitting and standing around the room in front of the five screens. Also interesting, and consistent with Lawrence Weiner’s concern with context was the translation of his To See and Be Seen into 3-foot-high Chinese characters 而为人所视 alongside the English. Not that anyone seemed to take notice. One recent work that did seem popular was the Felix Gonzalez-Torres cellophane-wrapped-candy piece (“Untitled” Public Opinion). I saw a number of people pick up single sweets to try and one lady take a two-fisted bundle into her coat. The young fresh-faced guards, Continue reading “Americans in China”

Postcard from L.A.

Tim Hawkinson, Uberorgan, Getty MuseumThe inferiority complex thing isn’t working anymore. For as long as anyone can remember, the Los Angeles art world had cultivated a second-city mentality. It was a story of surviving against all odds. Of imagination flourishing in the desert (or on the beach). Of artists scraping by in the absence of institutional support. Local artists even made a virtue out of their hardships. “When New Yorkers tell me what’s wrong with L.A.,” said Robert Irwin to Lawrence Weschler, “everything they say is wrong – no tradition, no history, no sense of a city, no system of support, no core, no sense of urgency – they’re absolutely right, and that’s why I like it.”

Well, that was then. During a whirlwind tour of galleries, collections, and museums, I still heard plenty of griping, especially about the lack of a committed local collector base and the difficulty of fund-raising from the Hollywood crowd. But such chatter aside, it’s impossible to miss the flowering of contemporary art that’s going on here. And in contrast to New York, the people behind this burst of energy are deliberately boosting the local talent.

The museums are having a day in the sun. Ann Philbin is soaring high at the Hammer and Michael Govan is revving his jets at LACMA. Over at MOCA, the giant feminist art show, WACK!, is an impressive display of curatorial muscle flexing, while Andrea Zittel’s mid-career retrospective is the very embodiment of L.A. art’s indefatigable “I can survive” spirit. Meanwhile, the Getty, singed by fallout from its forays Continue reading “Postcard from L.A.”

Exhibition catalogs: Time for a rethink?

I had an interesting but dispiriting conversation recently with a curator arranging an exhibition for a hot artist. The curator was trying to work some edgy writing from a young author into the catalog to give it intellectual flair, but the artist and the dealer kept insisting on corralling bigger names “ i.e. people who write for the right magazines. At first I encouraged the curator to fight for that text’s inclusion. But then I broke down and said, “Maybe it’s better to choose another battle. Because in the end most people will just judge the catalog on the names of the writers anyway – they’re not going to read the essays.” The curator agreed, albeit with a bitter laugh.Bouncy Castle Midi Ferme

What purpose does a catalog serve today? In the old days, as I understand it, catalogs were the way in which those who missed the show could get Continue reading “Exhibition catalogs: Time for a rethink?”

The Artworld’s brain drain

The Baerfaxt writes that, according to a study by Thomas & Associates, 77 percent of professionals who work in international museums, galleries, auction houses, foundations, and performing arts centers said they were planning on staying in their current position for five years or less “due to lack of career advancement and other opportunities.” I guess this includes much of the art world. It shows that, contrary to all recent exhortations about the professionalization of the arts, we still have a long way to go.

I know, just by listening to anecdotal chatter, that many young artists coming out of art schools do not count on pursuing art as a career for too long. They count on doing the art thing for a while, then getting a real job. They are well aware that youth is the prime commodity in the global art world, and that the logistics of party-going and biennale-hopping Continue reading “The Artworld’s brain drain”

Museums: Misogynist?

Tyler Green’s 2006 Top 10 list at Modern Art Notes had me wishing I made it to Los Angeles and Washington this year, but his take on Amy Sillman’s exhibiton at Sikkema Jenkins left me quizzical. He writes:

“The best contemporary painting show of the year. If Sillman were a younger male, then museums would be falling over themselves to show her work. (Similarly: Marilyn Minter.) Sillman should have already had a Hirshhorn Directions-level show somewhere.”

At first I thought to myself that young (and youngish) women painters are not exactly invisible. To wit, and in no particular order Julie Mehretu, Elizabeth Peyton, Dana Schutz, Inka Essenhigh, Laura Owens, Jenny Saville and recent Turner Prize winner Tomma Abts all have strong markets and media attention. But then I realized that as far as I can recall these seven have had relatively little museum attention. That’s an offhand memory sweep without doing any actual research (hey, it’s still the holidays), but if if Tyler says women painters are under-represented in museums, I’ll assume it’s right, given his mania for all things musea.

But, wait, does this mean that museums are less receptive to women than either the market or the arts media?

Late night TV in Beijing

Found myself idly channel flipping at 1am last night here in Beijing (sad I know) and came across “The Art Auction” a regular TV series covering (last night at least) a chinese contemporary art sale held recently at Poly Art Auction. The entire auction seemed to be covered (I didn’t stay to watch the whole thing) with a post-buy discussion (for each piece sold!) by a two man expert panel back in the studio. As far as I could work out with my nascent Mandarin they were discussing bid prices, people in the room and reasons for interest or lack thereof. I think this was the recent record breaking sale by Poly Art Auction. The commentators certainly seemed excited.

I mention this because it is an interesting example of the government here indirectly supporting the promotion of contemporary Chinese Art and Culture as a means of boosting pride in the country, and supporting social cohesion (through pride and nationalistic fervour) in general. Poly Art Auctions is owned by the same Chinese State Owned Enterprise that owns the Poly Art Museum (reputedly better than some of the directly state owned museums) here in Beijing. The programme, and other Chinese state owned media, cover each new record price set for a Chinese artist as an indication of the rise in stature of Chinese Art in general, paralleling the rise of China in other domains in the world. Buyers at these local auctions come from all over the Asian world (a recent record Chinese work was bought by an Indonesian Chinese businessman) but many are young succesful businessmen with new money. The heat of the contemporary market, and the source of the new money, parallels current (Art) affairs in the West. The government (indirect) support of rising prices does not. Another interesting factor in todays market bubble.

Big day on the Rialto

Can’t accuse the Italians of not having a flair for theatrical timing. Two headlines from the Times:

Italy Lends Antiquities to 2 Museums

Courtesy of the Italian government, visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will find an unfamiliar antiquity on view today in each institution’s classical galleries. (full article archived at Museum Security Network)

and

Top Collector Is Asked to Relinquish Artifacts

Seeking to build on its success in bargaining with a few American museums, Italy has asked the New York collector Shelby White to consider returning more than 20 ancient artifacts that it argues were illegally mined from its soil, officials involved in the negotiations say…..The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where Ms. White is a trustee, has begun advance publicity for the April opening of its new Greek and Roman galleries, which are named for and were financed by Mr. Levy and Ms. White. Some antiquities owned by Ms. White and sought by the Italians are currently on loan to the Met, displayed within yards of the monumental court and atrium designed for the new galleries.

(full article archived at Museum Security Network)

Thoughts?

If the Met can’t break even, who can?

Spotted this in a long article on Lee Rosenbaum’s Culturegrrl blog:

Just posted online: the Met’s fiscal 2006 annual report…You will learn that although “fiscal year 2006 was an exceptional year for the Museum,” with “strong endowment growth,” the museum nevertheless ran its fifth straight annual operating deficit, with last year’s amounting to $3.2 million…. All told, the Met raised $26,829,579 from art disposals [i.e. selling works at auction] in fiscal 2006 (ending June 30), compared to $538,404 the previous year (when only two over-$50,000 items made the published list). The money spent on art acquisitions in 2006 was $34.83 million, compared to $99.21 million the previous year (presumably boosted by the Duccio.)”

So, basically, the Met ran a $3.2M deficit despite selling off $26.3M more art than in the previous year. And that’s the Met. I remember reading a recent report that 60 percent (or something like that) of British museums have no acquisitions budget at all. As in “0.00 Pounds Sterling.” This is bad news on the cultural-legacy front.

The booming art market may be great for artists, dealers, collectors and consultants, but for museums and curators it doesn’t seem to be making life any easier. And in some ways it’s complicating things.

WTF: Liverpool “blings up” its Arts scene with Klimt

bling.jpgYou know that trick when you learn a new word and use it constantly to hardwire it into your brain? Behold, from the Guardian’s story Klimt brings the bling to Liverpool’s big year

“The Klimt exhibition will be the first in the UK devoted to the artist, and will find a particularly apt home in the city, according to Christoph Grunenberg, director of Tate Liverpool, “because of the bling. Liverpool is very bling and Klimt is very bling – these are very decorative, ornamental works.”

I can guarantee you that the target market for the Klimt exhibit wouldn’t know bling if someone walked into their parlor during high tea sporting an ermine coat, a full set of platinum fronts and two iced-up watches on each wrist. In fact this blingtastic soundbite may scare them off. Where’s Ali G when you need him to clown someone who’s trying too hard to connect to the youth? Kazakhstan.