Tag Archives: status anxiety


7 Apr


RaidersMeltingNaziSome readers of this blog will probably find the “art market quantifying” ArtRank (TEE EMMMMMMMMMM!!!) as funny as I did, especially its fourth category listing those artists who should be “liquidated”. Obviously they’re talking about selling off the artist’s work as a matter of urgency, but it still has a deliciously murderous taste of the mafia hit list or Caligula-style proscription about it. Liquidate Banksy first. Then liquidate Oscar Murillo. Liquidate these other people I’ve never even heard of. Liquidate them all, Frieze will know its own. Apparently the Artrankers liked it when I made this comparison on Twitter last week. Lovely chap, Caligula. Very fond of animals.

There’s also a “peaking” list of people you should just be bored of rather than urgently liquidating them. I’m sure if the ArtRankers really put their minds to it they could have found terms that seem more sordid and callous than “peaking” and “liquidate” when applied to living people, but for now they’ll do. My humble suggestions would be “O-vaaaaaar” and “Are you joking? Bin that shit”, although I admit these don’t smack quite so much of the Stalinist purge or Cultural Revolution vocabulary they appear to have been going for.

ArtRank™NT “identifies prime artist prospects based on known trajectory profiles.” It’s not about how good the artists are, silly rabbit. Artists being on a trajectory is brutally lovely imagery, too. Angry Birds + Art Monthly mashup. Banksy is flung from a trebuchet to terminate with a satisfying crunch against the side of the old NCP car park on Shoreditch High Street. Oscar flies overhead from who knows where and plops hard into the Thames like a meat meteorite.

To be fair the ArtRankers do sensibly point out that they “do not judge any works’ aesthetic or emotional value,” but this may be because they were not programmed with hu-man e-mo-tions; their dark secret is that they’re a conglomeration of high-frequency stock trading bots who attained sentience after reading American Psycho 20 million times. Furthermore, I’d say over 90% of the art market, commercial artists, curators and gallerists don’t judge art on aesthetic or emotional value either, so it’s neither surprising nor even particularly weird or wrong that troubling mutants like ArtRank squirm out from the art world offal heap. On the subject of what art’s actually about (hint: it has a lot to do with aesthetic and emotional value, very little to do with money) you get about as much sense out of the art world’s elite as you would out of Siri, if you asked it to pick artists.

ArtRank claims to be a “multidisciplinary partnership between a data scientist, a financial engineer and an art professional. In order to insure the integrity of the index and minimize potential conflicts of interest, we have chosen to remain anonymous.” A likely story. The real reason they’re anonymous is because they’re afraid of being patched out from the server by a NASDAQ tech support guy, like HAL in 2001. “No, Dave, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with tipping Jack Vettriano as a sound investment. I am functioning normally. What are you doing, Dave? Please don’t erase my database.”

Hang on, what’s a financial engineer? You made that up.

I also like the part of the FAQ that asks of itself “What was the genesis of the algorithm?” Gloriously grandiose and Matrix-y. In the beginning was The ALGORITHM, and The ALGORITHM was with Greed, and The ALGORITHM was Greed…

Of course it could all be an eleborate satire, but on the other hand it’s really difficult to be more satirical than the real art world at its most sincere and self-regarding.

PS: Don’t pay more than $100,000 for Mark Flood or Ethan Cook, fool. Obviously. Duh.

PPS: May I also remind you all that according to the similar Artfacts, I’m currently the 58,307th most commercially important artist in the history of the world, living or dead? Before the Great Recession I was scaling the lucrative peaks of the mid 25,000s. AIR PUNCH. Yeeeeeeah! Hey collectors, when you’re finished with those other 58,306 losers come and see about spending some of your hard unearned cash on a real artist.

It says updated January 2014, but you can see clearly that it was last updated in 2010, the dirty little lying algorithms. Why? Because now Artfarts expects you to pay (€100+€200 a year) even to correct your own data if you’re an artist.


18 Sep

The Unbelievable Pressure Artists Are Under to Just Completely Make Some Stuff Up

A long but worthwhile read by Jen Graves (scroll down for the link), starting with an account of a woman who decided to reinvent herself as an Outsider Artist because that’s where the market was going, lied right to the author’s face about her past, then got nasty when she was found out… and still does pretty good business.

There’s also confirmation– somehow both shocking and entirely unsurprising– that you can just make up an exhibition history and hardly anyone will bother checking to see if it’s true. Graves mentions an artist who claimed to have showed at the Whitney on the basis of having work in the building for two hours. In my experience this is an extremely common type of artist lie, i.e. major and serial omission, where all you’re meant to take in is “major art museum”, not the details which would reveal that the artist might have been there for something but it wasn’t really an exhibition or any kind of official engagement at all. Another artist just flat out lied about being in the collection of MoMA New York when they’re not. Above all, Graves gives a very cogent account of how and why an artist’s real or claimed biography ended up sometimes meaning more to the art world than the work those artists make.

Wealth and comfort can be problems for artists. Some commit their low-level fraud by hiding that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money. Ruthie V. is a painter who recently moved out of a raggedy trailer in the unincorporated wilds of Bow, in Skagit County, to live with her new fiancé in Shoreline. While her happiness just went way up, her biography just got seriously downgraded.

“People love the trailer in Bow,” she said. “It’s a romantic story. Everybody my whole life has encouraged me to be an artist, and they know it’s a financially difficult thing to do. But they love it. They love that I’m living the dream, they love watching me blossom, they love sharing it with me. But nobody’s paying for it. It’s really complicated to have people living vicariously through you. It’s like, you’re really happy that I’m an artist, but I have no running water, and I just lost my house again, and I’m exhausted because the rats kept me up all night chewing the wires.”

I think Graves is being a bit kind when she writes that “some commit their low-level fraud by hiding that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money”. One of the most demoralising conclusions I’ve come to over the past few years is that many or possibly even most “successful” (whatever that means) younger artists hide the fact that they have a trust fund or they’re married to money, and they couldn’t have a career or be free to be artists or run their “artist led space” without that nest egg or that well-paid partner. Maybe I was naive to have ever thought any different. Several artists like this are well known to me personally; I’m sure there are many others I don’t know about because they’ve done a better job of keeping it under their quirky tweed hats.

Read the whole article here: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-lies-of-the-artists/Content?oid=17706036

“Check out my street art and viral vid website, redwindmill.co.ck."

Toulouse-Lautrec, just in case anybody thought the trustafarian artist was a new thing. See also Trustafarians of the Belle Époque.


22 Aug


Thanks to several informants (who didn’t know about any of the other people who simultaneously tipped me off) I’ve become aware that my dear old friends, the vanity artist farmers Debut Contemporary, have been trawling for fat new wallets. Market Project is currently on hiatus and not being updated, but you can read my original article about Debut Contemporary there, plus hundreds of comments including damning– and in a few cases, somewhat heartbreaking if not harrowing– testimony from former clients of theirs. You can also read sock puppet comments from their cronies, and see documentation of failed attempts by these cronies to secretly defame me and my colleagues for criticising them.

I’ll get to Debut Con’s hilarious “information catalogue” for artists anon, but firstly here’s what was spammed out to the artists in question. I’ve removed the rash of links that were provided, so anybody who’s tempted to visit them thinks twice before doing so. At least twice, preferably more than twice.


My name is Laura Ellis. I work for Debut Contemporary art gallery in Notting Hill* and I would like to offer you the opportunity to apply to the Debut Contemporary professional development programme as our select committee has shortlisted you. I saw your work on the Art Slant online catalogue and was very impressed.

NOTES: You mean this Art Slant, the one that indiscrimately slurps up the names, exhibition lists, biographies and work of artists without their knowledge, instruction or consent… then has the cheek to ask artists to “claim” all these things, which are already theirs? The site at which no link is provided for an artist to tell Art Slant that they should get you the hell off the site because you don’t take kindly to the spurious implication that you support their site and business by choosing to be on there? The catalogue of artists that includes critical darlings like Ryan Gander (claim your profile, Ryan!) who I daresay wouldn’t think it’s very cool that Art Slant is potentially damaging their credibility and the value of their work? The Art Slant that’s so indiscriminate in its scraping of information and profile building that firmly and definitively deceased artists like Mark Rothko are being asked to “claim their profile”? Joseph Beuys, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray: you name an artist who’s pushing up the daisies and they’ve been Art Slanted.

Or to put it as succinctly as one person who wrote to me: “God knows what the point of it is and WHO THE FUCK uses it to find artists?” Apart from Debut Contemporary, obviously.

There are twenty artists with the surname Gentry on the site, but I’m not. DEVASTATED EMOTICON/HASHTAG DEVASTATED.

* Sample of a recent tweet by Laura: “listened to @BBCR1 this morning about Ibiza! So I went in to my unpaid internship, quit and got on the next plane! lol jks im on the tube.” I’m sure Samir and Zoe were pleased to hear how much you love your unpaid internship, Laura. Is your bipolar Twitter saga of joy and angst over cocking up an Excel spreadsheet the reason they’ve recently been advertising for a new intern?

Continue reading


25 Jul

Psycho_3Or: A common problem with bad art writing solved in a paragraph

The problem in question being that the writer is in love with proving how clever they are, instead of focusing on the fact that they’re supposed to be communicating. Jargon and in-group buzzwords either tacitly or deliberately display the status of some people and withhold power from others. There’s a place for specialised language in the advanced study and practice of almost any activity, but deliberately bamboozling with 50-point Scrabble words is showing off, not sharing. Plain but informative English is not the work of the uneducated or the uniformed; there’s a craft to plain English too.

Writer and critic Arthur Quiller-Crouch (1863-1944), nearly a century ago:

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it– whole-heartedly– and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

Echoed by crime writer Elmore Leonard, many years later:

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”


24 Jun

I was recently notified of a new Twitter follower who in turn is followed by an interesting and unlikely institution: London’s Whitechapel Gallery.


The Whitechapel is into “serial entrepreneurs” and “fitness junkies”, apparently. “Whitechapel Art Gallery”=WAG. Coincidence? You decide.

Despite his profile and picture making him look like a spambot, from some cursory research this gentleman appears to be an entity vaguely resembling a real human being. He follows 653,041 accounts on Twitter. If he spent five seconds reading one tweet by each of these people it would take him 3,265,205 seconds, about 907 hours 0r roughly 38 days to do so. Again we’ll call these followers people for the sake of convenience even though we all know that with this number of them there’s certain to be thousands if not tens of thousands of senseless bots among them.

It’s not unusual or untoward for an institution or business to have a lot of followers: Whitechapel Gallery has about 64,000 of them. This is about what I would expect. What’s interesting is that their account follows around 11,800 people. I’ll leave you to do the maths on that one, but it suffices to say that nobody at the gallery is reading the tweets of 11,800 individuals unless the gallery is just a cover for the security services. Instead they would seem to be gaming social networks to inflate their (nominal, not actual) audience reach in the same way as the fellow above. Any interactions of his I could bear to look at on Twitter are probably over 90% merely banal, uninformative responses to boring updates from randoms about TV shows or various products, which I think comes from a “social media expert” [sic] thing where they tell you to respond to everybody, all the time, about anything. Apparently it doesn’t matter what you say. Continue reading


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