“My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable. Vagina. Yes, they don’t like hearing it and find it difficult to say, whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his ‘Johnson’.” Maude Lebowski
You don’t need me to tell you that the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski is a classic; just ask the internet. It’s also remarkable for having two painfully accurate satires of contemporary artists in it. The art talk and Julianne Moore’s mid-Atlantic Sylvia Plath drawl, geometric hair and snotty attitude are all perfectly observed, and hilarious. In fact there’s three painfully accurate satires of contemporary artists if you count The Dude’s landlord Marty and his almost entirely unattended vanity premiere of a self-devised interpretative dance/performance art piece to Mussorgsky in a “nude” bodystocking and plastic vines. I’m sure many of us art lovers have been to those shows and regretted it.
The Tempest, c. 1507 by Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco).
Although I often have a go at contemporary art– and a lot of it is absolute bullshit because the artists who make it have less self-awareness and intelligence than your average contestant on Britain’s Got Talent– I also don’t have much sympathy for the view that proper art is old art, proper art is figurative art, proper art is something that looks pretty hanging on the wall. Just because a painting is old that doesn’t mean it’s good. Loads of bad art works are still around and they probably shouldn’t be, many good ones have been lost. I’ve seen the actual painting reproduced above; it’s quite small, and it hangs in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice. Yes, I know, wankorama, in the last post I was casually dropping it in that I saw this and that in Tokyo, now Venice…
Various art critics and academics have had a stab at unravelling what Giorgione was trying to say with this painting. It used to be referred to as a picture of Mercury and Isis, even though these two mythological characters don’t even come from the same cosmologies as each other. It’s been spoken of as an allegory of charity, death and other things that you’re fairly safe in speculating that a 16th century painting’s about. I think I can slice right through this particular Gordian knot and explain all instantly. The painting is not enigmatic. Superficially it’s well done and everything, but this painting is total shit. Continue reading
François Pinault may be the first plutocrat billionaire übercollector from the top of Art Review’s most powerful art world figures list who also appears to have some taste and discernment. Or at least a taste that somewhat coincides with mine… which amounts to the same thing, obviously, because we’re on the internet where opinion is daily defended to the death as if it has a factual basis in some kind of Universal Law of the Universe.
In the evening, a band plays at the famous Florian café on the edge of Piazza San Marco. The efforts of these musicians are entirely for the benefit of the most clueless tourists nowadays since nobody right of mind or slim of wallet would actually eat in such a tourist trap. These tourists seem perversely thrilled that instead of playing anything that might lay down memories of a distinctively Italian or Venetian experience, or something that might evoke the Renaissance surroundings, the band instead plays from a cognitively and geographically dissonant, pandering repertoire.
New Yorkers in the audience got New York, New York. The Germans- with more than a hint of Basil Fawltyish “don’t mention the war” passive aggression, I thought- got a medley from ‘The Sound of Music’ which might have Julie Andrews, nuns and kiddies in it but is still best remembered for being about Nazis and is therefore probably not a cultural artefact that’s looked upon with great fondness by modern Germans, if they’ve even seen it.
Of course all the other tourist traps in the area compete to mop up the excess money of naïve and undiscerning visitors by hosting their own bands. The best thing (indeed, the only tolerable thing) to do is stand in the middle of the square when they’re all playing at once so you get a free atonal Schoenberg concert. Then move on swiftly before some hawker tries to make you buy a copy of a Vuitton handbag.
The Singapore Pavilion’s ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ will probably remain “unknown” forever because the woman was refusing everybody entry on the grounds that there was too much of a cloud in there. Seriously, she said the smoke machine was making excessive smoke. This seems a bit like saying the sun makes excessive heat: true sometimes, but there are ways around such a problem if one applies a little bit of lateral thinking and common sense. All I can conclude based upon the available information is that the cloud, at least, is an actual physical one. I don’t think nobody being allowed in to “know” it was a conceptual act, though. I may be wrong.
I was sitting outside and gathering my hate I mean thoughts for a few minutes; she refused a steady stream of people who had stupidly made the effort to find the place and dared to assume they could actually visit the art work. I wonder if she ever let anybody in at all.
In short, Singapore Pavilion people, you might want to think about capitalising on being at the Biennale in Venice and hundreds or thousands of people being interested in your artist’s work instead of actively wasting their time and throwing it back in their faces. Five minutes more and she closed up entirely, then went flouncing off.
Basically she didn’t want to do any work that day and having visitors come in was annoying her. Gallery people, you’re not doing visitors a favour by deigning to let them see art. They’re supporting you.