26 Nov

From Berlin gallery Fruehsorge (who came to my attention thanks to complaints from other arts professionals about their, shall we say, relaxed attitude towards financial relations with artists* see footnote) comes this splendid slab of bullshit about their current exhibition of drawings by Matthias Beckmann. This is a verbatim cut and paste from the English version of their site, but I speak German as well so I can assure you this is a fair translation of a German write up that is also brimful of crap.

“Matthias Beckmann is a draftsman. He meets his counterpart as a discreet dialog partner who then turns into a silent observer in front of the motif. Beckmann looks for places and finds pictures right there. “The draftsman Beckmann, who finds what he wants to see in everything, has an anarchic wit that flashes up time and again …” There is never only one picture, there are always mostly larger series, so that his drawings expand and condense to a larger visual narrative. Thus a fundamental characteristic already of the individual sheet augments itself, for Beckmann’s drawings give the impression that for the draftsman “at least on paper … no thing as such is significant. It is only the attention it gets that lifts it out of the arbitrariness of “all sorts of things”.” Exactly this is one of the crucial preconditions for relativizing the documentary gestus of these drawings. Beckmann’s pencil lines are contours, lines which directly refer to an extra-pictorial object. Nevertheless he succeeds in liberating the drawing from a one-dimensional object reference and transforming what is seen into a solely pictorial reality. That is why one should never reduce his drawings to their mere depictive function, even though Matthias Beckmann certainly, and not least, is a drawing documentarist. But the big achievement of his drawings is an intensified sensitization of seeing. The viewer has to renew the way he sees the drawn objects and their spatial contexts, has to readjust his view of the world.”


“He meets his counterpart as a discreet partner…” It’s rare for an art text to accurately convey how blithely sordid, mercenary and pervy many artists are about exploiting other people to make their work, but this is a pretty good distillation of it. It almost sounds like a phrase from a disturbing Craigslist personal ad.

“There is never only one picture…” YOU GENIUS. No artist in the history of Earth ever thought of showing more than one picture at the same time in order to make a more powerful impression than might be possible with a single image. Also “…lines which directly refer to an extra-pictorial object.” You mean he makes marks on the page that are based on actual things he’s seen? GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.

“Exactly this is one of the crucial preconditions for relativizing the documentary gestus of these drawings.” No, seriously. Fuck off.

Drawings are not and cannot be one-dimensional, unless they’re just a nominal point in space without form or weight. And how, pray tell, does one draw a formless mathematical concept? I’d like to see somebody try to do an exhibition of one-dimensional drawings, if only because it would be utterly breaking the laws of physics and geometry. That would be some proper Lovecraftian shit. Do it, I dare you.

This pretentious regurgitation of semi-digested scientific language is something of a growth area for the purveyors of art bollocks. I don’t really know why they’ve started doing it, but I find it particularly aggravating because I’ve worked extensively with real scientists. Not to mention that fact that I actually understand physics, chemistry, geometry, logic, biology, etc., unlike most of the art world clowns who increasingly bandy about scientific concepts when their understanding of those disciplines would generally speaking make a GCSE student ashamed. See Melanie Klein’s Quantum Soap for an example on this site.

“The big achievement of his drawings is an intensified sensitization of seeing.” I transcended normal human sight and perceived the very core of reality. It’s made of bullshit.

“The viewer has to renew the way he sees the drawn objects and their spatial contexts, has to readjust his view of the world.” Yeah, I’ll decide that, pal. Don’t tell me what I will do or have to do just because I looked at your stupid drawings, which are most certainly not special enough to make anybody readjust their view of the world. Calm down.


This (i.e. galleries playing fast and loose where money, business ethics and the good old fashioned golden rule are concerned) is actually very, very common, possibly even the norm rather than the exception. Often it’s because– and I cannot emphasise this enough to the interested outsider or the aspiring professional artist– commercial galleries are frequently not commercial at all, at least not in any way that would be recognised to anybody who actually runs a genuinely viable business in any other sphere of endeavour.

They may be money pits into which the gallerist is merrily throwing a benefactor’s money, or her partner’s, to no particular effect while she herself gallivants around the world to art fairs and the accompanying yachts, debauches and elite parties. They may be literally laundering dodgy money, and / or laundering the reputation of the person or company who’s providing the money. They may be instruments of shady but legal tax reduction, or of outright tax evasion. They may be the domain of a rich girl playing art impresario, just as her friends might open a little boutique or a shabby chic interior design business. They may have a roster of artists (who probably never make any money), but they’re only really about promoting the gallerist’s artist partner, who otherwise wouldn’t stand a hope in hell of standing on their own feet. They may say they’re in the business of selling artists’ work, or that they’re dedicated to helping artists get their foot on the ladder, but their business is actually founded on deliberately and systematically deceiving artists so as to milk them of every last penny. Over the past two years I’ve conducted a fair amount of research and interviews in this area, and I can assure you that I have specific examples in mind for every single one of these hypotheticals.

What they’re emphatically not is business people or commercial, because to be commercial you need a viable cashflow, a sustainable plan for your long term development and survival, and you need to not mix up your (0r anybody else’s) personal funds with your business.  You need to sell things. And you need to be capable of turning a profit without resorting to sketchy practices such as selling artists’ work but pretending you haven’t so you can keep the money for yourself, and / or robbing Peter to pay Paul, practices that there’s been more than one well-documented instance of in the past few years… and those are just the ones I know about. I daresay this and similar dodgy shit is absolutely rife.

One Response to “ONE DIMENSIONAL”



    […] This week, the “anarchic wit” that arises from the revolutionary, hitherto unknown act of drawing with a pencil. My original commentary on this text is here: One Dimensional. […]

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