Tag Archives: art critics


17 Sep


Leonardo Davinsky

Leonardo Davinsky.


Pablo Pinkus and Jackson Potluck.



30 Mar



I’ve often compared the art world to the mafia, with their mutual general secrecy, their deliberate cultivation of mystique, and their maintenance of respectable fronts for money laundering and worse. Then there’s the code of silence– certainly we don’t criticise our self-appointed superiors for fear of blackballing, but we should avoid offending our peers too, just in case they’re of use to us later. Whether somebody is of use, of course, being the psychopathic standard by which the most successful artists, curators and gallerists judge each other and everyone else. Most reviews of contemporary art are so bland and uncritical (in every sense of the word) that they could charitably be called reports rather than reviews, if we quite reasonably define a review as a critical assessment. Very often supposed art critics or arts writers seem to be following a prim “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all” rule and so restrict themselves to inoffensively listing the pictures or objects they saw, like a seven year old asked to write an essay about their school holiday.

So it always comes as a shock when normally docile mainstream critics break ranks and genuinely critique or go on the offensive, doubly so when other people feel free to pile on as well. In recent weeks there have been two such instances. One is related to MoMA’s tragic starfucker curator Klaus Biesenbach, who basically worships anybody who is a celebrity but isn’t an important contemporary artist, e.g. Tilda Swinton, Lady Gaga and, unsurprisingly, Marina Abramović… although Maz is allegedly furious with him for messing up one of her performances by eclipsing even her own immense narcissism. The other incident is a telenovela-esque hissy fit melodrama starring Bartomeu Marí, the soon-to-be-former director of MACBA in Barcelona.

The eponymous New York Björk exhibition that Biesenbach curated has received gleefully ghastly reviews. Roberta Smith in the New York Times called it “tacky” and “little short of hostile”, while also for good measure describing Abramovic’s 2010 Biesenbach/MoMA wankfest The Artist is Present as “cheesy”. Jason Farago in The Guardian called it “weirdly unambitious” and a “Madame Tussaud’s parody”, although he does grudgingly recommend it anyway. Maybe he really likes waxwork shows. Jillian Mapes at Flavorwire dismissed it summarily as a technical disaster with only one exhibit worth seeing at all. Christian Viveros-Fauné at ArtNet wrote an extraordinarily lengthy monstering of the exhibition and the curator, reporting that the vast majority of MoMa’s trustees expressed their displeasure by not attending the opening event. C-VF furthermore officially declares that “MoMa-bashing is in”, calls for Biesenbach to be fired, and says the show is a “turkey” and “what many critics argue is the worst MoMA exhibition of all time”. The latter seems a bit of a tame qualification given that it comes at the end of a several thousand word blitzkrieg of everything Biesenbach has done recently and his evident prioritisation of his own vanity, ego and fandom over any question of artistic practice or merit. CV-F also mentions in turn great pull quotes from other critics, such as “a fiasco”, “an abomination”, “the Björk show at MoMA is really, really bad”, and “[it] turns MoMA into Planet Hollywood.”

In short, it seems there’s hardly any prominent person in the USA’s east coast art community who hasn’t taken the opportunity to put the boot in, publicly. Maybe surprisingly, maybe unsurprisingly given that it’s Biesenbach who has obviously been cruising for a bruising rather than Björk herself, the latter has come out of the whole debacle relatively unscathed. It speaks volumes, though, that she was first asked to do the exhibition in 2002 but only said yes about ten years later, 2002 being about the last time she did anything but spin her creative wheels in the mud. These days she must be a very grateful grapefruit when she receives any attention at all. If she saw a paparazzo now she’d hug him instead of savaging him.



‘Not Dressed For Conquering’ by Ines Doujak.

Art world public clusterfuckup number two takes us to Barcelona. It involves MACBA director Bartomeu Marí and a sculpture by Ines Doujak called Not Dressed For Conquering; this artwork depicts former Spanish king Juan Carlos on his hands and knees, appearing to receive anal penetration from Bolivian feminist and activist Domitila Chúngara, who in turn is being humped by a dog, the amorous trio surrounded by rusty old Nazi SS helmets… because of course it does.

Marí cancelled the exhibition in which the artwork featured and then as a parting shot when he was compelled to resign, instigated the firing of the two MACBA curators responsible for it. Marí claimed not to have seen the work in question until the last minute, which to me seems incredibly remiss and incompetent for a museum director. If you’re the director and you don’t know about every significant thing that’s happening in or going into your art museum, you should be sacked because you’re incompetent. The “I didn’t see nothing, it wasn’t me” thing would seem to be a pretty transparent lie if it’s true that the artist and curators have written proof of him signing a loan form for the work about a month before.

The curators didn’t even put the show together, they were just in charge of its MACBA incarnation and refused– along with the artist– to quietly remove the piece from the exhibition without making a fuss. The MACBA board of trustees’ president of honour is Sofía, Juan Carlos’ wife, but Marí maintains nobody told him to do anything. Again, even if this is true, then it just proves he’s capable of being an arsehole all on his own.

After a massive shitstorm of criticism in Spain and elsewhere, Marí did at least backtrack and un-cancel the show before the board cancelled him. La bestia y el soberano (“The Beast and the Sovereign”) opened, complete with the regisexual sculpture. The full Streisand Effect occurred following the hamfisted censorship attempt, with visitor numbers up 48%.


16 Jun

“Hi, it’s Marina. Did the restraining order come through yet? Because I REALLY need it.”


Last week super creep (and scary monster) Adrian Searle– AKA The Guardian‘s art critic– burdened us with way too much information about his mental landscape in what was ostensibly a review of Marina Abramović’s summer residency at the Serpentine Gallery in London. He goes directly from thinking about his mother’s breast to Abramović. The face is up here, pal. He reminisces fondly about being manhandled by her on a previous occasion. He threatens to return again and again. He compares it to a prayer meeting, then in the same paragraph fantasises about her being a dominatrix and giving him a knee trembler outside because he’s deliberately been a “naughty boy”. On this evidence I advise you not to invite Adrian into your church, mosque or synagogue. He actually uses the term “Abramović stalkers”. It takes one to know one? Then he has another fantasy about Abramović being the late Pina Bausch, hopefully while she was still alive at least.

In short, just by touching his hand once the artist seems to have dredged up some very mucky psychosexual stuff from the Searle id. As I previously mentioned on Twitter, after reading it I felt dirty and I wanted to wash my eyeballs because it seemed pretty clear the Abramović experience was going into Searle’s wank bank. So I thought it was worthy of an Artbollocks Theatre Abramović Stalker Special, and with all due modesty I think it’s also my most BAFTA-worthy performance yet.


It’s not an impersonation of Searle because that would be boring. It’s my dramatic interpretation of the (sub)text because I’m an artist, darling. Not that there’s much sub here unless it’s in the BDSM sense; all the stuff that should be subtext is basically just text.

Incidentally, why do female artists still have to put up with this shit? I think Abramović is a ridiculous individual and nothing she’s done in the past thirty years has been in any way cogent or necessary. According to more than one informant, her attitude towards junior artists is exploitative and appalling. This particular work of hers sounds like a mediocre first year undergraduate drama intro for the least capable students, and indeed Searle is very close to saying so when he manages to stop drooling for a few seconds. Some people obviously really rate her, but that’s their problem.

Prerogative, I mean. It’s their prerogative.

All that said, for the purposes of what I’m about to write it doesn’t really matter what you think of her or of her work, not least because her work doesn’t matter any more and she’s just spinning her wheels as the world’s top Marina Abramović impersonator; but she’s appearing in public in a professional context and a male critic wouldn’t think it was acceptable or relevant to publicly demean an artist with his pervy fantasies in a national newspaper if the artist was a man.


1 Sep

Er… Cubist? Via the absurdity-hunting Comically Vintage Tumblr.


19 Apr


Although horror comics and Tales from the Crypt were very American artefacts, 1973’s Vault of Horrors was a very British sub-Hammer luvvie-fest starring the likes of Denholm Elliott, Anna Massey and Terry-Thomas… and yes, in the picture above that’s a pre-Doctor Who but already bug-eyed bonkers Tom Baker playing a deranged artist called Moore in the segment called Drawn and Quartered. “Deranged artist”, he writes, as if there’s any other kind. OK, more deranged and irrational than usual. More deranged, irrational and dangerous even than Tracey Emin, because Moore has a special magic voodoo painting hand. Moore doesn’t seem to have a first name, so let’s call him Tom since Tom Baker blesses us with a fairly good dose of Tom Bakerness in this film.

Tom is cheated when his scumbag gallerist Diltant nicks his paintings and sells them off for a huge profit in cahoots with a crooked critic and a dodgy dealer, while Tom remains penniless and uncelebrated. Also bitter, obviously. Again, I say these things as if there’s any other kind of gallerist, critic or dealer… only joking!


Tom sets out to do do that voodoo that he do’s so well and exact his revenge. It’s a bit like a lowbrow, badly-dressed and greasy-haired 70s nod to The Picture of Dorian Gray, since whatever Tom does to portraits of these wrong ‘uns manifests itself in real life.


Denholm Elliott: scumbag.

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