Tag Archives: greed

ZOMBIE PROFESSIONALISM

11 Mar

zoc002

An interesting article by Daniel S. Palmer about what ArtNews calls the “hyper-professionalization” of some artists. I’d go further and call it something like “jobification”; the reduction of a vocation to a mechanical and wholly uncreative grind. As Palmer points out, it’s not even the best way for an artist to make money or for anyone to make money from an artist’s work, because it’s so shortsighted:

“The entire system seems designed, predominantly, to disappoint. What has arisen from these failures is a marked distinction between product- and project-based artists. Product-based artists have been led to think of an artwork as a product serving a demand, rather than a single step in a longer, sustained development, as is the case with project-based artists. Consider the most visible trend in recent years of Zombie Formalism, a kind of reductive, easily produced abstract painting, sold quickly to collectors queued up on waiting lists and hungry for innocuous, decorative works in a signature style, so much so that the name of the artist himself becomes the brand.

However, product-based art isn’t specific to abstraction or figuration (as an even more recent market shift may be demonstrating) but is the result of dealers and collectors encouraging artists to create more of the same kind of popular work. All too often, museum curators cave to these pressures, too, validating the trend by staging exhibitions of market-darling artists collected by their trustees with a lack of scruples that gives the worst insider traders a run for their money. The path of commercial success may be increasingly easy, but it narrows what could otherwise be probing, expansive, and serendipitous careers. This results-oriented focus can be contrasted to the idea that an artist should be allowed to follow a sustained project of creating art in a passionate and independent way, regardless of market feedback. That might mean changing styles over the years and being less commercially viable at points, but this long-term project will have a notable through-line of a consistent set of questions and issues. The project and its many manifestations are best identified retrospectively, but wandering and doubt are a generative part of it. With some notable exceptions (like Warhol and Courbet, who churned out work like machines), the most fascinating and important artists in history exemplify this approach by remaining true to what drove them to create, rather than caving to external responses. We should all be worried if these artists start disappearing.”

Read the rest here.

DEGENERATION AREA

31 Jul

monopoly manVia artist Mimei Thompson on the F***book, news of a property developer soon to be bulldozing over a hundred artist studios near Hackney Road in London. They’ll be replaced by a twenty storey tower with “workspace” (whatever that is) and 170 homes including “a number of affordable”. Britain’s cities and towns desperately need more and better housing accessible to everyone regardless of their income, but we all know what the “number” of affordable units will be: as few as possible, probably with a separate door so the poors don’t rub their poor all over the investment/money laundering boxes of all the Chinese, Russian and Arab one percenters who are just about the only people who can buy these places. Affordable is a laughably– and conveniently– ill-defined and slippery developers’ term anyway.

Don’t worry, though, the loss of this artist community (who stupidly, inconveniently brought life to a rundown area and made it attractive to developers in the first place) will not go unmarked. The developers and Eastside Educational Trust are offering a princely £1000 sculpture prize. “The winning artist will receive funds to make their sculpture, as well as a £1,000 cash prize, and the exciting chance to have their piece exhibited as a public work of art.” It’s probably not conscious, but note that they avoid the word “work” in favour of the word “piece”. The page linked here gives the number of new homes as “over 200”. An attempt to contact them about the prize met with– oops or not oops?– an out of office autoreply stating that the person responsible wouldn’t be back until the second week of August. That’s how bothered they are in whether artists actually apply for it or not, anyway. UPDATE: See below.

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ARTIST TO CHRISTIE’S: C U NEXT TUESDAY, SUPPORTERS

27 Jan

Batman89Vandalism

In this short post by Jerry Saltz, we learn that the artist Wade Guyton not only printed multiple, identical, indistinguishable copies of a “unique” work that was to be auctioned at Christie’s for between $2.5 and $3.5 million, possibly more, but he also showed off the results of his labours on Instagram in what could be interpreted as an attempt to taint the sale.

Furthermore:

  • The auction has been given the horrible title If I Live I’ll See You Tuesday (from one of the works for sale) as if it were an exhibition and not a cattle market.
  • The “original” inkjet print was made from a digital file in the first place and therefore could be replicated perfectly at any time, in any numbers.
  • Christie’s are putting a brave face on it, but apparently they’re getting a bit scared that artists from within the system are kicking back against the sickening, high fructose corn syrup unreality of an international art auction industry that’s still in hysterical denial about an era where even capital-A Art can be infinitely replicable.
  • Christie’s delusionally think they have, or are brazenly claiming to have, a “gritty and underbelly-esq” [sic] side. With this level of embarassing neediness and such a tin ear for credible language it’s no wonder they chose to convey their grit with a promotional video of a skateboarder carrying on some edgy but unthreatening video speed-ramped shenanigans in the hip, street and far out daddio underbelly of Christie’s, alongside some gritty multimillion dollar art by off-the-hook, mad, bad and dangerous to know young bucks like Peter Doig. It’s a bit like a music video for a very minor hit by some hack alt-rock band from the mid 1990s. The Youth is into skateboarding, right? LOL, as I’ve seen the kids write on the interwebzone. I can’t embed the video, but you can watch it here if you want a good laugh/cringe. Christie’s posturing as edgy or in touch with contemporary culture is like an elephant trying to squeeze into your house for a casual breakfast with you.

LIQUIDATE BANKSY

7 Apr

RaidersMeltingNazi

SLAVE TO THE ALGORITHM

Some 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.

PART OF THE FURNITURE

20 Mar

M Hollow

PAINTINGS AS “PLANT OR MACHINERY”

“Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Pablo Picasso.

WRONG, Picasso, you pathetic loser. You don’t know nuffing. Three Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the Joshua Reynolds painting Portrait of Omai (1775-76) is a piece of “plant or machinery” because it “had just as much function in the trade of the company (note: the tourist trade at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire) as the more prosaic tables, chairs, office and other administrative equipment.” Furthermore, the painting counts as a so-called “wasting asset” with a predictable life of less than fifty years. Well over ten times the average lifespan of a coffee table from IKEA, but still not very long. Omai was sold for £9.4 million in 2001. In 2012 its sale value was quoted as £12.5 million. The court case arose as a result of the 2001 sale, because its former owners argued that they should not have to pay capital gains tax on their profits from auctioning it. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs disagreed.

One of the three judges, Lord Justice Briggs, was apparently operating under the delusion that he’s a character from a Charles Dickens novel when he had this to say:

“It is, and despite these judgments will probably remain, surprising to those unfamiliar with the workings of Capital Gains Tax, that a famous Old Master like Omai should qualify for exemption from tax on the ground that it either ‘plant’ or a wasting asset, with a deemed predictable life of less than 50 years. But this is the occasional consequence of the working of definitions and exclusions which, while aimed successfully at one potential inroad into the charge of tax, unavoidably allow others by what the legislators appear to permit as an acceptable if unwelcome side-wind.”

Er… yeah. Thanks for sharing, baby. It’s surprising, alright.

Omai himself was an interesting fellow. His real name was Mai– mangled into Omai because, you know, English people– and he was a Polynesian from Ra’iātea. He was the second Pacific islander ever to visit Europe. During his two year stay in London this charming and handsome man was a popular fixture at high society dos. Cheeky as well. When he met King George III, Mai did so by grabbing him and exclaiming “How do, King Tosh!” I’m going to do that if I ever meet the Queen. Mai returned safely to the Society Islands, but sadly he died a few years later, before he was thirty years old.

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