Tag Archives: New York

WHEN CRITICS ATTACK

30 Mar

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MOMA COMPLETELY BJÖRKS UP

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.

DOGGY STYLE

Bestia

‘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%.

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ARTBOLLOCKS THEATRE 3: SUPER COP

2 Feb

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S3E1: CONTEMPLATIVE

Yes, it’s back. Even more dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism, this time with a police show-on-VHS-tape twist. Watch new arty farty perps and syntax villains brought to justice every two weeks or so. In this episode, we learn how it’s possible to write four paragraphs and nearly four hundred words about a man who built some walls. But wait… he built some walls in an art gallery that already had walls. Is your mind completely blown?

You can play along with your Artbollocks Bingo card, and you can watch more Artbollocks Theatre here on the blog or on my Vimeo channel. I tried really hard to mispronounce all the foreign words and jargon, but I think I still accidentally said some of them correctly. Sorry about that.

Presented at ISE Cultural Foundation, the site-specific installation Time Would Not Diminish Their Strength But Add Wisdom To It explores the sculptural potential of space by diverting one of its main components.

Are you going to tell us what the main components of space are, then? Or which particular component is being diverted? No? Probably because you can’t, given that space is an abstract mass or count noun. Space doesn’t have components because space is defined by what it’s not and what is not in it rather than being a thing in itself. I know it’s complicated, but if you’re a curator in the business of justifying the unjustifiable, or a po-faced conceptual artist, don’t you think it’s particularly important that you bring all of your intellect (such as it is) to bear during any discussion of complex concepts, instead of just leaving the frayed edges of half-finished thoughts to dangle?

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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.

IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY

24 Dec

PROBABLY

On the 23rd December 2014 I received the following image via the e-flux mailing list, that persistent inbox botherer nonetheless much loved by me for reliably delivering sheer gibberish art reviews and spambot-grade gallery press releases for me to make fun of. I have e-flux to thank for much of the nonsense to be featured in the forthcoming third series of Artbollocks Theatre.

Eflux

On the 24th September 2014, this image was uploaded to my blog. It originally featured in an episode of Artbollocks Theatre, in mockery of an artist who supposedly created “surprisingly deceptive planes.”

DeceptivePlane

Image: Alistair Gentry, 2014.

Wow, not only plagiarism but inferior plagiarism. Shia LaBeouf-tastic, my e-flux “comrades”! Nice to know you’re such fans of my blog and of Artbollocks Theatre, though. But maybe for her visual gag– such as it is– to work Ms. Lewis could have spent another thirty seconds in Photoshop to make sure the angle, lighting and orientation of the plane’s livery matched the geometry of the original (Creative Commons) photograph? Or to make it really blatantly a crude, unrealistic collage? You know, maybe commit properly to being one thing or the other? Or is it not cool to pay attention to details like this?

I think I just try too hard to do things well, that’s why I’m not as successful as some of the lazy hacks out there.

BAD WRITING WORKSHOP

6 Dec

WITH ART-AGENDA

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Courtesy of one Nickolas Calabrese and the Art-agenda [sic] mailing list from the reliable nonsense mongers at e-flux. There appears to be little or no information available online about Mr. Calabrese, although in May 2012 he was described as an “artist and philosopher”. Please, no. By this week he was just an “artist and writer in New York.” Maybe the philosophy didn’t work out. Somebody’s intern, possibly? His oeuvre so far amounts to three reviews, but each of them is loaded with clumsy metaphors, malapropisms and other examples of what not to do in professional writing. Art-agenda apparently has editors. I feel like invoicing them for doing their job. I’m just reproducing the greatest (s)hits here; you can read the reviews in full elsewhere if you’ve nothing better to do.

ART BASEL MIAMI BEE-ACH

“The site of the apocalypse is not spatial, but temporal, and right now it is in Miami.”

Hyperbole in critical writing can be fine sometimes– I mean, look at me– but horrible as Art Basel Miami Beach is, it isn’t an apocalypse for anyone or anything. Not even the presence of Miley Cyrus is a reliable indicator that the end is nigh, although one could be forgiven for thinking so or even hoping so. In fact it’s the opposite; ABMB is part of an ongoing, methodical consolidation and reification of what Calabrese rightly calls the “depraved dealers, conniving collectors, and the substandard artists.” Leaving his initial basic category error aside, what could this pretentious sentence actually mean? Historically, apocalypse has mostly been something thought of as happening at a particular future or imminent time and not at a particular place. He seems to be confusing apocalypse with some other word, too. “Cataclysm”, maybe?

“Another daringly underrated artist with a solo booth is Jack Early at New York’s Fergus McCaffrey.”

“Daringly underrated”? This is fridge magnet poetry. Who is being so bold as to underrate this artist and why should we care? How does one not rate something highly enough in a daring manner? He also gives us a “sad frog” being “strangely heartbreaking.” How about other [RANDOM ADVERB] + [RANDOM ADJECTIVE]s like “excitingly banal” or “bravely inactive”?

“Miami is simultaneously the site of the apocalypse and its prevarication.”

No, it isn’t. It is, however, another category mistake and mangled metaphor. Try to imagine an apocalypse prevaricating. “Er… yeah, I’m kind of overbooked this week, so I might be along and I might not. I just don’t know. Start without me and I’ll see you there if I can make it, OK?”

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