Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Rebirth of Art

Last week, I spoke of a Ponzi scheme in the high art world. Maybe that was harsh but I wanted to get your attention.Because the public has been told by the art media, experts and art trend commentators that this conceptual art movement and the art from it is not only a real value because of it’s significance in the context of modern and post war art, but that these artists are themselves as significant as Monet, Picasso, Pollack, Warhol and de Kooning.

I think the investors bought these ‘assets’ with the idea of flipping them in the course of a few years but did they really believe these works were as important as the works of  the previous stated artists? With so many new millionaire and billionaires being minted weekly, it seemed there was no end in sight to  people knocking at the door of elitism asking for entree and willing to spend crazy money  just to look they belonged, had culture and were significant themselves.

They ended up investing in the art worlds version of the financial derivative. It seemed that each one that came along was the sucker, paying the sucker price and finding other suckers to offload onto after they made a profit. Everyone was making money. The critics, the galleries, the media, the investors that museums got to put up funds for huge, exquisite parties and exhibitions.

Even the reputable auctions houses got into it for a taste. ( I use ‘reputable’ loosely based upon known issues of provenance of various works auctioned off in the past twenty years.)

And let’s not even get into how most of these new millionaires made their money. The fact remains that the same instrument that crashed the world economy seems to have enjoyed a parallel life in the art world.

So whats going to happen? No one knows. Will it be propped up or left to deflate? Your answer is as good as mine. But I know this. People who really enjoy traditional art are having a field day. They have the best of both worlds now. Young, hungry artists who want a chance to sell and showcase their work and reasonable prices for emerging artist’s work that doesn’t break your bank. It would appear  that now is the time for the rebirth of art in it’s more traditional forms: painting, sculpture, photography, sketching, drawing, even graffiti.

In the end, the real work that is sweated out by the artisans themselves always ends up being discovered by real people. And that is where the true value lies; in it’s discovery.

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Broken and Battered-Helping Japan To Stand Up Again

It is truly amazing how we as a species can produce an outpouring of sympathy and help when a catastrophic event shakes up a certain corner of the world.

We’ve seen ourselves rise to the occasion time and time again with the earthquakes in China, Afghanistan and Haiti and the last tsunami that rocked Indonesia in 2004.We want to help.We want to comfort people. We want to ease that pain we know could happen to us. The dichotomy of what we do for each other and to each other is a subject for another time and place.

My uncle sent me a link to an interesting op/ed piece regarding an artist’s attempt helping the victims of the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis over in Japan.

You can read it here. I won’t repeat what was already written because I agree with the writer.

And I would venture to say this. It is a noble idea from James White with a great design concept. As we know many of the great artists have  used their faculties as artists to convey their thoughts, emotions and stories of the greatest conflicts and atrocities in human history. Clavé and Picasso did many pieces regarding the Spanish Civil War.  It enables us to cope and try to understand and heal from huge personal losses and   the scarred psyches of past events. It helps us process to it differently and find some peace.

There are soldiers who are returning from years of deployment dealing with the toll that war has taken on them and their friends and families  and all the while producing some inspiring and downright moving cinema, drawings, paintings and writings. It helps to heal our broken minds.

But I believe there is a difference between events triggered by the emotional (or coldblooded) responses by governments in relation to their respective political and economic agendas and a simple geological event.

Both kinds of these events affect us globally on many levels. One is not more or less than the other. And what has happened here has reopened a very delicate issue regarding the type of energy we rely on now as a society and it’s potential for horrific implications in times of earthquakes and tsunami. As we realize that our dependence on fossil fuels has had an enormous negative  consequence on this planet and it’s inhabitants, and we are looking for the next form of renewable and safe energy, we are reminded that we have to deal with our  non qualified meddling in atomic energy sources and what can happen when it’s not running perfect. A car runs out of fuel or oil to keep it cool, it seizes. A reactor cracks and can’t retain the water used to keep the core cool, a little more than a seized engine occurs.

Where this artist and his piece falls short is in the mass production of a product that while poetic, is a reminder of something awful. He is doing this in order to raise funds. I get it. He’s a phenomenal artist. But I think it would be better served  making a stand alone piece only. Just one piece. By raising interest in that one piece, I believe you still can get people to donate to the help organizations there in the relief effort without using the resources such as ink and paper in the production, delivery, postage and subsequent (possibly) disposal of the posters.

I agree with the writer that I would not be inclined so much as to put the poster up and each time be reminded of the event (or maybe how close we came to another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl)(**and we are still not out of the woods**) but to destroy it safe in the assumption I made a difference with my donation.

While I’m sure some artists have made work about tsunami or earthquakes or hurricanes, I’ve never seen them and I don’t believe people want to be reminded of these events which have always occurred on this planet. They just happen and we happen to be in the way. I’ve never seen art depicting dinosaurs running away from a meteor shower embraced as a way to commemorate the ice age.

In the end, I think the piece is brilliant, beautiful, graceful and tragic. And, like the event, there should only be one.

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The Death of Banal Art

Last week I wrote about the potential collapse in the high art markets of London and New York. The art world’s obsession over the conceptual art movement and in turn the works of designers like Koons and Hirst and the subsequent failure of their work to earn a decent return in the second hand trade auctions have led some to quietly look the other way and ponder ‘what just happened ?’.

Though some who observe the market may declare the market for these artist’s work and conceptual art itself is experiencing a revamping, there still is the question of whether high concept art has hit the peak and if  it was truly  valued realistically. If  so, why are high end buyers rejecting the new works and looking elsewhere to invest in what is undoubtedly a turnabout from the conceptual art superstars?

Artists like Gerhard Richter, Adriana Varejao, Almed Alsoudani and Chinese portrait artist Yan Pei-Ming are enjoying splendid if not somewhat more terrestrial auction prices and their work is definitely in the direction of abstraction and expressionism. But abstract painting was declared dead years ago, so why the sudden movement of money and interest in these artists?

I believe the ‘art of the banal’; as it’s sometimes been referred to; and the perverted egoistic personalities that came with it, has overstayed it’s own welcome. And in the desperate attempt to be the ‘brand’ or the ‘product’, these designers and the ‘work’ got shelved. Much like the consumer who gets bored of the device that; once gleaming and smooth; is now faded and scratched,the inevitable thought occurs in the mind: ‘Did I throw money away at a passing fancy, or is it truly a value to me?’

And so it is with conceptual art of the last years. I believe that in the end there is something much more tactile  and real about these new artist’s works. They represent  the strain and toil of reaching within oneself in order to find the next level in themselves and the reflection of their human experiences in the world around them. They reflect the soul that is able to create organically instead of the mind that can just analyze. They prove the idea does not take precedence over the material and that the aesthetic elements are as important. In fact, all elements are of equal value.

While one could argue that this direction was inevitable, what about all the huge profits made by those whose responsibility was to make sure hype and over inflated works didn’t flood the market?

What happened to all the investors who got left with a bag of swag it  now seems no one wants? And what is the impact on the new  emerging artists producing fine art but having to wait for the markets to unload their own stock before they take on new talents?

While the investment trend seems to be returning to the classic medium of paintings, some have withdrawn from the market entirely because of the stink that is now emanating from the last movement. Can you smell a Ponzi scheme here?

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