Mistakes in Modern Art

Modern Art Art Exhibit Mistaken For Trash And Thrown Away

BY: Reuters

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ROME – An art installation of empty champagne bottles and spent party poppers reopened in Italy on Tuesday, three days after cleaning staff mistook it for rubbish and binned it.

“Where shall we go dancing tonight?” (see above) was intended to invoke the consumerism, financial speculation, mass media and parties of the 1980s, but fell foul of unwary cleaners over the weekend.

After realizing the mistake, staff at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano in the northern Alto Adige region hastily salvaged the materials from rubbish sacks and recreated the artwork.

Museum director Letizia Ragaglia suggested the incident had served to get people talking about modern art.

“It has sparked a great debate … It all goes to show how contemporary art is capable of arousing great interest, or even annoying people. We believe it is essential to keep this dialogue open,” she said in a statement.

The creators of the installation, Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari were not amused.

“What happened was bad. It cannot be possible for an installation to end up in the rubbish bin,” the pair were quoted as saying by Alto Adige newspaper.

The show will be open to the public until Nov. 22.

Secret Graffiti

Street Artists Sabotage Set of 'Homeland' With Secret Graffiti Message

BY: Sarah Cascone

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in a promotional image for the fourth season ofHomeland.  Photo: courtesy Showtime.

Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in a promotional image for the fourth season ofHomeland. 
Photo: courtesy Showtime.

A trio of graffiti artists asked to decorate the set of a Syrian refugee camp for the Showtime's award-winning television series Homeland took advantage of the opportunity to publicize their dislike of the show's portrayal of the Muslim world, hiding messages accusing the show of racism in plain sight.

When approached by a friend on behalf of Homeland's set production company, Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone, who are referring to themselves as the "Arabian Street Artists" in mockery of the show's casting call, were initially hesitant to sign on.

"The series has garnered the reputation of being the most bigoted show on television for its inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans" wrote the artists on Amin's website.

Graffiti on the set of Homeland reading "Homeland is NOT a series" in Arabic. Photo: Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone.

Graffiti on the set of Homeland reading "Homeland is NOT a series" in Arabic.
Photo: Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone.

This past year, the Washington Post took serious issue with a promotional image of Carrie Matheson, played by Claire Danes, wearing a red headscarf in a crowd of Muslims in head-to-toe black garb, describing it as "a blonde, white Red Riding Hood lost in a forest of faceless Muslim wolves."

Now, the series, filming in Berlin, was looking to add authentic-looking graffiti to the set. The trio realized they could be a mouthpiece for such discontent. "It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself," said the artists.

Graffiti on the set of Homeland reading "Homeland is racist" in Arabic. Photo: Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone.

Graffiti on the set of Homeland reading "Homeland is racist" in Arabic.
Photo: Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone.

To that end, the artists decorated the set with Arabic messages critical of the series. A sampling includes "this show does not represent the views of the artists," "the situation is not to be trusted," and even "Homeland is racist."

"Set designers were too frantic to pay any attention to us," the artists claimed. "In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas."

"We wish we'd caught these images before they made it to air,"Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa told Deadline. "However, as Homeland always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can't help but admire this act of artistic sabotage."

Artist Statements

The Artist Statements of the Old Masters

BY: John Seed

“If the great European artists of the past were alive today, what kinds of statements would they need to write to explain and justify their work?”

This summer I (John Seed) asked myself that question over two dozen times for a small, humor book that I have been developing. I hope you will find the sampling of seven statements below funny and even a bit poetic. Five of them were written specifically for Hyperallergic and two are from my new book.

Strange Situation

BY: Nate Freeman

"Hands are weird aren't they?" is not a thing that Tino Sehgal said to Tina Brown ARTNEWS

"Hands are weird aren't they?" is not a thing that Tino Sehgal said to Tina Brown ARTNEWS

STRANGE SITUATION: TINO SEHGAL, ENEMY OF PURCHASING OBJECTS, TALKS WITH TINA BROWN AT A DINNER FOR CREDIT SUISSE IN BASEL

Tino Sehgal once claimed that he had not bought anything in over a year, and that was only because his girlfriend thought their apartment should have some curtains. His works exist only in his head and in their execution, they are forbidden to be reproduced in any way, and they are sold by verbal agreement. Which makes him an interesting choice to chat with Tina Brown—former editor of such sybarite bibles at Vanity Fair and Talk—before the annual dinner hosted by Credit Suisse, a bank with assets totaling $872 billion, which would buy a lot of curtains.

The interaction between the fair and the banking world here in Basel is constant and natural, akin to the interaction with the fashion world at Art Basel Miami beach or the startup world during fairs in New York. It’s simply the local industry. So why not note the commingling of art and commerce and drink champagne on Credit Suisse’s dime?

Perhaps this was Sehgal’s thinking when he agreed to be the latest artist to volley the serves from Brown here in Basel—last year it was Matthew Barney, to amusing effect. In any case, introductory remarks stressed that beyond just propping up the art market financially, Credit Suisse is one of those banks intent to have a arm devoted to art endeavors, a fact that was brought up a number of times.

“It’s the very establishment, Credit Suisse—you wouldn’t really expect it to be on the bleeding edge,” Brown said in her typically breathless tone.

(Another revealing moment: while introducing her co-hosts, Pamela Thomas-Graham, a top executive at Credit Suisse, made a bit of a slip-up. “And I would like to thank Richard Chang, who is a great investor—er, I mean, collector,” she said.)

At any rate, we had a conversation to get through before we could eat, so the dynamic duo of Tina and Tino took the stage. The artist sat down and started to shrink in the seat, visibly uncomfortable in front of the small group that happened to include some of the more powerful dealers, collectors and curators on earth. Apparently it was a little bright up there.

“Why are there… theater lights?” he asked.

“No, we don’t want theater lights,” Brown said.

“My work, actually, it’s like theater without the theater lights,” he said. “What that means is the theater lights produce a kind of separation — you can see me, but I can’t see you. That’s what we call absorption. We’re creating a situation in which Tina and me are in this situation together and you can partake in this situation as if you were a part of it. So that’s what these lights are doing—and they are really blinding me…”

“Is there any way we can actually turn down these lights,” Brown called out to a crowd of people who looked around cluelessly. “They are a bit bright.”

“Well, actually, it’s helping me answer the question!” Sehgal said.

They kept on bantering in a loose, friendly way, which is sort of surprising considering the sheer mass of self-confidence assembled onstage and the fact that Sehgal was casually dismissing all the things he doesn’t like: showing anywhere but prestigious museums, anything performed on a stage, the chair he was currently sitting on, Santiago Sierra.

At one point, Brown made some offhand comment about his art as “rebellion against capitalism,” and boy oh boy, did that set off Sehgal.

“Rebelling reminds me of teenage and reminds me of the 20th century and I’m not too interested in either of those things,” he said.

You heard it here first: The 20th century doesn’t interest Tino Sehgal too much.

Then, using George Balanchine as a starting point, Brown asked why he creates works that don’t exist in the world, saying, “Is that what you want? To have nothing?” with genuine incredulity.

“The second generation are teaching the ballets, which means these dancers didn’t know Balanchine, they never danced under him,” he said. “But it was passed down. You could take the English language, like we’re doing right now, and it’s going to be passed on from body to body, from mother to child. It’s not going to disappear, they learn it from the mother, they don’t go to the library to learn how to speak—Messi didn’t go to the library to learn the rules of football.”

There were the inevitable forays into the artist’s seemingly incompatible fields of study, economics and dance—“You’re a dancing economist who became an artist who constructed situations!” Brown said as if she’d been waiting to say that sentence all her life—before circling back to an inevitable topic: so, what’s up with that art fair with all those insanely expensive things for sale? Does that really grind your gears, Tino?

“Given we’re at Art Basel, a temple of objects, any thoughts on this year’s show?” Brown asked.

Sehgal paused, and brought up the Rirkrit Tiravanija’s ecosystem that he created on the messeplatz.

“It’s very 2015,” he said. “It looks good, it’s social, it’s inclusive—now, if it’s art or not, I’m not sure it matters. It’s a certain kind of approach to contemporary life, and I don’t think this thing could have been possible seven years ago.”

And then time called for Tina Brown to end the conversation.

“We could talk for much longer,” she said. “But I think we’re now going to construct a situation called ‘Dinner.’”

Banksy (as usual)

FROM: INDEPENDENT.IE

'I don't have a home but I do have this precious gift from Banksy'

Three foot taller than its owner, there is a sadness in her dark eyes that is contradicted by her pink bow. Gaza can be a place of contrasts. The beauty and the devastation. The fighters and the peacemakers. The hopeful and the hopeless.

But contemplate being a potential millionaire while your family live in a caravan and you're in a hut that most people wouldn't store turf in.

That is the story of Mohamed al Shanbari (30). The father-of-six ran for his life last year, leaving all his worldly possession at the mercy of the Israeli tanks that were thundering through the village of Beit Hanoun. "When I came back after the war, the house was totally destroyed," he told the Irish Independent.

The only thing left standing was a small chunk of the gable wall, about 9ft tall.

Fast-forward four months to last February and another unimportant morning when a stranger from the outside arrives armed with stencils.

"He didn't tell me anything about who he was. I wasn't interested in asking him who he was. I thought he was just some foreign artist coming to do a mural," Mr al Shanbari explains.

Days later, Banksy - the elusive street artist whose work can sell for millions - posted a satirical travel video on YouTube where he tunnels "well away from the tourist track" into Gaza.

In that moment, Mr al Shanbair was homeless, jobless, penniless and minted.

As the first anniversary of last summer's war approaches, he is still no closer to reconstructing his home but he has built a protective fence for his Banksy.

"I had to protect it from children trying to paint over it and haters who might try destroy it because it is a such a precious gift," says Mr al Shanbair.

The market for art in Gaza is non-existent and there is no chance of being able to export the mural, meaning it may well be one of Banksy's most valuable pieces.

"I will try to protect it as long as I live here. I will keep the wall. I am proud because everybody knows the artist around the world."

Asked why he thinks Banksy chose a kitten, Mr al Shanbair replies: "This cat is a symbol of the right to live. I am a cat and I have the right to live so what about human beings."

A fitting interpretation given that 18 people were killed in a house just 25 metres away from the spot. Banksy himself has said he "wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website - but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens".

Indo Review

Artists Intervene In The Mind

BY: Alex Greenberger

‘ARTISTS, AFTER ALL, INTERVENE IN THE MINDS OF THE AUDIENCE’: LUIS CAMNITZER ON THE PROBLEMS OF ART EDUCATION

Luis Camnitzer,  Landscape as an Attitude , 1979, silver gelatin print. COURTESY ALEXANDER GRAY ASSOCIATES AND THE ARTIST

Luis Camnitzer, Landscape as an Attitude, 1979, silver gelatin print. COURTESY ALEXANDER GRAY ASSOCIATES AND THE ARTIST

Most writing about Luis Camnitzer’s work is authored by none other than Camnitzer himself. There’s no question about it—the German-born, Uruguay-raised, and New York–based Conceptualist doesn’t keep quiet when it comes to himself. His visual art often involves text (critics have compared it to concrete poetry, but Camnitzer doesn’t agree), and it deals with the exchange of ideas between artist and viewer. Sometimes, it is political, but many times it is about the nature of art itself. His writing on teaching, beauty, and expanding the art-historical canon is really nothing more than an extension of that practice.

Last night, at SVA, Camnitzer lectured on what he called “art thinking,” which, as he explained, is “not quite a discipline, but a meta-discipline.” (What he really meant by this was a new kind of art education, but more on this later.) This lecture, sure enough, was mostly spent reading a long essay that Camnitzer had written ahead of time. He sat down in the front of the room at a spare white table, wearing a long-sleeved white button-up and blue jeans. He looked and talked like a Conceptual artist—nothing but the bare essentials, with much more in his head than what met the eye.

And so began his complex argument for art thinking. “When we talk about art, we generally lump a great many things together, to the point where are knowing not exactly what we are talking about,” Camnitzer said, in his distinctly German-Uruguayan-American accent. “When I ask anybody, the response would be that there’s art-making and there’s art appreciation.” But he wanted to add a third group—art thinking.

Luis Camnitzer. COURTESY ARTNET

Luis Camnitzer. COURTESY ARTNET

So how did we get here, with all this “institutional laziness,” as Camnitzer put it? How did we get to a point where art students only learn about the same artists over and over again? Camnitzer’s answer was that prospective art students seek schools with prestige that are not interested in churning out better students. (Worth noting is that Camnitzer’s art from the ’60s has been considered an inspiration for institutional critique, which looks at museums and power structures.)

Camnitzer began to outline two dialogues—Dialogue 1 and Dialogue 2. (He broke away from reading his essay, took a sip of water, and, in a rare humorous moment, added, “That’s not very original.”) Dialogue 1 was Salon-style thinking, in which mastering craft was the main point of art education. “This is the part that selected people out from art and led to the phrase, ‘I can’t even draw a straight line,’” Camnitzer said, pausing briefly for dramatic emphasis. Somewhere around Romanticism, in the early 19th-century, “Dialogue 1 was redirected from the material to the art object.”

“We still don’t know exactly what art is,” Camnitzer added, regarding the attitude of Dialogue 1 artists. “The questions were about the references needed to make works of art.” These attitudes produced a series of –isms—Impressionism, Expressionism, Suprematism, etc.—and a linear art-historical narrative, which Camnitzer finds to be too universalizing. “The notion of progress is nothing more than a carryover from the Enlightenment and our way of thinking conditioned by science and capitalism,” he concluded. It was also too focused on individual achievements and the artist’s genius.

Dialogue 2, however, was something Camnitzer could get behind. “The dialogue shifted and took place between the art object and the viewer,” he said. “Art became aware of itself as both information and communication.” Think Duchamp and the Dada artists—the “what” and the “why” of art became more important than how it was done. Camnitzer is, more or less, a Dialogue 2 artist.

Camnitzer also acknowledged some of Dialogue 2’s dangers. “Viewers were both activated and deactivated,” and art became spectacular. On a more positive note, Camnitzer also noted that the artist is “not defined by ego,” but by the audience. “Art,” he said, “is now a fully context-driven activity.”

Luis Camnitzer,  This Is a Mirror, You Are a Written Sentence , 1966–68, vacuum-formed polystyrene mounted on synthetic board. PETER SCHÄLCHLI, ZURICH

Luis Camnitzer, This Is a Mirror, You Are a Written Sentence, 1966–68, vacuum-formed polystyrene mounted on synthetic board. PETER SCHÄLCHLI, ZURICH

“With Dialogue 2, the need to approach other areas of knowledge becomes even more important,” Camnitzer said. “It’s not anymore defined by the ego, but by the relevance and effect it will have once it reaches an intended audience. Here, art assumes the role of shaping culture rather than shaping a market or being shaped by it. It then doesn’t matter if it’s individual or collective work.”

Both dialogues are about trying to learn something new, and that’s where art education and art thinking come in. “You could say that this addressing the unknown should be a central point in any art school, yet it rarely is,” Camnitzer said. “You say that ultimately addressing the unknown is not only the basis of all art activities, but any sound dimension. That is what makes learning the real task, not teaching.”

Students, he said, need to be studying the contexts of objects rather than the objects themselves because art is such an “ambiguous word.” This is art thinking—stripping away the genius and craft and focusing on what art does for the world. “Artists, after all, intervene in the minds of the audience,” Camnitzer said.

Perhaps feeling like their jobs were invalidated, many professors in the room were unhappy with what Camnitzer said. The MFA students seemed equally frustrated and curious. Maybe this was exactly what Camnitzer wanted. As he said at one point in his talk, “We have either to reconsider the teaching of art or we have to declare that it’s not just art can be taught.”

Crying Babies

BY: James Vincent 

Projecting crying babies onto pollution is a great way to sell air purifiers

Pollution in China is a very real, very serious problem, with around 750,000 peoplethought to die prematurely each year because of it, with most of these caused by air pollution, both outside and indoors. It's a scary figure, but a Chinese firm named Xiao Zhu — that just happens to be in the business of selling air purifiers — apparently thinks it's not scary enough.

To remedy this, the company has decided to highlight the dangers of pollution by projecting images of crying children onto clouds of smoke emerging from factory towers. The resulting advertising campaign named Breathe Again looks like the debut of a Chinese David Lynch, with the huge bawling faces hanging menacingly in the night sky. Presumably, it'll also shift a few air filters.

(Design Boom/Handsome Wong)

The over-the-top marketing campaign was first posted on Design Boom via the site's DIY Submissions feature, with someone identifying themselves as Handsome Wong responsible for the post. A Twitter user by the same name is apparently a creative partner at a company named Veracom, and has previously tweeted about Xiao Zhu, the firm behind the ad. If it's the same individual, then he's also responsible for a similarly arresting Chinese environmental campaign: placing massive, shark-finned coffins in public places to highlight the wasteful killing behind shark fin soup.

J. M. W. Turner (again)

BY: Larissa Archer

Joseph Mallord William Turner, “Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” (exhibited 1842), oil on canvas, (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856) (all images courtesy Getty Museum)

Joseph Mallord William Turner, “Snow Storm: Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth” (exhibited 1842), oil on canvas, (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856) (all images courtesy Getty Museum)

J. M. W. Turner, the Sublime, and Me

LOS ANGELES — “You don’t experience the sublime looking through double glazing, or at a distant electric storm, or watching a sea rage on TV,” wrote AA Gill in The Golden Door: Letters to America.

… and yet you can, when viewing a painting. How is that? Something strange came over me while wandering the exhibition halls of the Getty Museum’s show J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free. I found myself dangerously close to experiencing an embarrassing eruption of feelings, and not just one or two feelings, but all of them, All of The Feelings, all at once and at full volume. Without knowing why, without even being able to identify any single work that could have this effect, I willed back tears and held my hand to my breast, surprised and abashed at the cliched dramatics of my gesture, the histrionics roiling within me, my very own internal “Snow Storm” tossing up my waters.

Installation view of J. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center

Installation view of J. M. W. Turner: Painting Set Free at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center

What was going on? Turner’s prolific, no-fucks-given output in the last 16 years of his life, the focus of this exhibition, garnered mockery and accusations of blindness and mental illness from collectors and critics, even formerly devoted ones like John Ruskin. Both the oil paintings and the watercolors on view flaunt those freedoms he took that triggered the outrage of his detractors and presaged later movements that in their own time were considered revolutionary. His canvases are a rough topography of thick impasto, sometimes smeared on with a palette knife. His watercolors, conversely, seem barely touched, as faint as afterimages and as immaterial as memories. Turner’s highly personal use of color extends across media: hues can denote either time of day and weather or emotional timbre or both. His penchant for yellow appears as shimmering sunshine reflecting off golden-hued scenes out of classical mythology, the sun itself boring a hot, dry hole through a damp, limpid dawn, and hellish flames consuming the Houses of Lords and Commons. Blue ranges from the cool placidity of a Swiss lake and the fog floating above it to laden storm clouds hanging heavy over an obscure landscape, to the storm itself, obliterating the moonlight over a sea in tumult, and darkening to suggest the depths below. Red is used as punctuation, clarifying a burning tower here, a lone cow there, or a blood-soaked imaginary ground at has-been Napoleon’s feet, which he stares at, newly contemplative in exile.

J.M.W. Turner, “Venice at Sunrise from the Hotel Europa, with Campanile of San Marco” (c. 1840), watercolor (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 Photo © Tate, London 2014)

J.M.W. Turner, “Venice at Sunrise from the Hotel Europa, with Campanile of San Marco” (c. 1840), watercolor (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 Photo © Tate, London 2014)

To say Turner’s skies and landscapes convey power and movement is to beggar the concepts of power and movement; they are possibly the truest pictorial manifestations of the Romantic notion of the Sublime, the closest visual translations of Lear’s dialogue with the heavens:

"And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,
Crack Nature’s moulds, all germains spill at once,
That makes ingrateful man!"

J.M.W. Turner, “War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet” (exhibited 1842), oil on canvas (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856)

J.M.W. Turner, “War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet” (exhibited 1842), oil on canvas (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856)

One gets the feeling this was no accident, that people, animals, buildings, bridges, and vessels only interested him insofar as they offered excuses to reckon with a new landscape, or a landscape made new with fleeting light and climatic drama. The “Whalers”(1845) look like cake top figurines; Napoleon in “War: The Exile and the Rock Limpet”(1842), a depressed Nutcracker. One has to really search “Hurrah! For the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish!”(1846) for the whale itself, only to find a faded emoji mostly hidden behind a ship, itself obscured in mist and ruddy light. “The Hero of a Hundred Fights” (1847) at least in name depicts Wellington, the victor at Waterloo, being cast in bronze for his assumption atop the triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner. But in this painting, he is a barely-visible silhouette; what interested Turner was not the jingoistic hyping of a national hero, nor the sweat and brawn of the laboring foundry workers, but the fire’s swirling heat and radiant light against the sweltering darkness of the iron forge. Indeed, it’s almost surprising not to see steam rising off the canvas.

J.M.W. Turner, “Whalers” (exhibited 1845), oil on canvas (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 Photo © Tate, London 2014)

J.M.W. Turner, “Whalers” (exhibited 1845), oil on canvas (Tate: Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 Photo © Tate, London 2014)

This is all hard to take in on one visit. The Getty’s galleries, though spacious, are freighted with over 60 paintings, each rewarding a careful, unhurried communion, but also compelling one to a restlessness to see and take in them all, sweeping one through the halls as if along one of Turner’s rolling seascapes. That, and the fact that what one does get from even a cursory examination of the works is their incredible poleaxing drama (if not the less grand details that one can nitpick over if one is in the mood) makes it an overwhelming experience, one that might mysteriously necessitate clutching the breast, biting back tears.

J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free continues at the Getty Museum (1200 Getty Center Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles) through May 24, and then will travel to the de Young Museum in San Francisco (June 20–September 20).

"The End Of Art"

BY: Tiernan Morgan & Lauren Purje

Arthur Danto's "The End Of Art"

In an obituary for the New York Times, Ken Johnson described Arthur Danto (1924–2013) as “one of the most widely read art critics of the Postmodern era.” Danto, who was both a critic and a professor of philosophy, is celebrated for his accessible and affable prose. Despite this, Danto’s best-known essay, “The End of Art,” continues to be cited more than it is understood. What was Danto’s argument? Is art really over? And if so, what are the implications for art history and art-making?

Danto’s twin passions were art and philosophy. He initially embarked on a career as an artist (much of his work is now part of the Wayne State University art collection) before pursuing an academic career in philosophy. In 1951, Danto began teaching at Columbia University, earning his doctorate the next year. He was an art critic for The Nation between 1984–2009 and was a regular contributor to publications such as Artforum.

In 1964, Danto visited an exhibition of Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes at the Stable Gallery, New York. The show changed his life.

Arthur Danto and Andy Warhol

Arthur Danto and Andy Warhol

It wasn't Warhol’s subject matter that shocked the philosopher, but its form. Whereas Warhol’s paintings of coke bottles and soup cans were visual representations, the artist’s Brillo box sculptures — silkscreened plywood facsimiles of actual Brillo boxes — were virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. If one placed one of Warhol’s sculptures beside a real Brillo box, who could tell the difference? What made one of the boxes an artwork and the other an ordinary object? Danto outlined his conclusions in an essay entitled “The Artworld” (1964):

What in the end makes the difference between a Brillo box and a work of art consisting of a Brillo box is a certain theory of art. It is theory that takes it up into the world of art, and keeps it from collapsing into the real object which it is. [Warhol’s Brillo boxes] could not have been art fifty years ago. The world has to be ready for certain things, the artworld no less than the real one. It is the role of artistic theories, these days as always, to make the artworld, and art, possible.

Essentially, Warhol’s Brillo boxes are art because the work has an audience which understands it via a certain theory (to use Danto’s term) of what art can be. The artworld (comprised of critics, curators, collectors, dealers, etc.) plays a part in which theories are embraced or snubbed. As Danto surmises, “To see something as art requires something the eye cannot descry — an atmosphere of artistic theory, a knowledge of the history of art: an artworld.” This idea, later expanded upon by the philosopher George Dickie, is also popularly known as the Institutional theory of art. The question lingering in the background is how and why these so-called theories change and develop over time.

Danto was fascinated by historical change. What made Warhol’s Brillo boxes acceptable as art in 1964? What would Neo-classical painter Jacques-Louis David have thought of Warhol’s work? How would Leonardo da Vinci, Phidias, or a caveman react? Do the Brillo boxes represent some sort of art historical progress? Was art history heading in a discernible direction? Danto’s investigations into history, progress, and art theory, coalesced into his best-known essay, “The End of Art.”

Before tackling “The End of Art,” we need to briefly consider how the history of art is traditionally understood.

Art history is generally thought of as a linear progression of one movement or style after another (Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, etc.), punctuated by the influence of individual geniuses (Delacroix, Courbet, Monet, Cézanne … ).

This fundamental approach is the visual basis of Sara Fanelli’s 40-meter-long timeline of 20th-century art (which was formerly displayed on the Tate Modern’s second floor). The timeline pinpoints the historical inception of particular movements, while also naming key historic artists (note how Fanelli’s timeline trails off after the year 2000. We’ll come back to this later).

An illustration of Sara Fanelli"s Tate timeline

An illustration of Sara Fanelli"s Tate timeline

Fanelli’s timeline is part of a long tradition of attempting to visually map historic progression, a nebulous and tricky concept. The first director of the Museum of Modern Art,Alfred Barr, famously designed his own timeline of 20th-century art, as did George Maciunas, the founder of Fluxus (Maciunas was really into diagrams; he reportedly spent five years on his incomplete 6 x 12–foot art historical timeline). These timelines often implicitly support certain ideas about what art is, what it was, and where it’s headed. One such concept that appears regularly throughout the history of art (albeit, in varying forms), ismimesis: the imitation and representation of reality.

Art historians have long argued that the ancient Greeks sought to imitate the human body with ever greater degrees of verisimilitude, a model that was resurrected during the Renaissance. This concept holds that artists should seek to master the imitation of reality (the story of the painting contest between Zeuxis and Parrhasius typifies this ideal). A number of early art historians sought to demonstrate how various artists had progressed (and in some cases, stunted) this ultimate goal, and in doing so, engineered one of the dominant narratives of art history. The result is a basic (and very reductive) interpretation of art history. Summed up crudely, it resembles something like this: The craftsman of the so-called Dark Ages ‘forgot’ the mimetic skills and values of the ancients. Classical ideals were then resurrected during the Renaissance and were constantly reevaluated up to the late nineteenth century. By the early 20th century, art had fractured into a multitude of concurrent movements.

The story Danto tells in “The End of Art” follows on from this model. According to Danto, the commitment to mimesis began to falter during the nineteenth century due to the rise of photography and film. These new perceptual technologies led artists to abandon the imitation of nature, and as a result, 20th-century artists began to explore the question of art’s own identity. What was art? What should it do? How should art be defined? In asking such questions, art had become self-conscious. Movements such as Cubism questioned the process of visual representation, and Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal as an artwork. The twentieth century oversaw a rapid succession of different movements and ‘isms,’ all with their own notions of what art could be. “All there is at the end,” Danto wrote, “is theory, art having finally become vaporized in a dazzle of pure thought about itself, and remaining, as it were, solely as the object of its own theoretical consciousness.”

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

Warhol’s Brillo boxes and Duchamp’s readymades demonstrated to Danto that art had no discernible direction in which to progress. The grand narrative of progression — of one movement reacting to another — had ended. Art had reached a post-historical state. All that remains is pure theory:

Of course, there will go on being art-making. But art-makers, living in what I like to call the post-historical period of art, will bring into existence works which lack the historical importance or meaning we have for a long time come to expect […] The story comes to an end, but not the characters, who live on, happily ever after doing whatever they do in their post-narrational insignificance […] The age of pluralism is upon us…when one direction is as good as as another.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see how Danto began to approach this conclusion during the 1960s. Movements such as Pop art and Fluxus were actively breaking down the barriers between art and the everyday. Relativist philosophies such as poststructuralism and existentialism were in full swing, critiquing the narratives and certainties which Western academia had previously held dear. Having blown open the definition of what it could be, art had undermined its own belief in linear progression. After all, what movement or ‘ism’ could logically follow the dematerialization of the art object (conceptualism) or the pervasive skepticism of grand theories and ideologies (postmodernism)?

Danto believed that any subsequent movements were nonessential in that they would no longer contribute to the pursuit of art’s self-definition. “We are entering a more stable, more happy period of artistic endeavor where the basic needs to which art has always been responsive may again be met,” he wrote. Although Danto claimed the end of art wasn’t in itself a bad thing, he nonetheless appeared to later lament its demise. In his review of the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Danto lambasted the themeless state of the artworld. “It is heading in no direction to speak of,” the philosopher wrote.

Whilst devising “The End of Art,” Danto was “astonished” to turn to one of the most unlikeliest of sources, the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831).

Arthur Danto and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Arthur Danto and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Hegel’s philosophy was not in vogue during the ’60s, but his teleological understanding of history served as a useful template for Danto’s conclusions. Hegel understood progress as an overarching dialectic — a process of self realization and understanding that culminates in pure knowledge. This state is ultimately achieved through philosophy, though it is initially preceded by an interrogation into the qualities of religion and art. As Danto summarized in a later essay entitled “The Disenfranchisement of Art” (1984):

When art internalizes its own history, when it becomes self-conscious of its history as it has come to be in our time, so that its consciousness of its history forms part of its nature, it is perhaps unavoidable that it should turn into philosophy at last. And when it does so, well, in an important sense, art comes to an end.

Danto is not the only philosopher to have adopted an Hegelian dialectic. Both Francis Fukuyama and Karl Marx utilized Hegelianism to reach their own historical conclusions. Fukuyama argued that liberal democracy and free market capitalism represented the zenith of Western civilization, whilst Marx argued that communism would replace capitalism (neither of these developments have quite panned out).

Sara Fanelli’s timeline appears to validate Danto’s conclusions. After the year 2000, there are no movements or -isms, only individual artists. The movements that are listed towards the end of the century aren’t really movements at all. The term “YBA” (Young British Artists) is a useful catch-all for a diverse group of artists, some of whom happened to go to the same school (Goldsmiths). Likewise, “installation” is not a movement but a means of presenting art. Recent terms such as “zombie formalism” (aka zombie abstraction) appear to confirm that we are living in an age of post-historical malaise.

(Zombie) Clement Greenberg

(Zombie) Clement Greenberg

Though widely read, Danto’s theories are not wholly beloved by the art industry. Artists don’t necessarily want to hear that their work has no developmental potential. Danto’s work also presents a challenge for the art market which relies on perceived historic importance as a unique selling point. He predicted that the demand on the market would require the “illusion of unending novelty,” later citing 1980s Neo-Expressionism as an example of the industry’s need to continually recycle and repackage prior aesthetic forms and ideas, a charge that parallels the contemporary debate regarding zombie formalism.

Danto’s critics typically challenge the philosopher’s reliance on traditional art historical models. In Danto and His Critics (first published in 1993) Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins discuss the “fallacy of linear history,” namely that our pre-dominant art historical narratives are largely a product of their retelling:

As a person (or a culture) gets older, the story gets solidified and embellished in the retelling; and of course, it gets longer. Early incidents and events are recast with forward-looking meaning they could not have possibly have had at the time.

If one rejects the developmental, Western art narrative that Danto describes in “The End of Art,” then the structure required for Danto’s Hegelian understanding of art collapses. 

It’s important to recognize that art history is largely built upon the biases and subjective opinions of others. Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), the so-called father of art history and author of The Lives of the Most Excellent painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550), famously favored Florentine artists over those working in Northern Europe. Over the course of the twentieth-century, the art historical perspectives of academics such as Ernest Gombrich, Heinrich Wölfflin, and Erwin Panofsky were rigorously reassessed. Classical scholars have since problematized the mimetic interpretation of ancient Greek art. Most contemporary medieval scholars reject the term “Dark Ages” for example, since it is implicitly judgmental and ignores the fact that early Christian art had a completely different set of aesthetic priorities. The history of art becomes far more nuanced and complex when studied in microcosm. When one considers the wealth of methodologies available to art historians (Iconography, semiotics, psychoanalysis, and so forth), Danto’s conclusions look all the more narrow and reductive.

Danto also conveniently excludes work which challenges his art historical thesis, namely non-Western art. How do Japanese printmakers — whose perspectival and mimetic priorities differed radically from Western standards — fit into Danto’s art historical narrative? Danto does mention Japanese prints in “The End of Art,” although the question of how they impact his developmental interpretation of art history is completely sidestepped. “We have to decide whether [Japanese print makers] had a different pictographic culture or simply were retarded by technological slowness in achieving solidities,” Danto wrote.

Despite these criticisms, Danto’s supporters argue that his theories are vindicated by a perceptible lack of direction in the art world. It could be argued that Danto’s conclusions hold up, even after one dispenses with his Hegelian framework. Has art merely paralyzed itself by overanalyzing the course of history? How can we ever adequately predict the future from the vantage of the present? Danto directly addresses this dilemma at the start of “The End of Art”:

In 1952, the most advanced galleries were showing Pollock, De Kooning, Gottlieb, and Klein, which would have been temporally unimaginable in 1882. Nothing so much belongs to its own time as an age’s glimpses into the future: Buck Rogers carries the decorative idioms of the 1930s into the twenty-first century … the science fiction novels of the 1950s project the sexual morality of the Eisenhower era […] The future is a kind of mirror in which we can show only ourselves, though it seems to us a window through which we may see things to come.

Or as Danto quotes Leonardo da Vinci, ogni dipintore dipinge se (“every painter paints himself”).

Skinny-Dipping

BY: Monica Tan - The Guardian

James Turrell’s 2014 work Virtuality Squared and participants of Stuart Ringholt’s piece: Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only.) 2011-ongoing.    Photograph: Christo Crocker/National Gallery of Australia

James Turrell’s 2014 work Virtuality Squared and participants of Stuart Ringholt’s piece: Preceded by a tour of the show by artist Stuart Ringholt, 6-8pm. (The artist will be naked. Those who wish to join the tour must also be naked. Adults only.) 2011-ongoing. 
Photograph: Christo Crocker/National Gallery of Australia

Skinny-Dipping In The Void

The dignified halls of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra are an unconventional space to wear your birthday suit. But here we are, on Wednesday evening, 50 art lovers disrobing with quiet, private trepidation.

I too begin to strip: the dress comes off, the underwear soon after – until I stand, breasts, bum and bush in the breeze.

I shuffle nervously. There is nowhere to hide.

When the gallery announced it would be running nude tours of its blockbuster retrospective of the American light artist James Turrell, the scoffing editorials followed. The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones said there was “something arrogant about Turrell’s desire for people to be at their most exposed”.

But hasn’t the nude always belonged in the gallery? Arcing back to ancient prehistoric civilisations, and rarely losing its foothold in popular western art, from Michelangelo’s robust David to the stark confrontation of Lucian Freud’s flesh-filled paintings.

Granted, the naked art spectator is a less common sight, but as our tour guide for the evening, Stuart Ringholt, tells it (he too in the nude), the white cube of an art museum is already a “reductive space”– so it follows that clothes are a kind of visual noise disrupting our experience.

“Minimal museum, minimal audience and James’s work is very minimal,” he says. “Put these three things together and it seems quite appropriate.”

Australia is not the first country to run a naked tour of Turrell’s work. In Japan viewers had the option of entering his Perceptual Cell – a single-person capsule that blasts the spectator with coloured light – without clothing. And Ringholt himself has been running nude tours since 2011 as part of his own art practice in Melbourne, which delves into the psychology of embarrassment and humiliation. So when the show came to Australia, Turrell decided the two experiences could make a good fit.

Being naked is a kind of “reset”, says Ringholt. “We’re at our happiest when we’re nude: we take a bath when we’re nude, we sleep sometimes when we’re nude, make love when we’re nude. We swim in the ocean or we run through the park – and they’re our most wonderful times.”

Turrell, meanwhile, believes our bodies have an intimate relationship with light that we frequently overlook. Earlier in the year he told Benjamin Law in the Monthly that “light is part of our diet”.

“We drink light as vitamin D through the skin,” he said. “Without vitamin D, we have serious problems in the serotonin balance and you get depression. Light is a food.”

Bodily modesty has always struck me as the most stupid of human hang-ups. In June, my editor asked me to participate in a mass nude swim as a bitingly cold solstice dawn broke over Tasmania’s Long beach. Which makes this the second naked story I’ve been assigned on the job. For Law, this is the third time an editor has requested he strip off. I suspect the Australian media establishment has a secret Asian fetish.

Before we reach Turrell’s retrospective we have to walk through the main halls of the gallery, a surreal experience in itself. There is something naughty – in a childish sense – about tiptoeing through such a grandiose institution, past the Sidney Nolans and the Aboriginal Memorial, with so many boobs and dicks swinging around like pendulums.

Stuart Ringholt leads his naked tour, standing in front of James Turrell’s 1969 work Raemar pink white. Photograph: Christo Crocker/National Gallery of Australia

Stuart Ringholt leads his naked tour, standing in front of James Turrell’s 1969 work Raemar pink white. Photograph: Christo Crocker/National Gallery of Australia

That feathery ticklishness I experienced when first undressing in public is vanishing – I feel more comfortable in my skin with each step. But it’s not until we reach one of Turrell’s works that it hits me why we are here. Why art – something we appreciate through our eyes, sometimes our ears, but rarely with our entire bodies – can suddenly be transformed by this absurd act of nudity.

Raemar pink white (1969) is deceptively simple. On paper, it reads like mere decor: a rectangular stripe of pink light glowing from a hidden source. But once you’re in front of it, the shape is so large it fills your entire field of vision, until it seems to warp and wrap around your entire body.

Without a thread between my body and the work, my bare flesh seems to be drinking all that peppy pink brightness in. The feeling is sensual, not sexual. I’m acutely aware of the cool air on my skin, a lock of hair resting on my shoulder. Everyone around me is gawping at the art, almost euphoric with delight.

We’re all looking at each other’s bodies too, of course, but neither intensely nor with furtive snatched glances. It’s the sort of cool appreciation encouraged by a Degas painting: a woman stepping into a bathtub, towel drying one lifted arm, captured in her natural state. “I show them stripped of their coquetry, in the state of animals cleansing themselves,” the painter once said.

Stuart Ringholt leads his nude tour through the National Gallery of Australia. Photograph: Christo Crocker /National Gallery of Australia

Stuart Ringholt leads his nude tour through the National Gallery of Australia. Photograph: Christo Crocker /National Gallery of Australia

Whether we like it or not, our clothes announce which tribe we belong to. Without them we are reduced to a bowl of human fruit: colourful but lacking in pretension. Our tour group are a kind of still-life and I spot nourishing food everywhere; a marbled pink leg, the warm pear-curve of hips, wobbling jelly bottoms and fried egg nipples. Every body its own shape, size and in a state of decay – marvellous yet utterly ordinary.

John Cocks, participant and president of the ACT Nudist Club, (yes, that’s his real name) explains to me the difference between exhibitionism and nudism. “An exhibitionist is someone who gets excited about being naked in front of somebody else or having themselves seen naked by somebody else,” he says. “There’s a titillation aspect to it. For a nudist, being nude means you can relax – you accept people as they are. I just like to be free.”

Since he was a “little tot”, Cocks has disliked wearing clothes, and at 61 he is unlikely to change his tune. “That’s what most people have a problem with. They associate nudism with [something] sexual. You don’t see somebody without their gear on unless you’re going to jump into bed – that’s the way we’ve been taught. ‘Nude is rude.’ But it’s not. It can be a natural way.”

Naturists use the term “skyclad” to describe the feeling of being nude. This evening we are “artclad” and for Cocks and his naturist cohort, the tour is a rare opportunity to practise outside the privacy of their own homes and the club’s bushland property. “With most people the biggest problem with going nude in public is actually that first step,” he says. “When you take your clothes off, a few minutes into it you don’t notice any difference.”

But for the vast majority of participants here tonight – a mix of men and women of varying ages, all adults and all obliged to be nude – the tour marks their first time practising public nudity and many say it has been a transformative experience.

The American artist plays with real and artificial light to create tricks on the mind and eye, invoking a feeling of awe that’s rare in contemporary art, writes Andrew Fros

Student Sarah Hanlin, 24, felt a growing apprehension in the days leading up to the tour. On the drive up to Canberra from Melbourne she ran through the scene of undressing in her head, and it struck her: where would she put her hands? “You know when you’re nervous you sort of just put your hands in your sleeves, tug on something, put them in your pockets?” she says.

Earlier in the evening her nerves continued to jangle as she undressed – was she doing it in the right order? should she be sitting down? – until finally, she was naked. How did she feel? “I sort of reclused for a while.” She still hadn’t figured out what do with her hands, and told herself: “Don’t put them on your hips because everyone will know you’re shy. Stand, look. Don’t look. Look blank and act normal.”

Despite her misgivings, Hanlin quickly warmed to the experience. “Such a lovely vibe,” she says. Her favourite piece was Sight Unseen from Turrell’s 2014 Ganzfeld series, where spectators enter a scooped-out space drenched in coloured light whose furthermost wall appears invisible.

Not transparent, simply not there. To me, being naked in that space felt like skinny-dipping in the void. Hanlin describes it as “swimming in a pool of light”.

“If I’d had clothes on, the light would have been affected. It was incredible.”

 James Turrell: A Retrospective is at National Gallery of Canberra until 8 June 2015

Blooms at the Rijksmuseum

New Permanent Installation Blooms at the Rijksmuseum

BY: Allison Meier 

Detail of a Shylight in the Rijksmuseum (courtesy of Studio Drift)

Detail of a Shylight in the Rijksmuseum (courtesy of Studio Drift)

When the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam debuted its renovated Philips Wing in November, curious modern flora bloomed over its 18th-century staircase. The Shylights by Dutch designers Studio Drift are a new permanent installation of “performative light sculptures” that blossom like flowers.

As Lonneke Gordijn, one of the designers of the lights, says in a video on their creation released this month, the studio wanted to find the exact moment where an object “starts to come alive.” When a visitor enters the space, she explains, “it becomes kind of a dance that is performed in front of you.” Five silk forms descend from a height of about 30 feet, gravity opening folds of silk that reveal an intricate interior of petal-like layers, before a motor pulls them back up into buds. Designers Gordijn, Ralph Nauta, and Jozeph Hendricks of Studio Drift went through six generations of Shylights from 2010 to 2014 before the version in the Rijksmuseum.

A Shylight in bloom

A Shylight in bloom

Studio Drift often incorporates the natural world into its design work, whether it’s Flylight with patterns of illumination mimicking the movement of flocks of birds, or Fragile Future III where real dandelions are connected to bronze circuits, a work acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum. As the studio explained for Shylight:

Certain types of flowers close at night, for self-defense and to conserve their resources. This highly evolved natural mechanism is called nyctinasty, and inspired Studio Drift to create Shylight, a light sculpture that unfolds and retreats in a fascinating choreography mirroring that of real flowers.

Botanical forms have inspired other designers, such as Patrick Jouin with his 3D-printed “Bloom” lamp that can be opened to different degrees to change the level of light, or Mark Champkins who designed a light shade for Science Museum London (as its in-house inventor, best job ever!), which over five minutes opens to reveal its light. The Shylights are a major contrast to the ornate figures embossed on the 18th-century ceiling, but through the kinetic tribute to the simple, startling movement of a flower in bloom, they can draw eyes up into the space to view both the old and the new.

Shylights opening in the Rijksmuseum

Shylights opening in the Rijksmuseum

Art World Loathsome

BY: Simon Doonan

Yayoi Kusama 

Yayoi Kusama 

Now that photographs of this year’s Art Basel Miami are finally working their way out of everyone’s Instagram feeds, it’s worth revisiting Simon Doonan’s takedown of the modern art world. First published in 2012, it explains why Doonan skipped Miami that year—and what’s wrong with art today.

Why The Art World Is So Loathsome

Eight Theories

Freud said the goals of the artist are fame, money, and beautiful lovers. Based on my artist acquaintances, I would say this holds true today. What have changed, however, are the goals of the art itself. Do any exist?

How did the art world become such a vapid hell-hole of investment-crazed pretentiousness? How did it become, as Camille Paglia has recently described it, a place where “too many artists have lost touch with the general audience and have retreated to an airless echo chamber”? (More from her in a moment.)

There are sundry problems bedeviling the contemporary art scene. Here are eight that spring readily to mind:

1. Art Basel Miami.

It’s baaa-ack, and I, for one, will not be attending. The overblown art fair in Miami—an offshoot of the original, held in Basel, Switzerland—has become a promo-party cheese-fest. All that craven socializing and trendy posing epitomize the worst aspects of today’s scene, provoking in me a strong desire to start a Thomas Kinkade collection. Whenever some hapless individual innocently asks me if I will be attending Art Basel—even though the shenanigans don’t start for another two weeks, I am already getting e-vites for pre-Basel parties—I invariably respond in Tourette’s mode:

“No. In fact, I would rather jump in a river of boiling snot, which is ironic since that could very well be the title of a faux-conceptual installation one might expect to see at Art Basel. Have you seen Svetlana’s new piece? It’s a river of boiling snot. No, I’m not kidding. And, guess what, Charles Saatchi wants to buy it and is duking it out with some Russian One Percent-er.”

2. Blood, poo, sacrilege, and porn.

Old-school ’70s punk shock tactics are so widespread in today’s art world that they have lost any resonance. As a result, twee paintings like Gainsborough’s Blue Boy andConstable’s Hay Wain now appear mesmerizing, mysterious, and wildly transgressive. And, as Camille Paglia brilliantly argues in her must-read new book,Glittering Images, this torrent of penises, elephant dung, and smut has not served the broader interests of art. By providing fuel for the Rush Limbaugh-ish prejudice that the art world is full of people who are shoving yams up their bums and doing horrid things to the Virgin Mary, art has, quoting Camille again, “allowed itself to be defined in the public eye as an arrogant, insular fraternity with frivolous tastes and debased standards.” As a result, the funding of school and civic arts programs has screeched to a halt and “American schoolchildren are paying the price for the art world’s delusional sense of entitlement.” Thanks a bunch, Karen FinleyChris OfiliAndres SerranoDamien Hirst, and the rest of you naughty pranksters!

Any taxpayers not yet fully aware of the level of frivolity and debasement to which art has plummeted need look no further than the Museum of Modern Art, which recently hosted a jumbo garage-sale-cum-performance piece created by one Martha Rosler titled “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale.” Maybe this has some reverse-chic novelty for chi-chi arty insiders, but for the rest of us out here in the real world, a garage sale is just a garage sale.

3. Art a la mode.

The growing mania for melanging fashion with art is great for the former, but it has been a gravitas-eroding catastrophe for the latter. The world of style is ephemeral and superficial by nature. Art, real art, fabulous art, high art, must soar and endure and remain unencumbered by the need to sell handbags and blouses. Example: Selfridges recently strapped a massive effigy of dot-queen Yayoi Kusama to the front of the store in celebration of her new collaboration with Louis Vuitton. Similar installations took place at Vuitton stores worldwide. There was no downside for the historic department store or for Maison Vuitton. From a fashion point of view the entire project was memorable and rather marvelous. But what about Art? Did the excitable hordes of tourists who were sticker-shocking their way through the spotty merchandise have any notion that they were scrutinizing the oeuvre of a so-called great artist? Did they, as a result, schlep to the Whitney to see the Kusama exhibit? And what of Ms. Kusama herself? How is the poor luv fairing after being dragged up Rodeo Drive and down 57th Street? Just as well she is already in a nut house. (She voluntarily committed herself to a psychiatric hospital in 1977 and has lived and made art there ever since.)

4. The post-skill movement.

“No major figure of profound influence has emerged in painting or sculpture since the waning of Pop Art and the birth of Minimalism in the early 1970s,” writes Camille P. But what about those annoying YBAs, the young British artists, the folks that noted U.K.-based art critic Brian Sewell has wickedly and accurately dubbed “The Post-Skill Movement”? Are they profound or influential?

As a window dresser (recently retired) who pursued his craft for more than 40 years, I have always taken a keen interest in art. I have occasionally collaborated with artists—Warhol, Rauschenberg, Mapplethorpe, Candyass—all the while enjoying the freedom of not being an artist myself. I always saw my work as a combo of street theater and Coney Island sideshow. This allowed me to switch styles and try anything without ever feeling the need to create profundity or permanence. Example: I am probably the only person on Earth to have incorporated—back in the ’70s—colostomy bags into a designer clothing display. Did it mean anything? Was it ART? No, emphatically, no! A nurse friend gave me large stash of dead-stock unused bags, and I felt compelled to rescue them, which is another way of saying that I had not prepared anything for my window installation on that particular week and was glad to take receipt of a ready-made prop.

For years I happily free-associated with my papier-mâché, my props, and my found objects … and then something weird happened. Artists put down their brushes and stole my objets trouves, my staple guns and glue guns. I first noticed the trend at the1997 Sensation show at the Royal Academy in London. Enter the Post-Skill Movement.

With its Damien Hirst vitrines, Tracey Emin camping vignettes, and Sarah Lucas found-object tableaux, this landmark show was like one giant Barneys window. This realization brought me no satisfaction: “If art is morphing into display, then what the hell are we window dressers supposed to plonk into our constantly changing vignettes?” I asked myself as I gazed at Jake and Dinos Chapman’s defiled window mannequins. I felt like a professional hooker who is no longer sure what to wear because all the regular respectable ladies are now dressing like sluts. (Which, by the way, they are.)

In a desperate search of some gravitas and some skill, I fled the Sensation tableaux and ran next door to the adjacent, and infinitely more artful, Victorian Fairy Paintingexhibit. FYI, the catalog for this strange and significant show is still available and makes a lovely holiday gift.

5. The flight of craft.

As stated above, a lack of skill and craft among artists is sucking the life and the gravitas out of the art world. There are, thank God, still some artists and designers who are bucking this trend and making gorgeous stuff. You won’t find it at trendy galleries or at Art Basel. You are more likely to find it among the potters and craftsmen on Etsy. My favorite artists at the moment work in the field of illustration and applied art: Examples include Ruben ToledoJohn-Paul Philippe, and Malcolm Hill.  

6. Adderall a go-go.
 

Short attention spans have made art into one quickie sight gag after another. Is that an oversized Tiffany bag? No, it’s a metal sculpture by Jonathan Seliger. Gotcha! Clearly, in our frenetic, technology-obsessed age we have lost the ability to contemplate and are interested only in visual puns. Camille to the rescue: Glittering ImagesI keep banging on about her book, but only because it’s so fantastic—is an invitation to think, to scrutinize, to gaze, to stare, to shut the fuck up, to learn, and to self-cultivate. La Paglia dares to take us beyond the high jinks of contemporary art and refocuses our Internet-scrambled brains on the pure uncynical contemplation of high art. Surrender to her!

7. Dollars and shekels and rubles.

My father-in-law, Harry Adler, was a committed, ferocious, lifelong passionate artist who produced a massive body of work in all mediums. However, I never once remember him holding up a painting or a drawing and asking, “How much d’ya think I could get for this?” Unfettered by the impulse to grease his creative journey with financial validation, he pursued his art with freedom and authenticity.

Today’s successful artists, on the other hand, seem obsessed with money. How, you may ask, does this jive with the artist’s bohemian esprit? In the age of Occupy, when the 1 percent are so reviled, how do groovy, liberal, and, one assumes, democratic dealers and artists rationalize their politician-like reliance upon, and coziness with, the super-wealthy?

“Aha!” I hear you artists say. “But what about fashion? Aren’t fancy designers and retailers reliant on exactly the same group?” To which I reply, “Exactly my point. Fashion has no lofty goals. It’s about buying a dollop of transformative glamour and a jolt of prestige. Should art not aspire to more than that?”

8. Cool is corrosive.

The dorky uncool ’80s was a great time for art. The HaringsCutronesScharfs, andBasquiats—life-enhancing, graffiti-inspired painters—communicated a simple, relevant, populist message of hope and flava during the darkest years of the AIDS crisis. Then, in the early ‘90s, grunge arrived, and displaced the unpretentious communicative culture of the ‘80s with the dour obscurantism of COOL. Simple fun and emotional sincerity were now seen as embarrassing and deeply uncool. Enter artists like Rachel barrel-of-laughs Whiteread, who makes casts of the insides of cardboard boxes. (Nice work if you can get it!) 

A couple of decades on, art has become completely pickled in the vinegar of COOL, and that is why it is so irrelevant to the general population.

Enough kvetching. Let’s end on a positive note. Not every blue-chip artist today is shoving his poo into tins and calling it art. I love me a little Nick Cave and an occasional Jeff Koons. And here’s the great news: While we wait for the art world to change direction and seek out a more meaningful place in our lives, there are no shortage of chuckles to be had. The landscape of art has never been more vast or intriguingly bonkers. The pretentions and foibles, to mention nothing of the gobbledygook theoretical justifications that accompany all the neo-Duchamp-ian bollocks, provide many occasions for amusement, mockery, and parody. If Jacques Tati were alive today he would have unwittingly blundered round that “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale” looking for a new raincoat. On his way home, he would have popped into a travel agent and booked his flight to Miami.

 

Art & Chaos

William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

FROM: ARTINFO

I walked through the Getty Museum’s “J.M.W. Turner: Painting Set Free” thinking about a more recent picture. It was the digital photo of a dress that set the Internet buzzing last Thursday. Some saw the dress as white and gold, others as blue and black. It split couples—for Kim Kardashian it was #whiteandgold; for Kanye West it was #blueandblack. Kanye was right, it turned out, when less ambiguous photos of the dress turned up and themselves went viral. The dress came to mind in the Getty show with Turner’s Peace—Burial at Sea (1842), on loan from the Tate. Critics objected that Turner had painted the white sails black. Turner’s Twitter-worthy comeback: “I only wish I had any color to make them blacker.”

The relativity of visual perception is the ultimate subject matter of Turner’s late years. Blue Rigi or Red Rigi?—it depends on the lighting. In the 1840s, as in the Tumblr age, ambiguity is a polarizing thing.

You’ve probably heard the psychophysical explanations for the dress. Its wearer was standing in front of a blazingly sunlit background, overexposed in the photo. The picture lacks the usual visual cues that would indicate whether the dress was itself brightly lit or in shadow. As a meme, the dress photo is fundamentally about glare and lack of visual cues. Both were fundamental to Turner’s late work. His painting Regulus looks straight into the sun, a gimmick he took from Claude Lorrain. No one can paint the sun in any “realistic” sense. What ought to be a point of white-hot incandescence must instead be represented by a blob of white pigment. Turner implies the sun’s brilliance by flooding much of his canvas with white and gold. Like the dress photo, Regulus is burnt out, subject to a finite dynamic range. The details establishing the subject and perspective are relegated to the margins.

Writing of Regulus, an 1837 Spectator critic found ”just the reverse of Claude; instead of the repose of beauty—the soft serenity and mellow light of an Italian scene—here all is glare, turbulence, and uneasiness. The only way to be reconciled to the picture is to look at it from as great a distance as the width of the gallery will allow of, and then you see nothing but a burst of sunlight.”

Turner was not an abstractionist, a misreading that the Tate-Getty-Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco-organized exhibition gently rebuts. The subject matter mattered, not just to his patrons but to Turner himself. (Regulus was the scheming Roman general whose punishment was to have his eyelids cut off and be blinded by the Tunisian sun.) But the mature Turner’s main visual interest was the aspects of a view—glare, gloom, masses of color—that are perceived a split second before the brain manages to make sense of it all. Watercolors such as Turner’s Bedroom in the Palazzo Giustinian and Venice: Santa Maria della Salute, Night Scene with Rockets (below) have been called “abstract” yet are essentially naturalistic. They are like what one sees when waking up in a dark room in an unfamiliar city: a reality in which dim forms momentarily resist interpretation.

This interest in the subjectivity of vision may be Turner’s most authentic connection to modernism. It recalls the tale of Kandinsky being enraptured by an indecipherable painting he saw from a distance (a Monet Haystacks, it turned out). It is in the spirit of André Breton’s surrealist decree: “Anything that can delay the categorization of beings or ideas—that can, in a word, maintain ambiguity—has my full approval.”

Banksy in Gaza

Banksy's caption for a photo of the cat: “A local man came up and said ’Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

FRM: NY Daily News

Whenever a new piece by graffiti artist Banksy shows up in the world, people take notice.

Now, thanks to Banksy, the world is once again looking squarely at Gaza after what feels like the first time since the Gaza war last summer. Israel’s 50-day military operation against Hamas killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and turned much of Gaza City into rubble during the conflict. 72 Israelis also died, including 67 soldiers.

You’d think that kind of devastation would be hard to forget. Apparently not.

Back in October, world leaders and staff met up at a conference in Cairo that was organized to raise money for rebuilding Gaza. Together, they pledged $5.4 billion. But as of mid-February, only $300 million has been delivered, according to Al Jazeera.

Seems like the world needs a reminder.

Enter Banksy.

On Thursday, the anonymous street artist and activist posted a series of photographs and a video on his official website that show new works of art in what he claims is — and seems to be — Gaza.

Banksy isn’t shy about his politics with respect to Gaza. Some of the photos on his website include captions.

“Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave,” reads the caption for the guard tower swing. “But that seems a bit unfair to prisons — they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

His caption for a photo of the cat: “A local man came up and said ’Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

There’s more where that came from in a two-minute satirical video accompanying the photos. The video, which is titled “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination,” gives the impressions that Banksy shot it himself and offers the viewer a brief glimpse into life in an unidentified part of Gaza. It presents itself as a travel advertisement, using tourist-y cliches to encourage people to visit and undercutting those same cliches with devastating parenthetical statements. That text accompanies footage of a destroyed Gaza and its people. The effect is jarring.

The text reads:

Make this the year YOU discover a new destination. Welcome to Gaza. Well away from the tourist track. (Access is via a network of illegal tunnels.) The locals like it so much they never leave. (Because they’re not allowed to.) Nestled in an exclusive setting. (Surrounded by a wall on three sides and a line of gun boats on the other.) Watched over by friendly neighbors. (In 2014 Operation Protective Edge destroyed 18,000 homes.) Development opportunities are everywhere. (No cement has been allowed into Gaza since the bombing.) Plenty of scope for refurbishment.

The video ends with a photo of a wall with the following words written in red: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful — we don’t remain neutral.”

When asked by The New York Times, Banksy’s publicist wouldn’t say when or precisely where Banksy was in Gaza. Instead, she passed along what she said was a statement from the artist: “I don’t want to take sides. But when you see entire suburban neighborhoods reduced to rubble with no hope of a future — what you’re really looking at is a vast outdoor recruitment center for terrorists. And we should probably address this for all our sakes.”

It’s not Banksy’s first time in Palestine. He visited the West Bank in 2005. There, he produced some of his most iconic pieces to date, several of them painted directly on the barrier wall separating the West Bank from Israel.

Quite a body of work Banksy’s putting together there.

On the Shock of the New

BY: Daniel Simmons  - NY Observer

Jackson Pollock's AUTUMN RHYTHM (Number 30)  -  1950  -  Met NYC

Jackson Pollock's AUTUMN RHYTHM (Number 30)  -  1950  -  Met NYC

The Shock Of The New - And The Coming Cultural Upheaval

The Art World’s 60-Year Rut:

Could a New Golden Age Be on the Horizon?

An Artist And Designer On The Schlock Of The New - And The Coming Culture Upheaval

It’s been said that television is having one. Also architecture. Maybe even journalism, in spite of the turbulence. What exactly? A new Golden Age. The late David Carr described “an excess of excellence” happening in TV; he wrote, “The idiot box has gained heft and intellectual credibility.” On architecture’s stunning new era, in which software drives vastly new building forms, Ada Louise Huxtable on Charlie Rose summed it up succinctly: “We’re in it.”

So, when’s the last time anyone said the same thing about Contemporary art? Even art dealer David Zwirner complained about the “lack of excitement in New York”—and that was 10 years ago. Although money in the Contemporary art market makes the headlines right now, it’s not really the problem. The fact is, Contemporary art is ruled by a doctrine of novelty that’s decades old, and looking increasingly out of date.

What’s the dogma? Two simple rules.

First: Art dealers, curators and critics still cling to the idea that what constitutes today’s art with a capital “A” must be totally new and groundbreaking—but only to art history. Whatever the initial merits of this experiment, more than 60 years after the true game-changer of Abstract Expressionism (if only to use the U.S. as an example), the art world is still at it. Yet anyone remotely connected to Contemporary art with a shred of honesty would admit that the novelty idea  went bankrupt some time ago. Heck, even Romanticism didn’t last longer than this.  

And novel in relation to what, exactly? When science and medicine go off in search of something new every day, diseases are cured and people live longer. In movies, music, fiction, or at HBO, creative novelty is just something that happens when it does. Even fashion isn’t as hell-bent on the shock of the new—because after all, an arm is still an arm that needs a piece of cloth wrapped around it.  

But since Contemporary art must constantly be fresh to its own history and little else, then no surprise that after a half-century of the mandate, we’re left with a stock-in-trade of $100 million paintings and vast numbers of reasonably intelligent members of the public looking as dimly on Contemporary art today as they did when Jackson Pollock still had time to sober up.

This is how we know precisely that we’re not in any Golden Age for visual art: There’s the spectacle of obsessive, laser-like bidding on lonely, singular canvasses by the few, but no broadly shared delight and conversation. “Excess of excellence” or “intellectual credibility” wouldn’t exactly be the first words from anyone in Contemporary art describing their own field, much less Miami art fairs.

Barnett Newman's CATHEDRA  -  1951

Barnett Newman's CATHEDRA  -  1951

And funny thing, the most serious snub in Contemporary art—to say that someone’s work is derivative, and therefore not novel—is a little problematic considering that virtually every seriously new Contemporary art trend has been derived from technology or the culture at large, not the other way around. Anyone remember the art world’s newest category circa 1999, titled “new media?” Those were artist websites with obscure and nonsensical HTML links, or glorified screensavers. Whatever happened to that? It’s a serious chapter for the art history texts, but choose any decade and one finds Contemporary or Modern art being wholly derivative of the world around it, not setting the agenda. 

Indeed, what is it that really does produce new ideas, experiences, understanding in the most fundamental way? What causes the type of disruption that writers of the most incomprehensible gallery press releases could only dream of announcing? The actual science and technology. Art’s attempt to do the same has been a little tortured—and that may help explain why majority public engagement in art dropped out some time ago.

The price for insistence on novelty is not only alienation of the general public but an artificial restriction of the very definition of Contemporary art (i.e. by blocking out crafts, design work, furniture design and tons of contemporary craftspeople, ceramic artists, etc. who aren’t part of the scene and will never be at MoMA PS1). 

To earn its way into the museum or gallery, the artwork must take a radical new form, but once it’s been hanging on the wall for a while, it’s not as if curators give an honest assessment of why it’s there: “Well, it was a novelty at the time but we sure know better now.” Rather, the drips of paint on canvas are analyzed for their density and layering. If artistic novelty was truly on par with science, then most of recent art history would be about as vaunted as reel-to-reel tape recorders, black-and-white televisions and portable AM radios.

Where science doesn’t have exclusivity is in making sense of the world we create and where it’s all going, but Contemporary art has chosen not to have that conversation.

The only other art world imperative of late has been the question, “Can the work sell?” But the saleable aspect of Contemporary art is ruled by enforced rarity on the production side and a vastly narrowed potential market on the other. It is just what any luxury brand does. But let’s face it, the gallery model has sorely been in need of competition—it’s not as if artists have prospered in the age of galleries, quite the opposite. Now, we’re just starting to see what happens when artists have serious new choices for how their work will be priced and marketed. 

The fact is, there’s a whole new realm of cultural competition, digital and otherwise, vibrantly happening outside of galleries and Contemporary art museums, with zero aspiration toward the aura of anything that begins with a capital letter.

Culture is on YouTube and Vimeo, Netflix and HBO, and everything in between. It’s become a wonderful free-for-fall, fueled by democratized tools and platforms. Aspiring performers of any kind—music, acting—can gain an audience online. So can directors and screenwriters, creating their own videos and shorts. Writers have Wattpad, architecture and design students have 3D printing and open source design software enabling them to produce their concepts with the same polish as professionals.

So, what do artists have? Well, the same platforms helping other kinds of creative people find an audience, and, more importantly, get funded outside of traditional means, are agnostic, and evolving fast for artists too. First,Kickstarter, which doles out more money than the National Endowment for the Arts, but now also Patreon, whose members can get monthly funding for their work. Supporters on this platform have spent more than $1 million per month on work they admire. 

The fact is, golden ages don’t happen when exclusivity rules. Just the opposite. They come when the gates and chains controlling consumption, competition, production, barriers to entry, and innovation have been smashed to pieces, allowing more people to participate in more ways—both as producers and consumers.

So, as the art world dogmas appear increasingly quaint in our era of disruption, here’s hoping that a new time for artists, art and design to flourish, generate an excess of delight for the many and spark a broader conversation, still lies ahead.