Tuesday, December 06, 2005

What Role Does Sex Play in an Artist's Career?

OK, so this is a silly post, but I'm still catching up with my sleep and my brain can't do much heavy lifting just yet, so...

With the new Whitney Biennial line-up just out and very, very conspicuous sales results at the Miami art fairs to judge by, it's the "bruised ego" time of year again, when many artists will overanalyze the data and conclude, at least temporarily, that perhaps their parents were right...perhaps they should have become dentists instead.

But don't sublet your studio just yet. In Sunday's
New York Times was an article suggesting there are other benefits to being an artist than inclusion in a museum exhibition or selling out your inventory in four days:
The artists and poets who frequent Yaddo and MacDowell might already have predicted what two psychologists at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and the Open University in Britain announced last week: creative types of both sexes have more sexual partners than their nonartistic counterparts, according to their research, which will be posted on the Web site of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British journal.

The Marianne Moores and Joseph Cornells, private, cerebral types devoted to their mothers, are apparently the exception; Edna St. Vincent Millay, left, Pablo Picasso and Georges Simenon, voracious lovers all, are truer to the form. The two researchers interviewed 425 British male and female professional artists and poets, making careful scientific inquiry into their sexual histories, mental health and artistic output. The creatives had 4 to 10 partners in their past, compared to the mere 3 claimed by less artistic counterparts.
From what I hear, Skowhegan is like a co-ed college dorm with extasy-spiked water-coolers.

But, I realize as I type this, that if you weren't already depressed enough, being in the more shy-artist-like-Cornell camp might send you over the edge, so you really must read this hilarious response to the survey by Dino Champman in
The Guardian:

Trainee psychologists have published a study in which they blame artists for the fact that schizophrenia has not been cleansed from the gene pool. Creative types, they say, might carry the gene, and are twice as promiscuous as mentally healthy non-artists. "Creative types have more sex" and "Why an artistic nature may do wonders for your love life" read the headlines.

What a pile of crap. Those responsible should be shot. Better still, they should be forced to have several thousand sexual partners. Preferably schizoid artists, bad, ugly, psychotic ones. Then shot.
Read the whole thing...it gets even better. This line in particular got me to thinking, though:

But if people want to romanticise us as foppish degenerates who flout all prevailing laws and take many lovers, we'll happily oblige.
Clearly, the sort of emerging visual artists who are generally asked to pose in Vouge (present issue excluded [see Todd Gibson's smackdown on From the Floor]) are hoping to (or being advised to) sex up their image. And there's only one reason to do that it seems: sex sells.

Back before we opened the gallery, Josh and I spent hours debating the purpose/mission of the space. Why were we doing this...what were our goals. One day when I waxing philosophical about what motivated artists and what motivated me to work with artists, Josh (perhaps the best person I've ever met at cutting through the b.s.) called me on it..."OK, so stop right there. What do you think is the ultimate motivation for an artist?" I thought for a moment, and eventually responded, "Well, I think the ultimate motivation for anyone is getting laid." Josh said "thank God" that was my response; had I answered anything else he wasn't sure we could work together.

Which isn't to say we opened the gallery to get laid (honestly B., it's just an example), just that the ultimate reason anyone works really hard at anything is ultimately wrapped up with their being more attractive (in the eyes of who they want to sleep with, in the eyes of who they want to associate with, in the eyes of their God, in the eyes of their children/parents, etc.). Kissinger's adage, "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," holds true whether the arena is politics or the art world or academia or whatever. How else does one explain the fact that many women admit to seeing Donald Rumsfeld as strangley attractive.

So perhaps I've got it backwards, perhaps its not that the hot young art star poses in Vogue to sex up their image, but rather that the power they wield makes them sexy. Like I noted above, my brains still not ready for any heavy lifting...I just found the articles above amusing and wanted to engage in a little stream of consciousness...a polluted stream, no doubt, but...

74 Comments:

Anonymous JMC said...

How about this cynic's theory? Artists have more sexual partners because, on the average, due to a lack of normal social skills they're unable to have conventional relationships and thus, they have to sleep around?

12/07/2005 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Let's hear it for non-verbal communication!

12/07/2005 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may not be ready for heavy lifting, but here it comes. Please don't take any of the following personally; I have a boring-ass day job with loads of spare time and am one pissed off artist (though not exactly a struggling one -- I can see the follow-up comments coming already). I'm sorry in advance for unloading this on your usually readable and occasionally relevant blog.

"Well, I think the ultimate motivation for anyone is getting laid." Josh said "thank God" that was my response; had I answered anything else he wasn't sure we could work together.

Sounds like you two deserve each other.
(sorry, that wasn't nice, I take it back; you're probably both very good people)

No, I doubt you opened the gallery to get laid, but perhaps you should consider the following slogan:

Plus Ultra -- Helping Artists Get Laid, One at a Time

I'm so sick and fucking tired of the vacuous, money grubbing, skin-deep shallowness of the art world. If I have to read one more goddamned fluff article about Miami and all the glamorous fucking parties, and all the $$$$$$$$$$$$ changing hands and the hot new $$$$$$$$$$$ on the block, and the hot new sexy $$$$$$$ over there, and blah blah blah and blah blah blah, I think I'm going to shit myself, eat it back up, then vomit while choking off my air supply.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good time, but ...

Sounds like the Fashion world. Sounds like Celebrity worship. Sounds like Capitalism. Sounds fucking disgusting. Artists just trying to get laid. Artists just trying to get some $$$$$$$$$. Artist + Ivy League MFA = Limousines, Parties, Sex, $$$$$$$, Vogue spreads, etc., and on and on, so on and so forth.

WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!

fuck

In grad school I often heard a common lament from artists that they had nothing to react against in today's art world climate; (no avant guarde, or no need for one) because everyone is already doing everything in the Art World, everything is already acceptable, different=norm, and anything subversive or politically provocative is like preaching to the Choir.

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. The art world is diseased, it is nothing even approaching left-wing. It is narrow-minded. It is the very epitome of a conservative capitalist's dreamworld. In fact, it's the purest form of unregulated capitalism gone hog-fucking wild in the world today.

ARTISTS, DON'T BE DECIEVED. Please don't be lulled to sleep by the machinations of the capitalist system (ok, maybe that was a little too apocalyptic, or too early-20th-Century-anti-industrial). It wants you to seek money and fame, reaffirming the power structures already in place.

Power is not sexy. Rumsfeld is not sexy. Power is wretched. It's attraction is the most corrupting device known to the human spirit. Power needs to be distributed evenly in order for the greatest number of humans to have the greatest possible happiness.

(Not sure about the following radical notion, but it sounds about right):

1. There is only a finite amount of resources in the world.
2. By resources I mean things accumulated with money.
3. Humanity's greatest struggle is in the distribution of these resources.
4. Every time someone gets a little richer, someone else gets a little poorer.

This makes me feel very, very guilty.

Someone needs to fight this lust for power. Humanity can grow, humanity can change for the better. We control our own destiny (that is, unless some fucking meteorite takes us out first).

Where does this leave Artists? I thought artists were supposed to challenge the status quo. I thought art had the power to change minds; to propose new ideas, thoughts, images. I thought art could instigate change (and I'm not talking about so-called "Political Art" here).

The art world has forgotten this in its lust for power. Or, more likely, it never knew it in the first place. Artists should expect more from their work and the work of others. Dealers should expect more from their artists.

Each artist, dealer, curator, critic, etc., has a choice to make: affirm the status quo by indulging in self-congratulatory exercises, adding to the power-structure-supporting, bloodthirsty fetishism for commodities; or, contribute to the new by challenging the old.


Ed: Sorry for being an ass and sorry for having to remain anonymous (don't want to burn any bridges). I really do like your blog or I wouldn't have posted. Also, this wasn't intended as a call to arms, I guess I got a little too excited.

12/07/2005 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous danny jay said...

wow

12/07/2005 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. We needed that.

Although, what about the paradox of challenging the "system" while simultaneously being part of it? We have to carry within us the dichotomy of making challenging work and, if we want our work seen, trying to exhibit/sell it.

But again, thanks for the slap in the face. I too am sick of hearing about the $fest that was Miami. We should not just roll over and accept that that's what the art world is all about.

O

12/07/2005 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous E. Tage Larsen said...

...and this on a slow day, ed?

12/07/2005 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Wow, indeed. I agree with you "Angry Anonymous," but "O" makes an excellent follow-up point.

In the end, each artist has to pursue art making (and selling) in the way that best suits him or her. I happen to of be the under-sexed/studiobody/bookish variety and, sure, at times I rail against the over-sexed/scene-worshipping/ Paris-loving artists (I'm writing just such a post today; should appear on Hungry Hyaena this week), but I really can't waste too much time hating when I'm more interested in making.

Furthermore, in Edward's defense, he did elaborate on the "ultimate reason," suggesting creative people want to look attractive not just in the eyes of potential lovers, but also "in the eyes of who they want to associate with, in the eyes of their God, in the eyes of their children/parents, etc..." In this I feel he is right.

12/07/2005 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous aPc said...

Sex sells. We're animals. So what? It's how you deal with being a non-animal that counts. Which doesn't preclude allowing sex to sell to you.

It's hard for me to believe people really worry about commodification. It's fairly easy to make a case that it's a good thing for artists to follow their commercial instincts--art (and cultural stuff in general) done for money is often divested of a certain ego and pomp and gets a certain vitality from being in the stimulating mishmosh of capitalism. Anyway, what's the alternative to selling art? Selling art cheaply, easy to aquire for all, rich or poor--kind of like....a commodity like rice or lumber? Hey, I'm loving my exalted status as an artist--producer of valuable cultural baubles for the rich--even though I can't make a dime in this fabulous superheated market I hear so much about.

12/07/2005 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous aPc said...

Sex sells. We're animals. So what? It's how you deal with being a non-animal that counts. Which doesn't preclude allowing sex to sell to you.

It's hard for me to believe people really worry about commodification. It's fairly easy to make a case that it's a good thing for artists to follow their commercial instincts--art (and cultural stuff in general) done for money is often divested of a certain ego and pomp and gets a certain vitality from being in the stimulating mishmosh of capitalism. Anyway, what's the alternative to selling art? Selling art cheaply, easy to aquire for all, rich or poor--kind of like....a commodity like rice or lumber? Hey, I'm loving my exalted status as an artist--producer of valuable cultural baubles for the rich--even though I can't make a dime in this fabulous superheated market I hear so much about.

12/07/2005 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good for you anonymous, i too am so sick of the over hyped posting and reporting from the Miami fair, witness the art forum reporting to be more exact, and that other one art info whatever, nothing wrong with making money from your art, but the overthe topness of the miami thing was a bit too much, witness i was just talking to a dealer who until i ran into, , i assumed (from reading all of the blogs etc. )that he "sold out the whole booth",because i read the posts like everyone else like they all say, but he didn't. far from it. the gushiness of someone like linda yablonsky is particularly offensive to us artists, and who is this written for anyway? i have yet to figure this one out, and by the way, an artist can be successful and bitter at the same time, or not successful and not bitter too.just because someone xpresses an opinoin abou tthese things, is critical about them does NOT MEAN THAT THEY ARE BITTER, OLD, RESENTFUL, NOT SUCCESSFUL, or toiling away at a day job they hate. etc. this is a stereotype that should be banished as well. all of these young artists will be middle aged someday and charlie finch will be making fun of them, the same ones he has boners for now. i know this is a stream of consciousness things, but what the hell,

12/07/2005 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Freud said that individuals become artists for fame, fortune and beautiful lovers. Some of us, though, became artists because we didn't have a choice.

Here's to the Joseph Cornell's of the world. Creating magic despite so many levels of angst and perversion.

12/07/2005 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

Now I don't think there's anything wrong with creating an atmosphere so that serious art collectors will be more encouraged to buy like the partying atmosphere at ABMB... but that Vogue spread is going too far. Have you seen it? Why are all of these supposed distinguished artists (Kara Walker et al) posing with KEIRA KNIGHTLY?? To what purpose?

OK - I melted when I saw Sophia Coppola at the fair but I really don't want to see Jessica Simpson there next year.

12/07/2005 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you melted when you saw Sofia C., you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

12/07/2005 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

GRRRRR

Ok, so twice now I wrote a response to the comments and TWICE my dumbass computer ate it! So I'm gonna try this one more time.

First and foremost, Anonymous: truly righteous rant! Seriously! That's the kind of energy the NY art world needs...well done!

Secondly, the post was meant to be lighthearted...sorry if it didn't come off enough that way.

Thirdly, I should have explained a bit more my response to the question: what ulimately motivates an artist. I took the question to mean "what motivates an artist to excel?" I'm built that way myself...I'm never satisfied with anything I do and always want to do better the next time...so I'm projecting and assuming artists are the same. From that POV, what motivates an artist to excel is the same thing that motivates everyone else to excel...everyone and everything: procreation. Being the strongest male lion guarantees you get to mate and pass on your genes. Being the tallest tree guarantees you'll get the sunlight and continue to grow and spread your seeds. Being the most attractive person guarantees you'll get laid and, if you arrange it so, that will lead to the pitter patter of feet on mini-you's running around. Being the most successful lawyer or banker or politician or, yes, artist, guarantees that more of the resources that will enable you to guarantee your output (read: art) will survive. It will be cared for in museums.

But that's really just a metaphor for guaranteeing your "seed" or "children" survive.

I cannot think of one thing more important in the universe than guaranteeing that the species procreates and succeeds. There's really nothing else. The greatest artwork mankind has ever created won't mean a thing to the birds and cockroaches left after we go extinct.

So, the ultimate motivation for artists or bankers or anyone is to participate in the survival and thriving of the species...as a procreator, caretaker, protector, or enricher. For each of us individually, that does, in my opinion, manifest itself most profounding and personally as a desire to get laid.

Finally, with regards to the $$fest (love that term)...as I've noted before, many young galleries rely on the fairs to stay in business. Without them, there would be far fewer spaces that exhibit and sell emerging art. COnsider them a necessary evil, but remember they pay for paint, canvas, studio rent, etc. etc. etc.

Hyping the events is called "marketing"...it too has as a result more money for artists to buy more paint, film, computers, etc.

Don't want to be a nudge about it, but biting that hand is a bit tacky.

No one makes artists sell their work...they can certainly make it and trade it and exhibit it without "dirtying" their hands or their souls via the commercial side of it if they like, so long as they have some other source of income for their needs.

Having said that, I had an important art consultant who visited us tell me to "start again and tell me about the art" when I started rattling off the people who were collecting one artist she was interested in. It was a remarkable breath of fresh air and I thanked her profusely for letting me do what it is I love most about being a dealer.

She's the exception though, and I'd soon go out of business if I didn't recognize that...

...or would I? hmmmm...something to think about.

again, thanks Anonymous for your amazing rant.

12/07/2005 04:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait, how does homosexuality fit into this "everything is about passing on your seed" theory?

12/07/2005 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so very disgusted to read about two men opening a gallery to get more ass, esp since both are in relationships. I did enjoy anonymous's rant, that was wonderful. Rant on, please.

12/07/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I am so very disgusted to read about two men opening a gallery to get more ass, esp since both are in relationships.

Hmmm....since apparently we're throwing manners out the window, I'm going to type this VERY SLOWLY so that it's not misunderstood again.

The question (and it was within the context of a philosophical debate, not plans to cheat on our loved ones [mine being someone I didn't even know at that time, thank you]) was what ULTIMATELY motivates someone...past wanting to earn money, past wanting to make a difference, past wanting to save the world...transcending the day to day details of our lives...why do people struggle to excel? Why not just take it easy and go along with the flow? Why stand out? Why work hard to distinguish yourself?

BECAUSE, distinguishing yourself makes you more attractive!

I know that sounds cynical on the surface, but what else is there, really? What is more important than participating in the survival and thriving of the species?

ULTIMATELY, that's all there is.

AND, I don't mind saying...I totally resent your reducing the idea to "get[ting] more ass." I wouldn't say that to anyone anonymously...it's cowardly.

12/07/2005 04:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, what about the gay question? How are you participating in the survival of the species? Aren't you going to address that?

12/07/2005 04:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Hey, what about the gay question? How are you participating in the survival of the species? Aren't you going to address that?

Badgering the blogger, fifteen yard penalty. ;-)

Wait, how does homosexuality fit into this "everything is about passing on your seed" theory?

I didn't put it quite that way. I said it's metaphorical.

I'm talking through my hat here
a bit, obviously, but my theory is that sexual desire and the drive to perpetuate are parallel, but not exactly equal...they work in tandem, but are not one in the same thing.

We're hardwired to desire sex so that the species perpetuates. Fortunately, enough of us are attracted to the opposite sex that having sex can result in children, but having sex is still metaphorically seen as survival.

Remember the night after 9/11. Virtually everyone I know who could had sex that night. And you read of tales of folks in battle zones or on sinking ships trying desperately to make love one more time. Metaphorically speaking, sex = survival. And although it's not logical exactly, extending that idea, the more sex you have the greater your chances of survival.

It's a theory anyway.

12/07/2005 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous eli said...

This is nasty. Lay off Edward, anon. You sound like a bigot. Stop it.

12/07/2005 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

We shouldn't be surprised that dealers are talking about money these days. We are in the hottest market ever for contemporary art, surpassing the formerly unbelievable eighties. It is the historical aspect of the moment, like it or not.

If art is a reflection of the larger culture then it also makes sense that the celebrity culture would be represented, and magnified, by art and artists. This is what we are seeing in Miami and Gawker. Artists aren't always conscious of what they are doing, representing.

Does art represent a counterculture? Not all the time. That is something a certain generation was taught and continue to promulgate, but it has become nothing more than a marketing ploy at the present. I personally don't think art needs to seek to change anything except the mood of the viewer.

As for the idea that we excel to get laid. Thank you, Ed, for pointing out that that is a metaphor for general success in your field. What is that old saying? Nothing succeeds like success.

12/07/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks for the back up Eli and kind words Tim

Clearly I could have spent more time formulating those ideas...

I didn't mean to spark the anger that I did. Apologies to anyone who took offense.

12/07/2005 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a bigot. As cliche as it sounds, some of my very best friends, as well as a close family member, are gay, and if I heard one of them say this, I would ask them about it too. Personally I think there is a lot to be said for NOT perpetuating, or overpopulating, the species, and one could argue that gayness accounts for a check on overpopulation. You don't have to justify being gay, I'm just surprised to hear a gay person keep saying that everything is motivated by perpetuating the species. I'm not being hostile and apologize if it sounds that way. Just askin.

12/07/2005 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous angry ranter said...

Just for the record, I was the one who posted the original rant. I haven't posted any comments since then, so any other 'anonymous' posts were by other people. I guess I don't want the points I made in the original rant to be diminished by associating them with the rude pot-shots of others.

Some points of clarification:

1. I am not suggesting that art fairs are unnecessary. Rather, I fear that their importance is being overemphasized because they are a more convenient conduit for art to turn into pure capital. It would be sad if art fairs are replacing biennals or museums not because the art is better served, but because the capitalist speculator is.

2. I am not suggesting that artists not sell their work. They must, of course, in order to engage with the system as audience, or else risk being outside the system (without an audience).

3. Marketing an art fair is not the same thing as dealers and critics obsessing over the gossip, glamor, fashion, and other trivial aspects of art fairs -- rather than what should be more important -- the art. BTW..I expect elite dealers to act this way, they are THE MAN afterall, in this case -- the holders of power. Those making a difference will of course be in the minority.

4. My angry comment was not motivated specifically by your comment that human work is motivated by procreation. Rather, it was in response to a general attitude (that your post, and many in the past, have reflected) that trivializes artistic practice as a pursuit of $$$$$$$$, fame, luxury, limo's, etc. This is the dangerous cancer of the art world, and what relevant artists must fight against.

5. What are the political ramifications (for a supposed leftist dealer) of being in the business of selling "pretty paintings" as elite goods for the wealthy?

6. Biting the hand that feeds can be a useful political act (and is not tacky, dammit). Keeping everyone happy just extends the status quo. Don't be afraid to ruffle some feathers. I'm convinced that vital art must piss people off (in all the wrong ways).

7. Our civilization has obviously become much more sophisticated than existing primarily for procreation. If it did, we'd be much better off, because there wouldn't be so much fucking war (or nuclear bombs waiting to go off). Since we are able to examine our motivations, and in many ways predetermine them, what should they be????


Time to go home now. Ed -- BTW, in case you didn't know, the fact that you're blog is getting so much feedback means that you're doing something right.

12/07/2005 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Angry ranter,

When you start your blog, post the address here. I'll add you to Edward's blog as my daily must read.

A good kick in the butt every now and then is paradoxically good for the soul.

As for art and fashion, just remember that Bougereau was the darling of his art scene. Fashion is designed to be dated.

12/07/2005 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Ed beat me to the punch. I took the post just as he described, "a silly post" I've done a few trade shows, it's like running a car on nitrous, nonstop worry, work and partying and at the end you need to seriously decompress or you'll blow the engine. I thought it was funny and possibly even on the mark, well, on some mark.

I think angry ranter has some points worth paying attention to. Without a doubt the commodification of the art market has currently engendered an environment similar to the Fashion or Entertainment industries with all its partying, politics and gossip. I suspect this may have always been the case, but to a much lesser degree, since the current world population is so much greater the concentrated wealth now in a greater number of hands than ever before. (Worldwide, there are over 600 billionaires today, in the 70's there were just a few)

If one looks back at history, the connection between the arts and the wealthy is fairly concrete, without the patrons of the arts, the culture would suffer. Further, I'm not so sure that art necessarily has a responsibility to critique the culture and even if it does I would question what positive effect for change this might have. In many ways art is an ineffective tool for instigating change in the society, one would be better off choosing a career in politics, film, television, journalism etc and truly balancing reality with the hypothetical.

Just about any artwork which is sold will become "elite goods" for the wealthy, so? If it's not sold, it probably will exist only as "documentation". Either way, in the future, the works will carry some label describing "an issue" which was a philosophical sticking point in the early 21st century and other criteria may then be used to judge the work. Further, I believe the way that art can effect the viewer, is subtler, more indirect, touching the viewers spirit in a nondidactic, even non intellectual way that driven just by the artwork itself and not dependant on the media used.

To me, from a purely market-psychology point of view, the current behavior in the art world suggests that Art Basel might be the peak in the art market for this cycle. It seems like at the top of the food chain the smart money is bailing out. In the financial world, it's called the "froth at the top" and I'll bet that "smart art hedgefund" is stuck with a rotting shark. Capitalism has it's own ugly way of dealing with it's excesses and it's not always nice.

12/07/2005 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Angry ranter,

When you start your blog, post the address here. I'll add you to Edward's blog as my daily must read.


I agree. Whoever you are, please introduce yourself one day...even though we disagree on a few points, overall, you rock!

I must say I agree with George that art as a means of change (at least in the sense we mean "change" in our super fast world) is highly inefficient.

As for the market, I'm simply stunned it's as strong as it is. I expected it to turn downward a year ago. But I'm torn...on one hand I do look forward to a more meaningful dialog between artists, collectors, curators, etc. than just "is it dry yet, I have a spot in my house that's just perfect for this" (which is why more and more I adore Michelle Maccarone), but on the other hand, the market being strong is the only thing that allowed me to build what was literally a tiny space in garage in a ghetto into a ground floor space in Chelsea. I love Williamsburg and would have been content if it had stayed the creative community it was in 2001, but others moved away, local rents skyrocketed, and what was happening in the market put pressure on us to make the move, or risk losing our artists.

None of which is to say, poor me, just that it's a complicated symbiotic relationship and I think it's better to work within it than rail against it.

12/07/2005 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Slightly off topic. Ed, my remarks on the direction of the art market are a speculation on my part based on observing what has occurred in the past. The art market appears to have a loose directional link with the stock market but tends to start slowing a year or so after the financial market peaks. Typically the non-presidential election year has been a weak spot in the economic cycle which is then also a more difficult period for the art market. There are some mitigating reasons why this time it may not turn out to be the case but I don't want to bore people with the details.

12/07/2005 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sex is a standard, and an artist, supposedly, is an artist because they excel past that standard. Not that sex needs to be disassociated from excellence (already said).

You need to go much deeper into vogue and something to the tune of 'a sex-worker' to get a more overall picture of position the artist plays in this economic package, it's a complex paradigm, but not too complex to understand who is the winner--the minor or the major.

At the prestigious international Biennale there usually isn't much on painting, and when there is, well, it looks a bit silly anyway. Art fairs, on the other hand offer a plethora on painting, and not a lot of conceptual land-art, text, high end revolution. Instead you get $$$ fine art. The two platforms are very different creatures. And they don't serve the same purpose. Some museums are the piggy in the middle. How they deal with this situation is always interesting-!!

Artists that are likely to herald in new eras are not, my guess, particularly concerned about the art that turns up in Vogue (unless they were the first), or the fairs, as they exist yet, with their lack of anything coital, sorry, I mean critical, other than the tag 'they sell'. These unconcerned artists are too busy shifting the paradigm by focusing on what they do, and not what anyone else does (that's the trade secret). they are busy building building new critical discourses via both local and non-local forces and interventions, clashing ideals, and eventually dismantling fine art from it's current incumbent throng and throw. They will be having sex or not having it, depending on how they feel.

But sex, it's attractive.

An artist + -

12/07/2005 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

The art market appears to have a loose directional link with the stock market but tends to start slowing a year or so after the financial market peaks. Typically the non-presidential election year has been a weak spot in the economic cycle which is then also a more difficult period for the art market.

That's the conventional wisdom I've always used as a guide, but it seems to need a bit of revision now, no?

12/07/2005 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Ed, "well it's different this time" is a statement that has bitten many an investor. In general much of this is psychological, the state of the overall economy affects how well off people feel they are which affects their spending. When times seem tough (scary) they will keep a 'little in reserve' I don't think this has changed and if the economy really slowed down it would have an effect. There are two wildcards in this game.

The first is globalization. The rise in the economic importance of the EU, China and India creates a situation where the US economy no longer totally drives the world economy. It's all interconnected now and a little slack in one world region may be balanced by growth in another which softens the decline somewhere else. Currently the expansion in China has had a major affect on world economics, some positive and some negative (gas prices) It's hard to figure out how to factor this in the mix but my hunch is that it probably has a positive effect on the US economy by smoothing out the dips.

The second factor is a result of the election of Dick Chaney and his backwards Robin Hood boy toy, George (or visa versa) The idea that George's war was about WMD or Oil is bunk, on one hand it was a private little game of No Bid ring around the rosie for all their fat cat buddies, with the other they skewed the tax laws so they could keep it. Ultimately it amounts to robbing the poor and giving it to the rich. Whoever said power wasn't sexy doesn't know anyone really powerful. OK, enough ranting (yeh, I admit I'm pissed off too). The result of all this is that the Federal Reserve Bank is now running their mimeograph 24-7, printing out US currency notes (it's only worth something if we all agree to take it)

Simply put the runaway spending is ultimately going to be inflationary (the dollar's purchasing power will be less tomorrow than today) People with money are usually aware of this and try to invest their money in a way which at least keeps up with inflation. Typically this would be in US bonds, but right now the real return is probably less than inflation. The other areas are hard assets like real estate (peaked out this year), collectibles including art, and gold.

These things just shift the tone of the market. I suspect people who collect art just have a different form of the bug that makes us make it.

12/07/2005 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous james leonard said...

Wow. Liking the cathartic cluster f*** of this thread.

At the same time, it makes me glad that I've spent most the past two weeks with my nose pressed firmly against the grindstone. Fawning and praise (though inspiring in small doses) can really sour the spleen! I'd probably be as green as angry ranter were I paying closer attention to the ubiquitous Miami coverage.

I know one anonymous poster said we should do away with the stereotype that struggling is what inspires such diatribes. And he or she is right. But that stereotype is there for a reason. I'll be the first to admit that my relatively thankless decade+ spent paying long hard dues is one of many origins of my own pathos! I admit it: I get jealous as hell when I see a pedigree grad (Hunter, Yale, Columbia, et al.) get annointed and sell out a body of mediocre work during a grad school crit while I've spent most my adult years in the midwest just trying to convince the good "common folk" that contemporary art doesn't bite. (Or at least that it doesn't suck! Erm, or at least not on the first date.)

Speaking of stereotypes, several responses up, Ed wrote:

Being the strongest male lion guarantees you get to mate and pass on your genes.

Tsk! You gotta catch up on yer Frans De Waal, m'man! Then you'd know that in some primate societies (including most great ape troupes), it's the shy, quiet Betas that actually get more lovin'. Them silly Alphas are too damn busy doing all they can to stay on top. They ain't got time to f***.

And back to the original topic of sex and art: I doubted this connection for years. Not sure why. Partially out of political correctness. Partially out of waning Catholic guilt. But only in the past few years--though now married in the best of ways--I've begun to warm back up to the notion of an artistic "muse." If you fall in love easy, you can use that flame to drive your steam engine. Trick is how not to utterly sabotage your adult life while playing with fire! Mighty powerful stuff that lust, desire, sexuality, imprinting, and romance.

And lastly, about them numbers. 4 to 10 partners in their past? Does that sound a little low to anyone else? (Hrm. Maybe I shouldn't have said that outloud.)

12/08/2005 02:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Pinky said...

What a great thread....I agree with your last sentiment George. However, Angry Ranter, I can't help suspecting your frustration is due to your own lack of success. I am sorry if I jump to conclusions, but bitterness often stems from disappointment in yourself. Miami coverage is over the top and fairs are problematic but if you had work in a fair you'd be hoping and wanting and buying into the dream too. I hate when people make things so black and white: it's either you struggle in anonymity, a martyr, or you are after limos and fame and money. Come on. It's not that simple.

12/08/2005 02:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Pinky said...

James Leonard, I read that article, and I totally agree. I am thinking more like 30 partners. I guess I am a big whore.

12/08/2005 02:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pinky, what does angry ranter's motivation have anything to do with their comment? Why don't you respond to the angry ranter's position... to the situation in the art world? that would be a compelling comment.

12/08/2005 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous happy larry said...

Pinky, you are right! It's a matter of taking advantage of the position, climate, you find yourself in. It's to do with contingence?

In 1880 what would that have meant?

12/08/2005 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And lastly, about them numbers. 4 to 10 partners in their past? Does that sound a little low to anyone else?

Well, I'm glad someone finally said that! Being gay, that sounds like a quiet weekend at Fire Island (I'm kidding Bambino!).

I think, as he often does, James gets to the heart of what's most important and interesting about the issue here: artists can get a good deal of inspirational mileage out of a muse.

Genet (and others I think) noted that the only two topics worthy of great artists are sex and death. I wholly believe that. They transcend everything.

Which isn't to say a virgin can't make good art, but is to suggest even that virgin must recognize, somehow, their sexual nature to tell the "truth" in their art.

12/08/2005 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous angry anonymous said...

bitterness often stems from disappointment in yourself.

I can't believe I'm responding to this but...

Dear Pinky:

I'm not bitter, I'm ANGRY (at least, I was for about 20 minutes yesterday, or was effective at simulating said emotion in order to make a point).

Anger is a useful, cathartic emotion that can drive positive activity. Bitterness, on the other hand, is annoying and stifling.

Second,

if you had work in a fair you'd be hoping and wanting and buying into the dream too

Did you read my entire rant? You missed the main point!!!!

One if my biggest fears is that pefectly good artists are being seduced and ruined by this system of 'riches for art.' I am happy that, at more than any other point in history, artists can not only live off their work but live well (but, hopefully either with a lot of guilt, or much philanthropy). Great for artists, I say! I love artists, and myself, and I want them, and me, to be happy!! On the bad side, the dynamic of grad schools is changing, and many artists have more of an eye towards their hopes for fame and fortune than for changing the world. The result = dull, predictable art and dull, predictable artists (which are necessary too, I guess, but not so damn many).

Finally, Angry Ranter is now Very Depressed Ranter because so many subsequent commentaters (including edward) are cynical about the prospect of art changing the world. I used to think this way too, but I was wrong!!!!! This is the capitalist system wearing your asses down (seriously, I'm not a Marxist, I swear). It wants you to think that change isn't possible, so that you will become a subdued, good-american consumer and drive the economy.

I know, I know, you're going to say: "I didn't say change wasn't possible, I said that Art just isn't very good at it. Maybe in my new blog (if I can find the time; I really am a very productive artist, despite the day job and my recent spurt of blogorelated activity)I will outline all the ways that art changes the world for the better each and every day. WE SHOULD BE TALKING MORE ABOUT THIS POINT. If people don't feel that art can have a positive impact on society, then why do it? No wonder so many artists I know feel selfish, sollipsistic, or self-indulgent.

Edward's point that started this whole mutation of a thread was that artists are driven by sex. Whether or not this is true, I'm pretty damn sure that most artists don't think (in their minds) that that is their motivation. If not, then what is? If not to better society, then why? If to better society, then how can we as artists better accomplish this? And, according to my previous posts, you know that I don't think the answer is: "by adding pleasant decorations to livingrooms across america" or definitely not: "enriching or providing culture to people's lives through the magic of Art." I mean, it's useful that the PBS's and NPR's of the world push the last one, but I don't believe it for a second.

Alright, dammit, I'll let you know when the new blog is up and running.... I've got too much more to say.

12/08/2005 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

one more time with feeling

artists...like every other living creature on the planet...are ULTIMATELY driven by sex...there's a universe of smaller motivations in between the decision to pick up a paint brush today, for example, and the primal urge to perpetuate the species.

How so many folks have missed the significance of the word "ultimately" is driving me around the bend. ;-pp

12/08/2005 09:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

one more time with anger

Yes, ed, we know your ULTIMATELY stipulation. But is it a worthy or interesting enough point to keep making? Yes, humans need to eat, sleep, and procreate -- all of which are equally important. You can't procreate if you don't eat, so maybe eating is the ULTIMATE motivation, then comes sex later. It just doesn't matter. What's more interesting and urgent, is what we have control over, don't you think? Besides, for someone who keeps hammering on this point, you still haven't sufficiently explained how procreation relates to you personally -- not that I want you too either (in fact, please don't); I think there are more interesting related points being raised here that deserve immediate attention.

12/08/2005 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous James Leonard said...

Well, I'm glad someone finally said that! Being gay, that sounds like a quiet weekend

Being un-gay, it still sounds low. I did a little exercise last night and counted up the publicly known partners of my artist friends that I've known for years. Each one of us hit over a dozen by our early twenties. And that is using a strict Clintonian benchmark for "sexual relations!" (Y'know, the: "but didja go all the way?" standard.)

Lower that benchmark to at least include most forms of oral sex and the number shoots way up.

If people don't feel that art can have a positive impact on society, then why do it? No wonder so many artists I know feel selfish, sollipsistic, or self-indulgent.

Hrm. I feel you here. I really do, Very Depressed Ranter. A romance of the ages drew me into the fine arts in my early teens (before that I was just a kid that preferred drawing over football).

But by the time I hit my late teens/young adulthood, similar altruistic motivations took over. It took me into the underground world of graf and the outspoken realm of public activist art. I delved deeply into the counter commodities of the conceptual, the philosophical, and the immaterial. I learned a lot of great techniques and strategies along the way. I learned a lot about human attention spans and how meaning comes from an art experience.

My working conclusion? Meaning is emergent. It comes from a generative encounter between a viewer and the artwork (whatever its form may be).

(I'll try and be more precise after taking a lump on another blog for being too obtruse when referring to art and meaning as "generative" processes and emergent phenomena.)

The meaning and meaningfulness of a work (and I avoid using "significance" here because semiotics ain't the whole picture) is almost entirely out of our control as makers. When we release a work of art into the swirling complex system of human society, it is like a single drop of tracer dye falling into a hydrodynamic flow. It becomes dilluted, it marks and unexpected path, and it is highly transitory in its effectiveness over longer time scales.

There is a fine art to making fine art. Luck; a deep, sophisticated intuitive knowledge akin to that of an organic farmer; and the tenacious spirit of a seagoing sailor at the mercy of the winds are requisite. And even then, ships will still sink and crops will still be lost.

This is not to say that art doesn't and can't ever do good, but it is too damn unpredictable to count on it as a tool for activism. For my own studio practice, I've found that taking much smaller bites makes all the difference.

Here's a verbalization of the silent creed of my studio:

Don't try and change the world. Don't try and change society. Right yourself in your own values. Know your world thoroughly. Foster your curiosity but don't turn away when explanations become too tough. (I'm thinking about Nicholas Kristof's editorial from last week on the Hubris of the Humanities here.) Strive to make your life meaningful. Once you have internalized a life like that, then make art. But keep the bites small. For better or worse its the only way. Grand revolutionary moments only come about as a coincidence of self-organized criticality. Most change happens evolutionarily. And evolution occurs through small, measured mini-revolutions.

Keep on keeping on. The supernovas will happen. Magnificent comets will grace our skies again someday. Eventually, Yellowstone will erupt and cover most of North America in ash. But maybe never in our lifetime. But does that matter?

Do you get what I'm saying?

12/08/2005 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Artist in the Morning pre-coffee said...

I don't know if I believe that art can change the world - it sounds so sophomoric to make that claim, takes me back to college and the evils of "society." All those unsubtle generalizations that seemed so compelling at the time. All I know is that if I make something or share an idea or an insight about art-making to one person and they are moved and think about it later, and feel that they see things slightly differently after having seen something I made or absorbed something I've said, then I feel connected, powerful...it may not be "wanting to get laid" but it's a desire for some kind of intense internal connection based on the work that I have done. I may not have a guitar at my pelvis strumming it with thinly veiled masturbatory impluses with a line-up of sexy groupies waiting for me when I'm done, but the idea of connecting with another human being based on the personal private efforts to communicate feelings, ideas, memories, visions of alternate worlds, whatever, can be likened to "wanting to get laid."

That's what I think. Thanks for all the anger, it's great when everyone is so fired up. There should be more blogs, more forums to rant, but then maybe we'd all get less artwork done.....

12/08/2005 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

To anon re: Sophia C... She happens to be a celebrity and a new COLLECTOR. And if you have a problem with people collecting artwork then stay out of the art world. It won't miss you anyway.

12/08/2005 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

To Angry / Depressed Ranter - so the lack of an art market will somehow make artists more creative or noble? I'm glad to see some artists able to actually make work and not have to get 3 other jobs to keep things going (I even know some "hot" artists that still cannont pay a mortgage, can barely feed their children and have to get jobs at Utrecht... I don't know that this is helping their artwork any more). As an artist you should be glad that people in the US are beginning to collect in earnest. It is up to the artist to 'change the world' with their art - not the rest of the world to be so screwed up it necessitates change.

12/08/2005 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks la dauphine for taking the conversation down the idiot route. Why do that?
But anyway, I agree with before coffee. It is powerful to make something beautiful and to move someone. Angry ranter, can you give examples of art that is instigating change?

12/08/2005 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

You need to learn some blogging etiquette, anon. Just because you don't have an intelliegent response, you call someone an idiot? Someone give this guy an honorary PhD!

12/08/2005 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But is it a worthy or interesting enough point to keep making?

Well, because you keep jumping over it into an assertion that I think artists only make art because they want sex, YES, it is important to keep making that distinction. It's the essence of why I noted it at all. To ignore it the way you are changes the subject to something other than what I wrote.

Besides, for someone who keeps hammering on this point, you still haven't sufficiently explained how procreation relates to you personally -- not that I want you too either (in fact, please don't); I think there are more interesting related points being raised here that deserve immediate attention.

Please make up your mind. You seem to want to rail against a statement that I didn't actually make and then suggest your statement (some statement) is actually more worthy of discussion (which kind of suggests you might have saved your fire power for a more appropriate thread, but...). You make some good points, but you've turned what started as an admittedly "silly" stream of consciousness rambling into a seemingly heartfelt, but rather unfocused call to action.

If sex is not the ultimate motivation for making art, or making furniture, or making curtains or whatever...THEN WHAT IS?

I'll answer your gay question (which I thought I had above already, but will gladly cut and paste that answer again), once you tell me what "ultimate" motivation wouldn't have angered you so much.

12/08/2005 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Oh, and no calling anyone an idiot.

I'll shut the comments down before I'll let this become that sort of site.

Anon, you owe la.dauphine an apology.

12/08/2005 11:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Artist, Post-Coffee, in Hippy Mode said...

I think artists make art to be loved. To make connections with mute objects from the past and present, to think intensely about what it means to be a person, with time passing and childhood receding, what it means to live a life and feel very tiny in relation to everything, and to channel a sense of loss or powerlessness about the state of the world...to communicate these things to people who are receptive, people who value mute objects. To make things for people who want to own mute metaphorical objects because they see them as a reflection of themselves. I love people who buy art, especially the ones without much money. It's all about stepping outside of time, out of the daily routine to have a moment of pure alert consciousness pass through you, almost a searing pain that the world is what it is and you are what you are and there's nothing you can do but linger on it poetically.

It's not healthy for artists to think so much about "the market". We all know there is idealism in being an artist, as much as there is in being a dealer. Look how passionate Ed is about the artists he represents. This is a crazy and unfair world, the artworld, but in spite of all the bullshit, all the money, all the envy, there is something really beautiful underneath it all.

12/08/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree, the other anonymous should apologize. Please don't degrade this blog with stupid name-calling.

12/08/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

Thanks, Edward. He can apologize to Todd Gibson too (see post) for first bringing up the Vogue spread and starting us down the yellow brick road of "idiocy."

12/08/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous angry/depressed ranter said...

I get the feeling that la.dauphine didn't read my previous comment that including the following paragraph:

One if my biggest fears is that pefectly good artists are being seduced and ruined by this system of 'riches for art.' I am happy that, at more than any other point in history, artists can not only live off their work but live well (but, hopefully either with a lot of guilt, or much philanthropy). Great for artists, I say! I love artists, and myself, and I want them, and me, to be happy!! On the bad side, the dynamic of grad schools is changing, and many artists have more of an eye towards their hopes for fame and fortune than for changing the world. The result = dull, predictable art and dull, predictable artists (which are necessary too, I guess, but not so damn many).

Perhaps my comments are too damn long and people are skimming over them and making hasty replies. Also #2 from a previous comment:

2. I am not suggesting that artists not sell their work. They must, of course, in order to engage with the system as audience, or else risk being outside the system (without an audience).

Is believing that "art can change the world" really sophomoric? Or, is it that the energy and optimism that we once had in our youth has been crushed by the cruelty of adult life? Perhaps I need to clarify what I mean by 'change the world' -- in response to charges of 'sophomoric' and requests for examples.

I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT ACTIVISM necessarily. I repeat: I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT ACTIVISM necessarily.

Political activism and artmaking are two completely different practices, IMO, and I am glad for that. Changing the world through art doesn't necessarily mean toppling an oppressive regime or an obvious change in the course of history. It can be as simple as opening up the possibility for an idea that didn't exist before. That's it. I don't mean directed, didactic work that has a point or a specific intended consequence. Simply questioning what most people take for granted, or causing a stir within one single human mind is very important. I believe that these sorts of things can spread like wildfire with unknown consequences. How art affects society as a whole is a very abstract and difficult concept that cannot and should not be reified.

My main point is this (and I think this speaks to why I was angered with the tone in Ed's post in the first place, even though I realize that it was intended as a silly stream-of-consciousness post): Serious artwork cannot exist if the artist's main motivation is fame and $$$$$$.

The type of thinking that "everything is motivated by sex" is often used to justify apathy and defeatism. I'm telling you I know plenty of people who aren't motivated to make art so that they can get laid. Oh yeah, and my proposal to Ed about "ultimate" motivation:

TO CHANGE THE FUCKING WORLD FOR THE BETTER

Mind you, as per previously, I don't necessarily mean DIRECTLY making the world a completely different place. In my opinion, I can die happy if I think that maybe one single small thing I did made the world a little bit better when I left it than how I found it. Seriously: Do we want to simply further the existence of the human race, or do we want to advance it? To me this is also the political distinction between being a reactionary or a progressive. Reactionaries want things to stay the same (or even go backwards), while progressives want society to progress.

I realize these ideas sound silly or sophomoric or outdated. I can't believe I'm typing them myself. But is this because we've become too cynical?


Also:

I really don't want to get into any debates over specific artists so please don't respond to the following, but...
An interesting artist who is also a political activist is Paul Chan (again, I'm not saying that art has to be overtly activist to be effective, and his is not anyway). He's getting more and more attention these days and had a rather intelligent conversation in Bomb a couple of months ago. To be honest, I'm not overwhelmed by his video work, but I think he's someone to watch, and after reading his interview I'm damned curious to see what he's going to do next.

12/08/2005 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous george said...

Earlier I expressed my doubts about how effective of art might be for instigating change in the society. Part of this observation is based upon the assumption that the visual arts generally reach a fairly limited audience which makes effecting change more difficult in a mass audience social sense. This would infer that one of the forms of mass media would be more effective in instigating change which I think is the case. However, I would not discount the ability of artworks, regardless of media, to have a 'seed effect' on critical thought which influences the mass media.

While I'm not sure if the capitalist pig is trying to stifle change, I do think en mass individuals do. People might say they want change but they don't really, change is disruptive, it is a challenge, fosters the unexpected and breaks the rules which give us a sense of security thinking we are in control. The undertone of some of the comments here allude to the idea of predictability. Events become predictable when they are linear or static but predictability has a downside in that it is quickly exploited. This leads to stagnation, like that green muck which forms in still water and needs the spring flood of change to become clear again. This is what I sense angry-ranter is addressing, a stagnation in the artworld which in spite of all its protests wants to maintain the status quo because it has been so profitable. Change is good.

Finally, on the sex thing. The idea of the muse I'll buy because in my experience it engenders an intensified mental-emotional state which can drive creativity. Otherwise, I suspect it's more a case of raging hormones than anything else. The activities, art or otherwise are a form of cultural display which is both territorial and an signal for preservation of the species. I have the hunch that what we call aesthetics may be Darwinian with its roots coded genetically for survival and procreation of the species.

12/08/2005 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anon

I don't think an artist who is motivated to change the world will be a good artist.

This deserves more time than I have right now, but in a nutshell, I think there's one task before an artist and one task only: to reveal the truth.

If your agenda is to change the world, that complicates your ability to reveal the truth. You'll make choices that obscure the truth to realize your goal.

Again, a bit short on time, but I feel passionately that artists attempting to "change the world" will fail to make good art.

12/08/2005 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Mountain Man said...

I would like to share a few quotes, I hope no one minds, I have found them helpful and inspiring and they tangentially relate to some what's being discussed here...the first are from Sol Lewitt's inspiring letter to Eva Hesse:

You must practice being stupid, dumb, unthinking, empty. Then you will be able to DO!

Try to do some BAD work - the worst you can thinking of and see what happens but mainly relax and let everything go to hell - you are not responsible for the world - you are only responsible for your work - so DO IT.

And also from Gerhard Richter:

The first impulse towards painting, or towards art in general, stems from the need to communicate, the effort to fix one’s own vision, to deal with appearances (which are alien and must be given names and meanings). Without this, all work would be pointless and unjustified, like Art for Art’s Sake.

Art serves to establish community. It links us with others, and with the things around us, in a shared vision and effort.

12/08/2005 12:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that Lewitt letter!!!

12/08/2005 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

Thanks for the clarification, AR. And I agree that today more than ever many artists have fame and riches on the brain. I'm reading de Kooning's biography and he catagorically refused to join his artist friends in political rallies but rather focused on his own work and continually studied work of Picasso and others he admired. I'm not saying everyone should follow this model or that deKooning is the be all, end all, but I agree with Ed on the point that being inspired to 'change the world' isn't necessarily the key to great art.

12/08/2005 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Good Lord! I've just spent a good hour reading through these comments. Some of them I read a couple of times, so as not to misinterpret. (So, Edward, can you elaborate/explain yourself one more time?) Anyway, kudos for knowingly posting a fairly frivolous post that would engender so much debate.

Angry Anonymous, George and James Leonard should be congratulated on their excellent comments above. Anything I add at this point is just static noise.

So why am I commenting? To get hits on my site, of course, which will eventually lead to S-E-X. Huzza.

12/08/2005 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Further to my point, via bloggy.com, comes this Nobel Prize acceptance speech by Harold Pinter...he's talking specifically about his field, drama, but he framed it as an assertion about art in general:

Truth in [art] is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task.

I totally agree with that. The search for truth, not some attempt to "change the world," is the task before the artists. Once you start believing your task is to change the world you become a propagandist.

PS. HH, shhh!!!! don't tell them, for chrissake...they'll stop taking the bait!

12/08/2005 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

And in support of Angry Anonymous' point (which I overall agree with...just a few minor details to wrestle over)...is this excellent review of Jed Perl's book by the multi-talented Stephen Maine. The money quote (well, one of many):

Perl’s fury at the art-world limelight is based on his belief that personal intuition, not art-marketeering, is the sound basis for studio activity, and that artists, beguiled by the promise of financial reward, are turning their backs on their own best impulses in favor of a thin post-Warholian gruel.

12/08/2005 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Pete said...

Jed Perl. Almost as bad as Mario Naves or Hilton Kramer. I am appreciativev of the Richter quotes in this context.

12/08/2005 02:07:00 PM  
Anonymous George said...

Following up on searching for the miraculous, the truth vs. changing the world. Consider what the desire to change the world implies. At first glance one might consider it a politic or propaganda, but in this context I think it is more a desire to be heard, to be considered seriously and to have an affect on the audience. This doesn't preclude a search for the truth at all and it may mean the search is more directed or intense. So it is really no different an aspiration than the desire 'to move someone" in a comment above. What angry-ranter has is a deep passion for his position which is as good a starting place as any, a different muse.

"…that artists, beguiled by the promise of financial reward, are turning their backs on their own best impulses in favor of a thin post-Warholian gruel…" Well maybe but it would be better without the last part of the sentence which is all a matter of taste.

12/08/2005 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger la.dauphine said...

Well put. I always think of Les Miserables when I hear phrases like "changing the world." ;)

Angry Ranter your conviction is admirable. Yes, your comments are too damn long but you make some damn good arguments so it's ok (sorry for my 'hasty' remarks earlier).

Edward, I never did get my apology but thanks for the oportunity to debate without letting things get too personal that we miss out on the discussion. Can't wait to see what you'll stir up next... :)

12/08/2005 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

At first glance one might consider it a politic or propaganda, but in this context I think it is more a desire to be heard, to be considered seriously and to have an affect on the audience.

OK, so here comes some of that tough love I advertize: The only reason I see that anyone should be entitled to be heard or considered seriously is that they've done the extremely hard work of revealing the truth for us. I say this again and again: I look to artists to make sense of the chaos. I personally stand in awe of those who can. I don't think that's an easy thing to do and am happy to acknowledge those who do.

I don't feel that each and every person who's willing to put paint on canvas, snap a photo, sculpt an object, etc. is worthy of my consideration though. I'm sorry, but I don't. The ones who've put in the hard work to reveal something I couldn't see for myself ARE worthy of my consideration, and I'm more than happy to work to celebrate their achievements.

In other words, whether you want to be recognized or not it totally irrelevant to me. Make excellent work and I'll seek you out or (hopefully) recognize it when I see it.

I think far too often we mistake good intentions for good work, in all fields. They're not one and the same.

The obvious response to this, of course, is to attack those artist who I (or the art world in general) do pay attention to and suggest they're not excellent, but that's a different matter. Here I'm making one simple point: excellent work deserves recognition.

Just because some sub-excellent work sometimes gets attention doesn't change the fact that each artist is tasked with excellence and revealing the truth. Wanting to be heard doesn't necessarily contribute to either of those, and so, again, is totally irrelevant to me.

12/08/2005 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Seeking meaning/truth do, I think, change the world. "And the truth shall set you free."

Thanks for this, Edward. A great service to the arts community.

12/08/2005 04:47:00 PM  
Anonymous angry ranter said...

Ed...

You've opened a gigantic can of worms with this whole "truth" thread, which I think will necessitate some clarifying posts in the coming weeks. I'm simply too drained to respond right now.

For what it's worth, my new blog is ready to go (I hope): art soldier

I'm sure I'll be tweeking it over the next few days. The first post is just a re-post of the original 'angry rant' from this thread -- in case anyone has anything left to say about it. Otherwise, I'll hopefully be generating some new content shortly.

Thanks for the push. I've been meaning to do this for a while.

12/08/2005 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Congrats Art Soldier...site looks great!

12/08/2005 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

la dauph: I'm the original sofia-hater, the one who said you're part of the problem, not the one who called you an idiot. But really, your defense is that she's a "celebrity" and a new collector? If you go weak in the knees, or melt, or whatever, at a celebrity, you ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Yes, new collectors are great. Do you melt when you see some unknown new collector, say one without a famous father, one who doesn't have extra millions burning holes in their pockets, one who is just interested in and passionate about art? If so, great, but I suspect that the celebrity is what melts you, in which case you are the epitome of the whole miami/basel/art fair syndrome that is depressing the hell out of the rest of us. Not calling anyone an idiot here, just trying to honestly express a frustration.

Also, I think maybe the "truth" versus "changing the world" motiviation dispute may be (somewhat) a case of semantics. Even the sex motivation thing. Maybe we could rephrase the "sex" ultimate motivation as some kind of "life force" quest, abstract it a bit, and we might be talking about essentially the same thing. And "revealing the truth" could be a way of changing (one little piece of) the world.

Edward - thanks for this forum. It's great to get to discuss this stuff.

12/08/2005 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sofia-hater #1 again.

Oh, and by the way, several "celebrities" own my work (bought at art fairs), and yeah, when this happened, I got a little thrill out of it, sure, but when I think about it, these are the people who have 4 and 5 homes and are looking for objects to decorate those homes and so go to art fairs to do their shopping, rather than people like the Vogels, a couple who, I believe were a postal worker and a teacher (librarian?) who bought work over the years when they could afford it and amassed an incredible collection out of genuine passion and curiousity. That's the kind of collection that I would feel proud (or "melt") to be in.

12/08/2005 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If you go weak in the knees, or melt, or whatever, at a celebrity, you ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

I'm part of the problem then. I love seeing celebrities when they're "on"...being fabulous. It's fun. Of course, living in Soho, I often see celebrities when they're going to the grocery store or whatever, and then they're just other people. It's odd, but I wouldn't dream of telling a movie star I like their work if I bump into them on the street, but I sure enjoy being a "fan" when I meet them at a fabulous party.

None of which means I'm shallow, IMO, either...just that I enjoy the game celebrity represents. Again, it's fun. Kind of like collecting trading cards...Oh, Willem DeFoe? Yeah, seen him several times...Sarah Jessica...at least once a month. Conan O'Brien, just the other week, etc....

Why not? It doesn't mean I'll confuse what they do with fine art. I'm a horrendous snob about art. I'm like the UES swell character in "My Favorite Year," who when Peter O'Toole, playing Alan Swann, an Erol Flynn type movie star, is hanging from a balcony, looks down on him from a party on the balcony above and languidly says to his fellow socialite "I think Alan Swann is beneath us."

"Of course he's beneath us," comes the reply, "he's an actor."

It does nothing to diminish the importance of art for me to enjoy seeing the Alan Swann's of the world...it's merely a side bar...something entertaining and fun.

I've sold art to celebrities and they're just as insecure about their collector status as anyone else starting out...so go easy on them.

12/08/2005 06:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not really anti-celebrity ( I mean, why shouldn't they spend their money on art? and on my art?). Sure, it's fun to see them in the street. It's kind of a sport for those of us who live in NY (or LA, probably too). But in the context of this discussion, it just seemed like la dauphine (and maybe I was responding a bit to her/his name too; let them eat cake, anyone?) was deliberately taking the anti-angry-original-ranter position and the pro celebrity/big$$ collector position and I felt such a position should be called out.

When one of the celebs, a tv "personality", bought a piece of mine a couple of years back, according to what the dealer told me, she said, "it's for my husband's birthday. It's the least I could do; for my birthday he bought me a farm". Makes a cute story, and I"m not too above it all to say it was a bit of an ego boost, but I reiterate, the Vogels, and others of their ilk, are my ideal collectors.

Also, I've met Sofia and I think she's an idiot, which may explain my antipathy to this way of thinking. (Is it ok to call someone who isn't here an idiot?)

12/08/2005 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

(Is it ok to call someone who isn't here an idiot?)

Yes, so long as we don't expect they'll show up one day and participate (i.e., I'd refrain from calling anyone in the art world who blogs an idiot here, if that's OK).

12/08/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I said "idiotic route." what I was refering to was this comment from la daufine:

"And if you have a problem with people collecting artwork then stay out of the art world. It won't miss you anyway."

She was insulting the ranter. I should have said "rudeness" rather than idiotic. No apology.

12/08/2005 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, and on that note, I think this thread has done as much good as it's going to, so I'm closing the comments...please let this be the end of any disagreements (i.e., don't hijack another thread to carry on any disagreements, please)...if you really need to get something off your chest, do what Art Soldier did and start your own blog...thanks for a great, if at times heated, thread everyone.

12/08/2005 07:35:00 PM  

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