Friday, April 29, 2005

Pack Your Bags Pumpkins, The Honeymoon is OVER

cross-posted on Obsidian Wings

The day it became apparent that GWB would be our president for another four years, I made a pledge to give him the benefit of doubt for 100 days into his new term. Like it or not, he was the president. Folks who read ObWi may think I broke that pledge, that I've been overly critical of the President since that day, that I've not given him the benefit of doubt in his actions. To those folks all I can say is "Wait for it." By comparison, you'll see how much I held back. The honeymoon was a chance for him to prove my misgivings unfounded. He has failed.

Day 100 of the second term of George W. Bush we find an administration resistant to learning from its mistakes, an administration with three central and tragic flaws. I'll cover two today (the third is larger and requires more cites...I'm working on it):

  1. An allergy to accountability
  2. A priority of perception over reality

Allergy to Accountability

One need look no further for how totally corrupt this administration's attitude toward accountability is than the biggest PR disaster of Bush's presidency: Abu Ghraib. As Bob Herbert rightly noted:

When soldiers in war are not properly trained and supervised, atrocities are all but inevitable. This is one reason why the military command structure is so important. There was a time, not so long ago, when commanders were expected to be accountable for the behavior of their subordinates.

That's changed. Under Commander in Chief George W. Bush, the notion of command accountability has been discarded. In Mr. Bush's world of war, it's the grunts who take the heat. Punishment is reserved for the people at the bottom. The people who foul up at the top are promoted.

And this fish most definitely stinks from the head down. Even Donald Rumsfeld, arguably the most arrogant man in the world, knew that the right thing to do in the light of Abu Ghraib was submit his resignation. Bush, however, who has never had to clean up any of the messes he's made in his life, couldn't understand that inclination and so refused Rummie, apparently twice. The message this sends is that so long as you're a loyal team player you can be a world-class f*ck-up and keep your job. We've seen how well that management style has served Bush in business ("El-Busto" anyone?). Shouldn't he be discouraged from conducting the government in the same fashion? As my Father is fond of saying, "A fool is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over again but expects different results."

The buck WILL stop. The only question is whether when it does, it stops where it should. A president with dignity would ensure it stopped with him. Honor counts.

Perception over Reality

The best thing that can be said about last night's performance art piece in the East Room of the White House is that the lead actor's tie matched the stage's carpet. I know images carry more impact than words, but if he's going to just phone it in, let him use a phone for chrissake. The man's got loads of brush to clear on his ranch. Why drag the whole MSM over there, make everyone dress up, take their assigned seats, and act out the absurd charade?

Nightline dealt with this nonsense last night (as summarized on Kos):

...Ted Koppel is analyzing the press conference & had on Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, John Harwood of the Wall Street Journal, & a British journalist with the Financial Times, Lionell Barber... .

..Barber said that these press conferences are stage craft, with assigned seating & assigned questions, that don't say or do anything. Koppel then compared the way the BBC & the British media ask question of Tony Blair, where the media gives Blair "a going over". Koppel then turned to Milbank & Harwood, and asked why no reporter has the guts to stand up & tell Bush that he isn't answering their questions, & it isn't sufficient to regurgitate his speech from his traveling tour.

Milbank & Harwood's response tells you everything you need to know about what's wrong with the media. Both said that you can't be 'too hard' with Bush. That if you ask a hard question of Bush, you won't get an answer. Dana Milbank said you need to ask it "as an essay question" to him. Koppel then asked both of them "which question" asked as an essay tonight, did the reporters get a substanitive answer to? Neither one of them had an answer for Ted Koppel.

Perhaps, as a nation, we can't handle the truth. But I suspect it's the other way around: the truth is something Bush can't dispense, and so we get these staged puppet shows instead. But these are just the public face of a wrong-headed "boy in the bubble" presidency so out of touch, his handlers decide it would disrupt things too much to let the leader of the free world encounter dissent, even when he's supposedly seeking it out (think SS town meetings). A president with courage would seek out real dissent, combat it when it was wrong, and consider it when it was right, even it that involved the occasional painful moment of *gasp* introspection.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fantasy Auctions 2005

Carol Vogel notes in her NYTimes article on the upcoming NYC auctions that most iconic artworks in the "hot" periods are already in museums or private collections not about to let them go, and that the auction houses are having to be more agressive to get "stars" for their sales. After Pablo Picasso's "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)," 1905, fetched a record-breaking $104.1 million last year, the search for Modern masterpieces was apparently vigorous:

The strength of the Sotheby's sale on May 3 also lies in modern works. "We were being more aggressive to get modern material because we knew that's what buyers want," said David Norman, co-chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art department worldwide.
Even still, given the dearth of homeless masterpieces by dead guys and the glut of multimillionaire hedge-fund managers with money burning holes through their pockets, the contemporary works up for grabs (think Marlene Dumas, Maurizio Cattelan, Elizabeth Peyton, Koons, and Hirst) are expected to do quite well. Now, not being a hedge-fund manager (or even knowing what a hedge-fund is really), I'm stuck playing Fantasy Auctions 2005---I find $3 million dollars under my mattress (why not?) and then do the homework to decide which of the works on the block I'll bid on. Here's my list (contemporaries [i.e., and here I mean living artists] to cut myself off somewhere)...feel free to share yours:

From Christie's Evening Session (11 May 2005, 7:00 pm)
  • Ed Ruscha's The Amazing Earth ---estimate 500,000 - 700,000 USD (I'll go as high as $550,'s not my favorite, but I would trade it up)

  • Yayoi Kusama's No. B, 3 ---estimate 250,000 - 350,000 USD (I'll go as high as 350,000...why not, I found the money under my mattress...and anything by Yayoi is priceless IMO)
From Christie's Morning Session (12 May 2005, approximately 10:45 am)

  • Cy Twombly's untitled drawing ---estimate 70,000 - 90,000 USD (I'll go up to $100,000 it's lovely...and I want it)

  • Ed Rucha's Nice Destiny ---estimate 60,000 - 80,000 USD (I'll go up to $85,000)

From Christie's Afternoon Session (12 May 2005, 2:00 pm) this is the fun one!
  • Raymond Pettibon's Untitled (Who Being Blind...) ---estimate 10,000 - 15,000 USD (I'll go up to $12,500)

  • Luc Tuymans's untitled ---estimate 200,000 - 300,000 USD (only if it goes at the lower end)

  • Hiroshi Sugimoto's Oscar Wilde ---estimate 50,000 - 70,000 USD (I'll go up to 75,000...again, I want it)

  • Wolfgang Tillman's Louisiana ---estimate 25,000 - 35,000 USD (I"ll go up to 25,000...not sure I can't find one I like better for less)

  • Donald Baechler's Self-Portrait ---estimate 40,000 - 60,000 USD (I'll go up to 50,000)

From Sotheby's Evening Session (10 May 05, 07:00 PM)

  • Cy Twombly's Study for the School of Athens (see image right)---estimate 600,000—800,000 USD (I'll go to up to $1million...don't stand between me and this one)

  • Kara Walker's The Battle Of Atlanta: Being The Narrative Of A Negress In The Flames Of Desire - A Reconstruction --- estimate 150,000—200,000 USD (I'll go up to 220,000)

btw, Sotheby's your online images suck. See Phillips for a good way to put the lots online.

From Phillips' Evening Session (12 May 2005, 7 PM)

  • Matthew Barney's Envelopa: Drawing Restraint 7 ---estimate 120,000-180,000 USD (I'll stay low...stop at $130,000)

  • Luc Tuyman's Fish ---estimate 500,000-700,000 USD (I"ll go up to 650,000)

Of course, I've probably already run out of money (but I'd not likely get everything), and often the excitement of seeing someone else bid will urge me to raise my padel (I used to do this for another gallery, who actually had some money), but overall I'd be happy to go home with these fine pieces. YMMV.

By the way, all choices are for my private collection, not for resale.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Krens the Great

ObWi readers may recall that lately I've been obsessed with the life of Alexander the Great, reading every biography of him I can lay my hands on. And I'm looking forward to seeing this exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center. As cold-blooded conquerors go, Alexander was a hottie (see this image of Ghengis Khan for comparison). But his monomaniacal quest for glory saw Alexander lose his way, dragging his increasingly opportunistic and foreign forces around the known world, simply because it was there and he wanted it. None of the Greek idealists who set out with him on his conquest would recognize their leader (let alone his vision) by the end of his life.

I couldn't help but think of the Macedonian emperor when I read the story in today's NYTimes about Guggenheim Director Thomas Krens' imperialist designs. Despite the growing criticism and high-profile resignations, Krens keeps pushing further into exotic territory (with plans for possible Guggenheim satellites in Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, and Guadalajara) and bringing on board members who share his hunger for expansion:

Today's board is driven by leading members of New York's real estate world who share Mr. Krens's dreams of empire building. Besides [new chairman, William L. Mack, a real estate developer], one of five trustees who joined the board two years ago, they include Stephen M. Ross, founder and chief executive of the Related Companies, and Robert C. Baker, the chairman and chief executive of Purchase, a New York-based national realty and development corporation. [President, Jennifer Stockman] is president of Stockman & Associates, consultants specializing in technology.

Just like Alexander though, whose empire collapsed with a stunning expediency after his passing because he had too few true believers in key positions and had spread them too far apart, Krens is possibly building a global network of museums no one will be interested in defending after they're constructed (no true believers in Peggy's original vision, anyway).

But some board members - a defeated minority who decline to be quoted but say they believe the success of these satellites are exceptions - argue that the Guggenheim has no business trying to spread its name any further when there is so much work to be done at home.
Unlike Alexander who was known to murder his critics, Krens will nonviolently argue why he thinks his are wrong:

Mr. Krens defends himself against accusations of overspending and neglecting acquisitions and programming. He will probably be forever haunted by the critical ridicule of shows like "The Art of the Motorcycle," in 1998, and "Giorgio Armani," in 2000, even though they drew enthusiastic crowds.

"These perceptions are hard to dislodge," Mr. Krens said one morning, sipping an espresso in the lobby of the Mercer hotel in SoHo. He rattled off several historic exhibitions that rank among the 10 best-attended shows in the Guggenheim's history: "Africa: The Art of a Continent," in 1996; "China: 5,000 Years," in 1998, "Brazil: Body & Soul," in 2001; and "The Aztec Empire," which closed in February. He named some major retrospectives: those of Claes Oldenburg, Mr. Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, Roni Horn and Matthew Barney.

Of course, one could point to mistakes (but no one could ignore the accomplishments) of Alexander during his lifetime, too. He always found a way. He was unstoppable. The problem with Krens, as with the Macedonian, is that he's building an army of imperialists, not true believer philanthropists. It doesn't seem likely that once he is gone the empire will continue to serve Peggy's vision.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Forget the cheapshots. If Bush is diplomatically and culturally savvy enough and masculine enough to hold an arab monarch's hand, that's actually a very good thing, and worthy of the sort of praise I'm seldom prompted to give him.

But look at the rest of our President's body language. He's incredibly comfortable with this Saudi prince. Yes, I know they've met before and their familes have business together, but to get at what bothers me here, you'll have to imagine another president in this picture. Say Clinton or even Reagan. Can you? Can you imagine even the most conservative or most liberal US president holding the hand like this of the man responsible for the culture that led to 3000 Americans being murdered?

Moreover, imagine if the election had gone the other way and "President Kerry" were holding the hand of the monarch of the country where 15 of the 9/11 terrorists were born, even though the problems that led to that fact (Wahhabist money spreading hate throughout the world, ludicrous double standards with regards to hate speech in SA, all but the most superficial efforts toward democraticing the kingdom) are barely being addressed, if at all.

Yet, Bush's body language suggests he's a comfortable as if he were walking with his grandfather. Now the reports coming out suggest the relationship is still strained due to the attacks:
President Bush discussed the surge in oil prices with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Monday, but focused on a plan by the Saudis to increase their oil-pumping capacity over the next decade rather than on any short-term efforts to bring prices down.

The two leaders talked for three hours here at Mr. Bush's ranch, trying to restore some normality to a relationship that has been tense since the emergence of the role of terrorists from Saudi Arabia in the Sept. 11 attacks. They discussed a variety of issues, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism, trade and Mr. Bush's call for more democracy in the Middle East, and the men made every effort to portray the relationship as back on track.

But symbolically, I still find this terribly unsettling. It looks to me as if the most powerful man in the world is not the Texan who represents the nation attacked 3 1/2 years ago, but the prince who controls the oil that nation needs. It looks to me as if our president is sucking up to this tyrant when he's gone way out of his way to declare all the world's tyrants our mortal enemies. Saudi Arabia may very well be a nation we have no choice but to deal with, but giving their tyrant such a royal treatment here is an insult to all that's American.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Artist of the Week 4/25/05

Although I'm not going to shy away from promoting my own artists on this blog, I'm also going to highlight and critique the work of other artists. Just because someone is selected as the "artist of the week" doesn't necessarily mean I'll have generous things to say about the work (and I'll encourage any commenters to take the same tough love approach). I will endeavor, however, to highlight the work of artists who are perhaps "underappreciated."

To get the ball rolling, I want to discuss briefly the work of a good friend of mine: Amanda Church. She's represented in New York by Michael Steinberg Fine Art and in Boston by Clifford-Smith Gallery.

Here's one of her paintings:Amanda Church, Joy Machine, 2003, oil on canvas, 60" X 96"

Here's another:

Amanda Church, Strange Days, 2004, oil on canvas, 60" x 48"

Amanda's work has been called psychosexual, so if you think you're seeing nasty things when looking at it, you're not necessarily crazy. Amanda's forms are abstracted from body parts, pop icons, kitschy images, and more recently text. Her greatest achievement, IMO, is her palette. Amanda's one of the most amazing colorists working today. Her choices are constantly innovative and her taste is flawless.

I bought a piece by Amanda at a benefit long before I met her. I now am the happy owner of several of her pieces, and one that resides at the foot of my bed makes me as happy as anything else in my collection when I contemplate it. There's a mature joy of life in this work and just enough silliness to charm me even in my darkest hours.

I have constructive criticism for Amanda when I visit her studio, but given she's a friend, I won't share that here. I will entertain any criticisms you may have though and give you an honest response.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Set up

So blogger won't let me edit my template the way I want to until I create a posting. OR, I'm too technically challenged to figure out how to do it without this.

Either way, welcome to Edward_ Winkleman. I write about politics with amazing co-authors on two other blogs, including Obsidian Wings and Liberal Street Fighter, and I've been banned (but recently reinstated) on Redstate and enjoy other conservative blogs (such as Tacitus and Andrew Sullivan), but this blog will include many more in-depth posts about art.* I'm still organizing the site, but in the meanwhile, please visit the website for my gallery:

*I write about art on ObWi and LSF, but here I'll take no prisoners. If you don't "get" contemporary art, you won't be spared...just sayin'