Thursday, July 26, 2007

Scandals and More Scandals

Forget the looped "I cannot recall, Senator" responses up on Capitol Hill (OK, so don't "forget" them, impeach the creeps, but...), the art world is seeing a bumper crop of scandals itself this summer. And it's still only July.

First, in the ongoing debacle in North Adams, we learn via Christoph Büchel's lawyer, Donn Zaretsky, that Sergio Munoz Sarmiento
has weighed in on the Büchel vs. Mass MoCA court battle:
The most elucidating part of MASS MoCA’s defense is predicated on affirmative defenses that should arouse suspicion and distrust on the part of any visual artist toward any cultural institution. Out of the twenty-nine affirmative defenses, MASS MoCA is claiming that Büchel’s counterclaims are barred because “the materials that are the subject matter of [Büchel’s] Counterclaims do not contain sufficient original expression on the part of Büchel to be protected under the [U.S.] Copyright Act.”

Alternatively, MASS MoCA argues that Büchel’s counterclaims are barred because MASS MoCA is “a joint owner of any copyright in the Materials which are the subject matter of Büchel’s counterclaims.”

More alarming is MASS MoCA’s argument that they are the lawful owners of the materials which are the subject matter of this dispute, and thus allowed to display them publicly.

But this isn’t the end of this wonderful yarn of fiction. MASS MoCA further argues that Büchel’s work is not even art, but simply a compilation of materials which, if accepted by the Court, would not be granted protection under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA). If in fact the Court decides that VARA does apply, MASS MoCA argues that any modification to the “materials” which may have happened is allowed by VARA under the “conservation or placement” exception, and/or that the doctrine of “fair use” would allow MASS MoCA to display Büchel’s project without infringing the Copyright or VARA Acts.
OK, so I can see in each instance how MASS MoCA would make those arguments (logically that is), but I can't for the life of me grasp why they would. They seem to have lost their grasp of the bigger picture here. Whatever credibility or funding they hope to recoup via these arguments, they're putting any future artists they might work with on notice that they decide when something is the artist's work and when it's not. Scary stuff.

Second, is a storyline right out of a Patricia Highsmith novel. Shin Jeong-ah, a rising star in the art world, was set to co-curate the 2008 Gwangju Biennale, one of the biggest fine art events in South-east Asia:
Until this week, [Shin Jeong-ah,] 35, was at the top of her profession. Claiming to have a doctorate from Yale and a master's degree from Kansas University, she was the youngest professor at Seoul's prestigious Dongguk University and the head curator of the Sungkok Art Museum, home to some of Korea's most prestigious exhibitions and the recipient of millions of pounds in corporate sponsorship from the country's biggest conglomerates.

[...] In a country that takes art seriously, and has an exceptionally large number of museums for its size, many saw Shin's appointment as a sign that the young curator was destined to become the leading figure among Korea's legion of art gallery administrators.

But others were less impressed. [...] On Monday rumour became fact when the University of Kansas issued a statement saying Shin had attended classes there between 1992 and 1996 but had never graduated.

Officials at the Gwanju Biennale initially supported her. They produced a document backing her claims to have a Yale doctorate - a faxed response from the Connecticut-based school to an inquiry by Dongguk University in September 2005.

[...] Dongguk said on Wednesday this week that Yale had agreed to look into the fax.

In a telephone interview with Seoul's Chosun Ilbo daily newspaper on Tuesday, Shin said, "I certainly did receive a degree from Yale, which is proven by the document Dongguk received from Yale in 2005. I will make a statement and take legal action as soon as I return to Seoul."

But the firestorm consuming her career intensified when Yale issued a terse statement yesterday stating that Shin did not graduate with a doctorate in 2005, as she had claimed, and had, in fact, never been registered with the university at all.
I wonder who will play her in the movie?

Third, is a less sensational, but still somewhat surprising charge being raised about another curator. On
artnet.com, Bazon Brock, professor for aesthetics and theory of design at the Wuppertal University, points out an ethical question that apparently got past many journalists:
Recently we saw what happens when a big boss offers his sweetheart special favors, as World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz had to step down amid reproaches and taunts. Yet Documenta 12’s big boss, Roger M. Buergel, who unhesitatingly named his wife Ruth Noack as chief curator of the primarily publicly funded event, has, as far as I know, received no admonishments from the art press or other art-world bodies, much less any recrimination from D12’s shareholders or advisory board.

Even the powerful German labor union ver.di, which has a section for artists and curators and which is known for its vigilance when it comes to work rules, has remained silent, as if beguiled by this artsy partnership. What’s more, all of this was accompanied by murmurs that poor Buergel was actually under Noack’s thumb, and therefore deserves our sympathy.

So why didn’t Noack apply for the director’s position herself? Who knows. We hear from the powers-that-be that Buergel, in his application for the artistic director’s job, failed to announce his intention to give his wife the top curatorial post. In recent scandals at both Volkswagen and Siemens (involving bribe-taking and philandering, among other transgressions), those involved apparently had the best of intentions. No doubt the same can be said for Buergel’s idea to delegate the Documenta esthetic decision-making to his wife.

But it does cast some doubt on Buergel’s suggestion that he sought to undermine the nepotism and conflicts-of-interest that characterize today’s art business. What’s more, his claims to act for marginalized artists in the Third World are dubious. As if Muslims can’t get things going in Europe on their own; like Chinese or African artists actually need European subculture’s benevolence.
Brings to mind the Bush-Cheney relationship to some degree, no? Brock offers some blistering critiques for D12 in general, but this question in particular seems worth a response from the husband-wife team. Not that anyone seems otherwise all that interested in D12, that is.

Other scandals (besides the way Charlie Finch can turn even a eulogy into a monologue about himself, that is)?

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33 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that many would claim degrees from ivy league schools if they thought that they could get away with it.

And nepotism is so rampant in the art world, any investigative reporter would have a field day if they took the subject on. Years ago, so little of the general public was paying attention to the art world, but now with so much money changing hands, the microscope seems inevitable.

7/26/2007 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think that people just now accept that nepotism in the art world is a given, for a typical example, why does nobody question the best friend relationship between rudy stingle and francesco bonami, when the curator does a big show, his friend is always in it, same with the survey show at museum of contemporary art, chicago, where he is a curator and gave his friend the show. i mean rudy is a good artist, but nobody questions these relationships, its just how the art world works. a truly unregulated market by all means.

7/26/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

The whole artworld is violently anything-goes. Why should anyone be surprised or bothered when anything went? The conservative press is still trying to put Andy Warhol back in the bottle. Nobody takes them seriously. The liberal press isn't going to bite the hand that pours them drinks.

All the Korean lady needs to do is reject the notion that artificial qualifications can be conferred on an individual by the patrimonial industrial-education complex of the Hegemon, and take a stand for her individualism and unique creative and feminist vision as an authentic multicultural alternate to the restrictive orientalism of the west, blah blah. All the Documenta people have to do is say they were exploring issues engendered by the collapse of faith among the people in the wake of the controversies at Enron and the World Bank, yada yada.

Get out of jail free. Everyone in the Greek Chorus will say "oooooh ... exploring issues ... nice ... I'll try a martini next ... I mean ... explore the issues raised by the juxtaposition of gin and vermouth, which are two commodities created for self-medication by the oppressed working classes of pre-industrial London in previous centuries but have recently been elevated into the realm of the elite by the framing techniques of various pouring and imbibing rituals, and the inclusion of sophisticated vegetation like the olive, which normally represents world peace, but when pickled in such volatile spirits, takes on many of the aggressive connotations of the shark Hirst created in the latter stages of the twentieth century, dramatically summarizing an era of genocide and despotism during which the American hegemon asserted itself on the international stage...".

So, I'm sorry anonymous 10:05, but the microscopes have been appropriated by Christoph Buechel to be used in his next installation piece.

7/26/2007 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sign the petition
www.impeachbush.org

7/26/2007 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

besides the way Charlie Finch can turn even a eulogy into a monologue about himself, that is

I tried to read it, but couldn't make it past the part where he writes "Forgive my self-indulgence. I am trying to parse these suicides." As if mentioning his list of celebrity fans has something do to with "pars[ing] these suicides." Isn't his attempt at a eulogy really just a lament that the world has lost two great Charlie Finch fans? How bizarre. It's too bad, because the few pieces of his that I've read in the past year seemed to have moved away from his dirty-old-man phase and were approaching something almost readable.

7/26/2007 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

"I mean ... explore the issues raised by the juxtaposition of gin and vermouth, which are two commodities created for self-medication by the oppressed working classes of pre-industrial London in previous centuries but have recently been elevated into the realm of the elite ..."

Downright funny Henry

7/26/2007 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Fiona Ross said...

Comparing this post to today's NYT front page, full color article about the Tour de France and the bicyclists and teams that have been kicked out of the race makes me think about how explicit the rules are for athletic competitions and how completely negotiable they are for art competitions/exhibits. BTW, what is the source for the Shin quote?
And Jason, you are right.

7/26/2007 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

BTW, what is the source for the Shin quote?

Oops...sorry about that. It's from the British Newspaper, the Independent. Added now.

7/26/2007 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Regarding Shin Jeong-ah, falsifying academic credentials is more widespread than you'd think. There was this guy at my wife's school who claimed to have a PhD . He was a professor there for years until one year when the certification people showed up and did some digging. They found he'd lied about his PhD, so the school downgraded him to whatever rank professors with masters degrees get. He taught for another two years before the certification people came around again and found -- surprise! -- his masters was fake, too. He was finally fired. Why no one thought to check his MS when his PhD turned out to be fictional I'll never understand.

Incidentally, I have an MBA from Yale and a PhD in Art History from Columbia. I minored in Particle Physics, too.

7/26/2007 02:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too was mildly repulsed by Finch's self-involved piece on "theremy". Walter, get a clue. This guy is a pompous, self-important windbag who is turning readers off.

7/26/2007 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I usually like Charlie's column on ArtNet, and I was positively devoted to his column in Coagula, but this one crossed the line in terms of good taste, in my opinion.

Generally I belive everyone should be permitted to grieve in whatever (legal) fashion helps them get past it and everyone else should be especially tolerant of what that takes, but still, there are limits.

7/26/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger This Broad said...

henry, your interrogation of the martini trope is the funniest thing I've read in a while.

And don't get me started on that charlie finch "eulogy", it was nauseating. I can't even imagine how it made anyone feel who was a friend of the two supposed subjects. It is really hard for me to believe Artnet let him publish it.

7/26/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

I agree, Ed, that was an offputting obit to say the least. I kind of recognized in it though a natural tendancy to internalize in his approach. Maybe this is what he meant by "parsing"? I know that even tho I never knew them, it has left me in a little funk given that these were artists, and Blake was my age and everything. I think we do tend to reflect on ourselves regarding death.

But, yeah, a little self editing was called for in Finch's article no doubt.

I feel for that Korean curator. I dont condone lying and cheating your way into a position, but I imagine it was in effort to do somethinmg she loves. So its another sad story in my opinion.The MassMoca story is also sad for different reasons.

geewiz, what a summer,huh?!

7/26/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

via donn zaretsky means zaretsky contacted you about this? i didn't see anything new on the blog.

7/26/2007 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard about theresa and jeremy on the oneyear anniversary of my own suicide attempt, so I thought about them in a very personal way. Everyone is entitled to whatever feelings a death or suicide brings up, but one should give some thought to the proper context for expressing those feelings. That piece by Finch was disrespectful to the friends and families of the dead and just generally in poor taste.

7/26/2007 03:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I heard about theresa and jeremy on the oneyear anniversary of my own suicide attempt, so I thought about them in a very personal way.

anon, I hope things are better now. e_

---------

Henry...you're nothing short of priceless.

7/26/2007 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, things are better now, thanks Ed.

7/26/2007 04:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whoa. less than half an hour later and it's on zaretsky's blog. oops. too funny.

7/26/2007 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Pedro Velez said...

The problem is not so much the press but the same artists that prefer to shut up when confronted by corruption and conflict of interest...and why? because the art network/ world is so small... the artists are afraid to voice out their opinion or go to the press because they feel powerless in the event that they'll be catalogued as problematic, troublemakers or cry babies.

Artist should be more aggresive, and the art press should push foward on this issues about corruption in the art world. Its only fair.

And one thing, don't you think is problematic if a curator like Bonami doesn't live in the city that pays his rent? I lived in Chi for 8 years...never saw him and that was one of the complains of local artist. No studio visits, no gallery visits, unless it was to the Ren or Rhonna Hoffman. I find it inmoral to dismiss the city you work in.

7/26/2007 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surprised? Scandals? We all know better.... . Half of Chelsea is a scandal... .

BTW:
Artnet is trash. Finch and Co. are not worth reading.

7/26/2007 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

My understaning is that Christoph Buechel is making a conceptual piont by causing this fiasco. It seems disingenuous to complain about his bad behavior - its like complaining that Lindsay Lohan is making a spectacle of herself.

Indeed.

Speaking of editing - I wish Jeremy had edited himself to the Cyclone instead. I hope I die on that hting. The other day I was at the Siren Snoozefestival watching crowds of revelers mourn Jeremy when I spotted a dude carrying a big wooden penis sculpture. People mourn in weird ways I guess.

Are you as mad as I am? It makes me almost madder that Lindsay Lohan was totally high but she couldn't come over to my apartment and give me some, what a hog.

This suprises me even more because my writing ability is pretty good, and I'm pretty entertaining and insitefull.

I didn't even get a degree in blogging much less a doctorate, and here I am talking some heavy stuff with some heavy hitters of art world sack. Its pretty awesome.

If you are mourning or or if you got caught in a lie, orif you just got fired for funneling millions into your personal pleasure, or even if you are just bored and wondering what its liek to love yourself more than anyone in the world, ask yourself, what can you do for me that might make you feel better?

7/26/2007 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Cooky Blaha said...

I saw documenta;the curating concept was almost nil but all in all a worthwhile show. I even cried watching a video.bye

7/26/2007 11:48:00 PM  
Anonymous lisa ruyter said...

I met Buergel and Noack briefly before i knew that they were doing Documenta, and they clearly presented themselves as partners in their work, in their curating vision. I would say that their concept of partnership was even more clear to me than the specifics of their curatorial ideas for example. They have done a number of shows collaboratively, and many people are aware of this, which is probably why no one questioned it. In appointing him, they were likely expecting to get her as well. I like hearing them talk, they each have a unique personality in their speaking manner, and yet they really do come off as of the same mindset.

7/27/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I feel really bad about what's happened to Lindsay Lohan. My daughter took a video (actual VHS!) out of the library the other day. It was Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen.

"Lindsay Lohan, my favorite!" crowed my eight-year-old.

So I think it's very sad where she's gone. Lindsay may yet turn it around -- Drew Barrymore pulled out of her dive, after all. She's young; there's time.

I've become increasingly disturbed by our culture's apparent need to build people up and then tear them back down. Look what happened to Mel Gibson. Why do we all enjoy watching them get destroyed, after we made them what they are?

Meanwhile the truly rich and powerful keep on truckin'. Most Americans don't even know the names of the true elite. Here we are, all aghast at the scandals in the fucking art world, while holocausts rage around us.

We're not even rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic; we're standing around discussing possible rearrangements.

7/27/2007 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous -j. said...

Here we are, all aghast at the scandals in the fucking art world, while holocausts rage around us.

On the day that AP reports are breaking medical details of Tillman's death--3 gunshots to the forehead from an M-16 at what is technically point blank range (within 10 yards more specifically)--it's pretty hard to take any of the above scandals seriously.

One man is not a holocaust by any means. But something sure stinks on this one...

7/27/2007 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

j sez:
One man is not a holocaust by any means.

All holocausts spread one person at a time.

7/27/2007 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who is tillman?

7/28/2007 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Anonymous: Tillman is Pat Tillman. He was a well-known American football player who famously signed up to go to Afghanistan and kick some butt for America. He was killed in action and the U.S. government released all these details about his heroic Rambo-like death, taking hundreds of bad guys with him and so forth, which turned out to be entirely fictional. It looks now like they were covering up the fact that Tillman was killed by friendly fire.

Wikipedia, for what it's worth, has a summary.

7/28/2007 12:34:00 AM  
Anonymous amory blaine said...

I have it on good authority that Büchel's quagmire in North Adams is not a deliberate gesture. It is the result of some bad management and working without an explicit contract. That the tables have been turned to make Mass MoCA to be some huge monster is a disappointment, when they should only be chided for trying to make the best of a bad situation, badly.

What I want to know is where is Michelle Maccarrone in all this? Despite her apparent financial woes, isn't she able to corral the $400K to see this work to completion? Let's remember, folks, that this man has already run through roughly half of MoCA's yearly budget on an installation that is roughly half-finished.

7/28/2007 03:47:00 AM  
Blogger Pedro Velez said...

you know what's a scandal? that most artist can't afford to visit all these biennials and art fairs...how come we always get the short side of the stick?

7/28/2007 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

???

Amory Blaine? what? less than two hours before you posted the above comment, i was reading all of your old Triple Candie stuff (via anaba), and wondering what you thought about the Buchel thing.

swear to god.

7/28/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

clarification: i should say via anaba's link to joy garnett's post, which excerpts from and links to your comments on winkleman and moody.

7/28/2007 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mamoru Kobayakawa said...

medium is the message... art isn't isn't art...anymore. Humans can be so vain. It is good that blogs are here to remind us of this.

7/29/2007 10:56:00 PM  

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