Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Christian Uncensored

As artists know perhaps better than anyone in the art world, until you have power in this business there are times when it's perhaps wise to keep some (if not most) of your opinions to yourself. That wisdom applies to curators and collectors in some contexts as well, and boy-oh-boy does it apply to gallerists. And while I like to tell myself this is just a smart business strategy (i.e., be as nice to everyone as you can and it will improve your standing), the truth is sometimes I don't say something out of fear of retribution, even when I really believe it. No biggie...that's how most industries operate.

The exception to that rule in the art world, though, are the critics. They not only have a license to speak their minds freely. It's their job.

Now I'll confess to love gossiping with most critics I know (that particular passion of mine is not listed in the top banner of this blog because I'm adverse to it). But when I do, I'll generally monitor how I present my thoughts (I have a few close friends who are critics who get my thoughts unfiltered, but...). Because I know I monitor what I say to most critics though, I'm guessing many other gallerists do as well. Therefore, I assume that even the most informed critics out there may not see the business from the vantage point of the person who, because it's their job to try to please everyone, gets a daily, up-close view of the grittiest side of how the sausage is made, as they say. That person of course is the art dealer.
All of which is my long-winded way of saying that if you want the truly unfiltered insider's view of the art world, sit down next to a former art dealer, who no longer has to worry about retribution. Or, better yet, wait until one becomes a person whose job it is to speak their mind freely.

Someone like the Village Voice's Christian Viveros-Fauné.

If you haven't been reading his articles and reviews since he starting writing there, you're missing some of the most fiery (and truly well-informed) opinions out there. Here's a snippet:

So, in my previous life as an art dealer, I learned a few things. First, always pretend that you live on the sunny side of the street (even if it's raining tax audits and razor blades). Second, it's always possible to raise the price of an object, but not lower it. And third—but by no means last—in the art world, it's correct to curve age down. It drives collectors nuts, among other things, to know that their artists are old enough to be lawyers and gastroenterologists.

In the art world, youth is a prize (price?) commodity. No surprise here. After all, why should the art world be different from the music and the film businesses? As things spiral upward in a bullish economy, collectors, curators, artists, and dealers think they've earned the right to create their own Britneys and Justin Timberlakes.
I've known Christian for years, and I've always thought of him as someone I can count on to level with me about how things are, but I'm very impressed with the manner in which he's sharing the insights gained while a gallerist.

Don't get me wrong, it's not all fire and brimstone. Christian is a true aesthete and talking with him about art can get you high as well as make you laugh your ass off. And he loves the people in the art world as much as most of us adore him. In case you missed it (folks linked to it across the blogosphere), here's a passage from the
gorgeous profile he wrote on The New Yorker's (if not the nation's) King of art criticism, Peter Schjeldahl:

A writer whose reviews have, on occasion, been scathing enough to peel the bark off a tree, Schjeldahl is a critic best known for his enthusiasms. A carrier of a sharply calibrated style of compression—"two ideas per sentence," he has said—Schjeldahl's writing acquires special probity when it turns to subjects dear to his heart. A Velázquez portrait ("The textures are an express elevator to heaven"), Cindy Sherman's photographs ("This is photography as one-frame moviemaking"), fireworks ("an everlasting miracle of human invention")—these and other favorite things are capable of moving him to some of the highest expressions of pleasure on record. Self-exposures as much as pointed raves, Schjeldahl's staunchly intelligible passions constitute the most immediate, articulate, unapologetically delightful takes on contemporary art we have.
OK, so I've made a fundamental writing mistake here. I started off praising one critic and then segued into his praise of another, leaving myself no easy transition back into the first except for this pathetic attempt at distracting you for a moment. You distracted??? OK.

Do yourself a favor and add Christian to your regular arts readings if you're not already an addict. He's as generous and in awe of great art as he is insightful and ready to tell you how it really is.

Full Disclosure: Christian and I got roaring drunk recently and spilled our guts onto a tape recorder for an article that someone had asked us to write. If the editors decide they can actually publish it (i.e., if it's at all comprehensible), I'll be sure to let you know.

Labels: art criticism, Christian Viveros-Fauné


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a jewel....

9/26/2007 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous bambino said...

And I have tape recorder, will put on auction soon :)

9/26/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

g-dammit, Bambino!

give me back that tape recorder!!!


9/26/2007 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Christian writes:
...the narcissism, however youthful, of believing you've invented the method for segmenting Wonder Bread.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

Thanks, Ed, for giving me one more thing to read.

9/26/2007 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger ryan said...

thanks for the tip, ed. i haven't picked up a copy of the village voice since jerry saltz left.

9/26/2007 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Jerry Saltz left? Wow, the world has changed.

>>In the art world, youth is a prize >>(price?) commodity. No surprise >>here. After all, why should the art >>>world be different from the music
>>>and the film businesses?

I think the reason why many exhibits bore me in my recent visit in Chelsea was exactly that:
too many gallerists are pushing new artists. Where has everyone gone?

If I was making art I think the last collector I would want if someone looking at people's ages. There must be a type of art these people won't buy? I was just reading recently that Sol Lewitt started making his art at 37.

I think this idea that people should be young to make art is ridiculous, and in fact, visual arts being more of an intellectually demanding medium than the usual light cinema and music, I would find natural, or even wiser, that people would start older in this field.

Musicwise, it's only been since the invention of pop-rock (the 60's) that artists started quitting in their 30's. Before, composers were still writting hits in their 70's.

And cinema has been a medium of the young merely since the late 80's.
Many of the older cineasts started past their early 30's.

Who died this year?
Ah yes: Ingmar Bergman started in film 2 years before 30 but his major films (the ones he is known for) started being made since he was almost 40.

Antonioni definitely started making films in his 30's.

It is possible that there is a lot of people in the fashion business in New York that have their say on how the artworld should function, but it's dangerous when people, journalists, gallerists, are pushing up these ideas and myths.
I think you're all exaggerating and probably are the reason why art suck much in the galleries these days: people are starting to believe you and the results are disastrous.


Cedric Caspesyan

9/26/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's see, poor and pretentious writing, absolutely NO knowledge about art, and still a shopkeeper at heart.

Yeah he's a real gem.

9/26/2007 06:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

At least he puts his name to his snide comments.

9/26/2007 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How's the Wonder Bread working for you?

9/26/2007 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Just ducky, there, hosehead.

9/26/2007 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

I think its a sad indication of some of the most negative aspects of art world power plays and politics that a young or emerging artist should feel like their best course of action in critical debate is silence. Artists should be openly encouraged to not only express their opinions but to claim those opinions as their own (something that I think is encouraged by blogs such as this one).

I guess I'm a bit of an old-school conceptualist in that I subscribe to the idea that it is part of the artist's responsibility to be intellectually informed and articulate about their area of investigation.

artists who are engaged in a practice of both making work and the related and intertwined activity of reading, writing and thinking about it, have a great deal to offer critical discussion about all aspects of the art world and the thought that they might be self-censoring their contributions to those discussions is a sad one.

the place of the informed artist in critical discussion is a privileged
one not only because of their insiders view of the creative practice but also because they are in a position to offer alternatives to the very tendencies that they might be criticizing. In this sense I agree with the sentiments expressed by Ed in the "playing this system" post (we can create our own vision of how the art-world should function) and would add that
every time an artists puts their work in the public realm their is a implicit critique or acceptance of not only the system that allows their work to be seen but also of the practices of other artists and institutions within that system.

9/26/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the third grade is stressful. Lots of pressure from the tests. Obviously you were the one child left behind.

9/26/2007 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anonymous from 9/26/2007 11:16:00 PM

You are not welcome here. Leave and don't come back.

This is not because of your comment about Christian but because of your treatment of another commenter. It's not acceptable here.

Just go.

9/27/2007 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think its a sad indication of some of the most negative aspects of art world power plays and politics that a young or emerging artist should feel like their best course of action in critical debate is silence. Artists should be openly encouraged to not only express their opinions but to claim those opinions as their own (something that I think is encouraged by blogs such as this one).

I don't disagree. In fact, one of our artists---Jennifer Dalton---is renown for taking on the art world and expressing her opinions about how things work.

I didn't mean to advocate silence in the opening, as much as confess my understanding of it.

9/27/2007 08:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Ben said...

From a career point of view i can understand silence too, but from an intellectual point of view i find it a little maddening.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to commenting on this blog is that nobody here is trying to pick an intellectual fight (or the anonymous ones who are here for comment biffo are rightly put in their place) and the general vibe is toward understanding the other contributors POV. great credit to Ed for this.

Amongst my teachers i always valued above all other things their capacity to manage the dynamics of a group discussion. sometimes this meant encouraging the more timid students so that they felt like their contribution was worthwhile and sometimes it meant telling the loud-mouth to shut up.

while this is a little different in the blogsphere it is no less difficult and Ed you do this very well.

but that's off on a bit of tangent and i guess my point about not trying to pick a fight with your comments is one that I would also apply to speaking you mind more generally in the art-world. If we think about commenting as contributing to a broader discussion in which you're just as happy to have your mind changed as you are to have it made-up, then there should be no adverse consequences of speaking your mind, at least that's the ideal.

9/27/2007 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think you might be on to one of the main attractions to a down turn in the market, actually, Ben. When we've discussed the "art market death watch cheerleaders" here, I've always argued that technically there's nothing you can do when the market is weak that you can't do when it's strong, but I think I was wrong about that. When it's weak (and there really is no money to go around), you can speak your mind more freely without fearing it will hit you in the pocket book.

I'm not sure it's worth it, unless there's some great injustice going on, but it's worth considering all the same, IMO.

9/27/2007 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed: Thanks for asking "anonymous" to leave. Unattributed comments, especially negative ones, are annoying to those of us who think about what we want to say and who usually say it in a way that's meant to further the conversation. I wonder how many other anonymi are still out there waiting to poke holes in the conversation.

Chris: Love the "Hosehead" retort

Bambino: Exactly what is on that tape recorder?

9/27/2007 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I really wanted to call them "assface," which is my new favorite appellation thanks to the Comics Curmudgeon, but I thought Ed wouldn't like that.

They're right, though. I was one of the children left behind and I've never really gotten over it.

9/27/2007 10:19:00 AM  
Anonymous bambino said...

why dont we just ignore "anonymous" comments from now on?
i think because if the person is not brave enough to say their own name, why should even have to bother to respond to their comments?
it's absolutely stupid, screaming in the crowd without standing for own opinions.
i am sooooo sick of those comments.

joanne mattera you would be soooo pleased to find what is in that tape :)

auction starts soon

9/27/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

For a minute, I was wondering if Anonymous meant me or Christian,
because I'm obviously the one with the bad writting skills. ;-)

But knowledge of art...Hmm...Who wants to know that much about art these days when it has become so irrelevant to culture?

Cedric Caspesyan

9/27/2007 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

But, Cedric, art is not irrelevant to the people who make, show, sell, curate, think about, view or write about it. It's a world within a world, but we do have outroads....

P.S. Chris, I like "hosehead" better. It has a Canadian ring to it--you know, exotic.

And Bambino, you may be in possession of the artworld's "Brangelina" material. (Breadward? Edwino?)

9/27/2007 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

"sunny side street" people need to loosen once in a while otherwise they'd go mad. I don't mind the bitch comments. It's the privilege of anonimity that we get access to people's most vile thoughts and I find that interesting.

I certainly prefer anonymous bitch comments to the sort of theatrics depicted in the cartoons recently linked here (That Broad).

Other than that, any people you hear bitch (that would include me), means that their lives haven't exactly been perfection either, so always remember that. Even people with huge success and career can be at the bottom of dark, so don't ever be fooled by surface either.

Cedric Caspesyan

9/27/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>But, Cedric, art is not irrelevant >>to the people who make, show, sell, >>>curate, think about, view or write >>>about it.

Those people are all crazy lunatics.


Cedric Caspesyan

9/27/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger painterdog said...

Here is a thought, all the artist who are under 30 today will be over 30 tomorrow. Soon they will be over 40 and so on. Life is short to think one has less than 10 years to 'make it' is rather silly.

To equate art with pop music is interesting for 15 minutes.

It was John Coltrane's birthday on the 24th and he did not hit his creative zenith until he hit his mid thirties.

Art like poetry and good music remind us of our humanity.
To say this is in the realm of the under 30's is kind absurd and like I said before, we all get older.

9/27/2007 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Collectors who buy only work from the hottest young artists will wind up with a lot of crap from artists who quit as soon as the accolades stop...which they almost always do.

I like Christian, I think he's a good writer, but nothing that he said was earth shattering news to anyone who's been around the art world for more than 5 minutes.

9/27/2007 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

painterdog said:It was John Coltrane's birthday on the 24th and he did not hit his creative zenith until he hit his mid thirties.

I don't think it's accurate to compare musicians, to painters or sculptors, especially since in Coltranes case, he started playing with Dizzy Gillespie when he was 23, and was working professionally as a musician honing his skill, he hooked up with Miles Davis before he was thirty, and at that time already had a great reputation.

Cedric Caspesyan saidAh yes: Ingmar Bergman started in film 2 years before 30 but his major films (the ones he is known for) started being made since he was almost 40

Godard made "Breathless" before he was 30, it was released when he was 30

Spielberg, Jaws released when he was 29

George Lucas "American Grafitti" releaseds when he was 29, he immediate started "Star Wars"

and all of them worked in film, and honed their craft for years before.

I like Christian, I think he's a good writer, but nothing that he said was earth shattering news to anyone who's been around the art world for more than 5 minutes.

But, he gets to say it in a publication that get a wide distribution, and it is refreshing to read what is known.
It's time to tell the Emperor he has no clothes.

9/27/2007 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm pretty sure the Emperor is on YouTube, slapping his white ass in our faces.

9/27/2007 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

i never had any problems stating my opinion in real life. I think its because, like Mark Kostabi I value my craft and have faith in the knowledge that honest work will outlive any flash in the pan sycophant.

My PHD in Art History informs my work - and my undergraduate studies in statistical analysis were instrumental in putting me on the front lines of art and commerce qua commerce.

Currently I'm working on an MBA at Columbia (paid for by me and a small loan from my father to be honest) - I'm told by my friends in the arts community I have what it takes to bring the Guggenheim into the 22nd century in this century, which is pretty exciting because it means any pretention the MOMA has of being a representative of living history will be shot to hell - a footnote to the history that I will humbly help create.

Incidentally, its clear to me that the level of discourse here is not as high as some of the more moneyed art venues (though higher than at the Guggenheim with it's outmoded adherence to the theories of Guy Debord, Walter Benjamin, Jean Baudrillard, and Hakim Bey (If only lip smacking service for the most part).

The more better the contradictions in philosophy and action, the higher the value. Price matters, as I always say. Not because money is valuable in and of itself, but because poker is played with chips and sometimes with cards as well.

Take Gavin Brown for instance. He's taking all his marbles and going to go roll them in the skated community of LA. - New York is over! I always felt welcome at the Passerby - the drinks were reasonably priced and you could usually get a bump if you felt down. If you fell down you could get back up and the floor was always good to look at up close anyways (though a bit cheap - like a hobbyists dream made actuelle - which is what made it art and not a disco floor qua the disco floor.

I mention GB not to inflate his undervalued stock, nor to nepotisticly drop an already well known bread name, but rather to entice others to engage in a piece of conversation about the loss of a great voice for grassroots activism within this, our tightly knit community. Another thread perhaps?

Gentlemen! To your Jets!

9/27/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

i never had any problems stating my opinion in real life.

Does that mean we'd be correct in assuming your real name is actually zipthwung? :-P

9/27/2007 04:56:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

not legally. I dont care, is what I'm saying. But its a brand for those who think bread comes sliced.

9/27/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I think the question, Zippy, is who are you? All those opinions, but no real name.

And, by the way, "gentlemen"???You're omitting some folks here. (Though I'm no lady, I admit.)

9/27/2007 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

welcome to the patriarchy.

I dunno "ladies and gentlemen, to your jets" is cumbersome.

(s)hes to your jets is odious as well.

Womyn to you jets? Not really.

What does knowing my name mean, except in the sense that straw can be gold? Otherwise its about ideas, and thats all that matters, prima mattera.

Axis mundi. animus voibiscum.
I guess the social aspect of the art thing is not really a priority with me qua art(aside from the Passerby as I mentioned - the roaring fireplace was my favorite part - that and the stuffed moose head.)

I'm available for barmitzvas, sweet sixteens and catalog statements.

9/27/2007 05:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Many cineasts started at the edge of 30, many others later, but the point was that in visual arts people want them to start at 20, which is more akin to what you will find in pop music, many bands starting in their early 20's.

This said there is a difference between Jaws, American Graffiti, or I'll dare to say Breathless, and a film made by Bergman in his 40's.

To reach that sort of maturity at a young age is not a given. Maybe Welles (Isn't it from one of his film the sentance "If young knew, if old could?").

And what if you had in possession all the pieces of Richard Serra from when he started, compared to what he does now? With all due respect to Basquiat, this age thing is pretty pointless.


Cedric Caspesyan

9/27/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear! He is playing the system!

Is all clear now!

9/27/2007 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

an anonymous wave

is the best aloha.

9/27/2007 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zip, you are zip.

is all that other stuff true??? don't come out!

your reluctant fan.

9/27/2007 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

believe the story not the teller, I allways say.

as my grandma always said:

"If you can't go big think, red

Chew on this:

Whats the alternative to ego?

"Oge" right? Kind of Warholian.

Which is different than riding the short bus but you get to the same spot according to various spiritual teachers, all of whom lived to ripe old age.

Have some hookah.

9/27/2007 08:35:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

And what if you had in possession all the pieces of Richard Serra from when he started, compared to what he does now?

I'd take an early Serra any day over what he is doing now.
They had far more depth, and warmth, they would have been the best pieces at MoMA this summer if they were allowed out of the stables and allowed to roam free.

this age thing is pretty pointless

That is what I was going for. some hit it when they are young, some when they are old,
In the case of Frank Loyd Wright, both.

9/27/2007 09:36:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

I don't think it's accurate to compare musicians, to painters or sculptors, especially since in Coltrane's case

Why not? When Coltrane was with Dizzy he was not fully formed as a musician. He was good but kind of average. He was 29 when he started with Miles. When he joined Monk that was when things really started to happen.

Why do artist have to be judged on some different level to other creative areas.

I mention jazz as it is also an area that put a lot of hype into young players.

Roy Haynes is what in his 80's and he can out play most drummers young enough to be his great grandchild.

9/27/2007 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Monk was only a few years later, so 31, which is young or old, according to Christian that's young, the oldest young artist he mentions is
35, mid thirties you used that in a context of Coltrane being mature,I describe this in a comment on the Büchel---Mass MoCA Summary post

I mention jazz as it is also an area that put a lot of hype into young players.

Young then was equated with new, (take a moment and reminisce about the avant guarde) Pollock at 35 was considered young when he did the drip paintings

I'm not really disagreeing with you it seems to be a different scale is all.
After all jazz is the one true american art form.
but as for musicians in the spoiled brat category you'd have to throw in Mozart. and that's a whole different young

9/28/2007 12:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>>I'd take an early Serra any day >>>>over what he is doing now.
>>>>They had far more depth, and warmth,

You can replicate them easily, much less the new ones. I like the old pieces too but there is something a bit sado-masochist about them. They're silent screams.

>>>they would have been the best >>>>pieces at MoMA this summer if >>>they were allowed out of the >>>>stables and allowed to roam free.

Impossible ! With all the children around? Touching the House Of Card?


Cedric Caspesyan

(in a sense these sculptures are more like living entities, they're intemporal performances, they wouldn't survive an earthquake like a Easter Island head would)

9/29/2007 09:45:00 AM  

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