Monday, April 23, 2007

RISD MFA Photography Thesis Exhibition @ Winkleman Gallery

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to host Yes (to everything), a RISD 2007 MFA Photography Thesis Exhibition. Organized by MFA candidate Cortney Andrews, whose work will be shown along with the photography of candidates Jonathan Cana, Maureen Keaveny, Amy Lovera, Patrick Madigan and Millee Tibbs, the exhibition's title refers to the varied style and approach of these six students as well as the limitless opportunities that may await them upon completion of their degree program. The work in the exhibition ranges in narrative from the mundane to the surreal, from menacing to mechanical, to images of the self, within and without comfort.

"Ranging from luscious color prints to multimedia installations, the diverse work of these artists raises issues and reconfigures traditions of sexuality, topography, technology, fantasy and time passage (just to name a few).

Are things risky? Do we worry? Can we contribute to a larger, more pertinent conversation? Will we be part of the generation that reroutes the direction in which things seem to be heading? - Yes (to everything)". --- Cortney Andrews
For more information, please contact the gallery at 212.643.3152 or info@winkleman.com

Yes (to everything)
Rhode Island School of Design MFA Photography Thesis Exhibition

April 25 to May 5, 2007
Opening Reception: Thursday April 26, 6-8 PM
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), founded in 1877 in Providence, RI, is a community of artists and designers that includes 2,200 students and approximately 350 faculty and curators, and 400 staff members.

Winkleman Gallery
637 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
T: 212.643.3152
F: 212.643.2040
info@winkleman.com
www.winkleman.com

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Friday, April 20, 2007

It's NOT the Art Market

Barely ensconced in his new gig at New York Magazine, art critic Jerry Saltz offers a sizzlin' hot rant against the sillier arguments being bandied about as to what's wrong with the currently sizzlin' hot art market. Not even on the newstands yet (but available online), the article focuses on the "Not for Sale" exhibition up at PS1. From the very first line, Jerry pulls no punches:
"Not for Sale,” the 46-person mishmash at P.S. 1, is a thankfully rare case of “When Bad Ideas Create Passable Shows.” Before we look at this slipshod exhibition, let’s consider the flawed notion that created it. Alanna Heiss, the trailblazing but here totally misguided curator, writes that “Not for Sale” contains only art that can’t be bought. Thus, the exhibition—which will be open for another week—is composed of work that artists either kept or, in a couple of weird cases, sold then bought back. By this curatorial criterion, nearly every artist on earth could be included. Heiss compounds the problem by haughtily stating that the show evinces her “unfortunate allergy” to the marketplace.

I admire Heiss enormously. Having founded P.S. 1 in 1976, she helped invent the alternative-art movement, and has kept its flame alive. But for the director or curator of an institution that relies on the largesse of artists and dealers—who in turn depend on commerce—to claim an “allergy” to the marketplace is not only smug, it’s deluded and hypocritical. This goes double if that curator’s institution, like Heiss’s, is affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art, the very pinnacle of institutional power. As if her organizational premise weren’t thin enough, Heiss’s jokey description of her curatorial process, if you can call it that, is flimsier still. She writes, “I called artists whom I know well and who happened to be at home.” Really, the show should have been called “Journey to the Center of My Rolodex” or “Friends of Alanna.”
Now, I haven't seen the exhibition (and generally worship the ground Ms. Heiss walks on for all she's done for art in New York), and I don't mind saying I appreciate that someone somewhere is brave enough to stand up to the power players calling the shots in this age of art fair feeding frenzies and sold out exhibitions of MFA student work, but I have an allergy of my own that I've noted time and again here, which is one against using art to make poorly thought-out political statements (again, I have not seen this exhibition...my opinions here are in response to its theme). My biggest beef with such efforts is, as I noted a while back: "[A]rtwork [or exhibitions] built around a naive POV but offered up as if it had been handed down on tablets from God. What this leads to often are laughable cartoons, easily (and rightly) dismissed as shallow....]. Jerry nailed the essence of why such exhibitions fail:
The market is an issue that needs examining. The feeding frenzy of the current moment is so invasive and pervasive, it’s hard to say how it eventually will have changed the ways art is presented, perceived, and produced. Is the market creating a competitive environment that is compelling artists to make good work, or is it mainly helping to foster more product? Is it a money-addled popularity contest based on greed, good luck, and connections, or is it simply allowing more artists to make money from their art without having to take full-time jobs? None of these issues are addressed in “Not for Sale.” Instead, Heiss kidnaps this important idea, then fails to develop it. Her purported allergy has become little more than bait.

Also, as Jerry notes, anyone who's done as many important exhibitions as Heiss has is entitled to a few clunkers, but if, as it seems, she's singling out the market as some demon, as opposed to simply a factor that deserves honest, objective examination, like many others, this show is not serving anyone. It creates an air of moral superiority, but ultimately does nothing to solve the important issues at hand. There's a back story passage on Saltz's review (which I'm not sure whether he wrote or not) that offers a very smart observation by Gerhard Richter:

“The much-maligned ‘art scene’ of the present day,” he wrote, “is perfectly harmless and even pleasant, if you don’t judge it in terms of false expectations. It has nothing to do with those traditional values that we hold high (or that hold us high). It has virtually nothing whatever to do with art. That’s why the ‘art scene’ is neither base, cynical, nor mindless: it is a scene of brief blossoming and busy growth, just one variation on the never-ending round of social game-playing that satisfies our need for communication, alongside such others as sport, fashion, stamp-collecting and cat-breeding. Art takes shape in spite of it all, rarely and always unexpectedly; art is never feasible.”

Again, I haven't seen this exhibition. My opinions here are meant to be in response to the review and elaborate on earlier ideas shared on the blog, not a critique of this exhibition, per se (can I say that enough times?). Perhaps a smart show about the current art market would require too much analysis (a CPA and a hedge fund manager might have to curate it) to be visually interesting or pleasing, but that's not a license to simply say "it's bad" and not prove it or offer any interesting insight into what makes is so. An exhibition doesn't have to be a thesis statement, but by not illuminating anything important about its subject, it's disposable.

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Chicago Here We Come

Blogging might be light next week (not sure yet, depends on a host of factors) as Bambino and I head to the Windy City for Art Chicago (although it looks like the weather is turning more Spring-like there...yeah!!!). We'll be camped out in booth 7-1115 (the fair is massive), and featuring work by Jennifer Dalton, Kim Rugg, Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev, Christopher Lowry Johnson, Thomas Lendvai, and Carlos Motta. Hope to see you there!

Here's a schedule:

Dates and Hours

Thursday, April 26
Opening Night Preview + VIP Sneak Peek
5–9 p.m, $100
To RSVP, call 773-472-8493

Friday, April 27
11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Saturday, April 28
11 a.m.–7 p.m.

Sunday, April 29
11 a.m.–6 p.m.

Monday, April 30
11 a.m.–6 p.m.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Christopher Lowry Johnson Review in TimeOut New York

I don't mind saying that I so adore the work of Christopher Lowry Johnson that to see a review like the one in the current issue of TimeOut New York, a review by a critic who so totally gets what he's doing, makes me want to weep. [UPDATE: Ok, so perhaps not "weep"...I wrote that after a greulling day and a few cocktails, but still...it makes me happy to the point of tearing up.] I have known the writer Jane Harris for years and always admired her intellect and ability to see the essence of an artist's work, but my hat is off to her this evening for the gorgeously poetic read of Chris's current exhibition. So much so that I'll overlook the fact that they misspelled my name, twice, both times in a different way.

As Barry Hoggard notes on bloggy.com, you can't see these paintings in jpegs. In fact, they're so very slow it takes a good deal of time to really see them at all, but like no other paintings I've seen by a contemporary artist, these ones slowly, but surely, break my heart. Then again, what would you expect me to say. From TimeOut New York:


Dominated by tones of cool blue and icy white, Christopher Lowry Johnson’s paintings offer a somber update of the 19th-century Hudson River School. Half imagined and half real, Johnson’s subjects—isolated pine-tree groves, the craggy rock faces of Mount Rushmore, a riverbed of pebbles-cum-skulls—evoke the contemplative, allegorical paintings of Thomas Cole and his followers. But however romantic Johnson’s painterly style may appear, his scenes are anything but Edenic. The depopulated landscapes convey willful human abandon rather than untouched wilderness and are subtly entangled with contemporary issues of war and environmental disaster.

In the show’s most affecting work, Pines No. 5, Johnson portrays an awkward formation of evergreens, each decked out in Christmas tree lights, boughs heavy with dollops of snow. Softly advancing on the scruffy white ground under a gray-blue haze of twilight, these sad yet beautiful trees suggest an army of soldiers, bravely (or perhaps unwittingly) awaiting their demise.

The tension between order and chaos is a major theme in Johnson’s work, as evidenced by Chorus, a painting that transforms the iconic monument of Mount Rushmore into a meaningless ruin. The image reads like an emblem of fallen power: Faces fade and crumble in a valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains rendered in a gorgeous, Cezanne-like geometry of fractured planes.

While Johnson’s paintings are clearly a commentary on the state (and fate) of our current government, their criticism is distant. There is no indictment here, just a chorus of despair. — Jane Harris
Chris's exhibition runs through this Saturday, April 21, 2007.

UPDATE II: OK, so the accolades are rolling in now, it seems. This incrediblly thoughtful review by James Wagner was just posted as well. Here's a snippet:

I recently walked into the space at the end of a long afternoon of gallery visits and sat down on the bench in the middle [yes, a bench in a gallery - a bench, how extraordinary, and how helpful for both visitor and art!]. I stared at the large, very white-ish, canvas across from me, expecting to work with it only as a beautiful, complex abstraction. I had been immediately attracted to its drama and beauty as I walked in, before I knew anything or saw very much, but then something happened. As I sat looking at this canvas its impenetrable layers of oil opened a wonderful, very grand window on images both abstract and concrete, a world undetectable at first or even second glance.

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Grand and Grandeur: Part II (Antiquities Made Fresh)

Picking up on the impressionistic tour of the New Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum from yesterday, those of you still reading will now be subjected to my terrible photo-taking skills.

Of all the wondrous characters and stories from antiquity to choose from, I'm still most passionate about the life and conquests of Alexander the Great. Perhaps it's the widely held notion that he was homosexual that most captures my interest (smashing the stereotypes), but I think it's more the singular determination and focus he exhibited. He simply would not stop until all the known world was his. It's been what?, more than 2300 years since his death, and still he captivates our imagination, this paradoxical conqueror, tutored by Aristotle and passionate about the arts and philosophy, yet a ruthless warrior and drunken murderer. He embodied much of what was right and more than a little of what was wrong about mankind 2 millennia ago. This crown comes from Alexander's time. There's no indication he wore it (and if I remember correctly it's dated to slightly after his death), but the mere fact that it's survived since then and symbolizes the aesthetics he helped spread from Europe to India made happening upon it particularly pleasant for me (for all images, click to see larger):



Of course, coming from less than aristocratic stock, I can't help when contemplating Alexander to think of all the thousands of soldiers (on both sides) who died in his battles for whom history has no name to record. Many of the pieces in the Met's collection permit for the association of wartime glory, but without a easily ready name to associate. This helmet, for example, was simply marvelous, but I can't pin a known warrior to the style (and here I must apologize for taking terrible notes during my visit...I'm a criminally bad journalist, it's in the Etruscan mezzanine where the chariot resides [late Villanovan period, I'm gonna venture...because that's what the half visible wall label says]). Let's just say that this symbolized for me the fallen unknown. Besides, it's ponderous enough on its own. It doesn't really need a narrative (sorry about the glare):



Speaking of narratives, does anyone else feel they should bring that tattered copy of Edith Hamilton's Mythology you still have from high school with you while commuting to the Met, to quickly brush up on the defining accoutrement of the characters you can't remember? Invariably I'll overhear someone, usually with an Italian accent, identify some obscure god/ess from the way his/her hair is styled in their marble likeness. As if.

Hercules, is a bit easier, I'll admit. Here's the hero in his younger days (they've somewhat cruelly placed him opposite his older self in the court...
seen here):



And if I had to guess (because like there was a pop quiz or I was on Jeopardy and it was the final question or something), I'd probably say this next fellow was Bacchus (and, yes, I was right there and read the label, but...memory loss is like the first sign, no?):



Again, the work is sublime, so it's not necessary to know who it is to appreciate it, but if anyone knows for sure (and it might be simply a regional tax collector), please do share.

OK, I think that's enough. There are over 5,300 works on display in the galleries now, and I could babble on about each to your intense dismay, but I have to pack for Chicago, and you can read much more informed commentary in these recent articles on the galleries until you get there yourself (
NYTimes, Time blog, The Art Newspaper, New York Magazine).

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Grand and Grandeur: Part I

Where to begin?

The new Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum are grand. What a treasure trove. What an encyclopedic collection. What can I possibly say that might do them justice? Seriously.

As I walked around like a kid in a candy shop at the press preview yesterday (yes, the Met graciously invited me, the blogger, to the press preview [and I thank them]), I was initially overwhelmed. My eyes darting left and right, up and down. Argghhh! Where to begin? How do I most efficiently spend the precious few hours I have to absorb what they've accomplished in this renovation? There was too much on display.

Actually, that was my first reaction: there was too much on display. All the promotional materials I'd seen up to this point featured single pieces, one peeking out from a row of columns, suggesting a much more sparse installation than viewers will find. I couldn't focus. So I did what I always do when I'm overwhelmed: I sought an anchor. If I can only find the Estruscan chariot, I thought, I can calm down and take it more slowly. But it wasn't easy to locate. Eventually, after visting every gallery on the first floor, I realized it must be on the new mezzanine and made my way up there.



Finally, I found it, the 6th Century BC, newly restored, bronze and ivory stunner. In a word, the chariot is spectacular. My lousy snapshot doesn't do it justice, but that's OK, you really have to see it for yourself. It took my breath away and did the trick. I calmed down.

Making my way forward, though, I encountered the Greek and Roman Study Collection, which I have to confess having flown through. It's an impressive collection of over 3,400 objects (covering prehistoric Greece through late Roman), but so abundant they opted not to label each piece. Rather there are interactive wall monitors whereby you can find your object's label. I'm not so sure the back-and-forth of that wouldn't get tiring after a while, but the software is impressive:



Still, I wasn't ready to surrender my new-found focus and decided to press on. Down stairs again, in the Hellenistic Treasury (or was it upstairs in the Special Exhibitions gallery? I can't remember now) were these examples of spectacular arm bling:


Image from Met's press kit: Pair of armbands with triton and tritoness holding Erotes. Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 200 B.C. Gold, triton: h. 5-3/4 in. (14.6 cm), tritoness: 6-1/4 in. (15.9 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1956 (56.11.5, .6) cat. # 229. Click image to see larger.

They set me back on track and the rest of the time I was in the groove, moving from jaw-dropper to jaw-dropper, loving every moment of it. The center of this new renovation is the truly, er, august Leon Levy and Shelby White Court. From its gorgeous marble floors to the two-story atrium, to the natural light that floods the court, it's pitch perfect. Again, there's lots to see there, but if you don't try to take it all in at once, as I first did, you'll find plenty of space to be awed. Here's a shot of the court from the mezzanine:



That's all the time we have for today, I'm afraid. We'll pick up where we left off tomorrow.

UPDATE: Oh no...I almost forgot The Quiz. Personally, I'm only now getting over being utterly hopeless at distinguishing between Greek sculpture and the Roman ones and/or copies (and let's face it, it's not always possible for mere mortals), but there is a perfect installation for testing your own perceptions in the new galleries. I apologize for doing with with such a lousy photo (but given that there's no cash prize for winning [just a toast in the gallery if you stop in], I won't sweat it), but can you identify the origin (Greek or Roman) of the following:



OK, so it's impossible from this photo, but at least, when visiting yourself, take advantage of this row of heads to test your own theories on the differences.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

London: Art Marketing Capital of the World

The story of US art patrons being wined and dined by foreign museums (all toward donations, that they claim as US tax deductions, don't you know) has more than enough sidebar issues to fill 6 posts, but I'll highlight one that deals with an issue we discussed here a while back. Before I get to that, though, the other issues are being discussed at The Art Newspaper, CultureGrrl, and Modern Art Notes, where Tyler Green offers an eloquent, even patriotic, defense of the practice, and offers us this gem:
Surely the writers who argue that Americans should not receive tax deductions for giving to a charity in The Hague (say, the Mauritshuis) must believe that Americans should not receive tax deductions for gifts given to victimes after the 2004 tsunami?
I agree with Tyler on that issue (I see no reason tax deductions to charities should be limited to where those funds/items eventually end up...that would make contributions to Doctors Without Borders nondeductible, for example, and that would be a very bad thing, IMO).

But there's another part of this story that relates to
the discussion we had a while back about whether London is witnessing the dawning of a new era in contemporary art. In the comments, I noted that I don't see a difference in the art being made there, but rather:

I see an investment to simply market the art better. Perhaps half the battle is simply getting folks in to see the art and perhaps London's doing that better than other cities.
And one part of this story seems to support that. From the Art Newspaper:

Tate’s US fund-raising organisation is offering its members the opportunity to attend a reception hosted by Tony and Cherie Blair at 10 Downing Street.

Supporters of Tate who spend at least $25,000 booking tables at a gala dinner in New York on 8 May are being invited to have drinks with the British Prime Minister and his wife in London on 16 June. This presupposes that Mr Blair will not have left office by then. [...] As well as private drinks with the British Prime Minister, Tate patrons who spend $25,000+ booking places at the May dinner are also being offered a group portrait by Annie Leibovitz, the Vanity Fair magazine photographer.
Why this is alarming US museums was spelled out by Guggenheim Director Lisa Dennison at a recent panel discussion organized by the ADAA (where Tate director, Sir Nicholas Serota, just happened to attend):

Speaking at the panel she said: “There’s a new phenomenon ... which is the American Friends of…Tate, the Centre Pompidou, the Hermitage Museum. Now if you join the American Friends of the Tate you get to go to drinks at Tony Blair’s house. You get to have your picture taken by Annie Liebovitz. And you get to keep it. These are compelling, compelling incentives that speak not of true philanthropy, but of “give us some money, give us some art” and we are going to give you something back that’s really really enticing. I know this because my board members come to me in deep conflict, ‘I want to be part of this group, I want to be a friend to the Tate, to the Centre Pompidou, to the Hermitage, to the Pushkin.’ I’m sure it will be any number of other museums next. What’s a poor American museum director to do.”

Tate director, Sir Nicholas Serota, responded: “Lisa, I’m flattered you feel so threatened by an institution that has a fraction of your resources.”
Making this all the more simple for me is this fact:

The American Patrons of Tate was set up in New York in 1999. To date it has raised some $45.6m for the London gallery. According to Mr [Richard] Hamilton [director of the American Patrons of Tate], around $10m of this has been used for the purchase of contemporary art by US artists. [...] “Most of the art we buy is from American dealers so we’re giving back to the community and that’s really important to us,” says Mr Hamilton. [emphasis mine]
OK, so this perhaps explains why among those attending the $50,000 a table benefit are art dealers Larry Gagosian and Arne Glimcher, but in general, any organization that's spending almost one-quarter of its funds to bring American art to Europe is GOOD for American art.

But back to the marketing. Think about what the Tate has done. By using its connections and creativity (and not all that much money relatively speaking), it has enticed Guggenheim board members to consider joining its US patrons organization. That, my friends, is some miraculous marketing. And the saddest part of this is that the Guggenheim has more resources than the Tate and should be easily able to offer enticements that dwarf the Tate's. Of course, there is one small problem, currently at least, as Dennison pointed out:
“What could we tell our supporters in comparison? You’re going to go to the White House and have lunch with Laura Bush?”
This too shall pass.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grumpy and Sleepy and at Least Three Other Dwarfs

It's cold and rainy in NYC today, and I somehow hurt my back a few days back, so I've been nice and extra crispy grumpy lately. I sat down to blog, scanning the papers and websites for an idea, and yet for each topic I came across my first response was a bitter, cynical one. I hate to blog bitter...it ends up being a crappy post, it turns the readers away, and everyone has enough of that in their lives already, without having to wade through someone else's stuff...so I figured, I'd find something online to help cheer me up.

I googled a term that I figured would return some good vibes or at least some pleasant distractions. You'll understand in a moment why I don't tell you which term. I clicked on the first link, which was a blog about cute kittens and such, with an author who seemed to have an ideal life based on her profile (smiling picture of a happy housewife who noted she had a fine husband, two kids, fulfilling hobbies, etc.), and I thought, OK, so this is a bit sappy, but keep reading...it might do you some good.

I went to scroll down a bit and BOOM ... up came this diabolical pop-up that I couldn't close via the X corner and couldn't get out of the page. I rebooted, rather than click "OK" assuming that would unleash some hellish virus onto my computer. For all I know it already did. I'll be running my virus checking in a moment. Then again, it might have just been a common computer failure of some sort.

But, it doesn't matter. It did the trick. It made me laugh to think some evil bastard might hide a virus within a blog about feeling good.

Other than that, I don't have any ideas on what to blog about today, so I'll turn the keyboard over to y'all...what's on your minds?

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Screw the Code


The first question that popped into my mind, revealing how utterly jaded and suspect I am of the so-called MSM (mainstream media), was why on earth was this a front-page story for The New York Times? Do they think, as I do, that this idea will lead the blogosphere to implode, and that makes them all giddy and anxious? Seriously...why on earth, with wars and tsunamis and political corruption as far as the eye can see, does the NYT devote front-page space to a far-from-widely-accepted desire to police the blogosphere?

Here's what I'm talking about:

The conversational free-for-all on the Internet known as the blogosphere can be a prickly and unpleasant place. Now, a few high-profile figures in high-tech are proposing a blogger code of conduct to clean up the quality of online discourse.

Last week,
Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.
I nearly threw up on my paper.

The last thing the blogosphere (the entity I credit as single-handedly having kept me this side of an institution during the past 6 years of political insanity) needs is to have some ill-conceived ethical hierarchy forced upon it. Nannicize anything else you like, but PLEASE, leave the fucking blogosphere alone.

The rationale behind this call for virtual white gloves and petticoats and nosegays stems, from what I can tell, from a group of one blogger's friends coming to her rescue to protect her from some cyber-bullying (and if I'm wrong, it hardly matters). From
O'Reilly's site:
I was quoted in a BBC article a few days ago and a San Francisco Chronicle article on Thursday calling for a "Blogger's Code of Conduct" in response to the firestorm that has arisen as a result of Kathy Sierra's revelation that she's been targeted by a series of increasingly violent and disturbing anonymous comments on her blog and on a series of weblogs that appeared to have been created for the purpose of celebrating cyber-bullying.
Now I've blogged in all kinds of virtual environments, from those with "posting rules" to those where I actually got so angry one time I challenged the little punk to meet me in Manhattan and "say that to my face." But I've never, for even a moment, thought free speech was so potentially painful that it required a standardized code of ethics, essentially homogenizing the blogosphere. Screw that. Let each blogger decide what tone they want in their space and use the tools they have to deal with those who step outside their comfort zone, sure...I'm all for that, but the idea that one would be deemed a renegade of sorts for not agreeing to self-police to some utterly retarded set of lame-ass wimpified rules drives me over the edge.

Look at just one of the suggested guidelines:

* Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person.
That is moronic. Forget that in person I'm a much more volatile hothead than I tend to be online, where I can edit my comments, unlike in person, where things that get me into trouble sneak out of my mouth all the time. The entire concept of pseudonymous comments facilitates saying things online one wouldn't feel free to say in person. That, in and of itself, is why I think the blogosphere is so valuable, why I believe (and I don't think this is hyperbole) that it has saved our very way of life. In the darkest hours of Patriot Act America, the blogosphere allowed people across the country and across the globe to find other voices as horrified as they were by the abuses of the current administration...to fight back, in real-time, as they systematically worked to strip away any platform for dissent and solidify their permanence in power. I absolutely refuse to water that down.

What's particularly disappointing about this call for a code is that it is a self-inflicted nannification than even the Supreme Court, that bastion of bleeding-edge liberalism, feels is not good for the country:

June 26th of this year will mark the 10th anniversary of the ACLU vs. Reno decision in the supreme court, which struck down the communication decency act and extended first amendment protection to the Internet:

The record demonstrates that the growth of the Internet has been and continues to be phenomenal. As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship.
When bloggers start heading to the right of SCOTUS on such issues, they really need to step away from the keyboard and get outside for a while.

Now none of this is to say I welcome abusive comments against other commenters here or wish to see four-letter words littered throughout every thread, nor do I encourage pseudonymous swipes at me or others. I have my own standards, and I work to enforce them. But they are MY choices, and I don't want to be associated with other blogs through some coordinated ranking system because of them. The blogosphere is positively fabulous the way it is. Leave it alone!

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Exhibition Audio Guides

I've never given it much thought, because I've never rented one, but a section in an essay by Robert Storr recently convinced me that audio guides designed to supplement viewing an exhibition, regardless of how well produced, actually do the viewer more harm than good with regards to the experience available. The essay is the first in a collection commissioned by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, titled "Questions of Practice: What Makes a Great Exhibition?," and it introduced me to a term I had not yet encountered: the "exhibition-maker," as opposed to "curator" whose primary concern Storr describes as "the care or preservation of art." But the idea therein that truly captured my attention was this:

[A]udio guides have become the bane of exhibitions by unfairly competing for the attention of the viewer by piping words into their ears when they should be using their eyes. [...] Moreover, inasmuch as audio guides function by directing the listener to duly marked "key" works in a gallery, they cause crowds in front of these works, making it impossible to examine them in any careful or sustained way. Worse, they spur the crowd to skip everything in between. No compelling sequence of works can overcome this herding effect, which means that there is little chance that the viewer can "read" the installation as an ensemble of discoveries, the positioning and pacing of which inform each other and instruct the viewer by example in how to "read" the whole of the exhibition.
Storr goes on to acknowledge that he has been involved in creating such guides and that, within the context he described above, some are clearly much better than others, but he offered, for me (being obsessed as I am with the dialog about art between the viewer and the artist via the work, as well as the dialog among viewers themselves), the most damning aspect of their use:

[T]he audible whispering of such guides substitutes itself for conversation and arguments among viewers, and the taped voice of authority---whether art expert or mellifluous actor---drowns out the voice in the viewer's head that struggles to articulate its own ideas and feelings.
He notes in further explanation of his position on this something I've felt explains why video is perhaps the most un-ignorable medium of our time (which is a whole other thread, I realize):

The combination of sound and moving images upstages every other kind of image
And he finishes his thoughts on this topic with a summary that well states a position we've hashed out on this blog repeatedly:

Experience is, in fact, the subject of art and establishes the subjecthood of the viewer. Anything that supplants it, regardless of how valuable in its own right, or how well-intentioned on the part of the provider, is, ultimately, art's nemesis.
Storr notes that he doesn't expect his making of this case to end the practice of audio guides, and, again, as I've never rented one, I can't add anecdote to his rationale in my support of his stance, but I wholeheartedly agree that anything that interferes that much with the experience a viewer would have had on their own (and, yes, that applies to the insufferably pedantic co-viewer you're unfortunate enough to be with at any given exhibition) is to be avoided. I know this implies some purity of experience (i.e., left to their own devices, each viewer will have some pure epiphany of sorts or whatever) and clearly that's got its own problems as a position, but given that the ultimate experience any viewer can hope for at an exhibition is undoubtedly an individualistic one, a chance aggregate of their own unique collection of experiences with the vision of the artist, forces that deprive the viewer of the potential of that by inserting their own preferences and priorities into the path the viewer would otherwise take are regrettable.

Having said that, I'm open to opposing viewpoints. Anyone willing to defend the audio guide?


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Art Chicago Reborn

It's no secret that the heartland's premier art fair, Art Chicago, got off to a rather rocky start last year. And even though the show did go on, there were special projects, and I believe entire booths, that never materialized because of the initial confusion. All of this led many to suspect the next version of the event might even be cancelled...like ancient Rome in flames, it looked as if it was all over for Art Chicago but the fiddling.

Even after the show was sold and the new management deployed some very convincing supporters, in force, to encourage galleries to apply for the 2007 version, most galleries I know remained sceptical. No one wanted to be part of the kind of chaos that had ensued last year.

I can't pinpoint exactly what changed my mind about applying. The enthusiasm of the new director, Tony Karman, was certainly a big part of it. The idea that if, as it increasingly looked, this fresh approach might truly result in the fair rising from the ashes, reborn like a Phoenix, it would be exciting to be there, was part of it as well. The organization at every step of the way was incredibly upbeat, professional, and ultimately convincing.

We were very pleased to learn we had been accepted, but still remained a little nervous. What if they threw a world-class art fair, but nobody came. The proof is in the total experience, and a big part of that is attendance.


But slowly the excitement has begun to grow, and I'm beginning to hear from collectors near and far that they're curious, impressed (the VIP program for this fair is pretty astounding actually), and increasingly excited. Chicago is rolling out a very comprehensive and enticing red carpet, with a city-wide approach that combines a wide spectrum of arts and culture (learn more about this feast of options at the Artropolis website).

We'll have a booth near the cafe (we always manage to be near the food and drink...accident? I don't think so), and three of our artists are featured in a very exciting "Video Arcade" installation curated by Joel Beck of Roebling Hall. Do please stop in if you're attending. And consider coming if you hadn't already. From all indications, you'll want to say you were there the night Chicago was reborn.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

One More Time, With Feeling (seriously)

A while back there was a question in a thread about how an artist got a show with the gallery. I don't discuss specifics about individual artists here, but that question got me to thinking about the reality of the situation, and I figured it's time to revive a few ideas already shared and perhaps dispel a few ideas still floating out there. Also prompting this was an email I received on the topic. It's one of the most charming emails I've gotten asking for advice, but I honestly cannot afford to respond to each such email, so I'll work from it to flesh out my thoughts here:


I write this fully aware that many versions of this letter are sent to you in some variation by other versions of what I am: Artist With Questions. For introducing dialogue, I suppose this is your punishment. I follow with interest the advice you put out and the conversations that follow on your blog and should thank you for extending yourself. Thank you. I think it's generous and rare for the Chelsified to reach out to the art-stricken with their unwieldy ways, gooey hearts, and dirty fingernails. On that note, perhaps you could advise me as to who to approach with my work. I feel fairly gall-ridden and brazen asking this of you (hence the embarrassment of adjectives), but frustration trumps humility finally. I am not asking you to consider me for your gallery, no, rather, I am looking for one of those signs shaped like a finger pointing somewhere, preferably in an appropriate direction. I am a Brooklyn artist having a hard time getting anyone to even look at my work. (I am legion.) So, please look at my portfolio and respond when possible.
Again, charming, but in my opinion this approach neglects to take on the number one most important part of getting a gallery: doing one's homework (oneself). If you want my very best advice for getting a gallery (i.e., if no one is breaking down your studio door to get you to work with them), then here it is:

  1. Do some honest and serious thinking about where your artwork belongs in the art market. You'd be amazed at how many emerging artists think the big galleries that only work with proven sellers would be a good fit for them. Many of those galleries have no interest in developing unknown talent. Approaching them is a waste of your time if you're not already somewhat well known. Beyond that, know exactly where your work falls within the dialog. If you're not making bleeding edge work, then don't approach the galleries known for breaking all the rules. Understand what your potential market is like and find the galleries that target that market. This takes work and research but will pay off your entire career.
  2. Do some serious research to find the program that best fits your artwork within that market. Generally there will be more than one gallery targeting your personal market. One very impressive artist I know spent months visiting galleries after moving to New York looking for this very fit, and gradually narrowed down the programs she felt were inline with her artwork. She chose the right one and has a gallery now. Again: work and research.
  3. Don't make mistakes that will discourage you. You'll encounter enough of that without bringing it on yourself. For example, we had an artist come in with his CD the other day, asking us to look at it, assuring us he was the best artist out there. We asked him, as we always do at that point, if he was familiar with our program. He said "No." We took the CD anyway, just because he insisted, but the work was nothing at all like the art we show. Even if it had been, we already didn't like him (because he didn't take the time to get to know us before asking us to consider him). He wasted his time and money, and our time. More than that he consumed a chunk of our goodwill toward other artists (experience that enough times and you begin to shut down toward the cold call approach). I know another Chelsea gallerist who (at one time) would insist an artist come and view at least three exhibitions in the space before even approaching the subject of considering the artist's own work. It might sound cruel or off-putting, but it's actually very solid advice.
  4. Work toward a short list. And Be Very Honest with yourself. There's no point in doing this if you're not honest about it...if I had a dollar for every artist who told me they thought they belonged in the hottest gallery out there (when they clearly didn't), I'd buy you all a drink (and I mean you ALL). Once you have a short list of galleries that are a good match strike up a conversation with those galleries. You may not gain initial access to the dealers, but in some galleries you can. In these conversation, be generous and insightful. Demonstrate that you understand what the gallery is doing and that you like it. Do all of this before you broach the subject of your own work. Consider doing it and leaving it at that for a while. Seriously (this goes back to being generous...let that be the impression you leave). You're looking for a short cut through the defenses the gallery puts up to screen out artists who don't understand the gallery's program. Demonstrate that you do. That might mean offering an insightful comment about the current exhibition or asking about an artist in the program you like. As I've noted before, if you can't honestly say something positive about the current show or other artists in the gallery, this is most definitely NOT the gallery for you.
  5. Once you have an "in," so to speak, then let the gallery know you're interested in having them consider your work. Again, don't expect this to happen all in one day. It can, but if you don't read the signs on a day the gallerist is too busy or recovering from a hangover or whatever, all your work up to this point might be for nothing. I'd recommend following up a good impression later with an email, noting that you enjoyed the conversation (remind them of something you noted about the program to jog their memory) and that you'd be interested in their opinion about your work. Send them a few jpgs and/or point to your website. The key at this point is to tie it all together: 1) demonstrate that you understand the gallery program; 2) make clear that you enjoyed the dialog; and 3) THEN suggest that your work seems like a good match to you.
Now this is not a surefire approach by no means (nothing is), but I've seen it work better than any other approach. What you don't want to do is attempt to take shortcuts like blanketing all of Chelsea with your CD (I actually once received a cold call package with our address on the envelope, but a competing gallery's address on the cover letter...not an impressive introduction). Oh, and finally...never, never, never, never, never...walk into a gallery with your actual artwork in tow. Let me repeat that: NEVER. Regardless of how convinced you are that if the dealer could only see it in person, they'd immediately offer you representation, this approach smacks of desperation and actually suggests you don't value your own art all that much (otherwise why would you trudge it around to expose it to complete strangers, let alone the elements). Believe me, dealers do not respect this approach. Don't do it.

I can never tell if this particular topic is more discouraging than helpful (I've discussed it in lectures and usually it seems to deflate folks more than anything). I don't mean it to be discouraging...I'm seriously offering the best advice I know to give here. I seriously hope it helps.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Brand New Glamorous (Empty?) Galleries

I have to agree with Phillipe de Montebello and say there's nothing this art season I'm looking forward to as much as the opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s new Greek and Roman galleries. There's not likely to be another presentation of such grandeur and art historical importance in my lifetime. And what can I say? I love, love, love the sensation I get while strolling through works that still thrill, let alone still survive, after millennia of mankind have come and gone, lived and died. That sense of lasting, of passing on evidence of who those ancients were and what they believed and seeing the connections right up to our present, is at the heart of what attracts me most about art: that potentially infinite connection. Anyway, that's enough panting on my part. Here's what you need to know:

The spectacular redesign and reinstallation of the Museum's superb collection of classical art is nearing completion. On April 20, 2007, the New Greek and Roman Galleries, which include the dramatic Leon Levy and Shelby White Court, will be unveiled, concluding a 15-year project and returning thousands of works from the Museum's permanent collection to public view.

The new galleries will house objects created between about 900 B.C. and the early fourth century A.D. Works on view will trace the evolution of Greek art in the Hellenistic period and the arts of southern Italy and Etruria, culminating in the rich and varied world of the Roman Empire. First-floor galleries will be dedicated to Hellenistic and Roman art, and the wholly redesigned mezzanine level—which overlooks the stunning new court from two sides—will include galleries for Etruscan art as well as the Greek and Roman study collection. Together, the astonishing assembly of works on display—some never before seen by the public—will bring to life the aesthetic and philosophical roots of Western civilization.
I intend to be there as early as I can get in. Not only am I excited about this 21st century look back at how the West was preserved. I'm more than a little anxious about how long any of those treasures will be housed in New York. Again, in today's New York Times, we learn that another prized piece in the collection is being demanded back by the Europeans, and it's a big one:

A mountain village in Umbria is caught up in a tug of war with the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the 2,600-year-old Etruscan chariot that is a highlight of the museum’s new Greek and Roman galleries.

A local farmer stumbled upon the bronze chariot, considered one of the finest pieces of Etruscan art in the world, in 1902 as he was clearing land. By the next year it was in the possession of the Met. But the residents of Monteleone, population 680, say the chariot was illegally sold and should never have left the country.

“I’m very sorry for the Met because they’ve done a great job in making the most of the chariot,” said Mayor Nando Durastanti, who saw the chariot, which has been out of sight for years while being restored, this month during a private tour of the new Met galleries, which are to open April 20. “It’s clear they care a lot about it, but it’s ours. It’s part of our identity.”

Bronze chariot inlaid with ivory, 2nd quarter of the 6th century B.C.; Archaic
Etruscan
Rogers Fund, 1903 (03.23.1) from
Metropolitan Museum website.

I've babbled on before about this topic and had folks accuse me of not caring about the rights of rightful owners, etc. etc. as if the "rightful owner" is defined by geography alone. I mean, in this case the farmer who found it sold it outright. It was on his land and there were no laws on the books claiming it for Italy at the time. In fact, the Italian government isn't even backing this particular case:

Because the events in question took place so long ago, “the preconditions that have guided other negotiations don’t exist in this case,” said Maurizio Fiorilli, a state lawyer who heads the Ministry of Culture commission that has been negotiating with American museums and collectors for the restitution of antiquities. Mr. Fiorilli noted that the case predated a 1909 law on Italy’s cultural heritage and the 1970 United Nations convention on cultural property that addresses looting.
But still, there are moral considerations to be weighed, and the village demanding the Met return the piece (that even they confess has been exquisitely restored) has convinced a New Jersey mayor to aid them in their quest, so it's not an open-and-shut case by any means.

Perhaps it's time for the Met to sit down with the Italians/Greeks and discuss a final arrangement. One that both sides agree will resolve, once and for all, how each and every piece currently in the Met's collection is viewed with regard to ownership. It will be a lengthy negotiation, no doubt, but doing it wholesale and under the authority of the Italian and Greek governments will hopefully prevent hundreds of hillside villages from deciding down the road that they too now must have back some expertly restored artifact that one of their own sold for scrap 100 years ago. The final decision should be fair to our European allies (and should unquestionably include returning anything acquired illegally), but at least the result would be binding and permit the Met to carry on doing what it does so brilliantly without these constant distractions.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Abstraction's Turn Again

I have two different ideas I want to bring up in response to the resurgence of abstraction in painting. It's on the cover of ArtNews magazine this month...so it must be true. Actually, I've been talking about its return for a while now (all the signs were pointing that direction), but the points I'd like to make include:

1. The influence of computer-based ideas on this new breed of abstraction
2. What this return represents with regards to fashion and the market.

But first, supporting my notion in yesterday's post that the advent of new technology via which artists can create digital products does not automatically ring the death knell for painting, is this:
And then there are the shows like “Big Bang! Abstract Painting for the 21st Century,” at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Massachusetts (through the 22nd of this month), which opened with an explosion of new abstract art. The works in the show, by 15 mostly emerging artists, were inspired by nothing less than “computer technology, cosmology, quantum physics, information theory, genetics, complexity theory, remote sensing, and other sets of current scientific visual languages,” according to exhibition curators Nick Capasso and Lisa Sutcliffe. Where Barbara Takenaga depicts an imploding—or expanding—universe, creating a spectral buzz, Cristi Rinklin draws on computer imagery for her painterly abstractions and explains that “technology recalibrates how we imagine the world.”
Indeed, as I noted yesterday, new technology is not an important advance in and of itself with regards to artmaking. Its importance lies in how it helps us see things in a new way, and even though it can produce new media that in turn produce new art objects, the notion that artists working in other, older media should drop those media and focus instead on the new media ignores the fact that their medium was simply a choice, among many available, the artist made in order to express him/herself. New ways to imagine the world provide new insights, not new mandates for media choice for final art objects.

But why is abstraction returning now. ArtNews explores this question (and I hope they'll forgive me for quoting a large-ish chunk of text here:
We are seeing both the return of abstraction and a new abstraction. In the last few months alone, there has even been an exhibition of figurative sculptor Audrey Flack’s abstract paintings from the 1950s at the Rider University Art Gallery in Lawrenceville, New Jersey; not to mention an Albers and Moholy-Nagy show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Whitney’s Mark Grotjahn exhibition.

But why now? The resurgence could in part be a response to contemporary life—to globalization and the desire for a universal language, to the technological revolution, to new materials, and to the endless pursuit of something novel. Abstract pictures may convey a more comprehensible range of associations than personal, narrative pictures can. Or it could be a form of nostalgia.

It may well be that the “art world is still dominated by an interest in images across the board,” as Gary Garrels, chief curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, suggests. While he acknowledges that there seems to be a healthy regard for abstract work, he says, “I don’t know if it’s been more or less since Pop art took Abstract Expressionism off its pedestal.” What he has definitely seen among the new abstract painters is an “interest in going back to the roots of modernism and the fundamental issues of modernism—to Mondrian and Kandinsky.”
[...]

Linda Norden, an independent curator and writer currently advising on the 2008 Whitney Biennial, sees the renewed interest in abstraction as one of two concurrent impulses. “There’s a documentary impulse that provides some way of responding directly to the world and a corollary urge to abstraction, which aims at the emotional fallout and underlying forces driving those actions,” she says. “Both impulses speak to the state of the world and change—the big millennial questions as well as the issues of the present.” She finds that much of the work today is “more in the spirit of earlier 20th-century artists like Malevich, where abstraction emerged out of something both real and revolutionary, like war, industrial technology, and the radical social, economic, and cultural upheavals endemic throughout Europe at the time.”
All of that makes sense to me and seems likely. But I suspect another factor is at play here as well. I suspect an expanding art market (one in which a good number of new collectors are getting their feet wet, learning about art, and trying on for size what it feels like to discuss their new acquisitions in their home) sees a good deal of enthusiasm for representational work (i.e., work it's easier for new collectors to talk about or defend as a "good" purchase). When that new crop of collectors matures in their tastes and becomes much more comfortable with their choices, they feel more confident in purchasing/discussing abstraction. It's a theory anyway. It's not entirely supported by the fact that the art market seems to still be expanding, but then look at the work in the newer markets (China, etc.)...most of the hot selling work is representational.

I'm not asserting that a market factor explains the resurgence of interest entirely. I do think the political atmosphere is contributing to the changing winds. Folks across the board, who were all gung ho for war after 9/11 are now slowing down, being much more contemplative, and seeking spiritual solace. Abstraction is one gateway into that place, IMO.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Painting Deathwatch 2007 (or the Medium Is the Medium)

What is it exactly that makes predicting the death of painting so attractive a sport? I mean, we don't see this kind of enthusiasm for the prophecy of the death of sculpture (is it merely painting's supposed place at the top of the heap?), but let some new mixed or multi-media based work gain a bit of traction and watch the prognostication begin in earnest.

Now I certainly don't mean to pick on him/her, but given that MLS raised this in the last post on the future of art, I'll use his/her example to illustrate why this seems unlikely to me:
The real stuff/art won't be for sale. The real stuff will be curated and seen in cyberspace.

You could buy a/some kind of "Art" in galleries like you buy a LV bag in Macy's but the art of the future and the one making History of Art is going to be made with computers or be computer friendly and interactive-smart.

Most old art is becoming irrelevant as we speak. It represents values we don't care about anymore.

Artists are going to make a living by selling ads in their pages or digital copies or the amount of hits to their shows.

This is a future not far away. Many already are doing it. Are most artists ready?

This new real art we will take into space. Painting finally would be dead.
I offered a snarky response to this on the previous thread, but I'd like to explain why I suspect painting will continue to be relevant and popular far into the future. Forget apocalyptic scenarios in which the electricity needed to present computer-generated art might be rationed for health care and defense instead, the reason I can't see painting becoming irrelevant is I don't see medium being a defining/limiting choice for artists. In fact, I'm surprised in this era when more and more artists switch media to suit the needs of each new piece that anyone would suggest one medium has dominance over any other.

A much more likely scenario to my mind is that computer-generated art will join painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, craft-based, and performance-based work (etc.) as equally valid, but not superior, in the categories of visual art that museums and collectors value. It will be artists (as brand names) that are ranked, irrespective of which media they work in (and many will work in several).

Indeed, we're reaching the point where, I believe, finally the message will become the message, and the medium will be simply the medium. Personally, that's the only future I look forward to. The idea that the "digital whatever" is somehow an "advance" important in and of itself, as opposed to merely a new way to move bits around into a composition/form of the artist's choosing, strikes me as myopic. Painting, like other media, will continue because it's simply a choice, among many, an artist has through which to express an idea...and because some artists will choose to use it.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

I've Seen the Future and It's Complicated (or Does "Good" Matter Anymore?)

This is likely to be a rambling mess of an argument, I can tell you, because I can barely keep it all connected in my head, but that's OK, because a vision of London as the art center (make that centre) of the world with potentially complicated subthemes is what's spurred me to attempt to tackle this topic. Of course, it might be merely my Monday morning, pre-caffeinated response to a promotional blurring of art and advertising, but to my mind, it has both positive and potentially negative implications. First the vision:
One of the reasons why London is considered the artistic hot spot of the world today is that its contemporary art scene has broken completely out of its box: artists make rock music; Tate collaborates with musicians; artists have become fashion icons and fashion makes use of art. London has managed to develop a contemporary art scene that is genuinely popular with all social groups; the class-divide between high and low culture has been overcome, without, however, the museums having to slum it with mindless populist exhibitions. The baffling pseudo-sacrality that has been the most the off-putting aspect of contemporary art for many people for so many decades is now rare in the British art scene. And the cross-over is also in the marketing, where the museums are getting as inventive as the commercial sector and the commercial sector is wising up to what art can do for it.
OK, so you ready for this brave new world?


[A]t the huge department store, Selfridges, where, to coincide with “Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design” at the Victoria & Albert Museum (until 22 July), a series of surrealist experiences has been created for a project called “This is not a shop” (reference: Magritte’s “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”). A huge eyeball (reference: Georges Bataille, Dali and Bunuel) protrudes from its façade, staring manically at the 123,000 people a day who walk down Oxford St, London’s mass shopping street.

Paris-based Dadadandy has created a fantasy palace in the neo-baroque Ultralounge with illusionary devices such as semi-transparent mirrors, distorted rooms, smoke machines and works of art inspired by the 1938 International Surrealists Exhibition (until 24 June).

All till receipts, from the delicatessen department to lingerie, include a surrealist poem at the bottom, a different one for every week of the exhibition. There is surrealist food, surrealist fashion, happenings of various sorts, and a specialist shop designed by the cult architectural practice F.A.T (fashion, architecture, taste) selling special surrealist produce.

Following on from Elsa Schiaparelli and Dali, who created shop windows in the 1930s, John Galliano, Viktor & Rolf, Maison Martin Margiela, Rolf Sachs and Moschino have been given a free hand by Selfridges to design its shop windows on Oxford St, so long as they express the spirit of Surrealism (until 29 April).

The person behind “This is not a shop”, is Alannah Weston (35), a member of the Canadian family that bought Selfridges in 2003, ex-journalist and then curator. The store already had a unique art programme, using its shop windows to show art, such as Sam Taylor-Wood in 2000, Frida Kahlo’s dresses during the show of the Mexican artist at Tate, Samuel Fossa during the Hayward Gallery’s African art show, but Ms Weston is taking it further.
What I find most complicated about this all is whether it's a natural progression from Warhol through Koons to a widely accepted sense that art is/should be everywhere, democratically integrated into our lives, and hence somewhat indistinguishable from advertising or at least the high-priced objects most advertising money is spent on convincing us we need or whether this article is simply a rather breathless endorsement of a somewhat cynical campaign to capitalize on the red hot art market. In other words, is this really a movement of sorts or simply a successful PR effort? After all, the goal in all this is not public education or betterment:

The target is its ABC1, high-spending clients, “similar to the Frieze-fair clients”. They have not done a visitor survey yet, but on anecdotal evidence, Ms Weston says that by now people have come to expect it of the store. The staff like learning and having something to talk to the customers about and the collaborations with museums are of mutual benefit as they cross-market to each others’ public.
More complicated yet is whether "art" in this brave new context is open to the same criticism it would be in a gallery or museum, or whether the spectacle/entertainment nature of it shields it from a thorough critique in the artist's mind? I suggest the notion that this effort at Selfridges falls into the category that's not to be seen as "mindless populist exhibitions" implies the work is open for critique, no? Or is whether art is "good" or not irrelevant in this context? Is the only measure of importance whether it's popular or not?

I can't provide a critique myself, not having seen the show (can I even call it a "show"?), but I will note the poems on the receipts are a lovely touch and the lounge sounds groovy (still, I thought the trippy lounge as installation art had run its course, no?) but as the
Financial Times points out, "This is Not a Shop" is, in fact, not true. It is a shop, and the sophisticated nature of the marketing is designed to serve that reality, no matter how entertaining it is to encounter a large inflatable eyeball on Oxford Street.

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