Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pap-art-azzi : Open Thread

Just a few months ago I was lamenting that there were no pop star artists, no visual artist you would not be surprised to see make a guest appearance on "Dancing with the Stars," no contemporary versions of Warhol.

Flash forward a few months and, well, the adage never seems to fade in relevance: be careful what you wish for.

Not only does the art world have its very own reality TV show, but from the front page of ArtInfo.com, you'd guess that the line between art and celebrity has been fully and utterly blurred. And I don't mean in the way the Artforum.com diary punctuates its stories with apparently the single most unflattering photo of the event-in-question's guests they could take, but more the way you'd be hard pressed, should someone take out the text from their front page, to know you hadn't accidentally landed on the site for Access Hollywood.

Seriously, have a look:

Mind you, editorially, I think you could justify any one of those stories/photos appearing on the home page of an art magazine (and admittedly, it's hard to know just who is cuter, James Franco or Alex Gilkes [truly a prince among the art world denizens]), but taken altogether, well, it does begin to seem a bit silly.

No, that's not what I mean. It begins to seem, combined like that, a bit fluffy.

Now, artinfo.com has been very good to my gallery over the years and they have some of the smartest and most talented journalists in the field, no question, and I probably cite them for stories here on average about twice as much as I do any other source, so they're clearly doing something very right. It's just that this morning, when perusing for a topic to write about, I was struck by the abundance of fashion meets celebrity meets (barely) the art world type stories all appearing at once. James Franco, Lady Gaga, gossip, fashion, parties, etc., etc. etc.

It is summer, and well, things do slow down a bit in art circles, and I've yet to inject my daily dose of java, but....I'd hate for this ratio of gossip-to-news to become the new normal. Just sayin'...

Consider this an open thread on whether the paparazzification of arts coverage is a bad thing, or perhaps Ed simply can't get to his summer vacation fast enough.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rosson Crow ....need we say more?

7/27/2010 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Mery Lynn said...

Think Dennis Hopper at MOCA.

7/27/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

...what's doing...

I think this is reflection of a slightly different current then the cult of the celebrity. I think it is more towards the change in paradigm when we live our world digtially connected. When we are more interested in what is going on, then where we are going or where we have been.

The paparazzi don't really give us insights into the stars (athlete, artist, singer, politician, warrior, ...) recent artistic efforts, or their plans in the works or their achievements of any note. What they supply us with (yes like a drug) is what the stars are doing. Whats going on. Irrelevant of its import, like twitter it is just a pulse of digital doings.

The good side of this is a paradigm of interaction, the bad side is if we lose sight of where we are going, why we are doing whatever we are doing then, well we just have a flux of movement without any intention.

I find this imperative of what is happening is creeping into the art calls now as well. A case in point, a recent call for art inspired by the artist Thomas Thompson. He was a landscape artist that was influential in the development of Canadian art. The call listed the requirenment of digital interaction of some sort. This from inspiration of an artist whose influence is based in part in the fact that he took the colonial provincial backward wilderness around him and elevated that to genre of landscape, gone were the civilised rolling hills of civilised farmlands of England, and here were the actual, lone pine trees striving to have shelter in the granite Canadian shield. Just as other great artists have taken the mundane and vulgar of the world around them, and elveated it to speak of something greater (consider Robbie Burns, Michel Tremblay, James Joyce ...) so this is the key aspect of Tom Thompsons works.

Yet instead of asking artists to do pieces inspired by that taking of the quotidian and exemplifying it, we have instead the works need to be interactive.

Granted I am arguing that interactivity - constant digitally connected- is part of our quotidian, their call for art limits our quotidian to that alone, and excludes all the other currents and aspects of our current social and private lives.

I think this - "what is doing" attitude-approach limits our horizons incredibly to the now. To this moment and not to where we wish this moment to lead us to. I feel that paradigm Ed, -what's doing- is what you see in happening on the cover design of the Artinfo.com website. The degree that it becomes our norm, is the degree that it worries me.

I think this is more then the cult of the celebrity. And it does merit our awareness.

7/27/2010 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Que Sera, Sera...

7/27/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing James Franco's photo reminded me of his stint this week on ABC's General Hospital. The plot involved a huge party at the Pacific Design Center in LA to promote his character's (also named Franco) performance art. All of the art patrons are portrayed as phony, fawning posers. Another cliche brought to you by an anti-art mainstream media and it comes complete with Franco's participation.

-----ondine nyc

7/27/2010 11:43:00 AM  
OpenID thepurposeofart said...

Once you have acquired a certain level of social capital, you can begin to define art on your own terms. Franco has opened up the art world to himself unlike any artist before him. There is no doubt that he has an interesting mind as his work reflects, but the whole axis upon which his art revolves is identity. You joked previously about Franco's inclusion in the Venice Biennale, but it seems more possible by the day, as his spectacle continues to unfold. If nothing else, I find this whole Franco story compelling for its inherent absurdity much the same as an endless variety of celebrity storylines.

7/27/2010 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, I think that was an anomalous screenshot, Ed. The Artinfo homepage is back to the usual mix of weighty and lighter fare -- restitution, reattribution, reviews, and, yes, a dash of Franco glitter. Though the Franco story is far from a fawning profile!

7/27/2010 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Fair enough.

Like I said, I go to artinfo.com for more of my post ideas than just about any other source.

7/27/2010 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous John Legweak said...

I just finished reading Isabelle Graw, High Price: Art between the Market and Celebrity Culture (Sternberg Press, 2009). It’s a surprisingly unstructured, almost stream-of-consciousness book, that comes back to certain issues over and over. The celebritization of the artworld is definitely one of them.

She backs up her analysis with intellectual authorities like Luc Boltanski’s and Eva Chiapello’s New Spirit of Capitalism, but she’s clearly speaking from the heart. She openly, if off-handedly, confesses that she feels the force herself, the pressure to be “always on”, to be stylish and attractive, to embrace and cooperate with all those around her (including showing up for photoshoots on time).

While she focuses – naturally – on the effect of celebritization on the artworld, she does not see it as emanating from the artworld but rather penetrating into the artworld from the society at large, or at least the segment of it that the artworld belongs to. (At least that’s how I read the book.) She sees it as arising out of the post-war, "post-Fordist" breakdown in the separation between the work and non-work components of life in the professional “surplus value”-creating classes, including both artists and critics as well as pretty much everybody else in the artworld.

The result was a new work ethic that basically said, your career is in your hands, there is no limit to what you can achieve, but you have to work at it all the time. At one point she quotes a Hollywood insider – sorry I can’t find the passage at the moment and can’t remember the name – to the effect that life in the business used to be 20% public and 80% private and now it’s %80 public and 20% private.

Andy Warhol is for her in many ways the canonical, if not defining example of the “always on” celebrity. She talks a lot about him in the fourth chapter in the book – in some ways the most meaty chapter. She reports him as summing up celebrity lifestyle as, if I’m remembering the quote correctly, living is hard work.

She talks about a lot of other stuff too, but about this most of all. She demonstrates how the pressure affects, directly or indirectly, almost every facet of the artworld, from avoiding negative criticism to expressing judgments in opaque “best of” lists, to engaging in essentially blatant acts of market manipulation (“market-reflexive gestures” as she calls them).

I thought it was a good read. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s opinions.

7/28/2010 12:35:00 PM  

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