November 6, 2014 Repository 161: Art History Book as Checkbook Posted In: art practice, community, contemporary art, culture, museum, perspective, philosophy, social critique

A Reminder for Artists to Get Dirty and Deep
Expanded polyurethane stool , design by Maurizio Cattelan, Pierpaolo Ferrari (2014)  as featured in their magazine "Toilet Paper"

Expanded polyurethane stool , design by Maurizio Cattelan, Pierpaolo Ferrari (2014) as featured in their magazine “Toilet Paper”


“Art should make us feel more clearly and more intelligently, it should give us coherent sensations we otherwise would not have had…that is what market culture is killing.” – Robert Hughes

I just received the November issue of ArtForum – heavy, and full of art that looks better in the pages of a magazine than any real slice of life or contemplation. Much like a dress looking better in a photograph of a-102 pound model in the streets of Capri, this art would never fulfill anyone whether in a museum or a living room.  I also just watched the preview of a documentary on the artist Maurizio Cattelan out next month. Cattelan is the master trickster that has made either the worst art on the planet, or the best depending on where you are standing philosophically. My lens at this time is essentially media, celebrity and market based. A very different lens than in the studio, and one that artists everywhere must be reminded to let go of/remove/erase as best they can. Or smash it head on as Robert Rauschenberg successfully did.

Ever since the first public sale of contemporary art at auction in the 60s there is a tight rope around art and the marketplace. What is lost when art is so tightly wound with money? It has lost its freedom, and has lost all access to our thinking critically. If artists don’t stay on top of this, and push hard against it, the important tool of art as we know it – a tool that condenses what we are unable to say but can see and feel – will be dead. “Painting is dead” is a ridiculous statement cyclically churned by lazy art writers and critics. Painting will never die, however “art is dead” may be a very real statement soon.  What kills it is money, greed, lack of knowledge and lack of clarity as to what is art’s purpose anyways?

It’s old news that museums have adopted the strategies of mass media with their blockbuster shows and spectacles (thank you Thomas Hoving, ex-parks and rec employee who made the “Mummies Dance” at the Met), and that most artworks become celebrities where their limo is either the museum or the art fair and the gallery. So what to do?

Making art is about getting dirty with a lot of things – getting dirty with history, with specific experiences versus general seduction, and getting dirty with slow disclosure and spirituality. And by spirituality I don’t mean lighting the incense and painting yogis, I simply mean the concentration and faith in other dimensions while doing our work – an understanding and respect for that which we do not know. In a word depth.

I will be going again to Basel this year. I do this for a few reasons – 1. one must know their enemy to create a revolution, and 2. there are some gems of work that pop up in private collections that are only on view during these times, and 3. out of the thousands of works of art, it is still possible to find some incredibly deep and dirty work. So if you head to the museum/gallery/fair/biennale stay on the lookout for the rare work that touches your head AND your heart, and please do consider the fact that you can see personality in brushstrokes and formal choices. Works of art are on no uncertain terms a map to a person’s soul. Is there any doubt that the flattest, and least of depth work has created the highest price points for contemporary works (Andy Warhol)? Like attracts like.

To circle back with the art history book as check book – please know that art historically speaking, say 300 years from now, almost all of the artists that are hot now, except for maybe 5, will be forgotten. And most of the writing and books in the past 15 years have focused on this enormous majority of inconsequential art. Here’s a reason I love the internet – perhaps in 300 years from now they will accidentally jumble the “hits” and “likes” and “follows” and they will recreate the history of art through yet another lens, one led by the lens of beauty and not the lens of money.

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