Saturday, March 2, 2024

Morning Women, the Triumph of the Trivial, Dots, the Invasion of Normandy…and Free Stuff

May 10, 2020

The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience. – Arthur Schopenhauer

I have to share a sweet moment with you. I really enjoy my morning routine, especially now during the ‘Rona. It’s my time to hone my coffee pour-over skills, focus on client matters, read that thing we used to call a newspaper, and enjoy some great music in peace and quiet. I enjoy it so much that I created a morning playlist via Spotify, which, unbeknownst to me at the time and without direct intention, turned out to be comprised entirely of women artists. The 4 ½ hour list, Morning Women, is a collection of unique and very talented women singer-songwriters, mostly from the Texas / Southwest region. I hope you too find it to be more than a feeling. Last week a few readers emailed me (one texted at one in the morning) asking why I hadn’t mentioned the dematerialization of a Damien Hirst painting. You know, the shenanigan where a group of Brooklyn hipsters cut up a $30K Hirst print and sold each dot for $480 a piece. I didn’t mention it because I thought the idea was about as fresh as a month-old diaper. But here we are, changing diapers.

According to these hamsters—and The Fashion Law Blog (yes, you read that correctly)—this act was a “critique” of art as commodity, artist as brand, and the art market. Blah, blah, blah. Artnet, the bastion of online art journalism, touts the group of “artists” as being “known for its ‘news-making stunts that straddle the lines of conceptual art, contemporary design, and internet gaggery’”. Artspeak…today’s commodity and currency.

Since the art discussion concerning this romper room is not that interesting, we are of course left with the legal question concerning the shredding of an artist’s work, presumably without his consent. Unfortunately that legal quesiton is as refreshing as used mouthwash. What is that legal discourse, you ask? The 1990 Visual Artists Rights Act, which is also about as useful as (a) a 1970s typewriter for dancers and choreographers, (b) dancers and choreographers, or (c) all of the above. All you need to know about VARA (sounds like my favorite Almodovar film), is that it is the 1990 U.S. law protecting the soul and aura of the artist and enacted, drum roll please, after the so-called death of the author. Oh, yeah! It was also the law that applied in two cases that are now part of the VARA Hall of Fame: Mass MoCA v. Büchel and the 5Pointz Michelangelos v. Property.

Here’s a free dot for you.

While on the subject of free goodies (and you don’t have to be a Bernie-bro to like free stuff), although I am not taking any new pro bono cases at the moment, I would really like for you to have a copy of this original drawing I made back in 2018. Please feel free to print it, cut it out and paste it or frame it to your bathroom wall (where mine resides), kitchen, or favorite brothel. I’d like to encourage you to take a picture of it, in situ, and email that pic to me. You may just be lucky enough to be featured here next week!

Copyright 2018 SMS. All rights reserved.

How bored are sports fanatics? So bored that last week ESPN ranked the top 74 sneakers in NBA history. Guess which kicks took the top spot?

If you get sick with COVID-19, is your employer liable? Very good question. One that galleries, art fairs and auctions houses should think about, I’d say, quite seriously. Maybe, I don’t know, check-in with legal counsel?

Sotheby’s is planning on having in-person auctions next month. What else can they do if the ship is sinking? I’ll tell you what they could do: let’s start with, for a spokesperson, find someone who was not an intern at the United Nations just four years ago. I’m not kidding! It’s almost—almost—as bad as having 24-year old kids advising Supreme Court justices.

But, according to Sotheby’s CEO, Charles Stewart, the ship isn’t sinking, it’s just unmoored and heading in the wrong direction. Stewart claims that quarantined folks in pajamas are passionately buying not only low-end goods (by “low-end” he means Cartier watches), but also contemporary art. The Art Newspaper: “In his 5 May email, the chief executive once again underscored the equal footing of the art and luxury markets. Since March, Stewart notes, Sotheby’s has held 37 online auctions totalling nearly $70m, including $1.3m for a Cartier bracelet, the same price achieved for George Condo’s 2005 painting.” [sic] I wonder how much my vintage Evel Knievel stunt-cycle would fetch?

Open the doors. “If a supermarket paying its people $12 an hour can safely operate, so can museums whose directors, curators, and PR and fundraising flacks make multiples more.” That’s the National Review’s Brian T. Allen arguing that Texas museums are currently occupied by “Safe Space U” snowflakes and directors who equate re-openings with planning SEAL team missions and the Normandy Invasion. Although bathed in incredulity, Allen’s article does highlight one interesting point when he suggests that this is “a perfect chance for museums to do something truly radical, or truly reactionary. Just open permanent-collection galleries first.” True. Let’s forget about traveling exhibitions by the same artists for a little while—the same exhibition that you will see regardless of whether you are in Barcelona, Hong Kong, Los Angeles or the moon—and instead focus on the art within a museum’s collection. Or how about exhibiting local artists. To my knowledge, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that states that every art institution has to exhibit the same art or the same artist.

I suppose some will think grand re-openings make sense. After all, whether you work at a supermarket, auction house or museum, you’re expected to report to work, stock shelves, and bag the goods, right? Why would art institutions be any different? Because art, unlike culture, is not essential.

Do you also miss acerbic art criticism?I just dream it’s still by my side.

Christopher Knight wins a Pulitzer? Come on, man! And apparently for opposing a museum’s conventional desire to expand its footprint, hire the same architects that every art institution hires, and look exactly like every other art institution on the planet. That’s the controversy. If that’s equivalent to All the President’s Men, that should tell you how shallow the pool of art criticism is. Knight, as some of you may remember, is the guy—sorry, Pulitzer recipient—that  got his clock cleaned by Donn Zaretsky in the fight over museums and deaccessioning. Apparently you don’t need training in journalism any more; just a blessing from God (or mom, Happy Mother’s Day!). And how does God create an art critic? He gets rid of reason and accountability.

Art criticism …RIP. If you’re thinking Kenny Schachter or Jerry Saltz are art critics, then our situation is officially dire. As in dire. As in the Mexican drug cartels just found out you swindled them out of a million dollars dire. So to the question of “who do we award a Pulitzer to, i.e.- who do we award X to, where X is an award, prize, grant, etc.,” we’re back to what I call The Edward James Olmos Effect. More on that next week! Today, I’ll point you to what I think is the new art criticism: right here!

How many of you sweat tears every time the ol’ Reaper knocks on Justice Ginsburg’s door? I bet you grab the nearest calendar and count the days until Tuesday, November 3rd.

While we’re on the subject of Let’s.Get.Rid.Of.Old.Stuff., here are two useless and pestiferous practices we should abolish, in perpetuity:

Pretense. Let’s please eviscerate the “I am so honored to be…,” and the “Humbled to be…” that so many in the artworld love to write on Facebook and Instagram. You know what I’m talking about, “I’m so honored to be in a group show with 500 other artists in a small non-profit space in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.” Or, “Humbled to have received a $200 grant from the Church of the Useless Miracle to curate my exhibition critiquing the lack of critical art in post-Colonial Nations.” No one, no one is honored or humbled by that. Ok, maybe humbled.

Heroes. Let me say it clearly: Artists. Do. Not. Have. Heroes. To my utter dismay, the last few years I’ve heard some “artists” proudly announce that they have “heroes,” many of them pointing to other artists and other artists’ practices. This is such an annoyance. Artists shouldn’t believe in or uphold such petty superstitions. Damsels in distress have heroes. Gotham City has heroes. Children have heroes. But artists do not have heroes.

Well, looks like it’s time for me to kiss you goodbye. ‘til next week,



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