Monday, March 17, 2014

arthoodication: the art of profiting while appearing (almost) prudently beneficent.


aLfReDo tRiFf

@ miami bourbaki, we're interested in the relation between contemporary art and the market.

by "contemporary art" we mean an industry producing specific objects whose function is (presumably & primarily) "aesthetic." by the market we mean an institution of exchange of art objects for mon€y.

such relation is:

*normative, prescribing stylistic & cultural values.
*inconspicuous, i.e., in your face but it never appears as such.
*redundant, i.e., they mirror each other.
*non-regulated, i.e., "free market for the sake of culture."

we've  called this relation (between contemporary art & the market) arthoodication.

this article by carol vogel for the new york times features the recent meteoric trajectory of colombian-british artist oscar murillo.

(murillo is a fitting example of the contemporary art/market binity):
“This is a market hungry for the players of the future,” Allan Schwartzman, a Manhattan art adviser, said. “But almost any artist who gets that much attention so early on in his career is destined for failure. The glare is simply too bright for them to evolve.”
does the market care? so, what is mr. schwartzman (a manhattan art advi$er), really saying?

he's simply playing his (redundant) role.     

how does arthoodication work?

* by exhibiting art/commodities &
*by transforming such art/commodities from "unknown" to "highly desirable," with art publicity campaigns (we call it artblicity).

let's take vogel's article bit by bit. we'd like to present it as a process:

a bit of background  

Mr. Murillo’s rapid rise in the United States dates to March 2012, when Donald and Mera Rubell, seasoned Miami collectors, saw a suite of paintings Mr. Murillo created for the London dealer Stuart Shave, which were shown at the Independent Art Fair in New York, a popular event for talent spotting. “By the time we got there, everything was sold out,” Ms. Rubell recalled in a telephone interview.

cause
“We were so blown away by the work, I told Stuart we wanted to meet him even though there was nothing left to buy.” “We arrived at 9 a.m., and he looked disheveled, exhausted, like a homeless person,” Ms. Rubell recalled. “He’d stayed up 36 hours straight and had made seven or eight paintings, so he had something to show us. They blew us away. We ended up spending four hours talking to him.”
let's move to the commodities:
Not only did the couple buy all the work, but they invited Mr. Murillo to their home and their Contemporary Arts Foundation in Miami. He stayed for six weeks and created a series of large-scale canvases.
 fifty large canvases, to be precise.

effect
... in December 2012, the Rubells showed the paintings at their foundation, timed to Art Basel Miami Beach, the must-see contemporary art fair that draws collectors, curators and museum directors from around the world. Ms. Rubell isn’t surprised by the success that followed. “Everyone copies everyone else,” she said. “It’s in the air.” Mr. Murillo’s canvases also reflect what is fashionable in contemporary art: They are abstract, often incorporate a word in the composition and have a lively color palette.
of course ms. rubell isn't surprised, her "everyone copies everyone else" arthoodicative market-lever is as redundant as a rolling ball.
“Seeing his work at the Rubells gave collectors confidence,” said Benjamin Godsill, a former curator at the New Museum in New York who is now a contemporary art expert at Phillips, the auction house.
gave collectors confidence... indeed. rubell's arthoodication of murillo caused the latter's work to appreciate from around $40,000 per piece in 2010 to $400,000 at a christie auction in 2011.
“People now recognize his paintings,” Mr. Godsill added. “They’ve become a status symbol.”
from "unknown" to "status symbol" in a matter of few hundred days. isn't it clear that arthoodication did it?

Q.E.D.

one last point.

a rodolphe von hofmannshtal, murillo's manager, now co-director of David Swirner in london, is cited in the article:
Mr. von Hofmannsthal ... aware of the potential damage a harsh spotlight can inflict on a young artist, (...) acknowledged that it’s “a really hard situation.” “It’s easy to say he’s got it right now, but what about tomorrow?” Mr. von Hofmannsthal said. “We’re trying to keep prices down, to protect his work.” Perhaps most important, Mr. von Hofmannsthal wants to “just let an artist be an artist.”
wait, "keep his prices down" as in we'd rather forfeit a more lucrative commission to "let an artist be an artist"?

perhaps you buy herrn hofmannsthal's pleonastic reflections. we don't. once more, his conflict of interests illustrates arthoodication's inconspicuousness: the art of profiting while appearing --almost-- prudently beneficent.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

carlos suarez de jesus' parallel universe

carlos suárez de jesus

aLfReDo tRiFf

carlos suarez de jesus writes an article for the miami new times entitled PAMM goes local. the title's second clause reads: with a new exhibit the bayfront museum silences its critics. 

not to waste any time to present the exhibit as a referendum on PAMM's curatorial inclusiveness, de jesus opens with this bombast:
Haitian-American artist Edouard Duval-Carrié has a message for Maximo Caminero, the local painter who deliberately shattered a million-dollar Chinese vase last month to protest the new Pérez Art Museum Miami's "lack of support for South Florida talent."
but the matter is that carlos' assertion is simply false.

de jesus failed to update his information with an article from the ny times  published on february 18! (by nick madigan): 
News reports here (Miami) said the vase was worth $1 million, a figure the museum said was provided by the police as an estimate based on previous appraisals of similar works by Mr. Ai. An official appraisal of the vase’s value is underway, said Alina Sumajin, a spokeswoman for the museum. A similar work, called a Group of 9 Coloured Vases, consisting of Neolithic vases painted by Mr. Ai in 2007, sold at Sotheby’s in London in 2012 for $156,325, a price that included buyer’s premium.
carlos, i don't mind you're a fan of abuelo añejo, but what parallel universe do you inhabit?

this kind of writing makes you look like a mouthpiece & the miami new times (presumably an alternative publication) a sort of cheap corporate underwriter.

of course, i won't go into duval-carrié's declarations against caminero, a fellow artist, but here is a point duval-carrié seems to overlook: does he really expect a neutral observer --of average wit-- to take him seriously when imagined landscapes opens @ PAMM this thursday?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

is the contemporary art world in trouble? (smirk)

party at art basel, miami beach, 2013

aLfReDo tRiFf

steven zevitas writes about contemporary-art insomnia for the huffington post. 
If you were to walk through the aisles of any one of the dozens of art fairs that now take place globally on an almost weekly basis, you would get the sense that the art world is a happier place than Disney World. Big art, big artists, big dealers and big money play their roles in a hypnotic and well-rehearsed production, and toothy smiles abound. Yet this intoxicating spectacle is just the most public manifestation of a problem in the art world that has become increasingly obvious over the past decade: more and more, the cart is pulling the horse.
"the cart is money and lots of it" concludes zevitas. we agree.

@ miami bourbaki, we've tried to define the money cart (more of this later).

the cart pulls the "contemporary art" horse. how does it work?

money goes where profit is to be made & profit necessitates a well-defined domain, i.e., the art market. now, let's analyze what makes art art. is there a standard for "contemporary"?
(...) in fact, that the word "consensus" has come to be all but synonymous with another art-world favorite, "quality." Their combined weight, piled on layers of subjectivity, has, over time, exerted enough pressure to create a very strange substance: virtual objectivity.
well said. zevitas is showing the redundancy behind "quality."

if "quality" is grounded on "consensus," and the latter is produced by layers of subjectivity, then "quality" ends up an empty norm, a sort of naked king bestowing fashion standards. zevitas' idea needs a bit of scaffolding:

why is quality an empty cipher?

zevitas describes how quality is subsumed under "consensus."  
Right now the "consensus" is that serious art involves raw canvas, a smattering of paint, possibly an exposed stretcher bar, and a "who the fuck cares if it looks done" attitude -- some of this work is quite good, by the way. The "context" that this work is presented in is the hippest galleries and art fairs in the world. And collectors who do more listening than looking are lapping it up in large amounts and at absurd prices.
after duchamp the "fuck how it looks" position became part of the game, but many 20th century avant-garde movements still regarded the old idea of inherent quality traits as an art norm. the problem was that the cart was being pulled by the idea of "the new."

with post-modern art "novelty" became the norm. now "quality" was redefined as novelty. this is the proper birth of contemporary art. the paradox is that "contemporary art" is not -really- new. it cannot be. "contemporary art" is a redundant presentist paradigm with no past & no future. 

at miami bourbaki we propose: 

whatever is "contemporary" is *automatically* accepted  

but "accepted" doesn't necessarily mean good. there are lots of artists working within the "consensus" that never make it. only a few gain access to the contemporary-art global olympus. what's the secret?
    
what turns young emerging artists into future superstars is arthoodication, a process of market legitimation.

if "consensus" is the perception-element, then arthoodication is the acting-element.

who are these artists?
(...) a small group of mostly young white male artists such as Joe Bradley, Jacob Kassay, Lucien Smith and Oscar Murillo start to sell work for six-digit amounts, it should raise a lot of red flags.
we're glad zevitas brings up murillo. @ miamibourbaki, we analyzed the rubell's arthoodication process of murillo. we advanced:
how does arthoodication work?

1- commission an in situ production of 50 pieces!
2- print a catalog, with an interview by hans ulrich obrist, (starcurator maximus & master of interviews --a predominant arthoodication trampoline) and essays by liam gillick, jonathan p. watts and nicola lees).
3- devise a publicity blitz, which includes numerous articles in some of the art market's favorite outlets.
in closing, zevitas tries to "fix the mess" --as he puts it, but his recommendations waver between naïveté and self-importance:

to artists: "avoid consensus." & why would they do that? didn't zevitas acknowledge that consensus is what yields "quality," the supposed criterion of acceptability? artists have spent years producing creative dispositions toward contemporary art styles. they are known, their works sold, etc, because of this consensus. they would find the advice to stop doing what they do (even if they couldn't or wouldn't see market forces behind it) preposterous.

to magazines: "allow exhibition reviewers to take stances that might be in conflict with the interests of your advertising department."  is zevitas dreaming? it won't happen. the reason is that art magazines are fighting for survival. they desperately need the ca$h generated by publicity & sponsors. conflict of interest will keep proliferating like fungi on putrid soil.

to museums: "expand your boards to include a wider demographic." why should they? museums do just fine exploiting the current culture-as-spectacle model where financial status & celebrity rule.

to collectors: "think for yourselves." but they do, which is why they advocate collecting art as a "social exercise."

to art dealers: "refuse to do business with anyone whose motives are even remotely speculative." is zevitas kidding? art dealers speculate as naturally as frogs leap.

next,