light

light

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An open letter to the Tate Gallery


Sir Nicholas Serota
Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom


Dear Sir Nicholas,

I realise that you are often in receipt of open letters. I am posting this one out of a genuine concern for the area of knowledge in which I have spent a career and life, i.e. art.  I note that yesterday the BBC analysed the recent Dept of Culture attendance figures for all major galleries. They have been at pains to point out that recent increases in attendance at these have been largely made up of overseas visitors and that UK visitors have fallen by 20% since 2008/9.

The Tate has specifically lost around a million domestic visitors in the past six years from 4.5 million in 2008 to 3.55 million in 2014. You have suggested no reason for this decline and the fact that now only 50% of your visitors are from the UK, and that this has occurred at a time when other national cultural institutions have seen a steady increase in their domestic visitors. 

It is with this in mind that I am addressing you with an open letter. I spent my life in art and education. This has given me a perspective upon your long term in office and the consequences for the visual culture that we inhabit. From 1964 to 1969 I was indoctrinated in the mores of contemporary art. I was 37 when Charles Saatchi began his political project to create a contemporary art world to suit his needs and those of the world of advertising. This project has continued to this day and you have fostered it in your exhibition policies  and acquisitions. Unfortunately this has had a malign influence upon the contemporary art world where you have helped to create a state academy version of the Paris Salon of the 1890's based upon the values of the market and not those of a humane civilisation. Unhappily the artworks that typically comprise this "Salon" are largely branded post modernist Kitsch. Despite all the media hype it would seem to be probable that people in the UK are now sickening of this diet of thin unsatisfying gruel. 
People will attend fairgrounds but ultimately they will pall. This is evident from the difficulties that you are now having finding anything of interest for the Turner Prize. I say this out of a deep sense of sadness and not as criticism.
In 1998 I remember taking a group of six form students to Tate Modern to see a YBA exhibition. The experience marked the beginning of my disillusion with contemporary state art because I had great difficulties answering my students questions. I could not justify what we were seeing ( Jake and Dinos ) as life enhancing art to myself let alone to my students. These difficulties have increased since to the extent that I now rarely ever darken your doors.

I would ask one thing of you when you sit down with your Trustees ( one of whom ought be an art historian ) to discuss the Dept of Culture figures. That you bear in mind that you act as guardians of the public interest. In doing so I would ask you to abandon accepting artworks as gifts from artists, all notions defining the right kind of artists, concerns promoting poor curation issues and do a complete overhaul of your current exhibition policies putting visual quality and values to the top of your list instead of current fiscal market value. Without this you will soon have a new extension with nothing of value to exhibit. Whilst there are oceans of marketed international contemporary art out there very little of it is of any quality. The poor are actually entitled to resent subsidising the hobbies of the rich who decide that their current art investment opportunity is in fact art when it self evidently is nothing of the sort. This is something that the Tate should not be fostering.

You also have a remit for art education which is now failing in state schools and UK universities and I hope that here you may still do much good.

Yours with a sincere concern for the UK's artistic and visual future

Anaesthetic

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Marlene Dumas and Christian Marclay

So contemporary art has boxed itself into a corner according to Stuart Jeffries in Guardian2. the only thing this silly piece suggests is that boxes do offer a measure of security to the lost and bewildered.

Alistaire Sooke, Laura Cumming and Waldemar Januszczak hype Christian Marclay at White Cube. The turnover of artists here is dizzying, and this one is no exception.
Cummings enthusiastically writes this :
"Marclay, who was born in California in 1955, loves old US comics and some of these sounds are scissored straight from the pages of cartoons, while others appear to relate very precisely to the medium of painting itself. Plop, Splat, Splish, Glop, the sounds of paint spattering across a canvas invoke Jack the Dripper and the other action painters working the pigment round the surface. Marclay is bridging the gap between abstract expressionism and pop art.
Sure it do as the woman said but it is hardly meaningful high art, more like vague comic book amusement for the idle rich and people with low visual expectations.

Waldemar on the other hand tells us that that the show is exciting but that the fusion of abstract Expressionist colour is Lichtenstein meets Jackson Pollock does not work. "Marclay is many good things but a sensuous abstract Expressionist is not yet one of them - is all a bit stiff but hopefully it will get better. Sound becomes something you can see and touch, it's a show that goes ka tingle boom and you can't have higher praise than that." he argues.

Sooke demonstrates his usual in comprehension with this copy; "The comic-book conceit is elaborated further in a series of paintings that allude to the birth of Pop Art more than half a century ago. Monosyllabic, punchy words such as SPLAT, SPLOOSH and SMAK have been screen-printed over brightly coloured backgrounds laid down with fluid, gestural brushstrokes, evoking the style of Pop’s predecessors, the Abstract-Expressionists." Evoking is all it does.

Marlene Dumas has received a lot a of attention for her show at Tate Modern from among others Waldemar Januszczak Karen Wright and Laura Cumming.
Waldemar is generally enthusiastic but he is also aware of the contradictions inherent in the work. He says it's a puzzle why an artist whose work's content is apartheid, women, war and alienation should be such a hit with the super rich? It's not all good he says the crucifixion is excruciating. (feeble hubris)

Laura Cumming is more acute in so far as she points to the inconsistency of the work. She explains that the best work is the most unfinished as well it might be because what we have here is an exploitation of very specific painterly dribble and smear effects with lots and lots of solvent soaking the paint into the canvas. Kind of Francis Bacon Lite. The artist is so right on, she writes and talks constantly about the crisis of representation, we are told. Cumming says much of it is awfully poor and dominated by the artists personality. This seems a pretty dumb remark, isn't the personality what distinguishes Rubens from Rembrandt from Carravagio from Delacroix?

Karen Wright is out of her depth, full of praise for the technique and platitudinous. She does mention that all the work is based upon photographs as if this is a very good thing but it is not. Dumas does not, it seems, work from first hand experience. This puts the critics remarks in the bin when she has the cheek to conflate the work by comparing it with Goya and Manet and one despairs that these critics have never been taught how to look. If they had they would not make such silly assertions. "Historical painting is digested and processed in these works; the great paintings of Goya and in particular the blackness of Manet are referenced, but Dumas makes the work seem effortless." Which serves only to point up the weaknesses of the drawing and technique.

Artists low incomes are an international problem, perhaps as the means of production they should take things in their own hands and cut out the internet and middlemen completely. Until they do this things will not improve any time soon. It's the dealers and resellers that make the money out of art.

Don't usually reference other bloggers but this is full of good things from Making a mark!

Finally this piece on the ten most expensive paintings in the world. Unreal and bearing no relationship to their individual aesthetic merit whatsoever.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cornelia Parker sometime YBA

The weekend press has articles about Cornelia Parkers forthcoming exhibition in Manchester to celebrate the re-opening of the Whitworth Gallery after a £15 million revamp.  First off she talks to Tim Adams in the Observer and he says this of her;"

"She has that sense that some of the freedoms fought for in the 60s and 70s are being erased. Though she has always, she says, felt herself an outsider to any art establishment – she studied at Wolverhampton Poly rather than Goldsmith’s, and though sometimes co-opted was never a convincing YBA – she enjoyed that golden period of free education at art school. " 
One would think from the writers condescension that Goldsmith's was the only art college out there and yes, oh yes, freedom, that happy silly illusion; that is another art education casualty in a recession, after free higher education which they still have in Scotland.  She is she tells us an artist who wishes to distance herself from all the taint of advertising;  Maybe that is what distinguishes her from the products of Goldsmiths.
“I think just being an artist is a political act. Just doing things that are not mediated by anyone else. I don’t do many commissions because I don’t want to tick anyone else’s boxes. Sometimes I’m a bit tempted. I got approached by the Formula One team McLaren who wanted me to do something with the bits of a damaged car. It was a nice idea, but I don’t want to be a jobbing artist, or do anything that seems like advertising.” 

"She’s not sure she has a mission, but if pressed she’d say it was to close the two cultures gap between literacy in science and art – not least because it represents our best chance of preserving the planet on which we all live."
Considering the previous post about the aesthetics of form Parker's sculpture is about the accidental aesthetic accidents that proceed from controlled destruction not from creation.

Then there is this quaint anomaly, the world's biggest Giff :  Which can only be properly viewed from the air.

Finally, this blog has documented some idiocy over the years but this is a new one. French artist Loris Greaud lost his bottle with an art critic over the opening criticism of his latest show in Dallas and had a group of performance artists destroy the whole thing. Why on earth did he bother in the first place if he couldn't handle the criticism and had to throw a stupid juvenile hissy fit?  He is in the wrong profession. Only an artist who is profoundly confused about the purpose of art criticism, which is by its very nature just opinion, would demand that reviews of his exhibitions be simple and objective. Those types of reviews exist; they’re actually called press releases.

The there is this information about a west coast USA artist who had her identity and cash stolen and exacted a revenge with an art project.  A neat kind of balancing of the account!

Lastly this letter to my younger self has struck a chord with many artists and is circulating on the net.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

So what do art critics do for us?

First off:
Stupid article - 21st January Guardian by Jonathon Jones criticising Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth as minor league players in 20th century art.  Conceptual prejudices to the fore our erstwhile critic gets it all completely wrong yet again!
This is a particularly thoughtless remark:
"But to claim they are among the really great modern artists is daft. Picasso dwarfs his imitator Moore. But it’s not just Picasso who makes these modernist Brits look minor. In Hepworth’s case the most significant comparisons are with the truly great abstract artists: you cannot seriously set her works alongside those of Brancusi, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko or Richard Serra. She is not in the same class."

Well of course she isn't because here our erstwhile critic is not actually comparing like with like. Hepworth was a sculptor and apart from Brancusi he is comparing her work with that of 20th century painters. Only someone who has practised neither could be confused enough to compare and contrast two completely different disciplines. Anyone who has practised both knows that sculpture is an infinitely more demanding discipline that requires a completely different form of thinking to painting on a 2D surface.  Picasso was a poor sculptor and a very great painter, Moore and Hepworth were both first rate sculptors. Rothko, Mondrian, Pollock and Serra were all painters whose visual content was minimal in more senses than one. Jone's art criticism you might expect to read in the Sun or Star, lazy and unquestioning assertion  and assumption.

Secondly, an interesting piece of really cogent criticism from Adam Thirlwell in Guardian of 24th January concerned with the fact that art no longer shocks anyone.  He writes some really good criticism of Manet's Olympia.
He says :"Manet’s genius and the true source of the bourgeois outrage was his ability to “disappoint expectation”: “instead of the theatrical forms expected of him, Manet offered up the starkness of ‘what we see’. And each time it so happened that the public’s frustrated expectation only redoubled the effect of shocked surprise produced by the picture.” The greatness of the art was that it changed the nature of the form." "The shock was just a side effect."
This last comment that the greatness of the art was that it changed the nature of the form is the most meaningful critical remark that has been published for some time because it is so absolutely true. He explains T J Clark's remark that the shock served only to create a failure of criticism. When did this last happen in front of a contemporary artwork? When? not for a very very long time, as he says: "Even in 1865 shock was passe"

When one considers the oceans of avant garde lite we are floating in it is obvious that we no longer have artists of any stature who are capable of creating shock through form. Kapoor's efforts are mere gestures, Koons sculpture is fairground attractions, the Chapman Bros nazis's are horror shock lite and madame Taussauds, Hirst's efforts are presentation and window dressing and Emin's work is self absorbed etc etc.  Yet State art is we are continually being instructed is challenging and shocking, but this is lies and passe.
So in this inverted art world of hysterical and false values how can anyone really shock? Thirlwell argues that shock has to dismantle the ruling ideology and be offensive to those who continue to believe in that ideology. Being offensive to salon state art would be a start. 

He concludes his summary of the novels of Houellebecq with this pure piece of intelligence:
"The future works of shock I imagine are as formally adventurous as they are intellectually destructive. I’m not in fact sure that true resistance to ideology is possible without resisting aesthetic conventions." 
This is one of the most succinct summaries of the complete failure of avant garde lite in the 21st century that has been so far written. Simply because it succinctly points up the lazy dishonesty at the heart of the contemporary "Art" that fills to overflowing our major contemporary art galleries....... Supported as it is by endless written garbage about the supporting cast  - Duchamp and his rancid urinal. Odd isn't it how so few people who accept this junk as gospel can see the malevolent irony of it's content and gesture? It's a way of deifying junk!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Notions of abstraction.

News today that Richard Long is returning to Bristol for his first local exhibition in fifteen years. He will be using his standard media river Avon mud for his drawings according to the Guardian's Maev Kennedy. Do have a lot of respect for Long, his abstract work speaks eloquently of the brief transience of life in more ways than one.


"George Ferguson, Bristol’s mayor, who is an architect, said the partnership would be hugely beneficial not just for the gallery and the university but for the whole city – one estimate suggests that every pound invested in the arts in Bristol generates a four-fold return."  Same old same old elegiac leftist utilitarianism and idealism, how many time have we heard that in the past twenty years and where is there any proof that it is remotely true?

Then there is this on abstraction on 18th January from Waldemar (Sunday Times) and Laura Cummings (Observer) at the Whitechapel"Adventures of the Black Square
Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015"Waldemar comments that: "the first half of the show is an overcrowded history of art's past whilst the second half is an overcrowded lucky dip of contemporary wilfulness."
Whilst Laura says: "And this is the parallel purpose of the show: to look specifically at the kind of abstract art that aimed to change the world, or that was at the very least supercharged with the possibility of revolution. This is not just Malevich’s sky-high claims for abstraction, that it would break the bonds of earth and rise into some stratosphere of the spirit: “Follow me, comrade aviators, sail into the chasm!” To say all this stuff is boring is to give it much more credence than it warrants. It is boring and inert, of only marginal interest or relevance and defy anyone to attempt to prove otherwise, in particular any architect. Similar guff comes from Louisa Buck in the Tele wag.
She writes this :"It soon becomes evident that geometric abstraction could be used and interpreted in directly opposing ways, with the rigour of its repetitive units capable of expressing both the language of freedom and idealistic optimism as well as the impersonal rigours of unyielding totalitarianism." Re-read this several times and it still does not make any real sense, aesthetically or historically, it is wish fulfilment, of the same level of legitimacy as the current spurious asinine worship of Duchamp.

Proof that the money follows and consolidates failure, and it is puerile guff:


"The reputation of Goldsmiths as one of the best art schools in Europe is not to be taken lightly. In the last 25 years, the school has produced seven Turner Prize winners and 30 nominees. The school, founded in 1891, is renowned for its multidisciplinary approach to art making and rigorous critical curriculum." 


And this marketing refuse : "Francis Outred, Christie's Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Europe, commented. “Every bidder will be contributing to the future of the creative industries in Britain."
This should be re-read carefully as follows:

The reputation of Goldsmiths as one of the best art schools in Europe results from the supine and asinine way in which it fawned upon Charles Saatchi as the sole guardian of avant garde-lite and contemporary art values. It has produced more state art acolytes than any other art school, and it's educational provision, curriculum and it's approaches to art making were transitory and doomed, based as they were in lack of rigorous criticism and an unquestioning and uncritical acceptance of conceptual art. This has resulted in terminal damage to UK art education that cannot be undone because the visual skills have been lost. These skills are now sneered at by the terminally incompetent as "Craft." So now we can move move on to consolidate Goldsmith's sourced conceptual kitsch as art, which it will never be!
Cannot forgive this inane and conceited philosophical category error oak tree; an artist is not a priest, no way was this ignorant and blasphemous conceit a legitimate artwork. But then it was only Christianity that was being mocked and it is only art. If you need any further proof of the terminal damage that has been done, consider the inadequate and very expensive Cultural Olympics and their imaginary and non-existent legacy!

Lastly there is this news that Luc Tuymans has been convicted of plagiarism and one wonders why it doesn't happen far more often considering the stolen visual content of some contemporary artists works?  You decide which are guilty?


Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year 2

Yesterday's 8 jan Guardian contained these two items. Firstly there are the very sad Japanese villages that have lost their population and are now being peopled with dolls to stand in for the lost real folk.  The worrying declining population is a country wide phenomena but one can't help thinking that puppets are not the solution to the problem!

Secondly an article about 84 year old Cecilia Gimenez who destroyed a fresco  Ecce Homo in her local church and became an instant global net hit for her ineptness and lack of sensitivity. This put the village on the map and she has now been rewarded for her hopelessly inept reconstruction with art shows which have raised her prices. Ah well, such is the true sense of the market!

Thirdly we have the news via Colin Gleadell that the art market continues to be so buoyant and 2014 has been a year of market record breakers.

Lastly there is this depressing article from Guardian cultural professionals which points up some home truths. That in 2015 we read this is very very depressing, always art education has to fight and fight again it's corner in a nation of pure visual cultural philistines: Again and again the enemy within removes the most basic and obvious art education provision for ideological reasons and pure pig ignorance.

Why drawing needs to be a curriculum essential

Our most read piece launched in 2014 was this blog from Anita Taylor, director of the Jerwood Drawing Prize, on why drawing needs to be seen as an essential part of the curriculum at all levels for all subjects. “With a history as long and intensive as the history of our culture, the act of drawing remains a fundamental means to translate, document, record and analyse the worlds we inhabit,” she wrote. “The role of drawing in education remains critical, and not just to the creative disciplines in art and design for which it is foundational.”

Jeff Koons and Marlene Dumas - craft extremes

Little points up the absurdity of contemporary art values as well as the contrast between these two artists.  The Tate is giving South African artist Marlene Dumas, a major retrospective so Rachel Cooke in the Observer has been pulled in to do the text. Dumas work is very traditional painter but she is also the most expensive living female artist, her 1995 painting "the visitor" raised £3.1m yet she is relatively unknown by the general public.

"Her career, once it began, built steadily if not spectacularly: “My generation is Julian Schnabel, and he got known so quickly, just like Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. It took me longer.”

She is in essence, a very traditional painter who uses thin washes of coloured shape with slick drawing effects and she admires Francis Bacon - as well she may. Adrain seale has always been a fan so he extolls his enthusiasm in the Guardian. However this text reveals much about our erstwhile critics sparse knowledge of painting:

"Looking at Dumas’s paintings, I am often struck by how little there seems to be on the canvas. The images coalesce out of almost nothing. She somehow cajoles her medium into forming a face, a body, an expression – a sense of being. Wiping paint off as often as painting positive emphatic marks, she gives us cheekbones or a forehead, a proffered anus and balls or a vulva using hardly anything. Going from extreme vagueness to almost crude and snaggly brushstrokes to make an ear or to describe hair, Dumas runs the gamut of painterly effects. The frankness with which she paints draws us in."

Then there is Waldemar Janusczcak writing up the Jeff Koons retrospective in Paris. Insiders are saying that Koon's style is over the hill - have never had much respect for his art, which has been made to exploit the newness of manufactured things and communicates little else of any note or attention.  Even the nauseous  series of self centred porn stuff cannot be taken seriously as a reflection or questioning on the role of morality in contemporary art. It is no more than what it is, as with his Hoovers it's about empty soulless shiny newness and alienation, as far removed from the humanity of art and aesthetics as you can get in any art gallery.
Waldemar writes:"These are not Pop art ambitions. Where Pop art portrayed different kinds of consumer goodies to make critical points about american society, Koons art appears to have zero satirical intent. Instead in seems entirely happy to have identified some pretty sculptural effects that it wants to celebrate."  It needs saying that what sculptural effects there are are produced by the labours of the Italian artisans and craftsmen who produce the work for him


Finally this post about the way the art world operates and the twelve things it needs to change that supposedly explains why people are not buying any art. Whilst agree with the sentiments, are fairly sure that this isn't the real problem. There industrial quantities of pure gunk being manufactured, Etsy and Ebay are drowning in sub standard kitsch posing as artwork. Then there are thousands of "artists" scratching a living and barely surviving who will do anything even work for free to get by.  At the same time the quality of what is being produced has never been lower or more depressing, one has only to put the work "art" into a Pinterest search to see what's wrong with the whole thing and it is all about marketing

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Losing the UK's Lead in the arts !

Today 2nd Jan the Guardian has an article by Mark Brown about the recently appointed head of the CBI for the arts John Kampfner. Kampfner believes that the UK's creative industries are in grave danger from austerity. It is, he says, an incredibly dangerous moment. We have the lead in all branches of the arts and creative industries and are world beaters in almost all sectors, but we are in real danger of losing all of it. The attack upon and removal of arts education from state schools  has already taken place, as this blog has repeatedly pointed out over the past two years. Further cuts after the election will probably finish the arts as a cultural force.

He writes; "if we fail to think long term, if we fail to invest in our public spaces and cultural education, the talent pool that has projected us on to this level of the past 10 or 20 years will dry up." Evidence is in that it is already drying up, a Tate curator was berating the fact that no new artists are coming through on the radio only yesterday.

“In adversity you have to equip yourself, you have to arm yourself, you have to find new ways to be resilient ... we are not in any way minimising the challenges. We need to protect public arts and its funding,” said Kampfner, “and we need to equip ourselves for a new reality, which is bringing public and private together.”

He also writes this, so much for trickle down, as if ?:

“One of the confusions I have with this government is, if there is a view that the private pound is as good as the public pound then why is still so difficult to give in this country in terms of philanthropy and the tax system? We see how many wealthy people there are in this country and the proportion of private giving to the arts is miniscule compared with other countries.

“It is partly a cultural thing, it is partly a laziness thing … but it is also a fiscal and governmental thing.”

This is not a new complaint the FT had an article that said the arts were threatened way back in July and even Sir Nicholas Serota himself has expressed his grave concern at marginalisation of art education.

The mass hysteria generated by the Tower poppies will inevitably become a serious topic of discussion for academics in the future, just as the death of the Princess of Wales became one.  Was the display of poppies around the tower any kind of conceptual artwork or was it just a pure piece of theatre? - It was certainly effective and you reader are the judge. It was a beautifully apt visual demonstration of the scale of the appalling bloodletting that overcame the country in 1914-18. 


Meanwhile there is this report that there were no New Years Honours for anyone in the Art world, this is quite a new feeling. They all come to expect something good will be their turn eventually but no not any more. Artists are out of it now things are really serious but with all the cash swilling about, they need worry? Philistines are no longer at the gate they are running the entire show so more austerity will mean the loss of more art, which might not be such a bad thing when you consider it may lead to an improvement in quality - all for that!
And finally Bill Drummonds world 25 paintings world tour!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year - old problems

Reflections on our visual culture.

Way back in the 1980's attended a course arranged by the art critic Sarah Kent. Was amused by the whole thing because the young manager who ran the course had received his art history training from the Courtauld. He was much discombobulated when he uncovered the fact that the writer had been a student in the same university group as the artist he was extolling his judgements upon. This experience was a perfect object lesson in how received art history wisdom becomes "coloured" or "contingent". Was surprised to come across these Sarah Kent's comments from June 2014 which gives a cogent contemporary insight into her art criticism:

"You could argue that professional critics are irrelevant now that we have bloggers expressing instant opinions on everything from books to films, television, artworks, operas, and albums. The owners and editors of national newspapers seem to agree. Whereas the quality of our mainstream arts coverage was once admired internationally, critics are now being replaced by feature writers who produce copy as bland as a press release, or sycophantic interviews about the subject’s celebrity rather than their work, of which many seem dismally ignorant. Budget-strapped radio programs are replacing reviews for which they have to pay with interviews that come for free. The aims of the artist, curator, or producer get an airing, which can be interesting but listeners are not offered an appraisal of whether or not the show is worthy of attention."

True comment for the most part, but bloggers such as this one, would not have to shout about the dire state of state art if the mainstream press actually produced penetrative and acute art criticism instead of crawling on it's belly to the blatant pecuniary interest of hedge-funders, advertising magnates or oligarchs. Many contemporary artists who command stratospheric prices in Sotheby's and Christies wouldn't be all over the media if it wasn't in the sordid self interest of an individual to have put them there in the first place for the benefit of their rising prices. A critic's job is surely to point out the discrepancy between the artistic and aesthetic value of an artist's work and the real meaning of the art content they have produced. In a recent conversation on social media, the topic of Jeff Koon's balloon dogs came up and it was pointed out that medieval jesters used to hit courtiers with inflated pigs bladders. One artist remarked that Jeff Koons was being attributed with more sophistication than he was actually capable of. That pretty much summarises the art critic's dilemma. Fortunately bloggers do not have to toe the line, they at least can say it as it is, and more of them are doing so.

Ms Kent concludes her article with this remark:

"For readers, intelligent criticism provides an example of how to think analytically and arrive at judgments that don’t parrot received opinion—skills that are important in daily life. We are encouraged to regard ourselves as consumers who absorb rather than agents who think, assess, or do. Good criticism exemplifies active engagement rather than passive consumption, and is an education for us all."

When did you last see any art criticism that enabled you to arrive at a sound judgement? like when was that? Who was it by? By Jonathon Jones? Alistair Sooke? Bryan Appleyard? Laura Cumming? Adrian Searle? Nope, not one of them, except maybe Charles Darwent who is undoubtedly the best art critic out there but the Independent has stupidly dispensed with his services.
Predict that it will not be any time soon that she assumes a dissident or questioning role to state contemporary art. However the good thing is that some art critics are waking up to what they are shovelling, may that happen more and more in the coming new year.

The terrible problem which no-one is interested in mentioning is now that the UK government has removed art from schools where are the UK's future artists and designers going to come from - the public schools? Not anytime soon the income is far too low. Presumably we don't need any because we have enough arty incompetents with no income. This is yet another example of accelerating the countries cultural decline, the UK replaced it's manufacturing economy with a service and creative one. Now the foundations of the creative economy are being removed by ideology. This is what all schools should be!

You cannot say it loudly or often enough: that every child has a basic unalienable human right to an education in art, drama and music as well as English, maths or science. They were given the right to study art as far back as 1840.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Cogent issue - Avant Garde Lite.

This map of American artistic taste cropped up this week in that comic the Guardian and what a lot of tasteless gunk it displays. So who is telling us and going on, that the avant garde has never been so popular and many americans now treat contemporary art like a religion and take it very, very seriously? If they do, then who is this mid - west artist, one Terry Redlin, never heard of him, have you? Apparently this is the sort of art he produces and very Christmas seasonal it is too. Much like a mid west version of Thomas Kinkade though not as downright schmaltzy in execution but still very safe kitsch.  What fails to convince that the map has any truth, is the fact that Californians still like Emek, - so who he? He appears to be a graphics industry producing west coast posters. Does this mean that most art in america is now bought by the over 60's?

Meanwhile we have the introduction of a new term by Edward Lucie Smith art critic who now is dissenting from state art and writes for the Jackdaw. His latest piece has coined the term Avant Garde Lite to cover all present manifestations of the cutting edge of art. Very appropriate it is too, considering how far the plot has developed. Avant Garde now means precisely and exactly the opposite of it's accepted meaning in art historical usage. It now means State Art as approved by all the major institutions from MOMA to Tate Modern or the exact equivalent of the 19th century Paris Salon which the Impressionists rejected. It is a fake avant garde, a posture, a simulacrum or an assumed style no more no less.

Lucie Smith writes this:
""Shock tactics no longer shock. Avant Garde art has been gobbled up by the fashion world, and by todays celebrity culture. What's it for? It's for posing in front of wearing a nice new frock. It quotes daintily from Avant Garde styles, that entertained us in the past, but as for trying to change the world - "Have another canape, Darling" - all that stuff seems sooo boring now.""

So with more critics are joining the tide of dissent, something has got to change. Wonder which direction change will come from?  There are plenty artists out there who cannot get a look in, waiting for the opportunity to show their work, in truth far too many of them. Also picked up the news that their wages are well below the poverty line.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Top art exhibitions of 2014

Top Ten 2014 shows by various enthusiasts; as usual these choices reflect nothing apart from the visual taste of the critics concerned - which to say the least, is a victim of their priorities. Taste is infinitely malleable, and some people have it, some people do not. The Guardian is especially fond of making these lists, the best of etc:

Laura Cumming

Adrian Searle

Jonathon Jones

Christopher Knight

Rowan Moore

Time Out

Aesthetica Blog

Artlyst

Art Republic

Making a mark blog list

Travelmag list

The list list

Huffington Post

Hyperallergenic List USA

Also this accusation of plagiarism against Jeff Koons by a French graphics artist has cropped up. He is suing Koons for copying his 1985 advertisment for clothing company Naf Naf.
"While those averse to Koons might feel a little schadenfreude over his latest misfortune (or may simply feel he’s getting his due), it’s worth remembering that other artists have also faced legal distress over similar appropriations. Andy Warhol was sued by photographer Patricia Caulfield after he plastered silkscreen reproductions of a flower photograph she took on the walls of the Leo Castelli in 1964. More recently, Damien Hirst, Shepherd Fairey, and Richard Prince have faced copyright suits."  The truth is that some contemporary artists don't believe that the copyright of other but seen as lesser artists is worth considering or worrying about. 



Saturday, December 20, 2014

When did the art world become so conservative?

First off a medieval Christmas card for you all!

Interesting article by Gerry Saltz entitled "when did the art world get so conservative?" raises some interesting questions about the censorship now being practised in western art. He finishes it with a questioning remark:


" One of art's great weapons is its bad taste — how something can seem ugly, wrong, or off but still help extend art. Art is for anyone; it just isn't for everyone. And we have to stop acting as if it is something to be domesticated, proper, good. ?"

- Quite! Well yes! and we all have our own answers to that one have we not?


The meaning of art according to the Chinese Premier - it is interesting what pure socialism this is: One wonders how long it will all be tolerated?
"In his October speech, Mr. Xi implored artists not to be “slaves” of the market or to “lose themselves in the tide of market economy or go astray while answering the question of whom to serve.” Since then, many in China’s creative industries have been waiting to see how Mr. Xi’s ideas would be implemented."

Meanwhile we have the erstwhile Mr Januszczak ranting on about his admiration for the american doyen of conceptual artists Joseph Kosuth at Spruth Magers In the Sunday times of 14/12/14. Kosuth, he asserts, was chosen as the conceptual successor by no less than Marcel Duchamp in 1968. If he was then no-one, told anyone else! The current show exhibits neon signs from 1968 to the present - all arcane, precious and pretentious. This is re-writing art history for the gullible. Kosuth was never anything other than a footnote artist in the 1960's. So Waldemar declares " art is not science, not skill but "it's a poetic force that slips the leash of reason to have it's say!" Conceptual hype all of it! Kosuth liked neon, we hear because of it's low life associations. Strip joint and burger bar. His use of it is, according to Waldemar, impish and brilliant about gaps as well as solids. Yah Dah, yah dah, yah dah. The neon work hasn't aged well, it looks positively quaint now.

If you know the history of the art condition by which anyone can declare it's a work art because they are artists and say so, then it's hard not to deeply resent Kosuth for his cod philosophy. Kosuth it was, who legitimised the oceans of neo-duchampian kitsch we are drowning in. He wrote this in art after philosophy:" It is in modern art’s possession of a “language” with the shortest history that the plausibility of the abandonment of that “language” becomes most possible. It is understandable then that the art that came out of Western painting and sculpture is the most energetic, questioning (of its nature), and the least assuming of all the general “art” concerns. In the final analysis, however, all of the arts have but (in Wittgenstein’s terms) a “family” resemblance. " This is simply untrue, art has absolutely no features that correspond with the features of a language, no syntax, no sentences, no letters, no grammar - it has nothing that corresponds with these things! The world is made of facts not ideas.
Just because the man said it was so, don't make it so, empirically or otherwise!

Meanwhile at the Observer, Laura Cumming is promoting two other conceptualists, Rainer Ruthenbeck and Julio Le Parc. Never heard of them, despite her telling us they have been around since 1968.
She says;"Ruthenbeck was a student of Joseph Beuys in Düsseldorf, contemporary with Sigmar Polke and Anselm Kiefer. Compared to these German luminaries, both represented in huge surveys this autumn, he is a much more modest figure. His gestures are smaller, more concentrated and unassuming. They don’t always add up."

Neither does Beuy's work but that as they say, is another story.

Reiner Ruthenbeck is at the Serpentine Gallery, London W2, Julio Le Parc at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, both until 15 February 2015. Limousines only please>


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 2014 the year British art lost the plot?

This week that middle class comic the Guardian has announced that 2014 was the year that British art lost the plot. It's all over for art and artists in GB according to our erstwhile combative Cambridge educated art critic Jonathon Jones! Jones has been upsetting many people recently since he penned the the poppies at the Tower article.
He writes this without any capacity for self reflection as if being an art critic was a proper job with a responsibility for the state of the cultural zeitgeist ; 
"For a country that isn’t shocked by art is a terrible place to be an artist. Please someone, do something dangerous. There must be a way to offend this know-all nation. This smothering atmosphere of sophisticated tolerance has to be soured somehow."

So it's the duty of art to sour the cultural atmosphere? What complete and utter gunk. If art's only function is to shock, his Cambridge education did him a disservice, as it puts 99% of all artists in history outside the pale.  Perhaps he should carefully consider that we have all grown up somewhat and find that shock and challenge are just empty specs of nihilism for spoilt brats.
This isn't the worst stuff he has penned recently. Michael Sandle a famous sculptures sculptor, wrote this in which has lead to a spat between the Jones and artwatch uk:

" I read Monsieur Jones’s review of Tracey’s show – I thought I’d better go to the Bermondsey White Cube and see if there was something I wasn’t getting.
There is indeed a “bat-squeak” of emotion to be felt in her work – which I suppose is positive compared to the sterility of much Contemporary “art”. But the sketches – not really drawings as I understand it – are very definitely formulaic. They are not based on “looking” and she could do them in her sleep. To compare her with Michelangelo is worse than stupid it because it shows a profound ignorance. The poor man doesn’t understand that there is something known as “High Art”. Her little bronzes are like doodles in clay – they have, I suppose, an “innocence” which, considering the effort (including anatomical dissection) that Michelangelo undertook to master his craft, means it is extraordinarily difficult to see any connection whatsoever. Her problem is, that like that of a lot of people who can’t really draw, she can’t see “shape” – if you can’t see “shape” you can’t draw, it’s as simple as that. If Jones’ comments had any truth it would mean that we are “dumbed-down” beyond hope i.e. “f*****” – which I actually think we are."

This refers to the post of 10th Oct concerning Tracey's show at white cube. Now that as we say is the verifiable real life and experienced artistic truth from an artist who commands huge respect from other artists but in our stupid dumbed down state of ignorance the truth has no real place!

Bob of Bob and Roberta Smith has decided to run against Michael Gove in the general election. That should be an interesting one?  Patrick Brill's manifesto says this:
"I will argue that:

  • No school should be allowed to offer a curriculum without art, music, drama, dance and design at GCSE and A-level.
  • Ofsted must include arts subjects as part of its assessment of schools. No school can possibly be considered “outstanding” unless it offers art, music, drama, dance and design.
  • All children must study at least one arts subject at GCSE.
  • Postgraduate training for art teachers should be enriched, not eroded.
  • All primary-level teachers must be trained in art, craft and music.
  • “Artist educators” should be supported – that is, professional artists who teach while also developing their own art practice."
This is very basic arts education provision commonplace only 25 years ago. There are enormous amounts of research on the gains that engagement with arts gives to pupil's performance in the other areas of the curriculum. Removing arts provision as has been done recently is economically blinkered and downright stupid. It is promoting ignorance at the expense of an all round sound education. Creativity is probably the most precious educational skill for the survival of an individual in the 21st century. This applies also to the sad remains of the UK economy - but then they do know all that.  Are they also removing art from the public school curriculum in the interests of economy?
Of course it is only part of the story, the arts council are warning of the cuts in the arts that are to come. Never mind - the usual suspects and the auction houses are rich enough to stump up the cash - as if?
Lastly at a time when China is building arts colleges hand over fist they are worrying about their failure to innovate. Having acquired by various means the wests skills and ideas they now find they cannot generate any of their own. This is deeply rooted educational problem that has significant political implications for their future but here is not the place to discuss that. It does have a bearing upon our leaders politically short sighted decisions though, it is one thing we do supremely well but we will not be doing so for much longer, it seems if the arts are abandoned in state education.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bloomberg young contemporaries - A rant

First off discontent with the status quo is gathering pace as it needs to do, so Julian Spalding gives a lecture on the pitiable state of contemporary art in the west and argues that public money should not be spent on junk which is just plain common sense. Koons and Hirst are factory managers for the art world, they do not fit any shade of criteria for great art..
In the state art counter-blast a Tate spokesman is reported to have said this:  “Tate’s programme is a balance of historic, modern and contemporary art and includes well-known names such as Turner and Matisse, alongside less well-known historic and contemporary artists. Tate acquires work by artists who are critically acclaimed both nationally and internationally.” 
This is complete dissemblance  and nothing whatsoever to do with the argument. The hyped up promotions of the twenty or so insiders  through the Gagosian have little or nothing to do with critical acclaim nationally or internationally. Their critically acclaimed choices are fixes for groups of insiders, (such as the likes of Christopher Wool who's word pics no-one had heard of 3 years ago) and are hyped to the prices of a Boeing 747 by exchange through a closed group of billionaires. The Tate has no duty or obligation to spend any of our sorely derived public funds on this concep[tual art Letraset. Which brings us to the size of this problem, "By 2015, the Arts Council will have “invested” £2.4bn of funds from the government and the National Lottery over a four-year period." And what does it have to show for it? Think what good that could have done, instead of supporting and enhancing a rotten system for the benefit of those that already have.

As David Lee has commented recently, looking at any contemporary art you can't guess to within three noughts what it cost. He says he auction world is a game played by six of the worlds biggest dealers, two sale rooms, 40 artists, 30 billionaires and cliques of museum directors and curators. No-one else matters. Most art criticism is blatant advertising. In 2012 - 11 of the top artists were with the Gagosian gallery. The cowardice of state art before this closed system is a squalid betrayal of their remit and duty, in this system the quality of the art comes last.

Which is why we have a tribute to the current state of university education in art in the Bloomerg young contemporaries which is puerile effete useless junk of nil interest. Not worth mentioning along with the Turner prize 2014 which has the distinction of being the worst effort ever.  Turner is just the name to add credence to a  video lecture, it's supposed to be an art prize? Both are indicators of how far things have declined in the past thirty years the Turner has been around, books will get written about this

When are the managers who arrange these misbegotten errors of judgement going to wake up and see what has happened to the state of art? They should have the decency to clean out the stygian stable that contemporary art has become, instead of ranting on continuously about the relevance of the art condition. A condition it surely is, much like a medical condition.  It literally does not have to be this way!


Thursday, November 27, 2014

The weeks contemporary art news

A new financial record for a female artist - A Georgia O'Keefe. sells for $44.4 Million. 

Will Self announces that the hyper rich are ruining London. He makes a sophisticated case explaining that the new Tate extension is problematic: "The new Tate Modern will thus be not an art gallery per se, but a sort of life-size model of what an art gallery might be should our culture have need of one. Since it doesn’t, but rather has a requirement for visitor attractions that reify the ever‑widening gulf between haves and have-nots, I’m absolutely certain it will prove an outrageous success." Hubris.

This Sunday's Independent contains an article by a Nick Clark who argues that British Culture is flatlining because of local authority cuts. He reports Robert Hewison an historian as saying that the UK cultural infrastructure will disintegrate after the next election through lack of government funding. It is being sustained at present by the Lottery fund. Do wish that ACE didn't waste so much propping up the unsustainable state art structure. This coalition government is narrowing the audience for the arts by marginalising the arts in the state the education system (public schools don't have any problem) which is now actively limiting arts participation. All so very predictable. The Blair government entered a Faustian pact with the arts which later created a lack of trust, and is now completely broken by money. We will all be the much poorer for it, lost the empire, now actively loosing the arts. Closed the local art schools and museums. So short sighted and downright stupid in purely economic terms alone, let alone quality of life. Short term ignorance is cheap but the most expensive in the long run.  British design was not so long ago the very best in the world. 

"Neoliberalism brought us the banking crisis and is bringing us a cultural crisis. It's a slow burn, but it's happening," Hewison is reported as having said. There is no will to reverse it.

Prince Charles does many very good and positive things and it's great to see that the Charlotte St, Princes Drawing School has been now upgraded to the Royal Drawing School. It says much that for the last decade practically the only art institution in the UK teaching fine art drawing was the school that the Prince set up to preserve the artist's most needed and most pertinent form of visual notation. The rest of the higher education inadequates threw the baby out with the bathwater in pursuit of shlock advertising imperatives and faux art education based upon non-sense.
So don't come back with all that purile non-sense about drawing being taught in secondary schools at GCSE and A level - get real, as if that is remotely possible when headmasters are dispensing with their art departments as fast as they legally can?


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

That Mike Leigh film - J W M Turner.

Mike Leigh's Mr Turner

Mr Turner is an interesting film experience, much like dipping your head in a bucket of brown dirty water.

This is not a great film, it is literally a long Brown Study. Every frame has a yellow ochre tint that becomes just as visually tedious as the over long close-ups which point up both the actors and the CGI limitations. 
Petworth House looks as old and tired then as it does now in 2014 and the Turner paintings in situ do not look anything like as fresh as they would have in the 1820's. There is no sense of the revolutionary aspects of Turners work in any of the film. It is all set pieces, full of Timothy Small's grunts and snorts, frequent choice quotes and retellings of old art history nuggets. The CGI has inaccuracies such as the continual addition of extra waves in seascapes and the treatment of the paintings. The rehash of the fighting Temeraire is lacking in colour intensity and more care could have been taken with the accuracy of the artwork, which again looks just as aged and brown new varnished then as it does now in Tate Britain. Throughout the entire film none of it apart from some sets looks fresh and new and the enacted power plays at the RA varnishing day are downright silly in their over dramatised classist politics. The worst is the young Ruskin who is a comedic parody of the most crass type.
Above all, there is no appreciation of real looking, no quietude, no contemplation, no true visual sensibility. A silly, messy and populist film experience of a great painter's life.


Nigel Andrews, Financial Times: "It’s a beautiful film because it isn’t afraid of beauty’s uglinesses. Artists don’t personify the ideal or dazzling worlds they envision. They are the workshop, not the work. So it’s right, in a biopic, that we see the mess of the creative life."



Finally Christies contemporary art sale smashes all records, the art market continues it's inevitable rise.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Christianity and contemporary art

Following on from the previous post concerning art and religion this week we have Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times telling us that Christianity is refusing to lie down and die despite our dominant cultural atheist taste makers. This badly written article raises some questions, one is hard put to find any contemporary art that is vaguely christian in visual content. 
Appleyard blames the influence of Duchamp for this - as well he might, but if he knew anything about Duchamp - he would know that his visual procedures were derived from very dubious occult sources such as Madame Blavatsky. 
He rumbles on determinedly trying to convince us that work such as Mark Wallinger's "Ecce Homo" for the fourth plinth is a religious work. What he fails to remark upon is that artists without faith cannot produce religious art. No-one could argue that "Francis Bacon's Popes" were religious paintings despite the fact that the artist recanted his atheism on his deathbed.

Appleyard quotes Roger Wagner stating that; "Explicitly religious artists are the true dissidents in a culture of repudiation."

Furthermore he adds;" As the brute hostility of militant atheism subsides and artists look for more expansive meanings, this strange phase may be ending. Picasso is rising." 
For most of us in art Picasso never went away, if he is beginning to be seen anew by a new generation this is an excellent thing - he was the real giant of 20th century art. What he doesn't say is that for the balance to return sanity and to a contemporary art based upon empirical engagement with the world, we have to remove the dominant forces whose interests created the current atheism and nihilism.  They are still in place declaring rubbish about craft and rendering because they are mostly no-nothings....... Art should be above all else be life affirming.

This brings us to the truth - which is that contemporary art has been concerned to mock Christianity and it's values, not to engage with it as it did in the past. Artists are far more adept at undermining Christian values than they are at promoting them.
There's many examples of this problem:
Francis Bacon, Andrés Serrano, the Chapman Bros, Robert Gober, Maurizio Cattelan, Chris Ofili, Sam Taylor-Wood, Kerry Stewart, etc

Today Friday the 14.11.14 we have a strange piece in the Guardian from Polly Toynbee questioning why we need to worship the genuine authentic work of art. This flies against the latest research which has proved that we respond with far more personal identification with the real art work than we do to a copy. That is not to say that the survival of the plaster casts in the sculpture court of the VandA is not a good thing. Especially when hundreds of UK art schools were closed down and their victorian casts were disposed of after WW2 without any rational thought or consideration of what they represented. The sculpture court gives thousands of people their first real glimpse of the real power of art, albeit at a one removed experience. So Toynbee writes:.
"But why should it matter, if they look exactly the same? Art descends to fetish if the only value is to worship at the actual spot where Turner put his brush. Much art looks better on television than in life. I re-watched Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation series, and even in 1969 TV colour, he makes you look and see better. So can Andrew Graham-Dixon in his many TV series."

This is quite erroneous, there are far too many industries destroying the significance of great art by exploiting it in reproduction. Just think of the countless thousands of ways the Mona Lisa has been exploited to the extent that it has lost much of it's original value. The production of the actual artwork is not the same thing as that of the reproduction of it. When you have spent a lifetime of looking at art you realise that the copy is just like the fake, bland and lacking in any of the artists expressive power. The same thing is true of those artists who run factories of assistants.





Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christopher Wool and Alan Jones


Alan Jones is an anomic pop artist, out of his 1960's time, always provocative, he is now excusing his work as post feminist. Nicholas Wroe in the guardian is keen to point up the fact that his work is as offensive" as it ever was. He quotes Alan Jones as follows:"But it is a coincidental and unfortunate reading that has nothing to do with the work. As an artist, I have a responsibility to art. As a human being, I have a responsibility to society. I was brought up a socialist and I think of myself as a feminist and I don’t need to defend my political stance.” 
So that's all right then? and this thoughtful remark which finishes the piece:"Who knows if people will still be interested in all this in 100 years’ time, but if they are, I have a funny feeling they might well use one of my sculptures to sum it up.”

Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times 16/11/14 gets similarly annoyed and damns the work as downright sexist twaddle. Can't help thinking he is right here, the symbols mean nothing new or even significant, rather than progressing Jones has consistently made more deeply entrenched and sexist kitsch.
Alan Jones also succeeded in riling the sanctimonious Jonathon Jones in the Guardian as if he hadn't enough to contend with this week after having angered everyone in the land with a misbegotten article about the Poppy sculpture around the Tower of London. Some people, it seems are just gluttons for punishment as the discussion thread below the article demonstrates clearly. It was amusing that the Tower of London article provoked Private Eye into satirising his remarks with an article entitled The six all-times greatest conveniences in art. Jones is partial to the ten best xxxx in art. Written by someone who studied Jones writing in depth it contained acrid gems and a beautiful rehash of his ill considered post-modernism.;"
THE GAGOSIAN
There are it strikes me, strong hints of necrophilia in the siting of the soap in the conveniences of the Gagosian Gallery. The soap is next to the basin. That much is clear. And is the basin next to the soap? Yes. it is. And are these questions worth asking? No. But where do the taps point? Downwards, as though beckoning us to an early grave......... Never has a basin been so deeply disturbing. And thats what is so deeply disturbing."
Such is the grave danger of being an art critic, attracting the acerbic attention of Private Eye.

Who is this Christopher Wool? He appeared just two years ago and no-one yet no-one had heard of him previously. So why does he command such astronomical prices? There is a very simple reason which the Jackdaw article illuminates and which has absolutely and completely nothing whatsoever to do with the aesthetic quality of his artwork.

Lastly this week there cropped up a very weird article from one Philip Hook (of Sotheby?) in the Independent which discusses weeping in front of artwork. The man writes downright creepy copy, vis; 

"A large number of the people who a generation or two ago might have taken their children to church on Sundays now take them to an art gallery instead. You see them, the well-intentioned classes, anguished by the same reluctance of their little Emilys and Caspars to appreciate the works of Gerhard Richter when chivvied into Tate Modern, as they might formerly have been by their failure to remember the words of the Nicene Creed when funnelled into pews. In Britain today, there is the same reverence accorded to the director of the Tate or the director of the National Gallery as used to be accorded to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York." 

The man is talking to Emily's and Gaspar's decadent parents of course and not the rest of us, who couldn't give a damn and the notion of giving the director for life (Sir Nicholas Serota) the same respect as the Archbishop of Canterbury is truly risible!

Art is not religion. Art is of far, far, far less real world significance than any religion. People do not kill one another for art!



Saturday, November 01, 2014

Contemporary art - the weeks aberrations ?

This weeks news:

Damien Hirst has bought a 18 bedroom house in Regents Park for £24,000,000. He has also bought a whole street in Vauxhall to convert to an art gallery.

Britain’s most famous and, arguably, most controversial artist is to open his new public gallery, occupying an entire street in south London. Hauling his private collection out of storage – because, says Damien Hirst, “it feels bad having it all in crates” – the gallery will exhibit works by Francis Bacon, Banksy, and Jeff Koons, among others, as well as some of Hirst’s own pieces. The Vauxhall space will host 
over 2,000 pieces of art spread across six different galleries, and a café. “Collecting is the way the world works,” the artist comments. “I always think collections are like a map of a person’s life.” His will be on display from next winter, in Newport Street, Vauxhall

Feral pigeons by Banksy in Clacton cause big immigration row?

Firstsite an art centre in Clacton is closing for a while because of rumoured lack of interest and visitors to reassess it's future policies. ACE money wasted.

A Terence Cuneo 20x10ft masterpiece of Waterloo station from 1967 has been badly damaged by a careless scaffolding firm at the National Railway museum in York.

Rose Wylie won the John Moores - so please do have a look at the painting on her website. Rarely has one seen such inept and brainless efforts, says volumes about how far down we have dropped.

Artists are organising to demand payments under the artist resale legislation.  the problem is the secrecy surrounding the question of resale. Artists have to rely on dealers honesty to know about transactions, which of course begs the question of trust? 

National open art competition won by Mackie a painting of a caravan?. Prefer this one by another artist.

Bendor Grosvenor in Guffwatch got worked up about the winner of the Jerwood drawing prize in arthistorynews.com. As well he justifiably might do so, because the clowns who chose a sound recording to win a drawing competition need a serious phone call. Feel very very sorry for the other artists who paid to enter this dumb farce.

More dross public sculpture to be seen out and about:

Spike Milligan sculpture in Finchley by John Somerville. Never had respect for the old clown -  after he shot one of my students at FCHS with an airgun who had sneaked into his back garden to recover a football in the early 70's.

Liverpool public sculpture by Leonard Brown of the mythical Eleanor Rigby and another one by Tommy Steel - both of which are appalling rubbish as any sort of monumental sculpture.  Why do people seem to think it's ok to assume they are capable of doing this and compete with Michaelangelo, they don't pass themselves off as brain surgeons or nuclear physicists do they?

Finally this week saw in an ocean of contemporary art muck a little light in the dark.

Anne Desmet at Brooke graphics in Budleigh Salterton. She is a quietly understated printer who produces gems of real art.




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why do the arts matter?

Surprised to find this cropped up recently:

"The arts matter because they can and do in a million different ways make life bearable and they do that in good times and in bad, for the arts are part of the enduring and and always needed zeal of Irish life"

They matter because they are our main affirmation of our humanity. As David Aspin once said: " A group of aliens arrive on earth and say they will wipe out the human race as a failed experiment unless we can offer them proof we are worth preserving. What do we offer? Not science, not technology, not anything except the arts. Just Hamlet, a Rembrandt or La Boheme, these are the things that affirm our status as animals and human beings. The arts matter more than all of the rest because they affirm our true value."


Eric Fishchl Is a very successful artist whose visual content has always been difficult to pigeon hole. Guess the content of his work is american cultural decadence but he seems to be biting the hand that feeds him with his latest work or is he actually subversively flattering the hedge fund classes? He has always been ahead of the marketing curve so expect that the visual content is designed to flatter by association. The pecuniary association of collecting contemporary art, that is.

This week has seen the Frieze exhibition in London but it seems to have had less press publicity than the Banksy that got defaced. The thing that has always annoyed about Banksy is on display here, which is that the defaced work actually seems like a distinct improvement upon the purported original. What that says about graffiti is a mystery. 

Also one of the years events is the publication of Art Reviews power 100, the top (as in most powerful) people in art, this year is headed by (the president for life) Sir Nicholas Serota. Notable for the absence of any UK artists whatsoever, Koons is there but his star has waned recently which goes to prove just how spurious these invented publicity lists are. Perhaps the Artlyst alternative list is a more helpful guide to how things are?

Lastly there is the opportunity to have your tattoo done by the Chapman bros at the Jerwood gallery. Now isn't that the most exciting artistic prospect you have seen for a long time? No, isn't it? Expect huge queues of the lost and bewildered in Hastings. One thing though, as one who believes that the unadorned human body is quite the most beautiful thing on the planet its seems right to remind readers that the cost of a tattoo is in excess of £5,000, which is the minimum you will have to pay for it's removal by lazer and the resultant scarring.

Lastly an interesting discussion about the current state of painting in the UK from Edward Lucie Smith, shame about his chosen and preferred artists though!
Nuff said.