August 19, 2012

"My job was simple: Paint by numbers."

"The most intricate sections required miniature brushes, sizes 0 and 00, their bristles no longer than an eyelash. The goal was to hand-fashion a flat, seamless surface that appeared to have been manufactured by machine, which meant there could be no visible brush strokes, no blending, no mistakes."

The tribulations of an art worker, paid $14 an hour to make a painting "by" Jeff Koons that sold for $501,933. Koons does the ideas and he makes far more money. Do you have a problem with that?

105 comments:

The Crack Emcee said...

Do you have a problem with that?

Nope. I think Jeff could pay more, but hiring talented people to flesh out ideas is fine.

They don't have the ideas,...

edutcher said...

Rubens did the same thing 400 years ago.

Alex said...

Steve Jobs never wrote a line of code or machined a single piece of metal, but he gets all the credit.

Paddy O said...

Well, shoot, you don't pay us commenters anything.

Chip S. said...

The guy could make twice as much painting houses. Of course, he'd need to buy a bigger brush.

wef said...

No problem at all.

The phenomenon sometimes goes under the names, Division of Labor, Specialization, and Exchange.

(And, because it is the only source of true wealth, it is the Bane of magical-thinkers and other socialists everywhere.)

Dante said...

Talk about tough questions. The person doing the paint by numbers is adding value, and I like to think of it as adding a percentage of value to the overall final product.

I suppose it would be nice if, for each painting, the paint by numbers person were to get some (small) percentage of the final sales price.

That's why I like working for startups. There is a binding together of the human effort as a team that in my view has tremendous value.

Ken said...

Dante,

Talk about tough questions.

This is not a tough question at all. If the paint by numbers painters don't like what they get paid, they can always quit and find another job. Like Chip said, they could make twice as much as house painters. Of course, then they'd have to be doing harder physical labor and work outside. But as with everything in the world, there are trade offs.

Paul Risenhoover said...

If the paint by numbers painters don't like what they get paid, they can always quit and find another job.

the way I read the story, he did quit, and the painting that sold wasn't done by him. the one he was paid $14 per hour to work on was destroyed, a total loss for Koons and it doesn't sound like John Powers had a problem with that.

Synova said...

The way I read the story... the painting he was painting was "ruined" so he was out of a job painting it.

And then the name of the painting was changed to "broken" egg, because of all the cracked paint, and sold for a fortune.

brio said...

Let's see: Dale Chihuly does the same thing. He creates the design and someone else blows his glass thingamabobs.

Also sounds a bit like Warhol's Factory--John Cale said "It wasn't called the Factory for nothing."

Synova said...

I think it's pretty normal for "artists" to hire people to do the grunt work and actual fabrication.

So I don't really have a problem with that (other than the "make more money painting houses" part.)

What I noticed the most from the article wasn't his exit from his job painting for this guy, but his exit from the art school and him giving up on being an artist.

Maybe he gets that, too, and the story was about the capricious nature of it all. He was hired to paint highly constrained, just perfect, art and he was flunked out of art school for being too constrained. And then the major artwork he was hired to paint was made into a master-work, not by design by a *real* artist, the sort he seemed not to be able to become, but by falling on the floor and adding cracks to the paint all over and acquiring red hand prints.

Tragedy becomes farce.

The Crack Emcee said...

Having a "problem" with this approach leaves out the whole idea that the painter can then take the money he makes and pay others to flesh out his ideas.

In other words, it's an argument against capitalism,...

lohwoman said...

The way I read the story, the serf's first version took him five months and it was damaged and thrown out. He started all over with fresh canvas and quit his job a few weeks later. It doesn't sound like he finished it but it sounds like the experience finished him.

Rose said...

Sorry, but if he doesn't paint it - he is not the artist. The paint-by-numbers serf is an artist, but not that kind, more a craftsman. Maybe Koons could be called a designer.

Rabel said...

How could anyone have a problem with the man responsible for this?

Richard Dolan said...

It puts into stark relief basic assumptions about art and what it means to be an artist.

Since the Renaissance, collectors have put a huge premium on works by an artist as compared with those generated by the artist's studio (scuola di ...). And there has always been a complex dynamic between the work of art as an object-in-itself vs an artifact by an individual. Copies or imitations (a/k/a fakes) were dismissed as serious works on that basis. (I know, I know, the artist didn't really make the work, but let's pass that by.)

The Koons approach erases all of those distinctions. Since the objective is to make a painting by hand that looks like it was made by machine, one wonders what the point of pretending is -- just use a machine, and let Koons remain the idea man. Of course, once you take that step, the idea of a work of art as a unique expression is also out the window -- machines are good at making as many exact iterations of the piece as you want. Painting becomes like photography or print-making, with the resultant impact on prices. That's probably the main reason Koons doesn't take that next logical step.

The impact of the Koons approach on the idea of art and artist is quite striking. It's like chess played by a machine -- all the moves are there, but it's not a game, let alone a battle of wits. Just so with Koons. But don't tell that to Christie's.

Aridog said...

Production line art or multiple input piece work art. Like "Crack" said, the ideas are important, so hiring talent to make them real is de rigueur I would assume. I don't know, but it seems reasonable and capitalistic to boot.

Koons reminds of Peter Max and/or Heinz Edelmann, but with more kitsch...if that is possible. I assume Max and Edelmann (RIP) employ (-ed) "serfs" as well. If I have to choose, I'd go with early Peter max stuff.

All of their techniques, such as projecting photographic images and tracing them, etc. are mundane ... 10 year olds were doing that in the 1950's with Kodachrome slides. Andy Warhol made a living with it and made kitsch kitsch. Making repeated images, not copies per se, of the same basic concept is also part of the program for Koons, Max, Edelmann, Warhol, et al.

Can't fault the money they make or made. Someone will buy just about anything if is unique enough.

tim maguire said...

I don't have a problem with it, but i'm surprised no one has yet pointed out what is going on here. Jeff koons isn't contributing any ideas, he's contributing the name jeff koons.

Nobody's paying a fortune for a painting, they're paying a fortune for a painting with jeff koons' name on it.

Who cares what the actual painter did? that's just packaging.

cold pizza said...

Not everyone gets to be an astronaut. The world needs, and has, plenty of people whose sole qualification is mastering the phrase: "You want fries with that?" -CP

elkh1 said...

Buffett makes billions and pays less taxes, according to him, than his secretary who does all the work and is paid less than $60,000 a year.

Koons' serf was paid double the prevailing wages. Buffett's secretary isn't as lucky. Her wage for slavering most her life for Buffett, a multi-billionaire, does not double the prevailing secretarial pay. In fact, after taxes, she makes as little as those who are collecting disability benefits.

Cedarford said...

Alex said...
Steve Jobs never wrote a line of code or machined a single piece of metal, but he gets all the credit

===========

True, and REpublicans best be wary of exploiting Obama's huge blunder on "you didn't build that!" by giving sole credit to The Single Great John Galtian Man

And ignoring

1. Investors.
2. The geniuses at Xerox PARC research facility Jobs & Co freely stole from.
3. The employees.
4. The customer support base, which represents as "goodwill", a huge part of Apples cash value.

Same holds true of Koons painting. Tell the employees that made it that "they didn't build that" - only what Republicans consider their hero boss built it.

Besides being inaccurate to give The Single Great Galtian Hero Owner full credit in most circumstances....
It is also stupid politics on the Republicans part. (tell dozens, hundreds, tens of thousands of stakeholders that they deserve no credit, have no reason to feel any insult from Obama because they really aren't part of the Hero Boss's business suceeding)

Good businesses have employees with pride from their sense that they, their talent, hard work, ideas - also played a big role in "building that business".

The message Republicans send is the Boss or Boss-Owner is the only Hero...who should vote Republican and donate. The mere investors, employees, others that do the growth of the business have no influence on it one way or the other, and should vote Obama unless they want to start their own business and get off their lazy wage & salary lives and be a Hero that builds things...

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann really has to see this film if she wants to understand art today.

FleetUSA said...

I don't think Koons can put his name to the art he didn't create with his own hands.

School of Koons or "directed by Koons" would be better.

I only like to buy original art by an original artist. Hence I buy cheaper stuff in keeping with my limited wallet.

Synova said...

Ah, I see.

The painting was started over. The ruined one was just ruined.

And then was done in a number of different colors, over and over again.

Reminds me of my single semester as an art major and we got to see a slide show from someone from our school that had gone to New York and "made it big". We saw slide after slide of sculptures... two resin obelisks, twisted to mirror each other. Over and over and over and over.

First, they were ugly. Second, they were ugly. Third, it was the same thing, he'd done art *once*, and got stuck there.

How smart does a person have to be to know it's all a scam? Complain about Kinkade? On what grounds?

My second (who I seem to be mentioning multiple times today) went to an "art" high school and they saw some "real" artists to admire and emulate... fired clay slabs with holes in them that dripped enamel.

Over and over and over and over.

My kid only saw it as tragic and tried to imagine hitting on the first thing that *sold* and doing it for the rest of her life.

Over and over and over.

Paying someone else to do it would at least keep you from soul killing despair.

Rabel said...

Koons is an outsourcer. The very definition of evil.

Next you'll tell me that Cristo didn't really hang all those sheets himself.

Paco Wové said...

"he'd done art *once*, and got stuck there."

I would assert that this is an apt description of almost all modern art.

Chip S. said...

Koons is an outsourcer.

Koons hires domestic wage slaves, so he's an exploiter but not an outsourcer.

Still evil, of course.

Shouting Thomas said...

Jesus, $14 an hour is pretty good compared to what a lot of very wealthy famous musicians want to pay their sidemen.

Some of the biggest names in blues and rock and roll have asked me to work as a sideman for almost nothing. A couple of decades ago, I ceased doing that.

If it's for a particularly good charity, I'll do it for a pittance. Otherwise, no.

One of the dilemmas of the arts is that the same people who preach income redistribution for the corporate world practice something entire different in their own business.

At least, when I sell my skills as a corporate artist, I get paid decently.

Holmes said...

It's how most companies work. But companies aren't people, and neither are art corporations like this one. Right?

rcommal said...

I am put in mind of that scene in "Hannah and Her Sisters" in which the Daniel Stern rock-star character wants to buy "big" art.

wyo sis said...

Art student gets paid double minimum wage to produce art.
College student gets paid minimum wage to produce hamburgers.
Art student is better off.

Shouting Thomas said...

Steve Jobs lobbied presidents to increase the number of H1B visa programmers he could hire.

In other words, he imported Indian programmers to take U.S. programmers' jobs.

To cut costs.

Dante said...

This is not a tough question at all. If the paint by numbers painters don't like what they get paid, they can always quit and find another job

Your answer is a fine answer for some. It's not so easy for me. Her question was a personal one.

I personally have worked for companies (startups) in which a percentage of the business is given to the employees, vested over years. It works great with small companies, though it isn't used much in large companies, and recent changes in Federal Accounting laws have made it much more difficult to give certain kinds of stock options to the proles.

So it's easy for you, it's not easy for me, and I am not convinced at all that pay by the hour is the most efficient way to run a company, from my experience. I'd love to hear bagoh20 weigh in. I'm willing to bet that he shares company profits with the workers as he is able to within the confines of what makes sense for future profitability of the company, etc. In my experience, good people managers like bagoh20 do.

That having been said, in large companies the value of stock options with a strike price of the current price has been problematic for many reasons, and so that's difficult too. That's one of the reasons there are bonuses, a form of profit sharing, which tend to go to the "better" workers. There are issues with that as well.

So, I say again. To me this is not a simple question at all. At a moral level, I agree with your assessment. The $14.00 an hour is completely moral, as it is the free exchange of goods.

At the human level, I have my doubts, and would like to believe that some of the value of those paintings as a percentage can be directly traced to the paint-by-numbers worker's extra individual efforts. In that sense, I like to think some form of extra compensation based on the value of the painting at sale is provided, even a diminished percentage, to the worker.

creeley23 said...

The painting, "Cracked Egg," is surprisingly beautiful.

Cedarford said...

elkh1 said...
Buffett makes billions and pays less taxes, according to him, than his secretary who does all the work and is paid less than $60,000 a year.

Koons' serf was paid double the prevailing wages. Buffett's secretary isn't as lucky. Her wage for slavering most her life for Buffett, a multi-billionaire, does not double the prevailing secretarial pay. In fact, after taxes, she makes as little as those who are collecting disability benefits.

==============
Buffetts exec secretary makes in the low 100K range. More than double what Secretaries make unless you are talking Secretary of State, Treasury, etc.

Buffett does pay less in taxes than Romney AND his secretary. That is because the US tax code is crazy.
It is one thing to not to want to double tax dollars earned as income for return on investment...but the Wealthy Elites have managed to get the cap gains rate applied to almost anything that makes money outside a 9 to 5 job. House flipping gains from no money down loans, the whole income hedge fund managers get, diversion of exec compensation into "options" that are guaranteed but are considered cap gain.
And of course once you have made money, lots of it, from speculative activities, you are far more advantaged by the tax code in trying to build that 5 million into 50 million in net worth than a mere wage earner is trying to build 60,000 dollars in savings into a 350,000 retirement fund.

Jeffrey said...

Dear Jeff Koons:

YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT.

The President.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Richard Dolan,

Since the objective is to make a painting by hand that looks like it was made by machine, one wonders what the point of pretending is -- just use a machine, and let Koons remain the idea man. Of course, once you take that step, the idea of a work of art as a unique expression is also out the window -- machines are good at making as many exact iterations of the piece as you want. Painting becomes like photography or print-making, with the resultant impact on prices. That's probably the main reason Koons doesn't take that next logical step.

Think Thomas Kinkade here. (Koons would hate that juxtaposition, but he deserves it.) Kinkade sold his nauseatingly twee prints partly on the strength of their being "originals," in that small flecks of paint were added by hand to each print, and naturally every print sold would be slightly "different" from every other one.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

shoutingthomas,

Jesus, $14 an hour is pretty good compared to what a lot of very wealthy famous musicians want to pay their sidemen.

Some of the biggest names in blues and rock and roll have asked me to work as a sideman for almost nothing. A couple of decades ago, I ceased doing that.


Heh. A year or two after moving to the Bay Area (I was a teenage college student), I discovered that my name was on a list, circulating widely, of people who would play gigs for next to nothing. I turned down a lot of low-paying work after that.

Dante said...

Steve Jobs lobbied presidents to increase the number of H1B visa programmers he could hire.

In other words, he imported Indian programmers to take U.S. programmers' jobs.

To cut costs.


Scott Adams had something like this in "The Wealth of Nations," wish I could recall the exact quotation, but it essentially said something to the effect that if workers start making a certain amount of money, the ownership class will eventually right the ship. It happens every-time.

Regarding the point about lobbying for bringing over Indians, I personally would rather have more of them here, participating in pushing 21st century technologies, rather than setting up shop overseas, or allowing in millions of 1800's Agrarian oriented workers from south of the border, who tend to consume far more in taxes than they pay. But, there you have it. That probably makes me a racist to some, when I see it as a new way for ownership class people to tap into the taxes of the middle class for subsidies.

I work almost exclusively with Indians (though my boss is other Asian). These people are smart and hard working, and I have to compete with these world-class engineers. It sucks, it really does, but I wouldn't change it (except some of the cultural mores that suck).

Methadras said...

The idea man is the risk taker. It's his idea that he needs to pitch. If no one buys it, he and everyone underneath him doesn't get paid. No problems here. Everyone has their roles to play.

elkh1 said...

ST: Steve Jobs ...imported Indian programmers to take U.S. programmers' jobs." Yes.

"To cut costs." Not directly.

To qualify for the visas, the imported employees would have to be paid the prevailing wages. Advertisements are run in local papers, and national papers for qualified candidates.

Of course, with the increase in supply, prevailing wages stay prevailing.

Apple's pay is competitive with other high tech pay in the area. An entry level programmer could earn $90,000 a year, not exactly cut-cost wages.

Conclusion: we haven't produced enough qualified programmers. After the Dot-bomb, our "smart and brightest" left computer science to the less bright. Hence, it took an ACT score close to 36 to be accepted in Business, 30 to Computer Science. Four years later, my daughter had 6 offers, business graduates none.

Revenant said...

Sorry, but if he doesn't paint it - he is not the artist

Can film directors be artists?

Jason said...

Koons provided a job to an otherwise nearly unemployable artist.

Why the f***k should ANYBODY have a problem with that?

Jason said...

Ms. Thompson,

As another working musician, I often think of some advice I got from Tommy Tedesco, the studio guitarist from LA in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and one of the most recorded musicians in history:

A gig should have one or more, and preferably two of the following:

1. Good money.
2. Learning.
3. Fun.
4. Connections for the future.

If it doesn't have two, then move on. Because what might be a lousy gig for you is a great one for someone trying to move up the ladder.

Revenant said...

In other words, he imported Indian programmers to take U.S. programmers' jobs.

The unemployment rate among US workers in the software field ranges from 4.4 percent (software developers) to less than one percent (network and database administrators).

H1B visas are used because competent workers are hard to find. Engineering isn't like working on an assembly line or pushing paper in an office; the vast majority of people can't do the job well.

Bob_R said...

This has been standard practice for sculptors for centuries. Not many sculptors know the craft of casting in bronze. (Some do. There are a lot of sculptors that are crazy metal heads. But they are considered two separate skills - like writing songs and playing piano.)

Paddy O said...

"Can film directors be artists?"

No, and neither can actors.

They're all following the script.

Balfegor said...

They don't have the ideas,...

I suspect a lot of them have both the ideas and the eye -- what they lack is the brand. Which is extremely valuable, because that's what rich consumers are paying for.

Chip S. said...

Obviously the true artist in the film-making process is the person who types the final draft of the script.

rehajm said...

Koons hires domestic wage slaves, so he's an exploiter but not an outsourcer.


True dat...Sol Lewitt left behind instructions on how to paint a Sol Lewitt. Others come along, follow the instructions, do all the work. Don't get paid jack. Yet when complete, it is a true Sol Lewitt. One wonders if the exploitation was intended as part of the art...

Balfegor said...

The painting, "Cracked Egg," is surprisingly beautiful.

I have to say, that was not my reaction. The subject -- a cracked eggshell -- seems like it would have lent itself well to a richer, subtler treatment, replicating the blend of colours and textures on the interior and exterior of an eggshell. The kind of thing you'd see in a skull in a Vanitas painting by an old master.

Maybe it's better in person, but this just looks flat and blue. Which I suppose is what you would expect when Koons' idea boils down to colouring by numbers.

Cedarford said...

Revenant said...
In other words, he imported Indian programmers to take U.S. programmers' jobs.

The unemployment rate among US workers in the software field ranges from 4.4 percent (software developers) to less than one percent (network and database administrators).

H1B visas are used because competent workers are hard to find. Engineering isn't like working on an assembly line or pushing paper in an office; the vast majority of people can't do the job well
==================
Except the problems with mass importation of skillsets, vs. trying to develop them domestically - is that H1-B and illegal immigration ensure wages do not rise for skillsets in short supply, which in turn would drive people into universities and the Armed Forces to get those critically needed skill sets.

So the end result is you can never import enough Indian and Chinese professionals - because students and "retraining" laid off workers will not invest time and money in learning to do a job they expect the cheaper Indians, E Europeans, and Chinese imported workers to dominate.
Why kill yourself in Math and Sciences, or get a 4-year nursing degree when the market is undercut.

Part of this reality is what drove so many students into law school, "government adninistration" degrees, "law enforcement" degrees....anticipation that their technical degrees would mean shit in terms of hirability and value if they had to compete against 3rd World degreed people here in their own Homeland. Better be a Hero cop, a lawyer, a teacher, a Government manager. Something protected against offshoring and having barriers in place like "doctor and truck driver and Teacher certification" - against hiring H1-Bs to depress wages and boost Owner wealth.

Every H1-B worker or illegal alien in a good job also represents another instance of where our American system failed to create a trained US labor supply.

If we really wanted to, we could greatly cheapen the costs of other labor pools like doctors, teachers, cops, pilots....by eliminating cert in US requirements and opening them up to foreign labor coming in and competing and cutting their salaries..,

Joe said...

My problem is that I don't have the lack of ethics and cleverness to pull off a con job like this.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Jason,

A gig should have one or more, and preferably two of the following:

1. Good money.
2. Learning.
3. Fun.
4. Connections for the future.

If it doesn't have two, then move on. Because what might be a lousy gig for you is a great one for someone trying to move up the ladder.


Well, at the time I was mainly interested in 2. and 3., because I was an engineering student playing gigs on the side, and not in frantic need of money. But I began to get more selective about then -- partly about money, partly about time. If you're living in Berkeley dorms and have to get to somewhere in SF w/o car, an hour gig can easily involve six times that in travel time, and what was already low pay would look a lot less attractive.

wv: 59 Assonng. No, really.

Synova said...

"Except the problems with mass importation of skillsets, vs. trying to develop them domestically - is that H1-B and illegal immigration ensure wages do not rise for skillsets in short supply, which in turn would drive people into universities and the Armed Forces to get those critically needed skill sets."

Except that someone who needs a programmer doesn't need a programmer six years from now.

Locking down hiring and businesses so that they can't outsource or hire from elsewhere on the theory that the economy will WAIT LONGER THAN THE USUAL LIFE USEFULNESS OF NEW TECHNOLOGY just to hire someone who has responded to the need for certain abilities and gone to University here or been through the military to gain training is moronic, Cedarford.

It's up there with the idea we don't need a standing military because if we ever DO need to fight a war the enemy will politely allow us the 10 years necessary to sufficiently train effective NCO's.

Chip S. said...

If Koons had paid the guy $1400 an hour, it wouldn't be any more or less Koons's art.

What's very clear from this article is that Koons is the residual claimant and Powers is the employee. Koons is the one who bore the loss from the wrecked painting, and he's the one who pockets the profit from the ones that get sold. Powers is completely free to become a residual claimant in either of two ways: (1) sell his own work under his own name, or (2) pay Koons a fixed fee acceptable to him for the use of his designs and name, then pocket the difference b/w sales revenue and expenses. Just like every other business owner.

As things stand, Powers takes his $14 an hour to be able to say he's an "art worker" rather than an assistant manager at Banana Republic.

Levi Starks said...

It sounds like "trickle down" art to me

Chip S. said...

No, you're thinking of Jackson Pollock.

Joe said...

One bit of warning from a veteran of the computer industry. Most the jobs sent overseas and quite a few going to H1Bs at less-than-market rates were otherwise going away. The number of failed projects sent overseas or staffed by amateurs is simply huge. Yes, there are exceptions, but don't fool yourself into thinking they are the rule.

(Some years ago, I worked with several people who had previously worked for a large consulting firm. They had plenty of stories of utter incompetence on the part of a low bidder in India. Problem is, the entire project was all about said consulting company extracting the maximum amount of money from the client without producing shit. When the project was explained to me, I was genuinely shocked--I could have put together a team of 5 senior engineers and done the job for a tenth the cost in a tenth the time. And it would have worked; no need for a maintenance contract or to contract anyone in India.

Interestingly, two of these fellows took over a project at the company we were at and ended up responsible for releasing one of the worse, most buggy pieces of software ever. Yet, kept their jobs. It's a gift, I suppose.)

Rusty said...

Even labor is determined by market forces.

Balfegor said...

As things stand, Powers takes his $14 an hour to be able to say he's an "art worker" rather than an assistant manager at Banana Republic.

I guess. Honestly, though, he's no more an "art worker" than the women in old-time watch factories who painted the fine details on the watches. Only this time the paint isn't radioactive.

rhhardin said...

I could never stay inside the lines.

elkh1 said...

There were 62 attempted Martian landings, 15 were American.

Only 13 of the attempts were successful, all American.

We are not exactly chopped liver, aren't we?

Balfegor said...

re: elkh1:

We are not exactly chopped liver, aren't we?

Ja. Our Germans are better than their Germans.

3k2 said...

Values ​​and ideas and feelings Artistic surrounded by monetary value "difficult"

http://3k2.blogspot.com.br/2012/07/david-guetta-i-can-only-imagine-ft.html

rcommal said...

The article is about John Powers' experience in 1995,. Now he's 38 and a P.I., not an art worker--which is not to say, of course, that there's no art to being a P.I. : )

Penny said...

"I could never stay inside the lines."

Perhaps if you had gone over each coloring book line with your own black crayon?

It's remarkable how much easier it is to stay inside the lines that are now your own.

jr565 said...

How's he different than a session musician who comes in to play a guitar solo? And Michaelangelo had a whole team helping him. As did Renoir. \Many of the great artists were not solely responsible for their craft.

jr565 said...

He reads the dots and plays each line,
And always finishes on time.
No overtime nor favors done.
He is a session man,
A chord progression,
A top musician.

He's not paid to think, just play,
A session man
A session man
A session man

madAsHell said...

Paint by numbers??
My bad!
I thought this was about Obama.

ALP said...

I worked as a business immigration paralegal for 10 yrs....I have slung many H1B petitions as well as employer sponsored green cards. I went into it blank slate...I needed a job and the law firm hired me-no preconceived notions of what it was about . During my tenure, never, ever did the thought "boy, these companies are saving lots of money hiring foreign nationals" cross my mind. However, the OPPOSITE thought..."boy, these companies sure shell out a ton of $$$ money when you add the high salaries to the legal and filing fees over the years..." Not to mention that, if a company hires lots of foreign nationals, they have to dedicate either part of an FTE, or in some cases, an entire staff person to work with a law office in getting petitions filed. OR, in the case of Microsoft, you have an entire DEPARTMENT of lawyers and support staff to shovel petitions.

Bottom line: it costs MORE over the long run to hire from India or China..especially if the job only requires a bachelor's degree. That green card application will be pending for YEARS leaving the employer to constantly pay for work authorizations (usually for the whole family) in addition to travel documents.

rehajm said...

It sounds like "trickle down" art to me

No, you're thinking of Jackson Pollock.

No, you're thinking of Andres Serrano

Carnifex said...

As a carpenter I can tell you about suppressing wages. When I started as an carpenters helper decades ago I made $5 an hour to sweep up the work area, and to fetch whatever the carpenters needed. Fast forward a decade and I am leading crews doing out of town work with minimal supervision from the head office, I make $14 an hour. Forward another 20 years, and I subcontract out my services, doing finish work. I make $16 an hour. Forward 10 more years, and I am doing home repair working for my self. I make $12 an hour, when I can get work. 5 more years and I can get hired by a stable company. The pay is $8 an hour.

All because our border is so porous that illegals are taking all our construction work. I don't blame the Mexicans. They're just trying to get ahead. I don't blame the companies hiring the Mexicans. If they didn't the guy down the street does so he can charge less. Simple economics.

This falls squarely on the Republican and Democratic parties, for not protecting the borders, and the loathing I feel for them would make a blowtoarch seem as the arctic circle.

Carnifex said...

Ps

No, I can't get hired. Decades of carpentry work have left me almost deaf, and with 7 hernias, bad knees, bad shoulders, bad back, and a myriad of other ailments.

Fuck the Parties and their screwing with the American construction business

Pps.

If wages had kept up with labor demand, without the artifical supression from illegals, the housing bubble would never have happened. Fannie and Freddie didn't help, but there was a reason why houses were so cheap.

AReasonableMan said...

Carnifex said... If wages had kept up with labor demand, without the artifical supression from illegals, the housing bubble would never have happened.

This is a very thoughtful comment. Very large houses did become ridiculously cheap, still overpriced as it turned out, but much cheaper than would have been the case without the distortion of wages by cheap imported labor.

Bob Ellison said...

He has a Twitter account, you know.

wildswan said...

I've seen articles about restoration of wonderfully detailed ceilings and walls in temples and mosques overseas and the workers were virtually painting by numbers as they copied the patterns. They were extremely skilled, they were craftsmen but no one would say they were artists. It's Koons who has the ideas but who is not interested enough in his medium to do the work who is difficult to place - I feel like that such a person must be so shallow that he could not be a real artist. That he's probably like the seventh season of a TV show that was OK at first but now is just going through the motions.

wyo sis said...

If Koons has ever done a painting using his technique you can say it's his vision, his technique, and his painting.
Is that a fair statement? I have to say I don't know.
But, an artist who accepted money to work for him got what he bargained for. He agreed to work for X dollars an hour and he did. There's no argument there. If he painted for 8 hours and it was thrown away he still got paid and that was the bargain he made.
He wasn't cheated. He got exactly what he was promised.

Astro said...

That's been done in the world of art for centuries. It's likely that large parts of the Mona Lisa were not painted by Da Vinci but by a underling. Likewise with the Sistine Chapel.

Synova said...

I'm going to buy some art next weekend.   Peri Charlifu shows at our science fiction convention every year.  I couldn't find the pattern I like, but I bought a platter with violets last year and I hope I can get a nice bowl or two this year that match it.  It's not decorated with elf runes or Vulcan writing or even cthulu tentacles, just violets.  



One of my good friends just gave me this poster as a late anniversary present.  I think it is the most terrifically horrific thing in the universe.  It WILL be framed and displayed.

Synova said...

I couldn't find the violet pattern *on the internet*. Is what I meant to say. But there are pictures of Peri's work.

Pottery is very much lots of the same thing over and over. He seems to have found a way to keep it interesting and fun.

wyo sis said...

Synova
You yourself are a constant surprise thanks to you for keeping it interesting.

Pogo said...

"My job was simple: Paint by numbers."

Describes many jobs, really.

John Lynch said...

Taking pizzas where they need to go pays better.

But maybe I'll try being a PI. Hmm.

On topic, if it was painted by a robot controlled by a computer programmed with the design, would it be better than a human painting by the numbers?

Are we mad about people being robots?

Revenant said...

Except the problems with mass importation of skillsets, vs. trying to develop them domestically - is that H1-B and illegal immigration ensure wages do not rise for skillsets in short supply, which in turn would drive people into universities and the Armed Forces to get those critically needed skill sets.

Illegal immigration has nothing to do with this issue.

Secondly, software engineers are well-paid. The problem isn't a shortage of pay, the problem is a shortage of people capable of learning to do the work. Software engineering already poaches people from the hard sciences and from other engineering fields as it is.

Thirdly, software engineering is less location-dependent than almost any other industry. If the government listened to morons like you the result wouldn't be "massive pay raises for American engineers" or "lots more engineers in America". It would be "the American software industry is crippled and overtaken by foreign competition" -- just like happened with the auto industry.

Ken said...

Carnifex,

All because our border is so porous that illegals are taking all our construction work.

It's clear you don't care about your customers, so why should anyone care about you? You want to make sure customers prices stay high, so your wages can stay high. You could give a shit about making your customers lives' better. You want them to be forced to divert money away from all other parts of their economic lives into carpentry.

Fuck the Parties and their screwing with the American construction business

Fuck you for wanting to screwing with all Americans by trying to force them to pay higher prices for construction.

Maybe we should also impede technological progress, right? After all, nothing in the history of mankind has suppressed wages or destroyed jobs the way technology does. Imagine how many jobs their would be if only the tractor could be outlawed. That way all those jobs working fields would come back.

But the reality is that if you're getting paid $8/hour, this just means you suck at your job, since the median salary for carpenters is $19/hour.

And news flash, for 300 out of 400 years open borders existed in the Americas. Except for two brief periods (Civil War and WWI), the US had open borders at exactly the same time enormous economic growth occurred. Closed borders didn't come into existence permanently till WWII, a scant 70 years ago. In other words, open borders have nothing to do with low wages. If it did, the spectacular growth rate in the US wouldn't have started till after 1941.

MadisonMan said...

That sounds like a great job for a student. $14/hour! Who cares what you're doing? It's $14/hour! Plenty of beer money.

Kathy said...

I just loved the comments here Ann.

A computer could do the replication work for the "designer" (as Rose said well).

Rage Against the Machine - especially when it comes to art that became so artificial and inauthentic as the Industrial Revolution led us humans to the Artificial Intelligence takeover of human free will that we all encounter - unsuccessfully - today in our Post Human World.

Truly - this was a seminar I attended on the UW Madison Campus last year - apparently the latest rage in English Literary Criticism - Post-Humanism.

Try selling that to a college freshman nowdays. You know - these kids who are so burned out from "The Inconvenient Truth" curriculum taught by hippie teachers in their K-12 experience....

Post Human? Are you friggin kidding us?

Fascinating question and discussion. I loved every comment.

By the way - this isn't art. It's like.....anti-art. Your pictures on this blog - IMHO - art.

crosspatch said...

The role was talented labor and not artistic in that the colors were laid out. If I paid someone $14 / hour to hammer nails on a house I would sell for $500,000, do they deserve a larger "cut"?

They agreed to work at the given rate. That was out contract. To suddenly change the expectation to some percentage of the sale in ADDITION to the amount negotiated is unreasonable. If you want a percentage, negotiate that at the start, not after it is sold.

Chip Ahoy said...

This story warmed my heart.

It bildungsroman.

You know what? I really miss those places that helped cut down framing cost. We had two different franchises in town and both are gone

Frame it Yourself, and You Frame It.

Those two places were great. The best part was I could take my stuff down there and they'd just do what I wanted. They knew me. I'd go back and pick it up, or someone else would, sometimes the person who owns the piece would go and get it. The receiver paid for framing but the pieces are framed the way I say. I've considered buying all that stuff, I don't need all the frames, just the one or two I use, and a huge mat cutter, and a huge glass cutter, and I'd have to have a lot of glass around. And matt board. But all the same type so it's not like I'm stocking a frame shop. What the heck, I store crap around here anyway, I could narrow it down to useful crap.

Then just start cranking the shit out. That's what artists do. That's why this tale of woe did not resonate with me as woe, he learned. He's not an artist. If he was, he'd just do it.

Chip Ahoy said...

The artists that I know couldn't not be artists if they tried not to be. It comes out of them. You sit down for lunch and they doodle their place mats, they paint their shoes, their t-shirts, cups and plates, paper bags, butcher paper, any blank area. They're annoying. They alter their own environment and spread out from there. They encroach on your space with their crap. That's what I do. If it's accepted then people will take it and assist in the spreading. There is a generosity there but that's mixed with intrusion. It's like leaving a very cluttery trail behind you. Eventually, without trying, if there is anything there worth wanting then you have to start charging because a lot of people say, "oh I would like to have that," then there comes a point in all that glee of naturally occurring production where the artist must go, "prove it."

This story is about something else, though. Looking at the party balloon dogs all over the place you see another corporation, getting in on some to that sweet sweet 2% building construction set aside. That's what an art dealer told me it is in Denver. Simon. A very strange fellow. (too odd. nobody likes him)

Palladian said...

It's likely that large parts of the Mona Lisa were not painted by Da Vinci but by a underling.

Untrue. The portrait called "Mona Lisa" is entirely the autograph work of Leonardo. It's a fairly small painting and he kept it with him, and worked on it, for years. The client that commissioned the portrait never received the painting, by the way.

And, for your information, Leonardo should be referred to as either Leonardo da Vinci or Leonardo, not "da Vinci", which is not a surname but his birthplace.

Nora said...

Well, Koons has idea, but are ideas art?

The saying: "talent means to paint a good pinting, genius means to be able to sell it" comes to mind too.

Robert Cook said...

I may be wrong, but I think Prof. Althouse's initial question was less about Koons and his paid minion(s) per se and more about the broader issue of paid labor and what we may consider to be fair compensation for the laborer--who does the work--vis a vis the greater profit enjoyed by the person(s) who hired the laborer(s).

By the way, Koons doesn't have any ideas; or, to the degree one chooses to dignify his puerile works as representing "ideas" made manifest, his ideas are shit.

Matthew Sablan said...

Per the art question, so long as the people contributing are given credit in displays/galleries/etc., fine. But, if the idea guy tries to make it look like he did the work, then that is a problem.

dac said...

How is he different than a law clerk. All scut work, low pay, no credit

Rusty said...

One of my good friends just gave me this poster as a late anniversary present. I think it is the most terrifically horrific thing in the universe. It WILL be framed and displayed.


It's only the most horrific if it's painted on velvet. But yourds is pretty damn horrific.
I'm proud of you.

My youngest daughter, who is an artist, paid for her half of a booth at the midwestern comicon by doing drawings on demand for people passing by. For her art is a compulsion. She cannot not do it.

Ken said...

Robert Cook,

the broader issue of paid labor and what we may consider to be fair compensation for the laborer--who does the work

Are you really trying to say that Jeff Koons doesn't do any work? Additionally, who the hell are you to butt into the affairs of Koons and his workers? Is it your business at all? Do you think that Koons and his workers coming to a voluntarily agreed upon quid pro quo of work for pay is somehow unfair compensation, but you, a third party with no knowledge of Koons's painting, and likely no knowledge of the art industry at all, somehow has the knowledge to determine what is a fair compensation? How do you fit your ego through doors?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Palladian,

And, for your information, Leonardo should be referred to as either Leonardo da Vinci or Leonardo, not "da Vinci", which is not a surname but his birthplace.

Yes. It's exactly as though people went about calling Lawrence of Arabia Mr. "of Arabia." Someone really ought to write The Of Arabia Code just for fun. Or at least a first chapter.

But we classical musicians are just as bad. There's (e.g.) a 16th-c. composer of major significance named Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. He's today all-but-universally called ... Palestrina. Which is a place, not a person.

TMink said...

Dude had a job. And he complains about it. maybe a little unemployed time will help him appreciate having a job more.

Not that I would hire such an ungrateful simp.

Trey

R. Chatt said...

Lots of great comments, about the marketing of successful artists versus the instinct to create. etc. and how business and capitalism works. There are lots of interesting youtube videos of Koons btw, who is a very inspiring and confident person. I can't stand his work, but I do like his energy.

This story is really more about the angst of the young man who had become attached to the work "he did." What a tremendous learning opportunity. Obviously he hadn't held many jobs and had an inflated opinion of himself as an artist; otherwise he would have just repainted the dumb painting and continued collecting his pay check, until something better came along. Imagine what he would have learned hanging around Jeff Koons for a while instead of getting angry and acting like a victim.

Robert Cook said...

Ken, is your bombastic faux-outrage so reflexive that you can't even help yourself? I guess your avatar is more appropriate than I imagined.

I didn't say anything at all about Koons'arrangement with his paid minions. I said Koons had no ideas and his work is shit.

rcommal said...

What the hell is so hard to get that this guy--a decade-and-a-half-later from the time about which he's reminiscing--is engaged in a different profession? He did, in fact, find a job.

Meanwhile, it's a stitch, it is, to see how twisty-turny some folks insist on doing and being and just because on account of why not, of all things.

Hmmmm.

Tom Watson said...

He was a good guy. Gave us samples of his cheesecake. Mrs Junior looked down zee nez at us arriviste (though she had obviously been in the same position 30 years earlier), especially when she saw me doing my own home repair work. plumbers west covina ca