May 16, 2013

The $495 million art auction — "a new era in the art market."

"The sale included works by Jackson Pollock, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The sale established 16 new world auction records, with nine works selling for more than $10m (£6.6m) and 23 for more than $5m (£3.2m)."

These works really are valuable, because they are the last great works in the history of painting — if we are to understand the history of painting as the era when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting.

Here's the NYT 1988 obituary for Basquiat:
Michel Basquiat, a Brooklyn-born artist whose brief career leaped from graffiti scrawled on SoHo foundations to one-man shows in galleries around the world, died Friday at his home in the East Village. He was 27 years old....

His paintings sold for $25,000 to $50,000....
Who knows what his work would sell for if he hadn't died young, but his "Dustheads" just sold for $48.8 million. Dust to dust.

Ah! I just had a flashback to the 1970s when — at least in some quarters of NYC — "dust" was slang for money. Urban Dictionary fails to show this meaning. (The favored definition is: "pcp," and that's what the painting title "Dustheads" invites us to assume is the meaning, but maybe the artist hoped we'd see layers of meaning (like layers of paint).)  Here's a nice long list of money-related slang and it includes "dust," but it doesn't mean money. It means lack of money:
Dust -- As in "nothing but." Let me borrow 5 bucks. I got dust.
***

"'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,' a phrase from the Anglican burial service, used sometimes to denote total finality. It is based on scriptural texts such as 'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return' (Genesis 3:19), and 'I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee' (Ezekiel 28:18)."

133 comments:

John Lynch said...

23 skidoo.

Palladian said...

These works really are valuable, because they are the last great works in the history of painting — if we are to understand the history of painting as the era when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting.

What the heck are you talking about?

John Lynch said...

The picture above the linked article is art? Really? People in the future will study it as a work of a master?

Does anyone believe that?

Ann Althouse said...

@Palladian People don't care about what is new in painting like they did in the old days. There are no new famous artists like there were in the days of Pollock or Warhol. You know that. If you think I'm wrong, show me the evidence. Basquiat was the last painter that broke the surface of the public consciousness.

Maybe my assertion is too strong, but you need to push back with something more muscular than whaddayatalkinabout. Otherwise it's more evidence of the profound lack of interest I am talking about.

It's over. It ended.

edutcher said...

I could understand that kind of money if you were talking about real artists - Rubens, Titian, Renoir - but these guys?

We had some of their stuff hanging the last place I worked. As one of my cohorts put it, "My kid does that".

John Lynch said...

There are no more famous artists because those artists were so bad that they killed the entire genre of painting. Most people realized that it had become a scam and lost interest. I thought that's what Warhol was saying, too. Everything is commoditized, nothings sacred anymore.

Sometimes there's creative destruction and sometimes there's just destruction.

X said...

fame = great. good news for bieber.

Mark O said...

Well, there you have it. The science is settled.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

. Basquiat was the last painter that broke the surface of the public consciousness.

No he didn't. No one outside the art world ever heard his name. Do a quick Google search and you will see how few references there are for him in non art links.

Jeff Teal said...

Georgia O'Keefe yes Basquiat not so much.That world is for me nothing more than deconstructionist bushwa.Ilike some Pollock but those prices?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

John Lynch said... There are no more famous artists because those artists were so bad that they killed the entire genre of painting. Most people realized that it had become a scam and lost interest.

This has lots of truth. People rejected the philosophy behind modern art.

X said...

The Night Watch
The Mona Lisa
Campbell Soup Cans

Palladian said...

Maybe my assertion is too strong, but you need to push back with something more muscular than whaddayatalkinabout.

Then you need to write something better than your half-baked generalization that "people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting" at some vague point in the past (which curiously seems to be around the time that you left art and got into law) and that "people" don't care about it now.

It's over. It ended.

Tiresome. More people are involved in the visual arts today than at any time in history. There was a brief period when the news media could rile up the peasants about some artistic "transgression" or other, and they still do it occasionally, but in the main, only people who care or cared about painting in the first place were people who were interested in the arts. Those are still the people that care about it, and still the people who crowd galleries and museums to see it, and pay money to buy it. If you look at the full results of this Christie's sale, you'll notice that several of the painters sold in the auction are around my age. It's still happening, you just stopped paying attention.

Palladian said...

Oh good, now the whole mob of pizza delivery men and codgers is going to weigh in with their trenchant criticisms of "modern art".

edutcher said...

Jeff Teal said...

Georgia O'Keefe yes Basquiat not so much.That world is for me nothing more than deconstructionist bushwa.Ilike some Pollock but those prices?

The last artist that people generally heard of was Grandma Moses.

Or am I missing something?

Palladian said...

Or am I missing something?

That's a safe bet, no matter the topic of discussion.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's still happening, you just stopped paying attention."

Me and most everyone else.

But I invited you to present the other side, not merely to resist my hypothesis, which is about the American culture and what its elements are.

You have a self-interest in believing the corpse is alive. I'm not saying no one paints anything worthwhile anymore. My assertion is about the culture. If these things are invisible, that supports my assertion.

I'm affected by my own experience growing up in a time when Pollock and Warhol were on the cover of Life Magazine and everyone read Life Magazine.

I think the current American culture is clogged with things of little value -- the movies, the music.

It's not about real value. And neither is that Christie's auction.

All is vanity.

Paddy O said...

"when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting."

What's interesting is that the price of paintings has skyrocketed since the end of painting.

Some more thoughts come to mind.
One is that Art is now more about possession and prices than about creation. Is that new? In a way, it's very traditional. The Vatican is a display of wealth's appropriation of artistic genius.

The other thought is that artists still abound, doing very interesting work. But, the media doesn't make them into celebrities. But maybe they do. The Kardashians are an art exhibit. Their whole life is a performance piece. And it was the 20th century artists who led us to perceive such exhibition as art

John Lynch said...

Palladian-

Hey, why not?

There are a lot of artists and musicians in my line of work. Don't be so dismissive.

Palladian said...

The Night Watch
The Mona Lisa
Campbell Soup Cans


It's odd that the more American that art became, the more the rabble hated it. It leads me to believe that the affectation of art-loving among the less educated was just another iteration of European pretention.

Jeff Teal said...

Two years ago Ispent three days wandering through the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian. Iwas looking at four centuries when people did care about painting it was a surreal experience and contributed to that disease called museum overload.The same happened when I saw the Phillips collection at the High in Atlanta.I do not think Basquiat will ever affect me like that.

Palladian said...

There are a lot of artists and musicians in my line of work. Don't be so dismissive.

It was reciprocal dismissiveness.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I think "Dustheads" is pretty neat but I doubt the artist would've taken that as much of a compliment.

madAsHell said...

I always thought the Picasso, Lichtenstein and Warhol reduced art to the same level as rap music.

....and I think you have overlooked Leroy Neiman!! I mean, how many covers did Warhol do for Sports Illustrated??

Jeff Teal said...

Sorry Palladian but spend time in Wash wandering through the excellent museums and you can see great art-painted by Americans. And not all painting done today is dreck.But strangely enough an awful lot liked by critics is IMHO.

Palladian said...

Althouse, I think that the fact that it persists even though you and the culture-at-large pronounce it "dead" all the time- is a testament to the immortality of painting and drawing.

I teach young artists, and I see amazing talent and beauty in their work all the time, and I do my best to try to help them build up a defense against the nihilism that you're inexplicably perpetuating here.

Ann Althouse said...

@Palladian You remind me of the religionists who got heated up about "God is dead." Fine!

Palladian said...

This seems an apt time to plug some of my own work. I produce both evil deconstructionist mo-derne dreck and reactionary drivel, in equal measure!

My print-production equipment is still offline, but I finally retrieved cartons of drawings that were buried in storage, so I can sell original works, at the price of a couple of drinks at the Christie's refreshment stand.

Think of it as an investment!

Palladian said...

@Palladian You remind me of the religionists who got heated up about "God is dead." Fine!

God, nor painting, is dead, or I would have killed myself by now.

AprilApple said...

Art shoots up in value after the artist dies.

Nothing new.

Look at those prices... and they are all dead!

Find an old living artist whose work you enjoy, buy it, enjoy it (that's the point) and keep it in the family. You never know... It could be worth millions some day.

bagoh20 said...

Those three artists are exactly what I don't appreciate in art, and that I think devalue it. No demonstrated skill, creativity or breadth for my eye. Lichtenstein could be done by a budding teenager, and the other two by toddlers.

I did have a dog named after Basquiat (not by me) - a wonderful Mexican Hairless. I did like him, and bet his art was up there with the rest.

Of course, I know nothing about art, but art opinion is pretty regimented, so not my thing.

" There are no new famous artists like there were in the days of Pollock or Warhol."

Once you respected what these artists did, you threw away the skeleton and it just became an amorphous blob of opinion.

Paddy O said...

The trouble is the magazines and the press. They used to have articles about artists and now they have celebrities. Newsweek went from having very insightful articles on religion (Kenneth Woodward was the last great religion editor) to being a forum for Jon Meacham's juvenile rationalizations of his own religious decline.

A great example of this is this excerpt from Time Magazine in 1964, which is the beginning of an article about Wolfhart Pannenberg.

This interesting part is 1) Time would cover a discussion about academic theology 2) the cover of the most recent Time shown next to it and all the links to the other articles.

The Time has changed. So has Life.

Theologian Roger Olson had a post a while back talking about this similar loss of public theologians.

Thomas Kinkaid still got a lot of press though, especially if they die with a bit of controversy. Does that make Thomas Kinkaid the icon of our era? Well, maybe more the icon of the 90s. Sure, he's an embarrassment to "real" artists. I guess that makes him the art world's Pat Robertson.

bagoh20 said...

That's funny what I just said: art opinion is regimented AND an amorphous blob.

I stand by it.

John Lynch said...

Holy cow, that's a lot of work.

Paddy O said...

Ann, I was writing my post so missed your 10:22 comment. In the article I linked to, Olson points to the "God is Dead" cover in Time magazine as a key turning point!

Jane said...

Two observations:

Art Fairs in the summertime still draw good crowds. A lot of the "art" is photography, but there are usually a couple booths of Parisian street scenes, still lifes, and watercolors. When ordinary people want to have a painting in their living room, this is often where it comes from. Or a Kinkaide print.

Second: my idea for a tourism-related franchise. I offer it for free, even: in a touristy place like the Wisconsin Dells, where everyone's there for the waterparks, but looks for activities for rainy days, or to take a break, build an art museum consisting purely of reproductions of great works from the time (up until -- when would you say?) when art was still defined as images and objects produced either solely or secondarily (in the case, say, of decorated pottery) to be pleasing to the eye. People would come and enjoy the opportunity to be allowed to appreciate art rather than be told it has to have some deep meaning.

Oh, and people can buy modern art all they want. But it really bugs me when a museum spends money on such trash, then charges an arm and a leg for visitors who want to look at the old stuff which was donated by philanthropists.

Paddy O said...

I forgot to post the link to the Time article: Here's the excerpt about Pannenberg in Time, surrounded by articles about boobs.

bagoh20 said...

Why can't codgers and pizza delivery people have an opinion on art, or do you have wear a hair shirt and drink Cristal to get the wisdom? Oh I know. You have to have spent many hours listening to such people prattle on, then you know shit.

Palladian said...

Although, Althouse, I can sympathize... reading about a big-ticket Christie's sale, and certain Althouse threads, makes me whip out "Ecclesiastes" too.

Palladian said...

Why can't codgers and pizza delivery people have an opinion on art

They can, but when they insult my profession, then I insult theirs in kind! It's nothing personal.

And if you don't think codger is a profession, then you don't read the comments around here much!

Jane said...

http://www.zenpond.com/art_gallery1.html

This is my uncle. Like many people, he's taken up new hobbies in retirement -- in this case, painting. Does this count as "art"? Why not? Because the club of art critics haven't invited him in?

I would guess that, now more than ever before, there are two different worlds: "artists" who produce crazy stuff like installations consisting of piles of trash, and people just trying to produce things that look nice but aren't deemed worthy of the label "artist."

edutcher said...

Palladian said...

Or am I missing something?

That's a safe bet, no matter the topic of discussion.


And I was going to agree with you on something.

For now, I'll just say I miss a lot less than you.

lemondog said...

Most of todays art seems to be decorative or pretty rather than art that is revolutionary or cutting edge, or art that conveys a point of view, anger, shifting of cultural values, etc.

Some of that street art shows real talent and is interesting

As I lack wealth I go to ebay looking for obscure/unknown artists and have purchased a couple of very interesting items.

Wiki list of 21st century painters.

Google the names to view images of their work.

gerry said...

People don't care about what is new in painting like they did in the old days

Might that be due to the fact that most new painting is pretty crappy and hard to appreciate without a lot of artifical intellectual conceits that attempt to conceal the utter ghastliness the new works usually contain?

bagoh20 said...

Realistically, how could you possible break new ground today? The art world went through a period where they decided that breaking rules was the whole point. There is nothing left after that, but beauty, and that's just too pretty, and the banal and low brow, and stupid. Nobody wants that label. They will abjure beauty to avoid it.

Palladian said...

For now, I'll just say I miss a lot less than you.

Oh ed, can't we just snipe at each other about this subject? I agree with you about most everything else!

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Mumpsimus said...

". . . the era when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting."

For poets, this era ended a couple of generations ago. Used to be, anyone with any cultural awareness at all had heard of Eliot and Auden and Dylan Thomas, and probably knew a little about their work. Who are their equivalents now?

It has not yet ended for "literary" novelists, but I believe they're on the clock.

Mitchell the Bat said...

What would B. Kliban say?

Bonus cartoon: Link.

Palladian said...

Realistically, how could you possible break new ground today? The art world went through a period where they decided that breaking rules was the whole point. There is nothing left after that, but beauty, and that's just too pretty, and the banal and low brow, and stupid. Nobody wants that label. They will abjure beauty to avoid it.

Are you sure you didn't go to art school in the 80s or 90s?

The best thing about painting being "dead" to the media is that many artists have stopped trying to shock their way to the top and gone back to doing what they actually like to do, which is to make beautiful things.

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

AprilApple said...

I've never really liked art that looks like blobs, splatter and splotches.


When I look at art, I want to think-- "wow, how did he/she do that!?"

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Palladian said...

For poets, this era ended a couple of generations ago. Used to be, anyone with any cultural awareness at all had heard of Eliot and Auden and Dylan Thomas, and probably knew a little about their work. Who are their equivalents now?

Maya Angelou?

(joking!)

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

Fernandinande said...

"What the heck are you talking about?"

People used to wear gigantic, complicated clothing to signal their social status, which is silly enough, but nowadays social status seeking is so perverse that glomming onto someone who makes inferior copies of comic strip frames (or just draws squiggles) means you're rich and very cool, and probably wunna doze intelleckshuls:
http://davidbarsalou.homestead.com/LICHTENSTEINPROJECT.html

rehajm said...

Ann Althouse said...

I'm affected by my own experience growing up in a time when Pollock and Warhol were on the cover of Life Magazine and everyone read Life Magazine.

I'm wondering what is the modern equivalent form of validation?

bagoh20 said...

Ferdinandiande just Pollocked all over the thread.

Palladian said...

When I look at art, I want to think-- "wow, how did he/she do that!?"

That's just novelty-seeking. I think it's better to ask "how did he/she imagine that?", but best of all to forget questions and say "that moves me".

If it doesn't move you, it might be bad art, or it might not have been made for you and your perceptual needs. My advice for people with little knowledge of the history or context of a work of art (old or new) is to simply say "that doesn't move me" and move on, without making an ill-informed indictment of huge and diverse artistic practices.

bagoh20 said...

Actually, it was more of a Warholing.

Palladian said...

Ferdinandiande just Pollocked all over the thread.

More a Warhol, what with the mechanical repetition.

Or maybe it's a 70s-style process piece.

Palladian said...

bagoh20, you did go to art school!

AprilApple said...

About ten-twelve years ago, I had the opportunity to visit DC. The best part of the trip-- all the art galleries.

In one installation at one gallery, I remember this mechanical arm/hand that was just a wad on pencils. The arm looked like it was severed, but it
was just the end of the pencil points. Wild. The artist had the severed arm hooked up to a machine that would write little notes over and over. .. with a pile of little notes on the floor. (My description is lacking)
It was totally modern and off the wall, but I loved it!

I wish I could remember the name of the artist.

Palladian said...

I'm wondering what is the modern equivalent form of validation?

Barack Obama.

Palladian said...

AprilApple, was it Tim Hawkinson?

bagoh20 said...

Novelty-seeking is exactly what I'm railing against. It's all modern art seems to be, and in the end it fails miserably by all being pretty much the same statement.

Palladian said...

It's all modern art seems to be

Seek thrills, not novelty.

bagoh20 said...

I'm moved by beauty, quality in execution, and a sense of pursuit in the work. Accidental beauty happens, but that's not art to me, that nature, and it's nearly impossible for a human to pull off sober.

bagoh20 said...

I don't see anything thrilling in Pollock for instance. The whole point is novelty. He's just saying I do what others would not. The reason nobody did was because it's boring and ugly, not because they couldn't imagine it. He took a risk and got the reward, but not because it was good, but because it was "novel".

X said...

will no one rid althouse of these troublesome artists on her lawn and let her enjoy some Bob Dylan?

David said...

China, Althouse. Lot's of rising artists in China.

Soon the Americans will have to have them too.

AprilApple said...

Since when is appreciation for difficult technique "novelty seeking?"
Novelty is what? Something new and unusual. That's fine with me, too.
I like new and unusual.
... Since it's all been done before.

I don't want to be depressed or bored. I want to see beauty and technique, regardless of inspiration.

bagoh20 said...

You got to admit that a lot of modern art is just like wine tasting. I see it that way. If I like it, it's great. I don't care who did it, how much it cost, or if there is some exotic explanation for it's value to others. If you need to explain a visual medium to me, or add in some gravitas by association to prove it's value, then it's just a conversation piece, but maybe that's the goal of modern art.

AprilApple said...

Tim Hawkinson! Yes! Palladian - you found him for me...

Although now that I look at it again, it's kinda gross.
;)

AprilApple said...

Re: Tim Hawkinson..
I had the two separate images of the note machine and the severed arm mixed up in my head.

Steve said...

I'd like to nominate Andrew Wyeth as the last painter to break the surface of the public's consciousness. We can quibble about when he broke with respect to Basquiat.

No question that Wyeth could paint circles around Basquiat.

I always thought dust in Dust Heads referred to PCP (Angel Dust).

AprilApple said...

Life as art. The great ones are dead.

(lifted from Insta.P.)

ricpic said...

What's going to replace painting, Althouse, that shallow to the core medium, the motion picture? It's like saying the theater is dead. It's dead until the next Beckett comes along, who will of course be utterly unlike Beckett, but he/she will be a giant. Then suddenly the theater will be alive and totally relevant again. And anyway the three painters you mention are American. The Germans are doing tremendous work right now. Anselm Kiefer for one.

Inga said...

Absolutely nothing more tiresome than to hear mediocre artists claim they are good artists worth buying, especially after insulting their buyers. Homeless "artists", pffft, a dime a dozen.

Palladian said...

Oh look, it's the sock-puppeting, mentally ill Austro-Hungarian woman!

Inga said...

You hurt Palladian? Oh so sorry.

Peter said...

If you give the public a choice in art, they'll choose Thomas Kinkade. Or, really, just something that has some of the same colors in it as the couch above which it is to be displayed- and so long as it's strictly representational, and doesn't contain anything disturbing.

So, it's all too easy to dismiss the public's dismissal of just about all art movements and schools after Impressionism.

But for all that, it's hard not to see that something has gone very wrong in the world of art- what with the celebrations of cans of the artists' poop-in-cans, and death and, really, just about anything that can still get the booboisee worked up.

And so, one often sees little beyond celebration of transgression (of whatever sort) for the sake of transgression combined with a desperate search for something, anything, that is truly new (no matter how meaningless).

Perhaps the core problem is, is it possible create great art works from a core of (often juvenile) nihilism?

AprilApple said...

I think this is fantastic.

ricpic said...

Austro-Hungarian? I put it all down to Inga's dirndl being too tight. Or is that a Swiss problem? Anyway, something's too tight. Or the marching band's too loud. Those Austro-Hungarians had the right idea: listen to a band playing waltzes and then retire to a coffee haus for something mitt shlag. Why couldn't the world have stayed that quaint?

Palladian said...

Ricpic, interesting your mention of contemporary German artists. I love Kiefer's work, and Signar Polke was a huge influence on me.

If you give the public a choice in art, they'll choose Thomas Kinkade. Or, really, just something that has some of the same colors in it...

The "public" put Obama in office, twice.

I don't trust the wisdom of crowds.

And thanks, AprilApple. A fortuitous moment with a very graphically appealing dog.

Palladian said...

That's Sigmar Polke.

el polacko said...

basquiat's scribblings would never have gotten any notice if warhol hadn't have had the hots for him.

bagoh20 said...

I own THIS one.

John Lynch said...

April Apple-

Hands off! I want it!

Might have to make a print run of that one, Palladian.

Rabel said...

"I'm affected by my own experience growing up in a time when Pollock and Warhol were on the cover of Life Magazine and everyone read Life Magazine."

Not my field, but I'll offer an ill-informed theory.

Perhaps a young, innocent Althouse was being led around by the nose by people using the pretense of high art to sell advertising.

And perhaps a mature and justifiably cynical Althouse sees through the scam but can't quite bring herself to admit her previous naïveté.

Just a theory, but I'll add that "I think the current American culture is clogged with things of little value -- the movies, the music." is one of the most eloquent versions of "You kids get off my lawn" that I've ever read.

Also, Photoshop, but that's a different theory.

Chip Ahoy said...

I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals


Ash, dust, rust. There are no words for these specific pulverized powdery particulates without describing grit, dirt, color, or source, say, cigarette, and red powder from oxidized metal or else just spell the English word rust, flick an imaginary cigarette and indicate the end, or the tapped off result. At any rate, a powder in the fingertips.

None of the interpreters specify ashes and dust. It's a shame really because it IS possible to convey very clearly waking up to an entire landscape of specifically ashes and dust and then wipe one's brow with specifically red rust. But none of them do. It's so graphic. But no, they wake up look around, wipe their foreheads and flick it off, that's all.

Provided are a bunch of extra video type shit that does not communicate what the music communicates. At all. The first one chose to record in water which shows their interest is other than being true to the music, and all the other are faulted similarly.

It all happens right at the front if you care to see and compare. None of them say "dust" "ashes" or "rust," none of them.

Palladian said...

basquiat's scribblings would never have gotten any notice if warhol hadn't have had the hots for him.

If you've read the Warhol diaries you'll know this is definitely not true. Warhol repeatedly talks about Basquiat being dirty and smelling bad. Warhol was interested in Basquiat (and other young artists of that generation) because they were getting famous and he wanted to re-energize his own work and always liked being around younger people anyway, regardless of sex.

bagoh20 said...

Aprilapple @12:04

That's a great story about Radner. I would love to have been there.

bagoh20 said...

Sometimes those old codgers telling me to get off the lawn when I was a kid were right. There were often some beautiful flowers there that I just didn't appreciate. After I trampled them, the codgers lost the desire to plant them again. Now there's just a Starbucks parking lot there.

AprilApple said...

Bagoh20 @1:22
Nice!


re: Radner. That whole SNL gang along with Monty Python people! Can you imagine? That party would something to witness. I love the old 45s - wonderfully geeky!

SNL slowly deteriorated after that, until Tina Fey hit, then the show really went to hell.

Mumpsimus said...

@Palladian: They say no one ever changed his opinions because of an internet post, but I think you've done it for me with this:

If it doesn't move you, it might be bad art, or it might not have been made for you and your perceptual needs. My advice for people with little knowledge of the history or context of a work of art (old or new) is to simply say "that doesn't move me" and move on, without making an ill-informed indictment of huge and diverse artistic practices.

I'm a codger who dislikes almost all "modern" art -- at least, the collected and curated sort -- but okay, I'll agree that it's not all, or even mostly, a scam or a cynical joke.

Strelnikov said...

Hopefully, these were the last works in the era when art history majors cum art critics could convince the public that this tripe is art.

rcocean said...

Thomas Kinkaid was the last artist anyone cared about -positive or negative.

Modern art got attention in the 70s and 60s because it was NEW! INTERESTING! Like crazy man, did you see that Pop art by XYZ?!

Once it stopped being NEW! average people stopped caring. Art that is only "Cutting edge" and "Interesting" fades.

rcocean said...

Pallidan is just indulging in the same lame "pushback" you see a thousand times on the intertubes.

A: "XYZ" because of 1,2,3,4.
B: I don't agree with XYZ
A: Your'e the exception
B: Not everybody agrees with XYZ
A: I was making a generalization.
B: Well, *I* don't agree.
A: Yes, but do have anything else?
B: No.

Ann Althouse said...

"What's going to replace painting, Althouse, that shallow to the core medium, the motion picture? It's like saying the theater is dead. It's dead until the next Beckett comes along, who will of course be utterly unlike Beckett, but he/she will be a giant. Then suddenly the theater will be alive and totally relevant again."

That reminds me: my favorite movie is about the question whether the theater is dead.

Sam L. said...

They may be valuable to some, but not to me.

MCD said...

I think, or at least hope, Palladian is right. Shock, like nihilism, only gets you so far. Much of the primitive, silly art that commands premium prices at auction seems to me like jokes played by artists on buyers (suckers). Jeff Koons, anyone? If we get caught up in it, we expose our own triviality. Better, more interesting work is coming along. There are very interesting works being done (I think) by Asian and African artists who study the collisions of their cultures with Western ones.

MCD said...

I think, or at least hope, Palladian is right. Shock, like nihilism, only gets you so far. Much of the primitive, silly art that commands premium prices at auction seems to me like jokes played by artists on buyers (suckers). Jeff Koons, anyone? If we get caught up in it, we expose our own triviality. Better, more interesting work is coming along. There are very interesting works being done (I think) by Asian and African artists who study the collisions of their cultures with Western ones.

autothreads said...

Oh good, now the whole mob of pizza delivery men and codgers is going to weigh in with their trenchant criticisms of "modern art".

Shorter version: I'm smarter and more cultured than you are.

So, was Norman Rockwell an artist or an illustrator?

Palladian said...

Shorter version: I'm smarter and more cultured than you are.

True!

So, was Norman Rockwell an artist or an illustrator?

A distinction without a difference, really, but I'll bite: A talented illustrator, for the most part. An illustrator is someone who produces images for mechanical reproduction. You're the one who seems to be attaching value judgement to the term.

rcocean said...

By 1986, Basquiat had left the Annina Nosei gallery, and was showing in the famous Mary Boone gallery in SoHo. On February 10, 1985, he appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled "New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist".[25] He was a successful artist in this period, but his growing heroin addiction began to interfere with his personal relationships.

rcocean said...

"You're so ugly you could be a Modern Art Masterpiece." - Full Metal jacket

25 years ago, and even Kubrick knew modern art was a dead end.

MCD said...

Deborah Solomon, an art critic who wrote a very interesting biography (Utopia Parkway) of idiosyncratic artist Joseph Cornell, has been reported for years now to be working on a biography of Norman Rockwell. I am eager to read what she has to say.

R. Chatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R. Chatt said...

I studied art history in college so all these ideas about how art is dead and it isn't as good as it was in the old days are kind of amusing given that people have been saying exactly the same things for centuries.

A case in point which probably everyone here can relate to is Impressionism. I'm specifically thinking about the artists Van Gogh and Monet and Matisse and even Picasso who are known and loved around the world.

Impressionists of course were absolutely condemned and their work rejected for exhibition by the Academy so they had to organize their own first exhibition.

From E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art p. 398:
Their first exhibit contained a picture by Monet described as "Impression: Sunrise. One of the critics thought the title and the painting was ridiculous and dissed the entire group as "The Impressionists." He wanted to convey that these painters did not proceed by sound art knowledge, and somehow the label stuck.

Gombrich goes on to explain about this label,
"Its mocking undertone was soon forgotten, just as the derogatory meaning of terms like 'Gothic', 'Baroque' or 'Mannerism' is now forgotten."

Here's what one critic wrote about that Impressionism exhibition at the time:

"Five or six lunatics, among them a woman, have joined together and exhibited their works. I have seen people rock with laughter in front of these pictures, but my heart bled when I saw them. These would-be-artists call themselves revolutionaries...They take a piece of canvas, color and brush, daub a few patches of paint on it at random, and sign the whole thing with their name. It is a delusion of the same kind as if the inmates of Bedlam picked up stones from the wayside and imagined they had found diamonds." 1876

Regarding the larger subject of "painting" and its place in our culture, there are many new forms of creative expression and technology which are accessible to large groups of people. There's a lot of competition for people's attention. NYC is still the art capital of the world, but there are so many galleries in NY and there are many other significant art centers.

That doesn't change the value of painting just makes the subject more complicated and contested. You have to really love painting and fine art to be willing to become knowledgeable about them, unlike movies and celebrities.

I love Abstract Expressionism but I recognize that it was marketed in order to give it such prominence and financial success and many excellent artists were sadly pushed aside in that process.

Remember the
Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637 .



creeley23 said...

These works really are valuable, because they are the last great works in the history of painting -- if we are to understand the history of painting as the era when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting.

Palladian: Sorry, but I'm siding with Althouse on this one. It's also true for poetry, jazz and classical music. The novel is close to being sucked over the falls too.

Sure, there are more painters, poets etc. than ever before creating up a storm. But hardly anyone outside these little enclave art worlds is paying attention. That's just a fact.

Palladian said...

. But hardly anyone outside these little enclave art worlds is paying attention. That's just a fact.

Nothing, then, has changed in the history of painting.

I hope nihilism can sustain you.

creeley23 said...

Palladian: What nihilism?

It hasn't always been this way. I believe art, poetry etc. will renew themselves, but I imagine it will take us by surprise. But I think you are fooling yourself that art today is not in serious trough.

Did you see The New Shock of the New by Robert Hughes? He suggests that we will have to rebuild a deeper art from the ground up, ignoring the cul-de-sac left to us by Warhol et al.

Here's a bit on Hockney that's Youtube. I didn't realize Hockney was such a powerhouse.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDTEejaDC1M

creeley23 said...

Palladian: I can't tell by how much, but you are younger than I am. When I was young, people talked about the latest novels, movies, books, albums, art movement or artists. They even talked about poetry and poets.

Those things mattered. People had strong opinions. There were stakes. It was in the air that what the creative people did mattered and pointed directions for the rest of society.

It's just not like that now.

I wish it were otherwise. But I look around and I don't see much new work being done -- aside from the long-arc television series -- that's carrying the torch and deserving attention.

MCD said...

True, Western (American) art is struggling to gather any attention outside auction houses that cater to the nouveau riche.

But the classical ateliers of Europe led to similar training of artists in Russia, then the USSR, then Communist China. Now, with (albeit limited) freer expression, classically trained Chinese artists are making statements that deserve attention.

The audience is not as broad as in the past. The art scene in the United States may have spun itself into irrelevance. But outside our country, where the Enlightenment is just beginning to take hold, much is happening. Societies are changing in unanticipated ways. Art can help us make sense of this.

creeley23 said...

Now, with (albeit limited) freer expression, classically trained Chinese artists are making statements that deserve attention.

MCD: Could be. I'm just going on what I notice in the US and Europe.

I recently discovered that chess has renewed itself and is played much more broadly.

We've had four or five Bobby Fischer-like prodigies, one was female, since Fischer's glory days. The current top-rated American player is Japanese born. The previous World Champion was Indian. The current is Norwegian.

creeley23 said...

It's safe to say that the strongest chess ever played is being played today.

yashu said...

Those things mattered. People had strong opinions. There were stakes. It was in the air that what the creative people did mattered and pointed directions for the rest of society.

It's just not like that now.


I wonder if one factor might be the extent to which the art world & literary world in the West has become so ideologically homogeneous.

creeley23 said...

I wonder if one factor might be the extent to which the art world & literary world in the West has become so ideologically homogeneous.

yashu: Hey, there!

Well, it's not helping. Certainly the weakest art right now is that which plays off the PC-multiculti orthodoxy.

However, it may also be true in another sense. During much of the 20th century modern art had conventional art as its adversary and that war enlivened modern art with the energy of opposition.

Now modern art has won. Modern proponents have driven realistic art almost entirely out of the museums and the schools. Without an opponent, modern art has grown slack and directionless.

Anthony said...

Must recent art is crap. Most art made 200 years ago was crap, too, but nobody tried to preserve the crap, and it rotted away. Giver it another 100 years and a major war, and much recent art will be gone, or moldering in museum basements.

Ann is right that nobody cares about painters anymore, and the commenters are right that the same ifs true off most other artistic or intellectual pursuits. That's a symptom of a larger cultural problem, probably stemming from our educational system, not a symptom of the art being crap.

Artistically, I'm mostly a reactionary, but every so often, something in the modernist vein really catches my attention. Like this: http://writingtime.typepad.com/writing_time/2009/09/the-burning-typewriter.html

yashu said...

Hey creeley!

Agreed. Meant "ideologically" in a broad sense of the term-- not just political but philosophical & aesthetic ideology.

Have some hazy muddled notions of a rambling comment on the so-called "postmodern" condition, but too lazy & sleepy to actually write it.

I do love a lot of modern art. But if I had to pick a favorite period, I'd probably go with the Northern Renaissance.

creeley23 said...

yashu: I too love a lot of modern art, but stories of the impressionists to the contrary, not all eras have a strong bench that will be recognized in time.

lemondog said...

Egyptian street art

Lots of anger with some good talent.