ReactorWeekend

Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on June 8, 2014

These GIFs of starchitecture were created by architects (via Dezeen)

These GIFs of starchitecture were created by architect Axel de Stampa and they’re pretty damn good. (via Dezeen)

This week, the relationship of the superrich and art, art exhibitions in malls, the seven deadly digital sins, rise of Russian propaganda, queering Black Metal, what the 9/11 Museum is missing, and more.

 The Baffler’s Rhonda Lieberman takes a look at the art of the 1%, and starts with a great lede:

Art collecting is the most esteemed form of shopping in our culture today.

And pulls no punches:

Our neo-Gilded Age, like Veblen’s merely Gilded one, is marked by a predatory culture permitting the feral rich to ravage the productive economy—seizing all the wealth for themselves and creating the most severe levels of income inequality since the onset of the Great Depression. While predators of yore awed rival chieftains with booty, harems, and slaves, today’s Masters of the Universe raid companies, fire workers, extract rents, divert huge amounts of capital out of the economy to uglify our world—and hoard the pelts of middle-class pensions, pay, and life prospects in their mansions, private kunsthalles, and yachts in the form of blue-chip (and capital-A) Art.

And this juicy bit:

Bernie Madoff’s prized piece of office art was a four-foot sculpture of a screw that he frequently dusted off himself (he, like Donald Trump and scores of other plutocrats, is a notorious neat freak). A defense lawyer pleaded for the valued object to be photoshopped out of court documents, lest it be prejudicial to members of the jury.

 Related? Galleries in Shanghai combine shopping and exhibitions:

Many malls in China now make art-viewing part of the shopping experience, with some devoting themselves equally to exhibiting art and selling merchandise.

The K11 Art Foundation claims to have pioneered the concept, known as museum-retail: Each of its art malls have an in-house team that programs the gallery’s offerings and coordinates how other work appears throughout the building. Photo The building that houses the K11 Art Mall in Shanghai.

As art and commerce mix in China, this art-retail concept has become a formidable trend in shopping-happy Shanghai. Here, art is used as a marketing tool to lure shoppers away from competitors.

 At the age of 99, artist Carmen Herrera is just hitting her stride and is the subject of a new documentary by Alison Klayman, the director who created Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry. Herrera’s story is pretty incredible:

She began her career as a painter some 60 years ago and, despite running with the likes of Barnett Newman and Leon Polk Smith, was largely overlooked until the early 2000s, due in no small part to her gender (female) and her heritage (Cuban). “Somebody once told me if you wait for the bus, the bus will come,” she says.

 The Guardian’s Seven Digital Deadly Sins website is beautifully done and full of great video content that explores how people cope with the moral dilemmas of today’s digital world.

 BBC reports that people are starting to worry that the propaganda coming from Russia today is the same or worse than anything the Soviets did:

“Aggressive and deceptive propaganda… worse than anything I witnessed in the Soviet Union,” is the verdict of Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Centre, Russia’s most well respected polling organisation.

Cultural historian and publisher Irina Prokhorova goes further – she calls it “Stalinist”, reminiscent of the anti-Western hysteria which marked the grim repressive years of the late 1940s.

And what worries the liberal intelligentsia is that the aggressive tone is being directed inwards as well.

 Jeremy Nguyen of the Bushwick Daily ponders the post-Bushwick Open Studio realities of Bushwick’s artists:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 11.07.55 AM

 Rebecca Schuman pleads with us not to worship Slavoj Žižek, who in a recent interview sounds worse than ever before (or is the true man finally coming through?):

The only thing worse than having to actually teach classes, Žižek insists, is the indignity of holding office hours. “Here in the United States, students tend to be so open that sooner or later, if you are kind to them, they even start to ask you personal questions, [share their] private problems; could you help them, and so on. And what should I tell them? I don’t care. Kill yourself. It’s not my problem.” The Žižekophant giving the interview laughs at this, hard.

 A fascinating queer history of Black Metal music:

I don’t feel like it’s acceptable to try to draw this bright line between aesthetics and politics because they’re always connected. There’s no politically innocent music-listening room that isn’t tied to political realities.

On the other hand, it’s not like art is only ever a symptom of politics. So while they’re always connected, they’re never the same.

A Syrian man selling cold drinks in the Syrian quarter (image via Library of Congress/Wikipedia)

A man sellin drinks in Manhattan’s Syrian quarter at the beginning of the 20th century (image via Library of Congress/Wikipedia)

 Alexander Nazaryan says the 9/11 Museum’s biggest blindspot is the local neighborhood, where Little Syria, a multicultural neighborhood of people mostly from the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Christian Arabs, lived before the area was transformed by the World Trade Centers.

… maybe because mentioning Arabs in any context outside of We have some planes might discomfit patriots with no patience for nuance.

… Activists have long pressured the museum to include some narrative about the Arabic immigrants who lived in lower Manhattan. They note, persuasively, that a cornerstone of St. Joseph’s Maronite Church was found in the rubble of Ground Zero, making it the kind of artifact that could credibly capture the complexity of this area, its evolution from dockside markets to World Trade Center.

Museum director Alice Greenwald said that the cornerstone—which currently resides at the Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn Heights—could possibly be part of a temporary exhibition at some future time, but that it had no place in the permanent collection. Yet if the museum includes a brick from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, then why not from a house of worship that stood essentially at Ground Zero? The lesson of the Abbottabad brick is simple: We won. The lesson of the cornerstone is both more valuable and more complex: Yes, it comes from an Arab church. And, yes, Arabs once lived here. Maybe not all Arabs are the Arabs you think you know.

 China is deporting an Australian artist for what many believe to be Tiananmen-related issues:

Mr. Guo was among dozens of people who were arrested, interrogated and harassed in the days leading up to the 25th anniversary of the crackdown this year. Although Chinese authorities have told Australian diplomats that Mr. Guo’s impending deportation is linked to a “visa-related matter,” it is widely assumed that he is being punished for his provocative work and his public statements about events that remain taboo here.

 Gothamist did a fantastic report on what happens to workers’ lives and families when they finally get a living wage after years or decades earning barely more than minimum wage. The statements are inspiring:

When we got the contract, my eyes went to tears. I feel blessed right now because we’re represented. We’re getting a substantial wage that’s keeping us on the right track. I’m 51, and ever since I got this raise my life has been so much easier. I’m getting a good health plan, I don’t have to pay a dime out of pocket, every day I get to go do my job. I don’t have to look behind my back. I feel confident. I feel like I’m doing my job, and that’s what it’s all about.

 And this week, the CIA joined Twitter with a viral first tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.42.07 AM

 

And a number of people noticed that the account was only following 25 other Twitter accounts, to which WSJ’s Jason Gay had this to say:

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 10.42.13 AM

 These kittens are mesmerizing:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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  • hdc77494

    More politics than art. no thanks.

  • Helen Glazer

    Glad you pointed out the Rhonda Lieberman article. She makes a lot of connections that I found illuminating, describing how collectors — not artists — have moved to the center of the art world. Hyperallergic aside, in the world of art fairs, auctions and mega-galleries, not to mention in a lot of the art publications and certainly in general interest media, it seems as if artists and the work they do — unless they are among the few selected to feed the beast — are becoming increasingly peripheral.

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