Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on May 29, 2011

Images from Sam Horine's "iphoneography" post (via

Jeff Koons’s art collection, thoughts on LA MOCA’s questionable art history, Invader in Paris, a tour of the Calatrava building in Milwaukee, something fishy about Warhol, iPhone photography and corporate culture and the US government … all on this week’s Required Reading.

You may know that A-list artist Jeff Koons collects art, much of it Old Masters. Well, blogger Laura Gilbert has discovered some interesting tidbits about the strange relationship Koons’s collection appears to have with the Metropolitan Museum:

He’s getting plenty of wall space for them from the Metropolitan Museum, which, as any serious collector knows, generally gooses up their value.

And she’s also discovered a dedicated website that lists the Koons collection, which includes (among other things) five Rene Magrittes, four Roy Lichtensteins, five Ed Paschkes, four Gustave Courbets, three Edouard Manets, three Pablo Picassos, a Quenten Massys and  Jean-Honore Fragonard. (via Art Market Monitor)

Art critic Christopher Knight writes a thoughtful review of LA MOCA’s Art in the Streets show and questions how revolutionary graffiti actually is:

… MOCA’s claim for the magnitude of graffiti’s post-Pop influence on art is overblown. “Art in the Streets” cites global reach, including London; São Paolo, Brazil; Athens; and Tokyo, as evidence. (Sixty artists are surveyed.) Since the 1970s, however, the deepest impact on art culture has come from Conceptual art, not graffiti.

I should mention that Knight does make some claims that seem odd, such as graffiti being the “visual wing of hip-hop.” He provides no proof of this and if you talk to early graffiti artists you’ll know that most weren’t even listening to rap or related music. Even now it isn’t related to hip-hop, that was a marketing ploy by brands like MTV in the 1980s to create an “urban” style.

And while we’re on the topic of street art, it appears street art photog Charles le Brigand was just in Paris and lucky for us he snapped a whole lot of photos of Invader’s work around the city. His Flickr set is solid and shows some of the nicest works by the artist I’ve seen.

Carolina Miranda provides us with a lovely photo tour of the Milwaukee Art Museum and its gorgeous Santiago Calatrava building. One of the most thrilling shots is of an orange settee from the Biedermeir period — circa 1820s — that looks very contemporary.

There’s something strange about the art market and its obsession with Warhol. First we have Sarah Thornton at The Economist who writes “there is more to the Warhol market than first meets the eye.” And Felix Salmon builds off Thornton’s piece and writes, ”

In the hands of professional photographers, the iPhone camera can be pretty amazing. Proof.

Not art-related, but … Naomi Klein, of No Logo fame, pens an interesting article about how corporate culture has taken over the US government. She has some interesting insights into the Obama brand:

In February 2009, Portfolio magazine put the size of “the Obama economy” – the tourism he generates and the swag he inspires – at $2.5bn.

… Does Obama’s failure to live up to his lofty brand cost him? It didn’t at first.

… Personally, none of this makes me feel betrayed by Barack Obama. Rather I have a familiar ambivalence, the way I used to feel when brands like Nike and Apple started using revolutionary imagery in their transcendental branding campaigns.

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning at 7am-ish EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links (10 or less) to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.


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  • Maybe this wasn’t the case early on and it certainly isn’t a universal quality of graffiti, but there was definitely overlap between hip hop, breaking and graffiti. Style Wars, Doze Green, Rammellzee, Martha Cooper’s photography, Fab5Freddy and Wild Style are just a few examples of those connections. Regardless of the music that Taki183 listened to, there was eventually a connection forged between those cultures. But yes, Knight does seem to just offer that statement as fact as if graffiti can be summed up as some side-note within hip-hop, which is clearly an oversimplification.

    • Yes, you’re right — and I appreciate your classification — but that’s only one wing of the scene. For instance, Keith Haring (and his entourage) was a fixture at Paradise Garage and the Mud club, not hip hop clubs. And let’s not forget that hip hop only showed up in the 1980s, and let’s not even discuss street art, which has had less relation to hip hop than graffiti did or does.

      I think what Knight does in his article, which is interesting IMHO, is that he looks beyond New York and suggests the story is incomplete. I wonder what the Latino writers in East LA were listening to?

      • Haha yes, Knight confines graffiti to within hip hop, but that idea comes primarily from the NYC-centric history of graffiti that he attempts to question.

      • They certainly weren’t listening to hip hop (especially in the late ’60s and ’70s when Chicano gang graffiti achieved prominence). I’d venture to say it was lots of straight-up rock. Sort of related, but not: this guest DJ appearance by Mr. Cartoon at KCRW:

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