This week, Gagosian’s art business, Dave Hickey’s contradictions, museums collecting non-Western art, photographs in the National Gallery, the Library of Congress’ Twitter archive, damage to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Museum, and more.
Another opinion on the Larry Gagosian/Damien Hirst split, but this includes the speculation that perhaps Hirst wasn’t selling so well anymore and the nature of Gagosian’s post-2008 business has changed:
Anders Petterson, managing director of the analyst firm ArtTactic, said Hirst and Kusama did not represent the primary focus of Gagosian’s business in the aftermath of the 2008 stock market crash. “The commercial art market has changed since 2008, with the focus on postwar, blue-chip art such as Warhol, Basquiat, Calder, Bacon, Lichtenstein, Rothko, Kline etc accounting for a large majority of the total auction sales. Most of these artists are exhibited or represented by Gagosian gallery. In the current economic climate, it would make sense for the gallery to focus on these artists. However, it probably means less attention is given to many of the other artists that the gallery works with.
Yet another profile of art critic Dave Hickey, who has been making a lot of noise about pretending he’s done with the contemporary world, but this is better than most profiles of him in that it points out some of the many contradictions in his writing and ideas:
Hickey’s uncomfortable relationship with academe and teaching goes far beyond his conviction that art can’t be taught, or his contempt for the many flaccid forms of cultural criticism that have taken root in universities, or even his love of the risk-filled life as opposed to the sinecured one.
To Hickey, the crux of the problem is that once art found a home within academe, the results were predictable: dulled-down artists and art historians for whom everything is just fine. In the same way that Rousseau observed that for moderate people, “it is in their interest that nothing be better,” Hickey thinks that the entire supporting apparatus for art and artists — college art departments, museums, galleries, artists’ grants — saps the vitality and beauty from art by regulating and controlling it, and worse, by crushing desire.
Hickey’s wholesale condemnation of academe, however, fails to acknowledge that many important contemporary artists whom he himself admires (Ken Price and Bruce Naumann, for example) come out of universities. And though Hickey is one of the most famous outside-the-box professors to have taught in an art department, he’s not the only one. The best students have a way of sussing them out and flocking to study with them. More to the point, by studying art within a university, students find an alternative form of patronage from a glitzy, investor-driven art market. They’re doing what Leonardo advocated 500 years ago — studying literature, history, philosophy, science, and math, with the goal of lifting their art to something higher than decoration.
As the contemporary art world becomes more global there are some interesting questions for art institutions who want to collect non-Western art:
In London last November, the director of the Tate, Nicholas Serota, said that it would be spending around £2m a year — 40% of its acquisitions budget — on art from outside Europe and North America. The Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York have announced similar policies. The question is, how to find out about art and artists in areas of the world that often do not have an evolved gallery system or, indeed, a defined history of contemporary art (what does “contemporary” mean, for example, in Papua New Guinea or, indeed, in China?).
For the first time the National Gallery in London has exhibited photographs in an institution long known for painting, though the curator “has selected only photographs consciously created in relation to the painting tradition – pictures she is able to group under the traditional genres of portrait, landscape, still life and so on.” Writing in the London Review of Books, Julian Bell explains:
The point of the experiment remains to bring out whatever those medium-specific values might be. The inclusion of a few canvases sets up interesting tensions. George Frederic Watts may have been Cameron’s mentor in developing a modern heroic portraiture, yet when their respective visions of Tennyson’s daughter-in-law May Prinsep are set side by side, I find that his tremulous, scrawny brushwork sets me on edge, whereas the lush, misty sepia of her albumen print draws me in.
The Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Museum are still closed post-Hurricane Sandy (the damaged to both Liberty and Ellis Islands is expected to cost $59 m to repair) but the strange thing is that officials have no idea if both landmarks will open anytime soon.
The story of how one artist lost his primary domain, which was a core piece of his identity for almost a decade:
The 12th of December 2012 I lost control over my domain, a core piece of my identity, through a series of unfortunate and ‘scammy’ events. Here’s the story how it all went down.
A newly rediscovered interview with famed photographer W. Eugene Smith in 1956 has surfaced on the New York Times‘ Lens blog. In it, Smith explains how he became a photographer:
I fell into photography through my desire to design aircraft. I met a fine news photographer, Frank Knowles, who encouraged me.
I don’t think I became a real photographer until I made a real acquaintanceship with music. That’s why I make my layouts the way I do. Photography happens to be my means of communication. But I do not feel I am a photographer singular. I feel that my art or my necessity is communication, and this could apply to many branches of the communicative art — whether it be writing or photography.
Since I am somewhat adequate as a photographer, I remain with it. I am probably more in command of it than any other medium. I respect it highly as a medium. It has its own very definite purpose.
Gothamist has mapped graffiti complaints in New York and contrasted them with where photos are tagged on Flickr. Be sure to check out Jake Dobkin’s Grafrank.com site too, which has heatmap’d Flickr photos — endlessly enjoyable.
Remember when the Library of Congress acquired Twitter’s tweet archive for their collection? Well, now there a lot of questions around what this means. For instance, does the Library of Congress archive deleted tweets by politicians because they are historically significant? And this uncomfortable fact:
A Twitter spokesman wouldn’t say if the site would retroactively make deleted tweets available to the public. And like the matter of displaying the archive itself, the question of digital privacy is unlike anything the library has ever seen before.
The Library has also published a white paper this month on the subject of their Twitter archive.
And did you ever have the problem of realizing there are a zillion TED talks and you don’t know which one to listen to? Well, if you ever find yourself in this dilemma then check out this website that allows you to sort them depending on the “genre” (jaw-dropping, courageous, ingenious, funny … ) and the length of the talk (5–60 minutes).
Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.