This week, art rising to the challenge of our times, Instagram CEO’s insane statement, then Jeffrey Deitch’s insane statement, Hans Ulrich Obrist is profiled, Miami’s museums, the purpose of Art Basel Miami Beach, and more.
New York Times film critic A.O. Scott asks if our art is responding to the challenges of our contemporary period:
If I want to understand the dreams of the gentry and the nightmares of the poor in early-19th-century England, I turn to Jane Austen and William Blake. All the news you need about class divisions in Paris and London later in that century can be found in the pages of Balzac, Dickens and Zola. The history of European painting from the Renaissance to World War I is, in large measure, the history of power, wealth and social status. In the 20th century, film, theater and television tell the same story, as comedy, tragedy, thriller and farce. Class consciousness in Depression-era Hollywood ranged from tuxedoed and mink-coated swells in Manhattan penthouses to strikers on the picket line. Postwar Broadway was the kingdom of Willy Loman and Stanley Kowalski, and as television became a fixture of middle-class homes, it chronicled the struggles and aspirations of families — the Kramdens, the Conners, the Jeffersons, the Simpsons — trying to achieve or maintain middle-class status.
And now? Should we be looking high or low? At sitcoms or science-fiction allegories or realist dramas?
Dan Duray of Artnews does a great job summarizing the silly Instagram panel at Art Basel Miami Beach. His intro is classic:
Had the concept of art fairs existed in 1410 (the date of some of the earliest surviving canvases), would we have had panels about canvas that praised it as a medium? Would we even have had to ask how canvas had changed things? Would we have invited the canvas makers to the panel, to tell us about how they thought it should be used?
And this jewel (emphasis mine) … ummm:
Soon after [Instagram CEO Kevin] Systrom gathered everyone on the patio for a brief speech. He thanked everyone for coming, taking time out of their busy schedule at Art Basel Miami Beach, which he called the “center of creativity in the United States today.”
Speaking of other ridiculous statements made at Art Basel Miami Beach, Sarah Cascone reports that dealer and former MOCA LA director Jeffrey Deitch had the following to say about pop star Miley Cyrus:
“It’s southern outsider art,” Deitch said. “Very close to Mike Kelley,” he added, agreeing with a collector’s comparison. “We have a remarkable situation where someone channels her vision through music, art, theater, and fashion.”
The New Yorker profiled renowned curator Hans Ulrich Obrist:
The story of how he discovered Instagram is typical. During a breakfast in 2012 with Ryan Trecartin, the video artist downloaded the app onto Obrist’s phone (without asking). Next, Trecartin posted to his Instagram followers that H.U.O. had signed up. Obrist was curious, but he wondered what to do with the new tool. Inspiration was sparked by other well-known friends. On a visit to Normandy, he went for a walk with Etel Adnan, the Lebanese artist. During a rainstorm, they stopped at a café, and she wrote him a poem, by hand. This made Obrist remember Umberto Eco’s comments on how handwriting was vanishing; he also thought of marvellous faxes he had received, all handwritten, from J. G. Ballard, when he interviewed him, in 2003. Adnan’s handwritten poem became one of Obrist’s first Instagram posts. Soon afterward, he remembered that another friend, the artist Joseph Grigely, who is deaf, uses Post-It notes to communicate; they are often incorporated into his art. H.U.O. began asking dozens of artists to write something on a Post-It.
Whitney Kimball does a good job summarizing the whole profile and adding some commentary.
The Art Newspaper asks a very good question: Who will pay for Miami’s new and improved museums? They explain:
The former Miami Art Museum, which reopened in a spectacular waterfront building designed by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron last December, has welcomed 300,000 visitors in its first 12 months (a strategically modest 200,000 visitors had been projected) and its exhibitions have included a landmark survey of two centuries of Caribbean art …
The Pérez Art Museum Miami’s annual operating budget stands at around $16m; in 2013-14 Miami-Dade County provided $2.5m of this (up from $1.9m the previous year). To reflect the greater costs of programming in its newly-opened home, the museum asked for a promised increase in county funding to $4m in the fiscal year that started this October. This request was initially accepted by Miami-Dade and the sum was duly allocated in the county’s proposed budget for 2014-15. But the extra $1.5m for Pamm was subsequently removed during the budget hearing process and re-assigned to police funds instead. This despite the fact that Jorge Pérez, the developer and collector whose gift of $40m in cash and art to the museum led to the renaming of the institution, personally led a delegation to County Hall to lobby for the increase.
Felix Salmon explores what he thinks is the “true purpose” of Art Basel Miami Beach:
These art-world kvetchers, however, are making a category error. They think that Art Basel is about art, when in fact it’s about money, and — even more — about the people who have lots of it. At an art fair, paintings and sculptures stop being art — a fair is pretty much the worst possible environment in which to appreciate art — and instead become objects with a dollar value and an asking price and a future value trajectory. If you’re smart, you buy now, before the piece in question soars in value. If you’re stupid, you buy at the top, and find yourself saddled with an expensive work that no one wants. That’s the game, and in order for that game to be played the pieces have to have a certain sameness to them, from one fair to the next and one year to the next. When the name of the game is brand recognition and speculation, the excitement comes from seeing artists rise and fall in value.
This Rolling Stone story about alleged rape at the University of Virigina, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” has been making many waves for many reasons, but some of them are for the accuracy of the report.
Writing on his personal blog, Richard Bradley, editor-in-chief of Worth magazine, sensed something was wrong with the story:
… I don’t believe that it happened—certainly not in the way that it is recounted.
Remember: One must be most critical about stories that play into existing biases. And this story nourishes a lot of them: biases against fraternities, against men, against the South; biases about the naivete of young women, especially Southern women; pre-existing beliefs about the prevalence—indeed, the existence—of rape culture; extant suspicions about the hostility of university bureaucracies to sexual assault complaints that can produce unflattering publicity.
And, of course, this is a very charged time when it comes to the issue of sexual assault on campuses. Emotion has outswept reason. Jackie, for example, alleges that one out of three women who go to UVA has been raped. This is silly.
The Washington Post also reported some questions about the veracity of the reporting:
The student, who said he never spoke to a Rolling Stone reporter, said Jackie seemed “really upset, really shaken up” but disputed other details of that article’s account. Rolling Stone said that the three friends found Jackie in a “bloody dress,” with the Phi Kappa Psi house looming in the background, and that they debated “the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape” before advising against seeking help. He said none of that is accurate.
Rolling Stone responded:
We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie’s request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story.
Judith Levine, writing for Boston Review, has these wise words on the whole awful situation:
Feminism is not fragile. To borrow from Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson), it can handle the truth, told straight. Sisterhood is powerful. Instead of devouring their own, feminists should use that power against the real enemies.
Over at the Hairpin, a look at the first Appalachian queer film festival:
Historically, both Appalachians and LGBTQ folks have been disenfranchised by society. Both have preconceptions that people believe about them that are largely untrue or at least unfounded. So we wanted to bring these two groups of people in the same space to recognize the similarities between themselves and create a conversation using film as the vessel.
The words “Appalachian queer” are also an automatic conversation starter. It’s a great gateway word to grow our mission outside the festival itself. And it doesn’t hurt when we’re talking to filmmakers and we say “Appalachian Queer Film,” they’re like, “Hold the phone. This is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Are the “New Atheists” giving intellectual cover to Western imperialism?
It is simply impossible to imagine the commercial and intellectual success of the New Atheist project in a pre-9/11 world without both rising anti-Muslim sentiments across Western societies or neoconservative geopolitics. It is against the backdrop of the war on terror, with its violent and destructive adventurism, that the notion of a monolithic evil called “Islam” has found a sizable constituency in the circles of liberal respectability.
But let’s not forget this is the kind of argument religious people love to hear, since it justifies their hatred of atheists.
Did you know Uganda is the most ethnically diverse country, while South Korea is the least? And Canada is more ethnically diverse than the United States. Interestingly:
The revelation will stick with certain right-wing political parties who claim that mass immigration has diluted indigenous culture and custom and left their societies with little or no tangible sense of national identity.
… Africa is exposed as the world’s most racially diverse continent. Indeed, the top 20 most diverse nations in the world are all in Africa.
This beautiful site collects tourist images of the Estonian capital of Tallinn during the Soviet period. My favorite aspect of the Soviet-era images is that they have a certain feeling of yellowed grandeur to them.
Someone (aka Robert Cox) had a lot of fun creating a very contemporary (and very corporate) nativity scene for Christmas (h/t Arie Amaya-Akkermans):
Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, 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.
I love this segment.
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