I’m a big fan of artist Lawrence Swan’s Art Bum series, which follows the life of a frustrated artist who feels alienated from the sexy Art World of fame, fortune and major retrospectives. The tragic hero has a rat sidekick, think Maus but grittier.
Given Art Bum’s critique of all things Art World, I was happy to see that Swan’s most recent strip targeted three personalities that are currently dominating art chatter in New York: collector/New Museum trustee Dakis Joannou, New York Magazine art critic/Facebook art celebrity Jerry Saltz, and artist/critic William Powhida.
While Joannou and Saltz have long been fodder for art world gossip, Powhida is new to this level of art world fame. He’s experiencing a major moment precipitated by his controversial Brooklyn Rail cover back in November, the New York Times profile in December, his co-curation of #class at Winkleman Gallery which Times critic Holland Cotter reported on but didn’t review, and his recent “Hooverville” drawing (created with Jade Townsend), which lampoons and celebrates the art world and its plutocracy.
Art critics have only started to openly debate Powhida’s work — which is a good thing — and the reactions have varied from the perception that he is feigning an outsider status that isn’t real (which he denies) to others being excited by his brash slaps to the face of the art world and its gods. I think to truly understand Powhida is to look at what I’d call his literary imagination, but that’s another post for another time.
I asked Swan why he chose to lampoon Joannou, Saltz, and Powhida? And he responded:
Add Swan to that list of the lampooned. I thought Powhida and the other guy (Townsend) had a brilliant idea with “Hooverville.” I wanted to describe another allegory without going to the trouble of actually drawing it. Also, I recently realized that Powhida had been doing trompe l’oeil drawings of notebook pages long before I started and it appeared I’d stolen the idea, and maybe I had. Dakis Joannou is currently the representative Capitalist for the Capitalized Art World (art bum represents the lower case art world). Saltz is bad for my high blood pressure.