Required Reading

This week’s New York Magazine cover is a stunner. (via nymag.com)

This week, Ai Weiwei on the internet, the risk of reporting on memes, Dave Hickey on art now, academic and artistic freedom in Wyoming, Trevor Paglen has a moment, everyone hates the art market, Kickstarter and ads,and more.

 Over at Big Think, artist Ai Weiwei discusses how he thinks the internet has changed the cultural and political landscape in China:

“I think those technology platforms [the internet and social media] constantly put the government on trial. And every event, every policy they make, people will laugh about it, and they will make fun about it.

This is amazing for the younger generation.”

 Amanda Hess writes about “The risk & benefits of reporting on memes” for Poynter:

” … election-themed GIFs, hashtags, and Lolcat-style image macros now constitute serious news pegs on the campaign trail. As journalists chase down Google searches and trending hashtags, the trajectory of U.S. election coverage is unmoored from campaign headquarters and D.C. bureaus and placed into the hands of the loudest crowds and their swiftest microbloggers.”

 Noted critic and art historian Dave Hickey is retiring because he’s scared:

“Also, the art world has turned nasty for some reason and my gentility has come out of the closet. I cry when people scream at me, unless we’re just haggling about prices.”

 Two articles on artist Trevor Paglen are worth reading:

“When I began The Last Pictures, I thought that the idea of creating human marks on timeless spacecraft was an absurd idea. But over the years, I started to think that notmarking our spacecraft, and not marking things for the future may be symptomatic of a culture in which we actively annihilate the future through our disregard for it. Environmental destruction is an obvious example of this attitude, as is cutting education budgets.”

“Many of his photos are taken with telephoto lenses, and are distorted or unclear; he welcomes distortion, because his aim is not to expose and edify so much as to confound and unsettle.”

 What is the relationship of museums, contemporary art, and politics? Randy Kennedy explores the topic:

The more important questions, though, hover outside the institutions and go directly to art’s role in America at a time when contemporary art feels increasingly disconnected from the culture at large, even as the art business and museum world have never been bigger: Should public museums be places where political argument happens? Why is this so rarely the case, especially when compared with politically engaged programming in museums in Europe, Mexico, South America and even parts of the Middle East?

 The artwork that infuriated big coal … or academic and artistic freedom, Wyoming-style:

When University of Wyoming graduate Joe Riis inquired about the fate of [Chris Drury’s] “Carbon Sink,” a university vice-president told him that it had been removed due to water damage. But emails recently obtained by Irina Zhorov, an enterprising reporter at Wyoming Public Media, tell a different story. After the university announced the installation of Carbon Sink, Marion Loomis, the president of the Wyoming Mining Association, wrote to a university official and asked: “What kind of crap is this?” Both industry representatives and state legislators weighed in on the sculpture, some threatening the university’s funding in no uncertain terms.

 This argument takes it too far, but it’s a good read nonetheless. Jacob Willer thinks contemporary art is turning a new corner and money is the message [emphasis mine]:

Dubious relationships between public galleries, private dealers and investors are not so new. A storm blew up in 2005 when the Tate bought for £600,000 a work by Chris Ofili, who sat on its board of trustees. After the press revealed the transaction, the Tate was censured by the Charity Commission. But, back then, such stories were usually only interesting to the “reactionary” press — the Telegraph, and specialist art publications like The Jackdaw. I suppose they were interested in the story primarily because they disapproved of sanctioning that sort of art — the dodgy transaction just made it juicier; corrupt business fomented by corrupt taste. The “progressive” press had the opposite agenda: they would try to ignore the corrupt business, as long as it sanctioned corrupt — i.e. anti-bourgeois — taste. The Left, through its own vanity, always too easily fell for the art world’s oldest trick. Already in 1975 Tom Wolfe wrote: “Avant-garde art … takes the Mammon and the Moloch out of money, puts Levi’s, turtlenecks, muttonchops, and other mantles and laurels of bohemian grace upon it.” Not even Wolfe could foresee the artist’s metamorphosis from bohemian to businessman, completing in 2008 when Hirst sold his own works at auction. Only after that auction could the Left take a stand against the art world. So now it is criticised from both flanks. The politics of taste are over; at this moment what matters — for the art journalist as much as for Hirst — is money.

 A Getty Foundation study says their Pacific Standard Time (PST) exhibition series generated $290.7 million for the Californian economy but the art nonprofit isn’t exactly flaunting the finding. The Art Newspaper explains why:

Without any comparative data, the Getty is being cautious about publicising the report’s findings. In a survey conducted by The Art Newspaper earlier this year, we found that attendance to the various exhibitions was patchy, with some museums reporting a boost to their visitor numbers, while others saw little change.

 Kickstarter founder Yancey Strickler talks to the Walker Art Center blog and says that they don’t ever intend to start advertising since they have a financial model that works.

 And finally, photographer Sam Horine went to the Rockaways and captured some shocking images that give you a sense of the destruction that region sustained during post-tropical cyclone Sandy. It is heartbreaking.

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.

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