This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution: 3.0) License (US), though the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed.
A Search for Comity in the Intellectual Property Wars: symposium at The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, April 28-30, 2006 [slides, audio, transcripts]
download the report [PDF]
Jeff Koons: Tulips
"When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich."
~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Christie's -> In The Saleroom: Jeff Koons’ Tulips, 15 November 2012
Jeff Koons’ Tulips realized $33,682,500, achieving a world auction record for the artist in the Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale in New York on 14 November 2012.
By Felix Salmon, November 19, 2012
In the art world, the courtiers are revolting:
Dave Hickey, a curator, professor and author known for a passionate defence of beauty in his collection of essays The Invisible Dragon and his wide-ranging cultural criticism, is walking away from a world he says is calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing.
“They’re in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It’s just not serious,” he told the Observer. “Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It’s not worth my time.” …
Hickey is adamant he wants out of the business. “What can I tell you? It’s nasty and it’s stupid. I’m an intellectual and I don’t care if I’m not invited to the party. I quit.”
Hickey is only the highest-profile member of a pretty large group: people who are sick of playing bit parts in a game which has become entirely about money and ego, with the beauty and power of art having become just another commodity to be bought and sold. Art critic Jerry Saltz is another:
I still can’t stand it. How a handful of very very rich people with penises likes buying the work of a handful of artists with penises for very very high prices in public, in front of other people with penises and some very tall thin blond people with great shoes and no penises. Really.
The doyenne of art-market reporters, Sarah Thornton, has quit writing about the economics of art. She says there are a hundred reasons for doing so, including the fact that “tightknit cabals of dealers and speculative collectors count on the fact that you will report record prices without being able to reveal the collusion behind how they were achieved”, and that “it implies that money is the most important thing about art.”
Charlie Finch, too, smells the irrelevance of a world which has become irredeemably decadent in all the worst meanings of the word — to the point, this summer, at which he convinced himself that even the plutocrats would notice, and that the art market would be crashing hard, right about now. Obviously, that didn’t happen: it’s almost impossible to underestimate the obliviousness of the art-collecting elite, who are of course constantly surrounded by precisely the kind of courtiers — consultants, gallerists, even artists — who constantly tell them how perspicacious and important they are. Look no further than former commodity broker Jeff Koons, whose Tulips just sold for $33,682,500 at Christie’s: the last time I saw him he was in Davos, palling around with a Ukrainian oligarch, and generally solidifying his reputation among the people who really matter. Insofar, of course, that the people who really matter are the people you want to continue to funnel millions of dollars in your direction.
No, Charlie, the art market oligopoly system isn’t going anywhere: if anything, it’s more entrenched than ever. But the people without millions of dollars, the people who try to talk about art but find all conversations ultimately being about money — those people are, finally, getting fed up.
There’s long been a disconnect between critical acclaim and high prices, but so long as the art market pumped money into the broader art ecosystem, no one really minded that. Rather, what seems to have changed is that art — art itself, divorced from commerce — has been drowned in the flood of money. Even the most highbrow museums, these days, only devote major shows to artists who have proved themselves winners in the great game of selling to plutocrats.
This critique, of course, is not a new one, and the Occupy Museums website puts it well:
Museums must be held accountable to the public. They help create our historical narratives and common symbols. They wield enormous power within our culture and over the entire art market. We occupy museums because museums have failed us. Like our government, which no longer represents the people, museums have sold out to the highest bidder.
What’s new, I think, is the way in which such sentiments have started infecting much of the public face of the art world. Not everywhere, to be sure. Where there are markets, there will always be cheerleaders and outlets like Art Market Monitor serve the auction houses in much the same way that CNBC serves the NYSE. But now we have Jerry Saltz half-seriously proposing that all art just be sold at a flat price, and we have Sarah Thornton complaining about how tax evasion has become endemic in the market, and we have Larry Gagosian, in his latest court deposition, squirming when asked how a painting which was consigned to a New York gallery, and which was sold to a US resident, somehow managed to get sold out of London. How did the London gallery manage to acquire the work? “I don’t know the answer to that,” replies Gagosian.
Or to put it another way, the art market has stopped being a source of fascination and crazy numbers, and has started to be a source of sheer disgust. The auction records will probably continue to fall: the small group of ultra-high-end art collectors cannot easily be chastened. But I’m beginning to see the stirrings of something else: a more supportive and democratic art world, taken seriously by respected gatekeepers, which increasingly views the twice-yearly shenanigans at Sotheby’s and Christie’s as an obscene sideshow rather than as a true gauge of value. The shiny art selling for tens of millions of dollars is so dumb, and the caricatures who would emulate its success are so debased, that a lot of really talented artists and critics and curators and even collectors don’t even want in any more.
If you look back and forth between art collectors and rapacious venture capitalists, you rapidly come to the conclusion that if you compare the two groups, the art collectors come out so much worse. They’re similar in many ways: you have the “angel” early-stage investors who go bargain-shopping among the unknowns, all the way through to the big-money late-stage investors who make a fortune by investing in established names. And of course you have the majority of investors who don’t actually make any money at all. But at least there’s something honest about the VCs, and at least you can say that they sometimes create value.
The world of high-end art collectors, by contrast, has reached a level of obscenity that the art world more generally can no longer ignore. It’s been clear to the more politically-minded for a while, but now we’re seeing the mainstreaming of attitudes which used to be found only on the far left. Enough of living in a world where an artwork without resale value is worthless. Enough of feeling jealous when some idiot starts selling for ridiculous sums. Enough of a world where the levels of inequality make Nigeria seem positively egalitarian. Yes, artists need to make money, and yes, big collectors shower ridiculous sums onto the art world. But that money isn’t trickling down, and it certainly isn’t respectable. Here’s Thornton:
I have no problem with rich people. (Some of my best friends are high net worth individuals!) But amongst the biggest spenders in the art market right now are people who have made their money in non-democracies with horrendous human rights records. Their expertise in rising to the top of a corrupt system gives punch to the term “filthy lucre.”
Remember, this is no bedraggled Occupy activist writing these words; this is Sarah Thornton, who spent an entire chapter of her art-world book swimming laps at the Hotel Cipriani in Venice. Similarly, Dave Hickey was an art dealer himself, once, and has devoted his entire career to helping young artists become commercially successful. These people made their peace with the art market decades ago — but now, they are saying, it has gone too far.
One of the reasons why auctions attract so much fascination is that they’re pretty much the only place where you can see millionaires and billionaires competing, in real time, to see who can spend the most money on a given object. It’s quite a spectacle — but it has very little to do with art. Or at least, it has very little to do with whatever it is that most art lovers love. It’s fine to commercialize art, to sell it, to make money off it. Indeed, I wish that many more fine artists could do so. But let’s do so on a human scale. Because today’s art market is so much less than that.
As Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts crawl forward in Chelsea, a growing number of donors are moving in to aid artists and galleries shaken by the storm. Upper East Side dealer William Acquavella has just pledged $100,000 to the Art Dealers Association of America’s Relief Fund, and one of his clients, who asked to remain anonymous, added another $200,000 on top of that. And all of this comes at the heels of Friday’s news that the fund had doubled its starting balance to $500,000.
“So many galleries are having a really rough time right now and have lost so much, we want to do whatever we can to help get them back on their feet,” Acquavella said in an email.
Today also marks the launch of one of the industry’s most ambitious recovery programs to date, a joint effort by the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Lambent Foundation, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which together have amassed around $3 million for artists and art organizations in need.
“We hope we can give to most everybody who has been hard-hit,” said Christy MacLear, executive director of the Rauschenberg Foundation, which plans to contribute around $500,000 to the cause. Along with $2 million from the Warhol Foundation, that funding will be split between grants for individual artists, administered through the New York Foundation for the Arts, and grants for arts organizations, applications for which are available on the new site Emergency Grants. The Lambent Foundation expects to provide another $250,000 to $500,000 to the NYFA fund.
For spaces like Chelsea’s Winkleman Gallery, which sustained severe structural damage, rebuilding could take up to six weeks — and that comes during the crucial lead-up to Art Basel Miami Beach. “The future was cloudy there for a while,” said owner Edward Winkleman. FEMA rejected his grant application and he had little time to focus on his participation in the upcoming Seven Art Fair in Miami.
But then he applied for the ADAA grant and had a $10,000 check in hand by the end of the week. “What the ADAA has enabled us to do is move forward with a little more confidence — particularly important for galleries our size — and to make preparations for Miami.”
The award amounts vary case by case, but the foundation-backed grants are expected to range from around $5,000 for individual artists to $25,000 for organizations. “We don’t know yet what’s going to come in,” said NYFA executive director Michael Royce. “But right now you can apply for funding for damage to physical space, damage to a home or studio, loss of equipment or supplies, or reimbursement for cancelled performances or engagements — and it could be many more things.”
As of now, there are no application deadlines. “We may find more need,” said MacLear, “and then I’ll go back to my board and ask for more money.”
Visit Small Paintings Drive for Sandy Relief on Facebook.
Visit Small Paintings Drive for Sandy Relief on Flickr.
Visit Small Paintings Drive for Sandy Relief on Facebook.
via The New York Times:
By ALAN FEUER Published: November 9, 2012
ON Wednesday night, as a fierce northeaster bore down on the weather-beaten Rockaways, the relief groups with a noticeable presence on the battered Queens peninsula were these: the National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Police and Sanitation Departments — and Occupy Sandy, a do-it-yourself outfit recently established by Occupy Wall Street.
This stretch of the coast remained apocalyptic, with buildings burned like Dresden and ragged figures shuffling past the trash heaps. There was still no power, and parking lots were awash with ruined cars. On Wednesday morning, as the winds picked up and FEMA closed its office “due to weather,” an enclave of Occupiers was huddled in a storefront amid the devastation, handing out supplies and trying to make sure that those bombarded by last month’s storm stayed safe and warm and dry this time.
“Candles?” asked a dull-eyed woman arriving at the door.
“I’m sorry, but we’re out,” said Sofia Gallisa, a field coordinator who had been there for a week. Ms. Gallisa escorted the woman in, and someone gave her batteries for her flashlight. As she walked away, word arrived that a firehouse nearby was closing for the night; the firefighters there were hurrying their rigs to higher ground.
“It’s crazy,” Ms. Gallisa later said of the official response. “For a long time, we were the only people out here doing relief work.”
After its encampment in Zuccotti Park, which changed the public discourse about economic inequality and introduced the nation to the trope of the 1 percent, the Occupy movement has wandered in a desert of more intellectual, less visible projects, like farming, fighting debt and theorizing on banking. While several nouns have been occupied — from summer camp to health care — it is only with Hurricane Sandy that the times have conspired to deliver an event that fully calls upon the movement’s talents and caters to its strengths.
Maligned for months for its purported ineffectiveness, Occupy Wall Street has managed through its storm-related efforts not only to renew the impromptu passions of Zuccotti, but also to tap into an unfulfilled desire among the residents of the city to assist in the recovery. This altruistic urge was initially unmet by larger, more established charity groups, which seemed slow to deliver aid and turned away potential volunteers in droves during the early days of the disaster.
In the past two weeks, Occupy Sandy has set up distribution sites at a pair of Brooklyn churches where hundreds of New Yorkers muster daily to cook hot meals for the afflicted and to sort through a medieval marketplace of donated blankets, clothes and food. There is an Occupy motor pool of borrowed cars and pickup trucks that ferries volunteers to ravaged areas. An Occupy weatherman sits at his computer and issues regular forecasts. Occupy construction teams and medical committees have been formed.
Managing it all is an ad hoc group of tech-savvy Occupy members who spend their days with laptops on their knees, creating Google documents with action points and flow charts, and posting notes on Facebook that range from the sober (“Adobo Medical Center in Red Hook needs an 8,000 watt generator AS SOON AS POSSIBLE”) to the endearingly hilarious (“We will be treating anyone affected by Sandy, FREE of charge, with ear acupuncture this Monday”). While the local tech team sleeps, a shadow corps in London works off-hours to update the Twitter feed and to maintain the intranet. Some enterprising Occupiers have even set up a wedding registry on Amazon.com, with a wish list of necessities for victims of the storm; so far, items totaling more than $100,000 — water pumps and Sawzall saw kits — have been ordered.
“It’s a laterally organized rapid-response team,” said Ethan Gould, a freelance graphic artist and a first-time member of Occupy. Mr. Gould’s experience illustrates the effort’s grass-roots ethos. He joined up on Nov. 3 and by the following afternoon had already been appointed as a co-coordinator at one of the “distro” (distribution) sites.
via The New Yorker:
Belle Harbor, Queens, about halfway along the Rockaway peninsula, is four blocks across at its widest point—a splinter of East-West streets on a spit of land between the bay and the sea. Now that land is beach again. The roads are so densely packed under sand hardened into foot-high ruts and deep puddles that they seem like dirt paths, never paved. A car is suspended diagonally across the sidewalk of one of the main roads, its rear impaled on a low wall. A mangled wood fence lies in the street. In front of nearly every house is a massive pile of debris—chairs, tables, mattresses, torn bits of cloth, and garbage bags stuffed, presumably, with smaller, flimsier, more rotten things. Some of the houses have been inspected for safety by the city and have paper signs posted on their doors: green for safe, yellow for partly safe, red for not safe at all. Cloth and wood signs along Rockaway Beach Boulevard yesterday: “F.U. Sandy, Survivor beach party … BYO … GOD BLESS USA, Rockaway”; “U LOOT, WE SHOOT.”
At the St. Francis de Sales church on B-129th Street, the church hall has been taken over by Occupy Sandy—an offshoot of the still-active networks of Occupy Wall Street. Supplies have been driven here from all over Brooklyn: back there are piles of blankets; on the tables here are diapers, baby food, and cleaning supplies; over there, clothes (grownup, child, baby); more than a hundred pairs of shoes lined up neatly on the bleachers. Residents of the neighborhood wander around the hall, filling bags. In the front entranceway, Occupy volunteers are unloading cases of bottled water from a truck, handing the heavy cases one to the next, a bucket brigade to the back of the church. The volunteers move fast but the job lasts more than half an hour—it’s a big truck. In front of the church, long tables have been set up on the sidewalk, where volunteers are serving hot food and peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
The Red Cross doesn’t accept individual donations of household goods—these things, it says, need to be cleaned, sorted, and repackaged, and all that takes up more time than they’re worth. It asks for financial donations only. But Occupy, as you would expect, has a different style. For instance: as soon as it was safe to go outside after the storm, first thing Tuesday morning, Michael Premo and a couple of people he knew got in a car and drove over to Red Hook. Premo is a freelance artist who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and just turned thirty. He was at Zuccotti Park every day last fall, though he never slept there, and after the park encampment was disbanded he kept in touch with the movement. There are big neighborhood assemblies in Sunset Park and Red Hook, smaller ones elsewhere in Brooklyn. Many meet each week, organizing around local issues—rent strikes in Sunset Park, anti-gentrification in Crown Heights.
Premo worked in New Orleans after Katrina, and he had a sense that right after a disaster, a city’s efforts were focussed on search and rescue, rather than on providing supplies. He thought this was a gap that Occupy could fill. He knew some people at Red Hook Initiative, a community center on Hicks Street, so he and his friends drove over there and asked what was needed—food, light, blankets. Food most of all. He and some other people got back in the car and drove to the Rockaways. He isn’t sure when they got there—probably Tuesday evening. Houses were still on fire. They walked around and asked people what they needed most.
Meanwhile, organizing was going on: we need to make food, we need a kitchen. The Red Hook Initiative has a kitchen but it’s too small. Phone calls. There’s a church on Fourth Avenue at Fifty-fifth Street, in Sunset Park, St. Jacobi, whose pastor likes Occupy—they have a big kitchen. They also have a hall that can be used as a headquarters to receive donations. Done—meet there. Get in the car. Somebody set up a Web site, there needs to be a short, clear list of what is needed and where to take it. Make sure it stays updated. Phone calls. We need volunteers to sort donations. We need sandwiches made. We need tinfoil to wrap the sandwiches in. We need people to drive out to Zone A to deliver supplies. People are running low on gas, not everyone can get to Sunset Park. Phone calls. Satellite drop-off centers for donations established in Fort Greene, Park Slope, Williamsburg, and Bed-Stuy. Phone calls. Coördinate with people in Manhattan—CAAAV, an Asian-American organization on Hester Street, is asking for volunteers in Chinatown. Can anyone get to Chinatown? The people at Good Old Lower East Side need volunteers to knock on doors in housing projects to see if old or sick people need help—they’re doing it between twelve and six every day and they need as many people as they can get (we’re sending hundreds). Someone needs to go out to the Rockaways and figure out a distribution center. Maybe St. Francis de Sales. It’s on 129th Street. Remember, phones don’t work there. Neither do traffic lights.
On Rockaway Beach Boulevard, a Polish woman walked away from St. Francis de Sales carrying full bags. She and her son had a place to stay right now, with her husband’s family in a Polish building, but they couldn’t stay there for much longer. She wasn’t sure where they would go next. She had lived in a basement—everything was ruined. She knew that a lot of other people were in the same situation. She knew that. But what got her was, on the street where she was staying, some people had clean driveways. Not just cleared of debris—no. Perfectly clean. Swept. Clean as a floor inside your house. That was what got her.
An earlier version of this post misstated the volunteer policy of the organization New York Cares. Those who wish to volunteer in the group’s Sandy-related projects do not need to attend an orientation session beforehand.
Photograph by Adrian Fussell/Reportage by Getty Images. See a slide show of more images of Sandy at Photo Booth.