Andre Wallace

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Art and Sponsorship

This week there isn't much art around due to the Christmas break but came across article in the Observer about arts sponsorship which is quite revealing. Prince Charles was giving out gongs last week to those who had contributed the most to arts sponsorship in the past year. The fact is that the people who sponsor the arts are now getting too old and more significantly they are not being replaced by young city slickers who are giving next to nothing to the arts despite their hedge fund gazillions. So much for banksters who invest in their own art but their public sponsorship arms need twisting.

Took in an extraordinary exhibition by an artist I'd never heard of one Jack Coulthard, it was very strange and imaginative work - for once beautiful craftsmanship. Jack is typical of the sort of artist that the State art world ignores.

Adrian Hamilton in the Independent again waxes fawning toadyism over the Bloomberg New Contemporaries at the ICA. (Bring back Charles Darwent!) Everything about this exhibition suggests that the art schools are failing to educate, the paucity of ideas and imagination on display here suggests that the current crop of students are very very confused about what it is that constitutes a work of art. There is no way you can argue that the ideas displayed by Julia Parkinson, Mark Essen, Hannah Regal, or Ferdinand Saumarez Smith as examples are original, exciting or even vaguely artwork. Saumarez Smith  for example goes no further than this internet research!  Pity that all this has to be hyped up by Mr Hamilton's lack of critical faculty.

Laura Cumming on the other hand can often be right, and she reviews the French Algerien artist Kader Attia at the Whitechapel in the Observer. Sure this is very worthy stuff, but the word artist should be replaced with curator for it seems that the exhibition is literally a museum exhibit, with nothing to see, just objects and mind games to indulge in. Instead of asking what is a vision? the artist could be advised to provide one, likes repetition does Kader.  This trend is frustrating in it's growth, seems it will become more popular, but where is the aesthetic engagement in the museum experience?

Lastly truly amazing news that the NHS is a huge consumer of art, only it is not!  David Prentis general secretary of Unison has said hospital surroundings are important for patients as they recover but when budgets are tight money should be spent on patient care - Who would have thought it? Fact is the sums are pretty paltry - 89 trusts spent £1.894,278 since 2010, about the price of an average Picasso but then those few who can afford to spend $142million on a poor Francis Bacon won't have to worry about their health spending will they? Whatever is spent it raises patients morale and that is the most important thing.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ten worst contemporary artworks

Recently was asked to make a list of the ten worst contemporary artworks and found it the most difficult task. Choosing the worst art of purported cultural significance was incredibly difficult as there is mountains of it about, but any object culled from the web museum of bad art or from locations such as skips or walls was banned. It had to be art that has been well publicised by galleries and the cultural media as very significant artwork, but also;

  • a work with no redeeming merit 
  • a work with no art history reference
  • a work with no artistic skill or value
  • a work of no aesthetic value

A real challenge; would be interested in other suggested lists.  For your disputation this was the final list.

1 Fountain - Marcel Duchamp

2 Black square - Kasimir Malevich

3 Bad dog - Richard Jackson

4 Work No 517 - Martin Creed

5 Boot print - Gavin Turk

6 Sleeping arrangements - Martin Maloney

7 Pail - Jeff Koons

8 Spring angel C - Gary Hume

9 Forever Marilyn - Seward Johnson

10 Sell the house - Christopher Wool

NB Not one female artist made the list!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Chapman Brothers and Saatchi gallery

This weeks press contains lots of criticism of the latest abuse of trust from the Chapman Brothers at the Serpentine. Critics make the same point, that we are now so inured to the usual suspects shlock it just doesn't work, which is depressingly true. A regretful loss of innocence by us all.

Alastair Sooke at the Telegraph effuses enthusiastically when he opines; "If this is art held up as a mirror to nature, then we as a species are infernally doomed." Fortunately the glass cases full of airfix kit is no mirror held up to nature, despite the references to Macdonalds, Nazis, Belsen, and the Klu Klux Klan, it's just the amoral imagination of a pair of rebels. The one sensation one gets when staring into a Chapman vitrines is the all-prevailing thought that it's truly amazing what you can do with an airfix kit and a little imagination! The brothers are a fair barometer of public gullibility, with their perverted semiotics. It is all wearing thin now though. Those generations that suffered at the hands of the nazi's even at one remove, find that sly nazi humour was never even vaguely funny. Some things are too serious to laugh at and their loaded cornucopias of shlock porn have provoked real revulsion.
Adrian Hamilton fawns dreadfully over all this as only he will, but he accepts that the slap in the face is wearing thin. He isn't very critical of the abuse of Goya either. Waldemar at the Times is more accepting, he says it's all tat but he loves it in spite of himself. He quotes Hannah Arendt "the banality of evil" and asks why the Tate hasn't yet bought one of their horror vitrines of thousands of Nazis doing the unspeakable. The best joke he makes is mentioning the fact that you don't want to be a corporate freebee aimed at kids when the Chapmans are about. He also claims that they are now Britain's most important artists but that's in a fairly empty field of competition. Laura Cumming is quite perceptive when she asks if there exists a true intent to shock? It's never clear she says, and the trick of painstaking craftsmanship with moral nihilism has now lost its potency. The only appropriate response she says is to laugh, but she finishes ;"the torture must never stop"!
The FT however goes with Scopophilia and pecuniary value of the objects - money is more important than art values for them of course ...........

Another show being given lots of press hype is the Saatchi show of good old Body Language stuff at the Saatchi gallery. - This is poor figurative art defined by Saatchi's utilitarian values and taste.  Laura Cumming visits and argues that the fast food of contemporary art is being served up here. Swiftly absorbed with one or two munches. The demand for novelty produces poor representation. The message is marred by the poor performances, e.g. Kasper Kovitz ham sculptures are Basquiat rendered in meat. Stegner's policewomen are glorified stick women. She says Body Language is a shopping spree of current US figurative art.
Waldemar Januszczak is similarly critical, the artists are all unknown in the UK and he says not everything deserves our attention, as there are some self consciously bad painters here like Henry Taylor and the manga artist Makiko Kudo. Chantel Joffe is a lifetime Saatchi favourite who raises the tenor of the show according to Waldemar, and he finishes his piece with the remark that Stegner's paintings should be in the Women and work show at the Tate.  Joffe is rather low on visual skills by any measure.
Adrian Hamilton in the Independent is once again overawed by crap. As the weeks go by one increasingly misses the level headed and cool intelligent perception of Charles Darwent who saw it as it is. Hamilton is obsequious in his praise of this poor fare, ranting on about subversion. He really is old enough to know better, for subversion substitute real incompetence. Stegner's policewomen have unconvincingly drawn limbs but Hamilton rants on about the open brushwork and use of colour - both of which only ever work when you can actually draw things. Why bother when you cannot actually do the work? So no change at the Saatchi Gallery, just the same old, same old, slick shallow brained, short termism being foisted upon us for the enth time.  It's time we had some grown-ups around to improve things.