Andre Wallace

Saturday, April 27, 2013

It's that Turner prize time again!

An exhibition of the work of yet another unknown artist at Tate Modern - 97 year old Lebanese artist Raouda Choucair. Both Charles Darwent and Laura Cumming think she is worth a mention. Desperate for new talent to show, this is the first of the Tate's promotion of African, Islamic and Arab exhibitions that were muted in the early part of the year.

Meanwhile the Tate has published it's line up for the 2013 Turner Prize - and a  very soft target this is. State art is bereft of real art So we have two "artists" who are quite literally jokers; Tino Seghal, the walk the walk merchant who produces nothing visual whatsoever but is the chat darling of the art world and the redoubtable cartoonist David Shrigley whose work belongs in a newspaper. Tate curator Penelope Curtis is quoted as saying; "Just because Shrigley's work is funny it doesn't mean it's not good." Definite own goal that one? Ed MCLachlan or Steve Bell produce cartoons that are often art, whilst Shrigley produces "art" that is almost always cartoon. The compulsory (French) film maker is Laure Provost, who makes films about atmospheric installations  and is also - sorry lost the plot! The only serious contender is Lynette Yiadom-Boakye whose skills are balanced by her quirky ideas. She could well develop into something of a serious artist with work.

UK State art as promoted by the Tate is a hieratic cult - According to the dictionary a cult is a closed group bound together in an intense devotion to a thing, person  or ideal, a system of beliefs and rituals that are bogus.  In his book "The New Cults", Walter Martin defines a cult as “a group religious in nature which surrounds a leader, or a group which either denies or misinterprets essential biblical doctrines.” In the case of state art it is the basic visual and aesthetic experience that is denied and misinterpreted despite the artist's intention to demonstrate it’s putative existence in way that the object is regarded. The artists intention is a separate sociological issue to the ontological status of the object. Conceptual art is a belief system based upon procedures which in Duchamp were derived from occult mysticism.  The only factual difference between say Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes and real Brillo boxes is their purported ontological status, no empirical evidence exists as to any other difference.  One  cannot share a naive cultish faith in state art, conceptual art seems to have produced very, very few objects of any lasting cultural value. As Joe Szimhart commenting upon cults has said; “ceramic urinals on pedestals worth millions of dollars have less value to me now than finding an unsigned one in a junkyard.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tradition - Ron Mueck, Rachel Whiteread and that Arts Council pecuniary scandal.

Ron Mueck's latest exhibition comes up for comment in Saturdays Independent. Gautier Deblonde has made a documentary about the artists work. It's clear from the photos that Mueck is very traditional in his working procedures, he creates a chicken wire armature, coats it with a thin layer of clay and painstakingly builds up the forms which he then casts in fibre-glass. This way of working could never compete in output with the factory manufacturing procedures of the usual suspect. The show contains three new works that took two years to sculpt. One thing about the work is that although it trades upon its over realistic surfaces and human imperfections, it is always a very personal object. The figures usually have a typical Ron Mueck facial expression that is recognisable as his and no-one else's. Waldemar Januszczak pens his appreciation of the exhibition in 21st April Sunday Times. Also on Utube

Rachel Whiteread has a shed in her exhibition at Gagosian until 25th May, - what is it about YBA's and sheds? Why should sheds be marketable to collectors, perhaps to sentimentally remind them of the values they dumped in pulling the ladder up behind them? One of the best things that she has done is the inverted monument in Trafalgar square which is a quiet reversal of the notion of a plinth. She doesn't compromise in her work which is an admirable trait, but she doesn't take risks either.  As she has climbed the art market tree by digging in the same hole, she has created some very memorable objects that can be re-visited - unlike other state art, such as her "House" and her "Holocaust memorial". She doesn't do emotion though, these are understated and formal works that just get under the skin, and are a rare phenomena in today's art market. Aesthetic forms which are very beautiful. She doesn't always get it right, her Tate Modern effort didn't work. Whilst she has done the same thing over and over again, by attending to meaning she has managed to refine the procedure to produce real art, not kitsch. Adrian Hamilton in the Independent describes her as "detached," - state art code for cool!

Charles Darwent in the Sunday Independent has a review on a Paul Nash exhibition at Pallant House. Well worth a visit as Darwent says; " As often with a small exhibition the glimpses afforded are oddly revealing. It evokes not just Nash but his moment in English Art History, a depressing moment." This is may be, because now we expect to be entertained by art, not informed or enlightened by a serious idea.

The column of steam that cost £500,000 of tax payers money and amounted to nothing, zero, zilch, was an inexcusable total waste of the poor mug taxpayer's money. There was a danger that it could have caused Legionnaires disease! The guilty  parties at the Arts Council should be dismissed for commissioning this State Art con! An inexcusable waste of public money. The Arts Council have rejected the accusation that it was a waste of public money as it provided some jobs for the region. Laura Dyer has said that she was disappointed, but there was always this risk with groundbreaking artwork, that she really tried and worked hard to realise it but it couldn't be done. That admission would have ensured her falling on a sword in more robust times but alas these decadent Panjandrums are totally unaccountable to the taxpayer whose money they waste. The project was attempted by an obscure american artist and it was chosen from a shortlist of 172 others. Presumably they weren't exotic enough for the state art apparatchiks who decided upon this moronic commission. So much for burying the cultural Olympics! 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The 1Billion pound gift and the pickpockets

The downside of being an art lover - The Louvre has been closed by staff because of professional pickpockets.  It's about time this happened, spent a lifetime working in central London and never once had a pocket picked. The only time it did happen was like many thousands of others on a visit to the Louvre. The gendarmes were sympathetic, but they themselves said that they went nowhere without a money belt. The problem is the impotence of French law, which puts the child criminal first. In the UK we have CCTV surveillance everywhere we go, whilst one may gripe at lack of privacy it has its upside, it gets the evidence. It is  well past time the French got a real grip on the situation, it has been getting steadily worse for at least twenty years and it puts tourists off visiting Paris for good.

The New York Metropolitan museum has received a huge £1bn gift of cubist art from Leonard Lauder, the cosmetics heir. According to the Independent this will transform the Met putting it at the forefront of early 20th century art, it is a unsurpassed collection and one any museum director could only dream about receiving. So much good from the US tax laws.  The gift is a major catch for the Met's director Thomas Campbell who is english, he is reported to have said that the Met was thin on this part of 20th century art.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Charging for Museum and Gallery admission!

Little contemporary art news at the moment apart from the publicity for the usual suspect. Recently read Roger Scruton's "Face of God" and what seems clearer is the extent to which the usual suspect has managed to contribute to the commodification of the sacred. As a brutal but childish culture we have no conscience about sex but we are absolutely terrified by death. So this post got highjacked by events, namely the death of a very divisive figure from UK history Mrs Margaret Thatcher.

Laura Cumming in the Observer 7th April tackles a sculpture exhibition at Barbican by two Canadian sculptors: Geoffrey Farmer and Marcel Dzarma - The Surgeon and the Photographer, The Curve Gallery, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS. This just is not sculpture, it is formless 2D collage and basic foundation course stuff, disposable, temporary and very average stuff.  Basically puppetry it is eminently suitable for stage or theatre set but not a serious sculpture. Cumming tells us that what it all adds up to is a portrait of all humanity, -  so no lack of hubris then? A compelling vision, she writes, and inevitably ( it now is the de rigour compulsory cod legitimisation with so many critics) there is the same old throw away line that Dzarma's movies are all referents to the films of his great namesake, Marcel Duchamp? Sure it is, but then what the hell isn't?
One should not to speak ill of the dead, but today 9th April, subject to wall to wall media adulation for Mrs Thatcher's achievements one can only reflect that the Barbican exhibition is a direct result of the philistine damage that her friends and supporters managed to inflict upon the visual arts after she came into power. She has had very few supporters in the art world (except perhaps these two sycophants) who really should go down in history for their unstinting support. She herself was subject to iconoclasm, and some arts folk can now say what they wouldn't have done whilst she was still alive? those who were around in the sixties and seventies can remember what an eminently serious concern the fine arts were, before they were laid waste by business sponsorship and the invasion of advertising ethics and interests. There was in those days little art outside Cork street and what there was, was subject to very rigorous editing for visual quality and sensibility. This was, however, no guarantee of the artworks survival and much of it vanished without trace. Who has heard of Francis Morland or Roland Piche?  Aside from the planet where all lost biro's go, when visiting local antique fairs you can now discover this stuff, unwanted and unloved. The art world of now, despite so-called austerity is hundreds of times larger in scale than it was then but 95% of todays output would have been laughed out of court .

The Sunday Times 7th April; an article about the charging for access to museums and art galleries by Brian Appleyard that raises some politically interesting questions. Appleyard usually writes copy, not criticism so this is a politically motivated piece of guff. The title of the piece asks why should museums and art galleries be free? That this question is being asked yet again ad finitum shows how desperate the government must be to save money. The current bout of bankster created austerity provides the excuse and our erstwhile reporter jumps in support, as well he might, writing in the pecuniary interests of a Murdoch paper. The stats are complex and the real issues more so but the main benefit is for the re-defined middle classes.  He argues that; admissions have risen from 7.2 million when charges were last made to 18.4 million now in these straightened times. Most of these visitors are foreign but the profile of vistors remains unchanged. The poor and excluded still don't visit art galleries. Which begs the question; In who's interest was our culture dumbed down, it was certainly not done for the socially deprived and the excluded? Appleyard complains about hordes of foreign schoolchildren getting in free, cluttering up galleries and making it impossible to see or consider anything. Note, this is not UK schoolchildren, gallery visits are too risky from a health and safety point of view for teachers to bother with, to mention nothing of their parents.
There is no mention of the fact that many of the artefacts on display were given to these institutions on the condition that admission to see them was to remain free for all time. Appleyard says, attacking what he calls the socialist ideology of the anti-chargers that the dirty little secret in all the arts is that free admission doesn't bring in new kinds of visitors. He quotes Colin Tweedy as saying, the increase in visitors is evidence of the middle classes going more often and repeatedly. Maybe that's because the socially excluded have more to pre-occupy them - such as where their local food bank is located? He then takes a pop at Neil MacGregor of the British museum on behalf of those philistines who would like to destroy all our greatest free institutions, ( we know who they are)such as  the British museum, the BBC, the Open University and replace them with ignorant dysfunctional businesses that would only deliver markets interests. Much like the state of the contemporary art world since the Thatcher revolution.  Enough of this, truly the cost of everything and the value of absolutely nothing, except the adolescent's fear of death!