Andre Wallace

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Schnabel and curators

We have discussed the Barnes museum fiasco before and this week brings the news that Northampton Museum is selling off an ancient Egyptian statue contrary to the conditions of the owners will and testament. The Arts council is threatening to remove it's accreditation of the Museum. Yet again a cash strapped Council is selling an object that it is legally obliged to maintain in perpetuity for the public to see and not for it to vanish into some oligarchs private bank vault in order to pay off the debts.

"Lord Northampton claimed that the council had no right to sell the statue under the terms of the gifting covenant. The 30in (76cm) limestone figure of a court official clutching beer, bread and cake - items for the afterlife - is believed to have been acquired by Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, in 1850 and it was later presented to the museum by his son. After a settlement over ownership of the limestone figure dating from about 2400 BC, the statue will now go for sale on 10 July and is estimated to realise between £4m and £6m, the spokesman said."

Meanwhile the broken plate specialist Julian Schnabel has had a severe roasting from our erstwhile UK critics who cannot stand his Hubris - except their own publications that is. Expert in guff writing in the telegraph, yoof Alastair Sooke says the work is irredeemably awful. He writes; 
"Untitled (Amor Misericordioso III) (2004) is a strong candidate for the most pretentiously titled work of art in history. What happened to Amor Misericordioso I and II?" which just proves his youth but he isn't exactly a stranger to pretence himself. If he had not been a child in the 1980's he would know that Schnabel's work has always been hugely portentous and pretentious gestures but being new to it he not fully comprehend the definitive expressionist Grayson Perry?

Mr Dorment our Telegraph resident expert in State art has come out in support of the Tate curator Ms Penelope Curtis - whilst she has been under attack from Brian Sewell and Waldemar Januszczak. Ever the contrarian but never in the right is our Dorment - invariably in the wrong. He's dead wrong again here because Ms Curtis is one of the new curators who can't see the art for the sheer density of her own issues, preoccupations and concerns. They are the worst kind of blight in a moronic art world that has succeeded in marginalising the artists themselves. Jonathan Jones in the Guardian blames Mr Serota for Tate britain's plight and says no-one ever criticizes him. Which just goes to prove he never reads the Jackdaw who criticise him regularly as the president for life as indeed do the Stuckists.

There has been nothing to speak of exiting from British art schools since the YBA's that we had Gary Kemp puffing up on ITV this week. Quite the worst art program on the box in a long time, was particularly incensed at the artist's hubris, they have long confused piles of cash with artistic and aesthetic worth. These things are not and never will be the same thing, anyone would mistakenly think that the rich have any taste! 

Meanwhile back at the Guardian Polly Toynbee (for it is she) is upset about the new Minister for the arts Sajid Javid a former bankster. She writes truthfully; 
"The arts inhabit realms of no-compromise impossibilism, while politicians practise the art of the pragmatically possible." She quotes this worthy document which as usual only half states the case. Many confuse art with entertainment, they are not the same things.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Henri Matisse Blockbuster and artists brains

This week the Tate is hosting a Blockbuster of paper cutouts by the artist whom many consider the equal of Picasso, Henri Matisse. Brian Sewell gets off to a rough start with this snide piece of criticism directed at the fact that they are the works of an old man;
"Enjoy these seductive trivialities for what they are — insubstantial, deceitful, fraudulent and, we must hope, transient, rather than some spiritual and mystical essence of art. Having no doubt that the number of visitors between now and September will break the record for Tate Modern (and so, perhaps, it should), I hope only that, unlike the early critics, they will cling to reason."
The FT is more reasonable though Jackie Wullschlager quotes Picasso as he went to the heart of the matter with this; “If he wants to make a woman, let him make a woman. If he wants to make a design, let him make a design. This is between the two,” Picasso had growled in 1907 when Matisse showed his primitivist “Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra”. The question this provokes is; whether these works are merely surface exploration or decoration or something else? Up to you the reader to decide.

This question doesn't arise with the publicity given to the work of a one-time leader of the free world, really interesting to compare with the artwork of Winston Churchill?

Scientists are saying that artists have different brains to everyone else because of the visual faculties that they have to develop to handle images. Any art teacher could have told you that this was true, there are some students who could spend their entire life trying to learn how to see and would never be able to do it because of different brain wiring, usually they are referred to as Haptics because their dominant mode of perception is touch.  So much for league tables, do you prevent them learning art if they want to or do you just divert them with conceptual art?

This piece from Jonathan Jones which deserves attention as it proves that despite being rich as Croesus you cannot always buy the right kind of publicity.

Finally for this week Mike Kelly is in news yet again! The article makes clear why. “Looking at his work,” Vergne told the crowd, “this drama happening in America made it clear how Mike Kelley had his fingers on all the questions that articulate our time and our culture.” Really, would that have been the immature childish and stupid culture of the me me me generation of thirty year old toddlers?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Miroslaw Balka and Phillida Barlow

There is little contemporary art being exhibited at the present time of any real interest.

Waldemar Januszczak is writing about German historical wood cuts in this weeks Sunday Times whilst Laura Cumming is sounding on about two shows by Miroslaw Balka, one at the Freud Museum and the other at White cube. The one at white cube betrays the total inadequacy of the work. As is now the norm it needs a self referential diatribe to explain it's meaning which provokes the question if you cannot see what the work is about why is it posing as visual art and hasn't it failed at the starting gate? As Laura Cummings writes;

"A detailed body of literature is on hand — alluding to Wagner, Dürer, the measurements of the concentration camps, the geographical height of the White Cube gallery above sea level – to help you construct additional meanings. But they are not embodied in the work." 

Which in referring to every aesthetic canon of the last two hundred years proves that the work is not art, the basic condition of art necessitates that the meaning is embodied in the sculptural or 2D form.

Phyllida Barlow - Adrian Searle writes about Phyllida Barlow in this weeks Guardian. "Mad and madly ambitious Linda Barlow's Dock is by far and away the largest work the artist has made. It is also the most ambitious in terms of its variety of ramshackle complexity. Both sculpture and journey the Dock develops over a 100 yd length of Tate Britain Duveen sculpture gallery."

Further he writes; "there are further comic returns, and one unavoidably thinks of Barlows work as a knockabout homage and critique of minimalism and Arte Povera of Robert Morris's early performances and the macho maneuvers of British sculpture of the past 50 years. Through a side door I glimpse Caro' s early one morning. It looks like a meek defender of some earlier order."

"What an exhilarating work this is. Gothic, slapstick, overreaching, trammelling, Dock presents the world as the theatre set. .... It is a wonderful parody of sculpture's history of self-regarding masculinity!  Wow."

For once a decent sculptor has been given a show she richly deserves, unlike the pseudo sculpture at White Cube this good old-fashioned contemporary art does actually embody the meaning in the forms.

Waldemar in the Sunday Times begs to disagree and takes a large side swipe at the Tate curator responsible. He finishes the article by calling for her replacement as every exhibition she has mounted has been aimed at other curators not the public and attendendance figures are down 13%.

Meanwhile the Saatchi Gallery is promoting New Art from Latin America and Africa. Guess they have little choice having put paid to contemporary art education in the UK! Same old, same old, large ants are just not very meaningful except to the Yuff and meaning is at the heart of the crisis in contemporary art no thanks to a load of followers of Saussure and other french phenomenologists. Signs that the situation will have to improve have emerged today with the announcement that GCSE's and A levels in art and design are to be made more rigorous and this is too long overdue - hooray for that! Hope they then turn their attention to higher education in art and design, that really is the stable droppings that needs thorough sterilisation.