Andre Wallace

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Contemporary art - monetise in search of meaning

As the last post of 2015 it is good to offer some cogent and relevant ideas about how confused the contemporary art Diaspora has now become, with a view to giving clarity to the uses to which contemporary art is now being put - apart from being good to be photographed standing in front of that is. With this in mind this is a list of links to desperate thinking that shouldn't waste anyone's time, apart from it's arcane future interest to sociologists.

Do the visual arts have a leadership problem?

Apparently engaging with visual art is good for your health? Perhaps a justification for including it in everyone's education

James Elkin's confusion theory

Buying art by Louisa Buck

Some key issues - some hope

The problem with China and western art

Funny money in search of meaning

Contempt for conceptual art

What is certain is that very few people have no opinions about contemporary art and there are many hold it in utter contempt. This is rather sad, deliberately denying any aspect of your visual culture is unfortunate to say the least. Sport doesn't create this antipathy, it stays in the moment and it is immediately appreciable, - but it takes all sorts, as it were. Anyhow here is wishing you all out there a Happy Christmas and a very prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 - Year ending thoughts

This weeks Press contains some analyses of the best shows of 2015. A very poor year by anyone's standards but the highlight for many was the Ai Ai Wei at the RA. Why? I guess because there is so little acceptable art being produced in the UK, the operative word here being 'acceptable' to Arts council England, therefore media promotable. Yet there are thousands of good artists who are completely ignored and marginalised by the media.

Looking at the current state of pretence and befuddlement we have this video to consider; Anish Kapoor explaining his work. Why are the summits of UK art now held up by so many branded artists? Anthony Gormley does one thing only, and Auerbach and Hockney are the only exceptions one can think of. Not one of the once feted YBA's have matured into an artist with real gravitas, even Rachel Whiteread seems to be repeating the past.
Jonathon Jones choice of shows is quite sensible for once, as is Time Out's. The Guardian also listed the american shows and culture 24 's choice was weird. All in all not a good year for anyone. Even the New Yorks Times list contains some real dogs. It is also significant that no list so far has mentioned the hugely popular Dismaland exhibition at Weston-super-Mare. What is significant is that quality is of no concern in any list. Further exemplified by this list of best works at Art Basel. Adrian searle has come up with this list of year ending star exhibitions.
News has come in that Jeff Koons is being sued for copyright infringement by a commercial photographer whose 1980's advert was reputed to have been copied lock stock and barrel much like Richard Prince (again).

Finally there is this from the London University of the Arts. Professor Jeremy Till is promoting an art school education in Hong Kong for the Chinese who can afford to live in London - but UK students can no longer do so and are having their places cut. Welcome to the stupid new world of art education where the market decrees and the locals well they can go hang.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The night before Christmas

Tired and emotional before Christmas? Exhausted by shopping and partying - well the Chapman Bros have come to your aid, with their online shop according to Jonathon Jones who is very keen to give them a commercial boost. Though what the products for sale have to do with Christmas is anyone's guess? This doesn't seem to have occured to Jonathon who writes:

"" One of the Chapmans’ most incisive ways of taunting their middle-class fanbase is to transgress modern ideals of the family. Jake Chapman caused a furore when he suggested that taking children to galleries is “a waste of time”. In that same anti-coddling mood, the Chapmans are selling a book called Bed Time Tales for Sleepless Nights – guaranteed to make children lie awake in terror through the holidays. Or perhaps in reality this is a book for adults. You can also buy their amended version of Goya’s Disasters of War for £20. Not one for the kids, that.""

Not one for Christmas either - So much for peace and goodwill to all men, more like self regarding negativity for the me, me, me generation of nil sensibility!

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Suing Wiki

A German museum and gallery, the Riess Engelhorn gallery in Mannheim is suing Wikipedia for hosting 12 of it's images. Cannot profess to being surprised and first reaction was why has this not happened before? 

"" While the REM is the first museum to sue Wikimedia over images of artworks, another institution threatened legal action over a similar situation involving many more images in 2009. At the time, US-based Wikimedia contributor Derrick Coetzee (who has since been banned from the site) had downloaded some 3,014 high-resolution photos of artworks in the collection of the UK’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) from the gallery’s website and then uploaded them to Wikimedia. While the NPG held a copyright to the high-quality photos under British law, it did not under US law.""

So it seems that if you are in the US you can do what you like with other countries images. 

"" In a Communication on August 11, 2008, the European Commission wrote: “it is important to stress the importance of keeping public domain works accessible after a format shift. In other words, works in the public domain should stay there once digitised and be made accessible through the internet.” This was reinforced by the Europeana Charta of 2010 that reads: “No other intellectual property right must be used to reconstitute exclusivity over Public Domain material. The Public Domain is an integral element of the internal balance of the copyright system. This internal balance must not be manipulated by attempts to reconstitute or obtain exclusive control via regulations that are external to copyright ”".

Today also brings the obituary of Leslie Waddington who has recently departed aged 81. In his time he was a giant of Cork Street and held huge power over artists careers, any artist being picked up by Waddington had their career made. Just as significant was his exposure of the Dubuffet forgeries created by John Myatt.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Philosophy and Tate Britain

One of the most depressing things about our alienated and nihilistic culture is the emphasis on natural science as the answer to everything. From education to religion all answers to every problem can be found in pseudo-scientific solutions. The world is now simply too complex for this superficiality. One gets tired of the aggressive loose thinking that promotes natural science as an all encompassing problem solver from atheism to consumer fetishism. It is refreshing therefore to read a book by Markus Gabriel entitled "Why the world does not exist" which has taken on the task of defining our perception of fields of sense, a philosophical catch all derived from Frege and Wittgenstein, with which he succeeds in redefining aesthetics in a remarkably fresh way. He should be compulsory reading for all art world movers and shakers,  curators and artists who ought to have this text writ large on their walls.

" " It is profoundly incoherent to oppose reality and appearance by assuming that there is an aperspectival reality to which we direct our potentially distorting registries, in order to create perspectives onto things from nothing. Sense itself exists, it belongs to the objects just as much as the condition that the objects belong to the domain of objects. It is not external to the objects or the domain to which they belong.  Whether my desk belongs to the field of sense 'imagination' or the field of sense of my office is a difference that makes a difference.""
So first define your terms of reference. 

This week the Tate Britain is in the news: there's the Turner Prize which we need not bother about because the sanctified tosh being offered up simply is not art or worthy of attention, all pretentious non-art. Yesterday's decision to give the prize to a collective of architects further reinforces the relevance of the above cogent and apt text. Even Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times, makes exactly the point that there is no art being offered as well as instructing the new director of the Tate (Alex Farquharson) not to make the marginalising curation mistakes of his predecessor.

He writes: "  Apart from transferring the caption writers here to a job at the ministry of second hand sociology, and imposing a ban on the use of 'practise' and 'narratives' in your wall texts what you need to do in your shows, Alex, is remember that art is something you want to see, not read about. As Francis Bacon rightly put it, art circumnavigates the brain and appeals directly to the senses. So here's the secret of great exhibition making. Round-up lots of great art. Put is in the right order. Thats it. Anyway welcome to the job, your task is a fabulous one. Enjoy it."

Amen to that! lets hope those of us interested in Visual art will have reason to visit Tate Britain again.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Secular sculpture in a sacred setting!

At Sheffield Cathedral Jake and Dinos Chapman have hung a mutilated man sculpture upside down which is symbolic of suffering - superficially a very christian thing to do?  The Very Reverend Peter Bradley, dean of Sheffield Cathedral, said: 

"A lot of classic religious art shows images of really rather frightening violence, [such as] the crucifixion. But we don't notice that because we don't actually see it as violence. We see it purely as an illustration of a story.
"Some of these artworks invite us to reflect on violence, and violence in a religious context, in a new way, and that's strong, certainly."

Yeh but! No but! Yeh but! One can make a very strong tacit distinction between the redemptive religious message of a crucifixion scene and a secular sculpture that positively revels in depicting gratuitous mutilation but is essentially nihilistic. Strange that the very reverend didn't notice this.

Meanwhile in the Sunday press we have much about the Leonardo drawing La belle principessa that, it is stated is the work of Sean Greenhalgh the Barnsley forger. Surely anyone with eyes can see that the image is of a very contemporary girl, and not a 15th century Italian princess, besides it's condition is way too good for the 15th century and Leonardo just didn't draw hair as badly as it is depicted in this image. Niether did he cross hatch flesh by using single parallel strokes. As is often the case this probable forgery is a perfect piece of wish fulfilment, which is why forgers succeed in fooling experts. Greenhalgh says that he fooled the carbon dating tests by using old and ancient materials.

Then there is the return of Michael Craig Martin at the Serpentine. Adrian Searle's fawning article explains it thus:"The colour in Craig-Martin’s paintings, and the walls on which many of them hang, invites a kind of synaesthesia – a bodily, almost emotional tone that heightens the pitch and tenor of these mute, commonplace objects." This makes no actual sense, synaesthesia involves the confusion of the senses where seeing hearing smelling and touching get confused, presumable he means that the colours are smelling emotional?
And then this:" Anyone who looks at the world about them without flinching has got to be crazy. There are also those who are said to “get beneath the surface of things”. Better to focus on the surface. The deep will erupt anyway."   
This is quite simply factually untrue.  Craig-Martin's avant Garde is illustration, Patrick Caulfield did it far better and with a more sophisticated juxtaposition of differing graphic elements, skills and meanings.

Laura Cumming at the Guardian is more circumspect and quite accurate:
"Craig-Martin is nothing like the late Patrick Caulfield, who used essentialised black outlines to elaborate an immense variety of visual, emotional and pictorial nuances. Here, the emphasis is on steady uniformity. Craig-Martin’s representation of objects is undoubtedly democratic – nothing is more (or perhaps less) important than anything else, everything receives equal treatment. But the consequence can be affectless neutrality."
then this: Where once his painting of a sports shoe in lime and Schiaparelli pink might have appeared luminously strange, it now looks as ordinary as the shoe itself, available on the high street. The pleasure of the painting is slender enough; now it threatens to tilt into banality."
Meanwhile over at the Sunday Times, Waldemar Januszczak praises. He writes; " every electronic goodie is treated to a careful portrait as if it were something special when in point of fact everything on the walls is two a penny."  So the work is now a critique of consumerism, is it?

Finally is the Alexander Calder exhibition at the Tate, moving around and around in small circles as it were. Nuff said.

Monday, November 16, 2015


This week brings news that Maria Abramovic is being sued by her former partner as their former collaborative relationship has disintegrated with acrimony on both sides. He claims to have been exploited. The Guardian reports that:

"Ulay claims that Abramović has been writing him out of his own history. In his lawsuit he alleges that she has withheld money from him for 16 years, and failed to give him proper credit for their joint legacy."

"Ulay claims she has paid him only four times – and that Marina argues he should receive only 20% of her 30% profit, or 6% in total. Ulay explains what he hopes to achieve through litigation: “The points I’m asking of her are: every six months, a statement on sales and my royalties. And I’m asking for absolute proper mentioning of my name.”

"When approached to comment on the case, Abramović’s lawyer replied: “Mrs Abramović totally disagree[s] with Ulay’s allegations. My client doesn’t want to comment on them, they are libellous. My client considers that this lawsuit is abusive and aimed to damage her reputation in public, which is proven by his allegations to you. My client is very confident in her position in front of the court. She will defend her rights and reputation by all legal means.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Alistaire Sooke on oil painting

Alistaire Sooke is completely out of his depth  and betrays a lack of knowledge of the process of painting in an article on Frank Auerbach from the Telegraph.

The problem is that his world frame is limited to Challenging, Subversive and Radical pseudo-judgements concerning state art so when confronted by an artist who can actually use paint to reinvent painting the boy falls off his trike attempting to criticise that of which he has absolutely no understanding!

One also suspects that Sooke is so used to the gallery publicity handouts he is lost in space when he doesn't get one and has nothing meaningful to say:

"Aside from a terse, dour statement by the artist himself, explaining that he has shaped the “form” of the show by selecting, without interference, six small groups of paintings to represent each decade of his career, there is no introductory text to hand-hold, contextualise or explain: just eight works of art hung simply against Spartan grey walls, including one early, glowering self-portrait in charcoal and chalk, patched together out of scraps of torn paper like a version of Frankenstein’s monster."
and this lack of comprehension:

" The next gallery contains a bravura studio scene with a figure on a bed delineated by nothing but a few quick curls and spurts of scarlet squirted straight from the tube. This is sexy, urgent, risk-taking painting – reminding us that Auerbach’s compositions are rapid performances, recording particular instants in time. (One of the keys to understanding Auerbach is the knowledge that, as a young man, he acted in fringe theatre: his love of performance never left him.) Despite the literal heaviness of the paint, all of his best pictures have this shifting quality – as though they have been wrestled into existence but could equally slip back into oozy nothingness in a trice."

"Urgent risk taking painting", "rapid performances" No-one alive takes as much pains with slowly constructing what he sees with 3D paint marks than Auerbach. Our critic doesn't understand the process and result on any level except the totally inappropriate conceptual verbiage, which constitutes a completely different world frame. Further proof if needed that we are loosing the capacity to see. As a philosophy professor of acquaintance used to say: "Perception is causative and directive." 

Waldemar in the Sunday Times does know what he is talking about and he argues robustly that Auerbach is the UK's greatest living artist. He writes this: " These are the kinds of marks that a fencer might make if asked to draw portraits in the air with an epee. The  result is something exceptionally rare and exceptionally difficult: a new way of painting."
This is as good a way as any to describe what Auerbach is doing with representation using layers and layers of thick oil paint.

Today the 10th of November brings the news of a new world record price for a Modigliani which the auctioneer claims is his greatest masterpiece. With prices like these how can any museum or gallery compete?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Speak softly but carry a big stick!

This weeks best dross copy hasn't been written by an art critic, it's a piece of promotion for the White Cube gallery advertising a forthcoming George and Gilbert exhibition opening in November. The piece in the Gruniad is written by one Hannah Ellis-Petersen ( who she? ed) and contains everything that you need to know about  the rotting corpse that is contemporary Avant Garde Lite.
This may seem like a harsh judgement but read the article and judge it for yourself. It is difficult to comprehend how two grown men can reach the grand old age of 71 and 73 and still believe that it is perfectly acceptable to produce spray canned White banners with the kinds of graffitti that most 13 year olds would be ashamed of, and then pass it off as "art." Where have they been for the past sixty years of their sheltered hermetic existence? One thing is for sure, they have not been cultivating literacy.

" The “appalling messages” of Banners, says Gilbert and George, are not about violently attacking the viewer, as was the purpose of their Scapegoating series shown at White Cube last year, but about liberating audiences from liberal complacency.

“Europe is frigid,” says Gilbert. “People don’t know what to think and they are not able to say anything anymore because they are so liberal they are not allowed – they have lost their moral fibre, the moral strength, lost all their conviction to act.” 

So how does this inane verbiage actually present an assertion of moral fibre, strength or conviction? Surely it merely represents the tired same old attempt to offend and then fails dismally.

“We are in advance of politics, we think,” says George. “It’s a very simple fact that the novels of Dickens preceded legislation that stopped children working in factories. You have to have the knowledge and the culture first and then the politicians are dragged into doing things and changing things. The force of culture is generally misunderstood.”

Indeed if only the world were that simple; “More and more it is difficult to speak as an artist,” admits George. “Nobody hears you because there are too many and there are too many different ways of making art today that there didn’t use to be when we started out in 1969.”

“We have to shout louder with our pieces,” adds Gilbert. “Much louder now, all over the world.”  Yep! but they have the White Cube, and the Tate and the RA to promote their shouts. One cannot help but feel sorry at their plight.

Indeed one Karen Wright in the Independent of 30th November writes this: " Why does this work make me feel so angry? In a world transformed by the events in Paris, can we really stand by a banner saying "Ban religion.?" Is this art of our times dealing with the issues of our times - or work to be hung on the walls of the rich to look prescient and cool? Over to you reader."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Challenging subversive contemporary art?

Jonathon Jones is getting all worked up about challenging subversive contemporary art in today's Guardian.  Rarely has one come across such a fawning piece of toady textual double think as this misbegotten article. He writes:

"Contemporary art may have all the hallmarks of establishment culture, but it is still Challenging, Subversive and Radical. It must be. The cleaners are still throwing it away."

So the knotty question of the value of contemporary art is easily resolved by it's having been disposed of by the cleaners. This is the measurement of it's artistic value and aesthetic significance. Bin it: therefore it is art! Art critics like Jones have no hesitation in attacking someone for their religious belief, but write trite tripe like this when they are extolling the virtues of their own unquestioning self deception concerning the significance of contemporary art. Doesn't he yet understand that the terms he uses as value judgements, i.e. provocative, challenging, subversive, radical and dangerous are completely defunct and redundant as terms of description for post modern art. Contemporary art is none of these things, it is establishment approved, all-pervasive, repetitive, passé, turgid, lightweight, boring and dominant.
Moreover, he cannot resist a dig at the lately deceased: "But still, the cleaners keep chucking stuff away – cussed working-class critics of modern art who are the last bastions of criticism now that Brian Sewell has gone." The truth is that many artists involved in making art are sick to their back teeth of this kind of dross copy from so called art critics. That said, cleaners have thrown contemporary art in the bin many times over the past century, to the extent that it now represents just another marketing strategy.

That's enough cleaners! (ed).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Leggo shortage and Cave Art

This week brings news that Ai Wei Wei is very upset with Leggo which is quite amusing, because they refuse to sell to political activists, and believe it or not the wunderkind counts as one of these personages. Maybe that's his primary function but he will be saved by donations of Leggo from enthusiasts.

He says philosophically:
" I think my home is on the internet. Twitter is my home and my nation and I feel very comfortable there. Otherwise, I don’t care that much about material life. Sometimes there are materials lacking, such as I need Lego for my work, but that is fine,” .

No doubt that may be true, but one may have a lot more respect for this self-taught artist!! who digs out whole and entire caves as artworks.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Art Review 2015 Power 100

This morning the Independent tells us that Somerset is now the centre of the art world for Iwan and Manuela Wirth are resident in Bruton. Spent last two weeks looking at studios in Somerset's arts weeks and cannot say that this claim is in any sense justified for local artists. If anything there has been a decline in the past few years in the scope and range of genres being produced out there in the county of Somerset. The point surely is that the claim is based upon global selling and Hauser and Wirth draw their artworks and clients from a global base.
One is forced to ask who in all that's sacred draws up these lists and for whose benefit are they made? Whose interests do they serve and who really benefits from knowing that Hauser and Wirth are now number 1 ?

The list is interesting for what it doesn't list for as much as what it does, and the absence of the usual suspects is remarkable. Confining comments to artists there are some very thin careers here, conflated to a status way out of proportion to the work done: Also the notion of plagiarism is highly relevant when considering the meaningful content of much of these artist's products.

At 2 is Ai Wei Wei - ubiquitous Chinese conceptualist

At 8 is Marina Abramovic - ubiquitous performances

At 11 is Wolfgang Tillmans - ubiquitous photographer

At 14 is Jeff Koons - ubiquitous branded artist

At 27 is Gerhard Richter - proclaimed world's greatest living artist?

At 29 is Pierre Huyghe - dubious questionable concepts

At 30 is Theaster Gates - circularity

At 32 is Ryan Trecartin - Why?

At 41 is Cindy Sherman - It has been done before

At 42 is Rirkrit Tiravanija - portentous pretence

At 45 is Thomas Hirschhorn - confusing

At 51 is Steve McQueen - film director

At 53 is Yayoi Kasama - spots that really do work

At 54 is Liam Gillick - limited conceptual gruel

At 59 is the Christopher Wool - sign writer

At 67 is Luc Tuymans - weak paintings

At 81 is William Kentridge - painter who prefers black and white

At 83 is Trevor Paglen - questionable photographs

At 89 is Rick Lowe - thin-ish

At 94 is Carter Cleveland - video-ish

What is above all noticeable about the choice of artists here is the almost complete lack of humane sensibility and sympathetic visual interest. The emotional stances the works express are all ones that we have seen over a hundred thousand times before and nothing except the formal weakness of the media handling is original.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The future won't thank you for your predictions!

There is a Chinese proverb that says it is the business of the future to be dangerous.

Was reminded of this by this collection of edwardian paintings predicting the year 2000 from the Independent which was published on the 5th Oct. What is interesting about the images is not just how wrong or correct the predictions are but how trivial and effete the mechanical concepts appear to our cynical sensibilities. Many of the se futurist ideas have come about but in other forms and as the result of completely unforeseen technological advances. This illustrates what a thankless task attempting any future prediction is.
For example the school room is now full of ipads or PCs which convey information in all forms from video to reading. Similarly most farmers now have tractors that work with very accurate Satnav, and tailors still work by hand, only in third world sweatshops. All in all a perfect demonstration of getting it visually wrong. It would have been interesting to see what they thought the art of 2000 would have looked like.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Frank Auerbach at Tate Britian

Jonathon Jones writes a full page in today's Guardian about Frank Auerbach. Haven't been too enamoured of his written efforts lately as they seem to frequently miss the point of an artist's work and this is no exception.

He writes; ""His paintings of people are not portraits. They have more in common with the genre known in 17th-century Holland as “tronies” – heads painted not to record individuals but to explore fantastical visages.""

In reality this could not be further than the truth: It makes no mention of the lengthy process by which the artist draws with hundreds of paint layers and arrives at the 3D Paint image. This process is a very long procedure of trial and error that's deeply rooted in repeatedly seeing and altering. Auerbach a direct descendant of the late great David Bomberg and he uses similar techniques as Bomberg did to root out a deep empirically based truth about the person being depicted, as Jones is man enough to admit:  

"My generation deserve a rebuke for pretending Auerbach’s genius was an outdated fashion. Instead, we get this brave and challenging lesson from the master."

Indeed they do deserve a rebuke but is anyone listening? It is good though that Auerbach is getting the Tate exposure that he richly deserves, he is one of the Uk's most original painters.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

David Inshaw and discerning eye

David Inshaw is the quintessential English artist, and his work belongs to the grand old tradition of observed eccentric landscape that goes way back to Samuel Palmer. David Lambirth is promoting his book about his painting and making claims for it's significance. He writes:
 "The challenge facing any realist painter in the 21st century is how to depict the world around us with memorable originality. Somehow an artist has to make us see the world anew and discover in it a resonance applicable to our era and condition. Inshaw has done this by investing his imagery with the sense of wonder he feels in the West Country landscape, coupled with an instinctive understanding of the deep contradictory currents of the human heart. His paintings are so compelling because he is not afraid to paint beauty and mystery with a ringing clarity that goes to the head like champagne."

"  Inshaw is not a speedy painter, but reworks and refines an image until he’s entirely satisfied with it. This long meditative process has given rise to a substantial catalogue of pictures notable for their lyrical poignancy and affectionate warmth."

Paradoxically Inshaw's work was better known in the 1980's when he was with Waddington's and a member of the Ruralists. It has gone on improving though and is proof that good art often comes from small concerns. It is all a matter of lending the commonplace a new significance which is what all great art has done throughout history. He is extremely popular with museum and gallery visitors and his cards sell well.

Which is the purview of the discerning eye exhibition at the Mall galleries. There will be some very good works to see there. Interesting video concerning exhibition at the Pangolin Gallery.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

China and Art education

This link has recently cropped up concerning China's spending on art education which is increasing exponentially whilst here in the UK a government that is hostile to fine art is very busy reducing access to art education by ensuring every school is a free school or an academy by the end of this parliament.  Which simply means that they are free of national curriculum rules that force them to teach arts subjects. In short the very important concept of a balanced curriculum for the 21st century is now within the purview of some doubtful interests.
Note too that the Independent is reporting on the crisis in our foremost art college the RCA. It's very clear that this UK government seems not to care what art colleges actually produce besides artists. The Independent reports that:
"Students held a silent protest in May, complaining about cuts to degree show opening hours, as well as how the fees were being spent. One held a sign that said “Too much rector’s pay! Not enough RCA.”

Some have complained that student numbers are increasing while the number of teachers has remained the same. In 2012 there were 1,050 students and two years later that had risen to 1,350. Like other universities, the RCA is looking for ways to cope with cuts to its Government grant. In 2014, its funding was £13.7m but in the most recent accounts it predicted a fall in 2015/16." Other university fine art courses are being closed, and here we are talking about the best art college in the UK.

Andrew Marr has also expressed his concern! he says that Christopher Frayling complains that the RCA will just become a Chinese finishing school like the London university of the Arts is already doing. A number of commentators have reported that the government isn't aware that art colleges teach design which is absolutely crucial to the recovery and the economy. If one can say anything about the conservative party it is that they are fundamentally hostile towards art and throughout a lifetime, art has been invariably marginalised whenever they have been in power. Their hostility towards design education is however utterly inexplicable.  

Meanwhile as they say, school education in the UK is also struggling and the police are very concerned about a significant rise of crime in schools.  It is hard to judge whether this may be due to the fact that every little misdemeanour is now reported or whether there is a significant rise in crime?  Way back, when teachers were in control of their classrooms this didn't happen because they usually dealt with it unless it had to be notified. There is also this colouring in, app from Disney which creates a 3d character and then animates it for you. How on earth does this actually help anyone learn to draw?  More market place technological stupidity looking for a raison d'etre, but this one actually successfully reduces children's creativity.

Over at the Sunday Times:
Waldemar Januszczak is exultant about Damien Hirsts gift to the nation of a new Gallery in Shoreditch. The first exhibition being that of the recently deceased John Hoyland who maybe undervalued but whose work is largely colour abstraction. He writes: "So far so wonderful, the downstairs spaces at Hirst's new venture and the fine selection of Hoyland's hanging in them offer some of the purest joys I have recently experienced in a gallery".

Waldemar is also very keen on the "World goes Pop" at the Tate Modern. This is pure revisionist curation of the artwork that didn't get a look in when Pop was new in the 60s or 70s. All Pop art is shallow and derivative, and here it's obvious why Martha Rosler, Evelyn Axell and Jerry Zielinski were invisible in the 1960s and their work hasn't improved one jot over the intervening time. Thats ok now though, because now that conceptual art standards have fallen through the floor, no-one at all will notice.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Brian Sewell RIP 2

There is a letter in today's 29th Sept Guardian to which attention has been drawn. It concerns a press spat from 1994 no less, and it speaks ill of the recently deceased art critic. Some people have little sensibility, one should never speak ill of the dead because one will inevitably join them and then have to account for one's words. To carry on a dispute from ten years ago when the critic is dead is stupid but was it ever thus in base, trivial and disputatious contemporary art journalism. The letter is from one art consultant Susan Loppart, (who she? ed) 

The letter attacks Jonathon Jones article on Sewell for mentioning "a naive letter written by art world types objecting to Brian Sewell's attitude to contemporary art." and attempts to put the record straight for the art world's benefit. 
Ms Loppert states that Sewell was an art historian who was hostile to and ignorant of contemporary art. Further, he used the evening standard to vent his splenetic old fogeyism, virulent homophobia and misogyny, which says all about Ms Lopperts faulty world frame and her value system. Note that she tells us Mr Sewell was writing for the straphanger on the Ongar Line (which is a new one,) presumably Essex commuter man. His job and remit according to Ms Loppert was, as Stephen Stevens the one time editor informed her was "to be offensive without being libellous and to write for the lowest common denominator." She says that we felt the paper should have two art critics one for art dating from 1900 and one for old masters.
We note the 1994 letter signatories were:
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Michael Craig-Martin, Brigit Riley, Richard Shone, Rachel Whiteread, Marina Warner, Christopher Frayling, George Melley, Angela Flowers, and John Golding who she says objected to: ""Sewell's deliberate cruelty and viciousness and asserts that he was "a puffed up fake. " She finishes the bile towards the deceased with this remark;"Is Sewell turning in his bile filled grave for none of his flailing at windmills stopped the inevitable triumph of contemporary art?"
Aside from what she asserts, one is entitled to ask two questions that seem very pertinent to Mr Sewell's often truthful writing and judgement:

1 Where in the considered philosophical rubric is there any truth or evidence that the aesthetic value judgements that apply to old masters have no value whatsoever when applied to the usual suspects kitsch?

2 If contemporary art has inevitably triumphed, then why has Ms Loppert put pen to paper to vilely mock the recently deceased? Doesn't that act alone betray a total insecurity concerning the aberrant and fake visual culture that we inhabit courtesy of the usual suspects?

As one said at the start of this rant: "De mortuis nil nisi bonum," but that doesn't apply to the art world or does it? Taste is the measure of morality.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Steam not Stem?

During the period of writing this blog it has become apparent that mainstream secondary art education has in many ways lost direction and is not dealing with the needs of the 21st century student. Most of the reason for this is due to dumbing down of teaching and unconsidered application of technology, which is not and never will be (unless we are replaced by androids) the actual and real world. Considering this; below are a list of links to the current educational discussion concerning why art is important for everyone's education, not just for artist's. Sixty years after C P Snow's lecture on the two cultures we still have the same old, same old problems exacerbated by financial restraint and poor political reforms. The Us Congress rejected this motion.

Link 1

Link 2

Link 3

Link 4

Link 5

Link 6

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Link 11

Link 12

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The creative Industries and government

Laura Cumming has reviewed the Willian Kentridge exhibitions at Marion Goodwin and Parafin galleries. She writes this pithy commentary : 

" Do images have supremacy over words? Kentridge certainly pits them together and strongly mistrusts all rhetoric. His slogans are self-puncturing – Repudiate the Smell of Books, Eat Bitterness, Smash the Unhealthy Slogan – and in any case, as Andrew Solomon points out in the superb catalogue, Kentridge’s “qualm-riven” art is invariably a critique of dogmatism. Images – especially his type of images, whose evolution is as freely shown in stop-frame, mark by mark, as its erasure – allow for an intense gathering of thoughts and associations that may never resolve."

These two young men Barber and Osgerby are expressing their concern about the future of the arts and of the creative industries in the UK. They feel that the Tory government is genuinely hostile and is removing the cultural advances that have been made over the past few years. They write:

"Our government doesn't really value the role of creativity in our economy," said Osgerby. "The government seems to think that creativity is just something that is here and it'll just happen, but without the ability to educate and nurture it will disappear."

"They are scared by creativity because they don't understand it," added Osgerby. "They're cutting and they're closing foundation courses, which are probably the most important courses in the country. It's totally short sighted."

Barber added: "The foundation course is absolutely critical because it teaches you how to draw and how to look at things properly, but it also give you that opportunity to really find your sort of area before you then get into a degree course".

Dan Howarth: "Is London at a tipping point?"

Ed Barber: "I think probably yeah."

Jay Osgerby: "I think so. There are only so many areas of London that can become regenerated by creatives trying to find somewhere they can afford to live but still get to work. I can't imagine they can go much further out before people think it's not really worth it for them anymore."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Brian Sewell RIP

This week's Sunday press has reported the death at 84 of the quintessential British art critic Brian Sewell. He will be greatly missed because he wasn't afraid of the art world. He always told it exactly as he saw it and he achieved household fame as a TV media personality. Always self deprecating, he often said that what he wrote made no difference whatsoever to the art world where he was respected and reviled in equal measure. He thought the The Arts Council: “an incestuous clique, politically correct in every endeavour, the instrument of the unscrupulous and self-seeking, rewarding the briefly fashionable and incompetent”.

"Naked emperors" is one of the best books on contemporary art written in recent years and well worth a read. There are lists of his best quotes available on Google.
Two on Prime Ministers will suffice:
"A voice coach and a linguistics expert had interesting things to say, but, really, this was a good excuse to listen to some delicious voices and marvel at how Tony Blair so blatantly panders to the working classes with his erratic glottal stopping. I have no repeatable thoughts about Blair as a voice, ... It seems to me he is a man of extraordinary affectation."

and this one: "Thatcher knew nothing of the European customs and cultures with which we were allied,"

The Guardian obituary was very balanced with the following apt comments: "In Sewell’s view, Picasso produced in his dotage “some of the saddest, most degraded, most humiliating, repetitive, tedious, uninspired, obsessive and crudely painted banalities that have ever masqueraded as art”. He lashed out at Andy Warhol – “Few men have had a more destructive influence on art” – and showed no mercy for his old teacher Coldstream: “As a painterly influence, the harm he has done is extensive.”

Jonathon Jones cannot resist the chance at a side swipe and writes this nonsense.
“Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50% or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”
"The problem with this opinion is not that it is offensive but that it is nonsense. It’s a load of cobblers. It was also baloney for Sewell to refuse to see the merits of great modern artists like Cy Twombly." "He once upbraided me in person for writing an article in praise of Twombly. He couldn’t distinguish between overhyped artists who deserved to be shot down and the true modern greats. His vision, as a critic, was narrowed by this blindness to what is powerful in modern art. He had a very silly side." 

Maybe Sewell actually understood that what is significant in contemporary art doesn't always guarantee greatness or longevity.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Adam Dant election drawing and the Jerwood drawing prize

One has to have respect for Adam Dant, as he has quietly gone on paddling his own canoe and ignoring the vagaries of contemporary art fashions and trends. He has produced many stunning drawings of an eccentric, quirky and acid nature, the deeper you look into them the more they reveal of the truth. So he was a natural choice as the artist to document the last election for parliament and he produced this 6ft wide drawing full of acute observation and observed commentary.  You have to really look to understand all that is going on in the work and it rewards the effort. An excellent piece of work that puts the Jerwood drawing prize into the shade - especially as the second prize in 2015 was won by a video. It says everything about the confusion and stupidity at the heart of their so-called definition of what constitutes a drawing. Anyone entering a drawing would have the right to be very resentful of the lack of any actual definition of what constitutes a drawing.
A video film, no matter how unconsidered or casual it may be is not a drawing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Conceptualist trials

According to todays press Anish Kapoor is going to be sued by a French municipal councillor for not removing the grossly insulting anti-semitic Graffiti from his sculpture in the garden of Versailles. One offence engenders another and another as it were.
Meanwhile back at the RA (who are going to host a huge retrospective for one Chinese artist of conceptual renown) the gentleman himself is complaining bitterly about being ignored by the British. Someone really ought to explain to him British politician's attitude to the arts. Meanwhile over at the Sunday Times Brian Appleyard has taken out column pages by interviewing the artist.  It is all summed up by this cartoon from Hyperallergenic.

Waldemar Januszczak however discusses the best exhibition in London for some time the silverpoint drawings at the BM. Silverpoint is a truly humbling media, there is no going back or erasure to be had as the metal line is permanent. Yet it tarnishes and ages to give truly wonderful effects over time. It speaks of the artist's transience but it also demands the drawing skills of a Raphael or Michelangelo which means conceptual artists simply cannot do it. This is why as Waldemar says there are no artists around now who can handle it. Do beg to differ, there is the Russian artist Victor Koulbak whose silverpoint drawings are stunning.

Lastly an entertaining series of videos from TED talks about art and artists.

Monday, August 31, 2015


The values of Dismaland have pointed up a real problem with the status of fine art.

All art is vulnerable to new media techniques and exploitation by savants whose value systems are non-existent. The results are usually harmless and meaningless. So this post is a list of media links to sites where historical art is abused by the present to create mildly interesting dross. In a visual diaspora where art is no longer required to engage with meaning in images this is the sort of thing that some people find rewarding.  Miley Cyrus for instance can be found performing in fine art all over the net.
Banksy specialises in this one line joke, and there are literally thousands of great masterpieces used as the basis for photoshopped manipulations such as an entire genre of Mona Lisa's. Then there's the opposite, attempts to render ordinary snaps as works of fine art such as with legions of images on this website. Even the Daily Telegraph has got in on the act as here, but no-one considers the deadening effect that this crudity has upon the real devaluing of the original image and the despoliation of cultural capital and meaning that results.

Is this the future for all art schools? God help visual culture, if this is the future model for making a career in art. Take the time to read the online comments, and reported less than 5% of students who have completed the courses have found relevant employment - which isn't surprising considering the intensely practical nature of art education. How can anyone teach actually art processes online?

Unfortunately the UK now has a perfect storm in state education as a direct result of government policies.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Dismaland Dystopian Depression

If you believe that conceptual art is of as much intellectual significance as any fairground attraction, then you will be pleased to know that proof has arrived at Weston super Mare where today sees the grand press opening of Dismaland, a conceptual art fairground based in the old decayed Lido. All the usual suspects and other "artists" are showing there under the overall supervision and invitation of mystery local Bristol boy Banksy. The local TV channel has termed Banksy as the apostle of urban regeneration  - if this is any form of urban renewal then the future's untenable.  Totally depressing how local councillors have swallowed the idea that this is some sort of urban renewal and regeneration because it will not be open for too long? Why are the British so keen on self-deprecation?

"The Julie Burchill 'Punch and Judy', the riot torn village, the 'magic castle' with a paparazzi and Disney centrepiece and, of course, an exit through the gift shop. Fun for all the family? No. Something Britain's seaside has never seen before? Yes." 
What does this all mean and why pay £3.0 entry to be depressed?
Waldemar Januszczak on Dismaland - he has apparently been quite a fan of Banksy's career!

Lastly an unintentional public art event when a big red ball broke free and went for a spin!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Anish Kapoor and stolen ideas.

Anish Kapoor is furious because the Chinese have absolutely no respect for anyone's intellectual property and he says that they have stolen his Chicago Bean sculpture. Comparing the two it seems that the surface finish of the Chinese version leaves something to be desired, amusingly their justification is that whereas Kapoor's original reflects the sky, their version reflects the ground which is to say the least, completely and utterly dissembling.  China's attitude is such that literally everything is up for grabs and the concept of originality is redundant.

Then there is this gentleman in Florida who had unauthorised copies of a sculptors work made in China and then installed them all over his real estate properties. He ended up paying the sculptor a six figure sum as compensation. However the billionaire who had the work copied has previous;
This isn’t the first time public sculpture shenanigans have landed both Olenicoff and Raimondi in court. In 2014 sculptor Donald Wakefield was awarded $450,000 after six unauthorized copies of his work, also produced in China, turned up at Olen Pointe and Century Centre. And earlier this year Raimondi sued the Palm Beach Opera for allegedly removing his bronze sculpture “Spirit Ascending” from its grounds and selling it for scrap."

Then there is this thoughtful post on the Asia Times discussion lines explaining why the Chinese find innovation problematic.  They also seem to be focussed upon stealing technology for various economic reasons.  Even the Harvard business review thinks that it is a big problem.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

True attribution of that urinal

This week brings the news that some very serious conceptual chickens are coming home to roost and with a vengeance! It would be easy to overlook the very serious implications of this Edinburgh Festival exhibition, but it is profoundly serious as it undermines the legitimacy and the validity of the work of thousands of conceptual artists from Joseph Kosuth onwards. 
If the urinal was not a Duchamp readymade but actually Ms Loringhoven's idea (and it seems that the real evidence of Duchamp's letter to his sister proves it wasn't his idea ) then all conceptual art is founded upon an untruth. It can be proven that thousands of art students over the past thirty years have been indoctrinated into an invalid conceptual art cult. This is to say nothing of the legitimacy of the entire contents of some Post-Modernist art galleries throughout the western world that have also been founded upon and promulgate a total falsehood. 

The master narrative that Duchamp was the originator of the readymade is invalid, and the conceit that art can be made from anything that the artist selects as art is a also therefore invalid because the art condition does not and has never resided simply with the choice of the artist. If as Spalding and Thompson have stated the first readymade was not Duchamp's and he lied about the truth, then Kosuth's entire justification of the art condition that all conceptual art is actually art, is completely invalid.  

The art condition refers directly to Joseph Kosuth's philosophical proof that the artist's choice is all and everything that is needed to prove any object is art. This can no longer be held to be true or valid - if indeed it ever was!

Having just trawled through all the weekend art critics press are not surprised to note that there is not one so called critic who has reviewed the Edinburgh Festival exhibition above, which says it all! - probably the most important revelation of the truth about post modernism by any art exhibition of the past one hundred years and it doesn't even get a mention!  Such is the power of art as investment.

Anyhow if you want to examine the consequences of the above and judge your own sensibility suggest that you try running this Buzz-Feed and check out your score?

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Richard Long

Brian Appleyard gets to interview Richard Long in this weeks Sunday Times. The interview concerns the opening of Long's exhibition in Bristol at the Arnolfini. For once Appleyard does a good interview, getting as close to the heart of Richard Long's work as it is possible to achieve. He is notoriously difficult to interview as he doesn't discuss his work with journalists or critics, he says in the text that the work should speak for itself which is exactly true.

Waldemar Januszczak sings the praises of the newly rebuilt Manchester Whitworth gallery in the Sunday Times of the 19/07/2015. He hopes that the new gallery will not loose sight of its scholarly responsibilities to the past as Tate Britain has done. He lets slip that Mr Nicholas Serota will retire in 2016?

In Saturday 25th July Gruniad there is an article on the row concerning Tracey Emin’s planning application for the building of an ugly modernist studio complex in the East End. The East End preservation society are disappointed by her proposal the replace the much loved grade 2 listed public house with an ugly functional studio.

Jonathon Jones comes up with another sublime piece of political correctness arguing that the nations art galleries are not the NHS so they should not be free admission. Seems that the article is mainly internet click bait because he has the gall to assert this:
If you look at the cultural history of Britain it is clear that until very recently we did not care much about visual art compared with, say, France or the US. Right up to the 1980s Britain was a country that preferred theatre, literature and football to visual art. The fact that our museums were free actually reflects this old British attitude that art is not really worth much, that it’s a second-rate cultural attainment."

He is obviously just out to provoke a response here, he wasn't around in the sixties so he really does not know what he is sounding off about.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Some crowd funding.

This article in the Gruniad has got many people's goat according to the chat thread, because of what it says about the selection and exhibition of contemporary art by the insider group of curators, promotors, hangers on and the deluded.

The Jonathon Jones of this world really and truly do believe themselves to be some sort of privileged beings who can look down with superiority upon the taste of the general public. This article betrays this as fact. It is based upon two premises both exposed for full view in this; "The danger of crowdfunding is blindingly apparent. It subjects artistic endeavour to the whim of many people. This way of funding the arts is rooted in the deeply disturbing theory of the “wisdom of crowds”.

Not so Monsieur Jones - crowd funding gets things done that cannot be done in any other way because control of the media is so tight and so strictly censored by nasty vested interests. The wonderful thing about crowd funding is that it can challenge the ignorance of the status quo and provide an avenue for real dissent.
The other tripe is the assumption that crowds do not have wisdom, when in point of fact all art is subject to the wisdom of the entire crowd and culture over a much longer period of time than the Guardian's pages. 

Which brings us to the Woon foundation prizewinner here. There is little to say about this abstract sculptress, if indeed it she is that, apart from the sheer poverty of visual aspiration that it aptly demonstrates. But this is seen as merit - a very soft target. It's sad that these children's building block sets can be passed off as cutting edge avant garde sculpture. They are nothing remotely of the sort, let alone of significance.

Moaning about declining art values, wandered around the town this a.m. in a bemused state looking at local summer arts festival. Could not help wondering how visual art has become so meaningless both in it's aspiration and it's realisation.  At various locations throughout the town there are visual artists inspiring passers by and children to make art from discarded rubbish or paint on large sheets of cardboard. The result is that, what is being made is inevitably poor quality as below. What is truly depressing about the whole and entire effort is the fact that it serves to equate the notion of art with discarded rubbish and meaninglessness despite it's very well meaning intentions.  This makes it that much easier to drop it completely from the school curriculum, as is rapidly happening in the UK and US. If it is not art then it is not needed.

Lastly there is this really depressing article about the way in which political art has been rendered useless as a medium of protest. It has been politically absorbed as a fashionable adjunct of the challenging nature of contemporary art and it's teeth have been drawn. In effect, in such a brutal and duplicitous culture it has been reclassified as usefully trendy and totally ineffectual.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Waldemar yet again

This is a superb piece of critical excuse and double think. Having read it three times it is still total nonsense from Adrian Searle on Gerhard Richter in the Gruniad.
He writes:  " The squeegee Richter paints with sucks under-layers to the surface. Richter’s abstract paintings are always on the verge of saying something or resolving into some sort of image, but they don’t. If this were a TV you’d want to whack it with your shoe, in the hope that things might become clear. The title, Birkenau, refers to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and, I have been told, under all that paint is a pencil drawing, copied from four photographs taken by an inmate of the camp, depicting piles of bodies. Richter realised that to paint the image, in his familiar, blurred realist style, was impossible. So it has been buried under a slurry of blacks and whites, greens and reds." 

It is explaining that the artist was unable to depict the photographic image he started with in pencil - so why on earth should we as the viewers bother with regarding the resultant meaningless slurry. If an artwork needs this kind of verbal explanation to tell us what it is actually about and that the representation is underneath what we are looking at - then it has failed completely as an artwork - end of.  It all suggests belief that is unsupported by the evidence.

This weeks Sunday Times contains an article by Waldemar Januszczak about the art that is available for viewing at stately home locations. As he says, the results of mixing some contemporary art with stately home environments can be poor. Houghton Hall he suggests is an exception where : " The entire front is bathed in a colour display designed by James Turrell to highlight different aspects of the Palladian architecture. This fabulous Son et Lumiere lasts an hour and a quarter. " 

Laura Cumming in the Observer thinks that the National Galleries attempts to link sound with it's paintings is a disaster. She says this; "Soundscapes is the worst idea the National Gallery has come up with in almost 200 years. It is feeble, pusillanimous, apologetic and, even in its resolute wrong-headedness, lacks all ambition."

"But then, like some wanton variation of the audioguide, where you can’t just use your mind and eyes, but must always be listening too, the sound breaks out and gets in the way."
All of which is strong stuff.