From New York Magazine’s predictably silly list of ten New York artists to watch (I mean, why talk about who is good now when you can talk about who might be good someday? The bubble is bad, says NY, but we’ll contribute to it anyway.)
Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for February, 2005
I fail to understand why critics (Jerry Saltz, Roberta Smith), editors, and other writers are so fascinated by a perceived bubble in the art market. (The latest voyeur is New York Magazine.) So art sells and a lot of people want to buy it. Great. But so what? And, er, isn’t people wanting to buy art a good thing for artists?
UPDATE: OK, I kinda understand now. More next week. How’s that for suspense?
Because I’m on travel this week (expect a post a day, I’d say) I thought it might be a good time to provide links to some oldies but goodies.
Today’s is “Gallerists, please,” from 2.19.04, in which I begged gallerists for a few things. Some gallerists took these things to heart, and I’m grateful for it. One or two particularly guilty gallerists thought that the entire list was about them and got sputtering mad, and I’m amused by it. To this list I’ll add this one:
- If you’re a gallerist, and you send out more than one email per exhibit, there better be a durn good reason.
Art blogs have really taken off in the last three months. This has to be my longest AtB ever — which is a good thing because after I post it I’m getting on a plane. There’s some great stuff below — click ‘n’ enjoy!
- Kriston notes the passing of Harald Szeeman.
- Gallery Hopper and I both liked this show at Feigen. A good mix of art history and nose-thumbing a medium (can you do that?), if you ask me. (And click-through GH’s links!)
- Ionarts reports on a favorite Paris museum making its return. Flavin will go there after its US tour. And the museum will re-open with a Bonnard retro. I’m goin’ to Paris, baby!
- Modern Kicks answers my beef about museum staff having to pay for the Dali show. I’m not museum staff but I regular do museum visits with museum staff. I’ve never, ever seen staff turned away from a temporary show. (MK has a good post below that one, too, about blockbusters. And I’m going to have to write something about permanent collections soon. Maybe when I’m back in a week.)
- A Daily Dose might be the best blog I read every day. It’s full of smart visuals and observations. Today’s ADD highlight features a tennis match in Dubai and a photograph from Rome — you’ve got to see them to believe them.
- City Comforts is the latest critic to point out some MoMA flaws and proves that three months after the museum opened there are still original points to be made.
- Grammar.police loves Robert Olsen’s work too.
- Felix Salmon makes some interesting points about The Gates and winter light. (And his photos are cool too!)
- There’s nothing in particular on Beverly Tang’s blog/site that I want to plug. I just want to mention that it’s super-cool (as usual).
- Iconoduel has a lot of good links on Chicago art and such in this post.
- Maud hearts Tim.
- I would like to write about Andrea Zittel but I’m not quite sure why.
- Anna L. Conti has a whole series of posts about Robert Bechtle, who is being retro’d at SFMOMA.
- Todd Gibson apparently thinks that this is a good reason to take the week off from blogging.
- LA will be promoting cultural tourism. As often as I’m out there and as often as I’m gushing about LA, I think they should just write MAN a check for $8 million.
- Mrs. OC Art Blog should reconsider.
Just in case you’re in DC, and just-er in case you thought you might attend the panel discussion in which I was planning on participating today… it’s been cancelled because it’s snowing in DC. (Which is too bad, except it will keep the, ahem, less-savory blogs out there from making things up.)
Continuing the the dialogue begun here yesterday…
Just kidding! You didn’t think I’d actually talk that way, did you? Hah!
Upon hearing that there would be a Salvador Dali retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I wondered why. Dali is hardly an artist who needs to be re-examined, let alone rescued from oblivion. His surrealist paintings transcend art history and are part of popular culture. Fifteen years after his death, Dali is still a merchandising machine. Amazon.com lists 1,400 Dali doohickeys for sale, including 172 “health and personal care” items (notably several dozen perfumes and colognes) and 919 “home and garden” items (including the ‘melting’ “Salvador Grande Italian Designer Modern Wall Clock and Mirror”).
Nor is it as if museums have ignored Dali. He has been the subject of three major retrospectives and half a dozen major survey exhibits in the last 25 years. In the last four years alone, there have been 27 Dali shows shown at 38 venues. While it’s true that there hasn’t been a full Dali retrospective in the United States in more than 60 years, that’s mostly because nearly everyone acknowledges the works Dali made in the last 40 years of his life to be on par with paintings of dogs playing poker.
Apparently considering all of that attention to be insufficient, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has rolled out Salvador Dali, a massive retrospective with over 200 works. Philadelphia – and not just the museum – thinks it has a hit on its hands. Philadelphia tourism groups have spent $2.6 million marketing Dali up and down the East Coast.
Dali mostly exposes the artist as a borrower of visuals, as a skilled aggregator. That said, between 1929 and 1939 Dali made entertaining works that define surrealism. Fortunately nearly half of this show, 92 pieces worth, is from this period.
[F]or Dali, working through other artists never stopped. His shadow-filled, perspectival landscapes are borrowed from Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, who first painted unusual shadows in unusual landscapes around 1913, when Dali was nine years old. The biomorphic shapes in Dali’s paintings come from Yves Tanguy and Jean Arp. The eyeballs that dot some of his surreal landscapes come from Joan Miro. Miro’s Catalan Landscape (The Hunter) from 1923-24 features an eyeball with lines apparently shooting out of it. So does Dali’s 1927 painting Study for “Honey is Sweeter than Blood,” which is in this exhibit.
Dali’s appropriation of imagery is familiar to art historians, which brings us back to the question of why this show is here. Apparently Dawn Ades, the lead curator for Salvador Dali and one of the world’s top Dali evangelists, anticipated this kind of question. In the second paragraph of her introduction to the exhibit’s catalogue, Ades writes, “One of our aims is to dispel generalizations and assumptions about Dali’s post-1939 work, long viewed as kitsch by artists, critics and curators and all too often lumped under the single term ‘late.’”
That is a flimsy premise that isn’t borne out by the show she organized. Only 42 works are from the last 49 years of Dali’s life. Those works include paintings heavy in Catholic imagery that at least suggest Dali as a crucified figure, and some op-art, M.C. Escher-like constructions of skulls and representations of cubes that mostly recall the 1980s videogame Qbert.
In the gift shop on the way out of the exhibit, the museum is offering for sale a set of fake mustaches. Those mustaches – meant to recall Dali’s own eccentric, upturned mustache – reminded me why this exhibit is here. Dali was a master of self-promotion and showmanship. He was so good at it that the marketing of Dali continues long after his death.
From Hilton Kramer: “My own view is that the gates are nothing less than an unforgivable defacement of a public treasure, and everyone responsible for promoting it—including our publicity-seeking Mayor—should be held accountable, not only for supporting bad taste but for violating public trust.”
Hilton Kramer should get over himself. I mean, Arthur Carter has supported Hilty’s bad taste for years and no one calls Carter a defacement of anything.
(Of course, Hilty has supported Carter too! I mean: “In much of Arthur Carter’s new work, with its shifting dialogue between the curvilinear and the geometric, the resulting structures often strike one not so much as drawing in space as calligraphy in space — or even ideograms in space. Their cursive, headlong occupation of a circumambient space has something of the gestural quality of fine calligraphy — a ’scribble in the air’ aspiring to the monumental.”)
Why is it the Philadelphia Museum refuses to allow museum staff into Dali? Such courtesies are extraordinarily routine in the museum world, but apparently pulling in an extra $20 is more important than being collegial.
In 1926, Dali visited Paris. It’s nearly certain that he saw recent paintings by Picasso and the surrealists, who had their first group show together at the end of 1925. Two works Dali painted in 1926, on view in one of the early galleries in “Dali” were probably the direct result of what Dali saw in Paris. They inadvertently set up the rest of this exhibit.
In both Barcelona Mannequin and Neo-Cubist Academy, Dali borrows heavily from Picasso. Mannequin shares its colorful, overlapping planes of color with Picasso’s harlequin paintings (one of which is on view in the Philly Museum’s permanent galleries), and the sculptural nudes in Neo-Cubist Academy are straight out of Picasso’s neo-classical nudes of the early 1920s. Dali’s appropriation doesn’t stop there. Both paintings feature more borrowed imagery: fish.
In both paintings, Dali uses fish as a phallic symbol. In Neo-Cubist Academy two fish sit on the beach, directing our attention to two semi-nude women in the water. Both of the abstracted fish are phallic-shaped and one is an unmistakably fleshy pink. In Mannequin a red fish is portrayed as being inside the female figure. Dali probably saw Andre Masson’s painting L’Homme in Paris in 1926. In it Masson uses a fish to symbolize the post-World War emasculation of a male figure. It’s almost certainly a painting that would have fascinated Dali, who was fascinated by the idea of sex without physical contact.
Via AJ, another art critic complains about blockbuster museum exhibits. I count myself in the camp who has no use for blockbusters for blockbuster’s sake. (In a related story, my Dali review runs tomorrow. Expect unusually long excerpts here.) But with Dali in mind, some thoughts:
Critical response to the Dali show has been surprisingly hagiographic. Ed Sozanski in the Philly Inky loved the show and MANfave Roberta Smith positively gushed. (We’re not sure what to make of Roberta’s review — it doesn’t sound like her, and she’s hardly the gushing type. Michael Kimmelman writes this kind of deification-by-mini-biography, not Roberta. So what happened? Anyone at the NYT want to leak us something about that?)
I think — no, I know — that there is pressure on critics to write positively about these big shows, a certain: Are you against the people? They like this stuff. This gets them into art and into museums. It can’t be that bad! I’ve heard versions of that line from people in Philadelphia, Ess Eff, and Central Park lately.
There is nothing inherently wrong with big shows of well-known artists. We can learn and see new things from those shows. And there are many big-name artists due for a blockbuster-level re-examination. (Giorgio de Chirico was last retro’d in the US in 1982, and before that in 1955, for example. And perhaps just below blockbuster level: From the surrealist camp Francis Picabia is particularly worthy. From the post-cubist camp, I don’t think Jean Helion has ever been surveyed in this country. And I’ve seen so much neo-precisionism in galleries in the last year or so I think it’s time for Sheeler, Demuth and Crawford to get another look.)
But there is something wrong with doing a big show for the sake of charging hundreds of thousands of people $20 and then inventing some reason that show is necessary. To be continued…
ArtForum has finally gotten a mention of The Gates onto its website. Of course, it was just a link to a newspaper story: “Gates Boost Attendance at New York Museums,” which reads like: We still don’t care about the largest public art installation in New York, but some of our friends on 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue do.