Monday, November 30, 2009


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Debby Luzia

Monday, November 16, 2009

Private goes public

Are private collection shows indeed an insult to scholarship and curators as states the subtitle in Artnewspaper?
All this uproar over the New Museum's planned series of private collection shows, titled "Imaginary Museum" - first showing Greek mega collector Dakis Joannou's collection.
The anti - capitalist view that "these kinds of shows do nothing but exhibit and pseudo-validate the spending habits and taste of influential collectors" misses an important point.
The escalation of the market in the past 10 years has deprived the public access to many important works of art, that have been acquired by private collectors, who could afford to pay prices that were way over museum budgets. In the life of an artwork there are only very brief periods in which it becomes a commodity - after a primary purchase it may never appear on the market again and the only a few people will enjoy it.
The public exhibit of private collections has two exciting aspects:
1. Public access to private owned works.
2. A chance to learn about the building of a collection and to see the sum of all parts.
This, to me, being a scholar doing research on collecting is a great gift because I know that the reason for collecting -unlike the opinions of the nasty commenters of the Artnewspaper - is not the monetary value. If you don't understand the motivations for collecting you cannot see this in the correct perspective. I'm not saying that monetary benefits do not motivate many art acquirers but we are talking about mega - collectors. These people could be viewed as treading new paths in the realm of art, as they juxtapose artworks in a unique way - making choices based on their taste and whatever other criteria they apply to their collection.(Each collector has their own taxonomy). It should fascinate art lovers to peep into the guts of a collection of passion.
The choice of Jeff Koons as the curator is absolutely brilliant - an artist curator always has a unique perspective and one surely cannot suspect that this can push up Koons prices higher than they already are.... Curating a show from a private collection could be seen as creating another path within the collection and could be an exciting challenge for any museum curator. Choosing works from an important collection is a privilege that shouldn't be dismissed and certainly shouldn't be seen as degrading.
OK, there is much ego involved. Like the story of the collectors trip that Joanonou arranged in 2004 - inviting a group of collectors visiting Art Basel in his private jet to Athens to see his collection. After the viewing, in the bus on the way to dinner, one of the collectors asked: What are we doing here? What is this all about? The answer was - this is about him buying it and not you. ( I copied this story from an art magazine some years ago and unfortunately didn't note the source).
So we see that an important part of having a collection is showing it to others. Some collectors make theirs public - like the Rubells but there are more that don't and have the prerogative not to. Therefore, these collection shows should be seen as a gift to the public - even if there is some vanity here - look at the bright side and run to see the trophies - This may be your only chance..

I just noticed the New Museum's response - They probably said it better then me...

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The contemporary art bubble

Ben Lewis is one lucky devil. He started his documentary on the contemporary art market bubble in May 2008 and followed it through to the peak – Damien Hirst’s Sotheby’s auction in September – the day the Lehman bros. collapsed and as quoted in the film - “like on the sinking Titanic, people were still dancing in the ballroom - unaware.”
The suave Mugrabis and Rosens became much less co-operative after the fall but I must say that Lewis did a marvelous job of getting to them by adopting an empathic role of genuine fascination and an air of naivety . Not that he got Mugrabi to admit to manipulating the Warhol market but at least he did communicate. Unlike Gagosian or Jopling – that wouldn’t participate. Shame.

The main thing that bothered me about the film was the treatment of art as a pure commodity. Art is unique in the fact that it is created not as a commodity. In fact, its life as a commodity is extremely short – it might appear on the market once or twice in its existence and most of the time will be hanging on some wall – preferably a museum wall, where others can appreciate it but mostly it will hang in someone's home and later be inherited by their ancestors. The notion of art as an investment detracts from the intrinsic aesthetic qualities and puts the emphasis on money alone.

Why, in fact, are people prepared to pay such outrageous sums of money for art? The answer has a strong cultural inclination. If you have loads and loads of money you have to show it or it isn’t fun.
The point is that lately there are many others like you – filthy rich and flaunting it – it’s no big deal to own a huge yacht or a private plane or a Rolls royce (which you can hire, buy the way, and that certainly spoils the fun – not knowing if the guy behind the wheel is a wannabe...). What could you own that will make you stand out? Something that will draw attention to you from the moment of purchase? Art bought at an auction, of course! They are always extensively covered by the media and you even get applauded for the higher you go. This, by the way, is an uncanny feature of the auction room. One usually looks for the better deal and society admires a good buy but in the auction room the higher the hammer price the louder the applause.
So you get your money’s worth in publicity and status because owning art has a strong cultural symbolic status factor. This is not a mere object you are acquiring but it has heritage and by owning this you become part of the heritage.

The fact that contemporary art has reached such obscene prices is unnatural. Artists that are still producing and who’s work cannot yet be seen in the correct perspective cannot be worth more than great masters. It doesn’t make sense. I see the bubble burst as a kind of reset and I think it is an opportunity to get back to earth. But I wonder - considering the latest headlines that the market is picking up – have any lessons been learnt?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In favour of maturity

October in London is Frieze time.

The gigantic tent in Regent’s park is like a bubble full of art. All galleries and museums try to shine as brightly as they can to attract the hoard of collectors and art lovers who crowd the city and flit between venues and cocktails.
The first thing that struck me walking down the crowded isles of the Frieze bubble was: No video. After the initial reaction – video is dead – I remembered that times are tough and although there is talk about the light at the end of the tunnel, the recession isn’t over yet and hey – video isn’t the easiest art to sell. Perhaps, for the same reason, there was an exceptional amount of drawing. Not something you usually find on the expensive walls of major art fairs. But given the fact that small works on paper are quite affordable - it does make sense in times of uncertainty.
I think that the need to minimize risk is also affecting the average age of artists shown. It seems that the hype of the very young is wearing off a little. Collectors are looking for security in their investments. Take Hauser and Wirth for example – showing (and selling it all) 80 year old Ida Applebroog.
Outside the bubble – the major art spaces in London have all picked well established names – Baldessari, Keifer, Kapoor , Ruscha and Metzger.
Doesn’t this connect perfectly to what Robert Storr told The Art newspaper:

TAN: Maybe there’s less of a focus on the cult of youth. RS: There isn’t less of a focus yet, but it’s going to dawn on people that it’s not working.

I don’t think the cult of the youth will disappear but it will do wonders to the quality of art if those younguns are left alone for a bit after graduating from art school – so they can do their experiments quietly before plunging into the market.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Passion and curiosity

I love the experience of discovery – that particular instant, when I feel it resonating inside me and I just know that it is right in the deepest and most profound way. A juxtaposition of elements that circulate independently in my head – living their autonomic lives in different channels and all of a sudden – a connection is made! Two roads meet and a new intersection is created. This connection is not universal. It is my unique creation in my unique brain structure. Maybe no-one else sees it but for me, it immediately becomes a truth. In my imagination, I can see thousands of strands that connect the many components of my awareness and existence. Each one brings me joy. These contextual strands make me feel there is some kind of order in the chaos – that there is, in fact, some connection between the different parts of me and every time a new intersection is created, another piece in the internal puzzle of existence reaches its destination.
What is curiosity?
For me, curiosity expresses my interest in the world that surrounds me - not only for people but for many different fields. Many things intrigue me. There are countless things I would love to learn and investigate. But, without a doubt, the most interesting of them all are people. I wonder if all the people here share this interest. What brings us to spend hours reading other peoples blogs? Is it out of sincere interest in others? I don't really think that all people share this interest but it is very easy to identify those who do – they ask questions. They mix with others. They do not read in silence because silent reading is passive and does not lead to contact. When contact is achieved, one must give something and this requires making an effort. Most readers are silent. They have an urge to peep but they want to stay unattached.

I always seek contact. The interaction with someone that arouses my curiosity always excites me.

The strand of passion is usually attached to sex but now it has a new context – curiosity. The both have lived side by side for ages and didn't know how connected they are.