Saturday, October 16, 2010

10 Most Powerful Individuals In The World Of Art 2010; The Philosophy of Andy Warhol; Ai Weiwei -- Sunflower Seeds; Angelina Jolie -- Cleopatra

Andy Warhol, 200 One Dollar Bills, 1962, Silkscreen on canvas, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

"Business art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist."

"Being born is like being kidnapped. And then sold into slavery"

-- Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A To B And Back Again), 1975 

As I recall, when Andy Warhol published The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A To B And Back Again) in 1975, the reviewing press was amused, as they should have been, by the artist's witty musings, but didn't "get it".  Many reviewers wondered "is he being serious or is he kidding?", as if it were the first time any of them had run into this kind of sardonic, ironic, yet ultimately good natured and positive material, reflecting on many of the things we all think about (art, love, work, fame, life in general) all the time.  

Given the book's open and generous nature and its broadly comedic qualities, one would have to conclude that people who seriously ask questions of that sort will never "get it".  Warhol's ruminations on a life spent figuring out art's Greater Grub Street workings was simply beyond them.

Today I read a list of ArtReview's "10 most powerful individuals in the world of art 2010".

They are:

1. Larry Gagosian/United States/gallerist 

2. Hans Ulrich Obrist/Switzerland/curator 

3. Iwan Wirth/Switzerland/gallerist 

4. David Zwirner/Germany/gallerist 

5. Glenn D. Lowry/United States/museum director 

6. Bice Curiger/Switzerland/curator 

7. Nicholas Serota/Britain/museum director 

8. Eli Broad/United States/collector 

9. RoseLee Goldberg/South Africa/curator 

10. Francois Pinault/France/collector

Reuters' coverage of the list and, in particular, top man Larry Gagosian, runs as follows:

“U.S. collector and gallery owner Larry Gagosian has been named the art world's most powerful figure in the annual ArtReview ranking, dominated this year by established commercial galleries.

Gagosian has nine galleries around the world after opening a new space in Paris, as well as an office in Hong Kong and a shop in New York.

He reclaims the position he held in 2004, and in the last 12 months staged "museum quality" exhibitions of Picasso, Monet, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Prince and the Crash group show, a homage to J.G. Ballard.

‘Some of what he shows is extraordinary, but it's increasingly served up with a side dish of arrogance,’ ArtReview wrote on Thursday.

‘This is not appealing, but it's the behavior of power in excelsis, when all competition has vanished from the rearview.’” 

As much as I love the word "gallerist" (although I doubt that I'll be using it frequently) and enjoy the organizing medium of lists for various purposes,  Ananda K. Coomaraswamy's dictum that "the function of art is to imitate nature in its manner of operation" is more my speed and, sentimental and wrong-headed as it can often seem,  I consider the lives of the artists I admire to have a certain Lives of the Saints quality because of the intellectual and visual pleasure they give me, which enhances my own life. Prestige and power lists are a major turn-off -- typical Vanity Fair-esque easy reading garbage that suborns and transforms the lazy and uncommitted into daisy chains of duped conformists.  

Andrea Mantegna, St. Sebastian, 1459, oil on wood panel, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

As for a "gallerist" taking top prize, according to ArtReview: 

"In 2010, for better or worse, power lay with the established commercial gallery market," ArtReview said in its introduction to the ranking, which is decided by an anonymous panel of experts and published during the Frieze Art Fair in London.

'Funding cuts by governments internationally weakened the hand of museum directors worldwide, allowing the financial might and artist rosters handled by the likes of Gagosian and Wirth to step in, it added.

Number 1, Larry Gagosian, Gallerist  


Number 6

Maybe, just maybe, this "business art" occasion is simply the newest effloresence of "anti-art", an ultimately Dadaist bit of "expression" that we simply haven't discerned at this point.  After all, didn't even arch-Dada mentor Marcel Duchamp himself labor behind the scenes, energetically brokering art deals for most of his career, while allowing the world to believe he did nothing but play chess? Or maybe not.  Perhaps it's just a case of an impoverished, weakened zeitgeist.
Artists themselves were Power List Also-Rans.  Reuters reported that heartless art thug, Damien Hirst, "whose company topped the list in 2008 shortly after he raised $193 million at a record-breaking one-man auction at Sotheby's, slumped to 48th in 2009 and slipped further to 53rd in 2010".  

The highest ranking artist on the list at number 13 was People's Republic Of China artist Ai Weiwei, described by ArtReview as "a thorn in the side of the Chinese authorities".  However, they also warned:   

"(A) question hangs over his seeming ubiquity on the gallery circuit: can he maintain viewers' interest, or is he in danger of overexposure?"   

I have no idea and no opinion about this, but below is a neat photo of Ai Weiwei's current project at the Tate Modern in London.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, October, 2010 (Installation at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in London.  The work consists of one hundred million hand-painted porcelain "seeds," each individually painted by "an army of 1,600 Chinese artisans," and scattered over the floor of the Hall.)

For me, the most interesting art news of the day, which I could consume without feeling in the least bit core-foundation-challenged or compromised (and which actually briefly raised my buffetted and dampened spirits), was learning that James Cameron intends to film a new big budget version of "Cleopatra" with Angelina Jolie playing the Empress of the Nile.  Ms. Jolie's reported comments on the project, while a little bland,  indicated both a familiarity with the historical Cleopatra (including the lives of her ancestors and her descendants) and a lot of enthusiasm.  I've always thought that Cleopatra's story is pretty inexhaustible for movie purposes.  A few years ago, I was lucky enough to view a sensational Cleopatra-related show at the British Museum and emerged with a strong desire to film the life story of Cleopatra's daughter, Cleopatra Selene II, myself.  Fortunately, I didn't see any comments from director Cameron, which would probably have spoiled the mood. I really hope that the rumor about casting Brad Pitt to play the role of Marc Antony is just a rumor.  

Here is a photo of Angelina Jolie that appeared in the press yesterday dressed roughly in the manner of Cleopatra (I assume).  Actually, I think it's a very lifelike, beautiful mannequin.

Andy Warhol, Campbell's Soup Can, 1964, Silkscreen on canvas, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York City    

Larry Gagosian Gallery, Rome

Larry Gagosian Gallery, London

Larry Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, California


  1. Couldn't agree more.

  2. Thank you very much. Your comment drew me here and I straightened out the spacing. Blogger has a mind and protocol of its own and eventually starts constricting text and images. Now everything is more relaxed except me. SE Pennsylvania is very hot and close today. I hope things are pleasanter where you are. Curtis Roberts, Gallerist.