Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wishful Infeasibility: Fine Art and the Bubble in Money

Wishful Infeasibility: Fine Art and the Bubble in Money


"It's proved quite a week for London's wealthiest art lovers and their dealers. On Monday, Sotheby's achieved its highest value auction ever in Europe, knocking down Impressionist & Modern Art for a total of $173 million."

"…If you like your theatre absurd, keep an eye on the fine-art market in London…"

"Good art speaks truth, indeed is truth, perhaps the only truth," wrote Iris Murdoch in The Black Prince - and seeing how Peter Doig's "White Canoe" (1990) was deemed good enough to fetch $11.3 million at auction on Wednesday, that would mean the only truth today is inflation.

Sotheby's (BID) midweek sale of contemporary art in London netted £45.7 million all told - some $90 million. Indeed, it was "the most successful contemporary sale ever staged in Europe," as the auction house gasped in its press release. Doig's "early masterpiece" set a new cash record for a work by a living European artist, bagging five times its reserve.

Altogether the evening's sales ran up to 60% higher than the pre-auction estimates of only four weeks before. How's that for art appreciation!

It's proved quite a week for London's wealthiest art lovers and their dealers. On Monday, Sotheby's achieved its highest value auction ever in Europe, knocking down Impressionist & Modern Art for a total of $173 million. On Tuesday night, Christie's achieved $177 million with its own Impressionist and Modern auction. Wednesday brought Sotheby's Contemporary sale, followed by Christie's auction of Post-War and Contemporary art on Thursday.

That netted $138 million, including a new Francis Bacon record, nearly double the previous high of $30 million, hit in November.

Four days…one city…$578 million. That's more than gross inflows for the entire U.K. mutual fund industry over the same period. But don't forget Sotheby's commission on top!

Sotheby's and its only serious rival - the privately owned Christie's - both bill their vendors 5% of the hammer price. They also charge successful bidders for the pleasure of watching the gavel come down, an innovation begun more than three decades ago. And in the last month both auction houses have hiked their buyer commission rates to 20% of the first $500,000 - up from $200,000 previously - plus 12% of the remaining hammer price.

Caveat emptor applies, in other words, even if the art is to your taste. Doig's "White Canoe" isn't all that bad, but you wouldn't know it from the Saatchi Gallery's description:

"[Doig] paints white like it's got every color in it; he paints dark like it's got every color on it. A mirrored image of a lake at night, "White Canoe" is a wishful infeasibility where the reflection is more detailed than the landscape itself. The boat is aberrantly glowing. The landscape has the all-consuming blackness of an oil slick, deafening and motionless; all other colors seem to slide across it in a rustic laser show. The blue stains of tranquil moonlight have the eerie effect of erasing; Peter Doig's perfect night seems to be melting like celluloid stuck in the projector…"

This bubble has got nothing to do with the paintings, of course. "Good business is the best art," as Warhol said, and the sharpest business minds only look foolish in the auction room if they can't settle up afterwards. Sotheby's and Christie's between them control nine-tenths of the world market in art, furniture and jewelry investment via live auctions.

But even the business of helping Russian billionaires make newspaper headlines with their disdain for cash can be tough. That's why, following the slump in fine art sales that came with the collapse of Japanese real estate and equity prices in the early '90s, Christie's and Sotheby's colluded in what the European courts called "secretive meetings" to rig commission rates in their favor, replacing competition with inflated fees that defrauded vendors out of an estimated $450 million.

Fair's fair, we all need to scratch a living, and between 1989 and 1991 - when Tokyo's various asset bubbles burst and began dragging the whole Japanese nation into deflation -the turnover in fine-art auctions worldwide sank by three-fifths. Things steadily improved as the S&P and then Nasdaq picked up where the Nikkei had left off. But gross sales slipped again as equity prices declined, down more than 25% between 1999 and 2003.

For Sotheby's in particular, the DotCom Crash proved expensive. It began losing money in 2000, even with the U.S. anti-trust charges of that year ($203 million) excluded. Sotheby's finally recovered to report a profit for FY 2003, after the European and Tokyo stock markets had finally turned higher. But the Board only got round to re-instituting a dividend last August, after a gap of six years. The third quarter saw 10 cent per share declared - some rate of return for investors in a business that earned $81 million gross on revenues of $386 million in the first nine months.

"After the [collusion] scandal died down, Christie's and Sotheby's quietly adjusted their commission rates, independently, so that there were discreet but not big differences," says art dealer and consultant Christopher Wood. "The whole collusion business was simply unnecessary…Christie's and Sotheby's are such close competitors and similar firms that whatever one firm did, the other was bound to follow. They didn't need to collude."

Fast forward to February 2007, and there's no need to rip off the Russian oligarchs or City bankers behind this week's record sales. The "wishful infeasibility" of London's art market will do that all by itself. Nor is anybody accusing anyone of anything besides "depth and strength" in the bidding today - not even exploitation of a duopoly. Even before last month's commission hike, the bubble in financial sector bonuses let Sotheby's gross $104,000 whenever the hammer came down for $500,000 or more.

Hedge funds get to take one-fifth of their clients' profits. Why not milk the bankers for another grand, too?

"Such incremental revenue dollars, with no associated costs, should drop entirely to the operating income line," according to a note from Wedbush Morgan Securities in January. It failed to use the words "rent seeking", but if you're the right side of the money bubble today, you don't want to moralize. Sotheby's expert valuation and auctioneer staff certainly won't. Their salary bill rose 22% in the four quarters to September.

And besides, "the percentage of [U.S.] GDP attributable to corporate profits is near a multi-decade high," as Barron's recently reported. "Corporate gains tend to benefit the affluent through strong dividend growth, capital-gains income and high-salaried jobs, while restraining working-class wage growth. Ajay Kapur of Citigroup calls such economic trends 'plutonomy' - a global economy disproportionately geared to the rich."

The butlers and parlor-maid stocks serving today's global overlords have outperformed the S&P for the last 21 years, according to The Daily Telegraph in London. But Citigroup continues to recommend 24 firms set to cash in further as the über-rich throw their money around. Sotheby's is right up there with Four Seasons Hotel Inc. (FS), Tiffany & Co. (TIF), Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. (RL) and Coach Inc. (COH).

For a sector apparently awash with high-spending clients, however, there's little sign of cash trickling down to investors. Sotheby's trades for 25 times trailing earnings - about average for this selection. And none of these stocks now yields more than 1%.

The only attraction, therefore, must be capital gains, inflated by the stock market buzz around yet further asset-price inflation in prime real estate, private jets and fine art. But there will only be fresh meat for the gavel to beat as long as Wall Street and the Square Mile keep paying ever more in bonuses. Ten of the 53 buyers in Monday's auction were first-time purchasers of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's, says the auction house. Analysts at Barclays Wealth Management reckon that, all told, one in ten City bonuses this New Year will be spent - in part - on investing in art and antiques, according to the auctioneers themselves.

So while the ultra-high net worth buyers rely on strong energy prices to fund their collections - the Russian art market rose 2,365% in the five years to 2005 - the newbies in the art market are raising their hands straight after clocking out for the day at Goldmans, JPM and the rest. As the financial markets go, therefore, so goes the art market.

"Luxury spending is the first thing to fail when the oxygen goes out of the economy," wrote Robert Hughes for Time magazine in 1990. Air was still gushing out of Japan's asset-price bubbles, and "art [was] the canary in the mine shaft." The little bird stuffed by Tokyo's plutocrats croaked it on Tuesday, November 6 at a Sotheby's sale in New York. The auctioneer - head of Sotheby's North America - choked as he cut the asking price for a Julien Schnabel piece made of broken plates from $650,000 to $210,000. Yet still there were no takers. It had sold in London the previous year for $225,000.

"The Japanese are awash in money," one New York dealer had said in 1989. Now their cheap money pump - flooding the bond, commodity and derivative markets with carry-trade yen - is washing across Old Masters and New Pretenders alike yet again.

"All art," as Iris Murdoch also noted, "deals with the absurd." If you like your theatre absurd too, keep an eye on the art market.




What makes something hot? Is mojo something more that a contact high? Is that buzz something other than the faint rustle of money? The New Museum plans to delve into the question with a panel titled "The ‘It’ Factor: What Makes Something Hot?" at the Great Hall of the Cooper Union on Mar. 28, 2007. We here at Artnet Magazine decided to give the panelists a hand, and solicit responses to the question from our friends and contributors. Herewith, the results:

Charlie Finch, art critic: WHAT’S HOT OR NOT
When Pollock blazed across the scene/ They called him "Jack the Dripper"/ When Blaze Starr danced for Governor Long/ They hooted for the stripper/ When Beatles chanted "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!"/ The chickies swayed and swooned/ When Gotti snapped his fingers/ The room soon filled with goons/ What’s hot is what the mob eats up/ It’s harder to define it/ The hottest are the money folks/ So smart to get behind it./ The rest of us are suckers/ Breathing the hot air/ They’ve stripped us of our pride and dough/ And left us cold and bare.

Nick Stillman, curator, P.S.1: Currently, it’s clearly the veneer of rebelliousness, usually communicated through youth posturing. The "it factor" really kicks in when an artist transports this rebellion from cleanliness and sexiness into total nastiness, via the out-and-out embrace of garbage, trash, sludge. And dirt.

Ena Swansea, artist: I always enjoy going back years later, to what was it, and looking at it in a cool way after it has cooled off. Sometimes you find that the thing is still great, and that the "it-ness" was just a kind of patina, on top of a solid core. These very occasional examples subconsciously give the quality of being "It" a special pull.

Cory Arcangel, digital artist: If I knew, I’d form a gallery and become a dealer.

Carlo McCormick, Paper Magazine: It’s a little sad to think that so soon after Marcia Tucker’s passing that the New Museum would be pursuing the flock of temporal tastemakers. Nothing personal against such a distinguished gathering, it’s just not the legacy or the lesson we’d hope to inherit from what was once so radical a methodology. As someone who has worked more than 20 years at Paper Magazine, where much of what is to be deemed hot is minted, my own personal experience is that the horde of pundits, promoters, trend-researchers, marketing gurus and the like who have come to make an industry of out of hip are by and large the lamest geeks imaginable.

The "It" phenomenon is historically rooted in a cult of personality that existed through coded signs and gestures outside of institutional or mainstream understanding. As a shifting generational dynamic of youth culture, it is called "it" in the first place because it resists explanation while celebrating the experiential and superficial aspects of life and style. To make a discourse of it is precisely to miss the point. If you’re cool you really don’t need anyone to tell you what’s hot, and if you’re not, well I’m sorry, we just couldn’t possibly explain it to you.

Glenn O’Brien, author: TILDA SWINTON

Emma Gray, critic: The Man Who Fell in Love with a Tree, Joel Tauber, who shows with Suzanne Vielmetter in Los Angeles, represents a new kind of artist. His work encompasses a quest for God, nature and the desperate state of the environment while being outrageously funny, absurd and poignant. For more details, see www.joeltauber.com

Robin Kahn, artist: My oven and erect nipples.

Christopher Knight, the Los Angeles Times: If I knew the answer, I’d quit being a journalist. But I’ll have my people call Paris Hilton’s people and get back to you.

Noritoshi Hirakawa, artist: This is like the first council of Nice and contemporary art is about to be eaten by people who have temporal desires of being honored and changing the truths of art. We are artists like the Arian are being vanished by tricky "IT" Constantine believers who desecrate the laws of world.

Ana Finel Honigman, art critic: Art is hot when it is easy to write about but is impossible to fully express in words. And, it helps if the artist is someone a wide range of people might either want to fuck or share a meal with.

Tony Fitzpatrick, artist: The thing I find "hot" or sexy in art, at least, is primacy -- I get excited when I see something that reminds me of nothing else -- a primary kind of language -- a thing that only looks like itself -- like the first time I ever saw an Amy Sillman painting -- it didn’t remind me of anything else -- or a Basquait -- I’d seen figures before -- but never so completely made into the image of the artist himself -- I like art where the artist takes you into their world, and that world is palpable and complete and its own place -- Fred Tomaselli, Sillmanm, Basquiat, Donald Judd -- artists like that.

The New Museum presents The "IT" Factor: What Makes Something Hot? at Cooper Union on Mar. 28, 2007, from 6:30 pm-8 pm. The panel, which is considering architecture, design and fashion as well as art, features art consultant Clarissa Dalrymple; Mayer Rus, design editor of House & Garden; artist Francesco Vezzoli; architectural historian Anthony Vidler; and Irma Zandl, trendspotter and principal of the Zandl Group. Moderator is New Museum senior curator Laura

Matthew Leibowitz, A Legendary Modernist

Matthew Leibowitz, A Legendary Modernist


Matthew Leibowitz, Dada.

PHILADELPHIA.- An exhibition of graphic design and paintings by the late Matthew Leibowitz, a legendary figure in the world of graphic design, will be on display at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia (Broad and Pine Streets) from February 15-March 18, 2007.

The exhibition Matthew Leibowitz, A Legendary Modernist is part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the graphic design program at The University of the Arts (www,uartsgd.com/GD40/). Many of Leibowitz’s design graphics are familiar corporate classics. His paintings are mostly private works and several will be on public display for the first time in this exhibition. All works are on loan from Leibowitz’s daughters, Lynn Leibowitz and Jan Bresnick. Many are available for purchase, with a percentage of sales going to support programs at the UArts College of Art and Design.

One of the school’s most distinguished alumni, Leibowitz attended evening classes at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now UArts) in the 1930s, studying under Raymond Ballinger. During the day, he worked in a design studio and also picked up independent art work. He was an apprentice to poster art master A.M. Cassandre in Paris in the summers and worked as an art director for a Philadelphia advertising agency before setting up as a freelance advertising artist.

Leibowitz was known for being fast yet meticulous, enthusiastic but always a perfectionist. From 1942, he art directed and consulted for numerous firms including IBM, RCA Victor, Sharp and Dohme, Spalding, Container Corporation of America, Phillip Morris, Olivetti, Gulf+Western, General Electric, N.W. Ayer and Son, International Red Cross and others. One of his best-known designs is the trademark for ITT (International Telephone and Telegraph), which he originally sketched on the back of an envelope on a train returning home to Philadelphia from New York. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Denver Art Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum and Musée National d'Art, Paris. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and widely honored, Leibowitz received 163 gold medals and many other awards for his designs, posters, and abstract art work. A resident of Philadelphia and Rydal, Pa., he died in 1974 at the age of 57.

Rankin Invited to Photofestival at Knokke-Heist

Rankin Invited to Photofestival at Knokke-Heist



KNOKKE-HEIST, BELGIUM.- Iconic photographer, publisher and film director Rankin, has been invited to exhibit a major retrospective of his work spanning the last two decades, at the 29th International Photofestival at Knokke-Heist, Belgium. Visually Hungry will document the ubiquitous British creative genius throughout his extraordinary career in which he has shot the many of the world’s leading personalities, models and celebrities. A pioneer and leader in his field, Rankin is famous for his unique style which pushes boundaries with era-defining portraiture, genre-challenging fashion and impossibly erotic nudes.

Featuring over 300 images and 20 years worth of work the exhibition will feature images from Rankin’s recent series of exhibitions exhibited during his residency at The Gallery in Central London as well as a whole host of archival work from his extensive back catalogue of names spanning the artistic, cultural and political spectrum. This is in addition to fashion images, some instantly recognisable as the most iconic photography from recent times and others as you’ve never seen them before.

Accompanying the exhibition will be the new Visually Hungry book, beautifully designed by award winning London based company Sea Design, and featuring pieces from the Visually Hungry show as well many more examples of Rankin’s work.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts at American Academy

Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts at American Academy


Warren Isensee, High Beam, 2006, Oil on canvas, 35" x 60", Courtesy of the artist and Danese Gallery, NY.

NEW YORK.- Eighty-six paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and works on paper by 34 contemporary artists will be on view at the galleries of the American Academy of Arts and Letters on historic Audubon Terrace (Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets) from Thursday, March 8 through Sunday, April 1, 2007. Exhibiting artists were chosen from a pool of more than 150 artists nominated by the 250 members of the Academy, America’s most prestigious society of architects, artists, writers, and composers.

The Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts will feature many new works on view for the first time in New York, including paintings by Warren Isensee and Dana Schutz, sculptures by Charlotte Becket and William Ryman, and installations by Sarah Oppenheimer, Soo Sunny Park, and Andy Yoder.

Exhibition artists: Painters and Graphic Artists: Clytie Alexander, Robert Bordo, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Manny Farber, Mark Ferguson, Jackie Gendel, Juan Gomez, Julian Hatton, Frances Hynes, Warren Isensee, Christine Lafuente, Mel Leipzig, Stephen Mueller, Emily Nelligan, Ann Pibal, David Salle, Dana Schutz, Susan Shatter, Cynthia Westwood, and Alexi Worth. Installation and mixed-media artists: Sarah Oppenheimer, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Soo Sunny Park, Andy Yoder, and Emna Zghal. Photographers: Saul Leiter and Sally Mann. Sculptors: Charlotte Becket, Lawrence Fane, Joe Fig, Bryan Hunt, Grace Knowlton, Cordy Ryman, and William Ryman.

National Portrait Gallery Presents Face of Fashion

National Portrait Gallery Presents Face of Fashion


Kate's Flat, 1993 by Corinne Day, British Vogue, June 1993, © Corinne Day.

LONDON, ENGLAND.- The National Portrait Gallery presents Face of Fashion, on view through May 28, 2007. Face of Fashion is a major exhibition focusing on the portraits of five outstanding fashion photographers from Europe and America: Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Corinne Day, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi and Mario Sorrenti. It is the first exhibition of its kind, celebrating the innovation and diversity of current fashion portraiture.

Fashion photography dominates our visual culture. Never has it been so prevalent, pervasive and wide-ranging, incorporating as subjects not only the most popular professional models but also our greatest actors, musicians, sporting heroes, filmmakers, designers and dancers. With the boundaries between advertising, editorial and fine art now blurred, the world's most famous fashion photographers are shaping our ideas of beauty, sexuality and fame.

Sometimes supporting a glamorous aesthetic, sometimes subverting it, fashion photography is at the height of its powers and its leading exponents among the great image-makers of our time. Mert & Marcus, Corinne Day, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi and Mario Sorrenti are each unique and distinctive in style. Together these portraits explore the intimacy that exists between photographer and the subject and how this relationship, sometimes perceived to be exploitative, frequently empowers both parties.

Corinne Day, an ex-model herself who has famously worked consistently with Kate Moss for 15 years, collaborates closely with her subjects developing a close rapport which results in some of the most candid portraits in fashion. Her portraits themselves generated much of the anti-glamour zeitgeist of the 1990s.

Steven Klein often creates complex and dark narratives in his portraits, including a 'family' sequence with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in which they knowingly mock their perceived personas. He is widely acknowledged as one of the most subversive and transgressive of contemporary fashion photographers.

Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott are famous for their off-beat but glamorous portraits of stars such as Kate Moss, Uma Thurman, Drew Barrymore and Björk. Producing a strange, and at times anxious, intensity in their constructed images, they create pure fantasy for the modern age.

By contrast, Paolo Roversi uses traditional studio techniques and stage lighting to create naturalistic, fragile portraits of his subjects, among them Sting, Juliette Binoche and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Influenced by nineteenth-century portrait photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Roversi revels in an ethereal, soulful beauty.

Mario Sorrenti is fascinated by people's faces and the passions, fears and vulnerabilities they are capable of communicating. Equally adept at endorsing conventional notions of glamour as he is at subverting them, Sorrenti embodies much of the ambiguity of today's fashion photography.

Face of Fashion is curated by Susan Bright, independent curator and writer, author of Art Photography Now, published in 2005 by Thames & Hudson. The exhibition installation is designed by David Adjaye and opens with London Fashion Week 2007.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery says: 'Face of Fashion offers the chance to enjoy great photographic portraits away from the bustle of the magazine page - we can see stars transformed through their collaboration with these photographers.'

Susan Bright, Curator of Face of Fashion says: 'The diversity of the photographers featured in Face of Fashion shows that the fashion magazine remains a vibrant place for portraiture, and that the work we see there deserves a considered examination.'

Coinciding with our Face of Fashion exhibition, Individuals: 20 Portraits from the Gap Collection (12 February - 28 May 2007) brings together 20 stunning portraits of leading authors, actors and musicians by eminent photographers including Herb Ritts, Annie Leibovitz and Albert Watson.

Visit www.npg.org.uk/fashion to discover more about the exhibition and the photographers, then get inspired and create your own Face of Fashion poster to send to your friends. Download exclusive wallpapers for your mobile or a screensaver for your computer and register to get a free limited edition exhibition poster. You can also find out about the programme of exhibition related talks and events, shop for Face of Fashion merchandise and book your tickets.

Damien Hirst: Superstition at Gagosian Gallery

Damien Hirst: Superstition at Gagosian Gallery


Damien Hirst, Aubade - Crown of Glory, 2006, Butterflies and household gloss paint on canvas. 115-7/8 x 96-1/8 inches.

BEVERLY HILLS CA.- Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of new paintings by Damien Hirst. Opening concurrently at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills and Davies Street, London, Damien Hirst: Superstition is the artist's first exhibition in Los Angeles in over a decade. In these works, Hirst expands on the iconic motif of the butterfly as a symbol of the beauty and inherent fragility of life, reaching new heights of complexity, refined detail and radiance.

Throughout his work over the last twenty-five years, Hirst has taken a direct and challenging approach to ideas about existence. His work provokes a critical dialogue by calling into question our awareness and convictions about the boundaries that separate desire and fear, life and death, reason and faith, love and hate. In his art, Hirst uses the tools and iconography of science and religion, creating sculptures and paintings whose beauty and intensity offer the viewer insight into art that transcends our familiar understanding of those domains.

In this exhibition, Hirst creates paintings whose classical shapes and compositions take their inspiration from stained glass church windows. From the soaring gothic arch in Aubade - Crown of Glory to the intricate form of the rose window in Friday Night in the Royal Station Hotel - Conception, the works all portray an ornate, fractal geometry and perfect, mathematical symmetry that is awe-inspiring.

Each painting in Damien Hirst: Superstition has two titles, the first taken from the poems in Philip Larkin's collection High Windows. Larkin was an English poet whose fatalistic, colloquial writings speak to a seemingly shared extinguished faith. The second title makes direct reference to religious iconography. A fully illustrated catalogue with essays by noted Larkin scholars John Banville and Richard Bradford will accompany the exhibition.

Damien Hirst was born in Bristol, England in 1965 and attended Goldsmiths College. In 1988, he curated Freeze, a benchmark exhibition for British art, and was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995. A major survey of works from 1989-2004 was held at the Museo Nazionale Archaeologico di Napoli in 2005. Hirst recently curated In the darkest hour there may be light, a selection of works from his Murderme collection at the Serpentine Gallery in London. He lives and works in Devon, England and in Mexico.

ADAA Opens The Art Show Today

ADAA Opens The Art Show Today


Pierre Bonnard, Reclining Nude, 1927, Oil on canvas, Jill Newhouse.

NEW YORK.- The Art Show, America's most prestigious art fair, has announced an outstanding list of exhibitors for 2007, comprising top galleries from across the country. Seventy of the nation's leading art dealers will participate in The Art Show from February 22 - 26, 2007, at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York City. Organized by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA) for the 19th year, the show will feature museum-quality works including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs and ceramics from the 19th century to the 21st century. The Art Show and its Gala Preview on February 21, 2007, will benefit Henry Street Settlement, one of New York City's best-known and most effective social services and arts agencies.

"For 2007, we have assembled an extraordinary group of the most important and influential art dealers working in the U.S. today. From key emerging and established artists to the greats of the last century, we have once again struck the right balance of contemporary and Modern work," said Roland Augustine, the new President of the ADAA and partner in Luhring Augustine. "Collectors consistently look forward to The Art Show as they enjoy its intimate scale, allowing them to visit exhibiting galleries multiple times."

The Art Show 2007 will offer the largest number to date of new galleries to show at the fair, including Sonnabend, Andrea Rosen Gallery, D'Amelio Terras, and Peter Freeman, Inc. all of New York; Rhona Hoffman Gallery and Donald Young Gallery of Chicago.

Linda Blumberg, the new Executive Director of ADAA, added, "The remarkable roster of Art Show exhibitors clearly displays the extraordinary collective knowledge and connoisseurship of ADAA members."

The month of February 2007 offers a landmark event in New York City's art world as The Art Show will be concurrent with The Armory Show held at the Piers. To provide a continuous flow of information and opportunities for collectors, both fairs are collaborating for the first time on ways to best serve the collecting and art loving communities which attend.

"I'm a great believer in synergistic relationships. We view this as a complementary initiative for both organizations' long term goals," noted Augustine.

Exhibitors: Top New York City galleries exhibiting in The Art Show 2007 include Cheim & Read, Richard L. Feigen & Co., Galerie St. Etienne, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paul Kasmin Gallery, Knoedler & Company, Galerie Lelong, L&M Arts, Luhring Augustine, Matthew Marks Gallery, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, PaceWildenstein, Pace Prints, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Sperone Westwater, David Tunick, Inc., and, David Zwirner Gallery. Also participating from across the country are: Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago; John Berggruen Gallery, Fraenkel Gallery and Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco; Manny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles; Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, St. Louis; and, Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston.

Treasures from the North: Irish paintings from the Ulster Museum

Treasures from the North: Irish Paintings


Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940), ‘Field of Corn, Pont-Aven’ (1892). Photograph©National Museums Northern Ireland 2007. Photograph reproduced with kind permission of the Trustees of the National Museums Northern Ireland.

DUBLIN, IRELAND.- The National Gallery of Ireland will present Treasures from the North: Irish paintings from the Ulster Museum, on view from March 14 to September 16, 2007. The Ulster Museum is closed for major refurbishment work until 2009, presenting an opportunity for the National Gallery to host an exhibition focusing on 60 masterpieces from their rich Irish collection. This will feature major figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries such as George Barret, Nathaniel Hone and William Ashford; some of Ireland's most distinguished twentieth century artists including Sir John Lavery, Paul Henry and Jack B. Yeats; as well as a number of Ulster painters represented by William Conor, John Luke, Charles Lamb and Frank McKelvey. The selection concludes with works by more modern artists such as Basil Blackshaw, Patrick Scott and TP Flanagan. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the show.

Musée d'Orsay Presents Correspondences

Musée d'Orsay Presents Correspondences


View of the musée d'Orsay installation: a triptyich by Pierre et Gilles, Abel, 2007, and Vincent Feugères des Forts sculpture, La Mort d'Abel, 1865. © Paris, musée d'Orsay / Patrice Schmidt.

PARIS, FRANCE.- Musée d’Orsay presents Correspondences: Edouard Manet, Le balcon, 1868-1869/ Anne Sauser-Hall, Le Balcon (d'après Manet), 2007 and Vincent Feugère des Forts, La Mort d'Abel, 1865/ Pierre et Gilles, Abel, 2006, on view through May 20, 2007. The exhibition was curated by Serge Lemoine, Orsay museum President, with Olivier Gabet, curator at the museum.

Art of the XIXth and beginning of the XXth centuries is a source of inspiration for the artists living in the XXIst century. The Musée d'Orsay pursues its cycle of « Correspondances » and this time has asked Anne Sauser-Hall and Pierre et Gilles to present one of their creations in relation to a work they have chosen in the museum's collections.

Anne Sauser-Hall is a Swiss artist who lives and works in Geneva, and is particularly interested in the challenges that representation encompass. She develops an aesthetic idea on the question of distancing oneself. Since the beginning of the 1990s Anne Sauser-Hall has explored this path by using the notion of theatricality. She then reconstructs objects and installations in which she stages familiar, daily elements, linked to the domestic and social spaces. But hers are simplified or redimensioned, thus losing their usual references.

As of 2001 the artist naturally turned towards video, shifting from the formal creation of an object in space to physically occupying the latter. In this perspective Cézanne and above all Manet's work strongly influenced the Swiss artist. Manet's theatricality, his taste for transvesting therefore creating a distance, are practically abiding sources of renewal and inspiration. Anne Sauser-Hall does not reproduce the reality of the paintings, but rather( with rare subtlety and unique poetry) borrows from them a gesture, a movement, a moment. She had already created various videos around works of Manet, among them the Dead Man inspired by The dead torero (1862-1864) and Peony stems and clippers , a moving hommage to the painter's still lives. In response to the invitation made by the Musée d'Orsay, Anne Sauser-Hall chose The Balcony as the point of departure of a unique work. I do not paint Manet again with video, video allows me to develop through time the gestures that are suspended or absent in the painting. I try nevertheless to treat space as surface, to reconstruct this reduced, introspected space that is so impressive in his paintings.

Ever since 1976 Pierre et Gilles have worked in a perfectly complementary fashion, creating their own style and world. They combine their techniques, Pierre a photographer while Gilles a painter, and they merge them to such a point that their works have acquired a hybrid statute, such as their photographs painted over in acrylic. But those works remain coherent and harmonious, defying all artistic labels. In resisting the dogma of the hierarchy of genres, the artists first worked for magazines such as Façade, made record covers for Amanda Lear, Etienne Daho or Lio, collaborated with le Palace, the temple of Parisian night life in the 70s and 80s. Little by little their work gained autonomy through a nearly relentless quest for a certain identity of the beings the artists met and had pose, some of them seductive models and others personnalities of the star-system.

While making fun of the aesthetic styles, Pierre et Gilles divert the gen res of the official or religious portrait, those of the advertising poster and of great painting, of Sulpician iconography, in the same way they blurr, in a fresh but falsely naïve manner, the borders between daily and extraordinary, between common and sacred. A sort of magic incantation was born from this abundance of artistic references. It is this dreamlike, sensual and poetic universe that characterizes their photographs. Behind the apparent ease, hide the complexity of the processes implemented, the choice of a subject, the staging, the care given to the technical procedure.

When the Musée d'Orsay invited them, the artists chose a sculpture that is relatively unknown today but was once famous, by Vincent Feugère des Forts (1825-1889), Abel's death (1865), shown at the Salon in 1886. The obvious sensuality of the pose and the tragic scope of the character inspired them to do an unusual triptyc.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hello, Jasper...


by Michéle C. Cone


Jasper Johns, "An Allegory of Painting, 1955-1965," Jan. 28-Apr. 29, 2007, at the National Gallery of Art, National Mall, Washington, D.C.

Why is it that the work of a visual artist can continue to fascinate long after its surprise effect has subsided, long after it has entered the canon of art history? Is it thanks to its opacity of meaning? Could it be that the mind loves a riddle, whether it has a rebus-like solution, is a philosophical enigma, or is solvable only by those with knowledge of its codes? Or could the fascination be something other than a teasing of the mind? A teasing of the senses, maybe? These thoughts crossed my mind as I walked through an ambitious exhibition of some 90 early paintings, drawings and prints by Jasper Johns currently on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C, under the subtitle "An Allegory of Painting 1955-65."

Johns is an intimidating figure in the New York art world, especially for a woman. And no one approaches his work without thinking about the evasive meanings of his words, the thought-provoking quality of his oral pronouncements and his booming laughter, a sound that comes from deep inside him and makes one leery of believing that he fully believes his own words. Speaking of artists and artworks that had been important to him, he told Grace Glueck in an interview in the ‘60s:

"Three works from the past have been important to me: Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Marcel Duchamp’s Large Glass and Cézanne’s The Bather. But also, for any artist, things that occur during the period in which he’s working have equal importance, as Rauschenberg’s paintings do for me."

He did not mention the name of René Magritte, the Belgian Surrealist painter, who had a show of his paintings at Sidney Janis Gallery in March 1954, a time when young artists, ready to jettison the rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism, were looking for new ways to make art. Entitled "Words vs. Image," the exhibition included the famous image of a pipe subtitled "This is not a pipe," and other paintings in which the relationship of caption and image was uncanny, such as La Clé des Rèves. The Key to Dreams is now owned by Jasper Johns. The show was enthusiastically reviewed by Robert Rosenblum, the late art historian and a friend of Johns, in the Art Digest of Mar. 15, 1955, under the heading "Magritte’s Surrealist Grammar." There is good reason to assume that Johns’ Flag relates both in concept and in sexual innuendo to Magritte’s This Is Not a Pipe, as I pointed out in my text on scenography:

Not only does the Flag painting produce in the viewer the same questioning as Magritte’ This Is Not a Pipe, it also assumes a definition of metaphor which. . . is much closer to Freud’s understanding of metaphor than the Surrealists’ definition. . . . The wit in Johns’ Flag image lies in the subtle displacement of his image vis-á-vis a more clichéd way of thinking of flags. In the painting the flag is taut and hard instead of limply hanging from the end of a stick.

Johns’ involvement with Magritte is further suggested by his ownership of The Human Condition (1948?), a drawing based on a missing painting, according to Martica Sawin (New York Collects, Morgan Library, 1999). It is one of several Magrittes in which a painting on an easel coincides with the view behind it. In this example, done with pencil on buff paper, the easel hides and reveals the mountainous landscape seen from inside a cave, which can be assumed to be Plato’s cave. The notion of "displacement" made visible in the Magritte image is very important to Johns. His own work thrives on displacement.

Johns’ Target with Four Faces (1955), on view at the National Gallery, is a good example of this strategy. The "target" of the title conceals other readings of the image, such as four concentric circles or as four Os (numbers or letters). As for the "Four Faces" aligned above the target, they are not exactly alike, though the title would lead one to believe they are. A slight change takes place from left to right denoted by a faint opening of the mouth. Given the dynamic of a mouth gradually opening, and the four 0s visible in the target image, the idea of orifice springs to mind, displacing the literal meaning of Target with Four Faces. Observing these displacements, repetitions and variations does not exhaust the content of the work, but goes some way to explaining how meanings can slide into other meanings, confounding thought

Johns’ apparent silence on Magritte is hardly surprising, as those were the days when American art was said to have escaped from the hold of European art, and especially from the figurative Surrealism of Magritte. One recalls Donald Judd telling Bruce Glaser, "I am totally uninterested in European art" ("Questions to Stella and Judd"). In point of fact, early on, Johns was placed in a neo-Dada/Surrealist context. Target with Plaster Casts was seen in Paris in a show organized by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp entitled "L’Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme" in the winter 1959-60. And, over the years, the presence of Magritte behind Johns’ early work has been noted by various scholars (Kozloff, Bernstein, Orton, others).

The Dada/Surrealist antecedent in Johns work is certainly downplayed in the D.C show. No flags are on view, no three-dimensional objects, no numbers and no maps with which to play the word/image game. Target with Four Faces and Target with Plaster Casts are there, but only as exceptional instances of the artist’s use of circles, examples of which abound throughout the exhibition. Johns, often said to be the father of Pop art, appears here as the father of Minimalism and Process art. (One of the essays in the catalogue is written by a former practitioner of Minimalism, Robert Morris). Indeed, the D.C. exhibition concentrates on the nearly abstract production in Johns’ early oeuvre, and on variations and repetitions of target paintings, stenciled paintings, "device" paintings and works created by body imprints.

The first two rooms of the D.C. exhibition display variations of the target theme, most of them monochrome circles, green, gray, orange, yellow within a square canvas. The redundancy of the circle motif strongly suggests that Johns is appropriating the circle as his mark the way Carl Andre appropriated the square and Frank Stella the stripe. Of course that is overlooking the hand-made quality of the paint application in the series, and the faint presence of an image within the circle, a spiral. But it is worth noting that in the "Souvenir" series from 1964, also on view, a circular plate at the lower left corner of the painting bears the image of the artist, a signature which combines his face and a circle.

One target image, Device Circle (1959), marks a departure in the target series. Not only does it abandon the monochrome of previous circle subjects, but it introduces an appendage within the circle, a "device" or hand that simulates rotation, and stencil marks spelling "Device Circle" at the bottom. Device Circle (1959) is the start of two new series of paintings on view in the show, the "stencil paintings" and the "device paintings."

The stencil-inspired paintings using the words "blue," "yellow" and "red" combine frantic painterly traces and stencil marks, and the stencil marks are either deposed intuitively all over the canvas, or more regularly in horizontal rows. The color of the works ranges from bright to somber. In False Start (1959) and Out the Window (1959), the brushwork is particularly colorful and active. By the Sea (1961) is in muted blue-grey hues with touches of red filtering through and Folly Beach (1962) is pitch black. In Folly Beach, the darkness is relieved by the whitish letter O and its whitish companion W in the row that spells YELLOW. A white O seemingly painted over the stenciled O floats on the surface of Out the Window. This series is certainly worth lingering over, for the painterly effects are seductive, as if Johns were letting go of something close to emotion, or the memory of emotions. Even the titles lend themselves to this view.

The other group of paintings that take off from Device Circle are more difficult to deal with. Here it seems, Johns is playing displacement games, if only by misleading viewers into believing that the so called "devices" -- wipers, rulers, brooms -- are operational tools, that they have a technical function in the painting of the circle, the partial circle, the pair of partial circles that are featured in the paintings. Device (1961), a colorful example in the series, features a pair of partial circles and their wiper. Symmetrically placed left and right near the top of the painting, the large disks simulating a spinning motion could not possibly have been painted by the wiper. On the other hand, the device, arrested in its rotation for reasons that may be completely arbitrary, seems nevertheless to be poised for another, more embodied type of action -- rising, erection-like. ("A device," says my dictionary "is a piece of equipment or a mechanism designed to serve a special purpose or perform a special function.")

The light-heartedness of the "Device" paintings gives way to a darker mood when the wiping device looses its materiality and takes the shape of an extended arm, or rather the x-ray image of its bones imprinted on the canvas. This is the case in Periscope (Hart Crane) (1963), Hatteras (1963) and Untitled (1963). In Land’s End (1963), the hand positioned vertically as in a farewell gesture has broken away from the circle. Alternating with this series of mostly black-and-white paintings are several fuzzy charcoal drawings on drafting paper, imprints of different parts of the body including hands (Skin with O Hara’s poem, 1963-65) and cheeks (Study for Skin I and II, 1962). The show ends with According to What (1964) and Untitled (1964-65), a pair of monumental paintings that bring together devices, forms and colors harking to previous paintings.

One image that does not make it into the above-mentioned summations of 1964 and 1965 is Painting Bitten by a Man (1961), where the hint of a penis form, sliced vertically, slightly protrudes from the undulating surface of the light-brown monochrome painting. This timidly pornographic image (assuming that the word painting in Painting Bitten by a Man is a censored version of the depicted image), comes from the collection of the artist, and has rarely been seen before. Yet this raunchy painting is an exemplary case of Johns’ strategy of simultaneous concealment and display, perhaps more obvious than most. Its presentation in the D.C. show suggests that Johns has now overcome the self-censorship that kept this particular painting out of view and his own hang-ups under wrap

Overall, the D.C. presentation of Johns’ early works revives an issue that has been lost, ever since the actions painters attempted to tackle with it: The issue of self-revelation through the act of painting. Is it possible? Is it necessary? Is the painterly trace itself an act of self-revelation? It may sound like a contradiction to suggest that Johns’ art is about self-revelation, considering the variety of ways in which the artist uses displacement as a strategy of concealment. Johns’ answers are equivocal of course, and subject to multiple interpretations. One thing the show suggests to me is the second-hand nature of self-revelation in his own work. Johns’ identification with a circle and a photo of himself within a circular object in Souvenir is a case in point.

IN fact, the word "souvenir" is itself a sign of the second-hand nature of self- revelation. Paintings like False Start, Out the Window, By the Sea and Folly Beach hint at past experiences that the paintings not so much simulate as sublimate. The "device circle" paintings, also coinciding with the love affair between Johns and Rauschenberg, indirectly hint at the two terms of that relationship, as does Rauschenberg’s own "device circle" entitled Monogram. On the body imprints, I will quote Jeffrey Weiss in his catalogue essay entitled "Painting Bitten by A Man:" "Uniquely, Johns’ procedures incorporate the corporeal: the body as an instrument. . . the painting as body; the drawing as skin. " I would add here "the device as sexual organ" and rename the Johns show "an allegory of sublimation."