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Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Saltz’

Few episodes of Bravo TV’s latest competition series, “Work of Art”, are hardly worth writing about but last night’s was so fascinating I actually recommend trying to catch a rerun. It was a battle of ego in an episode that exhibited the most fundamental and perhaps centuries-old disagreement between artists: Does art school make you better? The self-trained artist and the art school grad – and their respective emotional baggage – are so familiar in the art world as to become almost archetyped and last night’s show brought those composites to light.

In this episode of WOA, the contestants drew red or blue paint tubes to split them into two groups for a team challenge. Erik, a self-trained artist, winds up on a team with Jaclyn and Miles, both of whom he’s had previous disagreements with. Feeling alienated by his fellow teammates and undervalued, Erik decides to let them all have it. While coming from a place of insecurity, Erik’s feelings about art school grads having their heads stuck up their ass are certainly valid.

It’s interesting to consider how art that’s heavy on concept and light on aesthetics manages to communicate to the average viewer. Art is a reflection of class and appeals to a sense of status. Feeling alienated by the art speak and the heavy concept one learns in art school seems a natural reaction on Erik’s part. In the end though, not being a team player just leaves Erik alone, angry, and eliminated. Watch the video for a glimpse at this age-old battle as interpreted by the present, and for more insightful commentary on this episode,  read Jerry Saltz’s recap here, or Ken Tucker’s lighter review here.

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Bravo TV just announced the forthcoming launch of its new competition series, “Work of Art”, that aims to test the talents of 14 artists vying for the grand prize of a solo show at a nationally recognized museum and a cash sum. Among the judges will be Jerry Saltz – my all-time favorite art critic, and Jeanne Greenburg Rohatyn, curator and owner of Salon94 gallery in New York.

The critics responses are rolling in and they aren’t sounding too favorable. I personally appreciate what Brian Moylan writes for The Gawker: “Do you really think Charles Saatchi is going to have Jeff Koons over for margaritas to watch this show to discuss latching on to some undiscovered talent? Lots of art people don’t even own televisions, and if they do it’s so that they can look down on it and never turn it on.”

I question whether the art world at large will take such a show, or its “winner”, very seriously in the long run. The same standards will hold true of the “Work of Art” winner as hold true for working artists everywhere: the work must first be good, and it must continue that way for as long as you intend to have a career. Are these legitimate artists? Maybe. If they’re any good overall, do they need a television show to prove it? Doubtful. Is this show written for the art establishment and its gatekeepers? Certainly not.

It’s important to remember that this is just another television show. This form of media as a whole is faced with the threat of extinction as audience members switch to internet viewing in ever-increasing numbers. In order to compete with new media, the antiquated entertainment outlet opts for programming that shocks, stirs up drama, and portrays a deceitful caricature of reality. Basically, watch it if you find it entertaining. If it annoys you to no end, forget about it – it’s insignificance is obvious and its obsolescence is inevitable. The art world will go on.

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From left, Kiki Smith's Untitled (Bowed Woman), 1995; Jeff Koons's One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, 1985. (Photo: Benoit Pailley) via New York Magazine

“Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection” is the current New Museum exhibition curated by Jeff Koons that’s causing quite a stir in the art world. The show screams of quid pro quo favors and clubby relationships, and for good reason. Not only are Koons and Joannou have a famous friendship with Joannou being one of Koons’ biggest collectors, but Joannou is also a trustee for the New Museum. Behind-the-scenes back-and-forth aside, is the show itself any good? Famous art critic Jerry Saltz gives a take worth taking into consideration in his New York Magazine review. To sum it up, I chose this quote by Saltz:

“The art world has not embraced the show (to put it mildly), and here’s why. In playing to its largest audience to date, the New Museum is not only pandering, but trying to trump the competition with the undeclared game of “collect the collector.” At the show’s core is a distorted and depressing reality: Joannou’s collection is drawn from a tiny slice of the art world—the superrich, the super-hyped and the supermale. (Barely a quarter of the work is by women.) It includes far too many famous artists who sell to major collectors for vast sums. It’s a history of the winners of one particular game—a narrative that’s simultaneously blinkered, elitist, and annoying.”

Be sure to read the full article here.

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Scott Short "Untitled (White)", 2008, Oil on canvas, via Whitney

A quick tour around the Internet will procure a number of reviews on the recent opening of the 2010 Whitney Biennial. One of my favorite critics, Jerry Saltz, writes for the New York Times Magazine and does a fabulous and readable job of synthesizing the experience. He begins his review saying, “After two biennials devoted to dealing with “failure” and “darkness,” this catalogue speaks of “renewal” and “optimism.” Yes, it’s the Obama Biennial: alternately moving and frustrating, challenging and disappointing—and a big improvement on what came before.” Read the rest here.

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