Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When Price Makes Porn of Art

Fantastic quotes from Robert Hughes' just published memoir in this book review by Peter Goddard. Check it out:

ON MONEY: "The stuff I can't stand is that reverential poppycock churned out by people who still believe that the price of a work somehow enhances it as an object. It's just a lie. It removes the work of art from the common frame of understanding and discourse. It makes to into a fetish object. It kills it.

"No ordinary person can look at (the $150 million [Canadian] paid recently for Gustav Klimt's Adele Bloch-Bauer 1 [1907] by cosmetic magnate Ronald Lauder) without loathing (the painting). Obviously, I don't want to go out and attack the Klimt with an axe. But I think it's obscene. Maybe it's the main kind of cultural pornography."

Other Robert Hughes ditties here.

9 comments:

Karen said...

I understand that the "great artists" and "masters" are called that for a reason and therefore are valued more by most. However, who is to say what "great" art is and how much it's worth. Sure a picture might be worth a thousand words...but that doesn't necessarily mean its worth a thousand bucks to me. Frankly the amount of money people pay for art is hideously overblown in my opinion. I'm not saying that artists shouldn't be paid for the work they create and hopefully their work will be enjoyed and appreciated as much by the new owners as it is by the artist. However, what makes one painting, sculpture, etc more important, worthwhile, or "great" than another? Who decides this? One person's opinion is not the same as the next's. Arrrggghhh.

Rather than being in the hands of private collectors, I'd rather see the works of these "great masters" (including Klimt) in museums and galleries for everyone to enjoy rather than adorning someone's wall where few people will be able to appreciate it.

Tim said...

I hadn't realized that it was also one of of 5 paintings seized bt the nazis during WWII. That makes even more sick that the Bloch-Bauer family sold it!

Greg S. said...

Candy, please explain a bit more what Hughes is complaining about. The price, the artist, the work of art, the buyer, or the viewing public? I don't understand how the price a painting commands on the market can influence the work of art itself. But I've been seen walking around museums with a sound stick pasted to my ear, so what do I know?

Please let me know what you think of Hughes' book. I always gave him a lot of credit for giving R. Crumb a lot of credit.

Candy Minx said...

Hi Greg S wonderful to see you.

I've ammended the quote I posted above. I should have put it into context a little more clearly. Hughes was talking about money which led into the Kilmt painting and the auction.

I think now that I added the previous lead-in to the topic Hughes position is clearer as are his complaints.

I really enjoy reading Hughes critiques and books. This book review actually refers toa memoir that Hughes is promoting right now.

In the above quote, I think Hughes is disgusted by the absurd price classi art is selling for, and frankly I have always thought it was lucicrous some of these painting sales and costs. I think it's hilarious that any painting should sell for more than 5-10 million dollars, nevermind 150 million. What is wrong with people? They sure give me something to chukle about, though.

My god, it's paintings! And I love art, think its fantastic making art is a life and job I wouldn't consider changing...it's an incredible lifestyle to be an artist, freedom!

But 150mil for a piece of art work?

This is an embarrassment.

But anybody can make art. The few reasons everyone DOESN"T make art is 1) because we beat it out of children 2) contemporary art is so phony and elitist it's too embarassing to be associated with it, and 3) someones imagination has been allowed freedom and expression and direction through another field perhaps more natural and suited to their personality.

But anyone can make a painting, especially if one studies and practices the classical and modern techniques. These styles are very simple and formulaic to learn...combined with natural ambition and interest and curiousity art making is quite universal.

I think Hughes is correct that these crazy sales, auctions and collectors have kind of made the scene obscene and actually, I think they are fools to pay so much money for a painting.

Tim, have you ever read The Museum Guard by Howard Norman ? It explores the time when artwork was being protected and smuggled therefore with more respect than the human life of the Jewish and gay communities during Nazi exterminations.

The idea that art would be more valuable and important than a human life is depressing and disgusting and ...worse, shameful.

I sort of see this repulsed attitude for Klimt's sale by Hughes as related.

Candy Minx said...

Um, what would be cool is if the money for the sale of that painting...

was spent to hire a militia to go into Darfur and help the people there.

Then the fools that turn art into some kind of elite freak show would at least be doing something productive and helpful with their crazy money.

Karen said...

There are so many ways that money could be used. One piece of canvas with some colour on it is worth $150 million. That's ridiculous. Even if you split it three ways ($50 million each), with just a third of the money you could put 200 kids or more through through college, you could build a couple of schools or librarys or homeless shelters, send people to help out in Darfur as Candy suggests, eliminate hunger at least one third world country... Seriously! This really chaps my hide. I understand people have the right to do whatever they want with their money. Good for them. They probably (hopefully) worked really hard to earn it. But when people in your own country have to live on the streets, go hungry, can't clothe themselves or their own children, their is something seriously wrong with the world. I enjoy and appreciate art, and without the "arts" in general the world would be a terrible place. But these rich bastards that feel the need to throw their money around like this for something that is likely a mere status symbol among their own kind, it makes me sick.

Candy Minx said...

There is a kind of fetish involved isn't there though? Karen, it's why I feel Citizen Kane is still a valuable movie for our times. It is a kind of insult to the artist and the work that it is used as means to buy ones own sense of culture and importance.

This has rubbed artists the wrong way for years, Lenny Bruce, Kurt Cobain, are famous modern examples.

The abstract expressionists were pawns for the rich and political after the second world war.

A curator/critic was hired more or less to go around and find some artists who would demonstrate and represent America's cultural power as well as it's finacial and military power after the WWii.

Most of the dozen artists pushed to massive fame within five years had eventually all died violent tragic deaths...and I think it's because they knew they were being used to "create a culture" for the politicians.

Greg S. said...

Thanks Candy. I'm impressed that you go back to your old posts and answer questions. You are a blogger's blogger. Thanks also for that book tip (The Museum Guard). It really is amazing that the naizis banned modern art and either ran off or threw into concentration camps many of the artists for being jewish, gay, communist, whatever, but at the same time, they horded the art and even capitalized on it, paying tribute in that way to its power and influence while also trying to destroy the creators.

The modern art market is more up front but equally crass, and it certainly has its influence on artists and their art.

The question is: are all those works hanging in the museums that we worship the result of an authentic distillation process that sorts out the best of the best, or is it the result of a huge marketing event that starts with the clique surrounding the artist and eventually ends up at Sotheby's and the museum's annual trustee cocktail party?

Time to go back and re-read Berger's Ways of Seeing.

Candy Minx said...

I think your ideas here have inspired a future post, thanks Greg. I had quite a chiuckle over "bloggers blogger" all weekend, beautiful! Berger's Ways of Seeing is always worth a re-visit.