Fine Art Swindle 2

The  New York Times has printed a second piece on the underlying financial fraud that props up the current art market. And this following an auction that just broke all sales records. Typically, as bubbles enter their final phase before imploding increasingly frenetic sales and profits occur, as witnessed in the housing collapse.

Of course, the American Art world has been an enormous fraud for decades, in terms of hyping and promoting work that is so vastly inferior to the art that preceded it in the earlier part of the 20th century that only enormous sums of money could prop it up in the first place.

The art critical apparatus (which would be more accurately termed the art sales apparatus) of newspaper critics, art magazine critics, and big bloviators like Robert Hughes at Time and his Shock of the New have managed to glorify art that if placed  next to art of the past reveals itself as either a tawdry imitation of that art or empty novelty (performance, video, overblown photographs, etc).

One of the slickest maneuvers of the American Art machine was to declare all art of the past dead. Take Donald Judd & Company as examples spokesmen for that strategy. Therefore, art that subscribed to any values pertaining to European (dead white male) art whatsoever was automatically viewed as retrograde and hence culturally bankrupt.

Whatever the case, it’s perfectly clear that since that turning point in “art history” all we’ve seen promoted at galleries or museums as art is work that is NEW, by and large thoroughly disconnected from the past European tradition other than as parody. Even an artist like Odd Nerdrum, who intentionally mimics the “style” of Old Master painting accurately announces his work as kitsch. However, Nerdrum’s clear mastery of figurative art and painting earns him a place as a minor figure due to his conservatism, a quality that is invariably view pejoratively. Whereas a ham-handed painter like Eric Fischl , whose body of work is little more than trite pseudo-social realism mixed with kitsch eroticism elaborated by an artist trying to learn how to paint the figure on the job. His early work is pathetic by any standard of painting existing prior to post-Modernism.

Painting in its Postmodern phase naturally elevates trite and amateurish painting over more accomplished work. This is easily discerned by a comparison of typical works by Fischl and Nerdrum.

Eric Fischl (self portrait?)

Odd Nerdrum

The answer is quite simple to why Fischl is placed at the center of Postmodernist art while Nerdrum exists peripherally. Fischl along with the other 80s art stars, was gathered up overnight and backed by Wall Street Finance. And the reasons this was done have nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of artistic merit or achievement, of which there was precious little. Living in NYC at the time I can bear witness to this first-hand.

Postmodern art, if looked at with anything remotely approaching objectivity can be seen for what it is, a playacting parody of earlier Modernist movements.

Compare  a Chaim Soutine to a Susan Rothenberg, as another example, and one is looking at a kind of kindergartener’s notion of expressionist painting next to work of sublime accomplishment. And, keep in mind that it was the bloated prose of Robert Hughes among others, that established Rothenberg’s superstar status. Meanwhile a consortium of collectors snapped up the half-assed work and began the long inflation of prices that are routinely maintained by the same Fine Art Swindle ballooning into the stratosphere last week.

Rothenberg’s work was absolutely indistinguishable from miles and miles of wasted canvas found in any American art school where students without the slightest understanding of drawing,  form, composition, color or paint itself  floundered around haphazardly while encouraged to come up with whatever gibberish they thought would put their work over at a faculty critique.

Rothenberg’s paintings give new meaning to the word pathetic. And they characterize the completely vacuous art criticism and empty artistic posturing that the hordes of art world wannabes shamelessly pandered to. This period of artistic imposture virtually destroyed artistic practice of any quality or seriousness. And the lack of any effort by anyone in a position of power within the artistic community (not to mention the artists groveling around seeking credibility within that world) to attack this brand of patent charlatanism is the primary reason art itself is on the brink of extinction as a viable form of human communication.




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I'm an artist.
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2 Responses to Fine Art Swindle 2

  1. Why this style gained mainstream acceptance in the 1950s is a matter of debate. American Social realism had been the mainstream in the 1930s. It had been influenced not only by the Great Depression but also by the Social Realists of Mexico such as David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera . The political climate after World War II did not long tolerate the social protests of those painters. Abstract expressionism arose during World War II and began to be showcased during the early 1940s at galleries in New York like The Art of This Century Gallery . The late 1940s through the mid-1950s ushered in the McCarthy era . It was after World War II and a time of political conservatism and extreme artistic censorship in the United States. Some people have conjectured that since the subject matter was often totally abstract, Abstract expressionism became a safe strategy for artists to pursue this style. Abstract art could be seen as apolitical. Or if the art was political, the message was largely for the insiders. However those theorists are in the minority. As the first truly original school of painting in America, Abstract expressionism demonstrated the vitality and creativity of the country in the post-war years, as well as its ability (or need) to develop an aesthetic sense that was not constrained by the European standards of beauty.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Why AE gained mainstream acceptance can be better understood by reading Serge Guilbaut’s How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art and Frances Stonor Saunders’ The Cultural Cold War. As Mencken observed, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people.” And the significant venue that controlled the definition of what was high art was the Museum of Modern Art, not Art of this Century. If the latter controlled it, then the Surrealists would have been considered the great art movement of that decade, as that’s who Peggy Guggenheim largely showed. Her support of Pollock was due to the advice of Mondrian and Duchamp’s grudging admission of his talent. She also returned all of his work to him which she’d subsidized as she couldn’t sell it and was moving to Venice. They accept it because they want to have their MoMA retrospective too.

    Abstract art couldn’t just be seen as apolitical. It was apolitical, and part of the enshrinement of Art for Art’s Sake as American State Art (so to speak). Guilbaut’s book begins with a quote from Greenberg: “Some day it will have to be told how anti-Stalinism which started out more or less as Trotskyism turned into art for art’s sake, and thereby cleared the way, heroically, for what was to come.”

    Nor was Abstract Expressionism a “truly original school of painting”. It derived from European painting, specifically Surrealist automatic drawing, which was in fact preceded by Austin Osman Spare’s experiments…. and , of course, Picasso. Gorky and Picasso, for example, spent much of their time imitating Picasso, and De Kooning spent much of his time imitating Gorky. Gorky and Matta borrowing from each other. The geometric abstractions all derived from a European, Piet Mondrian.

    If you think a couple hundred painters, all of them largely trying to get a jump on Picasso, demonstrated the vitality and creativity of the country, you should have tried growing up here during the 1950s. LIFE Magazine lampooned Pollock as Jack the Dripper, turning him into a laughing stock. The ridicule finished him off. Then the country could move onto the contributions of its real geniuses, the three stooges… Johns, Rauschenberg and Warhol. And the rest is art art history, right? These guys knew enough to not believe at all in what they were doing, as they’d seen what that got you by watching Rothko, Pollock, Gorky and the rest self-destruct. And not only the three stooges but also the other inimitable greats… John Chamberlain and his auto wreck sculptures, Donald Judd and his boxes, Vito Acconci and his hardon, William Wegman and his weimaraner, John Baldesarri and whatever you want to call the bullshit he did. Endless vitality and creativity.

    It’s called Market Capitalism. It also makes ipods, hula hoops, skateboards, groovy motorcycles (Guggenheim had a show of them), Star Wars (Brooklyn Museum had a show of memorabilia). Tim Burton had the biggest box office ever at MoMA, just behind old what’s his name, the cat that cut off his ear. Nowadays every artist going is making infantile goo goo/gaa gaa art if they want viability. I’ll grant you Americans weren’t constrained by European notions of beauty. That’s for dead certain.

    Anything thoroughly brain dead or head-up-the-ass is definitely in play if you want art world credibility. So James Turrell’s light environments are all the rage now?.. Better than the laser show at the planetarium or Universal Studios! Why? Because you can really get a true mystical experience with Turrell at the Guggenheim because the riff-raff gets weeded out, and only the truly sophisticated accompany you around…. along with their acoustiguide and twitter devices. Although, personally I prefer the riff-raff and I also like the great holographic projections. If I’m going to be a kid again, I prefer to do it outside of an art museum.

    The vitality and creativity of America in the post-war years. Boy,… that’s a good one. As you say, Joe McCarthy. But let’s not leave out Bobby Kennedy himself a part of McCarthy’s band of loyal anti-Communists. Nor vitally creative Roy Cohn.Or Richard Nixon, who got things off and running on the House Un-American Activities Committee. Strange bedfellows,… Yet all in the same bed. Go figure.

    What I’d love to know at this point is if ANYBODY in the art world is capable of getting real about ANYTHING whatsoever. There isn’t a single American art critic I’m aware of that writes anything more than completely insipid and sycophantic advertising copy for their employers–the art galleries. In America, we live in Orwell’s memory hole, accepting whatever media-generated myths and legends we’re given by our “institutions” which now resemble nothing so much as mental institutions.

    Yes, the American Dream. As George Carlin said, “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep if you believe in it.”

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