Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Goin' to California


One of the bigger white cubes in the world is having an exhibit called "The Business of Art: Evidence from the Art Market" and boy oh, boy! would I like to get myself out there. I guess I'll just have to settle for a catalogue (and somehow I don't think that the Getty discounts their catalogues as much as the Musee des beaux Arts does).

From a quick scan of the website, it seems that either they have decided to ignore the Quebecois Canadian variations, or the Quebecois Canadian variations aren't significant enough to blip on their radar. They seem to be focusing on collectors, dealers, artists, and scholars, to which you can also probably add curators, critics, and connoisseurs. Off the top of my head, if they were going to be doing it say here at the gallery (or in other words in Quebec) you'd have to add politicians, bureaucrats, and mid-level white collar workers (aka foundation managers).

Now, if you read the intro on the website they basically describe a dealer as a "middleman between artist and collector," but then go on to say that the roles "...has evolved into that of an influential art-world figure who can affect, and in some ways control, private and public perceptions of the history of art." Umm, does anybody in their right mind think that Rene Blouin, Olga Korper or Monte Clark are going to influence Canadian perceptions of art? And just to clarify things, by "Canadian" I mean the guy in Moose Jaw who drinks Canadian, and thinks that the Leroy Neiman poster of Wayne Gretzky

that he saw in the Hockey Hall of Fame was alright, but not worth the money (after all, you can get a case of two-four for less than $20 at the Beer Store right down the corner).

Now compare that sentence to this one: "to clarify things, by "American" I mean the guy in Lincoln, Nebraska who drinks Bud Lite and thinks that the Andy Warhol print of

Elvis is kick-ass, but jeezus those folk in Noo Yawk gotta be crazy to pay that much money for it (after all he can a mighty fine copy of it right down at the mall for less than the price of a two-four).

Or in a slightly shorter sentence, Rene Blouin ain't no Leo Castelli. Olga Korper ain't no Medici.

Then returning to the Getty's description of the exhibition, they gloss over what it is to be a collector - but then again, it is a web site. Maybe we should cut them some slack. On second thought, naw. They only talk about some chick named "The Countess of Verrue" and a dead dude from France named "Gabriel Frizeau." Hell, just from a quick scan of the Sotheby's web site I can come up with a dozen names of collectors, and if it is as they say that the auction catalogue for The Countess of Verrue only exists as a handwritten manuscript then obviously she was no master of market timing, had she waited another 300 years she could've gotten her name embossed in gilt on the cover of a 4 volume slip cased catalogue. From my perspective there are only two reasons to collect, either you're certifiable (which ain't such a bad thing some times) or you want to impress somebody ("wanna come up to my place and see my etchings?") ok, maybe I'm glossing over things, too. Sorry.

Then they go on to give a quick description of the Artist as they relate to the business of art, with the interesting little nugget being that Gaugin was making a cool $100K a year as a stockbroker, before he became an artist full-time. Makes me think twice about all those dot comers who cashed in their options and went to Tahiti.

Then lastly, pity Willi Bongard died in a car crash. He sounds like a cool guy.

Here in Quebec Canada it is most definitely the bureaucrats who wield the most influence. Who was the numbnut who decided to pull the plug on the Dunlop Art Gallery? Or the incompetent nincompoop who invested the Canada Council's money badly? Or the people who put the brakes on MOCCA moving downtown? If any of those people have a name, I'd love to know it. For lack of a better term I'll call them bureaucrats. OK?

Then with regards to the Art market in the 21st century I would also emphasize critics. The Getty web site sorta takes a stab a 'em, lumping them in with scholars. But unless you have people reading and talking about art, there ain't gonna be no such thing as an art market. And despite the "best" attempts by Chantal Pontbriand, Rick Rhodes, Henry Lehman, Bernard Lamarche, et al (sorry for the fancy-ass term) they aren't (in my eyes) doing anything other than attempting to keep their noses clean and their mortgages paid.

Take the Montreal Mirror, please! (apologies to Henny Youngman, may he rest in peace) when you pick it up, what do you read? The movie listings, the rant line, and then maybe if there is time, you sorta scan the rest of it. Look at the Gazette, you read the headlines, after all you do want to know who got murdered in NDG last night, and then you flip to the sports section (or maybe it's the other way around like it is in the Journal de Montreal) and then the rest of the paper gets used in the bird cage.

If they (or any of the other media outlets mentioned or not) had any really compelling writers do you think that Vie des Arts, Parachute, Espace or the rest of the bunch would have to be supported by the government? Like I said yesterday, the government should support cultural stuff that can't support itself, but at the same time that cultural stuff should also be sorta good, don't you think? If you disagree with me, that's fine, but how many Russian Artists who did not emigrate to the west during the cold war can you name? What about some contemporary Cuban Artists? Now instead of using a friggin peer jury process (if all the peers are mediocre what are you gonna get? Rubber Biscuit?) what about giving out cash to needy organizations only in the beginning? Say three years, if by then the artist, or organization hadn't figured out how to make it work in a commercial sense then they gotta find something else? Then to make it fair, only every third application received would be accepted. Betcha right darn quick there'd be some Canadian Quebecois artist making a splash internationally. Isn't that how they make films here?

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