Monday, December 27, 2004

Behind the scenes


Since an awful lot of people seem to be all atwitter about Art in America publishing a 782 word sidebar about Art Blogs, I thought I might write something similar about the Art Blogs, I read. But then I thought about it again, and said to myself, "naw, I'll wait for a rainy day." So instead of that, there's this. [For those of you who are disappointed by my decision, ArtTwit is amazing, and Mike Patten is wonderful.]

For the past little while I've been compiling a bunch of articles that deal with the Art World without discussing the actual art in any great detail. Sort of like reading the business pages of the newspaper. In my mind that's where all the meat happens.

Back at the begining of December the Field Museum sold 34 paintings of 19th Century Western art for $17.4 million. The thing that made me sit up and take notice was that the bulk of the paintings were by George Catlin, who according to the article "painted during his travels in the American frontier in the 1830s." If my memory is correct, very similar to what the Group of Seven did on this side of the border about 80 years later. The selling price averages out to a little bit more than $500,000/per painting, which strikes me as reasonable for what they are. However, on this side of the border, for a variety of reasons the Go7 grabs disproportionately more headlines anytime a painting of theirs gets sold.

Then, a couple of days later, Lily Koppel anticipating the year-end frenzy of remembrances wrote about what had happened to the prices of the art by Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Helmut Newton since their deaths. With the most interesting tidbit being, that the "Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco, which has the largest inventory of Avedon's work, has temporarily suspended sales" and "The Helmut Newton Foundation has not released anything since Newton's death." So it looks like (from this tiny sample size) that Death as a Career Move, can be aided infinitely if there is one person or organization who can benefit immensely and control the market. Remember that when you're writing up your will, ok?

And continuing on, I think I was reading Carolyn Zick's blog ('cuz she's the only Seattleite on my blogroll) when she pointed out that there had been two articles (one, two) about Seattle's inability to get good Arts Administrators to hang out for any length of time, and that was one of the reasons why Seattle did not have such a kick-ass art scene. Which, if read together with these articles (one, two, three) and combined with this quote from Marc Mayer:
Government doesn't make culture, but good government generously finances the infrastructure that gives culture an opportunity to breath, to grow, and to serve the public's need for it.
does not give me great hope for Quebec becoming the next hotbed of Contemporary Art. As I mentioned in the interview, I am not a big fan of throwing money willy-nilly at a problem in order to make it go away.

But, all is not doom and gloom, I discovered that there is a new-to-me museum in Trois Rivières. The Musée québécois de culture populaire, which is not all about things Kétaine.

But since I am writing about doom and gloom, we can't forget what happened to the erl gallery owners. Where it appears that they weren't so hot in arts business management (maybe they should move to Seattle) and as a consequence annoyed the heck out of a bunch of people who are now suing them. But that's a whole lot better than the fate that awaits the owners of the Exclusive Art gallery. They got convicted.

Then finally, I'm a tad disappointed that I don't live in NYC, the latest attempts by the National Arts Club to pump some fresh blood into its aging ranks looks like they're fun.

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