Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm still banging my head about Damien Hirst making obscene millions at the Sotheby sale of his latest art pieces.

A piece by Richard Woods at the site TimesOnLine (UK) provided a quote by one of Hirst's early professors.

Richard Wentworth, the sculptor who taught Hirst in the early 1990s at Goldsmith’s College, south London, said: “The art world’s a marketplace, the world is a dosh pit and we’re all in it. We’re coming to the end of a stage in western civilisation of vulgar, vulgar, vulgar. With this sale, Damien has just added one more thing, PS, vulgar!”

As for Hirst’s wealth, Wentworth said: “It’s sweet. It’s like a little boy stamping down the street, yelling, ‘I’m worth a billion dollars’.”

I had to go to to get a meaning for dosh. Sigh. Is it just age? I am sooo out of it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rumblings in the Art World

I haven't really mentioned in this blog that I do art... sometimes ... like when someone guarantees they will pay me for it, as in "on commission". I don't do it very often, mostly for design clients or odd word-of-mouth deals. So I don't really think of myself as a professional artist even though I have been paid for the work. It has always been just a part-time gig, and most of my living has been from design work.

Still, I pay some attention to the happenings in the art world, and so the news of British artist, Damien Hirst's auction at Sotheby's in London sort of caught my eye. Like a frozen mackerel slapping me in the face.

I was sort of stunned by it on a number of levels. But I guess it just points out the obvious, that everything changes. Maybe it is connected with the whole digital, internet revolution from EBAY to Blogs.

Anyway I just was thinking about what bothered me about the sale.

1. I don't love his work, but that is certainly beside the point. If someone wants to put a pickled zebra in their family room, who am I to judge.

2. The raging lefty in me is stunned to see that kind of money spent (ok, invested - I was going to say wasted but that was again a value judgement on the art itself) that way and so publicly. I realize I shouldn't be suprised, after all, I work often for really rich people. And I know I'm picking on one instance, one example, and there are thousands of other ways that exhorbitant amounts of money are concentrated in the hands of just a very few people. But what does that say about our civilization when there is so much misery in the world that goes untreated? I understand that it is difficult to draw a line and say this is enough or that is too much, but is there no end to this black hole of social conscience?

3. Maybe he has issues with his gallery representation, but it still seems pretty smarmy. Galleries are useful (at least they spread the manure around a little bit). Granted if you have ever had your work turned down by a gallery (and I have) you can feel a little "well f*!#@^() y@!*^", and it is true that it seems that they take a large chunk, but try to get Sothby to auction off your work before you are famous. He didn't whip up a reputation just by the virtue of his incredible talent... sour grapes here. Some galleries took a chance to use the space that they rent and paid their employees to try and sell his work so he could eventually become well known enough to dump on them.

4. And the final line in a New York Times article was, "Mr. Dunphy said that while Mr. Hirst wasn’t at Sotheby’s, he was following the results via phone — while playing snooker."

Something tells me I just plain wouldn't like the guy.

End of the World

I just found one of the funniest links I've seen lately.

In case you have been fretting about the Hadron Collider creating a black hole that will destroy earth...

There is a website you can go to and check to see if the earth has been destroyed yet.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Art vs. Economics and Politics

The text concerning this picture starts below at paragraph five. Alas, most of my friends won't bother looking at a post without a picture. I fear we are a group with MSS, magazine scanner syndrome. You get it from spending too much time in line at the grocery store. Then it invades your entire life. Hopefully this print is so tiny that they won't be able to read it, even if they suddenly had the inclination.

So I was thinking about posting on the subject of loans and bailouts. Actually I was going to release a copy of my letter to the US government requesting a meeting to start setting up my own government-backed, bailout loan.

I have been feeling a certain degree of morbid solace as it comes to light that an increasing number of companies managed by some of the finest financial minds in the country are faltering. Until last year I was harboring a certain degree of shame. Perhaps not shame, but certainly kicking myself in the derrière at least once a day for placing too much confidence in the almighty American dollar and real-estate. What do you expect from someone with degrees in art and design? Still, Bush was elected in 2000. It is not as if I had no forewarning whatsoever. (For the French fluent you can picture the cartoon of the guy slapping his own forehead and saying, "quel con, quel con." English translation, "What a naive, stupid, schmuck I was.")

But there is no need to go on with vaguely humorous analogies or even glaring examples of how Americans need to choose between government meddling, Democratic style, or government laissez-faire, Republican style... all of which is boringly familiar to my wacky-left-leaning-friends and just irritates my evil-right-leaning-friends.

Instead I decided to follow Ms. Plumb's lead and post about my artistic kid. Yes, that is singular, as in only one of the mismatched pair. The guy. The girl is not too interested in painting unless it glitters and goes on her fingernails and toenails. (As a barely related side note, I should point out that as a family we feel it is politically OK to accept donations of sparkly jewelry in sizes appropriate for a 4 year old.) But the guy is a dedicated young artist, who speaks eloquently with images on paper.

The example above was an early 2008 piece, Ikea marker on Ikea heavy newsprint. You may note the predominance of green with the occasional, seemingly random placement of red. According to the artist, those marks were actually part of a failed attempt by a jealous little flirt to sabotage his masterpiece. But the substance and force of the subjects with their careful and deliberate rendition remain unfailingly front and center to the viewer's eye.

The narrative which accompanies the piece explains that the larger and predominant figure is non other than myself, his Dad. The second figure slightly smaller, but floating in a semi-exalted position is my partner, boy-friend, whatever, known to the guy as his Alan. If you don't have an Alan, you might think about going out and finding one. They can be quite useful, especially when your Dad is being like the aforementioned schmuck and working on a weekend when he should be out riding bicycles. This may be the reason that his Alan, as the artist points out, has bigger muscles which if you refer back to the artwork are those aspects which the less erudite might perceive as fat legs and little bumps on the shoulders. I have the same little bumps, but on my neck, and I am either one of the less erudite or simply too embarrassed to figure out what those mean.

Last but not least, there is George. Yes, the infamous (a) George mentioned here on earlier posts. Although this representation of George is fairly recent, apparently the artist felt that it was important to show him in his younger incarnation virtually hairless and with a stub of a tail. There is no need to be alarmed. If you look back at pictures of George, you will see that he has a normal and quite substantial pelt with a full-size tail.

I guess that was what you call, artistic license. Come to think of it, that seems to be the way the current US government takes certain economic principles... with artistic license.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oh No, Not Politics

I have to stop reading about the US election on the Internet.

After pieces like op-eds in the New York Times I can't just quit at the end of the article. I am pulled irrepressibly into the comment section and then horrified by the sheer breadth of ignorance and stupidity in the American population. At least I hope it is ignorance and stupidity, because otherwise it translates into such a level of self-centered malfeasance... I don't even know how to describe it. And that is among people that read the NYTimes.

I have to get rid of my AOL account.

After following similar comment threads on pieces filtered through AOL you feel like slitting your wrists. No hope. We should have known better than to say something like “well, whatever happens, it can't be worse than the last 8 years.” I say “we”, I know I am not the only person who has said that.

I have been having this recurring nightmare where I see a man and some sort of horned and reptilian looking adviser discussing options. The one is asking the other what is it he will have to do to assure getting the extreme, religious right to the poles. And the other says “you know what you have to do.” And the one asks, “but exactly how do I get down and kiss the ass of several million people.” And the other points to a picture of a gun toting woman standing over a bloody carcass and says, “choose her to run for vice president.” And in my nightmare, she didn't even have her young daughter standing next to her. It gets worse and worse, but fortunately I always wake up before the whole disastrous future is revealed. Nevertheless, after waking, I'm then completely depressed for the rest of the day.

The only restorative therapy I have found is to read something here and there from people who have a reasonable, rational mind, with a better and more polite way of discussing the subject than I can muster myself. And I am happy to see a number of people who (for good reason) often steer clear of politics stand up and be counted.

I'll start listing a few I really liked, since I know that thousands of people wait on pins and needles to receive my recommendations and opinions...

WCS (I wish I too could sound like someone sincere,stable, and sensible without throwing in all the spurious hyperbole that I am prone to include.)
Dooce (her September 4 post – spurious hyperbole with panache - note: I did not read or contribute to the 2,443 and counting comments – I was way too afraid)
Gail Collins tries to calm us down in the OP-ED column of the NYTimes – well, you expect something sensible from a professional - (skip the comments and resulting depression)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ordinary People

How quickly the blossom fades and falls.
Edges tinged in brown,
trodden by the masses who pass without a glance.

How does the saying go? Better to have been famed and lost, than to never fame at all. No? Whatever, in short, back to the hum-drum life of the nobodies.

It was short, but it was sweet. That extra table suddenly appearing at the impossibly full restaurant. Magically being whisked to the front of the line at the Prefecture. Having the plumber call just to see if he could stop by and make sure everything was in good working order. The salesperson cheerfully and diligently searching the remaining stock of shorts to find your size.

But wouldn't it be nice to be truly famous in France? They love celebrities in France. I remember a French comic making a comment about how the French love equality and privilege. The line brought down the house, but being a newbie at the time, it flew right by me. Young(er), naïve, and virtually French-language-less.

Now it is so obvious, and humorous. Especially when ultra-rich Americans come to France and become indignant that they don't get special treatment. And you have to explain to them that no, it has nothing to do with you being gay, it has nothing to do with you being Jewish, it has nothing to do with you being black, (or oddly enough, all three at the same time). But... you aren't famous. Otherwise they don't care what you are, and especially, they don't care how much money you have. The restaurant closes at 2:30 for everyone... ah, unless, perhaps, if you are a celebrity. With celebrity comes privilege.

But even there, there can be a catch. Not just any celebrity. Discreet, humble, tasteful celebrities have the best chance at that impossible table popping up in the restaurant. A little too flashy, a little too arrogant, and back to the back of the line. (No snide comments about arrogance, we all have our weak points.)

It certainly doesn't hurt to be a Madonna or a George Cloony, but the ultimate spot of privilege in France is reserved for those rare few who are cultured, (tastefully dressed and well read) and famous, but poor. The magic combination. You can still claim to be one of the people.

We've got the poor part down pat. Now we just have to figure out how to get real celebrity status, scrounge up some cool clothes and memorize the names of a bunch of French authors.