Friday, September 02, 2005

Guest Art Rant

As I'm having a minibreak down the coast for a few days I thought I'd leave something to read with teeth, and maybe provoke a little bit of discussion.

I received this rant as part of my regular Gallery 451 Digest. I love getting these emails because it's an avenue for very outspoken political lefty artists (and others) from Australia and the USA to send each other stuff that normally doesn't get distributed. I'm not a very political animal, can't argue for quids, but I do enjoy reading reading/ listening to others out of the mainstream, which is why I hang at LP a lot. A lot of the stuff that comes through in the Digest is very provocative, others are very funny. If you would like a taste of Lawrence & friends at Gallery 451, just press here and follow the instructions.

This message was entitled "Imagine being trapped in hell, with morons and bad art thrusting at you". I like it because it can apply to many of the art fairs that gather in large public venues, like the recent Sydney Works on Paper fair. See what you think. Leave me an opinion, if you have one, on the state of Australian Art, and give me something to read when I return.

Here's some of the things I think: everyone should be buying good emerging art rather than those horrible framed 'classic' posters that you buy in framing shops. You should buy art because you actually like the image, rather than because of its potential investment value. Dealers should take more risks with young artists. I found at the Works on Paper fair that all the big dealers were selling the same old tired names, often all of them selling the same artists, just different works. I think original prints should be taken more seriously than they are, and that basic printmaking techniques should still be taught rather than getting print students to play with digital images (which is something they can do in their bedrooms with a computer). I think more galleries should show artist's books.

But that's just me. What do you think? Anyway, here's what Lawrence thinks:


On a totally different note from the usual political banter and getting to the actual topic that the list was created for, which is Art. I went to the Sydney Affordable Art Show last night and think that its worth noting that the $80,000.00 James Gleeson painting is probably not so affordable (the show price cap is supposed to be $5,000.00 which isn't really that affordable for me either).

This year they have divided the show into 2 halls which I will call the ARTS & CRAPS hall, and the Wanker Gallery Hall (which I must admit had at least some interesting work and in reality has the pompous title of 'the collectors hall' -- sort of an off hand admission that the arts and craps hall
really is a bit shit and that those who buy work there are retarded). My impression aside, it all seems a bit pretentous...

So starting on the Arts & Craps hall, which mostly consisted of commercial art that was technically and aesthetically unpleasant (lots of gold paint, spangles, textured sand painting and abstraction to disguise the inability of the artist to draw figuratively).

The work in that hall was an absolute shocker, consisting of photorealism, cars and pictures of GURLS in a state of undress. Many Suits were seen to be carrying away their booty so I guess that work was selling. I've never believed that because something sells it is necessarily good or because it
doesn't sell that it is not good. There was a lot of third-rate national geographic styled pictures of whales mating and all that sort of thing.

Without sounding too much like a snob, it was interesting to note the quality of work (or the lack thereof) and those who were buying it (who were mostly Suits who, judging by their purchases must have failed art appreciation at school). I can hear the chorus of "I like it and think that the
artist is very talented". Sad pricks.

If that was the whole show and I was to judge it on that then it would be fair to say that Art in Australia is on Death Row and that I for one would like to pull the switch and pass the final volts through its mangled, retarded and disfigured body...

But then I found the second hall, called the collectors room (formerly the
wankers room) where "Top galleries such as Rex Irwin, Tim Olsen and Connie Dietzschold can market works that can range in value beyond the $5,000.00 price ceiling that exists for exhibitors in a majority of the show." Obviously they didn't have to twist the show's organisers arms too hard
to get that price waiver... This is a commercial production and it is about money, not
art, not culture and mostly not about quality.

The collectors room was filled with a lot of pompous looking twats who had a similar hunted, angsty, sell-their-mothers-for-a-dollar, swap-their-sisters-for-a-camel look in their eyes. This was the night that all the comp tickets given out by the galleries to their best clients got along for free to the show (my ticket came that way too!). So you would expect a bunch of stuck up Sydney
wannabes high on art and pretension. I wasn't disappointed there.

The quality of work in the "collectors room" however was clearly more developed and more interesting than the Arts and Craps room. Obviously it is hard to attack the work of Lucian Freud, Matisse, Escher (not sure which room his work was in, or Rembrandt). Aside from the 'masters', there was work from lesser known souls which even if it doesn't fulfil the needs of personal taste, you could discern that the artist had a developed aesthetic, and technique and were obviously on their own sincere and somewhat talented trip. There wasn't a lot of it though.

For the admission price, given the sparcity of respectable works, MY ADVICE IS TO SAVE YOUR TICKET PRICE FOR A COFFEE and go for a jaunt around the galleries in Paddington, Redfern, Surry Hills and Newtown on a sunny Saturday or a series of Saturdays... Both are to some degree pot luck but I think that hunting the galleries is a far more worth-while endeavour than the 'Affordable' Art Show...


FuschiaReads said...

I have never understood the art/money debate either. I think that art as investment is a terrible thing as art is (to me anyway) about beauty and truth and things like that, not delivering to your stockholders. My daughter goes to art class at our local art gallery once a week which is great as we also get to see the regular exhibitions. I have always told my children that art is personal and if a work makes you feel something - good or bad - or makes you think or feel different thoughts "take you outside yourself" etc then it is good art. I want pictures on my wall that bring joy and beauty into my life. The only time money should be brought into the discussion is the appalling way sports gets such support - monetary etc - and the arts don't. Then there should be more money!!

Guy said...

I think the admission fee is a right ripoff and the main reason I did me and my partner did not go this year.

My partner is into Aboriginal art and last year she got a pretty good bargain from there, and that's why she was keen to go back. In other words, I think it depends on the sort of art that you like.

Lucy Tartan said...

I went to last year's Affordable Art show in Melbourne and I totally sympathise with everything your guest ranter says. At the same time, I walked away feeling a bit dirty for having sniggered and scoffed so much at some of the appalling stuff for sale and also at the people who were lapping it up / buying it. Why shouldn't they buy stuff they like & hang it on their own walls? Why should they be expected to go through channels that are not easy user-friendly for people not initiated into the White Cube / black skivvy cult? I'm being a bit facetious, but not entirely. The model of the home show / expo is what makes the Affordable Art show attractive to many people, not perhaps the quality and let's say the genre of the art offered there. Of course you're right there's nothing sadder than the framed posters from Freedom Furniture and the framing shop, but Then again, there's a whole other layer of issues to do with white urban dealers selling indigenous art, through Dorian's work we know a number of indigenous art dealers & there's a some mighty unscrupulous characters in that biz, and some decent ones too of course.

I think that buying & selling of art solely as an investment - with no interest at all in the object itself - is really sad and a quite disgusting - but I don't agree at all that fine art should be considered as above & separate from commerce, because that's what leads to it being mystified and ghettoised in (perceived as) snooty galleries.

If people feel (subconsciously) that to buy an original print they have to navigate a supercilious and hushed High Culture gallery, where only people who are knowledgeable about art go and where the work is priced accordibg to Art scale rather than Interior Decoration scale, where it's not even clear how you actually pay for the piece you want, they won't even think of going there. The sad thing is that most print galleries in particular aren't like that, and once you're there, it's too easy to find beautiful prints you love which are comparable in price to big framed reproductions of masterpieces.

Sorry for the rambling comment, I got a bit carried away...