Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In


November 27, 2007
From a comment (thank you!) under my post below, “Light Fantastic” about Jenny Holzer’s projection piece at Mass MoCA, I learned that you can access a live feed from it here, which is very cool. And before you go see the actual piece, you might want to check that site, because last weekend friends made the trip from Catskill, NY, only to find out that it wasn’t working that day.
November 25, 2007

My father was an engineer who not only was able to fix anything, he could answer almost any technical question, and did--so thoroughly that you didn’t want to ask him something like, “How do televisions work?” if you had somewhere to go later. Because my brother is the same way, I grew up thinking these were universal male traits, only to be sadly disappointed when I reached adulthood. Now that my brother is only available by email (although full of wisdom should I ask) there's no one around—like here in this room—who can give me the answers I want right now. That’s why I find reading Rule the Web, by Mark Frauenfelder, oddly comforting, the way other people might feel eating an apple pie that tastes just like their mother's. Basically the book tells you everything you ever wanted to know about using the Internet, with the information presented in the form of questions organized around various topics (Searching and Browsing, Shopping and Selling, Media and Entertainment, etc.). Like my father, Frauenfelder is careful not to make you feel stupid if you don’t already know the answer, and I'm guessing that there’s stuff in here even my brother doesn’t know. Anyway, I just started reading it and already I found a former colleague’s telephone number on (I long ago gave up using telephone books or directory assistance, but those online white pages are often inadequate) and ordered a year’s worth of Vanity Fair on eBay (who knew they sold magazine subscriptions?) for $7.99.

And I'll add my own tip, too new for Frauenfelder's book:, a not-for-profit site that makes it easy to take your land address off retailer's lists and bring an end to the pounds of unwanted catalogs that come in the mail every day.
November 22, 2007

One thing to be grateful for in our wacked-out world is that music is better than ever. So forget the parade, the biggest cultural event of my Thanksgiving Day will be listening to Gorillaz' D-Sides, the just-released double compilation of B-sides, remixes, and extra tracks, guaranteed to make you dance around the house no matter how grey it is outside. Listen to the gorgeous Hong Kong here, where Damon Albarn croons David Bowie-style (“you swallow me, I’m just a pill on your tongue”) accompanied by a Chinese harp. I read that he recorded it in Hong Kong, too.
November 18, 2007
In the post below about Jenny Holzer, I noted that the artist underwrote some of the costs of the exhibition, which on the face of it seems laudatory and in this case, where Mass MoCA was brought up short by the Buchel debacle, it no doubt is. However what kind of precedent does it set? An article in the New York Times today, entitled "Museums Solicit Dealers’ Largess," focuses on the now common practice of galleries contributing to the exhibition costs of publicly funded museums when their artists are featured, yet another example of commerce having an influence on the art we see.
November 18, 2007
An unexpected outcome of the Buchel debacle (say “Buchel debacle” ten times) at Mass MoCA, is that the institution now has the best exhibition in its decade-long history: Jenny Holzer’s first interior light projection project in the U.S. Entitled, appropriately, Projections, it'll be on view for nearly a year. Director Joe Thompson told us last night at the opening that Holzer called and asked, “Is there anything I can do to help?” volunteering to step in and even offering to cover the cost of very expensive projection equipment--with lamps so bright, Thompson said, that they could even project on the mountains that surround the museum. Here Holzer's signature light projections fill Mass MoCA's humongous main gallery, playing over walls, ceilings, floors and visitors, who can flop on giant grey beanbags and take it all in. When the art world was small, it was possible for artists to see everything of importance and react to it in one way or another. Now that it’s global and dispersed, no one can see everything and we’re going in a million different directions at once. That could be good—who knows?—but it limits the conversation. Therefore I think works such as this, which can be experienced by thousands, or even millions, of people, are the most significant for our culture--and this is the most exciting I’ve seen since Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Gates and Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project at the Tate Modern.

November 16, 2007
Calvin Tomkins is back in the November 12th issue of The New Yorker with a profile of art power broker Jeffrey Deitch. Again it’s all about the question, who defines the art of our age? Now it's clearly the collectors. I wonder, however, when has commerce ever determined great art? People talk about how patrons used to commission artists, as if that were comparable, but Lorenzo de Medici wasn’t into Michelangelo for his resale value.

One reason the market has taken over, in the opinions of Deitch and others, is that critics and museum curators no longer clarify and define the main currents in recent art. In the nineteen-fifties, when hardly anybody was buying contemporary art, a handful of influential critics (Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and one or two others) told us which artists mattered. The sixties changed that. Pop art, minimalist art, and a host of other developments caught the critics off guard, and for a decade or more the artists filled the critic’s role; Leo Castelli and other leading dealers made decisions mainly by listening to artists. Increasingly, though, auction houses, with their slick marketing techniques, were becoming the primary arbiters of quality. “I know a lot of collectors who look to the auction catalogues to define contemporary art today,” Deitch said recently. “The museums are not really articulating this in a coherent way. The market provides the structure, and when you ask who are the major artists, it’s basically, “What are the prices?”….

…A few weeks ago, over dinner in New York, I asked Deitch if he though that contemporary art was good enough to justify the astonishing prices being paid for it. “But that’s a question I wanted to ask you!” he said.

Here Tomkins truly drops the ball. Of course Deitch thinks this is a Golden Age, comparable to “the sixties, the forties, or the years around 1910” but what does Tomkins think? He never tells us, which makes him complicit in the whole scenario. Here is one of the best art writers of our time, who’s observed the scene for nearly fifty years, and he’s holding back? Why? Is it to keep the favor of his sources? Why has what we really think become such a desperately held secret?
November 15, 2007
The other day at the Metro North station a six-year-old boy was pointing out a little splat of throw-up on the platform to anyone and everyone and I thought, “That must be the editor of Time Out/New York.”

How did I miss this one in my house-tidying phase? The “Animal Issue—From Awwww to Ewwww” (Sept. 27-Oct. 3) with such features as:

Beastly Does it—Betcha can’t guess which animal species has the biggest johnson of all!

Varmint District—Roaches, rats, pigeons and squirrels: How do they spend their time?

Pest Side Story—Squeamish types, you’ll love this, we promise! Keep a barf bag handy.

I am not making this up! Are there really no more artists, musicians, dancers, poets, film makers or fashion designers left in the city to write about? I guess not. It’s all developers and rats.