Friday, June 24, 2011

Ken Johnson review of the Lee Ufan exibition at the Guggenheim: A Fine Line: Style or Philosophy?
...A much published philosopher as well as an artist who divides his time between Japan and Paris, Mr. Lee has enjoyed considerable recognition in Europe and in the Far East. Last year the Lee Ufan Museum, a building designed by Tadao Ando, opened on the island of Naoshima, Japan.

But Mr. Lee’s reputation has not extended to the United States. This exhibition, his first in a North American museum, gives a sense of why. His art is impeccably elegant, but in its always near-perfect composure, it teeters between art and décor.
Soren Melikian in the IHT: When Catalog Descriptions Dictate Value
LONDON— An entirely new approach is determining buyers’ decisions at auction. Abstract considerations such as the artist’s name or the previous owners’ celebrity are now the prevalent criteria, while visual achievement becomes almost irrelevant. At this week’s sales of Impressionist and modern art, this had a dramatic impact on prices.

Christie’s experts, vividly aware of the changing attitudes in the constituency they cater to, cleverly pressed all the right buttons in their catalog presentation.

The estate of Ernst Beyeler, one of the most influential 20th-century art dealers, had consigned 41 works of art ranging from Impressionism to post-World War II avant-garde movements. The proceeds of the sale were to benefit the Beyeler Foundation set up by Mr. Beyeler in his hometown, Basel. The museum, erected in Riehen, needed the cash to finance its exhibitions program and its acquisitions fund.

Christie’s made sure that the Beyeler theme, spun in reverential tones, was widely dealt with in the media. Potential buyers were made to feel that acquiring a Beyeler picture amounted to securing a badge of cultural honor.

It worked brilliantly right from lot one, a 17th-century Spanish trestle table that Mr. Beyeler used as a desk in his office until his death in 2010. The printed estimate for the table was £8,000 to £12,000, or $12,000 to $18,000 plus the sale charge. It ended up at £289,500 — setting a world auction record for banal Spanish provincial furniture.

This kind of fetishism sent many of the 41 pieces of Beyeler memorabilia to levels that bore little relationship to the art.

...Picasso’s “Couple, Le Baiser” dated Nov. 28, 1969, so sloppily dashed off that it seemed hopeless, realized £6.53 million, courtesy of a lone telephone bidder.

...The corollary of the almost exclusive attention now accorded to abstract considerations is that the most beautiful pictures often fetch comparatively modest prices. Cézanne's “La rivière,” a pure masterpiece of 1881, made only £2.5 million.
Not "an entirely "new approach" but it's gotten worse. Monet's are worth more than Cezannes because they're prettier, not more important. Markets are based on greed and desire for what others desire. Scarcity means "insufficient for the demand": outside of necessities the application becomes fluid. That a Bernini modello sells for a fifth of the auction price of a Giacometti is both predictable and absurd (so therefore not).

I was talking to video editing tech yesterday about the new Final Cut X and he said what Apple has been dumbing down their product line because they make more money in the mass market than the market for professionals. Towers now have slower processors than IMacs and with the new changes in Final Cut professionals are talking about going back to Avid.


Craft is a social activity. Craftsmen take pride in their abilities, defined as something other than acquiring wealth, because their audience respects them for their skills and at their best for their refusal to pander. The integrity of craftsmen relates to the integrity of those who respond to them. Structural integrity is "the state of being whole, the condition of being unified, unimpaired, or sound in construction." But this isn't absolute, since absolute integrity would mean indifference, so the result is a divided consciousness, integral but looking outward. And the relation of craftsmen to their craft and to their audience becomes the model for lawyers' relation to their clients and the bar, and by extension again of individuals to one another: loyal to themselves but responsive to others. Laws are formal in the sense that democracy is formal, and structural integrity becomes a form of moral integrity. The rule of law is the acceptance by individuals of their being bound by social process and through that to each other.

John Quiggin: You say you want a revolution
As promised in my previous post, I’m setting up a separate thread for discussion of my premise that a socialist revolution is neither feasible nor desirable. ...

Update: I’ve updated to link to the earlier post remove an unjustifiably snarky reference to aristocratic sentiment and to include a para from the previous post, on situations where revolutions are likely to turn out well.
the offending paragraph:
At a deeper level, the appeal of revolution has a substantial residue of aristocratic sentiment. In the course of the last 200 years, and even allowing for the defeats of the past 20 years or so, the achievements of the Left have been impressive, starting with universal suffrage and secret ballots, going on the creation of the welfare state, continuing with progress towards equality without regard to race, gender and sexuality, preserving the environment from the disastrous impact of industrialism and so on. Yet most of this progress has been achieved in a thoroughly bourgeois fashion, through long agitation, boring committee reports and so on. Gains that are ground out in this way, with two steps forward and one step back, are not noble enough for an aristocratic sensibility: far better to fail gloriously.
The logic of bourgeois liberalism, and liberal intellectualism specifically, results in the monetizing of all social relations. Desire is simplified in the interest of clarity and the interest of self-interest: Apple, no matter how successful, is doing what it "needs to" or "should" do. Methodological and ideological individualism are born twins, one of the reasons that modern art, as modern craft, even in its most radical (leftist) moments, is shaded by the sentiments of equally anti-bourgeois aristocratic conservatives. But as technocrats have become the new aristocrats aristocratic art has divided into the decadence of luxury and the decadence of technocratic scholasticism. It's left for the majority as bourgeois, as even the working class define themselves now, to argue for craft, for sociability and for "the social" against technocrats, philosophers, and the defenders of the false aristocracy of economic oligarchy.

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