Around the Art World in Six Minutes
An artistic treasure hunt and more essential art world news to start your week.
The Profile: “I saw this blue glow on the screen before the actual image came up, something in my brain said I’d be doing this all my life,” says eminent video artist Bill Viola about the first time he turned on a video camera in Nicholas Wroe’s excellent look back at the artist’s career in the Guardian. Published to coincide with the unveiling of Viola’s long-term installation Martyrs (2014) at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London last week. Wroe gives the gist of the piece, but Viola’s early years are of more pointed interest: “There was this sense back then of all these big green pastures filled with different things: painting and sculpture, film, photography. And then we came along with our videos, which everyone else thought were toys, and we found a pasture that didn’t have a lock on the gate and we just walked in. It was empty as far as the eye could see and you could stay for as long as you liked and do whatever you liked. That was our new field, and that was my career.”
The Market Feature: Long derided in art world circles as America’s king of kitsch, Norman Rockwell is finally gaining critical acclaim. That is, according to James B. Stewart, who took to the New York Times’ business section to pen a celebratory report on the artist’s growing market. The numbers may be sound: Saying Grace (1951) sold for $46 million at Sotheby’s last December; After the Prom (1957) fetched $9.1 million at Sotheby’s, and The Rookie (1957) brought $22.5 million at Christie’s (both last week). But, the former half of Stewart’s thesis, “Rockwell is now undergoing a major critical and financial reappraisal,” might need some revision. The “critics” he consults could hardly be considered impartial—one recently published a biography of the artist, two are auction house specialists, and the fourth directs the Rockwell museum. And that the turning point in this “art world recognition,” is predicated on record attendance numbers at Rockwell’s 2001 Guggenheim show is an oversight of the purpose of museum blockbusters at best, of the dangers of populous-pleasing kitsch at worst.
The Behind-the-Scenes Feature: Want to go on a treasure hunt for art by the likes of Marina Abramovic and Ed Ruscha? Buy a map created by curator Nadim Samman (being auctioned to support shark conservation) and head to the storied treasure island of Isla del Coco. In the Guardian, Samman published a diary of his harrowing journey to one of the world’s most remote locales. (Project patron and founder of TBA21 Francesca von Habsburg and a group of the participating artists also joined.) “As we are taken rather too close to rocks by the churning waves, I wonder how many pirates landed on Coco this way. Perhaps the only place in the world where treasure-hunting is explicitly illegal, the island’s jungle interior guards some enticing loot,” he writes. (More images and anecdotes can be found on the TBA21-Academy’s Facebook page).
The Interview: On the occasion of his retrospective at the Hepworth Wakefield museum, the Independent spoke with American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia, focusing on the artist’s most controversial series such as Hustlers, for which he paid male prostitutes in LA to pose. “I never went home with them; I never really knew anything about them. The whole relationship started and ended in a couple of hours. There was money exchanged and that was, I think, within the photographic community, criticized,” he says. The series is also on view at Berlin’s Sprüth Magers through June 21.
The WTF: Sunday painters have just slipped one rung further down the art world ladder. Meet a wholly new form of amateur artist: the Sunday conceptualist. At South America’s most-visited art fair ArteBA, which came to a close on Sunday, Alberto Echegaray Guevara a.k.a. Cayman’s inflation-critical piece featuring 11 spheres stuffed with a million Argentine pesos each and one, sliver-belted sphere filled with $1 million (roughly the dollar equivalent) grabbed the most hype. But Guevara is no professional artist. He’s the CEO of a biotech firm, a regular commentator for CNN, and a former advisor to Argentina’s former economy minister, Domingo Cavallo, who pegged the peso to the dollar form 1991-2001.
The Extra-Curricular: What’s the next dominant university for art’s education? At least in terms of investment, Stanford. The school is known more for its Silicon Valley pleasing power in computer engineering. But over the past 10 years it has also sunk $227 million into new facilities for the arts as well as exhibition and performance venues, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Sam Whiting reports in this great piece about the soon to open Stanford Arts District. “Just one thing is lacking: students majoring in art and art history,” Whiting writes. “Among 6,980 undergraduates, 49 percent have declared majors, and just 3 percent have declared art.” That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of willing amateurs to use the University’s facilities. They’re just more concerned with getting “real jobs” in order to make “real money,” photo professor Robert Dawson says.
The Video: Spending your Memorial Day Weekend wistfully recalling the aerosol-fueled month of Banksy’s New York residency this past October? Probably not. But, just in case, the artist posted a look back at his greatest achievements during his Stateside stay, presented instead of an acceptance speech for his Webby Award win last week. The goofy voice-over of a man pretending to be Banksy is funny enough to warrant a watch.
The Eye Candy: The Museum of New Mexico has just released a new book cataloguing pinhole photography’s best, as highlighted in this slideshow at the LA Times. The book was compiled by pinhole aficionado Eric Renner—he has run a journal of the photos since 1985—and his wife Nancy Spencer, who began co-editing the Pinhole Journal with him in 1989. The duo have collected 6,000 images by 500 artists over the period, 200 of which are also currently on view at the museum through March of next year.
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