Ben Davis’s 10 Must-Read Art Essays From October 2015

Jen Graves on Paul Allen, and more.

Esther Honig's Before & After project
Esther Honig's Before & After project

Going Viral: Losing Control and Losing Your Job” by Esther Honig, Pelican Bomb
This is the kind of hidden gem that makes me enjoy writing this column. Last year, Esther Honig’s project Before & After blew up online, landing her on the Today Show, Buzzfeed, and far, far beyond. She offers her first-person account of what “going viral” means for an artist and why it might not be such a great thing after all.

The New Reserve Currency for the World’s Rich is Not Actually Currency” by Marion Maneker, Quartz
The Art Market Monitor’s Marion Maneker makes an argument that soaring auction results reflect the fact that “art is now viewed by the very rich as an alternative currency.” One to argue about with armchair economists.

Outside Ourselves: Thoughts on Contemporary Art, Motivated by an Egg” by Kerr Houston, BMoreArt
From the excellent Baltimore-based website BMoreArt, a rejoinder to the inexplicably popular recent Michael Lewis think piece in Commentary, “How Art Become Irrelevant.”

The Seattle Art Fair, founded by Paul Allen

The Seattle Art Fair, founded by Paul Allen
Image: Courtesy Vulcan

Paul Allen Gives to Arts with One Hand but Takes Away With the Other” by Jen Graves, The Stranger
What happens when the most reliable arts philanthropist in town decides he’d rather fund his own flashy initiatives instead? Jen Graves investigates “entrepreneurial ADD” via the case of Paul Allen, who seems to have ditched funding small non-profits to start the Seattle Art Fair and his new Pivot space.

The Politics of Bad Art” by Barry Schwabsky, The Nation
The specific target of this broadside is the very-influential, very-dour Harvard scholar Benjamin H.D. Buchloh. But Schwabsky’s charge—that Buchloh’s new book, Formalism and Historicity, amounts to “a politicism without politics”—really addresses a much, much wider art-theory tendency that’s worth reckoning with.

SCUM (Segregated Communities and Upward Mobility): A State-of-the-Arts Manifesto with 10 Points to Improve the Visual Art Scene” by Rebekah Kirkman and Maura Callahan, The City Paper
More from Baltimore! The essay begins as a declaration that the “New York art dream is dead” and grows into a substantial assessment on what Baltimore offers instead, what it doesn’t, and how the city might realize its potential.

Sarah Schultz, Crimson Rose, and Edward Winkleman discussing ArtPrize on WoodTV

Sarah Schultz, Crimson Rose, and Edward Winkleman discussing ArtPrize on WoodTV, with ArtPrize’s director of exhibitions Kevin Buist and director of creative communications Todd Herring
Image: Courtesy WoodTV

Thoughts on Profitability and Accessibility” by Ed Winkleman, EdWinkleman.com
Winkleman is always thoughtful, and here he asks whether the strange rise of populist art competition ArtPrize can offer any useful lessons for dealers faced with the decline of “middle-market” art collectors.

Martin Kippenberger posters in "Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective" at the Museum of Modern Art<br>Photo: Courtesy Walter Robinson

Martin Kippenberger posters in “Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective” at the Museum of Modern Art
Photo: Courtesy Walter Robinson

Total Service Artists” by Raphael Rubinstein, Art in America
Putting a name on some percolations in contemporary art via the notion of the “total service artist,” a term originally used to describe Martin Kippenberger’s maniacal drive to self-design every aspect of both his life and art, and all the connecting tissue between the two.

Frank Benson's sculpture of Juliana Huxtable in the New M Museum

Frank Benson’s sculpture of Juliana Huxtable in the New Museum Triennial
Image: Ben Davis

Translating the Self” by Juliet Jacques, Frieze
Jacques traces the lineages for the new wave of artists exploring gender identity, but circles back to the present to consider ways in which “[i]ndividual and collective concerns can have a symbiotic relationship” in works like Juliana, Frank Benson’s much-photographed homage to artist and performer Juliana Huxtable from the recent New Museum Triennial.

Wage Before Beauty” by Andrew Ross, Artforum
With a Guggenheim Abu Dhabi looming ever closer on the horizon, Andrew Ross keeps the focus on the emirate’s well-documented sketchy labor practices, using his own personal story of being banned from the United Arab Emirates as a cautionary tale about what lies ahead.

BONUS:

<em>Spike</em> magazine's Leon Kahane, with Yanis Varoufakis

Artist Leon Kahane with Yanis Varoufakis.
Image: via Spike magazine. Photo by Keren Cytter.

Doing Documenta in Athens is Like Rich Americans Taking a Tour in a Poor African Country: An Interview With Yanis Varoufakis,” Spike
I ordinarily steer clear of interviews for this round-up. But Spike’s score of getting the incendiary former Greek finance minister to comment on Documenta’s upcoming outing in crisis-plagued Athens is just too good not to recommend.


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