Saturday, November 28, 2009

Emerging artist

This word "emerging" has been used to describe artists with greying hairs, adolescents with pimples, at the extremes. This word has been an excuse to present mediocre artists and add a zero at the end of the price of their productions.

"Emerging" has been misused. Art dealers, gallerists have been implying that the artist has a future when they use this word. Emerging means: nascent, beginning, being born.

So many artists have been introduced by galleries to never reappear, swallowed in the oblivion of time. "Emerging artist" has become another slogan.

Galleries should describe their goals, their missions instead of considering the viewers as fishes they can catch with a word they think is a good bait.
photograph by the author

Thursday, November 26, 2009

living sculpture

The artist Laurent Tixador was living in the cubicle for four days during the FIAC, according to the sign near the sculpture called "Jumping Beans."
I did not detect any sign of life when looking at it in the "Jardin des Tuileries" near "Le Louvre".

The crowd was very interested and made comments like: "How is he going to the bathroom?"
or "How did he get there?"

And I asked myself : "Should we judge a piece of art by the comments it brings from the viewers?" If we did, this sculpture would be an F .

I also asked myself: "What is the purpose of this? Will the artist emerge and be enlighten and produce the most interesting piece of art of his career after meditating four days ?"

What is the statement of this sculpture? The artist places himself above us and from his height judges his viewers. The ironwork makes it appear almost like a prison where the artist isolates himself. Is he trying to protect himself from the world?
The artist is inaccessible.

I read about another artist in Japan who is living a whole year in a cell.
I forgot his name.

The artist was enclosed in his version of an "ivory tower".

I am curious to see what the artist is going to produce next...

photograph by the author

Monday, November 23, 2009

The art world

I just read a book "Seven Days in the Art World." by Sarah Thornton.

The seven days cover one subject per day: The Auction, The Crit, The Fair, The Prize, The Magazine, The Studio Visit, The Biennale.

The author is educated in Sociology and Art History.
She is obviously well connected and allows us to participate in the life of well known characters, for a few hours.

Her writing is fast, witty, fun to read. She uses some cynicism to describe the food-chain of the art world.

It is an informative and entertaining book that can be read in less than 7 hours.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The auction

ARTDOCS is a non profit organization in New Orleans since 1999, geared toward bringing free medical care for artists who cannot afford health insurance.
The annual art auction was held at the Hefler warehouse on Magazine Street ( New Orleans) in the evening last Thursday.

I went to the auction, as a spectator, but learned a lot from the experience.
Most of the art was donated by local artists or local galleries.
This is New Orleans, as we were perusing through the art before the auction started, there was music, free food and drinks (for a nominal fee at the entrance) all offered graciously by local restaurants and the local brewery.

The crowd was very cheerful. Nobody was there for serious business but in the true spirit of New Orleans, people came to have a good time and help a good cause.

This is what I learned:

- Do your homework. This appears obvious, and I thought I had done so... till I was surrounded by more than 70 pieces of art and that many artists names. I had gone through the lots which were available for viewing on the Internet, but it was overwhelming to be surrounded by all of them.

I should have selected a few pieces, do some research on Artprice or other site and decided how much I was willing to spend on each.

- Next is evaluating the condition of the work. One panel in acrylic was damaged and this would not have been obvious on the Internet (some people were bidding on the phone).

-Arrive early. I did and I was able to select a seat in the middle of the room, in front of the stage, but I decided to wander around. Later, I had to stand on the side...and missed a bid.

-Eat well, and even have some coffee, make sure you took care of all your natural needs for the next three hours.

-Unless you are really interested in a piece to be sold in the first half hour, try to hold your bidding till the last part, of the auction. There is a palpable fatigue of the bidders who are very enthusiastic at the start and then "are done".

What happened to me that evening: sloppy research, did bid on one piece but this was not aknowledged because I was not aggressive enough and not well situated, the auctionner did not see me.
I left early with a big part of the crowd because I had to work the following day.
I missed some interesting work, but it was my first auction.

CAUTION: this activity could be addicting.

Monday, November 9, 2009


During my recent trip to Paris, I went to Centre Pompidou to see the retrospective about Pierre Soulages, opened till March 8th 2010. The paintings were representing a period from 1946 till 2009.

This is an exhibition not to miss if visiting Paris.
(photographs were not allowed, the photograph on the left was made at the FIAC).

Going through the rooms, one can appreciate the artist's different periods. His uniqueness stays as a lasting impression.

Pierre Soulages is known to use the whole range of the color black and I never thought so much could be told with one color and it could become so many colors. (as opposed to Yves Klein who created one color, the "International Klein Blue").

The succession of paintings help us follow the path of the artist.
The first pieces are like an alphabet. He is experimenting. The paintings are flat, strokes of brushes. Then he develops volumes, depth. They become a whole language and send us messages.

Soulages works on the color black till it becomes alive, threatening at times and creates mystery. When using other colors, it is only to underline the color black and make it blacker.

On some of the later paintings, the surface of the canvass is covered with a thick coat of paint which is then sculptured with some tool, most likely a knife. The lines are simple, but the black becomes the light it reflects.

The space is well used and even with the crowd going by, one can sit in the middle of the room and enjoy this very special moment when the viewer can feel totally immersed in the work.

One room is mysterious, like a place where a special event is taking place: the spectator is in the dark and the black painting is shining, light in the dark. This is when we understand the term "outre-noir" (beyond black) created by Soulages.

In the last rooms, black panels are hanging from ceiling to floor and I do not appreciate this period as much: the black is dull, the panels flat...too japanese.

The exhibition is well researched, showing the different periods of the painter. It is on the top floor of the Centre Pompidou, and the view is breathtaking, even when it rains.

This work is emotionally, intellectually, philosophically enlightening. There is before and after this exhibition.

A lot has been written about Soulages and his art, but I will quote him:
"C'est ce que je fais qui m'apprend ce que je cherche." ( "It is what I do which teaches me what I am looking for.")

"The reality of a work is the three way relationship it establishes between the thing that it is, the painter who made it and the viewer who sees it."

I felt privileged to be the viewer in this three way relationship.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

This is the question

Why art?

"Art represents the highest task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life".

"The Birth of Tragedy" Nietzsche.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The triangle

Since my return, I had a lot of thoughts about the role of the viewer, the spectator, the "amateur d'art". It appears to me that in the triangle artist-work of art-viewer, the viewer's role is increasing recently. Academic art is art to be admired. Abstract art engages the viewer. He/she has to project himself/herself in the piece of art.

Is there art without a viewer?
The extreme is making art just to engage the viewer and "look at the reaction". This becomes the only purpose of art: to provoke the spectator who ultimately creates the message. At the theater, the actors stand motionless on the scene and the spectators reaction becomes the play. At the FIAC, I overheard an artist walking by, who had a heated discussion with another: "I just did this piece to see people's reaction ".
A painting becomes a mirror for the viewer.