Saturday, January 27, 2007


In this week's issue of the Village Voice, Jerry Saltz writes an article titled, Seeing Dollar Signs.

Here is an exerpt from the text that I think is of interest:
Yet we can't ignore the market or just lay back and drink the Kool-Aid. Maybe we should be asking questions such as: Are we sometimes liking things because we know the market likes them or are we really liking them? Do people really believe the kitschy pictures of naked girls with pussy cats by German painter Martin Eder are any good or are buyers simply jumping on the bandwagon because his prices have reached $500,000? When we learn that a newish painting by the second-rate latter-day Neo-Expressionist Marlene Dumas sold for over three million dollars, does it alter how we think of her work? Does it alter the ways magazine editors or curators think about it? One of the organizers of Dumas's upcoming MOMA exhibition, the otherwise excellent Connie Butler, recently responded to one of my public hissy fits about the overestimation of this artist by saying, "Dumas has been making portraits of terrorists," as if to suggest that certain subject matter exempts art from criticism. In fact, this subject matter is not only predictable and generic, and in that sense utterly conservative, its perfect fodder for a culture in disconnect.

Where Saltz sees the comment from Connie Butler as an exemption from criticism, it is most likely a direct answer to the economic roots of his question. Why is Marlene Dumas' work going for such large prices these days?

The possible answer could be found in the latest issue of FRIEZE.

Nancy Spector wrote an article called, Culture Vultures. In it she describes the new "Global Cultural Initiative" and how government funding is being specially allocated to artists that are patriotic and create work in support of the American image or against American foes. She even cites the CIA-backed Congress for Cultural Freedom and how it pushed the non-objective, Abstract Expressionists to the forefront of the art world with financial backing.

It stands to reason that artists who make patriotic/ anti-terrorist work under the Global Cultural Initiative will be elevated quicker both in price and prestige. Perhaps this is why Dumas' work has seen a recent boost.


Unknown said...

I've got a lot of time for Jerry Saltz

Andrew Thornton said...

If you like Jerry Saltz, he came out with a book called, "Seeing Out Loud" and it's a collection of a lot of his essays and reviews.