ART AT BAY Best of 2013: Top 5 Things I Didn’t Care About in 2013

Epson_QX10_Sep1983I realize, now that I’ve actually written this article, that I’ve basically made a list of things that don’t deserve to be on an end-of-year list and the effort on a whole may be counterproductive.  But it ends here.  Though I personally lost interest in these five topics over the course of 2013, they nevertheless seemed to continually fetch art news headlines and even found their way onto my own Twitter/Facebook feed (I’m powerless against reposting this stuff.)  Thus, I’m getting it out now and leaving it here in 2013.

5.  Art Review’s Power 100

Art Review Magazine annually produces the Power 100, “a ranked list of the contemporary artworld’s most powerful figures.”  With this year’s omission of any art writers and critics, I thought I could muster some passion over this one.  I couldn’t.  Like many people, I gave it shot and still don’t really care about the list.  In the end, perhaps the worst thing for the Power 100 isn’t for people to disagree with it, but for no one to pay attention.

In some sense the list may be entirely accurate.  However, it seems to often come across as a cheat sheet of people to whom you should suck up.  In a field especially preoccupied with power dynamics, post-colonialism, race politics, and gender politics a list of the “artworld’s most powerful figures” seems like a horrible idea.  I suspect many give it attention because of its list and ranking format (who can resist a good list? Hence the format of this series).  Maybe the ranking’s name should be more specific: “The Power 100 for Dealers and Collectors”.  Personally, I’d rather see a list of people making the best most exciting contributions to contemporary art.

4.  Banksy’s New York Residency

“Better Out Than In”, Street Artist Banksy’s month-long New York City “residency”, took place this past October.  For the duration of the month, Banksy would create a street art installation and announce it on his website the next day.  Despite the hefty press coverage (you know it’s serious when CNN calls in Jerry Saltz to explain the matter), my attention level hardly rose above ‘bored’.

Banksy’s work invests itself with little more than empty wit.  Satisfied with good intentions and little forethought, his street art pieces are conceptual one-liners.  They are funny or interesting at first but offer little beyond an initial reaction.  There is a lot of street art with substantial thought and concept behind it (e.g. check out the work of Mata Ruda) – Banksy’s isn’t it.  For all of the finger-poking at art-world-economics, Banksy seems to ignore the fact that his work is worth tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.  He essentially leaves a fortune in public and politely excuses himself from the inevitable feeding frenzy – it’s either naive or irresponsible.  This doesn’t make me angry as much as it informs me that Banksy is not an artist worth taking seriously.

3.  ArtPrize

ArtPrize is a city-wide art fair held annually in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The fair is a giant competition with two main prizes: a popular prize and a critical one.  It’s easy to foresee what kind of art typically wins the popular vote prize: like politics, it’s hardly ever the most deserving and almost always the easiest on the sensibilities.  The juried prize feels like an afterthought, a last-ditch effort at salvaging credibility.  Indeed, the prize monies seem to reflect this.  The total juried prize is less than half the size of the total popular prize. Maybe ArtPrize condones a short-attention-span-coddling sort of art.  It definitely makes for a boring fair dominated by gimmick and kitsch.

2.  Celebrity Art

2013 seems to heretofore seen more celebrities involved with art more than any other year.  I’m not blanketly condemning celebrities practicing in fine art.  But a rapper rapping at a gallery?  A movie star sleeping at the MoMA?!  I don’t call my day job performance art.  It’s a sad day when one can accurately call James Franco the hardest working celebrity in art.

I suppose the point is that all of this art is interesting because these “artists” are famous.  However, their fame is minimally to never addressed in the work.  Thus, these “pieces” are robbed of the very little they had going for it in the first place.  It’s a waste of time, attention, and exhibition space; it’s a regression in fame and class; it’s boring.  Please, celebrities: really give art the ol’ college try or just stick to your field of entertainment.

1. Art Auctions

Despite all of the price tag record-setting, self-congratulatory press releases, and art news headlines, 2013 is the year I stopped caring about high-end art auctions.  I’m not saying this out of some anti-capitalist sentiment.  Not entirely.  Sales for a single work of art reaching into the tens and even hundreds of millions is meaningless to a middle class person like me.  My daily life provides me with absolutely no points of reference that shed light on what $142.4 Million dollars means.  Saying that amount is about the same as 783 of my mortgages doesn’t help very much.

Further, when it comes to art auctions the conversation is typically limited to topics such as ‘who is purchasing the piece?’, ‘how much are they paying for it?’, and ‘where is the piece going?’  These may possibly be the most boring and trivial aspects of a work of art.  I’m also concerned that continuing to tout these absurdly high auction earnings only ensures that the art world will be the first against the wall in the upcoming homeless revolution.

ART AT BAY Best of 2013: Top 5 Things I Didn’t Care About in 2013

ART AT BAY Presents: Cheryl Weber

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Locally based artist Cheryl Weber, otherwise known as Jujmo, admits to an “obsession with all things cute”.  And indeed, her work is cute.  However, that isn’t to say it is superficial or  trite.  Rather, her work seems to not only be cute but about “cute” – perhaps not far from some of the ideas of Superflat.  However, unlike Superflat work, Weber’s art isn’t sterile and glossy – her hand is plainly visible and in fact she has an entire group of work called the Doodle Series.  Her work perhaps more accurately brings to mind the patient and loving (almost obsessive) style of fan art.  See more of Cheryl Weber’s art on her site here.

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ART AT BAY Presents: Cheryl Weber

Let’s Get a Room: Time for a Tampa Bay Art Fair

LETSGETAROOMTampa Bay: I think it’s about time we got a room…or rooms.  I’m not talking about an affair but more of a…fair.

Tampa Bay seems to have hit its cultural center puberty over the past few years.  While we may not be the mature visual arts destination that is New York, Miami, or even San Francisco, we’re clearly and progressively developing.  There’s a particular benchmark, though, that we have yet to meet: the art fair.

Why?

I’ll preemptively ask it: What about the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, the Mainsail Art Festival, or any one of the other innumerable local art festivals?  Sorry, but they don’t meet our ‘art fair’ benchmark – festivals are not fairs.

The distinction may seem trivial, but it’s fundamental.  While sales are an integral part of festivals and fairs alike, the latter serve a critical function that the former are not intended to.  Fairs are a time for artists, curators, dealers, and gallerists to bring out the best they have – on the micro level it allows visitors to browse the best art of several galleries in one location.  On a macro (and more important) level, though, it serves as a survey of contemporary art – it allows us to determine the progress visual art has made over the past year and where the future will take it.  This can be especially helpful for our twin scenes of Tampa/St.Pete.

As discussed before on Art@Bay, we have a tendency to stick to our home scene – it is surprisingly difficult to cross the Howard Frankland for an art show.  However, an art fair would afford us an opportunity to evaluate and enjoy the latest and best contemporary art of Tampa Bay at a single location and date.

How?

The reality is that a fledgling contemporary art fair is a logistical challenge and holds out little to no profits for its organizers.  A strategy that may make an art fair more financially and organizationally plausible, though, is the Hotel Fair.  That is, in short, a fair that would be based in a hotel in which artists and galleries would each be assigned a room.

I suppose this kind of fair could sound a bit dumpy.  However, some of today’s most critically acclaimed and exciting art fairs are precisely this kind of fair.  Consider New York’s Dependent Art Fair.  Despite taking place in a Comfort Inn on the gritty Lower East Side, the fair consistently enjoys enthusiastic reviews from critics and bloggers (critic/artist Will Brand called it “hands-down, the most interesting, highest-quality fair in town.”)  Also consider Washington D.C.’s (e)merge Art Fair, San Francisco’s ArtPadSF, or Miami’s Verge Art Fair among many others.

A grant(s) and sponsors could secure rooms for juried individual artists to use for installations or simply to exhibit work.  Galleries, collectives, and other artists would simply pay a fee equal to that of the cost of the hotel room in order to participate.

This type of fair would not aim to replace or even be an alternative to international contemporary art fairs or local arts festivals.  However if scheduled nearby in date and location to the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, for example, it could be an exciting, popular, and surprising event for visitors of both the festival and the fair.  

Such an event would furnish us with the opportunity appraise our local contemporary art, artists, and galleries and enjoy the best of what we make.  Would you support such an event with attendance or participation?    

Let’s Get a Room: Time for a Tampa Bay Art Fair

Information Overlord’s Weekend Reading Guide – 2/11-2/12

This could be the legacy of our generation...or that's what I got from the first link.Like Scar is to Mufasa, like Gaston is to the Beast, so will this weekend’s reading guide be to last week’s.  Last weekend I gave our lazy brains a respite from reading.  However, I know my readers are an intellectual bunch with minds that require regular and rigorous exertion.  This weekend’s reading guide is a cerebral one.

  • From my new favorite site is this article on the mind-liquefying world of 4chan, “alienation, irony, autonomy, [and] discourse”.  Auerbach serves up a critical look at the home of both the cyber-activists Anonymous and the lolcats meme.  Check it out here.
  • The local online art review and literary mag Ubernothing released its fifth issue about a month ago and is now accepting submissions for issue VI.  Not only will you likely enjoy the reading, but a little local is good for the character.  You can find issue five here.
  • The interview with Nathan Skiles at Sarasota Visual Art was a good read, particularly if you appreciate his abstracty sculpturish work.  Skiles had some especially interesting things to say about representation, abstraction, and blurring the two.  You can read the interview here.
Information Overlord’s Weekend Reading Guide – 2/11-2/12

Art@Bay at Sarasota Visual Art: Things Not Seen Before

Nearly 100 years after his birth and 20 years since his death John Cage’s relevancy to the current creative world is as strong as its ever been.  To be sure, Tempus Projects’ John Cage: Things Not Seen Before isn’t so much an exhibit of work by Cage as it is a display of his continuing reach and influence.

read the rest of the article at Sarasota Visual Art

Art@Bay at Sarasota Visual Art: Things Not Seen Before