Art + Auction
The magazine opens with "Movers + Shakers" and "In the Air," slick roundups of global art news -- dealers, auctions, up-and-comers and gallery gossip. Which 28-year-old woman is having the biggest impact on the art market? Not Britney Spears. It's a former model opening a Moscow art center this fall. Her boyfriend is a Russian billionaire who dropped more than $110 million for two 20th-century paintings. Next, he could rebuild New Orleans.
Painting, drawing, sculpture, multimedia installations are important -- and Art +Auction does a good job of chronicling this dynamic, often controversial world. But it takes mega-bucks to own a major work of art. Christie's recently sold a 16-inch-high 1929 plaster sculpture by Giacometti for $3.6 million. If you have the chump change to put this in your foyer, you may want to check out Louise Blouin Media's other publications: Modern Painters and Culture & Travel.
Art + Auction tackles a different theme each month; among this year's, are Art and Money, Power Issue, Design & Architecture and Asia. The July issue is devoted to political art, kicked off by "Party Lines," which claims an audience -- and a mainstream collectors' market -- for provocative meditations on political themes.
For example, at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Nancy Sperio's "Maypole/Take No Prisoners" had tortured faces hanging from chains and ribbons, while Paolo Canevari's video showed a teenager kicking a skull like a soccer ball outside a bombed Serbian building. For those who buy art to match the living-room settee, this is the ultimate feng shui challenge. But in the appropriate setting, it makes a statement. Anne Ellegood, a curator at the Hirshhorn Museum, says artists and curators may feel "a certain responsibility to address social issues and put them forward for contemplation and discussion." If only Congress did.
I bet "Take No Prisoners" would make lively cocktail chatter -- whether at a swanky New York restaurant or inside GOP headquarters. For better or worse, the art of Robert Mapplethorpe and Karen Finley ignited the ongoing culture wars. Frankly, I'd rather see us debate -- and institute -- alternative energy sources. There's good art and bad art, but neither raises the price of milk to $14.50 a gallon.
Yet however complicated the relationship between political art and the public, collectors abound. Paul Chan commands as much as $60,000 for his digital installations. A New Jersey collector bought Chan's "Happiness (finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization," an allegorical 17-minute digital work referencing Outsider artist Henry Darger. I'd love to know where he put it -- and the reaction of his guests. Darger, a mentally unstable janitor, produced an illustrated manuscript called "The Story of the Vivian Girls" which records the epic struggle between good and evil. The gender-bender images of young girls often show children mutilated or crucified. "Interesting" doesn't begin to cover it.
Of course, how art is assessed -- and priced -- is tricky. And it's the topic of the piece "Trophy Hunting," where the author notes "discourse matters more than artistic merit." Just like life!
Art + Auction records many aspects of the art world -- people, trends -- but it's upbeat and informative rather than critical. Consider this purchase, which passed without comment: Steven Cohen, a killer hedge funder, bought Damien Hirst's "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" for $8 million. It's a 13-foot shark. In a formaldehyde case. That's what I call art imitating life.
Published by: Louise Blouin Media