I’ve decided to start a fantasy art collection because my real life art collection is slow-moving. I have hundreds of Manneys, and one Pearlstein lithograph. It’s been like this for years, so recently I asked my friend to explain how fantasy sports work. I’d been thinking how cool it would be to pick my favorite art in the same way that guys pick their favorite Yankees.
Once I got an understanding of the ins and outs of fake sports, I couldn’t figure out a clever parallel to jot down here. But I still think it’s a good game. Art that I like, and art that I would actually purchase and want to look at daily for the rest of my life are very different things. Also, I would never trade these picks, so out the window with the sports analogy. I know what you’re thinking, how rich is the fake me? That’s tricky. I’m not sure. I guess we’ll find out.
Let the collecting begin!
As we’re all well aware, Banksy was in town last month doing his NYC residency. I’m glad it’s November, and my Twitter feed has returned to normal. No more Banksy this, Banksy that, the government, Banksy Banksy.
The long and short of it is that I wasn’t very interested in what he did here—which is a big surprise since he’s in my Fantasy Art Collection. Although I kept my eye on what he was doing, all the hype made me wonder how much I like Banksy. I like his work because it’s pretty cool-looking, and usually clever, but the mobs and drama surrounding his presence in this town annoyed me so much, I didn’t want to like him anymore. The verdict: I like him, just not that much.
OK, none of that is important. What’s EXTREMELY important is that I have reason to believe that Banksy read my blog, and mistakenly thinks that I still live in Williamsburg. It looks like he may have painted on my house in the middle of the night, as requested, but he got he wrong building.
Hear me out. Three years ago I commissioned a Banksy for my Fantasy Art Collection.
The deal: I send a check to the P.O. box of his choosing, he can do whatever he wants, has one year to do it (tardy). Although it will be tempting once he completes his end of the bargain and the bloggers and reporters start poking around, we have a clear understanding that this never happened.
Back then there were a lot of mix-ups in the details, and we weren’t able to set up the P.O. box. But I guess he thought it was a good idea anyway and charged ahead. He did it in Brooklyn as his 17th NY piece, and unfortunately it happened to a lady named Cara, not a lady named Laura. Read “I’m the Accidental Owner of a Banksy” to get the full scoop.
Also read “Jerry Saltz Ranks Banksy’s New York City (So-Called) Artistic Works” – it’s pretty funny.
I’m playing “Fantasy Art Collection,” inspired by games like Fantasy Baseball. Go to the main page to get the idea.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #19: Thomas Ruff
I’ve finally thought of 2 things that are wrong with NYC. #1: rats, #2: you can’t see stars. There’s no solution for #1, but there is one for the stars problem. I just purchased this 8.5 x 6 foot photograph by Thomas Ruff, hung it on my brick wall, and it looks incredible. It’s a little strange looking sideways instead of up, but living here takes compromise, so it works for me.
Ok, I’ve actually never seen it in person, but recently my friend and I were talking about the depressing state of a recent art fair, and I asked him to name one thing he saw that blew his mind. He picked Ruff’s Sterne (Stars) photographs, and as he was describing them to me I got choked up and decided to buy one on the spot.
I’m not much of a photography collector because I like to see the hand of the artist, and always lean towards drawing, painting and sculpture. But Sterne, as the third photograph in my collection, is very similar to my very first fantasy purchase from Misrach’s On the Beach series. If either of these photographs were paintings, they’d be terrible so I wouldn’t have noticed them. It’s the fact that they are photographs of the existing world that make me love them so much.
I like feeling very small in the big picture of the universe sometimes, and knowing that something greater exists or I wouldn’t be here. When I look at these pictures I’m reminded of it and it puts things into perspective.
This art purchase is in memory of my grandfather who died at the age of 92 last month. He was a writer and artist, and a few months before he died he gave me a book called “How It Ends: From You to the Universe.” The cover looks a lot like my new Ruff, but I haven’t read the book because the topic freaks me out. But I think he’d definitely love this picture. If he hadn’t lived, neither would I. Thank you so much James C.G. Conniff.
I’m playing “Fantasy Art Collection,” inspired by games like Fantasy Baseball. Go to the main page to get the idea.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #17: 2 Diebenkorns
A few weeks ago I raced to the Met to catch the last weekend of Matisse: In Search of True Painting. I was thinking about buying one, but a weird thing happened, and all the show did was remind me how much I really love Diebenkorn. So I bought these two: Ocean Horizon and Ocean Park No. 67. It’s the combination of Matisse and Diebenkorn that’s helped me learn to see, and how to paint.
I started taking drawing classes in high school, and have a terrible memory of sitting on the local defunct train tracks with a sketchpad, trying to figure out perspective. The experience was terrible because sitting on train tracks of any kind is nauseating, but also because looking at the huge world in front of me, and trying to put it down on a piece of paper was equally nauseating. It simply didn’t fit on the page (I had the same problem with obese models in figure drawing).
It was around this time that I discovered Matisse, and remember seeing the two paintings below—finally able to see 3D as 2D. Something switched in my head, and I suddenly saw the paper as a flat surface, and the picture on it as an arrangement of shapes. Everything collapsed and the receding train tracks became a triangle, the horizon a rectangle, I saw lines instead of streets, shapes instead of cars and was finally able to draw the world in front of me. AND for this I thank you, Matisse!
So … back to the weird thing that happened when I went to see the Matisse show … I was walking through room after room of his paintings and couldn’t for the life of me remember why he struck such a chord with me in my youth (the previous thoughts came later). Aside from these two, I was looking at paintings of fruit, landscapes, women, and felt nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Diebenkorn is obviously influenced by Matisse, but his work makes more sense to me. I can relate to it better because it feels contemporary. I don’t know why exactly. I don’t live in California and spend little time at the beach, but it’s not really the subject matter that I’m drawn to. His paintings look like things I see, and they have more to do with perception. Their non-specificity allows me to see my own world in them, and the layers of color and energy of his marks equally amaze me. Perfection!
I think it’s natural to grow out of artists. I guess it’s a positive thing that signifies creative growth and life moving ahead, but there’s a part of me that wishes I could still hang on to all the old inspiration with the same intensity. From time to time I still think of Matisse when I’m sitting here writing at my desk, looking out the window.
I was going through my books of his work tonight and pulled out Dance Me to the End of Love. I bought it 19 years ago, and started remembering why I loved him so much. I didn’t know who Leonard Cohen was at the time, but the book actually has more meaning to me now than it did all those years that it sat on my shelf. Here’s a slideshow of the book.
I’m playing “Fantasy Art Collection,” inspired by games like Fantasy Baseball. Go to the main page to get the idea.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #17: A gigantic Michelangelo
On Saturday I was telling my friend that I needed to make a quick March purchase for my Fantasy Art Collection so I didn’t fail my new years resolution to make one fake purchase of real art every month for a year.
Since Easter was happening in a few hours, we were thinking I should buy something religious to keep in the spirit of things. I thought about it, but I already bought Carravaggio and couldn’t think of any other religious art that I really wanted. David is amazing and so is The Pietà, but not so much that I want them looming over me in the tight space I call home. That seems weird. I’d rather go to Italy anyway.
So we decided I should buy the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. That works. I love it so much I’ve gone out of my way to see it twice. I could just slice off the top, bring it back to nyc, hang it from a crane so it didn’t take up too much space, and wait for the day that I have a big barn art studio in need of a roof. It would also give the new pope an opportunity to flex his Argentinian muscles and make his mark replacing it. AND my collection would rule in the meantime. win win.
Truth be told, I intended for this story to be the time-sensitive intro to a different art purchase. But as I got to looking at Michelangelo’s work tonight, it choked me up—I just love it. I grew up catholic and have known of it for as long as I can remember. But now I see his work differently, with much more meaning than it ever had for me before. It’s simple. It’s about connection—the reason why we’re here. I know I can’t have it, but hanging above my fantasy art collection it looks incredible.
I finally saw Hope Gangloffs paintings in person this weekend and they’re incredible. Please please go see them. I bought her work as pick #13 in my fantasy art collection without ever having seen the work in person, and I’m happy to know that I didn’t steer myself wrong. Contradictory to my blog theme, it’s refreshing to see work that isn’t so much about mediums, but just about excellent painting—good old excellent amazing painting.
I was jealous when I snapped this pic because balding heads and leather jackets in Chelsea on a leisurely Saturday afternoon signify real-life, art-buying wealth to me. And they were taken into a private room soon after. ARG! I really hope they bought something, but someday I will too, and I guarantee I’ll love it more.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #16: 3 Giacomettis
I actually drew this self portrait 15 years ago and the story behind it is tied to Giacometti. I transferred colleges right before my senior year, (which led to a lengthy undergrad career) but in my first drawing class the assignment was a self portrait. After many failed attempts sitting in front of a mirror with chalk and paint, my sister Carolyn came to sit and chat with me. I got distracted talking about stuff while still drawing, and did this once I wasn’t thinking about it at all. Damn you, creativity! Have you no rules to follow?
So I brought this drawing into the crit and my professor said, “well…you must love Giacometti.” I reluctantly said “who?” and went straight to the library to look him up afterwards. Turns out we have similar marks and I dream to be as awesome as he is some day.
What I love about Giacometti is how you can see the energy and uncertainty of the creative process in all of his marks—painting, drawing, sculpture. They vibrate. There’s something about them that seems unfinished, but they also seem to have nowhere else to go. They’re finished, but only because they’ve posed enough questions to warrant the next piece. Giacometti said “Every time I look at the glass it seems to remake itself,” and that’s the way I feel about so many things.
When I was younger I identified with his existential leanings. Now I’m happier and far less dramatic, but still find his work inspiring and so beautiful. I want to look at it forever, whenever, so I’m purchasing one sculpture and two paintings. It’s bittersweet—I’d rather purchase 2 sculptures, 4 paintings and 1 drawing, but my apartment is really small, so these are the 3 winners ….
BUT … if i had a big huge house and was a zillionaire, I’d also buy these and a 20 ft skinny man sculpture to put in the corner … come on, the fake me is rich, but not that rich.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #15: Guards, video, 2005, Francis Alÿs
Hello 2013. Last year I had 2 resolutions: to install a working fire alarm in my apartment, and go to Orlando. I was so successful on both counts, that I decided to add 2 again this year: to drink more water, and beef up my Fantasy Art Collection.
I’ve been collecting like a ninny—making only 3 acquisitions (Marclay, Gangloff, Albers) in 2012. I’m not sure if I’ve been acting like a super rich person, or a super poor person, but either way I’ve been overly cautious and I don’t like it. On the whole, I don’t like making big public statements about my personal goals, but I think that making one fake purchase of real art every month for a year seems doable.
So … as numero uno of numero 2013 … I’ve added Guards to my collection.
I first saw this video at MoMA PS1 in 2011, as part of the show Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception. My friend and I stopped in randomly, and quickly became miserable as we wandered from room to room looking at giant photographs of a certain anonymous artist crying, and video of this person dressed in a Girl Scout uniform watching the twin towers burn to the ground on 9-11. We were so depressed, heading up to the roof to plot our escape, when we were saved by Francis Alÿs.
For a moment it felt like comic relief since we stumbled into a hallway lined with videos of people tripping over dogs, but the show was great and more complex than that—exploring the boundaries between and overlap of art, architecture and performance.
Most of his work was interesting to me, but I thought the videos were the best. For Guards he documented 64 of the Queen of England’s guards, who each marched along one of many routes that he planned through the city. When one soldier met another, they aligned and began marching together until they met another group or guard. Eventually the entire troop was in formation, they marched to a bridge, crossed it and then dissipated—circulating back into regular life.
“Many of the elements of Guards are found throughout Alys’s work: walking, rhythm, the use of the street and bridges are all common tropes in his oeuvre. These strategies, evoking the poetic and sonic palette of the urban environment, involve a sometimes loose and other times overt relationship to social resistance and to the symbolic and often political implications of these actions.” [umich.edu]
Unfortunately, you can’t watch the video anywhere online (fortunately for me since I just bought it). But it’s on view at the University of Michigan Museum of Art until March 31 (Mom…Dad…Betty…).
Fantasy Art Collection pick #14
As a very belated birthday present to myself, I bought The Clock by Christian Marclay yesterday. Since I’ve been living on a shoestring ever since my pricey Albers purchases in February, I was trying to be more realistic in my art-buying, but my big dreams got the better of me so I decided to stick to my budget and become an art thief.
I had a great plan lined up—The Clock closed at 10pm on Aug. 1 at Lincoln Center, and my birthday was the 3rd, so I intended to hijack it before it left town, and spend the 24 hours leading up to my birth watching it. That didn’t happen, so I’m embracing the fantasy once again, acting quite fancy, and buying a Marclay. Here’s to dreaming, and to my next year, which is already in full swing.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that The Clock is the best movie I’ve ever seen. I heard about it last year when it was at Paula Cooper—that it was a 24 hour clock video, and there were lines around the block all night to see it. Without looking into it, I imagined something like Warhol‘s Empire State movie, which sounds like a pure torture art experience to me. But I was wrong. Oh, so wrong.
I went twice. The first time I got there at 8:23 a.m. on Saturday morning and watched until 10: 39 a.m. It was so strange how I completely lost track of time even though time is the subject of the movie, and every single minute is represented by movie clips on screen. It’s very suspenseful, and funny to see the activities that are averaged in movies in the early morning hours… people waking up, late for work, panicked, in love, having breakfast, terribly hung over.
But what made it particularly fascinating to me is the way Marclay plays with audio—cutting it short on some clips and running it under others, changing the context of each scene—calm, beautiful moments have terrifying music or conversations going on at the same time, and vice versa, in varying degrees.
“This elliptically simple, spectacularly dazzling 24-hour film is made up of thousands of scenes and snippets from films, all marking the passage of time, minute by minute, sometimes second by second, on clocks and sundials and people speaking the time and, in one case, a child drawing a timepiece on his arm. It’s all synchronized so that whatever time it is onscreen is the actual time in New York” —Saltz!
The second time I watched from 3:42 p.m.–6:43 p.m. It was still fascinating, but it seems like a more uneventful time in movies—people finishing up work, heading home, having dinner, relaxing etc. (I also stood in line for 2hrs 45 minutes, so I was a bit frazzled once I got a seat. It’s sort of like staring at a cab while you’re waiting for the bus, there’s no telling how fast the line will move, people might sit for hours or minutes.)
And here’s the best news of all—The Clock is coming to MoMA from Dec. 21 through Jan. 21 so Get your memberships, people, and go see it as soon as it opens! This procrastinator city will guarantee super long lines as the end approaches, and you’ll want to go back, I promise—$85 for the whole year is wayyyyy better than $25 for one little old visit.
GO SEE THE CLOCK! If you can, and you don’t, you’re a big dummy. It’s the coolest thing ever.
I think my art collection is getting too snooty, and my fantasy life has become insanely disproportionate to my actual life. I guess it’s also a little suspicious that I’ve only made one acquisition this year—and I really am thrilled to have 2 Albers paintings hanging on the wall of my rent-stabalized apartment—but I didn’t budget properly and I’ve been living on a shoestring ever since.
Truth be told, I really want to be able to buy art someday, although it’s doubtful that I’ll be snapping up Banksys and Lichtensteins like I did last year as my collection got increasingly fancy. So for the time being, I’ve decided to switch gears and buy work by artists that are working today, in need of the support, and maybe, just maybe, not impossible to have in my real life art collection someday.
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #13: Gangloff
I love Hope Gangloff‘s work, so I’m buying one of her paintings. I’ve actually never seen her work in person, but I know of her because she was mentioned last summer on East Village Radio when the DJ had spent the weekend posing for a painting at her studio upstate. So I looked her up and just can’t get the work out of my head. I love it.
Her paintings and drawings have elements of Klimt, Alice Neel, Matisse and Schiele, but what I love most is how personal they seem. I also love the way she incorporates graphic design—detailed wallpaper patterns, colorful textiles, cigarette logos, book covers, magazine pages, ticket stubs, beer bottles etc. Each painting feels narrative to me because of how specific they are—much like a snapshot, I imagine the story that’s developing on either end of the moment she selects to magnify—making the “insignificant” significant.
It seems like it’s always the casual unexpected moments of life that turn into the most important memories, and her work makes me smile and remember that every time I find myself clicking through her website.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #12
I started off the new year with 2 resolutions—to install a working fire alarm in my apartment and go to Orlando. I guess sitting on a balcony in Orlando right now makes the new fire alarm seem unnecessary, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic about the new year, so I’m buying 2 Josef Albers paintings. (kidding about Orlando, I’m here for work).
When I was a young art student my dad and I spent a Thanksgiving in NYC so I could interview for painting apprenticeships. Once the stress was out of the way, we went to the Guggenheim to see the Claes Oldenberg retrospective. I knew how to draw, but I didn’t know much about art yet—Matisse was still my greatest inspiration. But Claes made a huge impression on me. Art could be fun, funny, cool, pop? sweet.
We wandered around the museum shop afterwards and my eyes zeroed in on a t-shirt of this yellow Albers painting on the left. I’d never heard of Albers, but I loved the image so much, I bought it with all the money I had. Within the hour I left it on the subway and was terribly sad about it. Of course in the large scheme of things it’s a silly thing to be “terribly sad” about, but my dad sensed the mysterious importance of it to me and bought me a new one to replace my new one. It was important to him because it was important to me, and I wore the Albers for a year without knowing anything about him (pre-Google). I finally found out what I’d been advertising when I took my first color theory class in 1996—still my favorite class I’ve ever taken, and taught many years later.
Albers had been off my radar for a while until I went to the DeKooning show last year and started thinking long and hard about abstraction. I realized that ‘I tend to write off a lot of abstract art because I’m impatient, and more interested in art that reflects an experience of the world rather than an experience of paint’. I tend to like either representational or abstract because I’m frustrated by the grey. I like one or the other—I’m extreme.
But I love Albers’ paintings for the same reason I’ve always loved the work of Robert Irwin—it’s about perception.
I love the Homage to the Square paintings because they’re so abstract, they reflect an intense experience of the world—more so than any work in my collection so far. They never look the same to me, and I’m amazed by how color changes the way I see and experience space. Albers formal exploration of this phenomenon is exactly how I see the passing moments I study with the video camera and make art about.
Albers gets my first “between mediums artist award” of 2012 because he was a designer, photographer, typographer, printmaker, painter, poet and educator, influencing so many artists throughout his life as a professor at the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College and Yale.
But what I love about these paintings is the beauty in their simplicity. Like the quickly passing moments in life that I try so hard to capture and slow down with my camera in order to see them, these paintings remind me to stop, take a breath and look at the basics—the foundation that makes everything else possible.
One of my biggest frustrations as a collector is that I’m limited to the art that currently exists in the world. How annoying! I started thinking about this after I saw Midnight in Paris, and wondered if I would’ve had the foresight to buy Toulouse-Lautrec’s work if he had just been my eccentric 4 1/2 ft tall drinking buddy back in the 1890’s. I like to think that I would have been a prolific contemporary collector and bought his sketches right off the bar, but who knows. My collection isn’t setting art market trends right now, but lets imagine it had, & I was 495 years old …
I’d probably make my first purchase when I was 8 since I’d assume my death was quickly approaching. I’d be really into cherubs since they reminded me of my friends, so I’d buy a Raphael, hang it in my dark, damp room, and I’d be hooked. My collection would look so much different than it does now; I shudder to even think about it. I’d definitely be lending a lot of it to museums that I rarely frequent.
The 17th century would have been particularly brutal, and I’d probably buy a lot of work since I’d want to leave a legacy, and you know what they said back then … “30 is the new 20!” … “That’s IT??”… “How can I be dying already? I was just born!!”
I may have purchased The Calling of St. Matthew, not necessarily because it moved me, but because almost all of the art was religious, and it was the most edgy of the Jesus paintings. The Caravaggio would be my big success, and the others would go straight to The Brooklyn Museum. Ok, I’d probably keep the goat, too. That’s genius.
Vannini, The Triumph of David, 1640 | Gentileschi, Danae and the Shower of Gold, 1621 | Aert De Gelder, untitled, c.1650
As I grew very old and moved into the 18th century, I’d probably buy some genre paintings, but I wouldn’t be very happy about it since the last things I’d want to see more of would be kitchens, markets, and the countryside I couldn’t escape. My boredom with contemporary painting would explain the excessive Rococo furniture and my lavish wardrobe. Although I wouldn’t be very political or French, judging from my most recent Lichtenstein acquisitions, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the 1793 art collecting me would also buy The Death of Marat.
The 19th century is when things would really start to pick up for me. I’d have a huge influence on the art market since the world would find out that I was a superhero who was going to live forever. As such an important collector, I’d walk around with a permanent smile because I’d have the ability to make my artist friends famous with a single purchase.
I’d move to Paris, travel the world, dabble in photography, befriend Giacometti, and hang out with my interesting friends. I’d buy more art than I knew what to do with, although my favorite painting would be the big one Henri did after that crazy night at the Moulin Rouge, when we drank too much absinthe and Salvador was convinced that the clocks were melting. We had a lot of crazy nights, but trust me, that one could go down in history. (I just realized that Toulouse-Lautrec was dead before Dali was born, but whatever…)
Then the 20th century would arrive with Marcel’s urinal for my living room coming soon after, and that pretty much brings us up-to-date with the fantasy art collection of my dreams.
Fantasy Art Collection pick #11
To conclude my 4-part* Andy Warhol segment, I’m buying 102 of his shadow paintings from the Dia: Beacon.** I think they’re getting tired of them anyway since the work’s been traveling around the country for the past 6 months, and they wasted no time at all dividing up the room and lining it with boring Blinky Palermo paintings.
The first time I went to Dia last year it was on a whim when my parents were visiting, and I was so amazed I decided that I wanted to live there. We spent most of the time in Warhol’s Shadow room, and I started to think that there might be more depth to him than I’d previously thought because “spending time” isn’t something I’d ever associated with his work. Like Picasso, he’s one of those artists who’s present everywhere, and it’s common knowledge that he’s a genius, so I’ve never gone out of my way to read about him.
So I read up, learned a lot, I laughed, I cried … ok, not really. I admired, was jealous, I judged … and then decided that no matter what kind of person he was, he did some of the best work in the last decade of his life, and was one of the most incredible “between mediums” artists who ever lived.
In 1978 he took distorted photographs of shadows in his studio and then silk screened and hand-painted them onto 102 monumental canvases. The subject matter is mundane, and each canvas is unique, although the process of silkscreening suggests the opposite. I love how the repetition of images creates the illusion of one continuous piece, which looks more like a film reel than a succession of individual paintings. Word on the street is that Warhol didn’t even think of the Shadows series as art, and referred to them as ‘disco decor’—but man, are they phenomenal.
A few weeks ago I made my second trek to Beacon, and Shadows wasn’t there. It’s on loan to the Hirshhorn, and it just wasn’t the same Dia. I’m not sure if I had great expectations, or if Warhol is the solid foundation that holds Dia’s conceptual collection together for me in some strange way. Either way, I missed Shadows and decided I should buy it so this would never happen again.
Warhol was a creative everything—painter, photographer, printmaker, illustrator, commercial artist and a film maker. Now that I’ve started to pay attention, I like so much of his work—even though I did sell the painting of him that I bought last year. I stand by that sale even if it seems to contradict my praise.
(clue #7 – into how rich fake me is … Robert Irwin designed the printing factory that is now Dia: Beacon, and Shadows looks perfect, as if the space were build around it. So…I guess I’ll either be moving into Dia: Beacon after all, or to a similar factory that Bob will design for me down the road)
**Sorry about your loss, Dia. I’m richer than you are, and we’ll call it even when I give you all the funds you need to get your Chelsea location up and running again. I know it hurts, but I love you and I think it’s just the push you need to see your true museum potential.
Fantasy Art Collection: Sale #1
I can’t believe this is happening. I’m putting my Alice Neel painting up for auction because I don’t want it anymore. The mission behind Fantasy Art Collection was to buy art that I loved so much I’d never trade or sell it. To quote myself, “Art that I like, and art that I would actually purchase and want to look at daily for the rest of my life are very different things,” and with that belief I purchased Alice Neel’s painting of Andy Warhol in early December.
I love Neel, and bought a painting of Warhol thinking it would be more meaningful than one of Ginny since I don’t know her. I didn’t know Andy either, but at least I knew of him—and this is where all my troubles began. I’ve spent the last month reading about him, and although I love his art, I don’t love him. I think it would be way too risky to live with him because, as the saying goes, you are who you surround yourself with. Sure, it’s possible I’d become a super focused genius, but it’s also possible that I’d bec0me the most socially awkward loneliest person in Manhattan and I’d use everybody.
I can’t really make heads or tails out of who Andy Warhol was “for real,” but I don’t like the odds of how he could rub off on me if he’s hanging on my wall. So, Sotheby’s meet Andy, Andy meet Sotheby’s.
This has all caused me to question my feelings about Alice Neel as well. I watched a documentary about her last week and I’m pretty sure that she’d have been a good candidate for the looney bin. I still like her paintings, but it made me wonder if each painting is actually great, or if it was equally the massive quantity of work that propelled her to stardom in the last decades of her life. I know it’s lame, but I liked her paintings more when I knew less about her.
Since it still seems really weird to buy a painting of a stranger, I might just cross Neel off my list. Ok….ok….here’s the deal—if my nieces or nephew grow up with an uncanny resemblance to a Neel painting, I’ll buy it as a gift for my sister Sarah and her husband. Since I’m in Duluth visiting them right now, my niece Signe did some tests this afternoon. She’s pretty sure I’ll be buying one in no time.
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #10
I’ve had my eye on Nude on Summer Sofa for 15 years, so I’m adding it to my collection. Psych. This one is actually not a fantasy and exists in my real life, on my real wall. I present you with my official art collection of one.
Real Life Art Collection Pick #1: Pearlstein
Nude on Summer Sofa and I have been through a lot together. As I’ve pursued my life and art dreams, poor old NOSS has had a thankless nomadic existence. She’s followed me from NYC to Michigan to Brooklyn, through many apartments in Chicago, back to NYC and now hangs above my television on Avenue B.
Writing about George Bellows got me to thinking about painting from life rather than photographs, bringing me back to the game-changing semester I spent in NYC as a 20-year-old art student. Although I only had eyes for art, I went to a liberal arts school because I thought it would be good to know about things like math and philosophy, to make the fantasy dinner parties of my future more interesting.
In the fall of ’95 I was passing the time at Hope College in Holland, MI, getting accustomed to conservative small town life when I caught wind of a semester program in NYC and bolted immediately—never to return. I had been tipped off to the fact that Philip Pearlstein accepted an apprentice, so I pulled some strings, got the interview and spent the following semester painting next to him in his studio. It was incredible.
Spanning the giant 5th floor of a building in the garment district, Pearlstein’s studio and it’s environment was right out of an art student fairy tale. We painted to the tunes of Mahler and Puccini, taking frequent breaks so the models could rest and chat with us about art and culture. There were long leisurely lunches around a big wooden table, with friends and artists frequently stopping in for turkish coffee and conversation that left one persisting question in my head–”what the hell are they talking about???” I listened carefully, hanging on every word, and was actually amazed by my own ability to hang. But I secretly felt like a big dummy, and regularly slipped into the art book library to look up names I’d never heard of like Rauschenberg and De Kooning.
Pearlstein is firmly committed to painting from direct observation, so that was the semester that I officially learned how to see. In my favor, the balance of the situation was off–I spent eight hours a day painting under the watchful eye of a true master, and all I had to do in return was wash out a few brushes at the end of the day. “He paints the nude not as a symbol of beauty and pure form but as a human fact—implicitly imperfect”(Arts Magazine, 1963). One of the models I painted posed for him for a decade, and wrote an essay about Pearlstein and her experience there—It’s a great insight into his work.
The paintings I did are actually not bad, looking like student versions of the ones above. I also learned how to mix oil paint to create a flesh color that doesn’t look like a bad spray tan. But that was a huge challenge, and one day he caught me with the secret tube of flesh color paint I’d bought to speed up the process. He thought it was funny but I threw it away and learned the ropes eventually.
As my first week at the Pearlstein lunch table drew to a close, I called my parents to tell them that once my apprentice stint was up I was transferring schools, getting a BFA in painting and art history, moving to New York when I was done, and living there forever. There’s great power to be had in signing your own name to all the student loans. My two big amateur Manney-Pearlsteins are still rolled up in a closet somewhere at my parents’ house. I always forget to grab them when I’m visiting, which unfortunately isn’t very often since I’m finally in New York forever.
(clue #6 – into how rich non-fake, art-collecting me is … well, it’s no secret that the big apple is pricey, so at the moment I’m living according to my favorite No Fear slogan–If you’re not livin’ on the edge, you’re taking up too much space)
Philip Pearlstein | Nude on Summer Sofa | 1990 | Lithograph 48/50 | 24 × 31 in. | Laura Manney Collection • Brian Rigney Hubbard | Photograph of Philip Pearlstein | Copyright © 2005 • Two Models in a Window with Cast Iron Toys | 1987 | Oil on canvas | 182.9 x 182.9 cm • Male and Female Models With Balloon Chair and Old African Drum | 2000 | Oil on canvas
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #9
I’m slightly superstitious so it seems like bad luck to have only one murderer (Muybridge) in my art collection. They should probably come in pairs, so in the spirit of Noah’s Ark I’m buying a Caravaggio. Since Caravaggio was the first name I googled when I started to consider a second killer, I guess I had a vague idea that he was shady, but I was in no way prepared for my gruesome findings. He was sick and brilliant.
Before I get into the life and times of a truly mad genius, I’ll do whatever it takes to acquire The Calling of St. Matthew, and hang it in my library of floor-to-ceiling art books. I’ve always loved this painting and how warmly Caravaggio chronicles the moment when a daily routine is interrupted by the miraculous. Religious subject matter aside, I need this painting because sometimes life overwhelms me. It reminds me that moments like this are happening constantly—the miraculous of the everyday.
I’ve always been interested in art history because I love art, of course, but also because it’s helped me to understand the world. I’ve taken plenty of history classes, memorized information for exams and promptly forgotten it all. I have no memory for it. But when I studied paintings like The Death of Marat and The Tennis Court Oath, I began to understand the French Revolution. The Enlightenment started to sink in through paintings of the first experiments and anatomy lessons, which began to put so much value on the miracle of human curiosity. Although I grew up Catholic, I never understood the magnitude and power of the church until I walked through The Vatican, passing the frescoes done by nameless artists who spent their lives painting in dark corridors alongside Raphael. I didn’t get the Roman Empire until I stood in Hagia Sophia, unable to comprehend how old it was and the fact that it was still there after being constantly pillaged by the Crusades. And one of my greatest days yet was climbing Mt. Sinai as the sun rose, overwhelmed by its history as my travels got me to thinking about how fundamentally similar Muslims, Jews and Christians really are.
The Calling of St. Matthew has always moved me. In art school it’s shown to explain chiaroscuro, the interplay of light and shadow. In the book Secret Knowledge, David Hockney investigates Caravaggio to discover that he utilized optics and lenses to achieve the realistic craft and detail that’s so unbelievable. Reading Hockney’s book made me like Caravaggio even more because I’ve always thought of Mannerist painting as the 2-D version of the Pyramids. I’ve stood in front of both, totally confused as to how people could do that back then, and not now. Of course people can do both now but we have so much help that they didn’t have—or so I thought until Hockney followed the clues of Caravaggio, Ingres and Velázquez to discover that they, too, needed a camera. Hockney explains his theory in this 8-part video.
Genius is such a mystery. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was born in Milan in 1571, and began training under Titian at the age of 13, around the time he committed his first murder. By the time he was 30, he was famous and never without commissions. There is no doubt that Caravaggio suffered from severe mental illness, as he would work for a few weeks and then snap. He would turn to the streets, to a Roman style fight club, picking fights and brutally killing the unlucky few. He’d hardly eat and wouldn’t bathe, letting his clothes soil and deteriorate to rags as he slept on the street fully armed. Then once he had his fill and a quickly approaching deadline, he would tidy up and go back to the studio.
It’s unknown how many murders he committed because he was protected by influential patrons who would excuse anything to keep a genius at work. Unlucky for Caravaggio, hard-core Pope Paul V came to power in 1605 and approved a hit to be made on his life. Pope Paul V’s reputation preceded this decision with the burning of a man for his heretical ideas about the solar system. The assassination of Caravaggio was inevitable…or so we think. He’s still missing and was last seen 400 years ago, heading to Rome by boat.
Caravaggio | The Calling of St. Matthew | 1599-1600 | oil on canvas | 127 x 130 in. | San Luigi dei Francesi
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #8
Last weekend I got lost looking at Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change. The show brought me back to my old grad school days and the 19th century photo history class that blew my mind. For the final, I made a series of stereographs, styling my sister Carolyn by some train tracks in the dead of Michigan winter, attaching a device to my tripod that took the left hand photo first and slid the camera the perfect optical length to the right to take the second one. The resulting 3D images turned out cool, but I always wished they didn’t need a bulky device for viewing.
When I caught up with Eadweard Muybridge, the SFMOMA solved my viewing problems by hanging slim plastic viewers from the wall, making it easy to hold them up and see the 3D scenes. This is the set-up I’ll have in my house when I display these, adding two stereographs to my art collection.
Besides the fact that he was a San Francisco-based cold-blooded killer, there are so many things that I find fascinating about Muybridge. Before my MFA photo education, I hadn’t given much thought to how life was before the invention of photography, and how it changed perception. Now I can’t look anywhere without seeing the cultural impact of photography present in some way. The 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon can be an amusing game, but try The 1 Degree of Photography… it makes my head explode. Well, thankfully it’s not a game because it would become quickly overwhelming like the concept of eternity.
Until yesterday I was most familiar with Muybridge’s stop-action photos of horses and athletes. Those were the later works near the exit of the show, so I got sucked into the earlier photos of the rapidly changing west, Yosemite and San Franscisco. I’ve seen a lot of early photography over the years, but seeing so much of it together, the product of a single curious artistic and scientific mind, is different. Of course finding an old tattered photograph at a flea market is cool, but seeing hundreds of images made by one restless innovator, and following his creative journey from a single landscape photograph to sequential images that evolved into the earliest motion pictures is mind-boggling.
My love of film has prompted me to buy The Horse in Motion as well. Muybridge built a row of 12 cameras into a barn wall facing the track. As the horse passed through the scene it tripped the wires for each camera, setting off the 12 shots. These are some of the early ones that I love.
On a side note, when we were kids, my brother Dave used to draw flip books of stick people playing baseball. I took him for a regular Walt Disney, and vividly remember my 7-year-old self flipping through them, unable to believe my eyes and the unaknowledged genius in the family. So this fantasy art purchase is a double whammy of sentiment and inspiration.
And yes, Muybridge was a killer. In 1874, he found out that his wife had a lover. On the 17th of October, he sought the man out and said, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife”; he then killed the Major with a gunshot (Haas, Robert Bartlett (1976). Muybridge: Man in Motion). A murder trial ensued with a plea of insanity, supported by claims of the old stagecoach accident head injury scenario. He was acquitted for “justifiable homicide.” The criminal defense was paid for by Leland Stanford, the former governor of California, businessman, and race-horse owner who funded Muybridge’s horse photography experiments. I don’t think his insanity was much of a detriment since he went on to do a lot of his most important work in the 20 years following.
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #7
The purchase of my first Lichtenstein is really tricky, thanks to the Swedish thieves who stole “Crak!” from the Abergs Museum in 2008. I’ve gotta hand it to them though, they’re smart criminals with really great taste. I, too, would bypass the typical art booty (altarpieces, brittle frescoes, mesolithic water pitchers) and head straight for the Pop. They picked up a couple of Warhol’s on the way out too.
Here’s my plan: Somehow I am going to buy it off the black market. It’s in the works, but for obvious reasons I can’t talk about it here. All I’ll say is that you wouldn’t believe the hell I’ve been through just to get a foot in the door. Unbelievable! Once “Crak!” is in my posession I’m going to hang it up in my house. I know what you’re thinking, but I figure, hey, its been three years, whats a few more months? Since I can’t have any visitors during this time, for obvious reasons, it might be shorter. Actually… since it is a lithograph, and there are 299 others in the world, I’m probably not very high-risk for accidental jail time … nevermind, I’m getting way ahead of myself.
Eventually I’ll fly to Sweden, stop by the Abergs Museum, ring the buzzer, and leave “Crak!” on the stoop. It’s the least I can do to support the arts, but I don’t want the attention and wouldn’t want to ruin the drama surrounding the piece. It probably adds value.
Once I get back from Sweden I’m going to buy these two Lichtenstein paintings at a legitimate auction, and hang them up next to each other on one of my best walls.I really love Lichtenstein. It’s somewhat of a newfound love because his work relates to what I’m doing with my own. It seems like every museum has one and I’ve been walking by them, giving them a quick glance for most of my life. But recently I bought a book of his work and it’s changed my whole view. Since I make video art, I’m interested in narrative and sequencing, which has led to my recent hobby of reading comics, which has led to my fascination with Lichtenstein.
I like getting one blown-up moment of an implied larger story that doesn’t exist. For the most part his paintings are replicated stills from old comics that do exist and tell a story. But taken out of the context they are just really funny. Of course they look cool too. That’s why I need them in my collection—so I can be reminded every day that life is not as serious as it sometimes feels. They remind me of the bigger picture, and to me there is no price to be put on that (well… I’ll admit, its really handy that fake me is super duper rich).
I’m going to hang my Lichtensteins on the same wall because I like how they inform each other. The relationship between this pair is funny because I’ll always wonder whose side the dog is on. It could be in the room with the girl as she is talking to Jeff, and the dog hates Jeff. But it’s also very possible that it’s Jeff’s dog, Jeff is on the phone behind the scenes, and the dog isn’t a fan of the girl. My dad thinks the dog is Jeff. Endless possibilities!
By the way, the translation of french “Crak!” is “Now my little ones…for France!” Here’s the original comic and the final print.
Crak!, 1964. Lithograph on paper, 18.5 x 27 inches | Grrrrrrrrrrrr!,1965. Oil and Magna on canvas, 68 x 56 inches | Oh, Jeff … i love you, too … but, 1964. Oil and Magna on canvas, 48 x 48 inches
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #6
A Chuck Close painting of Banksy.
I’m actually not serious about this, but I like the idea. If I wasn’t kidding I would commission it on the smaller side, around 6 feet tall. Partly because it would be pretty intense with all the blacks, but mostly because he told Colbert it takes him about a day to complete one row of squares. What a slowpoke.
It’s time to round out 2010 and make one last acquisition for the Manney Collection. I have high hopes for the coming year, and high hopes for how amazing a Calder mobile is going to look suspended weightlessly from my ceiling.
Calder’s work is beautiful and balanced. So simple at first glance but so very complicated when you think about it. How does he do it? Perfect equalibrium that never ceases to amaze me. Here I go again admiring the engineer/artist, and their ability to flex that physics part of the brain that I didn’t inherit. But one of the things that I like most about Calder’s work is that there really isn’t anything to figure out. It’s just so beautiful and I would love to look at it everyday.
It was actually Duchamp who dubbed the term “mobile” to Calder’s work. It’s a play on the terms “motion” and “motive.” Apparently there is something witty about this when translated to french. Calder moved to Paris after trading in his engineer life for that of an artist in 1926. He became friends with Leger, Miro, Duchamp and eventually Mondrian. It was his visit to Mondrian’s studio in 1930 that “shocked” him toward total abstraction. He spent three enthusiastic weeks as an abstract painter before settling in as a sculptor for the rest of his life.
I’m writing this backwards, but the year before Calder moved to Paris he had a two week job doing illustrations of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He started working with wire soon after and created Cirque Calder, an entire circus that was an assemblage of props, animals and performers, all fitting into a trunk that he traveled around with, performing it extensively. In many ways he was plowing the way for performance artists 40 years before they jumped on board. The circus pieces, which are usually on view at the Whitney, are a perfect balance of whimsy and sophistication.
Here are some of his wire pieces, which look so much like drawing to me–3D drawings. Amazing. I find the shadows on the wall as interesting to look at as the actual sculptures. I’m fascinated by the way the lines of the wires and those of the shadows are intertwined. Hmm … well, I’m sticking with the mobile for now, but I think that I want one of these too. I guess I’ll see how 2011 shapes up financially. High hopes, high hopes.
So I’ve been seeing drip drawings by Paul Richard all over Manhattan and Brooklyn lately. His faces remind me of Calder’s wires. I didn’t know much about Richard until an hour ago when I googled him, thanks to the signature he left by a face I stepped on the other day at 14th and 7th. I like the little I know of his work. I’m a big fan of street art and I like how he appropriated Shepard Fairey’s Houston Street mural this spring by putting his “please no graffiti” sign on it. It’s clever. I, too, was pissed off that people smashed holes into Fairey’s mural as soon as it was completed.
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #4
I love Andy Warhol and I’ll definitely pick a Warhol at some point, but I have a tricky relationship with Pop Art—I love most of it. So my pick #4 is Alice Neel‘s painting of Andy Warhol.
When I’m working on art it takes a long time to render video, so I frequently kill time shopping for new acquisitions in my piles of art books. I’ve been thinking about this purchase for a while, and yes, with the holidays approaching money is going to be somewhat tight. But, I love this painting and I’ve gotta have it.
I love Alice Neel because her paintings are so psychologically arresting and she is amazing in every way. Her line, the use of color and how does she know when to stop?! I’m so jealous since my overwork-the-canvas disorder is a constant struggle.
All of Neel’s work makes me feel like I am looking deep into the psyche of the subject. I think that’s why it’s so hard to consider many of her other paintings for my collection. It would be like living with a crazy stranger; their odd piercing eyes, strangely colored faces, their insecurities, fears and dreams spilling off of my wall and into my life.
I imagine it like the movie Big, the Neel painting being the fortune-telling machine that would come to life in the middle of the night, taking me into the crazy land of someone named Ginny or Ritta. Which actually … thinking about it now … I wouldn’t be opposed to as long as they were guaranteed to have a killer loft and trampoline like Josh Baskin.
This is an amazing painting because it is the master painting the master. Both were geniuses of psychology. Neel’s paintings vibrate with her ability to capture and describe people. Warhol’s ability to see what made them tick and what they wanted would bring any creative director to their knees. But most importantly, they are two artists who will never cease to inspire and amaze me. Good old Warhol and Neel … so glad they realized that being an artist is way more fun than being a shrink.
Alice Neel | Andy Warhol | 1970 | Oil on Canvas | 60 x 40 inches / 152.4 x 101.6 cm | Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Last night (3/11) I was reading The Big Picture. Reconsidering Julian Schnabel (Art in America, March ’11). I share the common “his movies are better than his paintings” sentiment, and since I never really considered his paintings, reconsidering them is tricky. I haven’t seen that many in person, and I’ve gotten thrown off by how frequently his style and subject matter varies. The only common thread my short attention span for his work has found is their humongous-ness. But the article made me more curious about his paintings and his career in general.
I wasn’t familiar with the black velvet painting that he did of Andy Warhol in 1982. Warhol sat for this portrait and it was an exchange (I wish I could find the image of Warhol’s Schnabel. no dice). Schnabel’s painting looks so Bacon-ish to me, but I like looking at it in comparison to Neel’s. Neel painted Andy 12 years before Schnabel did, and in both portraits his fragility is overwhelming. He passed away 5 years after this painting was completed.
Julian Schnabel | Portrait of Andy Warhol | 1982 | oil on velvet | 9×10 feet | Courtesy Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #3: A Banksy
This one is going to be tough since I’m sure he would never go for it. The deal: I send a check to the P.O. box of his choosing, he can do whatever he wants, has one year to do it. Although it will be tempting once he completes his end of the bargain and the bloggers and reporters start poking around, we have a clear understanding that this never happened.
This works out well for both of us. For him it works because he can be sneaky, wear a crafty disguise and attack my house in the middle of the night. For me it will be a whole year of the christmas eve scenario I experienced as a child. Every day I will jump out of bed to inspect my house wondering “was he here last night??!!”
So, Banksy, do what you will, but I really really like these three in particular. I’m not so political so if you can avoid that avenue that would be cool.
(clue #3 into how rich fake me is, well about my living arrangements in general … horray! I’m not going to live in the suburbs! How completely stupid to have a Banksy in the burbs, right?).
Fantasy Art Collection Pick #2: A Christo
I kid, I kid. Although I would be so productive if I was wrapped into my studio by millions of bolts of fabric, I suppose it’s a bit impractical and I should just manage my time better. I’d be fine with him just packaging up the Williamsburg Bridge and I’ll go down the street and take a look.
PICK #2 (for real): I would like to commission two Oldenburg’s
Actually I would like two Oldenburg & Van Bruggen’s. Since this is a fantasy, I can wish that she hadn’t passed away in 2009. The first one I would like to have is a melting ice cream cone on top of my house, although I would prefer for it to be a bit drippier than the one that they did in Cologne in 2001.
I love Oldenburg. I love him so much that it was quite a grueling process to settle on this one. In 1995 my Dad took me to New York to interview with the painter Philip Pearlstein for a potential apprenticeship (I hit the jackpot and spent the following semester painting next to him in his studio). As a starry eyed young art student, I didn’t know that much about art history when my Dad and I went to see the Oldenburg retrospective. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I loved it so much I went back to see it twice, and I still love him as much as I did back then. Not only is he an amazing sculptor, but he can draw like no other.
The second of my commissions is going to be called “Two Paintbrushes.” I would like to have two 20-foot paintbrushes that I can lean up against the wall in a corner of my house. They will both have nice dirty handles, but the actual brush part will be clean on one of the brushes, and dirty on the other. By “dirty” I mean that it will still have paint on it so that I can have a big splotch of paint on the wall 20 feet up, where the brush is touching.
I just took this quick snapshot so that there isn’t any ambiguity about the commission when Oldenburg reads my blog. Hopefully this can save a lot of back and forth emailing that might prolong the project.
(clue #2 into how rich fake me is … I guess I’m going to own the building since no landlord would let this fly. Schnabel paints his building hot pink, I get a giant melting ice cream cone on top of mine).
I’m playing “Fantasy Art Collection,” inspired by games like Fantasy Baseball. Go to the main page to get the idea behind it.
PICK #1: ONE of Richard Misrach’s photographs from the series On the Beach.
I stumbled upon this show at the Art Institute when I was living in Chicago in 2007. Seeing them small doesn’t do them justice because they are huge and the scale of them puts you in the space as if you are the only person on earth. They are gorgeous and I want one. I like post apocalyptic things anyhow, and yeah there is a touch of Lost, a bit of 28 Days Later, but mostly they are beautiful and move me.
Misrach made these photos after 9/11 in reference to the people who were filmed and photographed falling from the towers, which is in keeping with his tradition of making beautiful photographs of terrible subjects. But when I look at these I only see beauty. Another reason why I like Misrach is his “faith in the power of aesthetics to effect change.” I share this faith.
Here is an awesome podcast of Misrach talking about the work in 2007
(clue #1 into how rich fake me is … I guess I have a giant wall for a 10ft photo in a really large room. I could never look at this every day if it wasn’t in a huge open space with lots of light)