Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two Free Downloads

by Robert Boyd


This book of essays about Fluxus, The Fluxus Reader is being offered for free in PDF form here. Fluxus was, as you may recall, the dada-inspired art movement that reached it peak in the 60s, and included as "members" such figures as John Cage, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, etc. There was a big exhibition of a key Fluxus artist, Benjamin Patterson, at the CAMH last year.

Then there's this thing:


This is Artprice's annual summary of what happened in the art auction world (where prices are more-or-less transparent). It's a world that is far away from the life of the average artist, but it does give one an idea of the amount of money in the art world. To get a true idea of the size of the art world in terms of money on an annual basis, you'd have to construct an equation that looks something like this:
Auction sales + gallery sales + private sales + museum and art space annual expenses and capex + art school [including private instruction and instruction in elementary, middle and high schools] annual expenses and capex + sales of art supplies
Am I missing something obvious? Anyway, the top 10 artists at auction in 2011, according to Artprice, were:

1. Zhang Daqian (1899-1983) – $550m. My art history was way too Western-centric for me to have even heard of this guy, I'm embarrassed to admit.
2. Qi Baishi (1864-1957) – $510m. Ditto.
3. Andy Warhol (1928-1987) – $325m
4. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) – $315m
5. Xu Beihong (1895-1953) – $220m.
6. Wu Guanzhong (1919-2010) – $212m
7. Fu Baoshi (1904-1965) – $198m
8. Gerhard Richter (1932) – $175m. It's nice that the top living artist isn't someone like Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons.
9. Francis Bacon (1909-1992) – $129m
10. Li Keran (1907-1989) – $115m

The rise of Chinese art in the art market is pretty amazing. Obviously it reflects the rise in wealth of the Chinese, but that can't be all of it. If it were, we'd also see a lot more Japanese artists (the first Japanese artist on the list is Takashi Murakami at 97), Korean artists, Russian artists, Brazilian artists, Indian artists, etc. So something else is happening with the Chinese market. One thing that comes to mind is that these artists must have been pretty prolific. Another thing is that the provenance must be somewhat tricky. Who owned these works during the Maoist period? In any case, I suspect that when kids take their two semester art history survey class, there is a lot more time spent on the history of Chinese art than there was in the early 80s when I took that class.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012


This was in the Santa Fe New Mexican a few days ago.
Peter de La Fuente, who sells his family's artworks as well as his own at the Wyeth Hurd Gallery, said he's never seen it slower.

"If you go out on Palace Avenue, you can look down and there's nobody in that portal going down to the Plaza. It's almost in a vacuum right now," he said. "There are times in the year that I feel like I've got a very nice office with very excellent art on the wall."

De La Fuente, the grandson of Peter Hurd and the great-grandson of M.C. Wyeth, was among several dealers to use the language of the Occupy movement.

"I hate to be a snob, but what we're getting now is a bunch of 99 percenters, and they're very appreciative, but they're not collectors," he said. "The people who are collectors, my clients, are the 1 percent, people who can afford art and fine art and expensive art. ...

"We [need] to get rid of Obama and let the people make money again. Profit is not a bad thing. It's what makes this country go." ("Bloom or Bust? Jury's out on state of Santa Fe art market," Tom Sharpe, The Santa Fe New Mexican, February 16, 2012)
In other news, the Dow Jones broke 13,000 today for the first time since May, 2008.


Lonesome Prison Links

by Robert Boyd

Ray Warmsley painting
A painting by Ray Warmsley (Abilene ReporterNews)

My Favorite Art Story this Week: Ray Warmsley was a career criminal in the Ellis Unit about 30 years ago. Jackie Morris was the daughter of the president of Abilene Christian University. She was doing ministry and social work when she met Ray in 1978. They fell in love and got married after he was paroled in 1984. It was a scandal in Abilene--a prim and proper white lady from a prominent local family marrying a paroled African-American criminal 18 years her junior. Then in 1986, Ray got sent back to jail on old warrants. And started painting. Then last year, in October, Ray was paroled again. Amazingly, Jackie stuck with him all this time. He's in his 60s, wearing an ankle bracelet to keep him in house arrest, and she is in her 80s. And they both paint. And they got a two-person show at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Abilene. ("From opposite sides of prison bars, Abilene artist couple creates unlikely love story," Jeremy Goldmeier, Abilene ReporterNews, February 25, 2012)

Space Ducks
Daniel Johnston, Space Ducks, graphic novel cover, 2012

My Second Favorite Art Story this Week: I'm just going to quote from the press release on this one.
BOOM! Town and Wieden + Kennedy Entertainment bring world-famous underground musician and artist Daniel Johnston to comics this April with his new graphic novel SPACE DUCKS: AN INFINITE COMIC BOOK OF MUSICAL GREATNESS. [...]
SPACE DUCKS is more than just a graphic novel, it’s a one-of-a-kind interactive comic book experience, complimented by the Space Ducks album and iOS App. The companion app will virtually take readers through Daniel’s Outer-Space world of Ducks and Devils, with games to play, surprising voices from different talents, animations and videos from the comic book, links to exciting new Space Ducks merchandise, and a slew of Easter eggs, including contributions from some of the critically-acclaimed musicians who number amongst Daniel’s biggest fans. The app will also debut Daniel Johnston’s first new album since 2009.
Waller's greatest artist appears ready to bring it once again. They're launching this nutty thing at SXSW, but I'm sure you'll be able to get it at Domy. ("Daniel Johnston Brings SPACE DUCKS to Boom!," The Beat, February 27, 2012)

My Third Favorite Art Story this Week: Did you know that the Whitney Museum had broken off their sponsorship agreements with Sotheby's and Deutsche Bank respectively to protest Sotheby's lockout of union art handlers (in a year of record-breaking profits for the auction house) and to protest Deutsche Bank's involvement in the mortgage crisis? Well, they didn't but some clever person put up an imitation Whitney Biennial website that indicated that they had. It is an exact duplicate of the actual Whitney Biennial website (except for the apologies). Art Fag City links it to the Occupy-related group Arts & Labor, but it is unknown who actually made the faux Whitney webpage. Love it, though. (Fake Whitney Biennial page, "Arts & Labor Calls For an End to Whitney Biennial, Pranking Follow," Whitney Kimball, Art Fag City, February 2, 2012)

Teddy Roosevelt
David Adickes, Teddy Roosevelt, 21 feet high

Do You Have $28,000 Burning a Hole in Your Pocket? If so, You can go on eBay right now and buy an 21' high bust of Teddy Roosevelt by David Adickes. And if you have $48,000, you can get Lincoln, too.


Earl Staley's Big Rock Candy Mountain

by Robert  Boyd

Earl Staley has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, as I outlined in a recent post. He got divorced, lost his eyepatch, gained a gallery (New Gallery, in a new location). And for the first time in a while, he is having a museum show. The museum is Spring's Pearl Fincher Museum, and the show is modest--five paintings. It's part of the Pearl Fincher series of exhibits of work by the Lone Star College art professors. Staley teaches painting at LCS-Tomball (where there are a group of women who take his class over and over, and who call themselves Earl's Girls).

Earl Staley, Breaking Storm, acrylic on canvas, 2009

The first thing I noticed was that there were no collage paintings here. They were all landscapes, mostly pretty realistic, although in some cases the color was pushed into a level that was more intense than nature usually delivers. But there was nothing here that would confuse or confound the good burghers of Champions. Staley implied to me that this was intentional.

Earl Staley, Headland, acrylic on canvas, 2010

But he told me that the key to these works was that they were painted as he was getting divorced. The island was a place to escape to, the storm breaking was the end of the process, etc.

Earl Staley, What Was Revealed, acrylic on canvas, 2012

And the key painting for me is this rocky bit of  surrealism. This colorful shape, emerging out of a realistically rendered rock outcropping, stopped me in my tracks. This dreamscape struck me as an act of magic. The colors of the shapes on top seem to distill the sunset colors in the desert (Staley visits Big Bend and lived in New Mexico, so these colors are present in his mind). But they are unmoored from the thingness of the desert. You can see these colors in kitsch souvenir paintings and postcards of desert beauty spots, but this is different. Staley is reintroducing the viewer to the sheer strangeness of the desert.