Monday, November 12, 2007

L'Age d'Or

I recently worked on the translation of a large book about the French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank, whose streamlined furniture and empty decors belonged to an avant-garde art scene in Europe in the 1920s and 30s. He rubbed shoulders with a mix of outré artists (Man Ray, Buñuel, René Crevel among them) and art patrons (Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, Nancy Cunard, the Pecci-Blunts), who hosted costume balls, lavish soirées and intellectual powwows. There was opium, rehab, suicide and name-dropping, but also artistic innovation and invention. While it was all a theater of extravagance and superficiality, I’ve got to say, it sounds dynamic and invigorating artistically.

Reading Calvin Tomkins’s portrait of Jeffrey Deitch in last week’s New Yorker, on the other hand, had me lying on my back depressed.

His portrait of today’s dominant art scene is entirely unappealing. Can’t say I didn’t already know, but, come on.

"… Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer said [,] 'The physical presence of the work is not the primary stimulant – they will want to see it already make a lot of impact on the printed page.' That sounds like the see-at-a-glance accessibility of advertising art, which happens to be a prime source for the work of Koons, Prince, Murakami, and a score of other top-selling contemporary masters. It also suggests a kind of art that can just be bought on the Internet, and Deitch confirms that this is the case. ‘We do it all the time,’ he told me. ‘People will ask me to send them a digital image of the next available thing by an artist whose work they know and like, and they will buy from that. It’s completely normal in our business.[...]'The art world used to be a community, but now it's an industry. [...] I try to act responsibly toward the art, but if people offer tremendous anounts of money for it you really can't control that.'"

Any exciting alternatives, I wonder, for the thousand millionth time?

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