March 22, 2011

Billionaires, Not Millionaires

In 1939, the American artist John Sloan wrote in the book Gist of Art:

"The buying of art comes from so tremendously different motives. Few buyers buy because they like the work themselves. First of all, the buying of well known pictures at high prices has been very logically proved to be one of the conspicuous wastes. The buying of any picture is a waste of money from the American point of view, and the buying of a very high priced picture is a conspicuous waste that will be heralded in the newspapers. People buy pictures to prove that they have money. The gods of the business man are money and power. Money brings no power except over cowards. There is only one kind of power worth having and that is power over one's self."

. . . . . . . .

In the March 2011 issue of Art + Auction, Benjamin Genocchio writes:

"During a lecture tour in Australia in the late 1960s, the American art critic Clement Greenberg was asked by a journalist what could be done to improve the international standing of Australian art and artists. Greenberg thought for a minute and then responded in a way that confounded the local audience: "You need more millionaires."

Coming from New York, Greenberg was acutely aware of the importance of money and patronage in promoting art and artists. These things are still important. But the current collectors and benefactors are somewhat different from those who were around in Greenberg's day. For starters they are more likely to be billionaires, since a million dollars these days doesn't go very far. ..."

Mr. Genocchio continues:

"Many of these superrich individuals are connected, attending the same parties and benefits in New York, London, Athens, and Moscow, frequenting the same exclusive hotels, and participating in many of the same conferences, such as those in Davos or Sun Valley. Many are also dedicated patrons who vie for big-ticket trophies on the international art market."

March 16, 2011

Selflessness: The Fukushima 50

Sea of Japan, 1996 by Hiroshi Sugimoto

Excerpts from article titled Last Defense at Troubled Reactors: 50 Japanese Workers by Keith Bradsher and Hiroko Tabuchi in the March 15, 2011 edition of the New York Times:

"A small crew of technicians, braving radiation and fire, became the only people remaining at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Tuesday - and perhaps Japan's last chance of preventing a broader nuclear catastrophe."

. . . . . . . .

"The workers are being asked to make escalating - and perhaps existential - sacrifices that so far are being only implicitly acknowledged: Japan's Health Ministry said Tuesday it was raising the legal limit on the amount of radiation to which each worker could be exposed, to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts, five times the maximum exposure permitted for American nuclear plant workers"

. . . . . . . .

"Nuclear reactor operators say that their profession is typified by the same kind of esprit de corps found among firefighters and elite military units. Lunchroom conversations at reactors frequently turn to what operators would do in a severe emergency.

The consensus is always that they would warn their families to flee before staying at their posts to the end, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at three American power plants for a total of 13 years.

"You're certainly worried about the health and safety of your family, but you have an obligation to stay at the facility," he said. "There is a sense of loyalty and camaraderie when you've trained with guys, you've done shifts with them for years."

Adding to this natural bonding, jobs in Japan confer identity, command loyalty and inspire a particularly fervent kind of dedication. Economic straits have chipped away at the hallowed idea of lifetime employment for many Japanese, but the workplace remains a potent source of community. Mr. Friedlander said that he had no doubt that in an identical accident in the United States, 50 volunteers could be found to stay behind after everyone else evacuated from an extremely hazardous environment. But Japanese are raised to believe that individuals sacrifice for the good of the group."

March 7, 2011

Does The Work Aspire Or Does It Inspire?

Sticker seen near the corner of E. Houston St. 
and Lafayette Street in NYC

After months of coaxing by friends and colleagues, I finally watched Banksy's 2010 film on street art titled Exit Through The Gift Shop this past weekend. All I could think of while watching the self-fulfilling self promotion piece (some would say mockumentary) was the words found on the sidewalk sticker (creator unknown) illustrated above. You and your boys have "won" B., but ... so what? 

What a burden it is for any serious artist to still care about the art world today.