One book not to read for the holidays

Swiss/British philosopher and writer Alain de Botton (photo: dpa)
Swiss/British philosopher and writer Alain de Botton (photo: dpa)

One book not to read for the holidays: Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton. "You can pick up between 80 and 90% [of what a work of art has to offer] by looking at a poster.” This is an example of a (smug) armchair quarterback pontificating like an expert and in one fell swoop dismissing all that’s visceral and sublime in the experience of standing before a work of art. Time to get a new therapist. By the same token, if you don't need to see art to get the full experience, then simply reading the bookjacket should also suffice.

Contrary to Mr. Botton’s wrongheaded dismissal of the need to physically experience a work of art, here is a more scientific study of the concrete palliative effects of actually interacting with art. The results are startling and contradict my own previously held belief that some artists annoyingly behave as if they have the power to cure disease. Now it appears they very well might.

Nice Looking Graphs


Felix Salmon, finance blogger at Reuters, has been predicting the art market’s demise for ages. What better way is there to convince someone (including yourself), even when wrong, than stating something over and over? Sure nothing goes forever up, that is given, but if anyone ran for cover when he first said to jump, they would have missed history's greatest run. And, wearing his doomsayer's watch on his sleeve, he nevertheless manages to negate the pessimism by stating how great Picasso has done over time, along with the Impressionists and now Warhol. I suspect it’s more (cynically) the fact he doesn’t really believe in the underlying notion that art can have an inherent value. But since it came off the cave walls art has been coveted. His graph is nice looking though.

And for further proof that the art economy (in one guise or another) is here to stay, just watch the latest from the market’s hood ornament, Phillip Hoffman of the Art Fund, whatever that is. On second thought, nothing goes up forever except Picasso.

Hirst Heist

The Exhibitionist Gallery in Notting Hill where two art pieces by British artist Damien Hirst were stolen (photo: dpa)
The Exhibitionist Gallery in Notting Hill where two art pieces by British artist Damien Hirst were stolen (photo: dpa)

Though the London gallery features works by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Kapoor and Banksy, a (dumb) thief made off with two signed Damien Hirst paintings. For the punishment to meet the crime, make the idiot live with the art for a year or two. Or better yet, let’s see if he can actually sell it; if so he can work for me.

An Auction House Morality Tale


Some years ago, I was asked by an in-law with a formidable art collection to sell a work that was beyond the scope of the emerging contemporary fare I was used to flogging at the time. It would be no easy task. The market for Impressionist and Modern art is an altogether different animal from contemporary art, with its own particular set of rules and regulations. There are issues of condition, provenance, establishing continuous ownership (WWII concerns), a different language of art terms, different clientele. Every subset of the art market has its own list of do’s and don’ts that must be religiously adhered to, lest one be branded a heretic and forever ostracized for a breach; in some ways, it’s not unlike the mafia.

I was sitting with this in-law in his office when he fielded a phone call. He looked  less than amused when he hung up. “What have you been doing with my painting?” he asked me accusingly. He had just been informed by a certain specialist at a certain auction house that I was “burning” his work, art market parlance for overexposing and thereby damaging the prospects of selling a piece. (In fact, every time you press send on an email containing a jpeg you can be said to be culpable—they replicate quicker than viruses. I’ve referred before in my writing to those who deal in them, the jpeg jockeys.)  ... weiterlesen

On The Way To Miami


Was stuck on plane to Miami with the entire London art world, would have made for a nice headline had we gone down. A scary bunch indeed, like 300 worms intertwined under a rock. There were museum heads, auction house exec.s and dealers galore. One fearsome female gallerist was clad in fatigues from head to toe like an art militia.

The lady next to me coughed for the entire duration of the flight, I requested to move (to no avail) and considered donning a hospital mask –I went as far as asking. For some fresh air, I had to wait for an auction specialist to fall asleep before I could make a rap with the renowned collector sitting next to him. Not an auspicious start to the trip.

After nearly 9.5 hours, the flight stretched longer than anticipated, I was beginning to hope for a mechanical malfunction. Not to mention the door wouldn’t open after we landed because it was not aligned properly with the gate—turns out was a case of bad parking. Reassuring.

Funny how I was writing a auction house article sitting amongst the very protagonists, at one point I even had to physically obscure my screen. It's being edited now.

Work With Lack


Compelling article about Sophie Calle in Stella Magazine (Sunday Telegraph), whose work I admittedly was never really drawn to and found her stalking piece (Suite Venitienne, 1979) derivative of Acconci’s earlier Following Piece. Nevertheless, the article was quite intriguing, especially the notion that her art is largely based around absence: “I once tried to do a project about money and I couldn’t make it work at all. Then a friend said, ‘If I say money to you, what would you answer?’ I said, I’ve got some.’ And we went, ‘There you are—you can only work with lack.’” So that’s why everyone else is so obsessed.

Couldn’t find Stella article online but here are a few others:



Returning from school run I saw a partial car license plate with the word: ART. As I crumpled a business card and readied to launch it across the lane, the remainder of the registration came into view: H8. How funny is that: H8 ART? And just in time for this from the NY Times: “THE BUZZ: At Art Basel Miami Beach, Squeezing Art Out of the Picture.” Maybe there should be a fair with no art next. Even I am cutting it down to 3 days this year.

RSS Feed
"Die Kunstwelt ist wie eine Mafia, es gibt ein ungeschriebenes Gesetz des Stillschweigens", sagt Kenny Schachter. Auf seinem Monopol-Blog bringt der britische Kunsthändler Licht ins Dunkle und macht die Mechanismen des Marktes transparent. In englischer Sprache