Previous Week’s Blog: It Was Hard For Me
This week is a departure from the normal blog on becoming a writer. Sometimes things come up that give one pause for thought and this last week the Frieze Art Fair in London and my recent outings house hunting in London where a chair in one house was purportedly a piece of ‘art’ was valued at 250k pounds has given me reason to pause on the question of ‘ART?’ – more than once recently.
Please be advised some people may find ‘ART’ disturbing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882)
Every year that goes by, I think that the “art world” is taking the piss with the rest of us. The Frieze Art Fair 2009 not only contributed more evidence to my theory, but it has also helped to redefine the term VIP for me – I have never felt less important – except on my wedding day.
When the Viscountess and I first arrived at the Fair we went directly to the VIP bar where we planned to indulge in copious quantities of Pommery Champagne. Sounds nice, but the only thing nice about it was the guy serving us who was polite and interesting. The champagne, which was too warm and came in plastic flutes, is actually what I think is meant by ‘the art of the con’ – 18 pounds sterling for this so-called VIP privilege.
When financial abuse like this happens to me, I actually feel like someone is calling out for idiots and I, for some reason, have anxiously raised my hand. The whole thing smacked of the Frieze organizers saying, ‘well, you fools are here to see and buy some of the most stupid art ever and, being that we did our demographics before we set up the fair, we realized that you twats, rather, VIPs, wouldn’t mind being served warm champagne in plastic flutes and you’ll pay through the nose for it.’ For Pommery, it must have been more like a hunting trade show than an art fair – it was like shooting fish in a barrel for them.
The barman asked me what I thought about the Fair and I said that we had yet to see anything except the pieces on the way to the VIP lounge. I did mention, however, that I was rather skeptical about a lot of what is called “art” nowadays. He agreed and went on to tell me, although I never did actually see it, that somewhere in Frieze was a twig standing up against a wall for 100,000 pounds.
Perhaps I didn’t see it because some savvy collector got to it before me, or perhaps a kid with more sense than the rest of us , thought quite rightly that there must have been a mistake and the twig belonged in a park, so he threw it back into nature. I mean once that particular piece of art is lost in a park, how the hell are you going to find it? But I guess, and in fact, I am certain it was insured… did you ever wonder how the insurance industry like the banking industry came close to collapse… I believe AIG were insured far too many ‘twigs’ lots of which eventually snapped.
Although I didn’t see the actual ‘twig’ I certainly saw enough insanity that compared equally with it (other than the Pommery I mean). Just before we get on to the actual show, however, I would like to finish with the whole Frieze redefinition of VIP.
The VIP lounge required an access card with a barcode. It was filled with Nordic style furniture that made me think its previous incarnation was an IKEA R&D lab. There were no trees, sculptures, art, or anything to make it feel VIP. It actually felt like a children’s playschool. And despite the VIP section being closed off by a lovely set of grey drapes (clearly, I kid, there is no such thing as lovely grey drapes, especially in a place like London) but the other food and drink places dotted around the non-VIP fair actually had trees and views of Regent’s Park. Also, despite there being an endless amount number of staff, the tables were messy with plastic glasses and napkins and the remnants of Gail’s food (of which I can say, at least, Gail’s food was yummy and the best experience of Frieze – I would like to point out that at an art fair, that the highest praise goes to Gail’s food is baldly absurd).
On the way out, I mentioned to the gatekeeper my thoughts on how very un-VIP the whole Frieze VIP thing felt. She commented that others thought similarly. She informed me that the next week they would be having a meeting to discuss feedback about the entire fair – in her case, specifically, the VIP issues. I asked if I could fill in a form or something so that she could bring up my comments with the powers that be. She told me that there was no complaint form or procedure but mentioned that she could add my comments on to a list of other comments she had been collecting.
She then picked up a Post-It note which I somehow doubted was going to make it to that meeting. Thankfully, she just moved it to one side and took the legal pad from underneath it. She then flipped it back four or five pages and started to take down my comments at the bottom of the list. It was apparent other VIPs were not feeling very VIPy either.
Ah, to the art. I grew up in a family with a collection of close to 1,000 pieces. I made quite of few of those acquisitions myself at relatively early ages and over a period of about 10 years. In my family, we were never worried about the ‘future’ value of art. We were more interested in the quality of the work – the effort, thought and passion that went into it. Passion was a make or break for my family’s collection. If passion didn’t come blazing off the canvas or other medium it wasn’t about to get into the family’s collection.
Everybody has their opinion of what constitutes art. I think that is fair to say, and I understand why. I can appreciate various forms of art, but one thing that I personally feel is required of anything ‘one’ wants to call art – is effort. I don’t think you get passion out of any kind of art without an artist making a significant effort. In Japan one stroke of a brush can be a masterpiece but hundreds of hours of thought, of sketches, of effort, that go into the final stroke is a world of simplicity that reveals an entire universe.
If you take a piece of plan wood and turn a screw into it three times – in reality this particular piece seems more like a metaphor for the artist screwing the collector – however, so the story goes, it is supposed to be an artistic commentary on the Third Reich. Are the artists fucking kidding us? He, she or they is almost certainly kicking back in Barbados having a laugh over a Tequila Sunrise.
Teddy bears tied to wire chair are worth a reported 250,000 pounds. I would really like the show the people who buy this so called art the Brooklyn Bridge – because first of all, I can get them a really good deal on it – and second, if they really really want, I am prepared to tie hand sewn teddy bears to the entire structure, if the price is right – thus making it more valuable “ART.”
What happened to real effort and passion in artistic work? I remember reading about Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel. The leather from his vest actually fused to his skin he worked so hard and so long without so much as pausing for a bite to eat. Da Vinci produced less that 20 paintings over his entire life that we know of, but those 20 can knock you over with a feather.
What the hell has happened to the artists and their ‘managers’? Have they become so cynical and the buying public so stupid that these pieces of nonsense are sold as ‘art’ for absurd sums with little societal reflection. It makes me ashamed of the art world, not proud of it. It makes me think that the work ethic of artists no longer exists and that in lieu of actually producing ART they generate a brand and then anything from that artist is part of the brand. It is sort of like the completely nude catalogue that Calvin Klein did for his clothes brand a few years ago. It begs the question, what about the clothes? Frieze 2009 begs the question, what about the art?
Of course, I leave myself open to ‘arty people’ dismissing my views as those of an uneducated. The art world is quick to give marching orders to anyone who dares question the sanity and integrity of what they, themselves deem ‘art’. And to those in the art world who might think my views to be uniformed let me just say this – a twig is a twig is a twig – and it isn’t worth a 100 grand in a park or against a wall – no matter who put it there.
PS. Even though I´m concerned that this piece fails to capture the majestic splendour of my vitriol for Frieze, the Viscountess is worried I come over a bit too Brian Sewell. On that basis, she has suggested that I link to further discussion on this, and similar, topics with a view to presenting other points of view. I don’t agree but anything for a quiet life:
Becoming a writer – Next Blog: Deconstruction and Destruction of Descartes