The booby traps of contemporary art

2 years ago | SoTA Magazine

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In 2012, fearing that the lack of a speech and the extravagance of these works could acquire an ephemeral character, two prominent collectors who had invested in them, influenced the Tate Modern in London to organize a retrospective exhibition, believing that in the context of a museum with such prestige, these objects will begin to be valued as works of art. However, that could not stop the fall of its value in the market. But lets remember what was exhibited in that retrospective, curated by Ann Gallagher: Boxes (1988) compositions in which colored cardboard boxes were part of the design of a wall Mondrian style; Spots Painting (1986), colored polka dots on canvases that would be an extension of what one can see through a mesh counter … already seen in the 60’s in American Pop Art; 8 Pans (1987), eight pots and pans colored with acrylic paint. In the middle of room No 2, was installed Mil años (1990) a structure of insulating glass inside which was the decapitated head of a calf, rotting in real time with thousands of flies fluttering on the carrion, while at the top was placed the grill of an electric fly swatter where dozens of these were electrocuted. In the other rooms, lambs and cows were installed (Mother and Child, 1990) cut in half and preserved in formaldehyde, butterflies in free flight, didactic materials for the teaching of medicine, the interior of a pharmacy, as well as a whole kit of surgical instruments exhibited in showcases. Finally, anything within a series of nonsense of a curator and an artist who did not have a solid discourse to show. The Tate transformed into a morgue or a taxidermy laboratory.

In recent auctions such as Sothesby’s, the prices of the works of Hirst fell by 50% or were not sold, and in the auction of Phillips London, in March of 2017, the work with the bombastic title: The “spin” Work Beautiful Mider Intense Cathartic Painting with Extra Inner Beauty (2008), originally sold for US $ 1.2 million in 2008, and was resold for US $ 546,000. It is a real debacle for some investors.

But the case of Hirst is just one among many examples of superficiality and banality that invade galleries, fairs and museums around the world. That was a common characteristic in many of the stands of the last art fairs I visited, where you could not know if you were watching an exhibition of decorators, artisans or pranksters … “installers”  place furniture sets, mirrors and suitcases , yes, with an explanatory text of the “work” with which they try to convince the public about the monster they’ve created. Many of the so-called “avant-garde” or “postmodern” works of art and installations, without any conceptual discourse to sustain them, are nothing more than booby traps set by unemployed careerists, curators and gallerists with a marketing strategy supporting them, many guts and little fear of ridicule. There is an old popular saying that states: “Where there is a con man, there is an incautious one”. It is a trap, there is no other word to define some self-styled “artists”.

Where does this come from? When Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), questioned the academicism in art and in 1917 he exhibited a porcelain urinal that he titled Fountain, under the concept of ready-made art, he unintentionally  made others  feel entitled to kill the art. They are vulgar imitators of the works of Duchamp, Ray, Picabia or of the Pop Art of the 60s, that we have already seen. Nonetheless, these exponents of nonsense try to sell their work as something new. The exhibition of the young Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), in 2010, was cataloged by the magazine Art Now as “one of the 81 most influential creators of our present time”, the article in this magazine was about the artist’s Caja de zapatos vacía (1993). Such magnificent “artwork” was … an empty shoe box! Very well illuminated. Critics of art, cultural journalists and curators who convert the banal and null in vanguard, do nothing but invite people to live in the world of stupidity and confusion. As Baudrillard affirms, “art bets on that uncertainty, on the impossibility of a judgment of founded aesthetic value, and speculates with the fault of those who do not understand it, or did not understand that, there was nothing to understand”.

Si bien, el arte debe ser completamente libre por tratarse de un mecanismo de expresión del que dispone cualquier individuo, debe existir al menos una dosis de ética en el artista en relación a las obras que exhibe. Son hilarantes las anécdotas sobre estos supuestos artistas. Se comenta que en una famosa galería de New York, un visitante preguntó el nombre del artista y el título de la obra colgada en la pared de una exposición de “arte conceptual”, tratándose en realidad de la rejilla del sistema de ventilación que tenía incorporadas unas delgadas tiras de plástico de colores que ondeaban en el aire. En la FIAC de 2103 en parís, un stand exhibía felpudos usados, eso sí, bellamente enmarcados e iluminados. Uno de estos aún tenía restos de una plasta de perro, donde muy probablemente el “artista” había limpiado sus zapatos. Tuvieron mucha demanda pese a los altos precios.

Although art must be completely free because it is a mechanism of expression available to any individual, there must be at least a dose of ethics in the artist in relation to the works they exhibit. The anecdotes about these supposed artists are hilarious. It is said that in a famous gallery in New York, a visitor asked the name of the artist and the title of the work hung on the wall of an exhibition of “conceptual art”, in fact it was the grille of the ventilation system that had incorporated thin strips of colored plastic that fluttered in the air. In the FIAC of 2103 in Paris, a stand exhibited used doormats, yes, beautifully framed and illuminated. One of the doormats still had remains of dog’s excrement, where most likely the “artist” had cleaned his shoes. They had a lot of demand despite the high prices. I witnessed the paroxysm of this generalized confusion about what Art is today, at the FIAC Paris in 2016, when in one of the corridors I came across a group of people who took pictures or pointed to the floor, where I saw a beautiful brown leather agenda, half-open, full of yellow post-it notes and business cards scattered under the spot of a reflector. An older man, very elegant and with the tip of his glasses placed on his lower lip, commented with some disdain to his beautiful companion the interesting thing of the work in the center of the beam of light, which he interpreted as the linear time in which one is lost in life. In the midst of this spontaneous crowding, a somewhat plump, discomfited woman appeared, breathing nervously, and slipped into the illuminated center until, with sighs of relief, she took the agenda and organized the cards she thanked heaven for having found her agenda, grabbed it from the floor, put it inside her bag and left hurriedly.

In the world of “art installations”, so fashionable among the merchants of the temple of art and generally so mediocre, the caustic voice of Avelina Lésper is heard: “What can we do with art: lets just openly say that neither speech, nor intentions, nor the large sums of money can turn into art objects that lack intelligence and beauty, that the condition of art is above ideological and economic interests. Lets leave the hypocrisy of good intentions and accept that art is suffering because of mercenaries, a group of people who have turned it into an ideological and economic instrument, people who have made their mediocrity a weapon, and who are masters of social blackmail “.

The art market has been globalized becoming a true financial phenomenon of the 21st century. In 2017, global sales were registered for US $ 63.7 billion. All around the world, the public flocks to fairs, museums and galleries, however, there is great confusion before the general idea of “everything’s valid” in art. This thought has caused a crisis of aesthetic valuation as well as a delegitimization, promoted by a voracious market, very effective in the task of marketing vapid proposals that persuade misinformed people to prefer the false over the true, the insubstantial over the valuable. This bewilderment is overshadowing the true discourses of contemporary art, including that of young artists with coherent and innovative research and proposals.

Pese a esa invasión de la estulticia, la percepción de los coleccionistas y del público está volviendo de nuevo a las fuentes estéticas. En Art Basel 2018, la feria más importante del mundo, el primer día fue un éxito de ventas para las galerías que mostraban a los artistas con discursos coherentes.  Vale la pena destacar que en las primeras horas de la feria, en el denominado First Choice, exclusivo para coleccionistas e invitados especiales, el Louisiana Museum of Modern Art de Copenhague adquirió la obra Translucent Chromointerférent Environement (1974-2009) del maestro Cruz-Diez.

Despite this invasion of stupidity, the perception of collectors and that of the the public is returning to its aesthetic sources. In Art Basel 2018, the most important fair in the world, the first day was a sales success for the galleries that showed artists with coherent speeches. It is worth noting that in the first hours of the fair, in the so-called First Choice, exclusive for collectors and special guests, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen acquired the work Translucent Chromointerférent Environement (1974-2009) of  Cruz-Diez .

Para terminar estos pensamientos en voz alta sobre la confusión del arte contemporáneo y buscando un poco de sentido, me remito a tres definiciones sobre el Arte: Tomás de Aquino (c. 1225–1274), en su Summa Theológica dice: “el Arte es la técnica de lo factible, el arte es el recto ordenamiento de la razón”. Hegel, en su Fenomenología Del Espíritu (1807), aporta su interesante visión: “La verdadera obra de Arte, además del goce inmediato genera en los seres pensamiento, reflexión y juicios”, y para Jorge Wagensberg
 (El arte en aforismos, El País, 2014), “Una obra de arte es una compresión en pos de una expansión”.

Finally, to conclude these thoughts about the confusion of contemporary art and in my quest for a bit of meaning and common sense, I would like to refer to three definitions of Art: Thomas Aquinas (c 1225-1274), in his Summa Theologica states: “Art is the technique of what is feasible, art is the right ordering of reason “. Hegel, in his Phenomenology of the Spirit (1807), contributes to the definition of art with this interesting vision: “The true work of Art, besides the immediate enjoyment it generates in the thoughts of a being, it also generates reflection and judgments”, and for Jorge Wagensberg (Art in aphorisms, El País , 2014), “A work of art is a compression in pursuit of an expansion”.

Edgar Cherubini Lecuna