Strategies For Super Rich Art Collectors By Collagist Joseph Staples

I was forwarded an interesting read on a different way to look at art buying, focused on the younger generation of contemporary artists rather than the Old Master painters and “blue chip artists” like Richter or Picasso.

gerhard-richter-confrontation-1

Confrontation 1 (1988) by Gerhard Richter, oil on canvas, 112 cm x 102 cm

Chad Loweth doesn’t suggest spending $300,000 to $3,000,000 on a few high valued (or often “overvalued” according to the author) pieces by “Nifty Fifty” artists. Though said to be safe, he sees the possibility of a crash in most of these top tier artists at today’s prices.

Loweth suggests spreading your money around to a select group of young mid career (or to continue Loweth’s metaphor “Mid Cap” artists) in the $30,000 – $50,000 per piece range. Generally, the idea is that artists who have managed to attain these price points at an age where they still have a career ahead of them have the most potential to turn into a blue chip artist.

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Your Work Is More Important Than Your Ego

I’ve never been a team sports guy. I’ve always liked solo activities — running, riding my bike, swimming. There are a lot of reasons behind that, but mostly, as I got older, I began looking to exercise to not only benefit my body, but also my mind. If I have a lot going on, I can get away from it by working myself hard. Dipping in and out of mental problems and ideas while working out has always been good for my mental space. It’s private time.

Holder cutHolder, collaged archival prints on panel, 24″ x 52″, 2013

I swim at public pools. I love Kits pool in the summer, but right now, it’s the Aquatic Center. Not my first choice for a lot of reasons, but it has decent-sized lanes, great natural light, and isn’t too busy.

I was swimming along the other day, thinking about my breathing and concentrating on the way I finished the stroke — while concurrently thinking about materials for a new set of pieces I want to finish — when I felt something slam into my lower leg. It didn’t hurt, but it totally fucked up my rhythm. My breathing got erratic, I stopped moving my legs, and my stroke hesitated. A second later, while turning to see what had hit me, I felt another bump in my side and a splash in my face as I tried to breathe in.

It was another swimmer passing me. It happens from time to time. I’m a strong swimmer, but sometimes someone is just going for it, or they’re a stronger swimmer than I am, or they’re doing sprints or whatever.

What brings me to writing this was my reaction, that day. While I did feel threatened for a second — my pride momentarily disturbed by the fact that someone could pass me — I was back where I was before the interruption within two strokes. In fact, someone passed me right after the first person did, and I barely registered it.

Three years ago, someone touching me while I was swimming would have made me stop dead, stand up in the pool or tread water and see who and what their problem was. If I would have felt someone passing me, I would have sped up and raced them all the way in. I probably wouldn’t have said anything, but I would have made my presence known in some passive-aggressive way. It was all personal.

I was an asshole. But more importantly, I wasn’t very effective. I couldn’t swim long distance. I had to break often. I got tired quickly. I’d get distracted by the diving board or a bikini — anything but the task on hand. I splashed a lot, and didn’t get a lot of swimming done.

I’ve swam the last two years more seriously, but in my opinion, what has really changed is my attitude about my work.

I’m an artist. Contrary to what you might have been led to believe by popular culture, it’s fairly boring. Long hours, low pay (for most), lots of toxic chemicals. I enjoy it for most of those reasons. One thing is that it’s taught me a lot about myself, and has given me a broader view of the world.

The last three months have been shit for me. It’s been tremendously hard to make work for a variety of reasons, but mostly it’s been about me. My work is changing and I’m scared and feel out of my element. I’m trying new things and they freak me out. I’m going outside of what I’ve done before to try something new based on all the things I’ve done previously. It’s hard work. It’s emotionally draining. It’s tough on my relationships. It’s costly.

At first, you may only be able to progress this far...(#5), collaged archival prints on panel, 30" x 42", At first, you may only be able to progress this far…(#5), collaged archival prints on panel, 30″ x 42″, 2013

How does this come back to swimming? It’s easy to get distracted by other people in the pool. But I go in with specific things I want to work on – how I’m breathing, a certain time per lap, distance – and I come out having achieved those or not. So that guy who passed me? He’s not that important. More importantly, I’m not that important either. Frankly, neither are you.

Who wants to hear that? It’s a drag putting in all this work, knowing we’ll barely put a dent in the field we work in, even if we’re among the most fortunate and successful. When I take into account that I’m just another swimmer in a pool of swimmers who will all go home, and who will be replaced by new swimmers the next day, it just doesn’t matter as much. The world isn’t going to change if I don’t show up tomorrow. The guy who smacked my foot forgot about it seconds later — at least I hope he did.

To me, however, the swimming – or what I’m really talking about here, my work – is tremendously important. It’s everything. I treat it with the most respect I can. I study its history. I see as much work as I can while accepting my work as my own. I respect it by taking it in the direction it needs to go, not necessarily the direction that will make me the most money, or repeating what “works”. I try to learn things and improve. I build up my self-discipline. I get stronger. I pay attention to how it affects me.

When I say I’m not that important, I mean that I’m continually motivated to show up day after day for little reward because I don’t believe I’m the most important thing — I believe my work is the most important thing. It’s the paradigm shift of caring about the work more and my pride less that makes me pause to consider where I’m at and what I want to do.

What does that look like in daily practice? I care less when I lose or don’t get a sale, but more that my new piece is better than my previous piece. I expect less from others and more from myself. I’m less angry and more driven. I don’t care as much about being happy — I care about getting better, and working for the sake of the work.

Sexual Love 8, styrene print, 44" x 44", 2011Sexual Love 8, styrene print, 44″ x 44″, 2011

I don’t know if that sounds good to you, but despite its ups and downs, it’s what I’ve always wanted. Self-satisfaction has to be number one. I may not make a ton of money. I may not get the fame and respect we all feel we deserve. But if I can look at what I’m doing and say that I’ve done what I needed to do for me first, and followed the path my work made for me (one project leading to the next logical step), then it becomes simpler.

It’s impossible to get anything done if I’m distracted by how everyone else in the pool is swimming, or how much money they made doing their work, or whatever the latest trend is, or what I’ve been told will make me the big money, or thinking about the steam room after the swim.

The hard part for me is getting past my own self-importance, my own pride and sense of entitlement. When I realize I’m swimming well because I earned it with consistent hours spent in the pool, I don’t congratulate myself. I’m grateful to the work for making me better, and whatever got me there in the first place.

It’s a subtle shift, but it keeps the unhealthy competition out of my game. I think less and less about others, and more and more about the work. I enjoy the healthy competition of beating myself at my own game daily. I wish it were otherwise, but in the meantime, I’m improving. Despite wanting everything – now – that will have to do. For the moment. I’ll think about happiness when I get the time.

Joseph/Office Supplies Incorporated

- All images by me, any questions or comments email punksvspreps (at) gmail.com

 

Canadian Art Buyers, Beware – Appraiser Kate Bellringer of Maynard’s Fine Art Interview

Kate Bellringer, Contemporary Art, Maynard's Auction House

Kate Bellringer, Director of Contemporary & Canadian Art Auctions at Maynards Fine Art & Antiques.

For most of us, the auction house doesn’t really inspire excitement. I think of old dead work and old people. Kate Bellringer, who runs the contemporary art section of Maynard’s Fine Art department, is the exact kind of person to change that image. Young, enthusiastic, intelligent and honest, she made me want to start paying closer attention to the auction house.

Kate’s perspective is refreshing; she see’s the results of bad buying decisions and scammers, as well as big finds (like the buy of two $150,000 paintings at a local garage sale for $100). Below Kate shares a bit about her world and offers some suggestions for making educated art buying decisions.

Q&A:

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Day Job/Real Job – The Bond Between Art And Business

koonsFormer commodities broker and artist Jeff Koons.

Making art work is like any other job, which means that intrinsically it has the possibility to be a real drag or the only way for some to live. Or both at once. The connections and parallels between artists and entrepreneurial business people are shocking despite the outside differences. Both take a risk to gamble on themselves and to show others that the work they do not only is important and can affect their lives but that it has value; either a dollar value and a cultural value and with luck both.

You have a take on the world that others do not have the guts to and try to make opportunities that others in your field have not seen yet. How you execute those insights and the quality and number of people who see what you made will bring to you and the things you have made both respect and a comfortable life.

That’s a lot; but that’s just what you want others to feel. As important as those things are you have other things to deal with. The work itself is trying to kill you sometimes. It wants to break you and the details of the daily grind can bring about boredom and a feeling of pointlessness. In the worst cases a loss of self-esteem or drive due to the sheer impossibility of the ordeal can take you to dark places, especially when the investment is not performing.

rothko studioMark Rothko in the studio. Click here for an excellent short doc on Rothko and where his painting took him.

I guess you could say that being involved in this life doesn’t make me believe in the milquetoast ideal of the lazy artist hanging in coffee shops and talking about “expression”. Those types are out there no doubt but the most successful are strategic, highly competitive (at least with themselves), and extremely intelligent and knowledgeable about their field.

Which is why the wealthy and the established “get” art. Education and the option of being able to afford luxury items is a factor, as is bragging rights and the want to show culture and your taste to your friends and competitors. The real appeal though is in the mindset of the artist and being around those who have balls, arrogance or at least confidence and an ability to see the world differently than the rest; there is a kinship between the extremely successful and the artist.

They both pursue different goals but chase after them with a fury and single-mindedness that can include extreme narcisism and fierce self-determination. The extremes vary, but I’ve known artists that would be just as suited in a boardroom as they would in a gallery if they were chasing after a different thing.

Eli BroadPhilanthropist and collector Eli Broad with Mark Rothko paintings in the background.

We could say the business man and the artist have a kinship and a certain co-dependency. One can live without the other, but maybe not as well or not as completely. I’ve been in beautiful homes with bad, cheap art and it just hurts. It hurts me and the owner; they are filling space and showing nothing more than a desire to do what’s expected to the least degree. At a certain point the Sub Zero and the Eames chair become a sort of standard as does real art by serious artists. You know what I’m talking about but when you see the opposite  glaring. I’ve also been in small homes and apartments with great collections built on meager budgets and more than unread books on philosophy or Sun Tsu, they breathe class and true richness.

Artists can continue to make work that piles up in their space, respected and admired work that is talked about and adored. But the final proof is the acceptance of this work by others – be that of the museum or collector. The financial aspect of being paid for work solidifies the commitment of a buyers adoration. For the artist, the sale is their start-up taking off and the breathing of fuel back in the tank. It’s confidence and energy replenished and rent and bills paid. It’s the start of the next venture with the emotional and financial capital in place. It’s hard to admit that the financial and peer or societal approval means this much for some of us, and for others the opposite could be true. But it’s a complex thing letting go of a piece.

We’ve talked about seeing art, about going to galleries and asking questions to acquire some of the necessary tools to make good decisions. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be interviewing a few people on both sides of the fence; collectors, patrons, and artists. I want to talk about how they first came to buy work and why, what they got out of the exchange and their relationship with the artists they support, and how these things are perceived or accepted from the artist’s point of view.

Joseph Staples – Office Supplies Incorporated

The Element Of Surprise: Specialization In The “Culture” Industry & The Waldorf Hotel

I really hate the word culture sometimes. It means a lot of different things to different people and seems to be applied to many things that to me don’t qualify but to others are valid. One person’s culture is anothers knitting club.

How you define culture is up to you and like we talked about in art, you are an expert. That said, the level of your expertise is defined in your experience in the field; what you have seen, created and been a direct not passive part of. I believe that this participation is the active contributor in your experience and a depth of knowledge is your guide in what you consider “good”.

Thankfully, we don’t have to go and find these experiences all on our own. We have curators, event organizers and venues that offer us options in how we want to create our experience. We trust in them to tell us what is of value; to act as guides through the amateurs and direct us to brilliant or the brave.

Graham Landin, Me and You, 2012

The difference between taste and conformity is a willingness to accept something you don’t understand as having possibility. Putting yourself in new experiences outside of your realm of understanding becomes a prerequisite for a fuller understanding of yourself and the world you are in. This in turn opens you up to new ways of thinking about your own field and your return on the investment of leaving the house becomes greater than the energy to get off the couch.

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Legally Stealing – appropriation and concept in art

Appropriation – separating something from where it came to give it another purpose – has been with us for a while and seems hard for someone to understand how it works in art making today.

The idea that somethings are art and others are not isn’t the easiest thing to understand. It’s subjective and personal. The basic idea is that if it’s put into the context of art, it can or should be accepted as such. The question remains;  is it any good?

Marcel Duchamp

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Sculpture in the 21st century

Sculpture has been, along with painting, the standard of measurement for all great cultures. I think that sculpture up to the end of the 1950′s really talked about the wealth and standing of the countries it came from. There is an internal decadence and seriousness of marble and bronze. They are expensive, labour intensive products that require years of building the skills necessary to make work let alone to complete. .

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Ludovica, marble, 1674

Modernist sculpture has one of the hardest problems an artist can ever face. If you build it, they may not come. No big surprise there. But how about; If you build it, now what the hell do I do with it?

Of course, things start small. You don’t just start building 40′ by 100′ pieces and expect a buyer to waltz in with an empty basket ball court and a briefcase full of cash. It starts small, depends on grant programs and curators to help it grow, and museum culture as well as a tiny elect group of uber rich collectors to find the space and storage once it’s built.

Richard Serra, Strike: To Roberta and Rudy, corden steel, 1969 – 1971

This has led to the exceptions in the field being at the extremes. It’s led to both a spacial fragility and aggresive decadence of sculpture to the scale we have never seen before. Richard Serra (above) worked with the exremely durable product corden steel in making work for inside and out side the gallery. In the same year, Robert Irwin (below) was making sculpture with next to nothing and achieving similiar affects.

Robert Irwin, Slanted Light Volume, scrim fabric and light, 1971

These extremes and the inbetweens have led to a culture of creating that next to no concern with private buyers and intense concern with experience and working with new materials.

Selling work specifically to a museum is a different kind of deal; the ideal product for the museum is highly conceptual (art that is about something not necessarily obvious when first looking at it), with a flash bang that also attracts the crowds. But it’s cultural worth, determined by curators and boards of museum directors, is of paramount value with the money and real estate these facilities hold making the practicality of owning these less a concern.

How this extremely specific audience had affected the work that is made in our time is tough to say but obvious in looking. Without the umbrella of institutional support, many weird and exceptional things may never have been made. The edges of what is possible and feasible are expanding making it an exciting time to look at what is coming next.

In the first of two articles I am focusing on sculpture as it goes forward in our time. To begin, we’ll look at Tara Donovan.

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Tara Donovan came out of art school and waited tables for a solid 6 years before she stumbled upon something. She had been steadily making work but barely showing it. One night when playing with toothpicks, a common work item she had been experimenting with, she dropped a box and when she picked it up she found the toothpicks bundled in a corner as the box slipped off.

“They held a perfect corner,” she recalled. Over a month later, on a waitress salary, she had made this.

Tara Donovan, Toothpicks, Toothpicks Held Together by Friction & Gravity Only, 2001

Tara Donovan, Toothpicks, Toothpicks Held Together by Friction & Gravity Only, 2001, (detail)

The first lesson came from this piece as it was not shown as the photo above portrays it. She showed this work in a large show with many other artists in the same room at the Maryland Art Fair. Her first review of the work referred to it as “a bale of hay.” Deflated, she looked at her mistakes. Context was her final conclusion.

And the former conditions mentioned, the immaculately conceived gallery conditions that allow large objects to breathe, became her determined landing space. She understood that this work needed to be seen in a proper context and would work.

More shows, more disappointments, more school. But finally working out of a studio, she had the space and clarity to work out some of the kinks in ideas that space allowed and things started to come together. Her next large show was put together by loans from friends and a big enough space to realize her next piece.

Tara Donovan, Transplanted, ripped and stacked tarpaper, 2003, IBM space variation

Tara Donovan, Transplanted, Ripped and stacked tarpaper, 2001, Ace Gallery LA variation

From here, things progressed quickly. Being signed with Ace Gallery, entered into the Whitney Biennial in 2000, and a few years later after much haggling given their entire New York space to show in. After receiving the Macarthur Fellowship in 2008, her future as a literal “genius” was set.

Tara Donovan, Untitled, Styrofoam Cups and Hot Glue, 2003

Tara Donovan, Untitled, Styrofoam Cups and Hot Glue, 2003, (detail)

Tara Donovan, Untitled, Nickel-Plated Steel Pins Held Together by Friction & Gravity Only, 2001

Tara Donovan, Untitled, Nickel-Plated Steel Pins Held Together by Friction & Gravity Only, 2001, (detail)

The real genius of the work is in it’s simplicity. The concept is simple, start with a basic building material and begin. The materials do the work and the play is in how they are arranged, which changes for every execution. In many ways, you know what you are going to get with Donovan’s work but every execution is unique as the materials used.

It leads to an endless opportunity for experimentation and organic growth that is consistent through out what she does but despite the rigidity surprises every time.This conceptual thinking with an intuitive allowing of things to happen is modernity defined. It’s how we made it from David to Pollock to now.

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Mylar), Mylar and hot glue, 2011

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Mylar), Mylar and hot glue, 2011

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Mylar), Mylar and hot glue, 2011

Tara Donovan is represented by Ace Gallery in New York.

 

Joseph/Office Supplies Incorporated  –  www.officesuppliesincorporated.com

Interview with gallerist Clint Roenisch

Jessica Eaton, cfaal 109, archival pigment print, 2011

Clint Roenisch has made a reputation in Toronto as a gallerist willing to support what too often are called “avant-garde” artists. However his own approach and the approach of those he represents is refreshingly traditional: well thought out, well executed work presented in a respectful way. It’s further proof an educated personal taste and confidence combined with professional standards are still valid ethics in the business and art worlds concurrently.

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Interview with Sarah Macaulay of Macaulay & Co. Fine Arts


Hairy Legs, Elizabeth Znovar, 2012

Sarah Macaulay

Macaulay & Co. has been taking shape over the last 7 years into an important view of Vancouver’s contemporary art scene outside of the usual suspects. The focus ranges between both newly established conceptualists from the grad classes of the early 2000′s (Mark Soo, Jeremy Shaw, and Elizabeth Znovar) and contemporary natives traditions (Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptin, and Beau Dick) is a rare diversification for the city. And it’s working.

Sarah Macaulay spoke with us about the balance of trust in her artists, risk and relocation.

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Making an Effort

Yes, this is art. I apologize. I’ll explain.

Amir by Ken Lum, 2000.

I get why people have a hard time with art in general, the above piece doesn’t make it easier if you are new to trying to “get” art. And it’s a shame. I went to the Ken Lum show at the Vancouver Art Gallery with my dad and look at pieces like the one above. He hated it. He doesn’t know anything about art but he knows what he likes and this was not it. In fact, it made him angry.

After I thought about it for a a few days afterward, I realized that he was angry because like most people he doesn’t like being hustled. Standing in front of Ken Lum’s work without any background on what he is doing and why can give people the feeling of being scammed. No one likes to feel like they aren’t cultured and modern art can be a tough pill.

What’s Ken Lum trying to talk about with these pieces? In a really brief way, the work he is making is about peoples public lives and their private lives and what we show to each other. With the piece above, Lum may want us to look at why Amir is moving back home to Eritrea. And why he can’t make life in Canada work despite offering everything from shoe repair to thrift goods or cheap watches. It’s one imagined immigrant’s life summed up in one object and tries to encourage us to imagine how he experiences this country. Pretty heavy subject matter when you get into it.

How do we find out these things? How do we get a deeper understanding of what we see?

Variant I by Brian Jungen, 2002 via www.catrionajeffries.com/

1. Get out and see some stuff.

Placing your self in front of art is the first place to start. As I mentioned before, you can’t get into an artwork without standing in front of the thing. I could write a whole post on how good going to a museum or large art gallery is for first or second date. Or any relationship for that matter. Taking someone along gives you someone to bounce thoughts off, ask for their opinions and check them against your own and slows you down. In a good way.

Venus by Andy Dixon via www.andydixon.net/portfolio/

2. Slow down.

You need to slow down. Average visitors to a museum spend less than 10 seconds looking at the work. The person who made what you are looking could have spent months on it and years to get to the point where they could get it to where it is; put in front of you by people who understand what they have done. At the end of the day, it’s your opinion that matters most to you.

Taking a moment to look closely at it is worth your time. Get up close, look at the details. Back away and see the whole thing at once. What does it make you think about? If you are still not interested, it isn’t working for you. But it is worth a minute to check out. Having a second go around is also a good idea. If something interested you, go back and see if you can figure out why. Knowing what you like helps build your taste.

Like a Great Black Fire (detail) by Rebecca Chaperon via www.thechaperon.ca

3. Ask questions.

“Excuse me, can you tell me what the hell is going on here?” or something maybe a bit less direct is a good place to start. In a commercial gallery space, there will be someone at a desk working at a computer and besides the initial greeting they may ignore you. Most places will give people a chance to look at the work in private. Some will simply be lazy. It’s their job to explain the work to visitors and try to get your business. But it is usually your responsibility to ask questions.

A good way to start is something like, “Excuse me, I’m interested in this work. Do you have a moment to tell me about the work and the artist?” If you are too shy or intimidated, and honestly there is no reason to be, take a look around for any literature in the gallery for more info. If you were looking at a new car, you wouldn’t mind grabbing a sales person and picking their brain, this is no different.

Madame Guillotine by Mark Soo, 2011 via www.mfineart.ca

4. Get a posse and do the opening circuit.

Get out there and hit some shows. Go with a crew of friends who may also may be into seeing some work. Get dressed up. You can plan a route based on your local galleries openings. Most galleries will have openings on a certain night, in Vancouver it’s Thursdays, in your city it may be another. Check out one of the big galleries in your town, the Vancouver Art Gallery or the AGO in Toronto. Worst case: you drink some bad wine, see nothing you like and can head on to a club if it’s not working. Best case: you see some great work, drink some good free booze, and maybe meet someone you may not have met before. There is no easier way to make friends than asking, “So what do you think?”

And just so you know, they may not understand what’s going on either. So enjoy yourself.

Any comments on experiences getting to know art and artworks are welcome below.

 

Meeting in person

Photo:Ingleby Gallery with Daniel Buren, 2008 by Andrew Grassie via renniecollection.org

Quick, how big is the piece of art shown above?

The easy way to get to the answer is to take a quick look at the room, estimate the size of the radiator or the window and make an estimate. Maybe 4′ x 4′.

Wrong.

A hint would be that the art work is not the red stripes in the corner, but the whole thing. So probably the next conclusion would be that it’s a photgraph of a piece of art work.

Wrong.

This is a painting of an art installation by Andrew Grassie. It’s about as big as the image you see on your home computer, give or take an inch. Below is an installation shot.

Andrew Grassie at Wing Sang, Rennie Collection, installation shot via renniecollection.org

Is that funny or what?

The internet is no place to look at art. Without being in front of something, in a lot of ways you might as well not even bother.

My grandfather travelled a lot on his own and would take photos of things he saw along the way. Being by himself, any time he took a photo of a particulariy large scorpion carcus or other naturally occuring phenomenon he would place his buck knife in the focus of the picture somewhere. How would you know that is a 6′ cactus if you couldn’t see his knife or a pack of smokes somewhere next to it?

The point is the internet has no buck knife. Seeing the dimensions in the notes somewhere helps but standing in front of something and feeling it’s physical space, big or small, determines the way that you react to it. Grassie above and Kehinde Wiley below understand that scale can aftect viewer in different ways.

Femme Piquee par un Serpent, Kehinde Wiley, 2010

Femme Piquee par un Serpent, installation view at Art Basel 2010

So two highly skilled artists use scale to make an impression in different ways. The screen shows neither, nor details like brush strokes, texture or any sense of a human hand in the work. There are very few pieces of artwork that translate these things well to a jpeg.

Andrew Grassie is a photorealistic painter and at a glance it’s very hard to tell it is a painting. The interesting thing about the recent show at Bob Rennie’s Wing Sang gallery opening of Andrew Grassie’s work is how these tiny paintings, averaging about 5″ x 7″, is how they reacted with the space.

Even without knowing the history, Bob was clearly not pushing out another project with his eyes closed when he built Wing Sang. It is a very well considered space made for substantial work to show respect to his extensive personal collection. So placing these tiny paintings in this huge space did two things, made the work look even tinier and the rooms look gargantuan.

Andrew Grassie at Wing Sang, Rennie Collection, installation shot via renniecollection.org

And the affect on the crowd was even more interesting. Everyone seemed to think it was amazing work, but the crowd seemed uncomfortable in these giant rooms with nothing to clamour around. They tried, small clusters of 6 or 8 people around these little pieces made for traffic jams and a lot of body contact for any one trying to see the work.

The best room for me was the smallest one there where the scale of the building didn’t loom over us. In a small space, the crowd was more relaxed and gave the work room. It was a brilliantly laid out show by controlling the intimacy people had to the work. Say what you want about Bob, I doubt that didn’t happen by accident.

So can you buy a 20″ x 30″ print of the Andrew Grassie paintings at the Rennie Marketing gift shop? Obviously not, but someone like Kehinde Wiley pictured above I’m sure does great business in reproductions. It’s easy to go smaller. But for Grassie, it would go against the point of the work. And both would agree that something is lost, or changed, or just wrong.

Almost no one makes work that looks best seen on a computer screen. It is the one things that advances in resolution can’t resolve; how to replace the presence of a piece of art work in person.

Presence cannot be explained, try as we might. Scale is an easy thing to discuss on a blog, but presence is much much harder. If you haven’t yet been touched by standing in front of something and shocked by it’s presence then I would suggest you get out and start looking for that experience. Anyone who has experienced it will tell you it’s worth it.

Unsure how to do that? Next week we will discuss how to go and see art in person.

Caravaggio and the Myth of the Boring Painter

Caravaggio; Judith Beheading Holofernes circa 1598 ibiblio.com

Caravaggio, Doubting Thomas c 1602

Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, c. 1595

Caravaggio is an art history student’s dream. Finally a painter who is a bad ass. An arrogant bar brawler and slummer who changed painting and died under mysterious circumstances with the Pope having put a price on his head.

He carried a sword to defend his style from his many imitators and to settle petty bar brawls he mostly caused himself. He used peasants and slum dwellers to depict biblical characters and had no problem showing the sickly and dark parts of life in paintings made for the finest cathedrals of his time.

More about Caravaggio in this excellent video series, Simon Schama’s The Power of Art here or here.