Monday, October 15, 2018

with Günther Förg

October 15, 2018
Got a tip about something important happening in the art marketplace? Feel free to tell us what you believe we should know or simply correct us if you think we're wrong. (All communications are confidential.)

Hauser + Wirth is showing at the Grand Palais in Paris next week for FIAC bringing the gallery back to the fair. Hauser has works by Philip Guston and Günther Förg (above) at the booth but the main emphasis is a themed exhibition called Le Coeur est Là which is meant to be a dialogue between Louise Bougeois and Hans Bellmer. He gallery's press release explains:

Hauser & Wirth returns to FIAC this October with a selection of works on the theme of notions of desire and sexual ambiguity. Built around an intriguing dialogue between the works of Louise Bourgeois and Hans Bellmer, the concept of the booth takes as a point of departure the title, Le Cœur est Là, referencing a series of works which Louise Bourgeois returned to over the course of her career.

Giovanni Gastel


Interior Perspective

Milan-born Giovanni Gastel (b. 1955) first had contact with photography in the 1970s, which truly began to take shape in 1981 when he was introduced into the world of fashion, collaborating with the likes of Vogue ItaliaMondo Uomo and DonnaRitratti di living plays upon flattened shadows and deep colours, providing an emotional backdrop for the lifestyles advertised, a practice combining minimalist design with voyeuristic angles. Audiences are invited to measure and compare different modes of domesticity; each living room is a hive of conceptualised activity. The static scenes provide an alluring and unsettling glimpse into private spaces characterised by poetic irony and balance. Gastel’s recent exhibition credits include Canons of Beauty at The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography, Moscow, 40 Years of Gastel at Palazzo della Ragione, Milan, and Donna at Galerie Photo 12. He is represented by TransAtlantic Art.

Bust Old Myths About Artist-Brand Collaborations

The Gray Market: Why We Need to Bust Old Myths About Artist-Brand Collaborations (and Other Insights)

Our columnist on why corporate patronage is more complicated than ever before for artists, institutions, and governments alike.
Jeff Koons with one of his Louis Vuitton Masters bags. Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton.
Jeff Koons with one of his Louis Vuitton Masters bags. Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton.
Every Monday morning, artnet News brings you The Gray Market. The column decodes important stories from the previous week—and offers unparalleled insight into the inner workings of the art industry in the process.
This week, stories about the messy realities of corporate arts cash…


On Monday, Jacob Gallagher at the Wall Street Journal addressed the question of whether the fashion industry has taken its licensing of art “too far.” And in the course of investigating the proliferation of old-hat artist-brand collaborations like Andy Warhol socks, Jean-Michel Basquiat button-ups, and Keith Haring boxers, one of the most enduring ghost stories of the art market appears again, courtesy of Gallagher’s conversations with artist and visiting Pratt professor Beverly Semmes:
Still, there is a fundamental reason why the work of Basquiat, Warhol, and Haring in particular is seen so frequently on everything from hoodies to boxer briefs to a ceramic key tray: They’re deceased. Because of that, as Ms. Semmes noted, there’s less danger of diluting their reputation, something a living artist would fear.
With all due respect to Semmes and Gallagher, I have been hearing people warn artists and others about the catastrophic reputation damage caused by working with brands since I started working in the industry in 2005. And to be fair, I’m certain I took to the campfire and spooked people about the same peril at points between then and now.
But 13 years later, here’s what I’m still waiting for when it comes to the threat of artists being exiled from good standing largely, if not solely, because of corporate collaborations: a single real-world example of this happening.
Why do people want to advertise that, the moment an artist accepts a commission from Chanel or designs a product for Nike, it triggers a trap door that dumps them into some centipede-infested, subterranean art jail? It sounds great to purists and it benefits plenty of leverage-seeking or overprotective gallerists.
However, like the notions that people always marry for love, professional success is solely based on merit, and “what goes around comes around,” this is a spit-shined token of idealism with little actual currency in the complex world we call home.
To me, there are a couple of fundamental flaws in the idea in 2018. First, it’s dubious to act as if all living artists are the same. As I wrote a while backabout gaudy, blatant branded-retail plays like Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami’s Louis Vuitton handbag lines…
The reality is that the select few artists capable of successfully straddling merchandising and the upper-echelon art market are the only ones who get invited to spread-eagle themselves in the first place. It’s not as if Chanel is chasing after Paul McCarthy in a Brinks truck to try to get him to design luxury bags that look like freshly harvested internal organs. The partnership would be equally counterproductive for both parties, because the aesthetic and the clientele simply wouldn’t match.
In other words, some artists make work that actually fits really well with glitzy branded merch! And even for those who don’t, there’s a second, even more forceful reality check in store…
Cao Fei, Derivation Blurs the Virtual and Physical Worlds (2017). Courtesy of Cao Fei and Vitamin Creative Space.


As refreshingly detailed by Samantha Culp in The Atlantic this week, the ecosystem of art and commerce has evolved in recent years to upend the old-school myth that all corporate collaborations are reputation-devouring wraiths.
Culp shows that change has taken place on both sides of the patronage relationship: Many promising younger artists are less puritanical about their interactions with the big bad market than their predecessors, and many corporations are now interested in freeing artists to do much more than pump out in-your-face products—a shift that opens up opportunities for more than just omnipresent superstars.
One especially telling example comes from Culp’s time as a studio manager for Cao Fei in 2009, when Hermès approached the rising star about a partnership. Culp writes:
I knew Cao to be uncompromising in all aspects of her vision, so I was initially surprised that she’d consider the project. Then she explained that the brand was giving her carte blanche—she just had to put its logo in the end credits. As she saw it, Hermès was essentially paying her to make a video she would have made anyway—and, in paying her a significant fee, would also fund another more experimental project she wanted to do.
Now, Culp points out that this example lives at a favorable extreme of the pro-artist spectrum. She warns about the numerous pitfalls of some other brand collaborations, including (as relayed by Amalia Ulman from firsthand experience) the prospect that even massive corporations might just axe your commission and compensation at the last minute.
But looming over this entire discussion are the sobering realities of the 21st-century world economy—and inside it, the art market. Globalization, technology, and regulatory/tax policy have created a winner-take-all nightmare for the working and middle classes outside of developing countries. Federal funding of the arts, both inside and outside the US, has been shriveling up like a vegetable permanently trapped in an oven grate. Studio space and living expenses in arts hubs, even longtime safe haven Berlin, have become prohibitively scarce and expensive. Setting aside the special hell of MFA costs, student debt has become such an unholy terrorthat we Americans now have a game show premised on the remote hope of repaying it. The world decided that art is an asset class, but almost none of the resale profits need to cycle back to the artists themselves.
And people, particularly other stakeholders in the industry, still think we should clutch our pearls over artists occasionally working with brands?
To argue that corporate patronage is inherently unhealthy for artists today, you have to pretend that patronage from private collectors, institutions, and governments is a consistent model of ethics and fairness. In 2018, little could be further from the truth.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay close attention to how branded cash will impact the arts. I’m just saying that it deserves no more or less scrutiny than any traditional funding source. And the sooner we banish the bogeyman of the corporate sell-out, the sooner we can face up to the much scarier threats posed by systemic dysfunction in both the art world and the wider one.
Visitors jostling to get a pic of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at the Louvre in France. Photo via Flickr.


Finally this week, on Wednesday, my colleague Naomi Rea reported that French lawmakers are considering saying au revoir to the so-called “Aillagon Law,” a 15-year-old wrinkle in the tax code that has helped quadruple annual nonprofit arts funding since its implementation. The act allows corporations to deduct up to 60 percent of their annual donations to “general interest bodies”—basically, organizations pursuing a public good, such as health, education, or humanitarian causes—and charities, with the cap set at 0.5 percent of annual turnover.
Defenders of the policy, including multimillion-euro recipients like the Louvre, the Palace of Versailles, and the Pompidou Center, argue that, in Rea’s words, “almost all [French] public museums, dance companies, orchestras, and historic sites depend on corporate sponsorship and private donations to survive.”
Critics, on the other hand, argue that the Aillagon Law shifts responsibility for about €930 million, or over $1 billion, in annual tax revenue from corporations to average citizens. And I’d also add that France is still one of the world’s most robust state supporters of the arts by more than a couple of baguette lengths. Its 2017 budget included €2.9 billion (about $3.2 billion) in spending on culture, and French lawmakers matched that same number again this year, per
In comparison, the combined 2019 federal budget for the US’s National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities totals $310 million. As an American, this feels about as pathetic as proposing to your longtime significant other with a piece of candy jewelry, but facts are facts (at least in this column).
Now, there is an argument that corporations might actually donate just as much as, or even more than, the Aillagon Law’s 0.5-percent-of-annual-turnover cap if you take away their quid pro quo incentive to do so. Rea relays that Sorbonne associate professor Jean-Michel Tobelem pursued some version of it in Le Monde, but I don’t know his route, because Google Translate couldn’t even get through the pre-paywall section without bracketing a bunch of grammatical gibberish around the suggestion that corporations “sometimes seek to benefit from butter and the money of the butter.”
From my perspective, though, this argument doesn’t hinge on innate human generosity, as I’ve heard libertarians contend. It hinges on corporate self-awareness and self-preservation.
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images.
President Emmanuel Macron—dubbed “president of the rich” by his detractors— has been pushing an aggressively pro-business agenda since he took office. Ironically, the Aillagon Law is in jeopardy partly because the National Assembly wants to find roughly €1 billion to implement even more reforms to benefit businesses.
In 2018, big firms around the globe are building towering money stacks at unprecedented rates, and they know all too well that (seemingly) substantial giving is a terrific smokescreen for how perversely favorable to their interests the world has become.
As Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, wrote in The New Yorker about major banks ramping up public philanthropy after their predatory behavior in, and minimal repercussions from, the Great Recession, “A little bit of generosity could be put forward as a plausible substitute for justice. Giving in millions has a way of erasing harm done in billions.”
So if you create (or preserve) a law that corporations can only benefit by giving X amount, it incentivizes them to give exactly X amount, then throw up their hands and say, “It’s the most we could do!” If you remove the benefits and the limit attached to those benefits, then corporations have to ask: How much do we have to give to prevent people from looking at how much more we’re getting? And without an anchor amount written into the tax code, there’s a chance that they go even bigger.
Would this happen if France blew up the Aillagon Law? I don’t know. But the heated debate over the act’s merits reveals that corporate patronage will still be a major arts funding source either way. So whether the recipients are artists or institutions, if you think branded money is dirty, you’d better get comfortable in the muck.
That’s all for this week. ‘Til next time, remember: No one gets out of this completely clean.

Follow artnet News on Facebook: 
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.

The Feminist Artist Who Dieted to Become a Marble Sculpture

The Feminist Artist Who Dieted to Become a Marble Sculpture

Constructing Helen from 'Helen's Odyssey', 2007© Eleanor Antin, Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery

Ahead of a new solo show opening this week, the 82-year-old “priestess of 20th-century conceptual art”, Eleanor Antin, talks to AnOther about the death of her husband and performing her ‘selves’

Artist Eleanor Antin cuts a tiny little figure, one with glorious lengths of dark hair, eyes that could be the dictionary definition of ‘twinkling’ and a gorgeously dirty Noo Yoik twang. But while small in stature, there is nothing diminutive about this priestess of 20th-century conceptual art: her presence is as vast as her CV. Now, at the age of 82, she’s over in London to perform at the Serpentine Gallery’s Park Nights series ahead of the opening of a solo exhibition at Richard Saltoun Gallery, entitled Romans and Kings. She speaks of sympathies with her cab driver, who ran half an hour late because he needed a cup of coffee, but Antin seems conversely indefatigable.
Antin’s career began in the late 1960s, and her most famous piece, 100 Boots (1971-3), saw her photograph said footwear in various settings and mail the images to hundreds of recipients, thus taking notions of art distribution and display into her own hands. Much of her work is based on creating other ‘selves’ – namely a chic, sophisticated ex-ballerina called Eleanora Antinova, forever harking back to her young and beautiful days in the Ballet Russes; a grand Charles I-style king; and Eleanor Nightingale, a nurse.
The artist is a delightful raconteur. I learn about how at 12 years old, she helped her (married) mother meet her charismatic new Hungarian poet husband; her love of spy novels; her “generous breasts”; her bacon and exercise-dependent diet for Carving, an art piece originally performed in the early 1970s, in which she photographed her weight loss until she reached the shape of a marble sculpture. Like Antin’s life and work, there’s so much to cram in, which even the most generous of word counts and interview slots couldn’t accommodate. Here’s just a tiny portion of her wisdom.
On starting out…“I have a suspicion I would have had a career in the literary world rather than in the art world if I hadn’t come up about the time when conceptual art was coming up. A lot of the boys’ [art] was essentially very kinda dry and boring – Art and Language and that sort of thing – but there was no reason why you couldn’t do whatever you wanted. I had been an actor, I went from one thing to another except for music – my sister was a wunderkind musically, but I have no talent in music at all – but I was a pretty good dancer. I kept going from one thing to another, so if I did badly or a teacher gave me a B-minus or something I left that immediately, I’m not a masochist. But anyway, the wonderful thing was that once conceptual work started, and you didn’t have to be painter or a sculptor, you could do whatever you wanted. Everything was so open.”
On returning to Carving 45 years on…“It was about a month after my husband died, and while I had a very busy and lively youth, I was married to this brilliant man who was a poet, for 56 years. While I always notice a good looking guy, nevertheless I was absolutely with David and then he got Parkinson’s. Before that beautiful mind of his could disintegrate, he died. About a month later I started doing Carving 2. When I say that it sounds like ‘oh well she’s making herself attractive so she can find another man’ but that’s not true at all, it had nothing to do with that at all. Maybe it was that I lost him, and then I lost part of myself. That’s what I thought it meant for me personally, but it wouldn’t mean that for other people. It helped also as I knew when he died I had to get working immediately, so and this was there and it felt like the right thing to do. Maybe that’s why I didn’t mind the dieting this time – even the slight torment that it gave made me feel... it felt right. It’s something I did and it meant a lot to me.”
On making work through other ‘selves’...“If you think of us as we are now, I’m not the same all the time. You’re you and I’m me, whoever those people are. We’re not always the same with everybody; we’re not always the same with ourselves. It’s the same thing when I’m Antinova – there is a kind of trying to hold on to her, but sometimes Eleanor interrupts. I don’t expect to be feeling like I’m Antinova all the time. I take away more knowledge about myself and my character, my role. I thought I could take on a lot of roles and I realised no, you can hold about three together and that’s it. When therapists think somebody has seven or eight personalities or some enormous amount you can’t, it’s bullshit. They’re calling somebody a ‘self’ when it’s really just a version of another self.”
Romans & Kings opens September 22 at Richard Saltoun Gallery, London. Serpentine Gallery’s Park Nights runs until September 29, 2017.