Art Monthly 327: June 2009

Art Monthly cover
Seth Siegelaub

interviewed by John Slyce

The Economy of Art

Michael Corris

Wasted Effort

Marcus Verhagen

Planet Finance

Richard Grayson

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Robert Barry, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner


The Playmaker

Seth Siegelaub interviewed by John Slyce

Seth Siegelaub was an independent curator before the term was coined, working with the first generation of conceptual artists in New York, among them Lawrence Weiner, Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth and Robert Barry (pictured), to realise seminal exhibitions, publications and artworks. Here he talks about the development of Conceptual Art in the 1960s and 70s, the wider social and political context in which the work was produced, and the current professionalisation of the art world.

'The questions opened up by these contemporary problems were reflected in responses to, for example, concerns about art as object and as commodity, the permanence of the art object, the one visual canon, and what makes a work of art "ownable" or not "ownable".'


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Helen Blejerman Portrait of the artist 2007


The Economy of Art

Michael Corris asks which is worse: the lickspittle world of state-managed culture or the kick-ass world of the marketplace?

As the wider global economy crashes in a way not seen for generations, some art world insiders are claiming that this is good news for art. But what does it mean for artists? How are they to negotiate the conflicting realms of potential funding? And does the economic crisis offer an opportunity for the development of a new understanding of art's value?

'Art has been likened to a gift. Another comforting, self-congratulatory thought that serves all but the artist. To take this notion seriously, as a glamorous anthropological revelation beloved by sociologists, is to suppress the grubby fact that artists have been giving it away for too long.'


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Pierre Huyghe A Journey that wasn't 2005


Wasted Effort

Marcus Verhagen on art that purposely misses the target

There is a tendency among some artists to produce artworks that require vast amounts of effort for apparently little reward. How do these elaborate, seemingly wasteful artworks relate to a broader context of labour and value?

'In making disproportionate efforts, the artists are engaging subversively with the utilitarian principle at a time when its effects are ever more palpable and all-pervading, as it transforms previously untouched spheres, such as leisure time and public space, by submitting everything to the calculus of cost and reward.'



Let's Talk

The continued discontent within Central Saint Martins shows that those at the frontline of art education remain anxious that a set of instrumentalist criteria is being used to measure fine art against a range of more vocational 'creative' courses.

'It is time for all concerned to sit down and talk before it is too late and all fine art departments, along with all other arts departments, are subsumed into the non-category of "visual culture".'

Print Matters

With the launch of an updated version of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, much has been made of the death of the traditional book format. But does this triumphalism reveal a naivety over the value of the printed word?

'The choice of product name is unfortunate since Kindle recalls book-burnings under the Nazis and other regimes. But perhaps the marketing types at Amazon don't read much.'


Responding to last month's letter from their dean of art, staff and students at Central Saint Martins reveal a split between administrative staff and students, and question the assumed purpose of a fine art education.


Arts Council England announces its Action on Recession plan; galleries in London's West End close their doors while studio galleries continue to open; staff strike and students protest as London Metropolitan University plans to cut more than a third of its staff following errors in financial management; pre-Venice Biennale news; and all the latest on art world appointments, events, commissions and more.

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Dematerialised: Jack Wendler Gallery 1971-1974

Martin Herbert

The Pictures Generation 1974-1984

Morgan Falconer

Katleen Vermeir & Ronny Heiremans: The Good Life

Stephen Lee

Richard Hamilton: Toaster Deluxe

Michael Bracewell

The Photographic Object

David Ryan

Falke Pisano

Colin Perry

Louise Nevelson: Dawns and Dusks

Cherry Smyth

Willie Doherty

Nicky Bird

Transmission Interrupted

Coline Milliard

Desiring Necessities

Sally O'Reilly

David Blandy: Crossroads

David Trigg

Mathew Hale: Der Mond v Le Monde

Larne Abse Gogarty



Salon to Biennial

Teresa Gleadowe on Bruce Altshuler's new book on period-defining exhibitions

'It has become a critical orthodoxy to talk about the power of curators, but these statements feel insufficiently nuanced. Despite the growing power of the big museums and the increasing instrumentalisation of contemporary art to other agendas, are we really to see today's successful artists as disempowered by their curatorial colleagues? What of the artist as curator, the merging of curatorial and artistic practice, the increasingly common instances of creative collaboration between artists and their curatorial peers?'


Letter from UAE

The Sharjah Biennial

Kathy Battista on the Biennial and its place in the UAE's reinvention as a cultural themepark

'If Dubai is any indication of the extremes that the UAE will go to, it is only logical that it will do the same in the cultural sector. This cultural gigantism is both seductive and frightening. Can one buy culture? If great art is born out of strife, what kind of art will emerge in a country whose economy is fed by a dependency on oil and the excesses of the world's wealthiest demographic?'


Planet Finance

Falling to Earth

Richard Grayson on art's links to luxury and its appeal to the testosterone-fuelled money markets

'Like the aptly named regulatory finance company Standard & Poor's, museums and curators around the world have been issuing the equivalent of AAA ratings for products that no one any longer understands properly.'


Online Resources

International Foundation for Art Research: IFAR

Henry Lydiate on IFAR's new, publicly accessible online databases

'The internet continues to advance and develop the provision of high-quality, free-access information. IFAR is one such excellent and authoritative resource for current and historical information about art business throughout the world. It has recently launched two new unique and valuable online databases, which we will examine in detail: an international artlaw and ethical issues archive, and a wide range of artists' catalogues raisonnes.'



June exhibition listings

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