January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Marcel Broodthaers!

Me and Broodhaers, Broodthaers and me

I didn’t know a birthday party for a dead man could be so much fun. Of course, Marcel Broodhaers was a man for “s’amuser”, in his art, but also in life, with good quality wine and good quality suits. The memorial party, organized by artist Ofri Lapid and art historian Michal B. Ron, took place in Aperto Reading Room (a new art magazine in Russian and English), which is located at Sammlung Hoffmann. That’s why original Broodthaers pieces from the collection were exhibited in the space. And now the good news: I was invited to exhibit the Broodthaers-sketch I did for this blog... I know, my artist career couldn’t have started better! The importance of it only dawned on me the next morning when waking up, and I hurried to add the fact to my CV. Let me repeat it: I was in a duo exhibition with Marcel Broodthaers!

Another thing I was excited about was the food: mussels and whipped cream cake (a reference to Broodthaers Berlin or a Whipped Cream Dream of 1974). Delicious. And then there was the story telling. The party guests were invited to tap their wine glass and tell stories about Broodthaers. You know that I know a lot of good Broodthaers stories from a first-class source, his widow Maria Gilissen. I told you already about the mussels on the rooftop, and remember Broodthaers’ dislike of Max Ernst, and then the story about how he liked to sing along with Jacques Brel’s Ca sent la bière de Londres à Berlin! I was quite starring I must say, totally feeling in my element, singing the Brel song out loud - believe me, I wasn’t even drunk. Legendary Kasper König jumped in with a funny story about how Broodthaers liked to spend his money well when he had it (he often didn't), inviting friends for drinks, film and dancing. Once Kasper König started to talk, other household names of the German 20th century art world (only male, I have to mention) loosened their tongues. Rudolf Zwirner remembered how Broodthaers gave his doctor a towel decorated with palm trees to compensate for the costs when he was sick. The doctor asked Zwirner what to do with it, and Zwirner recommended him to just put it together with the other towels in the bathroom. Decades later the doctor managed to sell it.

Casserole with mussels 

Zwirner mentioned the name Joseph Beuys, and that triggered Jürgen Harten, who had been the curator of Broodthaers’ 1972 show Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. Beuys had a nose for when something unusual was happening. So first thing he did was showing up at the Department des Aigles for an interview - not with Broodthaers but with himself. Hehe! In the end, the storytelling became more of a lamenting about the contemporary art world: for instance, how the art world uses “post-” in everything possible: “Das Wort ‘post-’ ist kriminell!” (“The word ‘post-’ is criminal!”), so Jürgen Harten. I think the nicest remark was made by Zwirner, saying that some think that Broodthaers was a melancholic - who else was thinking about the 19th century back then? But Broodthaers wasn’t a melancholic. He just knew that art is essentially melancholic: it tries something it cannot reach. 

Berlin or a Whipped Cream Dream

January 25, 2017

A Cultural History of Excitement, 1970-2017

The party went too far, but it was totally worth it. So said Grace Jones when talking to the Daily Mail in 2008. Her apartment in Paris of the late seventies was just a place to store champagne. Her roommate Jerry Hall modeled for Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, which smell was like “the warm musky breath of lovers in blissful postcoital sleep with a fragrant hint of the pissoir and the dark, heavy smoke of a Gauloise.”

Life is a mess when Eileen Myles in her Chelsea Girls takes the F-train to Queens for collecting the “light blue pills” of thirty-five dollars in order to sell them for hundred. We’re talking the eighties. “Go someplace out of your life,” Myles thinks, “come back new, bring it around and make a little money. Clean your apartment. Write some.” 

In the early days of January 2017 in Kreuzberg, Berlin, writer Craig Schuftan notices “two stern-faced old men standing outside a shuttered discount supermarket on a freezing cold Berlin night, one holding a portable speaker. Song: The Pointer Sisters' 'I'm So Excited'.”

Tonight's the night we're gonna make it happen. Tonight we'll put all other things aside. We shouldn't even think about tomorrow. 

If the sweat of the seventies was full of love, the sweat of the eighties full of anxiety, and the nineties had the sweat of instant pleasure, then how are we sweating today?, so we ask design strategist Onika Simon. “Good question”, she hesitates for a few seconds, followed up by a firm voice: “It would be the sweat of outrage.”

January 22, 2017

Artists' Thoughts at Gallery Dinner

To gossip, you need to have a sense of gossip. 

He's a famous artist in a good and a bad way. That's because he's a pure artist: he says what he shouldn't say.

I don't like contemporary art. It's so boring.

How hard it is to create good work in this age... Mine is rubbish. 

Video takes up my time. I don't like it. 

My work is depressing. You won't like it. 

January 15, 2017

100 Secrets of the Art World: A Fancy Book Night at Soho-Haus

I didn’t really go out this week so I have to rely on what other people told me about the art world. No worries, I got you some exclusive, first-hand information about a high-end book presentation at Soho-House! Start licking your fingers already:

We’re talking the book presentation of 100 Secrets of the Art World by Thomas Girst and Magnus Resch. FYI: Girst also wrote about the management of art galleries in a book with a glossy pink cover. Just saying that sometimes the package says it all.

Soho-House seems to be a perfect location for secrets of the art world. Don’t we all wanna become a member just to meet the art world intimately in its underwear at the Soho gym lockers? Oh yeah, we do. 

I don’t know if all the art celebrities of the book were present but I know for sure that Berlin Bienniale-boss Gabriele Horn was and she even went on stage to say something, which, according to my informant, she shouldn’t have done. You see, Girst and Resch were cracking jokes on stage as if they were hosting a Hollywood gala. It wasn't the right setting for Horn's credibility. 

Girst and Resch were boasting about their big success in New York. Yet in Berlin, by the end of the evening they sold only one third out of a total of 100 books. The salespersons didn’t know if they had to be sad because of the bad sales or happy because Berlin turns out to be a lot smarter than New York. 

You see, 100 Secrets of the Art World doesn’t reveal any personal art secrets. One would think people start with themselves, but then they don’t.  

They also don’t tell somebody else’s secret. Nobody talks out of school these days.

The book doesn’t even make it to the open secrets of the art world. 

Not even little secrets of some sort...

I can understand your confusion - what’s left? 

Nothing. I mean, Nicolas Berggruen, presented in the book as a billionaire collector, philantropist and investor, recommends to “experience and buy art with your eyes.” You can only hit your head and say “duh” to that one. 

There are of course always a few souls who try very very hard to be “honest” and come up with something “real”. As expected Isabelle Graw, director of Texte zur Kunst, did so, revealing that because of social media no secrets seems to be left in the art world, except for the hidden fears behind those happy faces - the fear of not succeeding, of losing social position. Oh, Isabelle, just stop trying! 

Best answer was by Kaspar König, who made a humorous word play on what Bill Shankly said about football: “Some people believe art is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” 

January 8, 2017

2017 news: The Year of the Cock

Artist H. emailed me a happy new year and informed me it’s the year of the cock. 

H. is the one who threw the delicious Tchaikovsky Pickle Surprise Party. He is also a photographer. Photographers are mostly good cooks, so artist P. sitting next to me at the dinner table told me.

The year of the cock is going to be good for business. There is a psychology of money, this gallerist J. told artist C. who then told me. 6000, for instance, sounds less than 5000.

J. also told C. that you have to give the buyers the idea that they are buying cheaply what is worth much more.

While making art, so J. advised C., try not too much to turn it  into art. 

A. told me there is a phase in each artist’s career in which you are cutting your own fingers. 

There is a disease artists can suffer from, so P., the same one who was sitting next to me at the dinner table: it’s called “aesthetic fatigue”.

Beauty comes from the inside, but most people get stuck on appearances. That’s probably why, so artist W. was thinking, Joseph Beuys wrapped a grand piano in felt: to mess up aesthetic perception.

Arial is not a good font for reading long texts, editor J. informed me. The text you’re reading now is in that Arial font so I'm gonna keep it short. 

3D printing sounds futuristic until you discover it takes 10 hours to print an object of 30x30x8 cm. 

If you make art that runs with a particular technology, your art is bound to be dated in the near future. “My work becoming dated! What a trip!”, so the artist who collages cat videos on Youtube.