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Traditional Painters In Modern Times - TWO PER DAY

Painters in Modern Times is a group which endeavours to showcase the best of our hand painted works. - *Two per day*

Seven very enlightening days.....

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

Well said Cindy….I read that he has one of his studios creating Tshirts, mugs and all sorts of products with the same images on them….also since he did the designs for the Louis Vuitton bag (I now know why I never liked that design) there was a booth of the bags at his museum show….the man is a master at marketing…he says he reads all the reviews, because he “changes direction based on peoples reactions”….he “concentrates on how to survive in the long term”…. in the same breath he says that “to focus on profit is evil”, but that he "*wants* to be “popular”….
I was fascinated at his process…to do the bare design, then a team takes it and refines it in Adobe Illustrator, then it is sent to the painting studio for execution by the assistants….what was that old adage about fooling some of the people some of the time?…it can’t be true…..this man has the entire art world cognoscenti enthralled with his rubbish…

Christine Clarke Christine Clarke 833 posts

Know what? I like his audacity, very cheeky. Japanese Kitsch Art is all I can think of, and he doesn’t have the following of many of his fellow countrymen either, in fact one gets the impression that traditionalists seem embarrassed by his art. Think I’ll have to become a member of KAIKAI KIKI asap!

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

Well according to Thornton, the whole contemporary Japanese art scene is not very well developed anyway, plus the vulgarity of his figures are very embarrassing to them…e.g. a mouth wide open is just not done and his figures have a few wide open apertures…but boy for someone who says it’s not about money, he sure knows how to milk people….he actually charges a fee to owners of his work if the work is being photographed for the museum catalogue that is showing his work….he infuriates collectors as well as his employees…what I don’t understand is why people are willing to pay ninety thousand dollars for something that is painted by an employee and which has been made en masse…at that price it should be one of a kind….but then women are willing to pay a huge price for Birkin bags…..but at least Birkin bags are beautiful….
Would you really work for him?….I would want to tell him what I really thought of his junk every minute of the day….

Christine Clarke Christine Clarke 833 posts

You are right in what you say. Apparently he reciprocates his employees at KaiKai Kiki by also promoting their work. When you look at the history of art, sooooo many artists have become famous by being outrageous, this guy is just adding to the list – I would hazard a guess that his fame will be short-lived. Interesting discussion.

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

Yes he sometimes gives them credit on the back of the works…however that doesn’t make up for the fact that he is a terrible micro manager and that’s why some of his best workers quit at a crucial point in a very big commission which he lost…I hope he is short-lived, but then someone else will come along who is equally bad…e.g.right now there is a new show opening at our public funded art gallery here….a young woman who won a prize similar to the Turner is showing her work..Porcelain statues of naked figures vomit on each other and a life sized haystack with an old woman copulating with a scarecrow…it makes me sick to think that the rest of us struggle to create something worthwhile, and this garbage wins prizes….stop the world, I want to get off…

Carson Collins Carson Collins 639 posts

@ Janis: Spoken like a true Remodernist, my friend. But have faith in the process of history, if nothing else. The pendulum of public opinion, however ignorant or inane, can always be counted upon to swing the other way, sooner or later.

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

I hope so Carson, but in reality the general public don’t want this kind of thing…witness the protests against the Murakami exhibit at Versailles…Ii am sure if the public were asked here, no one would agree to the exhibit I mention above, but the few controlling the many has been going on for a very long time and more and more it seems that means appealing to the lowest common denominator….for this show they have cleared four rooms of European Masters….visitors instead of being uplifted by viewing incredible works of art are now going to pay to be sick to their stomachs….

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

I’m part way thru the Studio chapter now. Takashi Murakami’s work sounded interesting. I googled him and like his work but the prices are outlandish for what it is. Even if he produced fewer pieces and did all the work himself, it’s not THAT unique, in fact it’s a lot like many artists’ work, resembles existing toys and cartoon characters, etc. The author talked about the animation styles he’s at least partially influenced by so that’s not surprising.

Seems more and more that it is all about the money, but the mystery remains; how do they convince people to pay those prices for work that’s not that special?

Perhaps we could learn some of their marketing skills. Achieving even a tiny fraction of that kind of success would thrill most artists. It should not have to be all or nothing.

The book said Murakami was handled by Larry Gagosian, the gallery owner mentioned earlier in the book as someone who can basically launch artists to stardom. It’d be INTERESTING to see what a Gagosian type person’s methods could do for any of us.

Working in one of his factories was not too different from some of the paint shops I worked in, but we didn’t get months to complete even little pieces, we got days, and they were huge. It was common for someone to come in and make a request that would make you want to just quit. You hoped it’d be so ludicrous you could see humor in it. One of my supervisors told me to move a life sized horse in a finished mural. He also explained that because I was a woman I was “like a deer’s butt where babies came out,” and he was “like the deer’s head that did the thinking.” I moved the horse successfully. The painters all wore poker faces until we escaped for lunch, then doubled over laughing. I can only hope Murakami’s workers have moments like those while they pursue something better in their careers!

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

Okay, here is Gagosian’s gallery site
The past exhibitions can be seen here: past exhibitions

Upon looking these over, I restate my original opinion; Marketing Skills. Wish I had a fraction of his, because I saw nothing here by current artists that knocked my socks off. I saw some kind of cool things but I’ve seen better, and some of it was not at all unique, well done, or interesting, IMO. With all the good artists in the world, why do the top marketers pick so many mediocre, even poor, artists to promote like this? Is bad the new good? Hope that trend is short lived.

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

That’s a really good question….going back to the Turner Prize….they said “we may not have chosen the best artist, but at least we chose the right artist”….but what exactly is the “right” artist?….seems to me that is totally based on who will bring in the most money….who will be the oddest by comparison with the others…..who will shock the most? who will bring in the most money?…who will generate the most publicity?…not only with the art work, but in the way they look themselves…are they odd looking? or extremely beautiful, super thin?…super hairy?…do they look the opposite of the kind of art they make?…will they bring in the most money?…the petite girl with the dark hair and pretty figure, yes that one who creates those porcelain dolls that vomit red and blue…how about her…yes…she’ll bring in the goods….let’s give her the prize, give her a show…the media will be all over it….people will be disgusted, but they’ll want to come and see what it’s all about…let’s charge them 25 bucks each and that will bail us out for a year….
You catch my drift….I swear that’s what it’s all about… money….

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

I’m going to check Gagosian again…haven’t seen his people’s work in a long time….

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

I’m looking into Gagosian to see if some useful tidbit of practical marketing knowledge may be picked up. Here is some basic bio info on him along w/links to some more artists he’s represented. Wiki on Gegosian

However, the following quotes leads me to believe that it could be naïve to think his methods are going to work for the average, logical thinking…and law abiding person.

From the above Wikipedia link: “Art Review called Gagosian the world’s greatest art businessman. It has been alleged that, in 1990, Gagosian and Peter M. Brant, formed the Contemporary Art Holding Corporation (CAHC) to buy 62 works of art. All but four of these were sold immediately, earning $17m, on which $6.7m tax should have been paid. In 2003, the US government took out a lawsuit against Gagosian and three others for $26.5 million in taxes…”

From “More Intelligent Life”:http://moreintelligentlife.com/node/981 “He’s sort of a combination of a corporate raider, a dark lord, Peggy Guggenheim, and a railroad magnate." This site also mentions the “shell corporation” set up to avoid paying taxes.

Sad that I feel this is very circular…keeps coming back to similarities to deception and hype that created the US housing bubble and bust. Frankly I’d rather the mystery of the art world was simple insanity, rather than plain old corporate flimflams (legal or not). I don’t see myself ever learning—or wanting to learn—how to scam people. All I can say is if he parts fools from their money and that’s as far as it goes, I guess no harm no foul. Unless you could argue that by doing so, he somehow robs the other 99 percent of artists. Personally, I feel that there must be enough buyers to go around for artists who price their work reasonably. Is that naïve?

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

NYT article from last year. " More of the same “Nobody knows how he does it”

Article by a former employee of Gagosian: The School of Go-Go “Working for Larry Gagosian in the Early 1980’s Provided a Crash Course in People, Power, Money, and Even Art” Scant useful info, but an interesting read.

Will be interested to see what Janis finds…I think I’ve had enough for tonight!

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

I’m going to look it all up….however what you have just said confirms my earlier diatribe on money, money, money being the root of it all….

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

Quotes on Gagosian….A reputation for pushing prices upwards and staging museum shows….nickname “go-go”

“The worlds greatest business man”…..

“Gagosian attracts artists and collectors alike because he understands the intense coupling between art and money. In 2004 the top price for a painting by Takashi Murakami at auction was $624,000. Since then, Gagosian has sold Murakamis to Cohen and others, and in November one was auctioned for $2.4m. He has repeated that trick time after time. Not long after joining his stable in 2003, the painter John Currin made his auction record of $847,500; his highest price before joining Gagosian was a little over half that. Recently Adam Sender, the head of the hedge fund Exis Capital Management, reportedly sold a Currin painting through Gagosian for $1.4m. Before Glenn Brown began showing with Gagosian, in 2004, his top price at auction was $46,000; in June 2007, a painting of his made $969,000. In May, when Anselm Reyle was still represented by Gavin Brown, his work was fetching at most around $200,000 at auction. In October, after he had joined Gagosian’s stable, a work of his made nearly four times that”…..

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

My book is looking like no other book in my possession, wrinkled, packed with post it’s, and horrors, scribbled inside…pencil only, and the cover won’t stay shut….In other words well read….

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

Well I’ve reached the end of the book..how about the rest of you?…the Venice Biennale was exciting to think about and I would love to go some day…glad to read that the Canadian pavilion was wonderful….we have fantastic contemporary artists here…
So any further thoughts? Anybody?

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

I just finished it yesterday. It left me with a lot of thoughts, but here are a few quotes and/or points that really stuck out:

Ch. 5, The Magazine (mainly about Art Forum)

  • “The critic used to lead the dealer who then used to lead the collector. Now, the collector may lead the dealer who leads the critic.”
  • Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for NY Times, didn’t feel there could be good art critics in cities of less size than a NYC or Los Angeles because they’d make too many enemies too fast.
  • Art Forum doesn’t accept just any advertiser, similar to how galleries don’t sell to just any buyer (The Fair chapter).
  • In discussing a College Art Association convention, said art historians now ‘historicize’ even very recent art which didn’t used to be the case.
  • Said Art Forum magazine can make new artists look as if they’re destined for art history.
    *Thomas Crow, art historian and writer for the magazine, talked about which artists are now ‘ruling the roost,’ (e.g. Koons, Hirst, Emin), and talked about ‘cults of personalities’ and ‘constructed personae.’
  • Talked about how critics used to be about moving culture ahead, but now it’s about who they can promote.
  • Some critics felt Art Forum wasn’t enough into controversial art. The chapter also noted it was the most widely read by “professionals.”
  • Talked about the trickle down effect—what happens at the top of the art world affecting everything else in art.
  • One critic interviewed said he found it next to impossible to fight “art word quackery.”
  • Overall, the chapter pointed out art world insiders’ attempts to create for themselves a ‘brand,’ like a bright colored suit, etc. Seemed as much part of the ‘constructed personae’ as it is with the artists. They talk about branding more in the Studio chapter, too…seems it’s just the thing to do these days, at least that’s what was noted. I like that the author stays pretty objective throughout.

The Studio chapter, about Murakami’s mass produced merchandize ranging from small paintings to toys, T-shirts, dolls, design for Loui Vuitton purses, etc.

  • More about the branding theory and how today’s youth expect it. Video game and animation inspired. People are “collectors” now, of figurines or whatever, (though not usually of the $90,000 price range!).
  • Murakami was interviewed and said he changes direction according to the public’s reaction, clearly a marketing strategy and contradictory to the “art is not about money” theory of Cal Arts school in an earlier chapter, The Crit. Would be interesting to see Murakami at a Crit!
  • There seemed to be some attempt to imply the merchandizing is almost some sort of statement or performance art in itself.

My take on it? Murakami is honest and unapologetic about what he does. He knows what it is and is okay with that, and I can respect that. He even said in the book that his meeting Gagoshian (to end up being represented in his gallery) was through someone else, more or less ‘who you know’ combined with ‘chance.’ I actually like Murakami’s art, and didn’t find him offensive, (in large part because he is honest about what he does). But I just don’t get how something like that can be marketed for such prices. This begs the question, could these marketing wizards promote anyone to this level? If that is more close to the truth then it is no wonder that so many artists struggle with marketing all their lives, because few have the skills, and even fewer just happen to run into Larry Gagoshian.

The one piece that was not mass produced yet was the giant Oval Buddah statue, but it was produced with a lot of help as you’d expect with something that required a metal foundry, etc. A purist might do all the platinum leaf himself though, but again the artist was honest about the fact he often just did or approved a “design” and others actually executed the work.

The Biennale chapter, the big event in Venice, differs somewhat from The Fair chapter.

*A-List, B-List, and so on, for art world insiders.

  • A curator arranged show, must find flow and make sense wtih all the different artists represented.
  • Very nationalized, countries can sponsor pavillions, but not all wealth countries choose to—different value (or lack of?) on art in some countries that could afford it. Dealers find ways around paying a percentage of sales back to the sponsoring govt. Either private sponsorship, fudging the sales dates, etc.
  • Supposed to shake things up a little, some controversial art. Emin was there w/the pics of her abortion as Janis noted.
  • However, one of the book’s interviewees made the point that they have to ‘resist the cult of the latest.’ Contradictory to the intrigue of the “nowness of now,” also stated in the book. Sounds like a balancing act.

My take: I agree that putting on any art event would be a balancing act between having enough that would ‘shake up’ the art world, and not being outlandish for the sake of being outlandish. Can’t imagine they could please everyone!


In the author’s Afterword at the end, she says what I was expecting all along, that basically the bubble has burst since she was writing these chapters. The prices have fallen, and the collectors aren’t having to prove themselves worthy of owning the art so much anymore, (like the vetting of buyers for a good home for the art as described in “The Fair” chapter.)

She also talks about how art marketing is still a taboo topic in many art schools but she feels willful ignorance and delusion are bad ideas. I agree with that.

She talked about Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, who is self taught. Said an art degree basically helps legitimize an artist but is not the only thing or even required. Other factors that she listed, that help an artist become successful: good dealer representing them; grants and awards; shows; resale interest; and having their art in good collections.

She talked about weird complicated hierarchies in the art world.

Also, the paradoxical ‘rule’ that you have to break the rules. On a related note she talked about how you know when outlandish art is just crap. Said it was more or less a gut feeling. (Of course, it’d be a subjective gut feeling!) Said, if it becomes more compelling the more you think about it, maybe it’s art, not crap.

Sorry this got so long—I did cut out many of the notes I’d made!

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

Have to add that I see this upper echelon art world as something that runs parallell to the rest of the art world. Yes, I believe there is trickle down, but quite honestly, many artists aspire to, or DO, make a living with art, without a dealer, an award, or their work in ‘prestigious collections.’

I see a certain redbubbler selling his T shirt designs by the boatloads and would have to say he’s doing what he loves and making good money, so he’s successful. He may never be at the Biennale or covered in Art Forum or shown at Gagoshians, but he’s successful. If the artist is honest and happy about what they do, and can pay their bills, to me that is successful.

The art world Thornton describes seems crazy indeed, maybe no crazier than the ‘lesser’ one I/you/we live in. I think as long as the subject is something as subjective as art, it will always be pretty wacky. GOOD BOOK.

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

Well you have covered it remarkably well Cindy…I don’t have to add another word except to say that I found it eminently readable and informative and I have nothing but praise for a fellow Canadian…she is a brilliant writer…

But ….it may be my generation but I still find Murakami’s nude dolls vulgar, and his other plastic stuff tawdry…since he is being so honest about what he is doing I don’t understand why everyone buys into it and pay such enormous prices for woolworth junk…his being honest about it is no excuse for creating rubbish…it’s pandering…no more no less…but we’ll agree to disagree on that.. :))

My last word is from another publication…

The art world is changing and galleries are having to change their marketing strategies to match…
People are collecting art on their own with needing to be told what to buy and more and more the galleries are "courting artists and holding special events such as one time shows where artists show their very best works and this brings out some serious collectors. Less and less, artists will join a gallery’s “stable”. Artists will work more like independent contractors. The most famous artists will get invitations to the most elaborate events…through new technology, the masses have access online to practically anything they need, and most of the time it is free. Individuals are defining their tastes without the help of the consultant…Artists who think out of the box and are one step ahead of the trends will do well. Get accustomed to change; be vigilant.
For the first time in history, art collecting (defining our individual tastes) will become vogue for the middle classes. It’s happening now in every other form of the arts… especially music. In the next decade, collecting of original art will become so popular that people will show off their art collections – like they do their granite counter tops. Although, the granite will go out of style before the art collection does
."…from the Future of Art Marketing….

Thank you so much Cindy…this has been really enjoyable…we should do it with another book….

Thanks also to Christine, Liz, Yvonne and all our silent readers…I hope you enjoyed this mini “dissertation” on Seven Days in the Art World

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

We had 217 views and 69 posts…let’s give ourselves a pat on the back for a great discussion….

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

I like what your second book quote says and hope it’s so. Yes, the internet has changed everything. At least some artists are making decent money, and there is a lot more opportunity for people to buy an original art work by simply finding it, and finding artists who price their work within range. Would be nice to see the artist have the most power over their art, thier career, etc, instead of have to rely on hype and promoters. That still does not excuse art schools from avoiding the topic of marketing which is a needed real world skill to some degree.

Who among us would not accept a huge price for their work if it were offered? We might wonder about the buyer, but we’d sell. Unlike some of the artists showcased in the book, I don’t think Murakami believes all the hype, he’s just accepting that people paid those prices, so why not enjoy it. Some, maybe Emin, actually believe they are worth it it seems.

It’s ironic that Murakami does art for the masses, yet it’s not affordable for the masses. Actually, I don’t know what the trinkets cost, maybe they ARE priced for the middle class. BUT… the mass produced flower face paintings by a team of artists for $90,000 each certainly are not affordable. It just goes to show you how a good promotion person can convince buyers of anything! Probably a fine line between salesmanship and cheating. Sad commentary on the human mind, but with the full disclosure of how the art he does is made, it is hardly a scam. They knew what they were buying. Now, if they were told it would go up in value, that’s another matter, it could be a scam. Good luck to anyone who owns a Murakami or other artists’ work that has gone down in value, proving that angle. There is surprisingly little protection for the victims of actual crimes, let alone simply being convinced of an inflated value. Saw that many times as a consumer advocate in the past.

There is a lot of territory between what the book describes, and the average artist who makes a living selling their work! If Murakami was lesser known, and sold on Red Bubble, I don’t think anyone would take much note of it, they’d just either buy it or not. Someone would probably even buy Emin’s offensive works, but I doubt she’d be anywhere close to successful without a magician promoter telling the art world she’s a genius.

©Janis Zroback ©Janis Zroback 8081 posts

That was one of the things that shocked me in the Biennale chapter….Britain actually chose Tracy Emin to represent them….I think they must have gone completely mad…she is already so full of herself, that she thinks images of her abortion would be of interest…the actual statement by the head of the arts at the British council, was that Emin’s art was to"serve Britain’s foreign policy objectives overseas. Their priorities being China, Russia, the Islamic world, Africa…Western Europe is low down on the list, North America, not at all" I wonder what these countries made of Emin’s filthy bed…

Cindy Schnackel Cindy Schnackel 4994 posts

It’s one thing for disgusting, senseless work to exist…it’s another for “the art world” to give it major awards, space in the Biennale, let it represent a country, or call it innovative. The former is free speech which is great for art; the latter is just craziness and is not good for art. It’s as if shocking people is the only thing left to do in art, according to the powers that be.

Thornton’s book makes it clear there’s a lot of craziness in the art world. Not sure if it’ll change in our lifetimes! But if it does I think the internet is going to be the tool to accomplish it.

Here’s a thought: (to anyone reading this!) If you were a top gallery owner and were said to be able to spot the next great artist, who would you be promoting? Or do you feel there are any current artists whose work is truly worth the prices mentioned in the book?

Yvonne Lautenschlaeger aka medea Yvonne Lautens... 43 posts

… still following … reached chapter 6 ….
thanks for your words …
… I am still a bit shocked HOW much some people pay for SUCH … ‘things’ …
but after all it helps me to figure out what I want to do and not want to do!