I’d always wanted to go the the Art Basel art fair in Miami, and this year I finally got the chance. It was really fun overloading my senses with literally, tons, and tons, of art. After a few days of it, a few days of so many black paintings I could not count them all, and white ones too, a lot of white paintings, end everything in between from Stella to Warhol and back again, after all of that… I began to think that art was somehow imploding in on itself.
It was like a visit to an insane beach, surfing on waves of new ideas, culled from old ideas, sipping on fine champagne. Ah the world of art… the art world… castles on the beach like branded fiefdoms all crammed into fantastical partitions in giant convention centers. When they ran out of space in the convention centers they built giant tents on the beach or occupied the lavish vintage ballrooms of stately hotels from the sixties. The galleries, the dealers, the museums and the art collections.
I love art. I also like good design, mod furniture, high tech toys. But back to art. I know what it is and when it isn’t and even when it is really good, or really bad. I have a good eye. That must be true because I meet so many people with no fucking taste. So it must be acquired, or learned, or maybe, in my case, I just have it. But what drives me insane is that the amplification of style and art and modern life in these Internet years has reached a new fever pitch. Cool haircuts are everywhere. It’s easy to buy the perfect pair of pants, or desk chair And what I mean by that is that the Internet has led to this weird over saturation of everything. Everything that ever was and is and will be is available on the Internet, RIGHT NOW. What William Gibson a decade ago called atemporality.
It used to be that art traveled by art books and glossy magazines and maybe a little television, or even just word of mouth. Now art travels at the fucking speed of light. You can say everything has been done and you used to be able to say that sort of tongue in cheek, say maybe back in the eighties. But now, it’s so true. Everything has been done. How many more black paintings can be painted? I mean sure, I know the difference between a good black painting and a bad one, but that’s because I have a good eye. The Internet does not have a good eye, it just has that fantastic amplifier. Amplifier of all things.
So back to this art implosion. I’m really talking about money, now, that’s obvious, right? Of course, art has always had a connection to money. Or influence, power, whatever you want to call it. But what I found so painfully stark and exposed at this massive, humungous, out of control art fair, was that it’s no longer even possible to make art without selling it, because… if you can’t sell it, it’s not art.
It maybe used to be that an artist could throw up a shingle and call himself or herself an artist and sell their wares. Now we call that crafts, not art. Or it’s a hobby. Today, for it to be art, the artist is just part of the equation. Every artist needs a dealer. And I would say, the best art dealers are pretty artistic people. They represent the art! Sure some of them just sit there waiting for the buyers and scowling at the rest of us, but my guess is that those dealers don’t do all that well. If I was an artist I would want my art dealer to be engaged, a superstar, a mover shaker of the highest realm. The best dealers are essentially really good curators of art, they find the best art and the best artists. There’s an art to it.
What bums me out is that I happen to know a lot of incredibly talented artists who never made the connection with a dealer. They never found their mate, their rep, and consequently, they never sold their art. It has no value, except to me, because I know it’s great art. But I’m not really an art dealer. I can tell you that I know some great undiscovered artists, and maybe you’ll believe me, but the marketplace does not. I find that kind of sad.
To go further on this topic, my undiscovered artist friends never comprehended this basic truth about art, that the aritists themselves are only half the equation. They never wanted to give in to the laws of art commerce. They were rejected by galleries and the system, and they never figured out how to get somebody else, somebody other than themselves – that other part of the physical equation – the art dealer… to care about their art. Some of these people became depressed, drank too much or nurtured drug habits, even went a little crazy. A few of them just changed professions.
Let me go even a little further and tell you that I was a friend of Jean Michel Basquiat’s. Sure there are other people who might tell you that, but I actually was. I dropped acid with him. He slept on my couch. We went to clubs together and snuck or begged in because we had no money. We tore down a wall in my apartment, together to make it more loft like. But I just saw the very beginning of his trajectory. When I knew him in 1979, he painted on white sweatshirts that he sold to Joey Arias at Fioruccis. In the next few years he would become larger than life, but during that period I was gone from New York, trying to kick drugs in South America (yes that’s also true) and so, no, I never bought or kept any of the art he gave me. I had a drawing that would be worth hundreds of thousands today, but it got left in a trunk in the basement of a clapboard 60’s house that was torn down in Hunt’s Point in San Francisco that has long gone, gone missing – along with my super 8 footage of him that would also be priceless. And my signed copy of Steal This Book, but that’s another story.
Other friends of mine that were also close to Jean Michel intersected with his art in different ways than I did. I know people that collected his art and kept it and for that reason they are millionaires today. I know others that sold paintings he gave them, or doors in apartments he painted on, to buy drugs. It was a messy time. But the question is, do I think he was an art god, a genius artist? Well yes, to answer the question, I do. But my point is that the art world is pretty damn fickle. Like I said above, I know other artists that were and are just as talented as he was, doing very similar kinds of art and having just as good of an eye or attitude and they never made it!
How does one make art knowing how hard it is to make anything at all new? I’m not talking about diamond encrusted skulls, or maybe I am. If art now, is true commerce, more than it has ever been before, that’s OK I guess. The reason I say that is that our business is marketing and art is very fun to market. And bottom line, art is still very fun, money or no money, Internet or not…
At BRINK we are now accepting a few new clients. To apply, click HERE. If we like your art, we’ll work for you on a commission basis, marketing your art. The more successful you already are, the smaller our percentage will be.