Wednesday, May 12, 2010

TC: Curve


File:Máscara de Xiuhtecuhtli Cultura  Azteza-Mixteca Ars Summum.JPG

The money




will keep


because the




will keep



Máscara de Xiuhtecuhtli: representation of Xiuhtecuhtli (Lord Turquoise), Central Mexican god of fire. Mosaic of turquoise inlay and other materials. Mixtec-Aztec, c. 1400-1521: photo by Manuel Parada López de Corselas, 2007 (British Museum, London)

For the Love of God
: sculpture by Damien Hirst, 2007. Platinum cast of a human skull covered with 8,601 diamonds. Displayed at White Cube Gallery, London, asking price 50 million pounds. Copyright Damien Hirst, 2007 (photo via Daily Telegraph)

"... the desire incarnate in money offered a reward to the imagination, as between two lovers; and that reward seemed at first to be guaranteed by rare and beautiful metals, of whose inner nature and capacity men could only dream. In time, that guarantee was unveiled as only the projected authority of a community... It was the community that authorised the wishes expressed in money or frustrated them. To use money was to submit to the state, and when states disintegrated their moneys vanished as completely as their laws..." James Buchan, Frozen Desire: Macmillan, London, 1997


Curtis Roberts said...

I find it difficult to make an articulate, polite response to any of Hirst’s work, except to say that I wish he would cease making it. When I say that, I feel unthoughtful, ungenerous and guilty, and then stupid for feeling that way. I guess (I know) there’s a place in life and art for provocative, heartless junk. I’m pleased that it serves the poem, however.

As you may know, two days ago Christie’s NY sold a Johns Flag from Michael Crichton’s collection for about $29 million and next month Sotheby’s London expects to sell Manet’s Self-Portrait With A Palette, a great painting, for between L 20 -30 million. A good friend of mine is in this line of work (ferreting out art from people’s collections they hadn’t previously considered selling and then selling it successfully for them and his firm) and what he does remains a mystery to me on many levels, except that I know he cares about art deeply.

It’s nice to see that the Third Baron Tweedsmuir is a writer, like his grandfather. When I was at my last company and traveling all the time, I read through a lot of John Buchan’s novels, where you also travel widely. When we finally visited Scotland and the Highlands, I felt immediately at home.

TC said...

"... I wish he would cease making it."

Curtis, I believe you are not the first person to wish for this.

Here is someone's bit of wishful thinking on the subject.

Still, given the work is so very precious, perhaps such "provocative, heartless junk" should be handled with care.

James Buchan's book on money is simply the most interesting work on that subject I have ever read.

Curtis Roberts said...

I'm having internet problems this morning, but I was able to pull up the work of "Laura, the artist”, which I greatly admire. It's inspiring that she would have spent a month of her life making the effort to do this.

I'll read the James Buchan book. Based on his lineage, it doesn't surprise me that it's very good. The Buchans are clearly a large-brained family. As you probably know, John Buchan was (in addition to his many other accomplishments) a very distinguished tax lawyer. It's a really complicated subject that, for better or worse, is beyond the reach of most people, myself included. In his Edward Leithen novels, particularly in his last novel, Sick Heart River, he wrote with greater perception and feeling about subtle aspects of the legal profession than any other writer I've read.

TC said...


On the eve of the first Iraq War I interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, who talked at length about his generation of philosophically dedicated spooks. Along with T.E. Lawrence, John Buchan was an early model to them, Ellsberg said.

Curtis Roberts said...

Interesting and not a surprise. I'd love to read the interview. One aspect of the profession Buchan wrote so well about in Sick Heart River was "lawyer job fatigue". It happens in every line of work, of course, but I was surprised to see how well he handled it because a salient aspect of Buchan was his prodigious energy.

VANITAS said...

I find most people not in the art world (present company excluded, natch) are completely befuddled by the value attached to works of art. One thing they should keep in mind is that they are OBJECTS, which poems, pieces of music, etc. are not. As objects, they exert a physical force in a room. People (rich people, but also poor people) need things in their rooms that reflect their inquiry into the world and that inspire them to re-think that inquiry.

Regarding Hirst, he's simply the most successful, and therefore most visible, example. A quick glance at a current auction catalogue (available online) reveals the astounding prices attached to a wide variety of contemporary art. You can pick and choose what you want to hate. The important thing to remember, though, is that the artists are not to blame. If we want to apportion blame — and recent figures paid for Picasso, Johns, etc. might equally provoke that — it is to the market economy itself, not the art market per se. I always think it's great when artists — and movie stars — get paid for their work. I only wish there were a commensurate market for poetry.

Curtis Roberts said...

I'm perfectly happy with artists being paid and share your view that it would be great if poetry were assigned a commensurate value. As for Hirst, I simply loathe his work, so it's difficult to feel supportive where he is concerned.

I attend auctions from time-to-time and they can be astonishing events. Quite often, auction houses are very pleasant places to view art prior to sale. A couple of years ago, we went to an exhibition of historically important and curious documents at Christie's and saw the expense report Paul Revere turned in to the Continental Army quartermaster in connection with the Midnight Ride. It was very similar to a modern business expense report (e.g., dinner for Mr. Revere, cost of water for horse, etc.)

The news today about the $33M sale of the mid-1980s Andy Warhol Self-Portrait from Tom Ford's collection shows what a strange horse race the whole thing is. It's not a patch, I don't think, on the earlier Warhol self-portraits, but I guess it pleases somebody a great deal. And Mr. Ford is reportedly pleased with the sale price, so there you go.

By the way, I love Vanitas. And my two new Tom Clark poetry books, Trans/Versions and The New World, arrived in Pennsylvania last night, which was terrific. Thank you.

TC said...

Happy to find this post has sparked discussion.

This article perhaps touches upon some of the issues.

Toward the end, the writer leaves in the air an open question regarding the identity-construction component in "having" the "objects" one needs: what happens to one's identity when one is stripped of such possessions?

("Need" seems perhaps a curious term in this context, anyway, when used sans ironic intent and considered against other sorts of more basic requirements for life, as food, shelter & c. Might one person's "needed object", for example, be another person's "luxury item"? Might it be that in a society like ours, the fetishization that instills value in coveted objects is a condition of the socioeconomic system and not of natural requirement? And might it not be that someone who is hungry, wet and cold -- a collector fallen on extreme hard times, let us say, much less a barrio or favela dweller -- would find their continuing "inquiry into the world" stymied by the immediacies of a kind of "need" that cuts closer to the bone? On an American city street at three o'clock in the morning one might have a difficult time finding a way to use a "fifty million pound" diamond skull to keep oneself warm and dry, or to fight off the gnawing emptiness in one's gut; getting five bucks in cash for it might not prove all that easy.)

As hateful as Hirst may be, I don't see any point in hating him; in fact I'm sure that could only give him pleasure; and enough hatred of that sort would only serve to further inflate his prices anyway. Without his notoriety, what is he? He has certainly never made anything that could considered even remotely beautiful, after all.

Curtis Roberts said...

I really enjoyed reading the Art, Price and Value article and am grateful that it was written and you found and shared it. Merino's sculpture makes its point nicely, but goes a little far for me. (I certainly can't imagine wanting to live with it any more than I could live with a work by Hirst.) I don't hate Hirst; as you suggest, that would be a poor use of time. He just gives me a headache and makes me want to avoid certain places where I know I'm likely to encounter his aura.