ARTICLE: A Call to Unionize Exposes the Art World’s Sense of Entitlement

Manhattan’s New Museum: A Precarious Pile Up Over Unionized Staff 

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“My problem with unions is they breed mediocrity.”

-Kevin O’Leary, Canadian Businessman 

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In today’s corrupt and isolated contemporary art world, mediocrity might be an improvement. One overpriced elitist cloister is about to have a chance to find out.

The New Museum is located in Manhattan. Founded in 1977, the New Museum rejects the whole antiquated “museum as a venue for significant works of high quality which have withstood the test of time” concept. Instead,  “New art, new ideas,” is their oh-so-bold mission statement.

A quick review of their history shows just how much they fail to deliver on this simply stated goal. Postmodernism’s predictable style, a fake approximation of culture, means the New Museum is infested with transitory, unskilled installations and pointless performances, all propped up with convoluted rhetoric.

Some exhibit “highlights:”

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But is it Art? 

 

It’s amazing such twaddle finds a foothold anywhere, let alone in the pricey environs of New York City. But the establishment’s ongoing efforts to subvert and destroy Western Civilization are very well subsidized. In fact, the New Museum is undergoing a major upgrade: $85 million to double its exhibit space, so it can feature twice as many transitory, unskilled installations and pointless performances. But wait: it will also allow them to expand “more experimental programs like its business incubator and the urban-policy think tank that it runs.” It’s the Postmodern mandate that every enterprise just serves as a front for social engineering activism, and the arts are particularly scarred by that presumption.

However, discontent is brewing in the ranks of the establishment’s ongoing psychological warfare against the populace. Some Millennials felt they weren’t receiving the Special Snowflake pay grade and working conditions they want.

Artnet reports:

“…current and former museum employees who spoke to artnet News often complained that entry-level salaries are unsustainable—around $35,000 to start—and that some departments discourage workers from accurately reporting their hours in order to avoid paying them overtime. A spokesman for the museum says it offers competitive salaries for its location and size. The spokesman also said the median salary for full-time employees who were eligible for the union vote is $52,000.

“According to three current and former staffers, turnover rates are high and the museum can take months to refill positions, leaving the remaining staffers to do multiple jobs on top of their own.

“’The low salaries breed turnover, so it’s just this constant flow of people that makes everyone burned out,’ said one former museum employee who asked to remain anonymous. ‘I took the job because I would’ve chopped my arm off to work there at the time, but it just wasn’t sustainable. I didn’t have a safety net, no support from my parents. A lot of people get to the point where they’re like, ‘I’m working a job meant for rich people.’

“Another concern is that there is virtually no consistent, designated venue to air professional problems…I think the general sense is there’s not much of an HR structure or grievance system in place,” Kopel says.

“Many of these issues are emblematic of problems that staff at other institutions are grappling with: low pay, long hours, and the absence of a clear reporting structure. But some employees say the environment at the New Museum is uniquely challenging compared to other places they’ve worked. What’s more, the museum—founded by Marcia Tucker in 1977 after she was fired from the Whitney Museum—has a reputation for forward-thinking exhibitions and programs.

“’It’s hard when you get hired by an institution with such progressive rhetoric and you don’t have a voice,” said one former employee. “The New Museum sets the standard for a lot of institutions, and they are setting a lower standard.’”

Art Critique chanted in support with an editorial piece, “Museum Workers in New York City Fight Back”:

“Art institutions need to take care of their workers plagued by high-cost city living, student debt, and hopes of a stable financial situation that allows them to work at an organization they are passionate about.”

 

Translation: This is not the glamorous, prestigious, and well-compensated future my Masters Degree in Intersectional Feminist Ceramics should rate!

These art museum workers are still stuck in their university mentalities. It’s probably because they switched one form of isolated elitist playpen for another; they expect to retain their inmates-run-the- asylum habits. Their career path seems to involve endlessly rehashing the contents of sociology term papers and asserting that is productivity. Observe some of their own quotes  on their inane exhibitions, which are uniformly dedicated to various leftist tropes and NPC talking points that have been stale for 50+ years. .

 

“…dedicated to providing pro-bono legal representation to undocumented immigrants and their families facing deportation…

The work…touches on urgent themes such as migration and displacement. Addressing trauma in the US as a consequence of the country’s foreign policy actions…

…ongoing explorations of the complexity of collectivity and the human and social consequences of imperialist ventures…

…reflect on racism and power, migration and national identity, and the layers of historical memory that comprise our sense of community and belonging…”

 

Since the wage slaves feel they are not being justly rewarded for lolling around in an institute that serves up such incoherent  academic gobbledygook, they get to indulge in another collegiate pastime: organizing resistance and socking it to The Man. Some of the lower caste drones of the collectivist hive mind decided they weren’t getting enough of a kickback on the culture racket. So they decided to bring in some union muscle.

Because working in an elitist pretend-museum is just like working on the line building Detroit rolling iron, the New Museum pussy hat brigades and soy boys voted to  join up with the United Auto Workers.

One of These Things is Not Like the Other 

Top: Staff at the New Museum

Bottom: United Auto Workers Strike

 

Another whole article could be written about how the management of the New Museum reacted. As true progressives you would expect them to be all in support of bringing in hired gun extortionist goons to explain how to better spread the museum’s wealth around.

 

Nice cutting-edge creative space facility you got ‘ere…

Be a shame if anything ‘appened to it…

 

Museum management did try to understand the hot water they were getting into by contacting a firm with a reputation for defeating union initiatives. The art world scolding and shaming was so intense the New Museum had to disavow any attempt to explain why a union might not work out.  A spokesperson groveled:

 

 “The New Museum is a relatively small institution with a strong mission—we have always worked closely and collaboratively. We don’t believe unionization is the best way to preserve what is special about our culture or advance change. We value the creativity and input of the entire staff, and we will do everything we can to maintain our distinctiveness.”

Good luck to the staff of the New Museum in getting a union to produce Manhattan sized results for a gaggle of expendable specialists in a useless boutique endeavor. At least the New Museum didn’t take the route renowned art world charlatan Jeff Koons did in 2016:

“Jeff Koons Lays Off Over a Dozen Staffers After They Tried to Unionize”

In a way, artsy Postmodern types may just make perfect union members. As I describe in my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts will Change the Course of Western Civilization:

“Postmodernists are parasitic. They are so other-directed, they can’t lead an independent existence. Postmodernists rely on a mob mentality to support and reinforce their irrational ideas and behaviors. As their intellects cling to group identification instead of independent thought, and their stunted emotions merely mirror groupthink expectations, Postmodernists are primed to sell their souls to fit in. They deny there is any such thing as a soul anyway, so it’s easy to give it up. The price doesn’t even need to be high. Postmodernism is a poverty-stricken ideology, so its practitioners have meager expectations. Most will never live the jet-setting lifestyle of their globalist masters. These influencers don’t have to operate within the perimeters they inflict on others. Postmodernists strive for the opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of their controllers.

“As Postmodernists are in thrall to the limiting collectivist fantasies of Marxism, it makes them anxious followers. They want to be in with the in-crowd, part of what they are assured is the inevitable winning side of history. It is the dream of every progressive to join the most favored status clique, where their ilk gets to call the shots. This conceit plays into the leftist assumption that in the utopia to come, some animals will be more equal than others, as Orwell predicted. They acknowledge no God that created all men equal. Leftwing rhetoric of fairness for all is just hype designed to deceive. Once triumphant, the radicals will punish their enemies and reward their friends, just like Postmodernist President Barack Obama urged them to do. Postmodern minions want to make sure they are in good with these brutal inquisitors. Postmodernists will commit acts of senselessness and violence when top-down social pressure is applied.”

 

The Contagion Spreads: Protests at the Museum of Modern Art 

 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other articles for more commentary on the state of the arts. 

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AGAIN WITH THE FECES: THE ESTABLISHMENT ART WORLD SOILS ITS CREDIBILITY

Forget Jumping the Shark: The Establishment Art World Has Leapt into the Lavatory 

 

I get so tired of covering the art world’s pathological fixations on our biological secretions. But I also believe it’s important to expose what these sickos are up to.

It started in 1917, with the submission of a urinal as a sculpture to an art show. Con artist Marcel Duchamp ended up stealing the credit for it from a possibly schizophrenic lady acquaintance of his.

fountain

The Icon of Postmodernism 

 

Ever since then, the art world water closet has been a crowded place.

We’ve been treated to Piero Manzoni’s 1961 series “Artist’s Shit,” which is supposedly his canned crap.

Shit-canned 

In 1987 hack photographer Andres Serrano hit a blasphemous bonanza when he submerged a crucifix into a jar of urine. The art world lionized him because he upset those deplorable Jesus people.

 

Andres Serrano “Piss Christ”  There goes your taxpayer funding

In 2010 Marcel Walldorf won prizes with a sculpture of a peeing policewoman. Way to sock it to the Man! Or, er, the Woman, in this case.

No Relief From Art World Potty Mania

 

And in 2016 the prestigious Guggenheim Museum installed an actual functioning golden toilet estimated to be worth $2.5 million dollars. It was a piece credited to Maurizio Cattelan, called “America,” of course. Because that is what the people who make curatorial choices for the Guggenheim think about our country.

Golden Showers 

I could go on, and on, and on, with these contemporary art examples, as well as other icky oozes like spit and sperm. The so-called sophisticates that dictate our cultural identity seem to have a real hang up with scatology. But a good stopping point seems to be at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; the final word in excrement excitement. The pictures speak for themselves.

 

The End of Postmodernism 

The museum actually commissioned the Vienna-based art collective Gelatin to make this. They spent 6 months on it. Seriously.

“The shit as we present it is a sculptural subject, it’s not a joke,” Wolfgang Gantner, one of the four artists making up the collective, told Euronews.

We’ll be the judge of that.

For an extra level of insanity, patrons are expected to wear nudist costumes while they look over the leavings:

Peak Art World: Try a Little Trendy Gender Dysphoria While You Look at Shit  

Where Does the Art Exhibit End, and the Child Endangerment Begin? 

Because I understand what art can do for people, it makes me heartsick to see this abuse perpetrated by the elitists.

This is not art. It’s psychological warfare.

In my upcoming book, “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,” I identify how grotesque displays like this literal shit show demonstrate the ongoing collapse of the Postmodern globalist cabal, from the vantage point of the United States:

 

The elites had a great vision for America. They would wreck our culture and trash our heritage, and be the managers over our decline. They’ve been implementing their program for at least 100 years. However, in their long march through the institutions, they overlooked part of what makes America unique. We aren’t compelled to follow our “leaders.” We definitely aren’t going to follow them off a cliff.

Many compare the United States to earlier empires that declined and fell. The familiar pattern is happening here and now. Elitist mismanagement and ennui is encouraging social breakdowns. History demonstrates it’s only a matter of time until the barbarians overrun their dominion. The existing society will be overthrown by primitives from outside the complex system of assumptions and niceties cherished by the ruling class.

The great news is, here in the United States, we are our own barbarians.

Understand the current upper echelons are predominately not representative of the American way of life. They’ve been compromised by Postmodern delusions about their own omnipotence, and it’s ruined them. They should have studied Classical literature. It clearly warns about the perils of hubris.

To these upper crust pretenders, nothing is more backwards and uncivilized than their own fellow citizens, who cling to such notions as God, guns, and honor. Yet these traditional Americans are exactly the people who are best positioned to put an end to the current elitist shenanigans for good. Far from not understanding their Postmodern poses, we understand them all too well.

It will be traditional Americans who rise up to clear away the rubble of the establishment’s failures and decadence. America has an amazing record of achievement, when we put our values into action. We have the wisdom which Postmodernists thought they were too smart to need.

America isn’t dying. It’s the artificially imposed Postmodern worldview which is disintegrating. Americans will carry on, better than ever.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Why Banksy’s Shredded Painting Gimmick Isn’t Actually Art

A Cunning Stunt: Banksy Strips 

 

There’s been a strange pantomime playing out over the news for the last couple of weeks. It’s brought rare mass audience attention to the bloated and corrupt establishment art market.

I’ve written about Banksy before, one the elite’s mascots. As stated in the previous article:

Perhaps English media figure Charlie Brooker summed it up best: Banksy gained such art world stature because “…his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots. And apparently that’ll do.”

 

So this anonymous artist supposedly pulls a prank at a glitzy auction, and partially shreds a work. We are meant to believe this was set up years before, and a blue chip auction house which specializes in archival handling of very expensive and fragile works of art managed to overlook a shredder embedded in a frame. Seems legit.

The picture itself is achingly banal. Finally, a work of art less insightful than an emoji.

She has a sadz 

It’s not even drawn well. It’s like she’s got a stubby little Tyrannosaurus claw right arm.

Due to the publicity stunt of the shredding, now this piece is worth even more than the final purchase price of over a million pounds. Almost as if the “surprise” maneuver was a calculated bid to drive up prices, and everyone was in on it:

 

“Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork in the auction, he created one,” Sotheby’s senior director and head of contemporary art Alex Branczik wrote. “Following his surprise intervention on the night, we are pleased to confirm the sale of the artist’s newly-titled ‘Love is in the Bin,’ the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.”

The anonymous buyer felt similarly, based on a quote given to Sotheby’s.

“When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked,” the buyer said, “but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history.”

I would suggest that, while the buyer has purchased a curiosity produced in this particular historical era, it’s not actually art history we’re talking about here. Art did not partake in this gag.

To misquote a decent 1990s scifi action movie:

What if I told you everything you’ve been told about about art by the establishment is a lie?

Whoa 

The Postmodern elites don’t want people to have the experience of genuine art. Real art could incite individuals to manifest pesky traits like free will, idealism, and spiritual awakening. So a false version of art is hyped by the powerful, something that will keep the people befuddled and indoctrinated. Banksy is one of their henchmen, a willing cog in the disinformation machinery.

I wonder if Banksy is a mere individual, or more of a group effort. His pictures and shenanigans all have an odor of decision by committee about them. It would probably take a lot a groupthink to come up with such insipid offerings

With the fawning collusion of the media and establishment art world, Banksy gets to have his cake and eat it too. He gets to play anti-capitalist activist while selling shoddy products for millions. His globe trotting graffitied works are supposed to impart street cred, and conceptual anti-commercialism. But the same generic stencils are easily put onto canvases and sold off to the highest bidders. What is being bought isn’t the art, but a perverse species of ostentatious prestige.

Banksy’s content is the same old leftist slant that already monopolizes government, the media, technology companies, academia, corporate boardrooms, and the culture industries. How is Banksy supposed to be a rebel when he does nothing but echo the party line? His stuff is graceless propaganda, less nuanced than an editorial cartoon.

Banksy socks it to the running dog imperialist orange man!

Just like absolutely everyone else who is allowed to share opinions on a public platform. 

Banksy is a Non Player Character entity who  disseminates mindless graphics  instead of mindless chants. His followers claim he is speaking truth to power when all he does is reinforce the typical establishment narratives. He’s made himself rich while pretending to be down with the proletariat. It takes a deep coating of cognitive dissonance to be able overlook that festering mass of doublethink.

But most of all, Banksy is a name brand selling a product that has the psychical characteristics of art, but is not really art at all. He offers artifice, an approximation of art  that does not actually deliver on art’s most important aspects. He simply does not provide a credible artistic experience.

Banksy’s mock art displays no personality. It does not display advanced achievements in craftsmanship. It does not suggest a meaningful philosophy. It is not unique. It lacks real emotional resonance, spiritual awareness, a sense of contemplation. There is no awe, no sustainable experience at all, just a one liner summary of social engineering tropes. This type of empty, soulless junk is what the elitists have propped up to act as a decoy away from actual creative efforts.

The time has come, when our ruling class tries to shove an inert narrative down our throats and tells us it is art, that we shred their presumptive authority.

In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I describe how contemporary art has been weaponized into an assault on the culture:

“Unfortunately, a substantial disconnect exists between the widely held respect for art, and the alienation most serious contemporary art evokes when actually encountered.

Instead of being reverenced as a communion for all, contemporary art is being treated as a wedge, a social signifier of elitist attitudes. Officially sanctioned art is all too often based on theoretical formal matters and sociological notions designed to exclude, rather than engage, the general public.

Practically no one is paying attention to contemporary art other than a small bubble of artists, academics, cultural institution apparatchiks, trophy-hunting high rollers, and those who wish to vicariously participate in presumed sophistication.

Any art from outside this tight little cabal is treated as non-existent. Through their powers of finance and institutional control, this self-serving, out-of-touch elite presume to dictate art matters for the entire world.”

 

Banksy’s shredded painting is not art, but a con game, just another sting operation of the Big Store swindle.

It does, however, make for a nifty topical Halloween costume.

 

COMMENTARY: Jeff Koons and the Establishment Art World’s Condescending Cult

 

Play D’oh! A Jeff Koons Pile of “Art” 

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“It’s a commercial world, and morality is based generally around economics, and that’s taking place in the art gallery.”

-Jeff Koons

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Part of what I want this blog to do is expose certain notorious figures of the commercialized contemporary art world to a new audience.

I’d like to help educate all you good people who, up until now, have been uninterested, alienated, or even hostile to the efforts of today’s networked creative classes, and their deep-pocketed supporters.

From what I see, the potential audience of the disengaged is practically everyone in entire world.

Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. Practically no one is paying attention to contemporary art other than a small bubble of artists, academics, institution apparatchiks, trophy-hunting high rollers, and those who wish to vicariously participate in their presumed sophistication.

Since most people have tuned out the shenanigans of this arrogant, decadent band of charlatans, you might be unaware of what the art world racket has been producing. You haven’t been missing much.

In this example, we have a major perpetrator of the corrupt art world status quo: Jeff Koons.

What’s up Doc? A Long Eared Galoot, and one of his Sculptures  

Throughout his career, Jeff Koons has racked up approximately $765 million dollars in sales. He does not make the pieces sold under his brand name. The actual work is done by anonymous skilled craftsmen. Koons contributes “concepts” that others execute.

And what kind of ideas has this mogul graced us with that have generated such windfalls? Treasures such as these:

Jeff Koons, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” 

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Awww

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Jeff Koons, Poseur 

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Koons may be best known for a series of giant stainless steel replicas of balloon animals. An orange version of one sold for over $58 million. 

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Over inflated: Wiener Dog Art 

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Then there was the era in the 1990s when Koons married Cicciolina, an Italian XXX film performer. Koons commissioned a whole series of artworks featuring the couple engaging in hardcore sexytime action  (Warning: link is definitely NSFW). They were divorced in 1998; I can’t imagine why.

 

A PG-13 Version of Koons and His Porn Star Wife 

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Not everything is coming up inflatable tulips for the crafty con artist, however. Koons graciously offered to donate a monument to France for the victims of the  2015 terrorist attack: a 35 foot tall hand holding balloon flowers. He graciously expected them to install it next to the Eiffel Tower. The French not so graciously rejected this blatant attempt at product placement. Negotiations are ongoing.

 

An Indecent Proposal

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One of the top selling artists of this era of art specializes in obscenely expensive replicas of cheap toys, gimmicks, and smut. So what is the significance of this?

To understand, you need to look at one of the foundational conceits of art world elitism: the Marxist tinged struggle between the avant-gard and kitsch.

These terms rose to prominence in a 1939 essay by art critic Clement Greenberg. A devotee of the leftist Frankfurt School, Greenberg propounded his contempt for popular American culture. In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I explain Greenberg’s assertions:

“…he claimed the cultural world could be divided in two. The avant-garde (a military term referring to strike force troops, who go ahead of the main army) were forward-thinking sophisticates, whose radical creations were driven by a contempt for the tacky tastes of the general public.

“To Greenberg, the common people were too ignorant to appreciate the rarefied efforts of the avant-garde; these backwards types could only appreciate kitsch (a German word used for low quality art), a phony vision of art which tugged at middle class sensations like beauty, patriotism, and sentimental feelings. A Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of a popular magazine was the kind of thing that could make an intellectual like Greenberg retch.

“Greenberg declared, ‘…part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: avant-garde culture. A superior consciousness of history—more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism—made this possible.’ The consciousness Greenberg refers to as ‘superior’ just happens to be his own, as he proceeded over the next few decades presumptively acting as the ultimate authority on art.”

So how did the art world move from rejecting the tawdry stylings of disposable popular culture to glorifying them?

The secret is the art world cosmopolitans are still dripping with contempt towards most of humanity. What has been added is the soul sucking Postmodern gambit of irony. By celebrating the tacky, elitists are actually mocking their straw man version of what “ordinary” people are capable of. Our New Aristocracy of the Well Connected disrespect the intelligence and capacities of all those whose lives don’t revolve around relentless elitist status signalling contests.

They assume that all we can appreciate is tawdry junk, and so they are having a patronizing laugh at us by spending millions on art that carefully reproduces…tawdry junk. Now it’s avant garde to clone kitsch, which makes it totally different because of reasons. Isn’t it ironic?

If you think that sounds dumb, you would be right. Welcome to the inverse values of the nasty Postmodern world, where our betters try to force us to accept that bad is good and stupid is clever.

This isn’t about the money. The finances are just a side show for most art world participants. Big league art deals are exercises in money laundering, tax evasion, and insider trading, but not that many get into that high roller category. What is most concerning is what it says about those controlling our cultural expressions.

The real perk for most establishment art types is a sense of superiority. Supporting a hoax substitute for art gets converted into the gold of social prestige through the alchemy of Postmodern dogma. It’s yet another proof that our current crop of cultural elitists are really not advanced at all.

Elitists hype outsourced and infantile art because of their own limitations. They lack depth and real achievement themselves, so they can’t tell the difference. They embrace this failure of character as a badge of honor, and mandatory for admission to their tribe.

What Postmodern charlatans have been pushing for decades isn’t even art at all. It’s artifice, an empty mimicry of the outer appearances and gestures of art, without partaking of any of its true substance and significance.

The good news is Postmodernism is dead. It no longer captures the new dynamic spirit of the age. As I state in the upcoming Remodern America Manifesto:

“Postmodernism shows the folly which erupts when the spiritual center of life is denied. Shifting focus away from the soul gave rise to an art world floundering in obscurity, destruction, pornography, propaganda, excrement and carrion. Contemporary establishment art is treated as a wedge, a social signifier of elitist attitudes, and a decadent toy for the wealthy.”

The art done in the name of Jeff Koons typifies this hostile positioning. Its cuteness is a sneer at what suckers we are. The species of cultural rot inspired by Marcel Duchamp has become such a tired trope.

Remodern art restores respect for the general audience, and their abilities to have profound experiences. Remodernists understand art is for everyone. We can all be stirred by beauty, moved by emotional expressions, and gratified by the experience of truth. Western civilization used to understand how art provided those uplifting states. Our current cultural institutions largely fail to produce these positive outcomes; instead they want to pretend a multi-million dollar imitation of a party trick is good enough for us dolts. They are wrong.

The Remodern age will be the story of the dismantling of centralized power. An arts establishment which claims a sarcastic marketing scheme is a major artistic achievement is a juicy target for serious reforms.

Jeff Koons: Having a Ball 

 

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit others posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 4, Completion

Michele Bledsoe and Richard Bledsoe “Tusk”

acrylic on canvas, 12″ x 6″ 

 

“The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance.”

The Remodern America Manifesto 

Our first collaborative painting has been completed, and actually has been displayed in two shows so far.

Michele and I both created our own painting in our own unique style, but allowed a dialogue to form by the interaction of our individual efforts.

Michele compared it to having a conversation.

The process of working on a piece together was so enjoyable that we will continue to collaborate. We hope to someday have a show of just our shared pieces. Watch this space for future updates.

 

Read the series:

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 1

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STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 2

 

STUDIO: Collaborative Painting with Richard and Michele-Part 3

 

ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 5: Why Columbia Art Students Demanded Tuition Refunds

Money Well Spent?

From Columbia Alumnus Julia Phillip’s Exhibit Failure Detection

I’m Detecting Some Failure, All Right 

 

An important dispatch from Columbia University, the most expensive college in the United States:

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: With decrepit facilities and missing faculty, MFA Visual Arts students demand tuition refund

“On April 5, the students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Madigan to discuss their concerns with the program and demand a full tuition refund from the University. Although Coatsworth acknowledged that the state of the program is a ‘disgrace,’ he told the students that Columbia would not be able to provide them with a tuition refund.”

Never mind the fact New York City has some of the highest costs of living in the world. What’s the annual pricetag for Columbia MFA students? Merely  $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year. The university had an endowment of over $10 billion dollars in 2017. Yet none of those funds seem to be directed towards basics like building maintenance or adequate staff. I wonder if their Office of Academic Diversity faces similar challenges.

As an artist myself, I view the complaints about their facilities with skepticism. I lived for two years in a warehouse space in Arizona with no air conditioning or heat. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I used to paint in my kitchen. I had to drag all the furniture around to make space, and be mindful that I didn’t set my cans of paint thinner too near the pilot lights on the gas stove. No one would have known the primitive conditions I had to work in by looking at my finished pieces. An artist must take control of their presentation, and not make excuses about the difficulties involved in production.

But reading this article about some offended privileged kids, there is another quote which reveals what really irks them:

“[The faculty] have gone above and beyond what their role is as a faculty member. They’re in the same boat as us, they’re trying to do the best they can with the restrictions that have been placed from the institution,” Travis Fairclough, a Columbia MFA student expected to graduate in 2019, told the Spectator. “[But] half of the faculty that are listed on the website is actually here, which is a huge blow, because the program is largely based on the connections that you have with your faculty members.” (emphasis mine)

A work by unhappy student Travis Fairclough. 

Connections with faculty members. Really, how much could a professor do for someone who produces paintings like this in an advanced degree program? But artistic achievement isn’t the real concern. In the Postmodern world, it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

What the students are really protesting is the fact the school isn’t delivering enough chances to suck up to powerful folks who can act as gateways into the corrupt establishment art world.

In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I discuss at length the tainted practices of elitist power games:

An additional tool of Postmodern phoniness is brown-nosing.  When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors, life is reduced to a scramble to be noticed and elevated by the powerful. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained outsiders, make the most noise, and kiss the most rings, or asses. Our cultural institutions have degenerated into hierarchies of sycophants; the Postmodern establishment makes it clear that throne-sniffing is mandatory for advancement.

Why would students face massive expenses to study fine art at an Ivy League school? They expect it will pay off for them in the form of nepotism. They expected the chance to play courtiers to some mighty art world players, which would give striving students a shot at joining the ranks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. Without being able to count on favoritism from cronies, Columbia students would have to try to earn an art career based on the merits of their art. Looking at the works above from a couple of Columbia trained artists, it is evident why they desperately need someone to grease the skids on their behalf.

It’s ironic that at least one of the missing professors, Thomas Roma, “retired” due to #metoo concerns. Guess he wanted to connect a little too much. Why are elitist institutions always such cesspits of harassment?

A Photo by the Inappropriate Thomas Roma 

The Columbia MFA students aren’t getting a refund. The administration calls their own program a disgrace, but there’s no money back guarantee. Caveat Emptor. The students feel violated because they thought they could buy their way into prestige. They expected take personal advantage of the Neotribal benefits Postmodernists offer up as the reward for conformity. Instead, their situation can be best summed up by Jon Kessler,one of the Columbia art professors who actually is there:

“’It’s almost criminal to endebt a student $100,000 to be a painter or a performance artist… and if this program was a third of the price, I don’t think we’d have quite the intensity around the tuition reimbursement,’ Kessler said.”

The Art of Jon Kessler, the who calls Columbia’s MFA program “Almost Criminal” 

Earlier entries in the “Death of University Art Programs” series

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

ARTISTS: Remembering Steve Gompf

Steve Gompf April 27, 1963 – March 4, 2018 

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Steve Gompf was the first person I met in Phoenix that became an enduring connection.

It was the winter of 2000 – 2001. I’m not sure of the exact month. I had moved to Arizona at the end of October; after being in town a couple of months, I finally made it out to the First Fridays art walk.

Steve Gompf was in the basement of the Luhrs Tower. He was working the Artlink table, passing out maps. Young, thin, Steve Gompf, with shaggy red hair and a beard. I had been involved with an arts non-profit back in Virginia, so I was curious about Artlink. I pestered him with some questions. I don’t think we even exchanged names. Little did we know what the future held. I certainly didn’t realize I had just met a visionary artist, who would become a significant co-conspirator and friend.

As time passed I kept running into to Steve, as the art scene is its own small town within the larger city. He was at parties, he was at openings, and when I joined the Artlink board, he was there too. Eventually I made the connection between Steve and the wondrous creations he produced: the televisors.

These were Steve’s signature body of work. He presented them as if they were historical relics: antique televisions, manufactured between 1889-1928. That time range happens to be before there was any practical television technology widely available, and definitely before there were any broadcasts being made. But the specificity of the dates effectively reinforced the idea the televisors were pioneering examples of luxury goods from a bygone age.

 

The Televisors

Steve knew enough about actual antiques to reference the styles of different countries and eras in his televisor designs. The amazing thing was he managed to pull off these creations using the most random bits and pieces he scavenged from thrift stores. The televisors were assembled from candlesticks and dog bowls and lamp fixtures, and just about any other scrap of wood and metal you can imagine. He arranged all the parts meticulously into an illusion of sophisticated industrial design. I used to joke they were only held together by gravity, but it’s pretty much true. All those fiddly pieces were just in place due to a series of Steve’s willful balancing acts.

Steve embedded monitors inside these elaborate cases, and showed his own video creations on them. This is where things took a darker turn, which added more complexity to the televisor experience. His video imagery was sometime soaring and celestial, but more often it was like Hieronymus Bosch fever dreams, It was as if the televisors  were receiving broadcasts from Hades. Steve took the sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge, and re-animated them into a grotesque cast of chimeras wandering in some lost nocturnal plane.

Reanimated video stills 

 

This video art culminated in his epic “Parade: The Absolute End of the World.” He worked on this video for 8 years. It literally has a cast of thousands of his wild beings marching past in formation.

 

I Love a Parade: Stills from Steve’s epic video art  

We got to spend a lot of time with Steve and his art in the 5 years we were members of Deus ex Machina Gallery. Steve’s televisiors were always the stars of the show there. They were instantly accessible and fascinating for our patrons.

The televisors worked on so many different levels. They were sculptures. They were assemblage. They incorporated video and sound, They were conceptual in the best sense of the word, hinting at an entire alternative reality. And they were unapologetically beautiful.

An hypnotic televisor at Deus Ex Machina 

We had so many special moments at that gallery. Steve like to set off smoke bombs in the street and play double dutch routines on the sidewalk with invisible jump ropes. Once Steve got his hands on a top hat, and serenaded my wife Michele Bledsoe with his rendition of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka. The lyrics of that song applied very well to Steve: “We’ll begin with a spin/Traveling in the world of my creation/What we’ll see will defy explanation.”

Michele and Steve: Pure Imagination 

Like the ornate videos he created, Steve was a complex hybrid of traits. He could be bawdy and bossy and boisterous. No matter what shenanigans he was up to, you just had to say, “That’s Steve,” and roll with it. His infectious, anarchist laughter was a clue to his driven nature; part Elmer Fudd, part Woody Woodpecker, coupled with wide eyed enthusiasm.

In his teacher mode, Steve was a master of the blunt but accurate critique. He was one of the few people that Michele felt like she truly learned something from. And to this day his advice drives my artistic production: he told me once you should always have a long term, a medium term, and a short term project going, all at the same time. This wisdom has become my own method.

As a gallery partner, he was committed and supportive. As a friend, he was giving and affectionate in his own particular Steve way. Our home is full of the thoughtful little gifts he came across during his Goodwill shopping. I shared his fascination with strange history; he was always bringing me topical books to read. He recognized Michele’s love of beautiful trinkets, so he brought her exotic objects of glass and brass.

Ultimately Steve was a worker, always so excited to push his art to new levels, and to share his own strange vision with the world. He loved to be involved in events and happenings.

I will always be glad, in one of our last exchanges through Facebook, I invited Steve over for dinner. He responded by sharing a trailer of a cool movie he was excited about: Embrace of the Serpent. We didn’t confirm the date, and I kept meaning to follow up. I thought we’d have plenty of time to work out the details.

We wanted to see Steve before his birthday. I was already mentally planning the menu. Only later did I learn that not too long after that message, he was gone. We did not find out until weeks later.

The New Times provided a thoughtful eulogy to Steve, that stuck one discordant note. It mentioned how his works made you want to question more. Although the idea that art equals questioning is a dominant  piece of dogma in Postmodern art, it is a misreading of Steve’s accomplishments.

Steve did want not his viewers to question. He wanted them to experience wonder, which is not the same thing at all.

We loved Steve a lot and learned so much from him. We will treasure the time we got to spend with him.

 

Michele Bledsoe “Portrait of Steve Gompf” acrylic on canvas 

 

A Celebration of Life for Steve Gompf

Sunday May 20, 2018 7 pm

Alwun House

1204 East Roosevelt Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85006