For this latest roundup of OLD NEWS stories, we’re joined by a very special guest, to talk about:
The MASS MoCA union; the new monument to the Central Park 5; the debate about bringing attention to the climate crisis by throwing food and attaching body parts to famous artworks in museum, as analyzed by Jerry Saltz in his piece ‘MASHED POTATOES MEET MONET,’ as well as through our own lenses on the phenomenon; how a stolen painting was turned into a popular throw pillow (which you can purchase online for $18.40 plus shipping); the struggles of Pace Gallery’s Superblue, and the history of Pace through the Glimcher family, including a botched diversity hiring of Marc Glimcher’s daughter; Guy Richards Smit’s cartoon, “WHAT DO YOU SAY TO SOMEONE AFTER A VERY BAD STUDIO VISIT?”; a consideration of big tech’s plundering of art and illustration for its generative AI projects, as poetically analyzed through Molly Crabapple’s LA Times Op-Ed, “BEWARE A WORLD WHERE ARTISTS ARE REPLACED BY ROBOTS;” why the director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is demanding employees follow strict guidelines for email etiquette; and what our respective OLD NEWS favorites for the week were.
Oakland-based curator and arts administrator Zoë Taleporos talks about:
Her straddling independent curating and government-supported public art curating/administrating in her role working for the City of Berkeley; how her curating is more about bringing artists in, as artist outreach, but not cultural gatekeeping; why public art looks the way it does, and why the language of public art has remained unchanged for so long, as well as the problems professionals are faced with in trying to change the face of public art; how one sculpture in San Francisco, while avoiding the problem of becoming a target for skateboarding, but instead became an ad-hoc BMX bike ramp; the alternative and more interesting version of public art: temporary public art, which allows a lot more flexibility and freedom; how panelists judge all public art candidates (Zoë has presented) by a list of criteria, and how she’s always in the room, but never voting as a panelist; the tension in the room when panelists with a wide range of experience with contemporary art weigh in on the candidates who are submitted; the strong mural history and presence in the Bay Area, which are not necessarily a deterrent to graffiti; and how it’s exciting for her to take a given artist’s work and translate it into public art.
Amsterdam-based artist Tjebbe Beekman talks about:
His show in New York at GRIMM gallery (which just opened when we spoke); his 9-year stint living in Berlin, before moving back to Amsterdam at the time his son was beginning school, and how he misses the big-city benefits of Berlin; the big turning point in his work and in his life, when in a span of less than a couple of years his mother died followed by his father’s tragic death in a boating accident, early on in a journey attempting to travel the world; how his father’s death was complicated by the slow to non-existent communication about what happened, and then the time it took to get his remains back, all of which led him to stop painting for half a year; how he re-engaged his artmaking by visiting friends at the Luceberthuis residency in the Netherlands, where he also found himself listening to a lot of John Coltrane, and between the music and getting in the heads of well-known painters, he got his mojo back; the influence the legendary painter Luc Tuymans had on him while doing a residency at the Rijksakademie; and how he’s thankful to make a living from his work, because even though the Netherlands offers lots of funding to artists, most artists who rely on it need to have 2nd jobs.
Joan Kee, University of Michigan art historian and current Ford Foundation Scholar in Residence at the Museum of Modern Art, talks about:
Her residency at MoMA, where she has been looking into expanding their programming to include art that is more international/not from the U.S., but from the ‘global majority;’ her career trajectory, from art history in undergrad to law school and then corporate lawyer for long enough to pay off her $100+K in debt, a calculation she was able to make partially due to her poker-playing experience); the obstacles she faced getting into a PhD art history program with her focus on modern and contemporary Korean art, and how she strongly believes that tuition for BA and MA programs are completely out of control (for out-of-state students at U. or Michigan, where she teaches, it’s currently 70K/year); her interest and expertise with emojis, including her repeated attempts to get a kimchi emoji approved by Unicode, the world text and emoji consortium (she also taught emojis in a graduate seminar); artists working in emojis, including Rachel Maclean, Laura Owens, John Baldessari and Antoine Catala, the latter whose work she calls the best emoji work she’s ever seen; the benefits and challenges of living in Detroit, and why she chose to live there instead of Ann Arbor, where she teaches; how she’s the first full professor of color in her department; how her book, “Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method,” was turned down nine times before it was accepted by U. of Minnesota Press, and subsequently led to a show she curated at Blum & Poe in L.A.; and the state of the art scene in Seoul, including the challenges for younger/smaller galleries’ survival amidst a pricey real estate market that’s regularly gentrifying.
ICA San Diego director Andrew Utt talks about:
Moving back to San Diego, where he grew up, after years away in the Bay Area and South America, and why he did; why San Diego’s art community/culture isn’t known as an art destination, and how he tries to address that deficiency; his route to becoming a curator, starting with his undergrad years at California College of the Arts, when he went to grad students’ studios and had the conversations that would inform his prolific studio visits over the years; the importance of bringing in outside artists, sometimes to be shown alongside local artists, but at the same time, the ‘brain drain’ of artists emerging from SD-based art schools and leaving for L.A. (or elsewhere) for more opportunities, the exodus of which becomes a generational loss over time; teaching artists, and the challenge of their retention; the ICA’s 5-foot and 10-foot rules for interacting with new visitors outside the museum; and where art engagement is headed, in terms of infiltrating cities, and through the growth of VR, AI and other interactive platforms.
Cole Sternberg, artist and creator of the Free Republic of California, talks about:
His painting process, which involves exposing his paintings to the elements, including in extreme form, starting with his (and his team’s) 22-day-long journey from Japan to the West Coast on a container vessel, exposing his paintings to the wind and even skating them over the surface of the ocean; what went into planning this expedition, the various friends he brought on in professional capacities, and the challenges of making the journey, the successes along the way, and its future life as a documentary; his epic Free Republic of California, a conceptual art project that uses California as a canvas to imagine and explore what’s possible for us as a society and as a civilization; how he writes letters to people in power, giving himself a title appropriate to each recipient, whether ‘conceptual artist’ or ‘chief conceptualist;’ the value he places in the Free Republic of California’s Constitution, which is the item he would own if he were to collect his own work; his relative openness to actually becoming a politician, while also realizing that the political sphere is not only too dangerous but ultimately simply not a productive route to making change; his first exhibition, in a bar during law school; his transition from having a day job as a lawyer to that of an artist, and how he actually never made as much income from law as from making art, surprisingly; and his rescue-animal-based farm in Santa Ynez, where he and his family settled during the pandemic.
BONUS EXTRA: in an extension of our conversation, Cole talks about his epic t-shirt collection, which is currently at about 1000. To listen to this EXTRA, please consider becoming an ongoing or one-time donor to the podcast via: theconversationpod.com/support
In part 2 with ArtNet News critic Ben Davis, we talk about: environmentalism and our approach to the climate, as well his emphasis on finding a good middle ground between overly dire and overly sugar-coated perspectives on the conversation; Christian Marclay’s video works “Telephone” – which Apple co-opted, making their own version when Marclay wouldn’t sell it to them – and “The Clock,” which Ben considers to be Marclay’s response to Apple and its iPhone, and images’ ‘place-lessness’ (which “The Clock” returns to us); how he frames the immersive art trend as a question of ‘what’s at stake here?,’ and how there are many trends that he feels needs to be seen from both sides; Alfredo Jaar’s immersive video in the most recent Whitney Biennial, prompted by the very short time window artists now have to gain viewers’ attention; the case of the lovably ordinary @world_record_egg, an Instagram feed that both parodied and addressed concerns about the effects of social media on our individual psyches as an artistic provocation; and Ben’s own tricky relationship with social media (IG).
Ben Davis, Artnet News's National Art Critic and author most recently of Art in the After-Culture, talks about:
Cultural Appropriation in its many forms, including in the context of Dana Schutz’s controversial “Open Casket” painting; Conspiracy Theory culture, including how videos connecting Marina Abramovic with satanic cults are far, far more viewed than videos about Marina Abramovic herself or her work; the culture that Conspiracy narratives come from, how they persist (often through individuals’ alienation), and why they become so popular; the luxury of people who get to say ‘neener-neener-neener’ in judgement of those who buy into them (the socially superior judging the inferior); Rubem Robierb’s ice sculpture at a fancy club during Miami Basel, which spelled out Greta Thunberg’s “How Dare You” addressed to politicians, and what that said/says about Art and Ecotopia, i.e. art and climate change; his experiences with the groups ‘Extinction Rebellion’ and its splinter group, ‘Extinction Resilience,” and his continuing involvement with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), among other causes.
Val Zavala, former anchor/reporter for the long-running KCET (L.A. PBS station) series SoCal Connected and Life & Times talks about:
The ‘Extinction Circle’ group that she was part of for a couple years, meeting once a month to discuss likely human extinction (before the pandemic led the group to slowly disband; meantime she continues to be an active member of her local ‘Death Café’); how approaching humanity’s future is akin to Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ five stages of grief; the oil industry’s campaign of disinformation and its effect on the climate crisis; a profoundly thoughtful Buddhist take on our (humankind’s) fate; relating extinction to former guest Fernando Dominguez Rubio’s study of the preservation of artworks in the museum, and what Val thinks of the lengths museums go to maintain artworks’ longevity; the concept of EA, or Effective Altruism, in relation to human longevity; “Seeding” the future, which is to say leaving a better foundation for future civilizations; and her “New 10 Commandments for Future Generations.”
New York-based art appraiser David Shapiro talks about:
What he does as an appraiser, whether in-person inspections or putting together reports using photographs at the computer; his involvement with the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection appraisal, which was connected to the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the country; how appraisers value a work of art, from auction records to gallery sales (to the extent that can be verified) to the market as a whole, including trends; turning down offers to appraise works that have no apparent market value; his own career as an artist prior to becoming an appraiser, which included having success selling his work before he was even out of high school; how, when he returned to making art after grad school in art history he had less success, learning about “the fickleness and vicissitudes of the art world,” as he put it; and how he appraises emerging art, including within a market with a lot of movement in values, both up and down.
New Jersey-based painter and immersive art museum ‘host’ Kate Sharkey talks about:
Transitioning from being a preparator (at MoMA) to getting a job as a ‘host’ at the immersive art museum ARTECHOUSE, where she also does AV/tech work w/the projectors; what her job as host entails, including interacting with and managing guests’ experiences (some who do something called ‘candyflipping')whether or not immersive art experiences are actually ‘art,’ and which immersive art shows have worked best at ARTECHOUSE, particularly a work by Julius Hosthuis; and we talk about whether immersive art exhibits qualify as ‘art’ or ‘entertainment,’ and what other forms of entertainment they’re competing with.
Maria Brito, art advisor, entrepreneur and author of How Creativity Rules the World talks about:
Giving up on her teenage ambitions to become a singer because of the restrictive culture she grew up in; how from there she wound up being a corporate lawyer as a financially stable option that she thought made the most sense; how she made her way into the world of art advising as a disrupter, seeing that there was a clear lack of passion among many of the advisors and consultants she was encountering; the reasons behind the popularity of figurative painting (of course it has to do with collectors); getting a hold of a Banksy painting for a new client; her approach to becoming an art advisor, including her ambition to demystify the art world; the success of her business coinciding with the democratization of the market via social media (i.e. Instagram); and why she focuses so much on prices and values in describing artists in her book, partly as a way to challenge the stereotype of the ‘starving artist’ that so many non-art people hold on to.
Vista, CA-based artist Dave Kinsey talks about:
The gallery BLK/MRKT, that grew out of a design studio he co-ran, and launched as a gallery early in the 2000s in Culver City; his coming from a design and skate and graffiti background, and how he and his artist cohort were all generally making post-design, post-skate kind of work, and how they transitioned from street and/or skate and/or graffiti artists to more ‘fine’ art, working across genres; his love and appreciate of KAWS’s work, an artist whom he almost worked with, were it not for a disagreement with his partner; how he bought a property in Three Rivers (near Sequoia National Park), where a pipe broke which led to flooding and the ground turning into a ‘milkshake,’ and forced him, circuitously, into figuring out how to be a full-time artist; his commercial collaborations with big brands (Nike, etc.) and growing his own work in a more personal way; how and why he left advertising and design, and developing a financially sustainable art career; and how he has collected other artist’s work to support their careers as much as his being a fan.
In this OLD NEWS-oriented episode of the show, I talk about:
Immersive art exhibits, which are booming, much to my chagrin; a follow-up on the art world’s ‘ponzi-like scheme' involving a new participant, “Rich-Kid art,” effects on the art market in both the UK and the U.S. through new laws and regulations, a union formed at Pasadena’s Art Center, reconciling NFT’s with their environmental footprint (and their financial decline), and a painting of a polar bear in the Royal Academy’s Open Call.
In the 2nd part of our conversation, James and I talk about: working as an assistant for various artists, including making large-scale paintings for other artists, and wanting to be credited for his work, with a title such as “lead painter,” something that officially acknowledges his contributions; and meanwhile, how important the process of the making is to his own work; the things that keep James up at night, from the climate crisis to worldwide political bifurcation…basically, “human tragedy is running deep…;” further connecting collectors to his work through his artist talk at his recent show; a story he accidentally left out from his talk, that has to do with searching for enlightenment; buying a piece of land in the canyons of Malibu, which became an education in native plants and paying attention to the landscape (his wife is now a landscape designer emphasizing native plants); and how the person he’d like to emulate is not an artist but rather a zen master or the like, someone who lives as fully as possible.
Altadena (in L.A. County)-based artist James Griffith talks about:
Discovering the town of Altadena, where they first bought a house, and then a studio building, formerly Altadena’s fire house, back in 1999, and fixing them both up from tear-down conditions; being connected to nature while also being in the city, and not ever buying into owning a cell/mobile phone (although he does use an iPod, which he can text with); having renters in both the converted garage at their home, and in a section of their studio building, providing he and his wife with more freedom to make their art without needing ‘the monthly nut;’ working with tar as his primary medium, which he’s done for well over a decade and gotten a lot of mileage from one 5-gallon bucket of the stuff; and his and his wife’s decorative/faux finish painting business, which his wife launched in the 80s, and allowed them to buy their fixer upper house and studio building.
San Francisco-based artist Sarah Thibault talks about:
How she’s the last artist in S.F., or at least so it seems; a ghost encounter she experienced in Edinburgh (Scotland), as well as her engaging in Tarot cards and other new-age spiritual pursuits, largely as a byproduct of the pandemic; her experiences going to a range of artist residencies, from remote ones with just a couple fellow residents in Portugal, to a more professionalized one at Plop in London; the Minnesota Street Project, a subsidized artist studio and gallery complex in SF where Sarah has a long-term lease at ‘below-market rate,’ and the barriers for entry there; her transition from working in executive assistant jobs to becoming a recruiter; and we talk about my concerns about Sarah’s giving me a tarot reading (and spoiler: we eventually do one in a bonus episode to come).
Freelance art writer (often for the New York Times) and past guest royalty Andrew Russeth talks about:
Why he moved to Seoul, South Korea, where he’s expanded his freelance writing opportunities; a book on Chris Burden’s unrealized sculpture projects, which he wrote about for the New York Times- the book includes a one-stop pneumatic subway under the Gagosian gallery; artists using assistants, and the optics that go along with the various levels of production that certain artists employ, for us as viewers of their work; the art scene(s) and community in greater Seoul, which has a metropolitan population of 25 million, nearly half that of the whole country of South Korea; the vast artist-run gallery scene in Seoul; how some of the trends in Korean contemporary art overlap with international contemporary art, including airbrushed figuration, humor, and meme culture; and last but not least, Andrew holds forth on South Korea’s incredible food and drink culture (including Bibimbap and soju), which has been heaven for him.
with Fernando Domínguez Rubio, author of Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum, he talks about: Storage- how much it takes to maintain it; how museum curators put the longevity of artworks in the context of geological time, when thinking about ‘eternity,’ and how exhibition rooms in museums are effectively ICUs for the art- conditions must be monitored and controlled carefully, because humans, just by their organic natures, are an immediate threat to artworks’ longevity; how exhibition rooms in museums are highly mediated spaces by exhibition designers to control viewers’ experiences; the complex logistics and mimeographic labor that goes into the maintenance of artworks within the museum- where and whether they get loaned, get exhibited, etc.; Fernando’s own experience of violence when he first encountered contemporary art, because, as is the case for most individuals, he didn’t have the grammar for reading the exhibition room; how his working class background, and change in classes as an adult, has informed his focus on the invisible labor at the museum, as opposed to its ‘celebrities;’ and how exhibition spaces have been “conquered for a suspension of common sense.”
In part 2 with Fernando Domínguez Rubio, a professor of communications at UCSD and author of Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum, he talks about:
The astonishing resources that go into some museum artworks, starting with David Lamelas’s conceptual installation “Office,” which MoMA bought and decided to reproduce, but were reproducing an installation that no longer existed, and yet they did everything they could to be true to the original piece, based only off photographs; the ‘modern aesthetic regime of art,’ and how art that once rebelled against museums and museum inclusion – was anti-institution – is now embracing as many angles of commodification as it (via the artist) can; the savvy machinations of the artist Tino Seghal; and, as part of our discussion of art words and conservation-based artist interviews, we play out a MoMA interview with the artist James Rosenquist, which raises one of Rubio’s big questions: “what is a museum-- is it not a necessary absurdity?”
In the first of several parts with Fernando Domínguez Rubio, a professor of communications at UCSD and author of Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum, he talks about:
How he got started with the massive eight-year project of this book, beginning with his post-doctoral thesis interviewing numerous people who work at the Museum of Modern Art; how he gained entry into the museum (hint: via the Conservation dept.); the hidden labor that’s done at the museum, as part of something he calls “mimeographic labor,” a process to make objects of ‘the same;’ how most art in the world is in storage – it isn’t seen art – which is definitively the case for museums; how much invisible labor goes into what visitors see in a museum, and to what extent that labor, spread around various parts of the museum and its numerous artworks, is sustainable.
In this guest-less episode, we ( that is to say 'I') talk about: a new OPEN CALL for future guests of this podcast; the opening reception and the show 'It's My House!,' a group show in Ojai that I'm in; and numerous recent excerpts from Jeff Weiss's OLD NEWS, including stories about the Sacklers' name being taken off institutions, the Waste Museum in Nigeria, the indictment of the (former) sales director for Superblue, and the recently passed auteur Nick Zedd, among other recent art news. It's all capped with a very short story about the Pearlfish, which can be seen here: https://tinyurl.com/yatcyrdq
In Part 2 with writer Gabrielle Selz, author of Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis, we talk about Sam Francis as he:
Settles into his compound at West Channel Road in Santa Monica, and became the big-man-on-campus of the young (1960s) L.A. art scene; his relative absence as a father, his kids being left to run wild or spend time with Sam’s assistants; Sam’s self-empowered and grandiose painting process which included his mantra, “I am an Original” as he began to paint; the profound impact that his fifth (and final) wife, Margaret, had on Sam’s life, because of the way she corralled Sam off from the large and freely flowing group of friends who came in and out of the house(s), as well as how she enabled Sam’s adherence to bogus alternative medicine when he was suffering from cancer; the Dream Machines of his studios in the works, including many compounds simultaneously in development in northern California towards the end of his life; the resolution of his complicated Estate, including a contested will by his last wife; and where one might find Sam Francis paintings these days.
about: the important first phase of Sam’s long art career, in Paris, where he started working on a big painting from his bed in a tiny hotel room he shared with his girlfriend Muriel; how he was a shrewd businessman and cocky self-promoter, a sort of Orson Welles of the art world; how his first patron, Franz Meyer Sr., told Sam he would buy anything he made, thus freeing Sam and bolstering his confidence and security; how Sam wasn’t tied to place (he was constantly traveling and living in different countries), nor to style; and how lucrative Sam’s career was, including having bank accounts (including Swiss) all over the world, and his philosophy that money flowed through you, and that you should spend it.
In part 2 of 2 with Los Angeles-based painter Sydney Croskery, she talks about:
connecting with a gallerist -- who has come to represent her – on Instagram, synchronistically; the benefits and travails of her day job as a server, which can be very intense, and could make for a whole other episode; her “Failure CV,” which accompanies the traditional CV on her website, and how in addition to being self-deprecating, has also been empowering; and as a final grab bag topic, Sydney wonders why there are a number of artists who want their work to have no meaning whatsoever (if you know of an example of such work, please reach out and let me know; Sydney didn’t want to call anyone out).