Sunday, August 16, 2015

Chelsea art scene

This is an extension to the previous MoMA post. When I was in New York I wandered around the Chelsea gallery precinct. I liked the High Line. The galleries on the other hand were pretty unwelcoming. I mean, the doors themselves were often smoked glass or frosted white with subtly stenciled names. The gallery assistants, aptly named gallerinas, were too often po-faced and barely acknowledging of your entry into their hallowed spaces (most will be trust-fund kids cutting their teeth in the glamorous world of art). The art itself was mostly tedious and predictable... even the 'big names' were uninspired. But there were the occasional surprises and delights.

I'm really only mentioning this because it was another eye-opener to the misery that awaits one who is artistically 'successful' (big money, big openings) in one distinct part of the New York art scene. I decided not to attend an Ai Weiwei opening to save me from the cloying atmosphere of people competing for attention. I felt deeply for Mike Kelley who was obviously not in a good place when he moved to Gagosian Gallery. I'm sure the art scene contributed to his declining mental health. I felt depressed just visiting.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Everything changed for me when I went to MoMA. Not in the way you might think. I always wanted to visit MoMA to see the temple itself and to experience the works of art I have only ever seen in books. The downside to visiting what is essentially a 'must-see' tourist attraction is the miserable selfie culture. On top of this, or hand-in-hand with it, is the cult of the 'must-see' artworks. In the Louvre it's the Mona Lisa, in MoMA it is Van Gogh's Starry Night. Or it was when I was there. So no chance of experiencing the work on its own merits because people are jostling for a picture of it or a selfie in front of it. There was a similar experience of ipads and iphones blocking lines of sight in front of Monet's Water Lilies too. So that was when I realised that wanting to be at the top of the art world (not that these artists necessarily saw this coming or thought that way) your work will invariably end up being a prop in someones selfie lifestyle or misguided obligation to art tourism.

The better experience for me was viewing the history of toys exhibition or some of the other exhibits outside of the modern masters everyone flocks too. In fact the Met proved a more satisfying experience all round. I did have a wonderful experience looking at Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World at MoMA. It was tucked away down a corridor toward a lift lobby and no-one was around that area. This was one of the artworks I was haunted by as a child - there was a print in my Primary School library. It was wonderful to see it and really engage with the details: Seeing the birds up in the left-hand corner; The rather clunky rendering of the hands; The intimacy, the colour, the texture. It was as spooky as I had remembered it.

I haven't given up on art and the power it has to evoke emotion, but the museum system, the art world, the tourist culture, the selfie culture, the scale and prestige of institutions have come into sharp focus for me.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


I prefer drawing over any other type of art. I also love a good painting. I've come full-circle. I rejected historic painting as boring, staid, a timepiece of the past. For a long time I only ever wanted to see the new, the avant garde, the conceptual... the stranger, the better. Smashed glass, oil, broken objects, found objects... all those contemporary works were exciting to me. Then I went to art school and saw behind the curtain. I can't say it's all bad, but it revealed to me the machinations of thinking about and creating contemporary art (conceptual art) and most of it just doesn't ring true. It's just a playbook. So now I take the time to look at portraits, representational paintings, bronzes and the tradition of the masters (and contemporary masters who work in traditional materials) and shit, y'know what, I find this work more genuine somehow. It may not be (it may be ironic) but I like painting and drawing, so that is what I gravitate toward.