A Little Skepticism on the Worth of Art Fairs

This one, which is going to feature the work of newly-graduated MFA students, is something I’d like to see. But then, in the details, are things like the prestige of venue, and the million dollar cost.

I’m not sure it’s the direction I want to see. The art world is already so focused on sales, and this is more of the same system that pushes artists to structure work to market preferences.

I get the opportunity to the students, and congratulations to them for getting in on this. But I’d like to see a bigger push to strive for meaning and broad openness in both art and its exhibitions.

Real World Art Interventions by Magda Sayeg

I’m always fascinated by artists who interact with the physical world in various ways. Especially when they turn the familiar upside down. Magda Sayeg does this sort of thing a lot, creating what I’d call interventions more than merely installations.

Using yarn as a medium has some deep connective salience. It’s familiar, but outside the context of a home or apparel, it brings a sometimes unnerving resonance to both natural and human made objects. Simultaneously, it adds touches of humor and cozy familiarity, drawing us in with bright color and warmth.

A Longtime Art Fair Expands Westward: Frieze L.A. Is Here

photo: work by Sanya Kantarovsky, Modern Art gallery booth, original photo by Mark Blower

It’s nice to see L.A. start to be ever more seriously considered a center for fine art, despite my reservations about art fairs in general. As the population giant of the West, it’s inevitable that thousands of artists make their homes and studios there, with plenty of innovative and alternative ways of seeing and making.

Art fairs can be a way to keep tabs on some aspects of the larger art community, so here is Artsy’s rundown of their picks for the 10 best “booths” at Frieze L.A.

Fairs, and the Fine Art World Catering to the Fancy and Overlooking the Littles

It deserves as much longer post, or a series of them, but the Frieze art fair debuts in L.A. this week. It’s long been staged in London and NYC, and I’m glad the west coast is being recognized by the organizers as a worthy art center, but still have major problems with the concept in general.

As with the secondary market (auctions and such, the phenomenal prices of which are what make headlines), small, lesser-known, and—let’s face it, because it’s practically a detriment—living artists are often paid less attention. It’s true lots of contemporary creators get to showcase through their galleries who pay a high entrance fee to exhibit, but the fairs are there to make money, primarily.

This is fine. But it leaves out a vast section of artists who may feel, well, frozen out. I don’t have a ready solution, except to say I think we should be thinking more about what art gives to humanity, and the capacity we all have to make it.

Tolkien’s Words Illuminated His Illustrations as Well as the Reverse

As related in this article about the current Tolkien exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York, J.R.R. Tolkien thought of his drawings and paintings were of a piece with his writing. He didn’t do either as afterthought. They went together.

“As he was writing the story, he would draw the scenes to help him create the textual description…and, in turn, what he was writing would inform his illustrations.”

— John T. McQuillen, Ph.D.

There’s a place for these kinds of media combos, outside places where they work together, as in animation. There are worlds to explore, still, and genius that will spring up and give us new ways to work and explore. All art is remixing.

The Strange and Various Arts of Frances Bagley

It’s been a while since I posted an artist link, but for Frances Bagley, I have to. She’s a counterargument to the idea that one should have a focus on a specific kind of work, since she does all kinds of wildly different things: installations in rooms, disturbing mixed media draped figures, abstract sculpture, video-centered works, public conceptual pieces, and all with a thoughtful and deft eye and hand.

In Memory of Sister Wendy Beckett, 1930–2018

One of my favorite art educators died on December 26th, leaving behind a rich and passionately devotional trove of videos and books about art behind.

Sister Wendy was a fascinating and amusing figure in her capacity as a guide and an insightful interpreter of art for millions who were enraptured by her tours through the history of art. She taught boldly and with grace. Below is a typically wry and studied segment, her description and explanation of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.