The Stranger lecturing on ethics?
OH MY GOD! HE OWNS ONE PAINTING AND ONE DRAWING IN THE SHOW!! CLOSE THE SHOW!!! IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY TO GET PEOPLE TO ... uh ... LOOK AT ART!!!!
I am really looking forward to the "Why a Northwest Biennial?" panel at the Tacoma Art Museum on the 10th. With Graves, Kangas and Hackett together on stage, this should be quite an event.
"This town is not that small. These practices shouldn’t be tolerated, let alone condoned."
Evidently, it is that small...
Why keep the collector a secret, then?
I don't have any real problem with this specific case. It is a 'brochure', not a 'review'. In these cases it is understood that Kangas is a 'hired hand' and what is written transitively comes with all of the usual caveats about who/why/how/etc. Howard House and the Wright's should not be implicated in any wrong doing whatsoever. It is their job and their leisure to pick whom they like for such publications. And how that writer is 'paid' should not come into play. It is not uncommon for 'trades' of services to occur in these cases, especially in our small little town where liquidity of assets is harder to come by than liquidity of ideas.
[Just wondering if anyone has explored this topic as it relates to Clement Greenberg, et al]
That said, I DO have a HUGE problem with Kangas expecting "payment of one sort or another for his editorial services." By this I mean: to promise a review in a national publication in exchange for a work or a dinner, or other, or to expect such a gesture from the artists after the fact, is reprehensible.
At the risk of being called to bear witness as this heated topic engenders further editorial comment, I am compelled to speak out. Having been in the Seattle arts scene for over 10 years, I have been witness to numerous, specific 'payola' (or is it 'reverse payola?') campaigns by Mr. Kangas. They sickened me, and to this day I have yet to send a single press release or invitation to Mr. Kangas relating to my gallery.
When the topic of why Seattle is not taken more seriously in larger art circles, I point to the fact that for 25 years, Kangas has had a virtual strangle hold on which artists get written about in the national press. His has been the lone voice for our scene to a national audience for far too long. It's no wonder it seems as though we've floundered in provincialism.
The good news: for the past 4-5 years, others have attempted to fill in Kangas' enormous gaps, correct his projected myopic vision of Nortwest art, and his influence is finally waning. It was about 4 years ago that former STRANGER art critic, Emily Hall, wrote one of the first gallery reviews for ArtForum that I had ever seen!! [She reviewed Miranda July's work at the short-lived (and sorely missed) Landowski Gallery]. Others have followed suit: Elizabeth Pence, Lanny Duvuono, Suzanne Beal, Scott Bailey, Patricia Failing, many others, oh!, and the STRANGER's very own, Jen Graves, have all helped get Seattle and its artists on the national radar again.
We in the arts all owe them a debt of gratitude, but a simple 'thank you' should suffice.
I agree with you. This is a def. a conflict of interest. Kangas should have disclosed this right off the bat.
But to hear it preached from the Stranger seems a bit ironic.
Not to beat a dead horse, but isn't giving Eric a column titled "Fucking the Streets" a bit of a conflict of interest as well?
Tell me I'm wrong and I'll shut up.
At least Eric's column reveals him as DJ Fits, and opens up the hand he's playing for discovery, whether there's anything to discover or not.
Kangas is another case entirely, and while I very much appreciate Scott Lawrimore's courage and determination in speaking out about this critic (artists have feared to go on the record), I still feel that he should not have hung his own work in a show without disclosing his ownership. It is the lack of disclosure that I fault Howard House for (the Wrights were not really involved in this show, and I didn't imply they were).
Kangas, in other words, doesn't operate all by himself, but with the complicity of people who could simply say, No.
Those people, by the way, most likely also include editors at the Seattle Times. Surely, they've heard the stories everyone else has.
But maybe they've cleared him. Maybe he has a side to this story, too, that ought to be reported.
Ah yes.. the perfectly legal but highly unethical back rubbing old boys club at work. This is the norm.. what I'd be much more suprised by is if you can find more than a handful of major players in the arts scene that don't operate in this manner. I don't personally know many big players in the Visual arts scene but I hear stuff through the grape vine. I've heard dozens of even bigger conflict of interest stories by Kangas and others. A friend of mine is a Theater critic for one of the main papers and the back scratching that goes on for reviews and grants is mind boggeling and probably borders on illegal in some cases.
Gdfather, you're wrong. I know critics all across the country, and that kind of stuff may have once been the norm, but it isn't any longer. It is the by far the exception, and 99 percent of us take exception to it.
Him @ 2
Uh, actually, he's promoting art he owns by writing the brochure copy, which almost certainly has the consequence of raising the profile and likely the value of that art. Not to disclose that potential conflict of interest is shady.
I wonder how many have seen the brochure? It's not a nationally distributed book, published by HH. I doubt that it's going to raise Mary Henry's cache by very much at all - no more than having two fairly prominent and publicized shows simultaneously.
I'd definitely agree with Mr. Lawrimore, of course, that bribes or favors exchanged for ink is wrong and any artist is equally guilty of substantial ass kissing as opposed to the insubstantial kind seen regularly...
I'm not just speaking of critics Jen, I'm also speaking of the conflicts of interest that occur involving museums, grants, awards, curation, collectors, etc. My friend is a theater critic and I get less gossip about the visual arts world, but I hear some of that too. I'm not suggesting the whole world is corrupt, but I don't think your 99% squeaky clean estimate is very accurate. Heck, I was once threatened by a gallery for an online post that I was critical of one of their artists. They told me they would see to it I never showed in xxxx again. And I haven't although I doubt they are really capable of being fully responsible for that.
On a related note, how about the next time TAM has a biennial, Rock clearly states that only artists whose work are already part of their collection need apply? Similar issue of promoting those artists whose work is already owned and will be enhanced by the prestige of being included in another show!
Jen. This is a good topic and worth raising, but I think more reporting should have been done by you before you committed these musings to print.
You start with what is a comparatively minor ethical infraction, the writing of a brochure for a show that might have art from the writer's collection in it. (Had he acknowledged ownership, it wouldn't be an infraction at all.)
A reasonable next step, which you give no indication of having taken, is to call the writer and ask what gives. Instead, you rely completely on an anonymous source.
After that, your essay goes downhill as you pile on accusations with question marks on the end. Does Matthew Kangas exchange art for favorable reviews in newspapers? (Whoa. That's a big one.) Does he press artists to give him gifts? (Just as big.) Did he kill his next-door-neighbor's seeing eye dog? (Not as big.) Well, did he?
Jon Stewart has attacked Fox and CNN for the same thing. Is the terrorist threat rising? Will the left destroy our country? Is the world ending? We're just asking, after all.
No, you, Fox and CNN aren't just asking. These are charges. Putting a question mark after them does not lessen their gravity.
P.S. See you in Tacoma. I'm expecting to have tons of fun. Regina
I am relieved that I am not the one responsible for the seating arrangements at the TAM art critics panel...who will have to sit between Jen and Matthew?
Killing a seeing eye dog is a felony.
Attacking Matthew Kangas on SLOG is petty!
Regina, it would still be an infraction even if he had disclosed it. In fact, it would be two, but who's counting. Promoting a commercial show of work by an artist you've written about locally and nationally: infraction number one. Promoting a commercial show of work by an artist you've written about locally and nationally AND including two works you personally own in the show: infraction number three.
And what reveals that those are infractions? The fact that they had to be hidden. Infraction three: you're out.
As for my musings on Slog: Because I can update them constantly, they are not complete portraits, and that's why they don't claim to be.
But you're right, and I see your subtle message here: Do the story.
OK, I will.
If Matthew Kangas is indeed using his role as critic to bolster his art collection on the side, where exactly would a serious investigative journalist begin?
Due both to Kangas' standing in the international art scene and perceived general temperament, might it start with an anonymous source?
Any artists who might claim to be victims of this alleged practice are likely, for lack of a better word, scared (for obvious and understandable reasons) to formally go on record.
And sure, some journalists have made up "anonymous sources" over the years related to all kinds of news, but I don't think Ms. Graves is even remotely in danger of falling into that camp, especially on this particular issue.
Why would she have to? Like Mr. Lawrimore (fifty points for chiming in under his own name on such a flammable topic), I have heard first hand accounts from prominent local artists about the pressure Kangas put on them to give him free art either before or after promoting them in his capacity as a critic. Some caved, some didn't...
The point being that Ms. Graves wouldn't have to walk far in order to seriously up the tally on her anonymous source list.
Now, a named artist willing to go on record about Kangas' alleged activities in this area...
That would really be something.
But barring a miracle in that vicinity, protected anonymous sources have always been a cornerstone of American journalism.
Why should they be any less applicable in this instance?
P.S. Ms. Graves is not The Stranger and The Stranger is not Ms. Graves. She is new to the publication and, if some of you haven't noticed, her work is quite different than that of her predecessors. If there is criticism to be leveled at her work, have the good sense to aim correctly.
I own several works from artists I have written about. Some I purchased, some were gifts, the only thing I have not done is actually sold anyone's work.
The ethics of including work from your own personal collection have to be guided by the question "Who benefits?". Kangas should have come forward and owned up to ownership. If there were specific Curatorial needs that the works in question met, then it should have been dealt with in the essay.
To be fair to Kangas, he is not nearly the ethical sinner as his idol Clem Greenberg, [go to the Portland Art Museum to see that collection!]Sin is all a matter of perspective I guess.
Also to be fair to Kangas, I have to disagree with Scott Lawrimore, Kangas has never been important nationally. To say that he has held back Seattle from being noticed by other art centers [ie NYC]is to give him more credit than he merits. I never even heard of the guy until I moved to Seattle. [Big Dale as well].
Should we call him on the carpet over this? Absolutely! I am curious to hear what he has to say.
Wow - I'm just back from New York getting the word out to a larger audience how great the Seattle scene is at Scope and this lands on my desktop!
I'm rather confused as to why my gallery is being implicated? The Mary Henry show at my gallery is her first - and coincidently - Matthew Kangas had organized his show at the Wright Space around the same time. He picked the works from Mary's studio focusing on large paintings of different eras in her production as well as taking pieces from private and public collections that filled specific points in her career.
I, on the other hand, selected paintings based on different criteria – showing a variety of different size works from different periods but not focusing on a historical survey. Having Mary design a mural for Howard House is the centerpiece of this show – highlighting the fact that she had painted murals for industrial buildings during World War II.
The painting in question in the Wright Space exhibition states that it is from a private collection in the exhibition brochure. Simply, I had no input on where Matthew culled these works nor did I feel I needed to input on Matthew's historical overview – he has significant knowledge of Mary’s oeuvre and also was working directly with the Wright Space. I had my own agenda for Mary's work at my gallery.
Knowing that a key work of Mary's is in Matthew's collection is not a surprise to me. I had seen this painting in his apartment many years ago. I presumed that as a historical overview of a significant artists work he felt it was important to show it. Stating that it is from a private collection is his right and does not draw attention away from Mary’s important work – as it will now. Is he supposed to leave it out and you don’t get to enjoy just because he owns it?
Furthermore several galleries including Cliff Michel, Linda Cannon, Brian Ohno and now my gallery have represented Mary locally. I certainly had neither connection nor any knowledge of how the painting was acquired by Matthew and see no conflict in it being shown in a private space. I can tell you that Mary did not give the painting to Matthew for this show and if you want to find out how Matthew came about it call him.
This issue of conflict of interest regarding a critic/curator has nothing to do with my business or me and I am quite surprised that Jen didn’t take the time or give me the courtesy of a call before writing publicly about it. In the past I have had a great deal of respect for Jen’s writing starting with her review of the Hadley+ Maxwell show when she was at a daily paper in Tacoma. But this is very unprofessional and unfortunate to suggest that the gallery has anything to do with unconfirmed impropriety by any critic or curator. I realize the Stranger is known for over the top writing – but accusations that are unfounded really can do more harm than address the real issue – which is conflict of interest. If you have an issue with Matthew take it up with him – investigate for real information – don’t rely on speculation and hyperbole. Since this is a small community – find out who’s been reviewed by Matthew and ask them point blank – have you given him a painting for a review? That’s the real story here – not whether he has a significant painting that is part of a historical overview. Clem had a whole friggin collection of great stuff by artists of his time – what - is he supposed to live with posters his whole life?
It may or may not be a conflict of interest Steven. Undoubtedly someday you will sell some of your work.. or your kids or realatives will. If you've spent a career writing about these artists and pushing to get them in the spotlight, well, that is likley going to increase their value. You may honestly be writing about the artists you collect because you think they are doing the best work out there.. but we don't know that. Since we don't know.. it makes it a "potential" conflict of interest.. which most people would like more disclosure about... so if there is a pattern of it, it can be questioned, and if there is a problem, it can be exposed.
Billy Howard wrote:
"Is he supposed to leave it out and you don’t get to enjoy just because he owns it?"
This is deliberately missing the point. No, he's not supposed to leave it out. He's supposed to disclose that he owns it to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.
It's not a difficult concept to grasp: In order to avoid accusations of bias, whether real or justified, journalists are ethically required to turn down gifts from sources and others, and to disclose possible conflicts of interest.
It's a shame that you didn't care enough to hold Kangas to that standard when he wrote your brochure -- without his full disclosure, it casts doubt on your show (maybe he's only writing about it because he has a vested interest in it?) as much on his judgment. Also, don't get histrionic; no accusations were leveled at you other than accusations of poor judgment in not insisting that he disclose it.
And finally ... I'm sorry, but just because one famous critic showed questionable ethics doesn't mean it's OK. That's utterly specious.
You'll never show in this town again Superfurry Animal!!!
just kidding. well partially kidding.. I'm bowing out of this conversation before I get myself into trouble.
To Billy Howard:
I didn't realize that the two shows were organized separately. My apologies for assuming that you had prior knowledge of the anonymous attribution. We will agree to disagree on the appropriateness of the anonymity.
I stand by my claim that dealers and other power players can help to regulate critics, just as critics are set up to watchdog dealers.
Anonymous: I see your many points, but why don't you talk to those artists who you say have had these personal, firsthand experiences? Why don't you encourage them to speak out now? My email is email@example.com, and I'm working on a story about whether Kangas's well-known reputation is based in fact or, instead, an urban legend.
To clearify - Superfurry Animal - the brochure was made for the WRIGHT SPACE - a separate show from Mary's show at my gallery. It is a private space owned by the Wrights. They handle all funding for exhibitions there - including the exhibition collateral.
Ah, duly noted. My criticisms should thus be directed at the Wright Space rather than at you.
Though I still disagree with your minimizing of this issue, I chastize myself for smearing your name.
I first must disclose that I am a shirt-tail relative of Matthew, some distant marriage between grandparents siblings on each of our parts.
So it may be that I have gotten preferential treatment because of or familial relationship- but he has written about my work repeatedly since at least the late 70's, and never once asked, nudged, or winked about any recompense.
Matthew is not the wealthiest person, so he does tend to be a thrifty art shopper, and he does like to collect work- so I am sure he would not turn down gifts from artists, but I really doubt they were quid pro quos for reviews.
Love him or hate him, he has quite strong opinions, and I cant imagine him changing them for money- he really does believe what he writes.
Now if we were going to talk about his behavior at the hor'doerve table, that might be different- he's a healthy eater, and doesnt turn down free food...
I wasn't being subtle. How could you accuse me of being subtle? And here I thought we were getting to know each other.
Yes, do the story. I've tried in the past and so has Erica Barnett. We looked and couldn't find the smoke of a smoking gun, just a memory that our eyes had watered.
And to be clear: These charges are serious and worth discussing. Regina
Regina and Erica:
Then why the hell didn't you report that this reputation--which *everybody* knows about and talks about--was founded on nothing?
I mean, help the guy out if there's nothing there!
Maybe although they didn't find anything, their eyes were burning too hard from the remnants of some strange smokelike substance, to focus on writing anything.
"As for my musings on Slog: Because I can update them constantly, they are not complete portraits, and that's why they don't claim to be."
Not complete portraits? Well, as Regina points out, we're just knee-capping people, and we can adjust, correct, or what the hell, take it all back, in the next posting.
Hey, everybody, we're in a cesspool here. Fox and the Stranger have something in common.
I think Jen Graves is stupid.
When it comes down to it, artist create and critics are stupid. Stupid little wankers.
Yeah you'll go far with that mentality rufus. If the ability to make art is the only pre-requisit for intelligence, we best sharpen our stone axes and wait for the gods to bring us fire.
Jen, perhaps you said too much, or said it too soon, but I much prefer you continue to push boundries than be too timid. Go on doing what you do. you bring up realavent issues that few writers have the balls to discuss.
The word on your investigation is making its way out, but note that carving a career out as an artist is hard enough without putting a bullseye on your backside specifically tendered to somebody like Kangas.
Understanding that fact points toward the core reason why "tell all" revelations of these alleged back-alley transfers of ink and art would be so elusive to obtain even if they existed in large number.
In short, do the artists victimized care enough to come forward, because really, what's in it for them? A few thanks? Followed by a tough time?
On the other hand, godspeed to you and your investigation.
I hope you find a long list of sources.
They are out there.
- Anonymous, how do you know there is a long list of sources? or are you just speculating? Obviously you won't want to respond to that publically if you really do know what you claim to know. As an artist, I refused a Quid pro quo offer and I won't talk about it even though I didn't proffit.. It's a personal issue for me, not a public one, and it would be professionaly a dangerous move for me to talk about it as you point out. I'm not going to shoot myself in the foot.. not that hard.. I have no fear.. but I'm not stupid.. as an artist that is unknown, even the little I've said is dangerous. I do wish someone would though. I will say it does not relate to Kangas or Jen's post directly.
I agree with Ries Niemi...I have had only professional treatment by Matthew Kangas... he wrote about my work and then got paid by Art in America, not me.Alot of this is fantasy not reality.I got a call from jen graves asking me about all of this so I feel forced into it.I never had any of these experiences and I would never actually trade anything for an art in america review or any other review, nor was I asked to...I am insulted that people think that someone like billy howard would do these things either and certainly that I would.
So we've got a call out to a critic, w/o any proof outside of a few "anonymous" posters and rumors that may be "urban legend" that he's carving out deals of ink for art. Oh, and then there's a call out for same critic for writing in a "brochure" (not a catalog, maybe a pamphlet) that I can't be certain anyone posting here has even seen. Ms Graves, certainly admits that she didn't know who organized the show. Superfuzzy Animal most likely hasn't seen it, even though ready to slander a gallery owner over what it didn't say.It seems the only ones making sense are those willing to sign their own names... (outside of Jen Graves.) Jen, I'd also say that if you're going to make serious accusations, even if it's speculation, you might want to get your facts straight... if you've had "several Seattle artists over the years tell me that Kangas has not been above exacting payment of one sort or another for his editorial services.", then perhaps you should just quote them and follow up to see if they're rumor mongers or truth tellers.
I have to agree with Regina that the brochure essay vs. art ownership is a minor infraction in a minor situation. I really don't care if a critic writes about art they like enough to own some of, If the piece they own was accepted as payment, then that's a different story. Also, if Kangas did disclose that he was an owner of a Henry piece, how does that reduce his bias or conflict of interest? It only puts it out in the open that he's writing about an artist he owns work by.It doesn't make him less biased. Superfuzzy Animal, do we KNOW that Kangas accepted the Henry piece as a gift? Do you KNOW the difference between the Wright exhibition space and Howard House?
I sure hope that the Tacoma panel is being podcast for those of us who can't make it... I wonder if the Art Police will be there? I want to know who's kissing whose ass around here...and getting paid for it.
Some jackass who refused to use his/her own name wrote:
"It seems the only ones making sense are those willing to sign their own names... (outside of Jen Graves.)"
The above speaks for itself.
Also, re this:
"if Kangas did disclose that he was an owner of a Henry piece, how does that reduce his bias or conflict of interest? It only puts it out in the open that he's writing about an artist he owns work by.It doesn't make him less biased. Superfuzzy Animal, do we KNOW that Kangas accepted the Henry piece as a gift?"
This is just more rampant jackassery. I'll make it really simple for you, come again -- the point is not that there's conflict of interest or bias. No one in the history of the universe has ever been completely unbiased. The point is deliberately obscuring or even accidentally forgetting to disclose POTENTIAL conflict of interest, which equals keeping relevant information from the reader, a journalistic and ethical no-no. If Kangas had disclosed his ownership (whether gift or purchased or found in a dumpster; that's an irrelevant distinction), readers could have looked at his writing on the show with all the info and made up their own minds whether he was writing based out of self-interest or actual art-critical reasons.
Why do you think public figures go to jail and get fined for failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest?
Assuming I have not been lied to by artists with no known motive for it over the years (remember we are talking about artists who received good reviews), I am not speculating.
But, like Mr. Lawrimore, I am only a second-hand source, so it wouldn't do Ms. Graves' reporting any good if I were to disclose my identity.
yes, the above does speak for itself...
"It's a shame that you (Billy Howard) didn't care enough to hold Kangas to that standard when he wrote your brochure -- without his full disclosure, it casts doubt on your show (maybe he's only writing about it because he has a vested interest in it?) as much on his judgment. Also, don't get histrionic; no accusations were leveled at you other than accusations of poor judgment in not insisting that he disclose it." - Superfurry Animal (jack ass)
"To clearify - Superfurry Animal - the brochure was made for the WRIGHT SPACE - a separate show from Mary's show at my gallery. It is a private space owned by the Wrights. They handle all funding for exhibitions there - including the exhibition collateral." -Billy Howard
"I didn't realize that the two shows were organized separately. My apologies for assuming that you had prior knowledge of the anonymous attribution. We will agree to disagree on the appropriateness of the anonymity." - Jen Graves
"Why do you think public figures go to jail and get fined for failing to disclose potential conflicts of interest?" - Superfurry Animal
Irrelevant in this minor situation... except that people are making charges where none may exist:
In order to avoid accusations of bias, whether real or justified, journalists are ethically required to turn down gifts from sources and others, and to disclose possible conflicts of interest. - Superfurry Animal
Come again, come again? What's your point? I mistakenly assigned Billy Howard some responsibility for Kangas' impropriety. He clarified. I apologized for implicating him. None of that has any bearing on whether Kangas made an ethical misstep or not. (Also, you need to read up on the definition of slander, my child.)
Maybe you could attempt to engage intelligently with my points, especially the ones that directly refute what you say in your post? Or do you somehow think cutting and pasting quotes from other posts does that? Because it doesn't ...
My point -- and I'll restate it just to try to catch you up on where the rest of us are at in the discussion -- is that failing to disclose potential bias, regardless of whether there is actual bias, is an ethical no-no. That should be so obvious that it doesn't need constant reiteration. And how is my reference to public figures irrelevant?
Here's an even simpler example for you to chew on: You read a restaurant review in which the reviewer writes about how great the place is and how interesting the cuisine is. Is it ethical for the reviewer not to disclose that she's a partial owner of the restaurant?
A fun historical fact: when Clement Greenberg spoke at UW in the late '70s, Matt Kangas was the first guy at the microphone to ask a question, and it was to incite controversy--he demanded that Greenberg account for his scandalous treatment of David Smith's sculptures (which he'd stripped of paint after Smith's death). Greenberg just sneered and asked Matt, "Have you read Kafka?" "Yes," said Matt, in offended tones. The matter was not elucidated further, alas. Nobody knows what the hell Greenberg meant, beyond screw you, uppity kid critic. Anyway, karma demands that Kangas stand accused by an uppity young critic now that he's our regional Greenberg, I guess. Greenberg always provided bilious fun when visiting Seattle--in the '60s, he imperiously informed Tom Robbins in the Space Needle elevator that the only popular singer with any talent whatsoever was Streisand. Tom knew better, since he was an underground radio DJ who put all kinds of talent on (including, almost, an unknown folkie named Charles Manson, who vowed to get even when Tom made him wait until after Tom's vacation to go on the air--Charlie wanted to go on right away). So: everybody pile on! Art needs anger! Who can turn the world on with her bile? And make it all seem worthwhile?
I have known Matthew Kangas for 18 years and have total respect for his integrity and his knowledge. Because he writes for my print publication, Art Guide Northwest, we have had hundreds of discussions about potential articles and avoiding any conflicts. Matthew has ALWAYS gone above and beyond to be fair. If he had ever suggested payment from a gallery, I would have heard about it, believe me. Scott Lawrimore is absolutely wrong that Matthew has had a stranglehold on which artists get written about in the national press. Any writer can submit articles to magazines, not just Matthew. Matthew and I have often lamented the fact that our art scene doesn't get more national coverage. The reasons for this are very simple: our galleries do very little advertising outside our area to get noticed, and there are few writers who submit articles about Seattle arts to national publications. Finally, the reason I hired Matthew to begin with was at the suggestion of Mrs. Bagley Wright, one of the few world-class collectors in this town, and who held/holds him in the highest esteem.
The way that art 'works' in this region is shady and embarassing. Matthew Kangas is hardly known outside of this area, and he has got to be the most miserable, pompous, and rude people I have ever had the displeasure of meeting or working with. On top of that, the goings on at the TAM biennial and the like make me ashamed to live here.
Correction: Oops, it wasn't Kafka Greenberg accused Kangas of not reading. It was Kant. Why would reading Kant make Kangas understand why Greenberg stripped Smith's sculptures of their paint? Critics are mysterious critters...
Super Furry Animal
I'm not going to spend too much time responding to someone who uses the term "my child"...
And I did respond to your point, let me translate - Big Fucking Deal...
othger than that you haven't made a point.
this greenberg thing interests me; i wonder if it will play any part in the upcoming TAM panel...
personally i doubt greenberg himself read and thoroughly understood every last thing that kant ever wrote. kant wrote a LOT of things. in german. and largely about metaphysics...
but hey, what do i know about clement greenberg and his free time...?
but. if my twelve-year-old minor in philosophy serves me at all here, i believe, among other things, that kant was rather well known for putting forth the idea that each individual had some innate knowledge of ethics that was both separate from experience and separate from the "reality" of other individuals. your basic "i am the center of my universe, you are the center of your universe" kind of thing.
so, if i had to guess what greenberg meant, i'd bet he was saying something to the effect of, "my actions are my own and i need not explain them as they fall under only one judge—me." or, in sixth grader terms, "i'm the boss of me."
on the other hand, maybe he didn't have any specific meaning in mind; it sounds like a fantastic way to head off and seemingly win any potentially gritty debate without even getting dirty.
i mean, ya'll, have YOU read kant??
The thing about Kant that most people forget is that he was only talking about painting. Most people have not read Kant. He is not very useful for Contemporary Art.
To understand Greenberg read Stephen Charles Foster's "The Critics of Abstract Expressionism"
kant was only talking about painting?
wow. and all this time i thought kant was a philosopher talking about life and humanity and consciousness and stuff...
thanks for setting me straight, steven.
i suppose when greenberg reportedly asked, "have you read kant?" that what he really meant was, "have you read foster?"
It is worth nothing, coming from the Stranger, let alone Jen Graves. While I can appreciate her "interest" in art, she has proven to "stretch the truth" more then once. Wait, who was the writer making up stories again in NYC? Buh-bye!
Ok, his show, he should let it be known it's his work. What more do you want to question? Either way, he has done more (right or wrong in your beady eyes) then you have for Art and Seattle with your chicken scratch. Sit and listen, you might learn something.
Bring me the head of Matthew Kangas.
He has been judging art for a long time. It's high time to take him down.
Being an art critic is like playing a card game whose rules change with every hand. What? You didn't realize that x, common practice last week, is now a capital crime? Ignorance of the ever-changing law is no excuse.
In medicine, malpractice means a doctor's treatment falls below the community standard.
In medicine and criticism, standards evolve. Docs and critics have to keep up.
My problem with Jen's original post is that it was so jump the gun, so fire before ready.
Why didn't she call Matthew for his side BEFORE posting? One anonymous source for her original complaint about a brochure or flyer or whatever? Not good enough.
A critic owning something in a show he curated and not saying so is minor. I know the standards police want to make it a banner headline, but they need to upset themselves with reality for a change.
Taking gifts from artists? Magazine art critics do. Since at least the 1990s, newspaper art critics don't, or they're fired.
Matthew is basically a magazine art critic. Yes, I know, freelancer for the Seattle Times, but his best work is in magazines.
Both magazine and newspaper critics can agree, however, that telling artists they can get a good review if they cough up art to the writer is wrong. Big time. Even pressuring artists for gifts that do not translate into a good review is wrong. Less wrong, but still creepy.
Can Jen prove these two most serious charges? I'm sure she can get all indignant about lesser crimes, but does she have the goods on real bad behavior?
Thanks to persistant rumors, I looked into the big two in relation to Matthew and couldn't find anything solid to report on. So I didn't report.
If she can't get him on the big charges, her call out is inflated. I don't believe artists need to be protected from Matthew. If they can't deal with him, they're too delicate to survive anyway.
While I greatly admire Jen's courage, energy, humor and the intelligence she brings to her reviews, isn't she a little Wonderland to lead this discussion? Like the Queen said, First the verdict, then the evidence.
Isnt anyone else wondering if Jen Graves owns any art by artists that she has written about? Has she ever written about artists that are her friends? Does she ever do favors by getting artists she likes listed in the Stranger and then let them buy her a drink/invite her to parties/let her pretend to be part of the in-crowd? WHAT about it Jen? Fess up!
Regina has already blogged about NOT accepting art work as gifts (although we still dont know about her purchased art collection, either).
ANy artists out there willing to tell, anonymously or not, what they have done for Jen Graves either before, during, or after she gave them a review in the Stranger or any other publication she has written for?
Sylvia: Thank you for asking, and hey, fair questions.
No, I don't own art by artists I write about. Yes, I do write about artists who become friends, and sometimes we stop being friends because of what I write. If we become too close, I don't write about them anymore, but I usually don't become close friends with artists. No, I don't get artists I like listed in the Stranger and then let them buy me a drink/invite me to parties/let me pretend to be part of the in-crowd. Nobody would ever claim that I am part of the in-crowd.
Here is the art that I own: a Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley painting that my partner bought me. I wrote about her once and will never do so again; if she warranted a review, I'd hire a freelancer. I also once bought, for my partner, a painting by Elissa Greisz, an artist in Tacoma who is terrific. I wrote about her once years before buying the piece, and have the same policy about her as about KD-K. That was all years ago, before I became a full-time art critic, I will add.
And like Regina, I would never sell those paintings for profit. If either one of them became significant, I would give them to a museum, but they are not works by major artists, although I have my own personal affection for each one for various reasons.
Andy Farkas (the Detroit Mercy?): No artists have made these accusations at me, but I'm glad you opened the floor. We're all game.
For the record, all of the sources in the story I'm working on about Matthew Kangas are on the record and using their own names. I'm not publishing the story on Slog; it will appear in the paper and on the main web site.
I called Matthew this morning and read a few of the posts on this slog to him as I know him well enough to know he doesn't read it. He told me Jen Graves called him last night and refused to name any names so that he could even defend himself.
I was refering to Kantian Aesthetics.
If you read the book by Foster you would see what a mental midget [and a bully] Greenberg was.
As a counterpoint the other critic Harold Rosenberg said
"The aim of every authentic artist is not to conform to the history of art, but to release himself from it in order to replace it with his own history."
I did not want to put certain artists on the spot with Matthew yesterday until I finished doing the reporting today. When I tried to interview him further today, he declined.
Please try to get your own facts straight, would you? You've often maligned me on your blog, but never, not a single time, met me or asked my opinion on *anything.*
Just a request for courtesy.
I suspect, at this point, Matthew knows you're out to destroy him and is simply choosing to ignore the whole thing. As Regina has pointed out to you, standards have evolved over the years. Your confrontational style has raised your profile considerably from the new kid on the block to someone who deserves to be taken seriously. I'm sorry you feel I've often maligned you as that was not my intention, and I would appreciate a private email from you that is more specific so that I may defend that charge. Pardon me if I haven't learned the proper curtsy.
A few notes on this strand:
1. It sounds like the real story here might be Jen Graves and the ethical reporting lapses.
2. Regina and Jen are journalists: Matthew is an art critic who works as a freelance writer: it is a completely different set of ethics as Regina pointed out.
3. It is not inappropriate for artists to give paintings as gifts for friendship or to say thank you: a quid pro quo exchange needs some basis to be charged. I know artists who have given work to Matthew: all of them did so to say thank you for the support not only of their own work, but of arts in Seattle.
4. A private collection hires a freelance writer to curate a show and write a pamphlet about an old friend of his. He uses a piece in the show that he owns. In the context of the Greenberg collection that was shown at PAM, I can see why listing the work as Matthew's might have rationally been avoided. I don't see any ethical slip here. It's no secret that Matthew is a hired gun and that's how he makes a living.
5. The Stranger does have a history of ethical conflict on reviews. I found the Stranger's review of a play of Dan Savage's at Conworks extraordinarily disconcerting.
6. It is absurd for Jen to laude Lawrimore for his "courage and determination" in speaking out against Matthew: he's gotten so much ass-kissing from Regina and Jen while knowing how Matthew feels about him, that it makes him look good to act tough on journalistic ethics. Whatever.
7. Re-read Billy Howard's post: I believe he would prevail if he sued Jen Graves for libel. That's far more serious than what she's accusing Matthew of doing. I think Billy pretty much put the present Kangas accusations to bed. I think Billy's post was sound and excellent.
8. Lawrimore could settle this against Matthew if he will actually recount a specific instance of Matthew seeking a payoff -- especially if it involves a professional publication on one end. They are serious words Lawrimore has written. If he takes his courage a bit farther, this could be a very serious set of issues indeed.
9. Matthew is a bully, but I have found that he is most pushy when he is trying to build higher standards for the Seattle art scene. Matthew drives me nuts and I am not even sure that I like him, but in my years of dealings with him, he never sought any kind of quid pro quo.
10. Kudos to the Wrights for supporting the arts by showing great artists like Mary Henry and paying people like Matthew so they can pay the rent.
11. Greenberg's writings are published: he'll tell you himself about his own understanding and reliance on Kant.
12. Billy, the phone number for the law firm of Perkins Coie, LLP is 359-6383.
strangely enough, kant's views on aesthetics are closely tied to his work regarding consciousness, the difference between a priori knowledge and experience, his fascination with the nature and use of reason, and even his inquiries into morality.
to say that he was only talking about painting? or even that his work in this area only makes sense in relationship to a single medium?
that's like saying descartes was only talking about wax.
People seem to be drawing lines here based on whether or not they like Kangas or have worked with him in the past rather than the real issue.. There are accusations of quid pro quo on the table, at least 2 people hear have said they are aware of SPECIFIC cases. Yes Jen probably jumped the gun on this, but if these allegations are true, I want to know.. It's not about trying to destroy Kangas. That would be unfortunate even if it were possible which I doubt.. Few will deny that Kangas has done alot of benificial things for the regions art. That's not the issue. It is about trying to understand the ethical conflicts of interest that are going on in our art community, and they are real. I have seen them first hand in other areas. I suspect the worst that would happen if Jen did manage to prove that the allegations are true, is that Kangas would take a public slap on the wrists and people would be more skeptical of his actions... GOOD!! where's the harm in that? It's not about trying to destroy someone.
I had Kangas over once for dinner and a studio visit. He was a voracious eater, but so was I at the time, so that was fair. He was fun to listen to both in my dining area, and in my studio. He played a Greenberg card or two in attempting to sway me to paint a certain way, but I laughed him off. He never asked for a painting, and perhaps didn't like what I make, but I never got the impression that he would ask for a work in exchange for a review. It was a fun evening and I would do it again if it interested either Matthew or any critic, blogger, artist, or personality that was interesting and interested. Visiting an artist in his or her studio should be a common event if it so interests either party.
p.s. to steven: i started on topic with thoughts on the kangas/greenberg exchange, but the two of us are now obviously waaay off track. i'm happy to be finished, but if you feel like continuing in this vein i suggest we take it over to artdish. (oooh, i feel like fonzie!!)
I find it interesting that folks like Brenda and Regina spend so much time being condescending and making soothing sounds whenever someone tries to ask hard questions. Well, less interesting where Brenda is concerned; she's just further proof that any fool can put up a blog and think she's a journalist or a critic.
Perhaps before Daniel or anyone else puts his/her foot in his/her mouth again we should wait until the story runs and the facts are in?
I AM a journalist; I am NOT a critic. Furthermore, I am NOT a fool. My blog, by the way, is a public service, funded personally by me, and strictly intended to publicize gallery and museum shows. By posting gallery-given information as well as linking to articles in the various print publications and blogs around Puget Sound, I am able to provide a comprehensive look at the visual arts in our area unmatched by anyone else on the internet.
Superfurry's last comment seems correct; until Ms. Graves puts out her story what else could there be to actually discuss?
Aside from some irrelevant whining and moaning from both sides aren't we more or less done here for the time being?
Named sources have come forward attempting to clear Kangas' name, while, on the other hand, unnamed sources have come forward attempting to bring these allegedly shady deals to light.
While Ms. Graves is working with the alleged victims of said questionable deals--victims she reports are willing to state their names for the record--maybe we should give her some room and call it a day.
I think Anonymous is right on.
Hate to break it to ya, Brenda, but "posting gallery-given information" and "linking to articles" doesn't make you a journalist. Unless you can add some original insight or reporting, it makes you a glorified secretary.
But, like I suggested in my previous post, there's nothing further to discuss until the facts come out.
Re: Kant--I think Greenberg was referring to the third part of the Critique of Judgment, dealing with the judgement of taste, distinquishing between the issue of personal pleasure as exemplified in differing reactions to color, versus the true and transcendental judgment of beauty, which is (says him) timeless and (subjectively) universal. (ie, color is not truly Platonic, unlike form.)
Hence Greenberg "corrected" Smith's work, owing his innate sense of aesthetics.
"Hence Greenberg 'corrected' Smith's work, owing his innate sense of aesthetics." -elibrium
agreed. thus, in greenberg's view, he wasn't answerable for his actions to kangas or smith (already dead at that time anyway?) or anybody else.
which, again, in junior high speak, roughly translates to something along the lines of: "i don't have to explain myself to you because you are not the boss of me."
It's hard to take anyone seriously who repeats rumors/stories without attribution and then puffs up with indignation. Whatever it is, it's certainly not journalism, whether in a news story or a blog. Especially where someone's reputation is at stake. Nail down the facts or don't publish the charges (and no, adding question marks doesn't in any way provide absolution). It's basic journalism 101.
These rules don't exist just for the protection of the subject of a story, but because it makes a better story. Yikes. And publishing a post like this and then starting to work on a story? Why should anyone trust any reporting you might now do for such a story? Your verdict's already in. Worse - why should anyone ever trust any reporting you do on anything else? You've now shown you deal in tales rather than evidence and that you let people use you to take anonymous hits on others.
Allowing sources to take potshots at someone without identifying them is just bad journalism. Not to mention unfair and potentially actionable. You also blow the credibility good journalists depend on. Not to mention that this is the kind of unsourced crap people point to when they criticize the Stranger.
These rumors have evidently been around for awhile. I wish someone had done the story. I know some have tried. Jen might have had a real story, a story really worth doing. Instead, she chose the lazy Page Six route with a heavy dose of tsk tsk. Whatever it is, it isn't journalism. I have to say, I'm massively disappointed.
Let us be clear - any individual, museum, gallery, or collector who puts their work in an exhibition could potentially benefit by having that work represent an artist in public. So Kangas owns a work by his old bud Mary Henry - he's written some great articles and essays that feature her over decades. How many works by Mary Henry do you think Virgina and Bagley own? Dozens probably. Does that cheapen the fact that they would want to do a show of her work in their own private space and share it with the public?
Mary Henry is a great painter on the national scale and a NW treasure.
Superfurry is an idiot (Superfurry - take note of Tipton's response - she's been doing art service stuff for the NW for many years and knows a ton about art - she gives us - GIVES us - the ARt Guide NW). The Wrights are private people who build things like the space needle and SAM and share their collection with the public. Is this really a good idea to attack the Wrights and their decisions? Should we go after the Trues because they hired Eric Frederickson who used to work for a rag like the Stranger?
We should treat art supporters like heros - not like athletic supporters.
There are very different roles and ethics standards for journalists, critics, freelance writers, collectors, gallerists, curators, and even philanthropists. Jen Graves, Matthew Kangas, Billie Howard, Virginia Wright, Brenda Tipton, and Mary Henry all do very different things and we need to respect and understand that.
Superfurry does something different too - crack probably.
I would like to say that the "journalism" that Jen has posted here is potentially damaging to artists, galleries and the art community. Would this type of mud slinging bring in to question the ethics of the artists that he has reviewed in the past? In passing of rumors, in lieu of journalism, the potential for needlessly damaging reputations spreads beyond this one person.
If Jen's goal here in Western Washington is to skewer people in the art world and bring it down, she is off to a good start. I do think unethical behavior shoud be routed out, but not before careful reporting and research is applied. State the facts, not the question marks.
maybe there have been some missteps in this slog thread.
ok, for sure there have been some missteps in this thread.
and obviously my jokes about kant and greenberg are not getting anywhere...(sad!)
so i'll be a bit more blunt in my attempt to divert the mortal combat here:
did most everyone else miss the part where jen announced she is doing an actual investigation and an actual article with actual named sources, including matthew...?
she first announced the story over TWO DAYS and—let's see, counting this one—FIFTY-SEVEN posts ago.
with that in mind, i dare anyone to say anything next that is on topic and not derivative of something we've already seen beaten to death multiple times on this thread.
seriously. drink at the hideout on me to the first person who finds anything NEW and OF INTEREST to say on the topic until jen presents what i hope and assume will be the facts one way or the other.
OR until matthew kangas replies here or elsewhere online or in print to anything he might see fit to reply to which, so far (and probably wisely) is nothing...
in the meantime, gee whiz, enough with the cannibalism already!!
Hey, Trothko -- remind me again how having been around a lot, as Tipton has, makes one either a journalist or an art authority? Anti-intellectual new-media types may not like it, but having a blog does not make you an authority. And having an opinion doesn't make your opinion as valid as that of someone with education and actual experience in the field. Come on. The kind of knee-jerk, non-questioning boosterism that Tipton's been evincing here, not to mention her preposterous suggestion that there's an attempt to "destroy" Kangas, only underscore her lack of actual knowledge and journalistic experience. Maybe I was wrong in lumping her in with those fools who actually think their blogs count as journalism. But it sure doesn't seem like it.
Oh, and also, Trothko, please explain how good intentions = ethical purity, will ya? I don't care how many good things you've done for art, I don't care if you're Jesus Christ -- if you make a serious ethical faux pas, you should be called to account for it. But I also don't know why you're making such a to-do about the Wrights; they should have prevented this, yes, but even more so, Kangas should have recused himself from publicly writing about a show he had a vested interest in. It's all well and good to call me an idiot, but unless you have the chops to make an argument other than "People who support art should be LOVED and ADORED, not questioned," you're really not adding much to the discussion.
Edit: m. speaks the truth. Let's table arguing about facts until we actually know what they are.
holy wordy gurdy, batman!!
ya'll couldn't even last ten minutes!!
fine, go ahead and keep tackling yourselves over your own leftovers...
who am i to call uncle? obviously I'M still reading...
but I have a good excuse—matthew kangas made me do it!!
Trothko, Artguid NW is free for the reader, paid for by the various artists, galleries, museums etc that are listed in it. I don't say this to belittle what I think is a nice publication, just felt the need to point out that Trothko's assertion that Brenda does all this simply out of the goodness of her heart is not accurate.
I do think it is important to appreciate the people who bring art to us and don't make us pay for every little thing. Brenda produces the Art Guide by selling ads and apparently the people who buy the ads like the service - otherwise they wouldn't keep buying ads. Who benefits? The public who can get the guide for free. This is good. Galleries also open their doors and let us in for free - knowing well that most of us aren't going to buy anything. Does it make galleries suspect because they have something to sell?
Superflurry - some facts are in: Jen got the story wrong and has accused some people like Billie Howard of unethical behavior. She didn't fact check and she made unfounded and wrong accusations. Apologies don't always work so well - you glossed over hers and still thought Billie was in the wrong. It might because you are a crack-smoking idiot but I think other people might also not have seen or noticed the aplogy - so Jen seems to have caused real damage to some people whose livelihoods rely on their reputations. YOu are the proof.
Jen's approach is the like the Bush Regime's approach to Iraq: shoot first and ask questions later. That shouldn't fly for any serious journalist or publication. The Stranger should be blushing right now.
I stand by what I said - I think we should give credit to people who try their best to bring art and art resources to the public in Seattle. Who does it benefit to attack them? If they get sick of us and stop letting us in their galleries or giving money for the arts, we all lose. Intention does count. Even in crime - if you didn't intention to commit a crime - you aren't guilty in the eyes of the law.
You all, have way to much time on your hands, that's the real issue.
While your slog'in away with this crap, (a known lier like Graves, a known bully like Kangas, a known arts patron like Tipton) no one really even knows the truth and the hornets nest that Graves stepped on. I heard over the last few days, that uh, it might be a good idea to consult an attorney now Ms. Graves. I think your going to get hit with some paperwork.
On that note, let's talk about Mr. Kangas the food critic? Anyone? What a super review last month!
Go ahead, call me a dinosaur but this is my very first blog response!
Jen, do you ever sleep? The sheer volume of what you write astounds me. Anyway, on to the subject. First, is Mr. Kangas even writing newspaper or magazine articles anymore or has he just moved on to catalog publication work? I can't remember the last time I've seen a write up by him, but then again I don't avidely read every article that comes out. That being said, I think if certain folks that have things to say about him they should have the balls to stick their names to their comments. Kangas is not going to make or break anyones art carrier, especially if you are looking at the scope beyond Seattle. I've been subject to a couple of reviews by him ( he completely didn't get the work, but I kind of enjoyed that fact) and I have met him on numerous occasions. Yes, he can be a bit of a blustery, ego driven creature but I dare you to find an art critic that has been at it for as long as he has that is not. When ever I hear of Kangas being mentioned in conversation, I never hear good things, even from the people that are graced by his write ups. Unfortunately, a God-complex "I have created the scene" attitude is his public label with artists weather it is true or not. I do know several artists that have been "hit up" by Matthew for work (and quite recently actually) but it has never been mentioned that it was directly in trade for a decent write up. I think it falls more in the catagory of guilt; "Gee, I've done so much for you..." kind of thing. If you play into that kind of thing and give him a piece, then it is your own damn fault. Now, that doesn't mean that what he is doing is cool, actually it is extremely tacky. If you want to see an art critics head pop off their shoulders, call them tacky! I applaud those in this blog that have their names attached; Lawremoreproject, Harold, Brenda, etc. because in my mind, if you are going to comment, if you want to have something change, then drop the passive/aggressive technique of anonymousness and step up to the plate. I agree with many here that Jen has jumped the gun, but isn't that what alternative papers like The Stranger do? Jen, just be carefull that it doesn't turn into a lawsuit and completely cover your tracks. It has the potentional to be a facinating article, especially if it is pulled beyond the scope of just Matthew. To think that 99% of critics out there do not use these tactics is pretty nieve. We all would like to think of the whole artworld as utopian dream, when infact it has all of the trappings of of our distopic society. The genie has been let out of a very high pressure bottle (80+ blog responses in a couple of days!) Obviously that bottle should have been uncorked ages ago. Now I do want to address certian bloggers directly: Bog #15; I got into the TAM Biennial and they don't own anything by me. However, after going thru the process I feel I was chosen as a "Oh shit, we don't have anyone from Tacoma for the Tacoma Biennial" token choice. Blog #64; Harold, what color is your nose?? (just kidding) More later, I have to make my kid lunch.
From time to time, in 24 years of gallery work, I’ve been asked for advice by several artists who say they have been pressured for artworks or meals by Matthew Kangas. Generally, these were artists who were at the beginning of their careers and who had no experience with such behavior. Their questions were generally around the idea of “Is this appropriate?” or “Is this the way the artworld works?” I have always suggested that they should simply take Nancy Reagan’s advice and “Just say…no.”
Some do decline and walk away unscathed. Others give in to some degree. There is often a bit of justification on the parts of artists who do agree to give a work of art or take him out for a meal. Some say they decided to give him a “birthday” present …and reassure me that “in no way was it payback” because to admit that is to agree to the barter of the perceived debt. And that might be the real issue here. Manipulation rather than bribery if one can draw a semantic subtlety.
Artists who are just starting to show their work can sometimes be messy bundles of ambition and desperation who succumb to requests like these because they’ve been led to believe that some other person (critic, curator, collector or dealer) can make or break their careers.
Truthfully, I don’t think that any individual in Seattle is powerful enough to make or break anyone’s career. An artist (or dealer) succeeds or fails based on a combination of their talent, drive, endurance and willingness to play a game of chance. Neither can this airing of issues make or break Matthew Kangas’s reputation. It has its own strength and durability.
But the big issue here is about ethics. Is it right for a critic to ask for any kind of favor in return for professional consideration? To my mind, it certainly isn’t ethical, whether they are writing for newspapers or magazines or blogs. It would likewise be unethical for me as a dealer to ask an artist for artworks in return for representation or advice or sales.
This is, however, a more complicated issue than simply an ethical question. It’s a larger question about the respect for artists (and critics) in our culture. Artists become inured to being asked for things at every step along the way toward possible success. Auctions and non-profits ask artists for their goods while reassuring them that “this will be a good career move.” Curators and museums may ask an artist for their time and energy without compensation because they view a museum show as a collaborative effort. Dealers ask artists to take a reduction on their portion of commissions in order to make a sale. Patrons ask artists for better prices on purchases of artworks with little regard for the likely inequity of income level between artist and patron.
The larger context of this question also has to do with the value of critics in our culture. I think that Kangas himself might self-justify this activity as a way of augmenting his meager income admirably made almost entirely from his writing and curating efforts. But to do so negates the reality that many of these artists are similarly poorly paid for their own talents and efforts.
Kangas has written, as Scott Lawrimore accurately points out, for Art in America and other journals for nearly three decades as the nearly exclusive and longest standing Seattle voice. As Brenda Tipton has said this is partially because few writers from here submit material, but it is also because Kangas has had in his favor his seniority and an ability to accept the paltry wages offered. I think it is, indeed, time for a greater critical voice here. I have said so to editors, representatives, and publishers of Art in America, ArtNews, Art Forum and various other magazines. I have also encouraged many other writers to submit to these publications because the depth of our art scene here should engender a greater variety of voices and opinions. Kangas’s eye is a unique vision but not the only valid one.
In a world of shrinking critical exchange in the local press, and a sad lack of national press here, figures like Kangas end up being important to this scene, almost by default. Look how much time the other Seattle Times critic, Sheila Farr, has spent (at the behest of her editors) these last few years on general interest art writing and not on writing critical coverage of the burgeoning Seattle art scene. Ironically, the Times has spent a lot of ink writing on the likes of truly unethical art dealers like Kurt Lidtke, or the Thesaurus Gallery of Asian antiques. Or writing its all smoke and no fire piece on Dale Chihuly. Yet no one at the Times has ever heard the rumors of Matthew’s appetite for exchange? I find this hard to believe despite the extent to which this knowledge may be narrowly exchanged between artists, dealers and other critics.
We have critics here who profess not wanting to know anything about the artists whose works they review. They barely read press releases! Others want to be the artist’s “new best friend.” Still others only want to do a good job, unfettered by commerce, prejudice, and favors.
Kangas is famous for not wanting to receive creative writing or descriptive opinions by gallery personnel in press releases sent to him. Just the bare facts, please. He has also been highly critical of me, and other dealers and artist,s for using our own writing, instead of his, in our catalogs, essays and exhibition notices. So much for diversity of voice and freedom of expression!
There’s no doubt that Kangas is a polarizing figure on several levels. Many local artists (and the occasional dealer) adore him and count on him for advice. Others can’t stand his insistent meddling in their careers. Some like his writing while others think it the peculiar voice of an eccentric. Some folks appreciate his curatorial talents while others see it is cronyism and favoritism. Some folks like sharing a meal with him, others prefer Dutch treat. There are some galleries and artists who have used his writing for nearly all their publishing needs while other professionals refuse to work with him for various personal and professional reasons.
For myself, I can say there’s almost no one I’d rather share a long car ride to Portland, Tacoma or La Conner with than Matthew. We’ve shared many road trips and meals, but also many terse conversation over the nearly 30 years I’ve known him. I don’t always see eye to eye with Kangas on art issues but I respect his personal voice. I also have to say, as have many of these artists, it would be a poorer scene without him.
I think it’s perfectly obvious that many victimized artists will not come out against him in this forum because it simply seems too mean spirited. They sometimes adopt the victim’s role of protecting their oppressor. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t also resentful of his pressure, meddling or manipulation.
Others may be distrustful of both the venue and the intentions of any critic writing so scornfully of another critic. Perhaps this is why this story hasn’t surfaced before in any publication here.
If artists stand up to Matthew then I’d wager that he might respect them more for doing so. I certainly know that when I’ve stood up to Matthew’s gossiping or manipulation and confronted him about it, it has absolutely put an end to the issue at hand. We’ve both left such conversations with a renewed respect for each other. At least, I can say that I have left feeling better about it.
And it’s also fair to say that Matthew hasn’t preyed on everyone he’s written about. I’ve not known him to turn against an artist because they have turned him down…only those who betray him. I hope that the can recognize that those who call him out here have not betrayed him so much as recognized that he has betrayed them.
So to put a fine point on this, I have been told with certainty by artists I know and trust that expectations of the trade of various favors have been put upon them by Kangas in return for his own professional favors. I will name a few here. Tim Roda, Jena Scott, Alice Wheeler, and Alden Mason would constitute a short and incomplete list. I know that there are others but, as I haven’t represented them or been closely associated with them, or had their permission to out them, I won’t break their trust here. (Others have expressed an unwillingness to speak on record with Jen Graves.)
I understand the reluctance of some of my colleagues and many artists I admire to weigh in on this subject. There is ugliness in this entire endeavor. But it is also fair to say that Matthew Kangas has brought this upon himself through his adherence to a mode of critical behavior that was wrong when Clement Greenberg did it and remains wrong now. It’s taken a very long time for this to come to print but here it is and here we are. Looking back, I wish I had the foresight to know that this would become a painful, divisive issue and to have simply taken Matthew aside at some point and discouraged him from doing it. At the time I thought is was enough to encourage artists on a one on one basis to refuse. I hope that Matthew Kangas will own up to this practice and see the benefits to abandoning it.
And I’m certain that by my entering into this dialogue, I am opening myself up to criticism from the unnamed specters in the blogosphere. But, in solidarity with Scott Lawrimore and others who address this subject, I will put myself in print by my own name.
Among our many responsibilities as dealers is to protect and support our artists and to be a voice in opposition to those who would take advantage of them.
Please understand that I am not critical of the “omission” of Kangas’s name as an owner from the exhibition list and curator’s essay he wrote for the Wright Space. I see no huge issue there, only a missed opportunity for transparency.
It’s worth noting that we who are dealers are not obligated to name the collectors whose works appear in our own commercial exhibitions. We work in an unlicensed profession that has among its best traits the ability to do business on an honest handshake and a recognition of where commerce or ethics begin and end. Critics have a more complicated role because they are presumed and expected to be without commercial interest or prejudicial expectation. That’s a tough row to hoe.
Graves writes, "This town is not that small. These practices shouldn't be tolerated, let alone condoned.
It was a well-written pamplet for a non-profit--and looking at the history of Kangas - you would know he has to own one or two--He and Mary Henry have been friends for so many years we have lost count. I did not mind he did not include his ownership.
What I do not care for ----his behavior and practice with artists. Artists, dealers and his friends, should not allow him to corner artists, shake his finger in their face, slobber at the mouth, and be so negatively demonstrative at them of what they have to change to be a better artist.
--This type of behavior dissolves ALL his credibility.
Greg Kucera has most definitely taken the high road, both by confidently using his own name and by attempting to be as fair as possible. In his excellently written post, he has painted an insider's portrait of the tough real world out there.
I agree with Greg that there is no one I would rather share a long car ride with. We would undoubtedly be shouting at each other at one point during the ride as Matthew always says it is black if I say it is white, but the ride would be fun.
When I called and read Greg's post, Matthew told me he has nothing but respect for Greg but disagrees that he has done anything wrong.
And Greg, may I just say Matthew gave you good advice as you have the best press releases in town, devoid of the silly adjectives so many other galleries use profusely.
every once in a while someone comes along to demonstrate what hemingway meant when he said, "courage is grace under pressure."
greg, i doubt i speak alone when i say that tonight, that person is you.
I have to love the irony: a couple of days ago I had just sat down and started to read Jen Graves' article on Mary Henry when the phone rang and it was Jen Graves, calling to ask me about , well, you can guess at this point. Now I come to find out what a tempest we have brewing.
I feel compelled to throw in my two cents worth partially because I have no idea how my babblings on the phone may translate into her article, and also because so much has been said here about all the anonymous sources, and anonymous whisperings, and unnamed accusers, etc. I'm not anonymous and have no problem with signing my name. I find it odd that there are those who do. But anyway: I am one of those artists who were asked to give Matthew a painting. Yes! It happened in the late eighties, and it happened during a studio visit he made in preparation for an Art in America review, no less. And, as I hope I made clear to Jen, Matthew never in any way implied or hinted that the review was contingent on the "token of appreciation." As it happened, I never gave him a painting, and I got a rather gratifying and positive review in Art in America. I also never got another review or boost from him, but I'm quite sure I've managed to commit more than enough other offenses to warrant banishment. It's also possible that he simply stopped liking my work, which changed drastically not too long afterward.
A lot has been said here about the ethics and problems with what Matthew does (most thoughtfully and intelligently by Greg Kucera, who beautifully summed up the whole thing), and I totally agree that there are issues with such goings on, but I just want to put my own experience in perspective: at the time Matthew made his request to me, everyone in my little corner of the art world was buzzing about his recent penchant for doing so. But the reaction was more guffaws and rolled eyes than moral outrage. At the time it just seemed to be Matthew's latest shenanigan. I realize that it's more than just that, and now that the Seattle art scene is larger and, presumably, more sophisticated than it was back then, it needs to take these things more seriously. But, let's not get TOO serious here...Matthew Kangas has committed many, many offenses with his bluster, deliberate obnoxiousness, venal backstabbing, and outrageous rudeness--and should be called out on it--but the subject at hand runs the risk of being a bit of a molehill in the big scheme of things. As Greg pointed out, this sort of thing just contributes to the pressure young artists feel when they're ambitious and eager for opportunities, but, hey, welcome to real life. As Regina wrote, artists are responsible for looking out for themselves and if they can't, perhaps they're too delicate for the game. To be honest, I was to some degree outraged and offended by his request, but I never felt some weird pressure to compromise myself for the sake of my career. Matthew was then, as now, simply a person--a complex, problematic, eccentric, fascinating, and in spite of himself, endearing person--who possesses only the power that an artist choses to grant him. I've never granted him, or anyone else, that power (I hope, but memory can be selective). If someone wants to do something for me or my career, great, but I assume it's because of my work, and doing my work is the only thing I owe anyone. Perhaps that is why Matthew's art collection doesn't bother me. It never represented a challenge to my integrity or a stepping stone to my career; it was simply an option that I was free to choose or reject. I rejected it, but only because he was rude enough to ask for it. Simple manners go a long way, even in the art world.
Once again Greg K. proves himself to be a class acted, bravo. Ken makes a good point and a point that I was trying to get across as well. What Matthew has done in regard to asking for work is not some huge moral issue but an ugly character flaw (which apparently is one of many) Obviously he is a man that has some skewed ideas about personal power and boundaries. However, this and his not revealing that the pieces he owns in the show is not worth ruining a career that has been vital and important to the northwest scene. Strapping his naked ass to a donkey and parading him thru the streets of the blogosphere for us to throw virtual rotten tomato's at, completely appropriate. With more openess and conversation about such issues, people in Matthews position may think twice about pulling such B.S.. Will Matthew continue this behavior after all of this, probably not (at least for a couple of years or so) Now, would I have a critic over for dinner, send them flowers, maybe even give them a piece if they did a big review of my work and it was after the fact, HELL YES. If someone believed in my work enough to take the time to come down to the gallery and spend a couple of hours decifering my work, it is a polite gesture that I feel is worth making (of which I have done before and highly enjoyed) To all critics out there, I'M ONE DAMN GOOD COOK!
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Quick addendum to my post:
After re-reading some of the previous posts (I know, I know, I might want to think of getting a life...), it occurred to me that some people seem to think that those of us who have been "propositioned" by Matthew are somehow victims who need protecting. I realize that one of the things I wanted to get across is that I AM NOT A VICTIM. Any artist who is "victimized" by the pressures of the artworld--both over and under the table--have only themselves to blame. The artworld is like every other little niche in the world: people behave badly and with extreme self-interest, and you just have to deal with it according to your own values and mores. I have put up with a lot from Matthew over the years, not because I am scared for my career (which has pretty much taken care of itself without the most adroit handling on my part), but because that has been the price one pays for enjoying the banter and repartee of one of the more colorful and unique characters in our sometimes white-bread community. Other times, he has stepped way over the line into asshole-land, and I have had to just walk away (believe me, confronting him and trying to argue is a no-win situation). Either way, it's my choice, and none of it has really affected my life or career much at all.
Actually, I'm thinking of asking Matthew if he will accept a painting now, since his is rapidly becoming THE collection of note around here.
All human activity is behaviour. Through the centuries we have developed codes of conduct, these become laid down by the society, by the culture, in which we live, and by the so-called saints and religious teachers; this code or pattern, this norm of behaviour, becomes traditional and automatic, that is, mechanical.
When you give a shilling to a beggar - do you realize that you are giving it to yourself? When you help a lame dog over a stile - do you realize that you yourself are being helped? When you kick a man when he is down - do you realize that you are kicking yourself? Give him another kick - if you deserve it! - Why Lazurus Laughed by Wei Wu Wei
well said ken...Jaq Chartier and I have a running joke about making a fortune off publishing a book of etiquette for artists, art dealers, curators and certainly art collectors...I have had more bizarre experiences that crossed the line in a couple of those other categories rather than this one I have to admit.Perhaps this discussion will flesh out some overview for those on all sides of this and maybe that will balance the power imbalance prob. when its happening.I learned late to never answer any requests on the spot but to say"I'll think about it" and then think about whether you really want to do something.This alone has helped with alot of over-the line requests in some of the other areas...
"I'm thinking of asking Matthew if he will accept a painting now, since his is rapidly becoming THE collection of note around here."
Whatever floats your boat Ken. We all gotta get our art noticed one way or another. Personally, as long as I'm working 80 hours a week for the priveledge of paying my bills and making my art, I think Mr. Kangas can pay for one of my piece if he wishes to add one to his collection. I give away enough work to charities or museums without subsidizing someone's private art collection.
The first rule of Flame War is “Do Not Post”.
The second rule of Flame War is “Remain Anonymous”.
The third rule is - oh dear, blew it again. Oh well.
I just don’t think Kangas is the issue. Should he have announced his ownership of the Kelly pieces? Sure, although I can imagine him thinking that discretion was the better part of valor in a situation like that, rightly or wrongly. Should we hold critics to a different or higher standard than anybody else? Of course not: we should hold Everybody’s feet to the fire. Still Matthew’s crimes are really the antisocial ones, not the ethical ones. He merits everyone’s ire for his penchant for rudeness and egotism, more than this current transgression. I think it’s pretty clear that he has made a career of reviewing work he liked, and probably doesn’t have Mary Kelley’s work because he expects to make a living off of promoting it. In fact, I remember hearing about the temp work he’s done over the years to make ends meet. He’s got a passion for art, even if it gets a bit salacious at times. Maybe he thinks it’s a compliment to demand work? I don’t know. It is an open secret that he wants to be pandered to, and artists I know who’ve made friends with him sometimes get attention, and sometimes don’t. Whatever.
What concerns me is the fact that anyone still takes him seriously. Apparently, everyone (including he himself) still assumes that he is the “go-to guy” or “force to be reckoned with” (depending on your orientation). I even remember an artist we showed who, after receiving a compliment from him telling me deliriously that her career was “made” if he liked the work (or words to that effect). If his reviews and insight captivate anybody’s attention, mazl tov. I don’t think his erratic “genius” for picking art tells me any more about the world I live in, or how the work that is made is meaningful, relevant, or worthy of my attention.
But, as I’ve told anyone unfortunate to get me drunk enough over the past decade, I level this same complaint at all of the media outlets we have going. I once set out to take Eric Fredrickson to task for his bias against the alternative spaces that harbored such rich and diverse work in the late ‘90s only to realize that the Stranger was the only rag in town devoting that many column inches to the local art scene in Seattle on a regular basis. What we need is More: more competent reviews, more critics who understand that part of their role is to connect the great work being done to a wider audience, more editors who are willing to focus on art as a serious part of the dialogue that contemporary society engages in (and no, the pigs still don’t count). Making great work is only a part of the equation. Having a high caliber of gallery scene, and a museum worthy of respect, and collectors who see value in work being made all over the place, all of these things help. In the final analysis, though, if what is going on here in this tiny corner of the world is going to matter, what is required is many strong critical voices elevating the debate.
So then, my challenge to Jen, and also to Regina, to Matthew, to Sheila (wherever you are) and to everybody else including you (yes, you), is to tell people what is going on here, and why it matters. What’s more, do it in a way that engages an audience beyond just us, because art in this town (and region, and culture) is constantly being marginalized and co-opted. Unless we can cultivate a more significant audience than is already in place, I doubt that we’re going to realize the potential that is here. Having done that we can begin to focus on the glorious rather than the petty.
Oops...sorry, gdfather, I forgot that facetiousness always falls flat in Seattle.
All facetiousness, sarcasm, and poor attempts at humor aside, I have to say I agree with you 100%--we have to put up with enough "legitimate" attempts to get free artwork from us, without having to deal with the less-legitimate ones.
Kucera is right that the big issue here is ethics, but we need to be broader than keeping the focus on Matthew Kangas. Jen Graves published a set of charges against Matthew and Billy Howard. I think we should stick to that instead of using Jen's "J'ACCUSE" as a disgusting excuse to go on a fishing trip for dirt on Matthew.
I understand that is how Jen is going to defend herself (by writing a big Matthew-is-a-jerk expose in the Stranger) from what should be a firestorm on her own house. She is creating this story ex nilo by making shit up. That is no basis for a follow-up story.
I think the most important problem here is the one of potential libel - like when Jen posts trashy accusations without doing even the fundamental homework. I am not a litigious person, but if that article read Daniel Kany Gallery instead of Howard House, I wouldn't hesitate sue her.
The ethical issues that are surfacing have to do with art writers in the Seattle area. Jen is accusing Matthew of bad stuff and exposing some dangerous sloppiness of her own on the way. Talk to a few people and pretty quickly the complaints start to grow: Emily Hall's cronyism, Regina's shockingly poor record at visiting art venues, Matthew's bullying.... I could complain about every single professional art writer of note in the area - except Nate Lippens (I am simply writing this because it's true; I am not partial to Nate).
One problem is that there is not a sufficiently public venue that is not directly linked to one or more of these writers on some level. This strand could turn into that forum if people didn't continue to take the bait and attack Matthew. Regardless, Seattle needs this discussion.
How about this, Stranger: why don't you commit to publish in paper or online an article by a professional non-northwest art writer that is a report on a panel about art writing and ethics in the Seattle Community? That would be a great start.
Here are a few more notes on the discussion:
1. While I wasn't impressed by Kucera's post as being classy (he has quite the reputation as a partisan bully himself), I liked a few of his points, especially when he noted that galleries--who are selling work and thereby have a financial stake--don't routinely disclose the owner's names of works on display. I was also impressed that he named names of artists and was clear in NOT FAULTING Kangas for withholding his name in the exhibition as owner of the work.
2. It was only a couple of years ago that people from the WA State Department of Revenue went to public art spaces like museums and wrote down the names of the owners--and then proceeded to investigate them. In the light of that horrifying debacle, no one should be faulted for leaving her name off a work on display in public. Moreover, there is no probable cause to make up more accusations and accuse someone like Matthew of not paying use tax once he receives a gift of value. Any accusation without asking him or researching his tax returns would be reckless. The state was wrong to make the same assumptions when they went after the collectors who were nice enough to loan their works for public display.
3. Having works in an important collection can be very good for artists: artists and galleries work to get pieces not only into museums but high profile collections of major collectors and gallerists. When I go to the homes of people like Greg Kucera and Bill Traver, you can bet that I pay close attention to everything they have on the wall. If you're on Kucera's wall (his collection rocks), then I for one will be impressed. When I am at Matthew's, I take note of what he hangs on the wall.
4. Ken, your sending a piece to Matthew right away comment was laugh out loud hilarious: thanks!
5. I am with XFrench (presumably Christian) in challenging Sheila, Regina, Jen and the rest to tell us what they think is going on here and where they place themselves on the ethical chain. Jen has brought forth charges in the world of Seattle art criticism and I would guess that many of us agree there are a host of serious problems.
well, to broaden... the one that I remember from 1988 was with a gallery dealer.I was new to town and was going around talking to dealers about representation that had spaces big enough to properly show my work. I went to Cliff Michel and laid out my big drawings on the ground and had a really engaged conversation with him, at the end of which he told me that he loved my work, wanted to represent me and had a slot for me to show in and verbally signed me up...I drove away really high from it and went back to my studio in Ballard and told my studio-mates. Ernie downstairs called me and said that there was a phone call from Cliff...I went down and spoke to Cliff in Ernie's studio and he proceeded to ask me out on a date...half an hour after signing me up to show with him...I demurred but he pressed on and I told him I was busy and hung up the phone on him and never spoke to him one on one ever again and certainly just blew off any professional dealings with him and went and started the process all over again...times have really changed in that area I think here...when you are young it is hard to react in more than a yes or no fashion I do get that...the discussion if you have it would more properly cover all aspects of the power relations in this town.
1. Kudos to you for the guts to tell that story, Karen.
2. I gave a critique to a photographer named Scott Finer in my gallery a couple of weeks ago. I told him I liked his work but was not interested in representing him. Just a few minutes ago I received an unsolicited print from him in the mail with a two-line note of thanks. Can I keep it?
Daniel Kany wrote:
"I think the most important problem here is the one of potential libel."
From the Associate Press handbook:
"In almost all libel cases involving news organizations, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defamatory statement is false."
I.e., it ain't libel if it's provably true.
Also, no one's alleging impropriety in gallery owners owning pieces by artists they show; that's just a red herring. Journalists are another matter.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Sorry Ken.. My sarcasm cap was off yesterday. With the legnth of some of these posts, I was skimming and missed some nuances.
PS.. in the interest of full disclosure and to show I am not hiding behind any anonymity. I must shockingly confess, that my real name is not Gdfather.. I figured if anyone cared to know me by another name, they could use "The Google". It wouldn't take a rocket scientist.
Daniel, thanks for bringing your situation up.
We are discussing the ethics of artist - dealer/critic exchanges. In your case, you have received a gift from an artist your gallery just turned down. Finer's motives for gifting the photo may be as innocent as a small token of thanks and appreciation. It could also be an attempt to get you to live with his work, which makes it slightly more likely that you will remember his name, perhaps check in on him in a few years, and possibly take him on as an artist (in an artist's ideal world). At the very least, Finer may be able to say that he is a part of your private collection.
Let's not kid ourselves here. Because Finer's motive is to obtain representation, you can look at his gifting as a favor.
In accepting, you downgrade your integrity as a gallery owner. You would not want your clients, the community, and other artists who seeking representation to think that favors and gifts might play a role in your decision-making.
The overarching Kangas issue is centered around rumors that he has offered to exchange favorable reviews for artwork. If he has done so, the integrity of his critical perspective is compromised.
While you have not overtly presented this kind of shady deal to your artists, the end result is the same. You get to keep a piece of art that you did not pay for but received as a perk of your profession from an artist who is looking to gain something from the exchange.
Why not make it a legitimate and honest business transaction? If you like the piece, buy it. If you don't want it, return it to the artist with a note saying, "thanks, but you should uphold the value of your work, good luck."
In the long run, the artist will appreciate you for it and you will have no guilty feelings (the fact that you had to question accepting the print is indication enough that it's not exactly a clean deal).
Good luck with that!
By the way, Jen, I hope you get your story on Matthew Kangas. True, all we have to go on now are rumors but there's always a grain of truth in the gossip and the gossip about Kangas' supposed activities are enough to turn my stomach.
For an art critic to abuse their position like that is dirty, dirty, dirty.
For the sake of the artists who have claimed to have been taken advantage of by Kangas, GET THE TRUTH!
If Kangas has nothing to hide, he shouldn't have a problem with an interview that will put the rumor mill to hide.
There are different types of critics and to me the only error here is Kangas not disclosing that he owns work by the artist. Doing so would in no way have undermined his role in the exhibition, in fact it would have enhanced it.
As for why people are so bent out of shape about such a minor matter I think it has to do with how Kangas is perceived. I personally always like to disclose it when Im curating work I own in an exhibition, just to avoid any fuss.
As for Greenberg, he was a different type of critic than Kangas. He was catalytic, and incredibly involved in the artists he wrote about, why wouldn't he have some of their works? Though Kangas is involved with Henry, it's just not the same.
For perspective, Im always shocked when an art dealer doesn't own works by the artists they have represented for years. Similarly, if a critic has championed an artist for years I dont find it odd at all that they own works by them.
The art world is full of "interested parties" the trick is operating with a certain code that others respect. Jerry Saltz told a Portland audience in 2004 that a critic is only as good as their reputation.
Playing favorites is part of the game but sometimes you have to show what cards you are holding to retain or justify that reputation.
The real trick is knowing if the public finds the relationship is problematic (and they usually do)... then its best to come clean and say yeah, they are in my collection.
If Scott Larwimore were to call me out like he did Kangas I would take it very seriously.
I dont think this scandal would have the same bite in Portland... people complain of influence down here on a polemic and ideological level.
Right now the Oregonian is following some intrigue with a PAM curator who was just let go... and most are wondering what the big deal is... following the drama but in that case its drama that interests people outside of the art scene, whereas this seems to be of interest to the art scene in Seattle. Lawrimore's comments seem to be venting a certain frustration.
Oh, and there is no way in hell I'd ever ask an artist for work in exchange for a review or exhibition.... If Greg and Scott are saying this I'd have to say Kangas is wide open to what Jen is putting out there.
Interesting, is Seattle questioning its various balkanized fifedoms? Down here in Portland even so called enemies don't go at it like this because nobody is really that entrenched or defensive. From my outsider's perspective it seems like a bunch of fifedomes in defensive posture do hurt things.
Also, Billy has a point too, he's busy trying to move things forward.
Portland has been good to me and others in the arts, but it is not Art Utopia.
DoubleJ says "bite" would be missing from a discussion of conflict of interest if it were it to happen in Portland?
I strongly disagree. With evidence.
Not that long ago Chas Bowie posted a note on Blogtown PDX (The Mercury's blog, i.e. more or less Portland's sister to the Slog) that sparked a lot of "bite" both on Blogtown and on numerous other blogs around town, and nobody was accused of anything near as serious as exchanging art for favorable reviews.
Read the original post for yourselves:
Or just note "some highlights from how to look like a jackass":
"What an arrogant, clueless douche"
"My girlfriend wants to make a t-shirt that says: "I am an art expert." -Jeff Jahn"
"No way. NO breaks for this asshat. Never."
"Jahn obviously exists in a bubble surrounded by flattering circus mirrors."
God...no wonder they hate us.
Kant live with him, can't shut him up. Or will this?
I'm so glad this lively discussion of ethics, their lack, and behavior--the bad, the ugly, and the good--is coming out over writing and paintings. K for Kafka replacing K for KannedGas?
Tim Appelo is right to bring up the jump-up and try to excoriate Clem Greenberg in public incident, a profile of the Oedipal complex if there ever was one. (Surpassed locally only by Matthew's own subsequent greeting of Donald Kuspit at the airport with flowers: "That king is dead, long live this king.") And now look where we are/he is: Matthew is in the same leaky boat that Greenberg was (with a substitution of the table for the bar on the other foible list.)
Bravo for Jen Graves's query "Do I smell smoke?"
And its bringing out of actual guns.
Art reviewing may be a card game where the rules change with each hand, but the rules do keep the game going, and errant gamesters in check.
Makes one wonder what other conflicts of interest are out there waiting to be whiffed out.
Current for-profit and non-profit cozying up?
The past promotion of downtown real estate values of the properties of board members when a prominent nonprofit moves in? (There's a good one for investigative reporters...)
Here's to keeping The Castle lively, y'all.
I would like to persuade you to reconsider Jen Graves’ participation in the upcoming panel discussion at TAM next Saturday. The moral lynching of Matthew Kangas unleashed by Graves on the pages of SLOG does not conform to any ethically acceptable standard of journalism or criticism. Whether Kangas is ethically at fault or not, it really does not matter. No, it really does not! The modus operandi chosen by Graves speaks more than anything else of her set of deontological values. Is this the kind of person TAM is willing to endorse as accredited critic of the Seattle art scene? A self-constituted judicial tribunal that has no hesitation to shoot first and then ask questions? How can anyone possibly accept her future critiques, knowing that she can be so unprofessional as journalist and so unbalanced in her judgments? Suspicion should never be used as evidence. America has been there: witch hunt, the lynch law and weapons of mass destruction.
Reconsider, Rock, unless you are hoping for a full house this coming Saturday, cashing in on the morbid curiosity of the public – which I am confident will flock to Tacoma now that the voice has spread all over town. Alas, that won’t change the substance of things.
It's my belief that this entire conversation has been a good airing out for the art world here in Seattle. This has been a long smoldering fire.
I think it would be entirely appropriate for the panelists to agree not to air this particular issue at the forum on whether a Northwest Biennial is a needed exhibition. They should simply stay on task there as it's a plenty big topic at hand.
By the time Saturday arrives, Jen's article will likely be out in the paper. Asking her not to participate would be unfair as there is plenty of testimony supporting her accusation.
It's pretty clear that she had begun her homework on this before making the accusation in blog print. Whatever smoking gun she brandished about certainly made others recall the smell of the smoke.
Can the panelists agree to put this affair aside and agree to treat each other with enough respect to keep the TAM panel on track?
And can the audience refrain from its own baiting of this issue and treat the panelists with respect?
It's grown up time folks.
Nice try, that was all bark with no bite in Portland. Tabloidizing a highly cherry picked selection of quotes in the O slanted at about whether someone is liked or not isn't an ethical discusion, especially when it is bourne of a frustration regarding the O's tendancy to avoid publishing useful info. That was a popularity contest and yes Portland has lots of those. Still, using blog comments to gage frustration and influence is interesting... kinda like an "increase in chatter." This is somewhat off topic and all so called "respected" critics have both greater and lesser power than people generally assume in forums like this.
To tie it in, this Kangas issue is more than a polularity contest and though some feel a story ought to be done (and I suspect it will be) I see this as a kind of exercise in 21st century transparency.
Ive slept on this issue and to me I hear a lot of hoopla about whether this ought to be on a blog... it's true it can look like a witch hunt but I also feel it "tables" the issue in an interesting way. Instead of the forthcoming stories on this coming out of nowhere, it seems more like a barometer for frustration. I dont take everthing posted here all that seriously, who could... but it does allow one to gage the level of frustration in a useful way.
That said its time for a balanced story and a serious discussion about what is ethically acceptable. Jen has opened the discussion and stuck her neck out. Let's see how it all goes.
When Billy Howard and Greg Kucera chimed in I looked at this differently. The art world is essentially feudal and what I see happening in Seattle is a a rejostling of fifedomes in anticipation of SAM's reopening. This happened in Portland in 2005 and Seattle will be better for it. It was good for Portland, just expect things to be much more heated when discussing "influence."
Opening a new museum wing in the northwest seems to prompt a lot of discussion about what is or isn't an acceptable status quo.
As Greg said -
Yes, the topic of a Northwest Biennial is more than enough to chew on, and has generated plenty of controversy (questioning) on its own.
As I suggested earlier on I hope the Stranger, or someone, will make the discussion available as a podcast for those of us who can't make it.
Kudos to Tacoma Art Museum for hosting a discussion which inevitably will include criticism on itself.
Everyone is expecting more... on all fronts, especially when it comes to the visual arts in the Northwest and that is what I find exciting about this discussion and others. The discussion has changed because provicilism doesnt have the same hold on the top levels in Portland and Seattle anymore (The situation in each city is very different though).
DoubleJ what does your incessant circuitous babbling have to do with the actual subject at hand?
Do us all a favor and pack up your bargain-basement pseudo-omniscient opines on Seattle's so-called fiefdoms and piss off, brother.
Oh yeah. And learn how to spell before you try to drop any more twenty-five cent words.
Maybe it's all a piece of performance art and Jen and Matthew will start bitch slapping eachother at the panel discussion. Regina can be the referee, and D.K. Row can just look on in horror, not being in on the joke..
ahh yes to live in simpler times... one can dream...
hmm.. I wonder what this button does..
There is one thing that has not been brought up that I find disturbing: Jen Graves writes for Art in America as does Matthew Kangas. Clearly the accusations against Kangas are serious. According to Graves’s own post they involve favors regarding reviews in that publication. If the accusations are proven true, it follows that Kangas will lose his contributing writer status at Art in America. Isn’t it a conflict that Graves stands to pick up more Art in America gigs and national exposure from an investigation into Kangas’s ethics that she spearheaded?
Considering she was chosen to write the explanation for Dave Segal’s firing from The Stranger for a breach of conduct and ethics, shouldn’t Graves recuse herself from the Kangas investigation and have someone else on staff do it?
RE post 116, If me and my co-worker Bob are competing to be the lead on a big project designing a new cookie jar, and Bob is stealing cookies from it, how is it a conflict of interest if I point that out? Simply because something might have the appearance or possibility of having a conflict of interest doesn't mean it actually does.. hence the whole disclosure arguement.
Exactly, full disclosure. So why hasn’t Graves stated anywhere in her initial post or in her follow-up comments that she is also a contributor to Art in America? She is questioning Kangas’s journalistic ethics and throwing out accusations about his conduct. Therefore she should fully disclose her involvement in writing for Art in America, for the sake of transparency.
Isn't it widely known publically available knowledge that Jen writes for Art in America.
Lets find out and watch the shock on everyone's face as we disclose this hidden fact. "News flash, Jen Graves writes for Art in America!!!"
Conspiracy exposed.. now we can get back to bussiness.
Jim: Answer, trying to bring the big picture to a smaller issue that is getting increasingly smaller. Ive got a few emails from Seattle artist's wondering whether this thread says anything good about Seattle.
I think it does but maybe this isn't the place for that kind of expansion of the topic (the TAM panel won't do much either). Also, opinions aren't omniscience and if you feel driven to copy edit blog comments, it's your bliss.
Maybe Dryden would have been a great blog moderator:
"Two fools that crutch their feeble sense on verse;
Who, by my muse, to all succeeding times
Shall live, in spite of their own doggrel rhymes"
As far as Graves and Kangas writing for the same mag.... that isn't anything at all. Writers for art mags seldom have any connection beyond a common reviews editor.
Like Greg said, it's grown up time.
Seattle artists are looking to Jeff Jahn to help them make sense of all these intimidating ethical issues? So here you are here to save the day and hold our hands through all this scary blog posting? Because you are the King of Art Ethics in addition to being an Art Expert?
I would say that your blinding ego puts you in danger of becoming Portland's answer to a younger Matthew Kangas except, well, you can't write, let alone put together a coherent critical argument.
But please, be our guest in blundering along as if anything you're saying hasn't been said ten times before and better on this thread. After all, Seattle's artists need you.
I feel that if people can separate out the larger issues from the attacks and be aware of themselves in these situations then good will come of it...I worry that it is impossible. Just focusing so much at getting someone for whatever motive makes the content hard to see ...I know that the call that I (and the other artists)got involved disproving an accusation and the request for other artists names an impossible one to grant given the purpose and that standing up and saying that I was treated completely normally/distantly by matthew during the 5 reviews I think that he wrote meant that I was covering up or a self-serving whatever..as usual any role is considered suspect...I felt that with the billy howard sit. too, assuming a level of corruption that is actually rare as a starting point caused alot of unneccesary troubles...my point with my story about cliff michel is that he is a nice guy who transgressed...that draws it to the ethics questions but to keep pounding away about personality and then slip into innuendo...it kind of undermines the point.There are real issues and those that have a story need to tell it but a local/diff forum seems more appropriate.I was given alot of advice coming up from my elders,maybe that still is a form of protection, to ask without worrying that you might look like an idiot. People are usually more generous in this area than one would presume.
Jim, I offered a civil/civic opinion, nothing as grandiose as you claim... you simply have a problem and are off topic.
ooooh, snap! Lot's of big art wurds bouncing around but not a lot of sense. Is there any point to this beyond the now, or will we all forget about it in the next couple of weeks? Chances are we are all Amerikans in this con-verse-ation and have the attention span of lemmings? How bout' we make art, let the critic's pretend that they know what we are doing and fuck?
I think all you bungholes are just jealous because Matthew is better educated than all of you. Sure, he might die with no friends, but think of all the art that still might be left behind that was not sold. Some of you might be the lucky ones to acquire it. Don't be hateful. Just try to see whats in it for you.
I suspect the only reason why Lawrimore is so livid is because he knows that Kangas is the only real critic in the NW. It must really hurt when one gets ass kissing reviews only from Regina or Jen.
I give up *Anonymous glass artist*...
To get a review from Kangas! Duh, Scott...
Because he was tired of walking around in all the other chicken's crap.
Jeff, did you even read this off-topic cluelessness before posting it:
"The art world is essentially feudal and what I see happening in Seattle is a a rejostling of fifedomes in anticipation of SAM's reopening." - DoubleJ (#111)
Strange that most of the rest of this thread thinks we are discussing issues surrounding the post title: "Matthew Kangas: Critic, Curator, Collector"
But I guess in your view the topic at hand centers around the fact that we should all be running around (or already are) making sure we are aligned with the right "fiefdom" before...oh christ...SAM re-opens...?
I mean, oh my god!! What will happen if I'm not "in" with the right "fiefdom" before SAM re-opens...?
If I have a problem, Jeff, it is with you making sweeping judgements in a grandiose tone about what is or is not going on in Seattle.
The issues for people to consider when reading this thread are complex enough without having to wade through baseless hoopla delivered from your imaginary throne in Portland.
1. I think Moral Suasion was right on in post 109 to complain of Jen's "moral lynching" in her "shoot first" attack on Kangas. This is not an acceptable basis for a shit-slinging forum on Kangas.
3. Just Wondering in post 116 hit an extremely important point: Jen should have disclosed her status with Art in America; especially when accusing a competing writer of non-disclosure. That is serious: I wonder what the editors would think?
3. Libel is a State statute (what's this about the "Associate Press" handbook?) and there was a clear mistake (for which Jen apologized, but as has been pointed out: some readers missed that). Here is a link to the WA statute 9.58 (Libel and Slander):http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9.58
9.58.020 reads "It is excused when honestly made in belief of its truth and fairness and upon reasonable grounds for such belief, and consists of fair comments upon the conduct of any person in respect of public affairs, made after a fair and impartial investigation."
Clearly Jen's investigating wasn't fair or impartial. She accused Billy Howard of being complicit and concealing an "outrageous" ethical breach. That's serious.
4. I hope this conversation leads to an "accountability moment" for the Seattle art writers. Maybe there should be more for gallerists, curators, art patrons and artists, but the only trouble I see here is with the writers. If you agree with Jen or disagree with her, there's no denying some questions about at least one writer's professionalism.
I wonder if any of you have any idea of the tremendous pressure arts writers get from artists? The only reason I bring this up is to present the other side of the story as some of the artists can be extremely aggressive. To have a favorable review published in a national magazine is a major career boost. Since Matthew has written for Art Guide Northwest for many years, the number of phone calls and emails we have received from artists literally begging for his recognition is staggering. At Matthew's request, I do not give out his phone number or his address.
Daniel Kany wrote:
"there's no denying some questions about at least one writer's professionalism."
Precisely. And that writer is Matthew Kangas. It's amusing that so many posters here have entirely ignored that point and are instead choosing to attack the journalist who raised the questions in the first place.
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see maybe thats the part that I'm missing...this whole "get a review" part is what I've never seen...all of the artists calling and writing me say the same thing ...maybe it looks that way from some other perspective... you work one or two or three, four years alone making work and then show it. The critical responce is on a delay bec of the sheer time it takes to make things...there certainly is a dialogue betw each person's work and the town over time , and I feel that with others, on a kind of shorthand basis with their work after seeing many shows by them...it seems like the egg is being put in place before the chicken has had a chance to lay it...maybe thats why everybody wants to get to the other side...
Wow Brenda, do that many artists really lean on writers? and to think I felt a bit uneasy about even emailing one who seemed to like my work just to let them know I had a show. It never occured to me that I should try and squeeze the crap out of them for a glorious review lauding my painting as gods greatest gift to the arts since the Venus De Willindorf. (mental note to self.. start harassing Kangas and others). lol. no.. alas I think I'll just keep painting and leave the agressive pan handeling to others..
poor writers.. could be worse.. you can pick and choose what to write about.. us artists don't exactly have 20 writers knocking on our doors begging to be the one chosen to write about our art.
oops sorry about that your posting got a hiccop.
wow, matthew, great that you are still stirring the pot.... lovely little town, that
seattle, nice to see some erudite discussion from there make its way even to india
jen's article is out in print and online. no matter where ya'll fall in the discussion i think you'll probably find it worth the read...
and, if nothing else, when's the last time a visual arts article was the lead story in the stranger?
a great follow up would be to make reviews of actual art shows the lead stories on a frequent basis...
Thanks for catalyzing the conversation. More from Portland: http://tjnorris.net/blog/2007/03/06/art-as-cyclops/
Anyone with a brain knows that the media is all about manipulation. Wake up and smell the Starbucks!!! Read the paper, watch the news... Hello? Is anyone out there? Media is power. Power is abused on a daily basis. Hello? Is anyone out there? Real estate, stocks, Ipods... The media is clearly used to influence prices. Is your ass sucking wind? This is gonna get big. REAL BIG!!! Watch, you'll see. Does everyone live in interesting times?
@135: you can say THAT again
The two chief characteristics I will forever associate with Matthew Kangas are his repulsive body odor and his vicious temper. In casual conversation one evening with Kangas at a party, he suddenly lashed into me for no apparent reason. His fury and sheer, unprovoked rage was unparalleled in my personal experience. I quickly distanced myself from this crazed person, and have never spoken to him since.
I am grateful to Jen Graves, to the many artists who spoke out, and to the Stranger for publishing a courageous expose of a meanspirited individual. Graves' article provides just the ammunition I have been seeking to exact revenge upon this ludicrous, pompous bully, and I intend to employ it to his permanent disadvantage.
LONG LIVE KANGAS!
What participants engaged in writing for commercial enterprises do anything but try to serve the enterprise even when wearing the holy whistleblower mask? Why give Kangas a bunch of crap without admitting that it is just a dishing of crap? The stranger usually does this excellent without the phony pretense of journalistic norms practiced by msm diddlers. It's um, kind of why the Stranger is cool and different, right? Just kick him in the nuts for fun again and then get over it. The Stranger could have done a survey of working artists in the same number of pages that would have served everyone better than pissing in each other's mailboxes.
Is this start of criticgate?
Will Roger Downey be called to accounts for the shnorring he's done all over town for years?
Still can't figure out the point of critics. They fill up space in the paper. It's just one art fan's point of view. Do Regina, Jen or Matt have an advanced degree? Greater insight than other art lovers? Let them write what they please- and if you don't like it write your own views. Blogs are free. Art criticism is just opinion informed by personal interests.
Don't worry danny...no one will ever mistake you for billy howard. It's kinda cute how hard you are trying though. I love that you are taking notes on this...must be quiet where you are.
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