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Friday, January 18, 2008

Wearing the Habit

posted by on January 18 at 10:44 AM

MAN this morning has a weird situation on its hands. After an admiring and enticing two-part Q&A with Village Voice critic Christian Viveros-Faune, Tyler hit a serious snag on the third part: Viveros-Faune not only manages/organizes two commercial art fairs, he’s not the least bit concerned about the conflict of interest.

And neither is the Voice.

In response to Green’s perfectly reasonable questions, Viveros-Faune snaps back, “We’re not nuns here.”

Well, the implication that most critics work on the commercial side of the art world in addition to their editorial work is just plain wrong. Most of us don’t sell art. We write about it. I guess in the world of Viveros-Faune and the Village Voice, that makes us nuns.

UPDATE: Viveros-Faune is out at the VV.

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1

A lot of critics may not work in the commercial art world but a lot of people who work in the commercial art world are critics, thanks to blogs and personal web sites.

Their opinions do matter and have the ability to affect things and a lot of people aren't going to make the distinction or don't care. I personally prefer full disclosure so it was a good question.

This has been coming up a lot lately because I saw it in another forum and it's making me wonder what to think of it all.

Kirsten Anderson, the founder of Roq la Rue here in Seattle published a book in 2004 on Pop Surrealism. It the most comprehensive compilation on the subject and is highly regarded, as is Roq la Rue, for being an authority and cornerstone for the movement. And it certainly cemented Roq la Rue's success with collectors as a gallery that solely caters to that style, even though it had already been open for 6 years and probably had a following anyway.

Fast forward to now where Kirsten Anderson is the new Editor-at-large for Hi-Fructose magazine; a mag that threatens to topple Juxtapoz off the top of the pile of art and culture magazines and one that many artists consider a fresh alternative due to the fact that it is new and has yet to be corrupted by the many corporate/commercial interests that magazines have to rely on to survive eventually as they evolve.

Dodge and Burn is a newish Seattle based arts and culture magazine directed by Damion Hayes who co-owns BLVD gallery with Kirsten and others.

What this is saying to me more than anything is that if you can't get press (and press is crucial), make it yourself. And if you want to have a successful venture you can't leave it up to critics to pave your way alone. It's becoming increasingly common, its clever and I commend them.

I don't think it matters when its a commercial venture but it is kind of important to know the details of any potential conflict of interest.

A truly good critic doesn't sell work on the side, but may someday in the future or have some other interest in the commercial side. After all, a critic has some interest in working with their editors to not piss off their advertisers and it would be really interesting to hear of any time that might have happened at the Stranger or the Voice. Just curious.

Another thing that makes a good art critic is addressing topics like this so thanks for the post.

Posted by diana | January 18, 2008 1:25 PM
2

The Voice has a problem and MAN has done a masterful job exposing it.

Pop Surrealism as a book is not highly regarded other than something lovely to sit on your coffee table. The book was created to sell art and promote a new ism which really does not work as an idea since the author does not really get the conceptual ideas behind Pop or Surrealism. It sure helped sell some art which was the purpose of the book in the first place.

At The Capitol Hill Times editorial and advertising are run by different departments. I have never been influenced by the ad department. I am sure this is true for The Stranger as well.

Viveros-Faune lack of an ethical compass really shows how low the VV has become.

Posted by Steven Vroom | January 18, 2008 3:46 PM
3

I have no problem with Viveros-Faune being a critic for the VV and managing an art fair as long as both role are disclosed and Viveros-Faune does not have an interest in a commercial gallery (he doesn't). As I have said elsewhere, I am much more worried about undisclosed relationships (good or bad) between critics on the one hand and artists or dealers. I am also not aware of any instance in which there has even been a suggestion that Viveros-Faune's reviews were tainted by any alleged conlict of interest. Viveros-Faune's reviews are persuasive or not based on his powers of observation and analysis. In the end all we can do is look at the art and make up our own minds. Do I detect a touch of self-importance creeping into criticism of V-F from other critics?

Posted by paul urla | January 18, 2008 6:34 PM
4

Since I got dragged into this thread, I feel I have to address one of these comments:

Steven - As the author of "Pop Surrealism", I'm curious how you've come to be so certain of my motives, you sure sound authoritative about the subject considering I've never talked to you nor know you at all. I think maybe you haven't read any of the essays by Larry Reid, Carlo McCormick, or Robert Williams (or even me when I discuss the naming of the movement) because you don't really come off like you know what you're talking about. As for the book being highly regarded or not, in some circles it isn't (like yours I guess) and it some it is, considering it sold 16,000 copies so far and continues to this day to sell out its print runs.

As for the charge it was written to sell art...my motivation for writing "Pop Surrealism" was to stamp a moment in time for an emerging art movement that has since gone on to be very successful and influential. No one else was doing it, I knew all the artists, so I did it. It wasn't written to "sell art", in fact I didn't know if the book would really sell at all. After the fact, I'm sure it HAS helped sell art, for many many galleries,including mine, (and including Vermillion which Diana, the first commenter above, owns, since it has stated that Pop Surrealism is on its roster) but so what? I don't assume my readers are so gullible that if I said something is cool they will run out and empty their wallets.

I accepted the Editor at Large position at Hi Fructose magazine after they asked me because I've been writing about this art, understand and have a passion for this art,and know the background and history of this art. So who better to write about it? Granted, charges of conflict of interest will inevitably occur, but that is up to my editors to decide. I am not nor would ever consider myself a critic, merely a writer or chronicler.
Sorry if you y'all don't like it!
-Kirsten Anderson

Posted by Kirsten Anderson | January 18, 2008 8:30 PM
5

Steven,

I think you are mistaken about Kirsten Anderson, author of Pop Surrealism and owner of Roq la Rue Gallery. If you had read the book or seen her speak on the subject at the Frye Art Museum or Gage Academy, you would see that she does, indeed, have a clear understanding of the ideas and concepts swirling about pop surrealism and low brow art.

I don't think the book ever intended to be a heavy academic art tome. It's more like a love letter or scrapbook that one would put together to honor a loved one. It's not a book of art criticism, it's a book of art love. It's a salute, an homage, a LOVE LETTER.

To imply she was moved to write about these artists and to show their paintings in a beautiful light, simply to sell art in her gallery, is disingenuous and unfair.

Posted by Marlow | January 18, 2008 9:34 PM
6

With your lust for the lash, we should call you "Tailgunner Jen" -- it is people like you, and Tyler Green, and that moron at Art Fag City, who are handmaidens to fascism.

The point is -- how's the work, good or bad? Viveros-Faune does pretty good. Can any of you say the same?

Posted by walter10021 | January 19, 2008 11:13 AM
7

At least Viveros-Faune is upfront about what he is doing. I think a more troubling issue would be if say a critic was good friends with the spouse or girlfriend of a gallerist and subsequently heaped a bunch of praise on said gallery. How are we to know to what extent these type of relationships determine coverage?
What a tangled web this art world is.

Posted by jrs | January 19, 2008 12:52 PM
8

I think Steven missed my point - that conflict of interest is possible in other situations. I didnít mean to imply that Anderson is a critic, as much as a widely considered authority on a particular subject. A critic should surely be an authority on a subject but not necessarily the other way around.

But the tone of the response kind of verifies my point with regard to press coverage. Itís kind of amusing to see someone who runs a local art blog discount an entire successful and historic style.

I just appreciate the disclosure because thereís not a whole lot you can do about it in art circles that overlap. I donít think the VV had all that far to fall anyway.

Posted by diana | January 19, 2008 6:24 PM
9

Well I guess that Viveros-Faune's little lapses are a bit much even for the Village Voice, Tyler Green at MAN reports that he is no longer with the Voice.

I have no problem with Kirsten Anderson as a gallery owner, art promoter, and general supporter of the arts. These roles are vital for the Visual Arts.

The book Pop Surrealism is a promotional device to sell a certain flavor of art. It is not Art History. I have read the book and would not comment on it otherwise. Sales figures do not mean that the book is important it does mean that it is a very attractive book.

Pop Surrealism is a myth built on superficial formalistic likenesses. They tried the same thing in New York with "Neo-expressionism" in the 80's. It did not fly then and does not fly now.

Anyone can be an authority on make believe.

I have not seen Hi Fructose magazine but I hope that editorial board understands the issue of conflicts of interests and exercise due scrutiny over her editorial activities.

As a Historian of Art, I am obliged to evaluate the source of the information along with the information presented.

As an Art Critic I have no financial interest in any commercial gallery nor have I been paid to write for any commercial gallery publication.

VroomJournal.com is not a really a blog, I think of it as a multi-channel media distribution system.

ps. There are no ads on VroomJournal.com just sponsors and merch.

Posted by Steven Vroom | January 20, 2008 3:15 PM
10

"Pop Surrealism is a myth built on superficial formalistic likenesses. They tried the same thing in New York with "Neo-expressionism" in the 80's. It did not fly then and does not fly now."

"Anyone can be an authority on make believe."

Oh my god, dude, are you kidding me?
I know you state you are an Art Historian (with CAPITALS), but to deny that a very real art movement (whatever you may think of the label) arose out of Southern California, spread nationally, and influenced a generation of artists is just, well, embarrassing. It has two magazines solely devoted to it, a vast network of galleries worldwide who exclusively exhibit it, several top artists who command half a million to a million per painting, many others who sell work in the $10k-$50k range per painting, multiple artists who have had museum exhibits (Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr, Camille Rose Garcia, Alex Gross to name a few) and high powered collectors who buy it (you know, who own global corporations and sit on museum boards and such). Just because it doesn't follow whatever supposed rules you want to impose on it doesn't make it make believe.
But I am glad to know what a paragon of virtue you are in regards to your blog, er multi channel media distribution system. That doesn't accept ads, just sponsors.

Posted by Kirsten Anderson | January 20, 2008 8:54 PM
11

Kirsten thats "Historian of Art" to you.
Also please remember that when you address Mr. Vroom you are addressing an authority on Multi Channel Media Distribution Systems. What a tool.

Posted by damion | January 20, 2008 10:22 PM
12

Kirsten,
You have just laid out a sophisticated pathology of consumption in your world. I am not arguing that people believe your myth, I am stating that I do not. I am not casting aspersions on anyone, I am trying to be as honest as I can be.
The fluidity of ethics in the Art World has long been a problem. I only call them as I see 'em.

Posted by Steven Vroom | January 20, 2008 11:16 PM
13

Steven,
we all live in the same reality, . . .ignoring something because you don't like it, doesn't make it go away, . . .you lack the power to make such things go away, because you are not part of the "money culture" that helped propel the Neo-Expressionists in NYC in the 1980's your opinion on the subject has no effect on their established value and significance.
The money invested in those artworks will dictate their place in the art market and history, whether you believe in it or not, . . .the money culture decides such things, NOT YOU . . .when you become a millionaire and have millionaire friends, maybe you can make a dent in it on some level, perhaps even influence some opinions that matter( money culture) . . .which brings me to the Pop Surrealism work, . . .it's not at all like Neo-Expressionism, . . .It's one of those "You had to be there" kind of things. Again, you're not part of this "ism" either, so you don't have a stake in it. Be honest and more simplistic, . . .you just don't like it, . . .that's all you have to say, . . . In the real world, . . . the Truth is what it is, . . .not what you think it is. Time and money have an impact on such things, . . .Not You. Your opinion will not convince the Museum of Modern Art in NYC to remove a Basquiat painting, . . .because you "don't believe in the myth". You're no more of an authority on the subject than I am.
We both have the same kinds of art history degrees, . . . it just means we know how to read books and write extended term papers. It's an honest mistake, . . .you've confused your opinion with reality; Your own myth. The artists and the collectors are the ones making history, . . . You need to pay more attention to the impact.
You are not one of the taste-makers that matters. Speaking of Pop Surrealism, . . . Did you know that Vinyl toys featured in Hi Fructose and Juxtapoz magazine are now in the MOMA's recent acquisitions?, . . .suck on that!

Posted by Danny Chin | January 21, 2008 3:46 AM
14

Gee,
You theory is that I am not rich or cool enough to believe in "Pop Surrealism".
I think that sums it all up.
Believe what you want, it does not make it true.

Posted by Steven Vroom | January 21, 2008 9:26 AM
15

if it means anything, tony curtis is also included in moma's recent acquisitions. sucking.

hey tailgunner jen, check this out -

http://anaba.blogspot.com/2008/01/love-walter10021.html


Posted by martin | January 21, 2008 10:17 AM
16

Steven-
I guess this convo is over because you and I will probably never agree, but I just want to point out you repeatedly stating "It's not true" with zero backup isn't really a compelling argument. Nor is trying to backtrack by saying you aren't casting aspersions while just a few posts up you quite clearly are casting aspersions on my motives, while dishonestly proclaiming your point as if it were fact rather than your own opinion (which I would have zero problem with).
And uh..."sophisticated pathology of consumption"? Ok, if that makes you feel better when you go to sleep at night.

Anyway...you know what they say about arguing on the internet...

Posted by Kirsten Anderson | January 21, 2008 10:42 AM
17

Tony Curtis, . . . Ouch

There's no accounting for taste, . . .

Steven, . . . I wasn't implying that you weren't cool, . . .I was implying that just because you don't like something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. that's very silly.

And yes, money has a lot to do with the elevation of an art movement as well as its fashionability, . . .they kind of go hand in hand. You'd be a fool to think otherwise.

The neo-expressionism in the 1980's faded not because it wasn't real, . . . but because the art market bubble burst and a few of the artists kind of died, for real. Basquiat, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol(not really part of that movement, but instrumental in the introduction of Basquiat), etc, . . . the value of the work did not fall off, it hit a holding pattern and the secondary market stopped for a time.

As far as "Pop Surrealism" is concerned, . . . it's still here, it's still evolving, . . .there are galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Rome, London, Paris, Montreal, Hamburg, Berlin, and Sydney, Australia, . . .In New York, there are galleries in Chelsea, SoHo, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn that deal this type of work, . . . I suspect it would have happened even without that book, . . . I can't wait to see what happens next.

Posted by Danny Chin | January 21, 2008 12:18 PM
18

Tony Curtis, . . . Ouch

There's no accounting for taste, . . .

Steven, . . . I wasn't implying that you weren't cool, . . .I was implying that just because you don't like something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. that's very silly.

And yes, money has a lot to do with the elevation of an art movement as well as its fashionability, . . .they kind of go hand in hand. You'd be a fool to think otherwise.

The neo-expressionism in the 1980's faded not because it wasn't real, . . . but because the art market bubble burst and a few of the artists kind of died, for real. Basquiat, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol(not really part of that movement, but instrumental in the introduction of Basquiat), etc, . . . the value of the work did not fall off, it hit a holding pattern and the secondary market stopped for a time.

As far as "Pop Surrealism" is concerned, . . . it's still here, it's still evolving, . . .there are galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, Rome, London, Paris, Montreal, Hamburg, Berlin, and Sydney, Australia, . . .In New York, there are galleries in Chelsea, SoHo, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn that deal this type of work, . . . I suspect it would have happened even without that book, . . . I can't wait to see what happens next.

Posted by Danny Chin | January 21, 2008 12:19 PM

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