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July 28, 2005

Comments

J.Cassian

True originality=ripping off Marcel Duchamp (who was a bit of a rip-off artist himself).

Frank McGahon

"No, of course they aren't; all that representational crap is just too boring and unoriginal to be worth collecting, even when given away for free"

It isn't necessary to endorse Serota's purchase of Manzoni's, er, output to think that he has made the correct decision in this case. Have you seen the paintings?

http://www.stuckism.com/TateDonation.html

Based on that selection I'd say Serota's characterisation of the artistic merit of this group of shameless publicity-seekers* is spot on. Plus, there's more to the cost of maintaining artworks in the Tate's collection than their acquisition. There's the cost to artistic integrity (as measured by the art world which by and large rates Manzoni higher than the Stuckists) and the opportunity cost of exhibiting or storing better artworks

* It was, after all, established by an old boyfriend of Tracy Emin's and their antics resemble those of their britart counterparts.

J.Cassian

God, you're right there, Frank. I used to sit at the back of class near a girl who used to draw her own "fantasy" New Romantic album sleeves with felt tip pens. Maybe she was the true progenitor of Stuckism. It's almost as bad representational art as Jeff Koons' Michael Jackson 'n' Bubbles sculpture.

J.Cassian

Hey, look at "Holy Cow" by Tony Juliano at the bottom of the page. It's a portrait of the Pope...except he's a cow! Real edgy stuff there.

Abiola Lapite

"the artistic merit of this group of shameless publicity-seekers"

Surely no more shameless than the usual gang who get all the limelight. Besides, how is one supposed to send a signal that representational art is back in favor, other than patronizing those who engage in it, however badly one may think they do so?

"There's the cost to artistic integrity (as measured by the art world which by and large rates Manzoni higher than the Stuckists)"

And what does that say about the "artistic integrity" of said art world?

I don't know how the stuckist paintings could possibly be regarded as anything other than a step up from a lot of the stuff Serota's willing to shell out for.

Frank McGahon

"Surely no more shameless than the usual gang who get all the limelight."

No more, no less. That's my point. I have no particular affection for the likes of Hirst and Emin.

"Besides, how is one supposed to send a signal that representational art is back in favor, other than patronizing those who engage in it, however badly one may think they do so?"

I don't see why one is supposed to send this signal and even if one wanted to, celebrating this meretricious rubbish is probably the wrong way about doing it. In any case, representational art isn't exactly "out of favour" just because abstract art is in favour. Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville and Chris Ofili* are all feted "representational" artists.

* yes often unfairly maligned Ofili whose use of excrement (elephant, in his case as a collage/painting material) is considerably more artistic than that of ol' Piero.

Abiola Lapite

"No more, no less. That's my point. I have no particular affection for the likes of Hirst and Emin."

Then your point doesn't make sense as it stands, because the stuff the Stuckists stand to displace is a lot worse than what they're churning out, even if you don't fancy any of it.

"I don't see why one is supposed to send this signal"

For one reason, because I'd like my art to at least have some skill about it, and to be about something other than merely an attempt to shock. If my tax money must be used to fund the Tate, better it go to putting a Stuckist painting on show than funding another "Lights Going On and Off."

"celebrating this meretricious rubbish is probably the wrong way about doing it"

What *else* is there to "celebrate" other than what you call "meretricious rubbish?" Haven't you ever heard the saying "you have to learn to run before you can walk?" You mention Lucian Freud, but what point is there in bringing up a guy who was born in 1922 when discussing the encouragement of young artists? One might as well put Hans Holbein's "Ambassadors" forward as an example for all the good he does; as for the superior aesthetic merit of Jenny Saville's work ...

Besides, no one's asking the Tate to "celebrate" anything: this was a free gift, which they were at liberty to store in the same warehouse where they keep all their soiled bedsheets and dirty knickers, and the cost of storing the stuff is a lot less than a tin of Manzoni's sh*t.

"yes often unfairly maligned Ofili whose use of excrement (elephant, in his case as a collage/painting material) g is considerably more artistic than that of ol' Piero."

I don't think he's "unfairly" maligned at all: there's nothing "artistic" about animal waste as far as I'm concerned. The only thing a potential biohazard like elephant dung is good for is manure.

Frank McGahon

"Then your point doesn't make sense as it stands, because the stuff the Stuckists stand to displace is a lot worse than what they're churning out, even if you don't fancy any of it"

My point is that you don't have to like the Stuckists (who are a bunch of untalented nobodies) to criticise Hirst et al (or vice versa) and further, there's considerably more to the Tate's collection and acquisitions than the "YBA"s. Here's a list (alphabetically by artist) of their recent acquisitions:

http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ArtistList?cgroupid=999999981

As for Freud, my point is that he is a living, working artist who is celebrated. If representational art was so beyond the pale he wouldn't be. I'll take Jenny Saville over the Stuckists anyday. Hell, I'd take the daubings of any random provincial art group over that lot.

It's preposterous to claim that he should have just accepted the collection because it's free. If I run off a whole load of paintings over the next few weeks, I shouldn't expect to be suprised that Sir Nicholas declines my generous, albeit vainglorious, offer to donate this collection to the Tate. (I should be doubly surprised if one of those paintings had been an ineptly executed cartoon mocking Serota himself examining a pair of red knickers).

Serota's job is as arbitrer, he can't just take any old crap (it has to be tinned!). He might get it wrong - as you suggest with Manzoni's cans - but in this case, whatever you think about Manzoni, Britart or the Turner prize, he's got it right. You may think this Stuckist selection is no less deserving of the accolade of being a part of the Tate's collection than, say, Emin's bed, but since you have made clear that you don't consider Emin's work worthy anyway, this doesn't mean the Stuckists' is.

"there's nothing "artistic" about animal waste as far as I'm concerned."

There's nothing "artistic" about oil paint or canvas while we're at it. These are merely the materials. What's artistic about Ofili's work is the paintings he creates and they're not all made with elephant crap (which, by the way, is dried and enamelled so isn't quite the hazard you imagine). You don't like his work, that's your prerogative, but you can't use the same criteria to dismiss his work that you would use for say, Emin. Ofili is not a conceptual or performance artist and isn't a particularly abstract artist.

Abiola Lapite

"My point is that you don't have to like the Stuckists (who are a bunch of untalented nobodies) to criticise Hirst et al"

No, but on a rank ordering of talent, they have more of it, however minimal, than Hirst, Emin, Manzoni, Creed and company do. That Serota sees fit to reject them while buying all sorts of far more pretentious rubbish says a great deal about him and the art establishment in my view, and I don't see why you're congratulating him for outing himself as a slavish follower of capricious fashionable opinion.

"I'll take Jenny Saville over the Stuckists anyday."

Simply asserting your preferences does not a convincing aesthetic critique make, however strenuously you choose to do so; I can play the exact same game by simply switching the nouns in your sentence.

"Hell, I'd take the daubings of any random provincial art group over that lot."

But it isn't "any random provincial art group" offering their daubings to the Tate, is it? And why exactly am I supposed to go along with your judgement anyway? What marvellous aesthetic theory underpins your assertions that I should take them for anything more than the artistic equivalent of "I don't like blackcurrant?"

"It's preposterous to claim that he should have just accepted the collection because it's free."

No, that their art has *already* proven popular with a paying audience just might have a thing or two to do with it.

"If I run off a whole load of paintings over the next few weeks, I shouldn't expect to be suprised that Sir Nicholas declines my generous, albeit vainglorious, offer to donate this collection to the Tate."

If your paintings can manage to draw as big a crowd as the Stuckists' have, then he'd be an absolute idiot not to take you up on your offer even while he's out buying soiled knickers and cans of crap.

"Serota's job is as arbitrer, he can't just take any old crap"

The point is that he *does* take any old crap, at least when it's "conceptual" crap which has been consecrated by the Turner prize, or even real crap which has been around since the 1960s. It's a bit late in the day for him to sniffily declare this, that or the other too artistically uninteresting for his taste.

"As for Freud, my point is that he is a living, working artist who is celebrated."

He's also a man edging on 83, and the fact that he's celebrated no more sends any sort of message of encouragement to young artists than yet another Matisse exhibition.

"If representational art was so beyond the pale he wouldn't be. "

Nonsense. If your argument held water, everything in the National Gallery should have been chucked out sometime in the 1960s. Just because a Cezanne or even a Freud can still command attention doesn't mean representational art is still accepted coming from young artists *today*, and one or two exceptions to the contrary don't establish that it is.

"He might get it wrong - as you suggest with Manzoni's cans - but in this case, whatever you think about Manzoni, Britart or the Turner prize, he's got it right."

Why, because you say so? That's not good enough for me, not by a long shot. I see a man who is willing to buy soiled knickers, host empty rooms with lights flickering and pay 40 times its weight in gold for canned feces, turning down actual paintings as being of insufficient quality or originality for the Tate, and I see an idiot who's revealed himself and his institution for the shams that I've always felt they were. From where I'm standing, the Stuckists are far more "daring" and "edgy" than anything Serota's buying, and your own expressions of outrage confirm my point of view.

"since you have made clear that you don't consider Emin's work worthy anyway, this doesn't mean the Stuckists' is."

On the scale of unworthiness, she ranks far higher than they do, and that Serota can make room for her and not them is damning in my eyes, as it proves him a cowardly slave to the fashionable whims of a small, pretentious, inbred coterie.

"You don't like [Ofili's] work, that's your prerogative"

The same goes for you and the people you dismiss as "untalented nobodies."

"but you can't use the same criteria to dismiss his work that you would use for say, Emin."

And why not? I find "art" made from excretory materials inherently offensive, however safe said materials have supposedly been rendered, and I don't think much of "artists" capable of engaging in such cheap gimmickry, especially when they dress it up in mumbo jumbo about non-existent "African" traditions revolving around elephant dung. In any case, I can also use the same criteria which *you* use to dismiss the Stuckists, which basically comes down to "because I say so."

You don't like the Stuckists, fine, but don't expect me to simply swallow your vehement assertions of their worthlessness as if they were anything than statements of your own idiosyncratic aesthetic preferences. That Nicholas Serota of all people should be applauded for rejecting their gift is something I find utterly absurd: even if he were right, it would only be purely by accident, as the only aesthetic weathervane by which he appears to operate is how trendy something is amongst the charmed circle of those "in the know."

dsquared

[all that representational crap is just too boring and unoriginal to be worth collecting]

Abiola, have you been to the Tate? It's free and it's quite worth a look.

Frank McGahon

"That Serota sees fit to reject them while buying all sorts of far more pretentious rubbish says a great deal about him and the art establishment in my view, and I don't see why you're congratulating him for outing himself as a slavish follower of capricious fashionable opinion."

I am specifically congratulating him for rejecting the donation offered and nothing more. I don't think this selection merits inclusion (of which more later) in a collection such as the Tate's. This conclusion can be made on the basis of the work itself without any reference to mistakes Serota might have made with previous acquisitions.

Let's say we agree that the Tate has a large, prestigious collection of art. Now, your position appears to be that Serota is a) sullying that name by acquiring soiled knickers and the like, b) granting a group of (shameless, untalented hack) artists unwarranted prestige and c) wasting taxpayer's money while he's at it. Let's say, for the purposes of argument, I agree with you. I don't see how you can get from those premises to the conclusion that he should accept this "free"* donation without making the case that these are worthy artworks in their own right. If this conclusion is based on the notion that he'll take any old crap so any old crap will do, why pick this "old crap" in particular? Why not announce that the Tate will collect (and possibly exhibit!) any artwork donated by anyone?

"If your paintings can manage to draw as big a crowd as the Stuckists' have"

Big crowds? The Times piece references "thousands" of visitors to the Walker Art Gallery (open 7 days a week) over five months. Let's be really generous and say "thousands" means 9,000. That's about 60 people a day. 60 people a day is slow business no matter what way you look at it. The small provincial art groups you disparage would probably be disappointed with such a small turnout for any of their group shows. The argument that these paintings would attract visitors to the Tate modern doesn't add up. The Tate modern had 4.7m visitors last year, about 12,800 per day

PDF report here:

http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/tm_5yearspublication.pdf

"You don't like the Stuckists, fine, but don't expect me to simply swallow your vehement assertions of their worthlessness as if they were anything than statements of your own idiosyncratic aesthetic preferences"

Well I don't expect you to. You should remember from our previous discussions (Proust versus Dan Brown) that I don't believe that any art has "intrinsic" value. When I say that their work, as evidenced by this collection, is rubbish, meretricious, crap or that they are untalented, I do mean that this is my personal idiosyncratic preference, But I also mean that I find it hard to credit that anyone who values any kind of visual art which is celebrated by posterity could also value this work. I even find it hard to credit that anyone who values supposedly "lower" forms of art such as comic books, graphic design or advertising where a far greater imagination, skill, sense of proportion, light, or space is typically displayed than the stuff offered to the Tate.

Or put it another way, you claim that you appreciate the stuckist's work. Is there a particular painting on that list that you do like, that you would quite happily pay for it or a print of it to hang on your wall? Which one? "Dog and Cat Underwater
", "My Mother's Last Cigarette"? Or do you just like the idea that they claim to be fighting the good fight for representational art (against the strawman that representational art isn't appreciated)?

I suggest that any sober, blind (i.e. without knowing anything of their publicity stunts) evaluation of their art on any ordinary artistic criteria would find it wanting and that they are simply hijacking this notion that representational art is out of favour to garner publicity.

* The people who would benefit most by this "free" donation would be the stuckists themselves - the loss represented by the value of the paintings donated would pale in significance to the increased value of their work given the association with the Tate.

Frank McGahon

"No, that their art has *already* proven popular with a paying audience just might have a thing or two to do with it"

Oh, by the way, entry to the Walker Art Gallery is free. It has a permanent collection alongside the temporary exhibitions and it's not unreasonable to conclude that many of the "thousands" who "flocked" to see the Stuckist's "Punk Victorian" exhibition merely wandered in while they were visiting the gallery anyway.

dsquared

quite, and while the Walker Gallery is free, the Royal Academy's "Sensations" exhibition was bloody expensive and it packed them out for three months with at least a hundred thousand visitors.

(btw, there's no such thing as a "free" painting unless the stuckists would be happy to see their work stacked up in a skip in the back yard of the Tate. Storage costs money and space is limited).

Abiola Lapite

"Abiola, have you been to the Tate? It's free and it's quite worth a look."

Erm, yes, I've been there several times.

"I don't think this selection merits inclusion (of which more later) in a collection such as the Tate's. This conclusion can be made on the basis of the work itself without any reference to mistakes Serota might have made with previous acquisitions."

No, you're wrong. Assign the average work in Serota's collection a rating of -2, and even if everything the Stuckists had was a -1, the average rating of the collection would *still* go up. It's ridiculous to talk of meriting inclusion in a collection without making reference to what that collection already contains.

"Or put it another way, you claim that you appreciate the stuckist's work."

Where have I explicitly made such a claim? What I *do* believe is that whatever their merits, they aren't nearly as atrocious as a lot of stuff Serota's more than happy to display, and it's important to send a message to young artists that actual art which doesn't involve gimmicks like urine, feces, rotting sharks or soiled knickers is appreciated: if the message gets through, then maybe we'll start seeing paintings *everyone* will be able to appreciate on their own terms.

"against the strawman that representational art isn't appreciated"

Why is it a strawman, again, simply because you say so? Where have all those painters been on the Turner Prize lists for the last 9 years if you have a point? Of the three artists you bothered to name, one is an old man whose international fame already guarantees him coverage no matter what the current atmosphere is like, another is a coprophiliac b.s. artist, and only *one* can truly be said to be a painter in the traditional sense of the term - and even she's not above the cheap gimmick of painting fat women over and over and over again.

"I suggest that any sober, blind (i.e. without knowing anything of their publicity stunts) evaluation of their art on any ordinary artistic criteria would find it wanting and that they are simply hijacking this notion that representational art is out of favour to garner publicity"

And I suggest that any aober, blind evaluation of their art by comparison with typical BritArt shite would still come to the conclusion that it's a drastic improvement.

"The people who would benefit most by this "free" donation would be the stuckists themselves - the loss represented by the value of the paintings donated would pale in significance to the increased value of their work given the association with the Tate"

And why is this a *bad* thing? If it sends out the message that the way to outrage the establishment is to actually (gasp!) paint, maybe someone might get the notion of shocking them out of their wits by actually painting *well.*

"there's no such thing as a "free" painting unless the stuckists would be happy to see their work stacked up in a skip in the back yard of the Tate. Storage costs money and space is limited"

The money for storage can be raised easily enough by selling Manzoni's crap-in-a-can on to some fool or other.

dsquared

As I've mentioned a few times before, Tracey Emin has done a whole series of female nudes although I believe they all sold through the White Cube gallery and the Tate didn't pick them up.

Gillian Carnegie has been nominated for the Turner Prize this year, by the way, for representational paintings that are vastly and obviously better than the stuff linked to above.

While you were wandering through the Tate, Abiola, did you notice that there were paintings on the walls? And that many of these paintings were paintings of things. Not photo-realistic "representations" in general, but then nor are the Stuckist ones you've linked to above.

Frank McGahon

"No, you're wrong. Assign the average work in Serota's collection a rating of -2, and even if everything the Stuckists had was a -1, the average rating of the collection would *still* go up. It's ridiculous to talk of meriting inclusion in a collection without making reference to what that collection already contains."

Huh? The Tate's collection is vast, the Britart stuff is a tiny portion of it. It's even a small portion of recent acquisitions if you check the list. You can maintain (with a straight face) that the average rating of the Stuckists' stuff is +1 than the average rating of the Tate's entire collection but you will find few who would agree with that assessment, even from among those who detest Hirst et. al.

In mentioning that the Tate's collection was prestigious and that there was some cachet associated with being included in it, I implicitly made reference to the existing collection in my assessment that this collection wasn't worthy. That Serota has bought some other works which might not have been worthy of inclusion either doesn't change that conclusion.

"Why is it a strawman, again, simply because you say so? Where have all those painters been on the Turner Prize lists for the last 9 years if you have a point? "

Which speaks only to the priorities of the Turner prize and not the wider art world or the viewing public. Representational art is still popular and is still feted, just not the crap put out by the Stuckists. In any case, it's not as if painters or representational artists (not necessarily the same thing) have been completely ignored by the Turner Prize anyway. Photographers and Filmmakers are representational artists - who's to say that Michelangelo wouldn't have used a camera if he could? - You don't like Ofili but he happens to be a representational painter and won the damn thing. Other representational painters shortlisted include Gary Hume and arguably Grayson Perry. Now, I have no interest in defending Hume or Perry on artistic grounds, you might say their work is rubbish as you implied with Saville. But what you can't say is that the "establishment" (not synonymous with the Turner prize jury) is opposed to painting or representational art or painted representational art *per se* whatever the self-serving Stuckist manifesto might claim.

"And why is this a *bad* thing? If it sends out the message that the way to outrage the establishment is to actually (gasp!) paint, maybe someone might get the notion of shocking them out of their wits by actually painting *well.*"

It's not a bad thing for the Stuckists to be sure but I can't see how anyone else would benefit. Unless the stuckist art is worthy of feting on grounds of artistic merit - I think it most definitely isn't and you have resisted making this claim - the only messge you are sending is, whatever you do, paint things, badly, but make sure to make a big self-pitying hullabaloo about it, and you will be successful.

"can truly be said to be a painter in the traditional sense of the term - and even she's not above the cheap gimmick of painting fat women over and over and over again."

Well it worked for Renoir and Rubens!

Abiola Lapite

"Gillian Carnegie has been nominated for the Turner Prize this year, by the way, for representational paintings that are vastly and obviously better than the stuff linked to above."

Indeed she has, and *that* is the single most shocking thing about this year's list of nominees, which says a great deal in my opinion. An environment in which one can be "controversial" for actually being a technically skilled painter who doesn't stoop to using outrageous themes to gin up publicity is a deeply unhealthy one. Of course, the mere fact that ordinary members of the public will be able to appreciate her work without 50 pages of pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook to explain it pretty much suffices to guarantee she won't win ...

Asia Argento

I think some of the Stuckists are absolutely brilliant! Some of course are crap, but that will be true of any group of artists.

But if you have any question as to whether there is something to the Stuckists or not, look at the work by Joe Machine, Wolf Howard, Remy Noe, Jesse Richards, Daniel Pincham-Phipps and Philip Absolon. Their work is fantastic and has more right to be in the Tate then any of their new acquisitions.

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