It is always mordantly satisfying when a creative type at an ad agency steals an idea from an art star for some pedestrian television commercial. Two current examples are in rotation on your HD idiot box: an ad for an insurance company which projects images of working people onto the office buildings of Gotham, just like Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers at the Museum of Modern Art last year, and another ad for skin moisturizer which features a rhinoceros ridicuously concealed under a white bed sheet, a la Maurizio Cattelan’s elephant in Miami’s Rubell Collection.
Randy Kennedy’s wistful tribute to an anonymous Marlboro photographer, whose cowboys have been appropriated by Richard Prince, in the Dec. 6, 2007, New York Times, reminds us that turnabout is fair play, but at what point does the dance between art and commerce become a perpetual revolving door? Not so recently, fine art’s intrusion into commerce consisted of Helen Frankenthaler modeling a luxury timepiece for a magazine spread. Now art journalists (not at Artnet!) breathlessly cover Art Basel Miami Beach from the point of view of branding, and the New Museum focuses its opening parties on Calvin Klein and Radar magazine.
Conservative Senator Charles Grassley has courageously commenced hearings on the trillion-dollar nonprofit sector, which pays no taxes, subpoenaing six televangelists to open their books and examining what Grassley suspects are loose relationships with IRS requirements for tax exemption. Already Atlanta television preacher Creflo Dollar is resisting an appearance before Grassley’s committee.
Might we suggest that the Senator also subpoena the Lowrys, de Montebellos and Lisa Phillipses to justify their compensation, expenditures and use of nonprofit exhibition spaces for corporate hobnobbing under the guise of giving the working person a taste of art? The problem with America is that the elites, whether televangelically or museologically, left or right, green or gun, revolted against the anonymous U.S. masses long ago. The great unwashed are left financing these elites with a chunk withheld from their paycheck, only to be shot up in Omaha shopping malls, while the dollar falls.
Perhaps artists, who, in the great majority, are the active victims of these elites, might bite the golden hand once in awhile instead of licking it like servile dogs.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).