19 June 2006

Repeating the Done and Over

i think it's a bit untoward of me to post again after only a couple of days but felt a strong need to share this with you. in the current issue of _the economist_ is an article called “painting by numbers” (page 64 in June 10th if anyone else is into that rag).

it notes the recent sales of chinese art at sotheby’s and christie’s (one auction brought $27M for 150 works, or an average of $180K apiece); wang guangyi’s “pop art revolution paintings featuring Western consumer brands” are selling for $500K apiece; zhang xiaogang sold a work for $1M. ergo, chinese art is improving as it becomes more open to western influence, etc. (is warhol spinning in his grave, or only chuckling?)

but that’s hong kong. on the mainland, where exposure to art is limited, there is a place called the “oil painting village” in dafen. there are 700 galleries there. what is sold there are mostly fakes, “hand-copied with startling accuracy,” that sell for a coupla bucks.

“painter workers” produce these works in an assembly-line fashion. each painter works on several canvases at a time, filling in the same patch on the canvas, then hand it off to the next painterworker. a p.w. produces about 200 paintings a month, and earns about $188/month, which ain’t hay in that part of the world. 5000 p.w.’s crank out the replicas, and there are also 3000 skilled artists are known as “painters.”

gallery owners take orders from mostly international customers---a popular order of the moment is to paint the last supper to include mary magdalene, a la _da vinci code_ (!). the customers are nouveau rich russians and middle easterners, as well as folk with florida condos (i can hardly bear to think of this last). the rising chinese middle class is buying too, as home ownership and interest in decor has risen.

a movement toward original art is starting, but these paintings are bringing only about $200 apiece.

sorry to trouble you with this belabored tale, but what struck me as i read this dismaying article is that we in this country HAVE the freedom to stop repeating the old and done---and for the most part, we don’t use it. these are people who DON’T have that freedom.

i like blonde’s suggestion (tho perhaps i only inferred it) that movements may be cyclical rather than linear (i can’t deal with the whole linear premise myself), and i like lance saying “getting over it” to curt’s “get over it.” i hear lance saying “writing is writing,” and in a way i’m agreeing when i say we have to follow our impulses (even, i add, as we analyze their sources). i see art as being very much tied to the sorts of economic machinery described in _the economist_ (and other kinds of machinery too---other fora for oppression such as sex, race, etc.), so i would not say “writing is writing” so much as i would say “writing is what we make it as per our individual capacities to evade said machineries.”




Anonymous said...

"a movement toward original art is starting, but these paintings are bringing only about $200 apiece."


Okay, check out ebay where those "hand painted' paintings from China sell for about .01 plus shipping, with the consequence being that American artists' paintings on ebay are devalued, especially when most ebayers are not savvy enough to distinguish original art from the fakes and repros. This is a real problem for legitimate, original self-representing artists on Ebay, especially when the listings gets flooded with repros and folks don't have the time to search through the listings. I am *not* making any kind of an analogy here - and I like your analogy a lot -- but I just wanted to direct your attention to the further economic onsequences as they cycle back to the US, and I haven't seen that Economist article that you mention. I will check it out because this has been a long-time interest of mine because I have this secret life of buying and selling original paintings on ebay. ;) There's a long economic story there, too.

Of course, there is an analogy here, after all -- the way that some artists on ebay standout is by establishing their own websites and self-promoting off ebay. And as I have studied the ebay art market, many of them -- the aggressive self-promoters -- are doing quite well. For example: www.therawartist.com This woman is an amazing example of a self-promoting artist who has seized the means of distribution.

PS Right now, I just feel like being anonymous. So glad to find you guys' blog. Actually, these are ideas that I have been exploring for several years now. Diane


Cheesy said...

Hey Kass

Any chance you could start using capital letters? If not, perhaps you could share with us the (I'm sure, very good) reasons for this irritating and somewhat pretentious affectation.



Joe Amato said...

well heck, seeing as how she's caught up with naropa here through the rest of the day, i think i'll rush to my spouse's defense!... i started writing email in lowercase probably within months of starting to write email, sometime in 1991... i also picked up this annoying, if not pretentious, affectation of ending all sentences in an ellipse...

why, i'm not sure... i saw someone else do it, and thought, Why not?... so i now do it myself... lowercase + ellipses seemed at the time to suggest more intimacy (and lord knows, my posts could use some of that), and perhaps some freedom from more rigid presentational constraints, AND perhaps the implication that there is more between the sentences (as we know there is), but now it's just habit...

when i first "met" kass, in 1994, ONLINE (yep---through a mutual friend who simply thought two writers she knew should be in touch about writing), i was pleased to see that she, too, wrote in lowercase (albeit w/o my annoying, pretentious ellipses, which are perhaps no more annoying or pretentious than online pseudonyms like "cheesy" -- me, i used to go by "tomato")...

these days we both tend to switch back and forth between standard style and our old online style...

too much information?... at any rate, as we used to say, Hope this helps...