Auction houses on occasion write essays for specific works of art. The occasion is the sale of that work, and the estimated value of the work determines whether an essay is warranted. Of the 23 works by Gerhard Richter for auction during Frieze Week, nine are accompanied by essays. The threshold for getting an essay seems to be £200,000.
This episode of ASMRt consists of me reading all nine essays published by Phillips, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s, about the nine most expensive Richters being sold this week.
Besides the obvious emphasis on the artist’s own significance, a recurring theme is the relation of each painting to his most significant bodies of work. Specifically, many works are described as referencing or prefiguring other, better known or more important work.
Which, if you think about it, implicitly argues for the relative lower significance of the work at hand. But it is here, it is for sale, and a case must be made, and something must be written. So here is an hour-long recording that doesn’t need to be listened to of texts that don’t need to be read. Links to the individual lots are after the jump.
The middle of three 5 x 4-ft offset lithograph panels in Robert Rauschenberg’s Autobiography contains a dizzying spiral of text featuring key moments of the artist’s life, as well as an extensive list of artworks.
When Oliver mentioned it on twitter the other day, I realized I’d never actually made it through the entire text. Now I have. I transcribed it here for this robot to read.
Five years ago today, Cady Noland learned that her 1990 sculpture Log Cabin had been destroyed and refabricated in Germany without her authorization, and that the new version (or whatever it was) had been sold to a “mystery client,” Cleveland collector Scott Mueller.
Mueller had a buyback clause in his purchase agreement, allowing him to unwind the transaction and receive his $1.4 million back if the artist contested or rejected the authenticity of the work. Which is exactly what happened. Mueller had to sue Galerie Michael Janssen to get his money back (which he presumably did; the case was ultimately withdrawn.) But in 2017 Noland, who had not been a party to Mueller’s dispute, but rather its subject, filed a copyright infringement claim against Janssen and collector Wilhelm Schürmann, for the unauthorized replication and distribution of her artwork.
Artistically, one would think it hinges on the artist’s determination of the conceptual nature of the sculpture Log Cabin Facade. Because they had a blueprint, Schürmann et al apparently figured they could refabricate the work as needed, no problem. That turns out to not be how Noland conceives of the work, however; her court case emphasizes the importance of the original logs she ordered from Montana, the stain she later instructed Schürmann to apply, and the 25 years’ patina the sculpture acquired. All of this was destroyed and replaced without her knowledge.
The document read here is one of the most recent filings in the case. It is a memorandum from the artist (via her lawyer) arguing against the defendants’ motion to dismiss her complaint, which has been amended and re-argued three times in three years.
Her claim is fairly atypical, and complicated, and Noland’s interpretation of copying, and fair use is, if successful, probably a net negative for the culture. The Office of Copyright’s denial of copyright registration to Log Cabin, however, feels like an egregious error.
This recording was made on the beach at Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The waves end up sounding like traffic to me, unfortunately, and into what seemed like a pitch black, silent night, some neighbors brought dogs and fireworks.
For the 30th anniversary of its original installation and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Public Art Fund reinstalled Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ first billboard work, “Untitled” (1989) at its original site facing Sheridan Square in the West Village. Until today, the Guggenheim also exhibited “Untitled” (1991), a stack sculpture made from 161 unsold prints originally made to support the Public Art Fund project.
This edition of Better Read is the text of the billboard, plus the artist’s statement.
A friend and colleague recently said I had a very soothing voice, I should do a podcast, and I couldn’t tell if that meant I was talking too much, or being too dadsplainy, or perhaps he was right? I generally trust his judgment, but the reason I created a podcast read by a robot is because I could not get past the annoyance all audio performers apparently deal with, of hearing a recording of one’s own voice.
Anyway, I joked that I’d make an ASMR art video, ASMRt, and the name was so damn catchy, I knew at that moment I had to do it. But what to say? What to read? Yesterday the perfect text fell from heaven [actually, Contemporary Art Daily]: the press release for Josh Smith’s first New York show since leaving Luhring Augustine for David Zwirner.
One thing led to another, and now here is a recording of me laconically reading press releases for fifteen Josh Smith solo shows between 2007 an 2019. It was recorded on June 11, 2019 an iPhone in two conference rooms at the Cleveland Park branch of the DC Public Library. Text sources are linked below. My first regret will probably be hosting this mp3 myself. My second will probably be not releasing this as an album.
Before Tico Mugrabi, Emmanuel Perrotin, Per Skarstedt, and Francesco Bonami, there was Nigo. Nigo tagged KAWS. Nigo collabo’d with KAWS. Nigo collected KAWS. Nigo commissioned KAWS. And now Nigo has sold KAWS. Some of them. At a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong named after himself.
These texts by Virgil Abloh and W. David Marx are from the print catalogue for the auction, NIGOLDENEYE®. [Nigo also started putting a registered trademark sign after his name.]
The texts seem relevant only because the main KAWS painting sold for $14.7 million, and because they articulate with unabashed uncriticality the ultimate ambition of art as a tool of capital.
Jenny Holzer made her first xenon projection in 1996 as part of a collaboration with Helmut Lang for the Biennale di Firenze. As Lang would describe it, the text, Arno, was projected from a canoe club across the river onto the facade of a brothel. [The 19th/20th c. Palazzo Bargagli held the offices of Corierre della Serra, at least. That’s all I’ve found.]
“The texts involve all the reasons to be naked or clothed — from sex to humiliation and murder,” said co-curator Ingrid Sischy to Amy Spindler. The Florence projection only ran for a few days in September, during the opening of the Biennale–and Pitti–but the text remained as LED columns in a Lucky Charms marshmallowy pavilion by Arata Isozaki, which was also where visitors could experience the fragrance Lang and Holzer developed together, that smelled, as they said often, like cigarettes, starch, and sperm.
[The six other pairings of artists & designers were: Tony Cragg & Karl Lagerfeld (lmao); Roy Lichtenstein & Gianni Versace; Julian Schnabel & Azzedine Alaia (which wut?); Mario Merz & Jil Sander (which, same, wtf); Oliver Herring & Rei Kawakubo (hmm); and Damien Hirst & Miuccia Prada (chef kissing fingers emoji).]
Holzer adapted the Arno text again for her 1998 nine-LED column permanent installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao. Catalan excerpts of it are also engraved in two large benches there now.
This installment of Better Read is the first to derive from an Instagram post. A few days ago Gavin Brown posted a picture of a text from what looks like a brochure or handout for his first show of Elizabeth Peyton’s work. The text was by Douglas Blau, and the show was mostly drawings, and in a room at the Chelsea Hotel, because that’s how people rolled in in November 1993.
In 2018, meanwhile, we apparently number our computerized readings of art-related texts slightly out of order. But there is an episode 25 in my drafts, and maybe two episode 22s, so this could be right or wrong or wrong in the other direction. Fortunately, it probably doesn’t matter, since if anyone does anything, it’ll just be to click through to Gavin’s Insta and read the damn thing yourself.
The artist Elizabeth “Betty” Stokes di Robilant was interviewed by Christie’s in May 2013. Stokes was a longtime friend of Cy Twombly. Their story and relationship and collaboration, and her later erasure from Twombly’s official story, is discussed in Chalk, a biography of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin, which was published in October 2018. Rivkin quotes the interview by Robert Brown, which was published on the occasion of the sale of a painted bronze cast of a 1966 [or 1956, or 1959, or 1980 or 1981, or 1990] sculpture Twombly gave to dee Robilant for her 10th wedding anniversary. Twombly later reworked and cast the sculpture in 1990 in an edition of five. Di Robilant’s three children each got one; she got one, and Twombly got one. Ed. 1 of 5 was sold at Christie’s London on June 25th, 2013, for GBP 1.63 million.
This, the 23rd installment of Better Read, texts that are better read aloud by a computer, was inspired by a @ballardian tweet. It is the table of contents of Simon Sellars’ new sort-of-a-novel-sort-of-a-memoir, Applied Ballardianism, which is out this month from Urbanomic. As I type that out, I fear I transcribed it as Urbanomics. Fortunately, probably no one will listen to this. I should’ve kept my trap shut. [update: I did not.]
The text in this edition is the law, S.188, first sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, who took issue with the commissioning of a $22,400 portrait of an Obama-era cabinet official who stepped down before the portrait was even finished to recover from a severe car accident.
It bans federal funds being used “for the painting of a portrait of an officer or employee of the Federal Government,” and then goes on to specify the Executive and Legislative organizations to which the law applies. There is no specific mention of the law’s applying to the Judicial branch of the federal government, or to unmentioned independent entities like the Smithsonian, NASA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Federal Reserve Bank, just to name four that come to mind. But perhaps the ban on any Federal employee is broad enough.
The implications for this law are as yet unknown. Perhaps it will lead to an expansion of photography-based portraiture, including, hypothetically, portraits by artists that rival the expense of paintings. Perhaps artists will create official paintings that are somehow not technically portraits, or at least not representational. Scott Pruitt could be depicted by a painted picture of the $25,000 concrete phone booth he had installed in his EPA office, for example. Or Ryan Zinke could be included as a small but still recognizable figure dwarfed by the active face of a giant, publicly subsidized coal stripmine.
Perhaps artists will paint the portrait for free with purchase of a frame, or a $31,000 office dining set, or a $125,000 door. Perhaps lobbyists, corporations, or others who wish to ingratiate themselves with a government official will donate their extravagantly expensive portraits, or commission them from the official’s dabbling wife. Perhaps painters will donate the portrait to an auction gala for a fake charity run by the president’s family and held at the president’s hotel, and the subject will need to bid his own portrait to a sufficiently high amount that he can keep his cabinet job another year. Or perhaps George W. Bush will paint them all.
Everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be exactly as it was, with nothing added. It was a new freedom; there was no longer the need to compose. The subject was there already made, and I could take from everything. It all belonged to me: a glass roof of a factory with its broken and patched panels, lines on a road map, a corner of a Braque painting, paper fragments in the street. It was all the same: anything goes.
This installment of Better Read is the text of the found net artwork, Embroidery Trouble Shooting Page, which was repeated as untitled (etsg) in 2015.
When I first found the page, I marveled at its beautiful folly, and dreamed of printing it as a book. Then of using it as an abstract painting composition generator. Then I accepted responsibility to publish and preserve it after its original code changed. And since then, I’ve explored the possibilities and process for printing it as a single, giant page. I expect it would fill a wall. If you have any thoughts or tips for capturing a rendered webpage as a single image, I hope you’ll get in touch. Download better_read_017_etsg_20171018.mp3 [mp3, 5:35, 2.7mb, via greg.org]
Previously: Untitled (Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide) untitled (etsg), 2015 [etsg.greg.org]
Laurie Lambrecht, Explosion, Slam, photo composition of Roy Lichtenstein’s Hand Written Word List and comic book clipping source material, made in the artist’s studio between 1990 and 1992. image via lensculture
Why did Roy Lichtenstein make word lists is not really my question. How did Roy Lichtenstein’s word lists end up in the list of his artworks catalogued by the Lichtenstein Foundation?
Both lists date from 1990. The first Handwritten Word List, feels like it fits right in. It appears to be a compilation, or a selection, of the onomatopoetic word graphics Lichtenstein famously adapted from comic books for his paintings. This list appears in at least two pictures taken between 1990 and 1992 by Laurie Lambrecht, a photographer who worked as an assistant to Lichtenstein in his studio. In the composition above, titled Explosion, Slam, it is surrounded by comics clippings. Her account of this time, inventorying Lichtenstein’s studio in preparation for his 1993 Guggenheim retrospective, mentions Polaroids, “bulging notebooks,” and a “scrapbook full of ‘Crying Girls,'” none of which apparently made the leap from archive to corpus that these lists did.
The second, Typed Word List, are all adjectives “of praise,” in an alphabetical order. Did he create it for a work? A series? A lecture? Would he consult the list when artist friends asked his opinion about their show? I mean, you could probably get away with it on the phone, but it could get awkward to use such a prompt in person. [“What’d you think?” (Pulls out list.) “Neato.”]
Or maybe he came up with the list after a heated conversation with Richard Serra, who was like, “You can’t have the verbs, Roy, they’re mine!” And Roy was like, “Fine!”
In any case, they’re both pretty beat up, well-used, and have no discernible aesthetic embellishment. I won’t say they’re not aesthetic, because they are what they are. Download Better_Read_016_Roy_Lichtenstein_Word_Lists.mp3 [2:25, 1.3mb, greg.org] Hand Written Word List, 1990 [imageduplicator.com] Typed Word List, 1990 [imageduplicator.com] Inside Roy Lichtenstein’s Studio, photos by Laurie Lambrecht [lensculture]
Kara Walker, Detail of U.S.A. Idioms, 2017, image via sikkema jenkins & co
It feels unusual to feature a current text on Better Read, but then, these are unusual times.
It strikes me that Kara Walker’s artist’s statement for her current show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. has not been considered in an expanded context. An artist’s statement, in a press release, is already fighting with two critical hands behind its back. Yet the press release is actually the artist’s title for her show. The impetus for writing any of this is presumably well understood, but here, the specific circumstances of Walker’s work, her practice, and the shitshow of a world we’re living in right now should, I believe, upend our complacent expectations.
I myself found it too easy to make quick judgments about these texts and their implications when I saw the ad for Walker’s show in Artforum, which contained the show’s title, which I’d previously ignored, because I’d taken it for a glib press release. I let the order of reception, my own subjectivity, influence my judgment, in ways that I might not have noticed without further, in-depth consideration. And yet Walker had anticipated it all. Download Better_Read_015_Kara_Walker_20170914.mp3 [6:57, 3.3mb, via greg.org] Kara Walker exhibition page [sikkemajenkinsco.com] Sikkema Jenkins’ press release with Kara Walker’s texts [pdf, sikkemajenkinsco.com]