Rear Window: Art for Everyone? Elite Art in an Age of Populism

Rear Window: Art for Everyone? Elite Art in an Age of Populism

yo seek it up in the past the ultra rich and powerful made sure that their culture was utterly distinct from that of the unwashed masses opera versus Music Hall the grand oil painting versus the cheap print but now the rich like and by art that is popular with pretty much everyone why part of the answer is of artists to transform themselves into brands just as it is we can't mistake McDonald's for other kinds of burgers with the successful artist brand they become elevated into this strange allegorical slightly robotic figure which does something very distinct over and over again with his Andy Warhol's Marilyn diptych I have a series of works that he painted shortly after her death and an iconic piece of all holes aren't drawing indeed on an iconic image of Marilyn Monroe which was very well-known repeated over and over again Warhol himself stages that repetition first in garish color and then in a kind of fading black-and-white as if the star is being gradually overexposed you might see that as a symbol of death but also a mere overexposure to Marilyn is in a sense a perfect subject for what whole he's obsessed with celebrity with money the action of the media with what the media does to people you might almost call it a critical examination except them Warhol does not oppose it exactly as embrace it and try and push it further in this work it's as if you're seeing a magazine reproduction which has gone slightly wrong when the colors are missed registered for instance you know the color of Kodachrome and those films of the era when reproduced on the page so you get a series of equally bright slightly altered garish slightly nightmarish Maryland's there's a way in which Warhol has gossiped the idea through his art that celebrity celebrity branding that it's the image which is everything the content in a sense doesn't matter okay so one can look at this Marilyn diptych and think about the figure of Marilyn herself if we wish but it's not entirely necessary or at least as an oscillation perhaps between thinking of the figure of the actor herself and the image both Marilyn and Andy as he became known were very self-conscious brands people who were often reduced to a photographic image of themselves as it were Warhol talked about how there's all only surface to him there's nothing underneath it's just the surface that's all you get there is a quite a long moment which Warhol go through when he's seen as being far too obsessed with money I was becoming rich with doing celebrity portraits all sorts of industrialists some of our uncool figures to be a really serious artist but as celebrity culture catches up with the art world then suddenly Warhol seems like a pioneering figure this is a photographic self-portrait by Sarah Lucas who became very famous in the 1990s as one of the so-called young British arts generation we see her sitting here in a very male pose with her legs open wearing clothes which are at best could be worn by males or females but particularly the shoes seemed something that a man would wear a very large slip-on and she's looking very confrontationally at the camera staring up at it and of course she's wearing on her breasts two fried eggs and this points for a rather vulgar joke working-class reference to female genitalia two fried eggs in a kebab Lukas's works are about sex about sexual desire about puns about sexual humor one of the tasks of the artist is to become an exceptional individual and with Lukas it's this apparently working-class woman who is acting out very masculine you know macho roles in various ways and it's something that she performs over and over again in different works so this is merely one of quite a large photographic series of portraits which she does in which she presents herself in this way and at the same time makes rather vulgar jokes there is definitely a strong aspect of feminist critique to Lucas's work she is saying we construct ourselves and you can see me doing it here very clearly but at the same time it's not clear that it's condemnation so very much like the work of Andy Warhol we can flip it one way or the other we might see it as critical comment on gender roles or equally as somebody loving a little bit in Media degradation with which we're surrounded this is a print by Sara Lucas and she's done something very simple she's taken a double page spread from the Sunday sport from November 1990 and she's made photocopies from it she's using a relatively small photocopy photocopier so there are four separate segments she sort of roughly stitched them together and represents them this version of the work is relatively small but she's done that very large one to just maybe about eight feet across something like that so it really confronts you in the gallery and you can read every line although this seems to be a mere copy or transcription of something that you would look at and then throw away immediately because Lucas Lucas the artist brand of this masculine feminine gender swapping apparently working-class figure has appropriated it herself then it becomes something else the very fact of taking this double page spread blowing it up it's again part of a series there's the number that she does blowing it up to the size of a history painting framing its and putting it into a white cube that in sell itself is it's both shocking but it's also media friendly all whole starts out as a commercial artist spends a lot of time drawing shoes in fact Warhol stands at the cusp of postmodern culture you might say and some of the archetypal theorists of postmodern culture have looked at his work very carefully and they thought about the difference between what you might see say when Van Gogh paints shoes when he paints peasant laborers shoe van Gogh is trying through his own intense labor in the paint surface which you can see very clearly van Gogh doesn't conceal his marks or anything like that you can see something about his organic engagement with those objects as symbols of hard labor with Warhol when he looked at paint shoes there's nothing of that and there's not meant to be what whole said over and over again don't expect any depth from the surface is all you get artists have long been famous of course successful artists are long been famous and some of them had been celebrities as well Picasso was hugely famous hugely recognizable but he was not a brand his vision of the world is extremely complex and in looking into his work there is at least the illusion of a deathlessness that he will never get to the bottom of it and with someone like Warhol that is quite different and indeed principled shallowness seems to replace that that feeling death deathlessness and with Lucas I think it's quite similar it's the same old jokes are being made the same interests are at play and that is what you would expect to the brand the brand always has to push the same line there was a definite charge in the 1990s when Lucas members of her generation started to bring in references to working-class culture and it meant for quite a long time there were many collectors and art institutions who did not take that work seriously but once this stuff gets drawn into elite culture into into into major collections like the Tate's there's another effect starts to happen the rich collectors are no longer seeking to distinguish themselves by collecting things which other people don't understand and this becomes even more marked as social media start to take on then both the museum's and indeed the collectors start to follow the public in some way I'm looking at the Instagram account of the artists Emilia almond the very fact that it's on an open and tagged Instagram feed makes it available to anybody who has access to social media which is nowadays about half the world she moves to Los Angeles and starts to present herself as a sexually available object there are pictures for instance with a tick box single no taken no busy getting money yes and of course these are all the time gathering followers on Instagram and and comments she goes through a darker phase still where she appears perhaps drug-addled some very dark pictures here of her tear-stained face at a certain point it ends and she declares what I've been doing is not real it's not straight it's all being an act for the camera and this is a very canny and critical piece of work it says something about the intense way in which social media exposes people and effects and perhaps infects every aspect of your life so this work which has become known as excellences and perfections has hugely elevated her position and the prices of her work in a sense it's a very successful self branding exercise and at the same time a critical comment on capitalist culture Warhol is the archetypal branded artist he sits at the apex of this in the sense he's one of the most expensive artists on the planet one of the most famous one of the most recognizable one of the most accessible so if you want to hang something on your living room wall which says you know I appreciate Fame and arts and money wall is it if you wanted to acquire a work like Marilyn diptych assuming it was available that you could it's going to cost you something like a hundred million dollars our truly vast sum the great difference between what the rich have on their walls and what everybody else has on their walls is that the rich have the originals

One thought on “Rear Window: Art for Everyone? Elite Art in an Age of Populism

  1. artists turning themselves into brand's is true,
    but this is all to the detriment of art, most of this is completely void of artistic merit and in the modern capitalist world salesmanship is the supreme art, and the worse the art the more respect if you can make people want it

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