Art Freak (a.k.a Jump!)
Are you an art freak? I certainly am.
If you're reading this, you're probably close to being one. If not, continue reading while I try to recruit you.
I'm convinced that most people would be art freaks if they had a true understanding of contemporary art ... or any art for that matter. Here's the secret. You don't HAVE to understand art at all! That's the beauty of it.
Do you have eyes? Can you see? Do you have a mind? Can you think? Do you have a heart? Can you feel?
If your answer to all of the above questions is yes, then you're completely qualified to be an art freak. Simple as that.
Before I began collecting and writing about art, I was so intimidated by the art world, critics and art snobs. Brace yourself. They come with the gig. Then one day I realized that ego and politics invade everything, including art. People who aren't freaks about anything often need to prove their value to the world. They do this by inflating their own sense of importance. As a result, they create this veneer of superiority and become snobs. Everything becomes about THEM and their actual lack of self esteem. Sad.
However, if you're a freak, you're free. Being a freak means it's not about YOU, it's about THE CAUSE. If you're a freak, you'll likely want to share that passion with others. You'll share that passion freely. Passion begets passion. It's about joy and the joy of sharing. It's about reaching out, not repelling.
Okay, let me be real. I can't turn everyone into an art freak. However, consider this. Do you have anything in your life that you're passionate about? If your answer to that question is no, then WOE unto you. Do yourself a favor and find your passion ... find your inner freak. Freak doesn't have to mean freaky, it simply means spirit ... joy ... and yes, passion.
Are we here in this world to slave away every day like robots, never feeding our souls? Are we here to have no life? The very fact that we're alive means that we MUST have a passion. Lust and passion are what created us, are they not? All work and no play actually make Jack a miserable boy and Jill a bitter pill.
As I'm writing this, I'm preparing for a big day at Art Basel Miami Beach 2011. It's going to be great. I'm going to jump head first into my passion; contemporary art. It's a visual feast of life. My eyes are going to dance, my mind is going to be spellbound and my heart is going to go pitter-pat.
As the world runs amok in search of money, power and fame, I'll actually have a life. I won't be an angry critic, I'll be a happy participant. Isn't this what life is about? Those who can ... do.
For me, art is an all-consuming, ever-evolving, never-ending, drop-dead joyride. It wakes me up, energizes me and feeds my soul. Isn't it time you fed your soul?
How did I get this way, you ask? I don't know. I just dove in. I heard Van Halen's "Jump" and I decided to jump. I didn't jump off a bridge, but I jumped into life. My life.
Yes, I'm an art freak. Are YOU an art freak? If not, I suggest you become a freak about something. That's the art of living. Just grab your fear by the throat, bring it with you wherever you go and JUMP! Jump into your spirit, jump into your passion, jump into your reason for being and jump into your life.
Just don't jump off a bridge.
I'm thrilled to say that on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, I was awarded a registered trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It's for my art book series, "A Collector's Journal," which is the subtitle of all of my books. I really felt the need to claim ownership to "A Collector's Journal" because I feel that it really captures my life and experiences as an art collector and passion for contemporary art. My books are now truly a "brand." It's a great marketing tool, but I also pursued it as a way to prove to myself my own commitment to something bigger than myself. Art is totally worth it. Through "A Collector's Journal," I want other people to know that contemporary art belongs to them, not just art academics, administrators, critics or scholars. Art rocks! Claim it. From now on, when you see the subtitle of my books, it'll appear like this ... A Collector's Journal®. Cheers.
Toot Your Own Horn
I was just thinking about something that happened during my recent ArtHamptons trip. I was chatting with an art dealer about some really cool paintings the gallery was showing. I was really stunned by the work which seemed to be fresh and innovative. We chatted for about fifteen minutes which is a decent amount of time at these art fairs considering the large crowds that come and go. After talking with the dealer, I turned around and saw someone standing there and I said something like, "Aren't these great?" And the person replied, "Thank you." After that, I said, "Oh? Are you the artist?" Sure enough, it was indeed the artist. I got excited and asked the artist if he/she would be willing to perhaps do an interview with me at a later date, but pose for a quick picture now in front of the paintings. At this point, the very shy artist was very reluctant and the dealer's assistant literally had to push the artist to pose. Okay, here's the thing. I've come across SO MANY artists who seem SO ridiculously shy about promoting themselves and their work. You guys have really got to get over this. IF YOU DON'T TOOT YOUR HORN WHO WILL? Yes, you can pay representatives to promote you, but no one can do a better job at promoting your work and ideas than you. We live in the age of self-promotion. It's a necessary part of ANY job today ... I don't care what you do for a living. I totally understand that the artist is shy and modest, but I must also say that shyness and modesty often get interpreted as disinterest. The artist didn't seem all that excited by the work so I kind of lost interest myself. Do you know what I mean? I don't know guys. No one is asking you to be so excited that you talk and laugh like Woody Woodpecker. However, a little enthusiasm might actually sell a painting or two.
What do I collect?
Another artist just asked me what art I collect. I've answered this question many times, but this time I think I have it nailed. Here's my "final" answer. I collect everything really. If I had to choose a genre to focus on, it would be figurative realism, but fortunately, I don't have to choose. I simply collect "emerging art" that moves me. I never know what moves me until I see it. It usually isn't about whether I "like" it or not, it's about what I feel connected to. Since I'm not rich or well to do, my options are narrow, but designer Charles Eames once said, "Design depends largely upon constraints," so I design my life knowing that constraints will always be there. This actually presents a kind of freedom in itself. I think that if you already have limitations placed on you, then you really don't have to please anyone but yourself and so, this is how I collect art.
I was chatting online this morning with artist Jacqueline Jones. She lives in Wales, up in the Welsh mountains where she says it rains alot. I love her work, which some people might classify as "outsider" or maybe "expressionist." I don't know. As time goes on, I'm losing the need to categorize art. I just react to what appeals to me in an abstract way, I guess. Anyway, Jacqueline told me that she has been painting non-stop and has sold quite a few paintings of late. "People seem to get my work now more than say ten years ago!" she said. However, I told her that I think it has more to do with the fact that she simply hasn't given up. It's so easy to quit when you're seeing that fame and riches are coming, but if you hang in there and remain true to yourself and your art, something positive has GOT to happen. It seems to be happening for Jacqueline. We've kept in touch across the pond over these years and I'm thrilled that her productivity and tenacity are beginning to pay off! Oh, here's a link to her website ... http://gator1040.hostgator.com/~jacqueli/
DIY Contemporary Art
Well, the day has finally arrived. I knew it would. Since we live in the age where practically everyone thinks they can do practically everyone else's job, it was just a matter of time. You can barely change a channel on TV without seeing it. DIY (Cue dramatic music here). Yup. "Do It Yourself" Contemporary Art has arrived and proponents of it are deadly serious. Websites are sprouting up and people with merely a passing interest in art are obviously being convinced that yes, they too can be artists. Basically, I'm talking about what will eventually become everyone and their grandmother. You know how this DIY movement works ... first it gobbled up home repair, then home design and now contemporary art has become its next tasty morsel. Artists, you guys are SO screwed right now. You better do something and quick. Might I suggest you do some more self-promotion and make your work more accessible? It's actually fantastic that more and more people are tapping into their own "creativity," if you will. That's a great thing. Yet, is this whole DIY art thing truly a threat? Perhaps not. However, watching and waiting to find out is probably not the best course of action for already struggling artists. I don't know ... I'm just sayin'. If you don't believe me, check out this link ... http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/how-to-create-your-own-boxi-damien-hirst-banksy-or-marc-quinn-contemporary-art-masterpiece-2009347.html
While I was at work yesterday morning, one of my colleagues and I were Googling something. As Google popped up, I thought to myself, "Oh cool! Jeff Koons!" It was a brilliantly colorful photograph of his huge, balloon-like, fiberglass sculptures.
Seconds later, my co-worker Hyacinth said, "Oh, that's beautiful!" "Yeah, it's Jeff Koons," I said, referring to the wallpaper image on the Google main page. "They're really getting artsy," I added. At that moment, it seemed to me that this was another small victory for art. Someone had stuck their neck out for art by actually putting it out there in a bold way.
FAST FORWARD ABOUT 24 HOURS
I got online this morning to check my email and Facebook before getting ready for another day at work. I checked the art headlines and there it was ...
"GOOGLE DROPS BACKGROUND IMAGES ON HOMEPAGE AMID OUTCRY"
"What?" I thought. They JUST started doing it yesterday! Most people probably didn't even get to see it. Long story short, I guess Google got so many complaints from people who didn't like the background images that they decided to stop using them after only ONE DAY. Apparently, some users felt that they didn't have the ability to "opt out" and preferred having the traditional, Google white screen that we've all come to know and disregard.
Let me add a little perspective. Just a few weeks ago, CBS Sunday Morning did a cool piece on Google's art department. It focused on how Google artists planned to use art on the website to make creative statements. Watching this piece, I felt that this was so cool and progressive. Google really did appear to be the forward thinking company it wants the public to perceive it to be.
Now ... this nonsense from people claiming to prefer the white screen. Do you know what this is ultimately about? People who don't like change. Even small, basically benign changes disturb and disrupt people. As a society, we often think that our political and corporate leaders just "DON'T GET IT," but you know what? Sometimes WE are the ones who won't budge. Sometimes WE are the ones who need to take the sticks out of our asses. Really.
Who doesn't enjoy a lovely picture? Was Google ripping off Bing's wallpaper idea? Was there some evil purpose behind the Koons scene? Maybe, but I doubt it. I think the Google staffers were just getting artsy and creative. They were having fun. God forbid. I'm glad they've retained the wallpaper as an option, at least. You know, as a society, we always talk about "getting creative" to come up with solutions to problems. Bringing a little art into your life, or even your day at work is one of the easiest ways to bring out the visionary in us all. I'm thrilled that Google recognizes this. The real question is ... do WE deserve it? Clearly not all of us.
AmericanStyle's Top 25 Cities For Art
Earlier today, I was perusing the art magazine rack as usual at the bookstore when my eyes locked on a foregone conclusion.
The AmericanStyle magazine (Summer 2010 issue) headline was abuzz in yellow and black ...
"TOP 25 CITIES FOR ART" Ping! Sold!
There's something about lists, particularly AmericanStyle's rankings of the top American art cities that really grab me. Of course, the lists themselves aren't all that surprising. New York City is usually number one followed by Chicago and Los Angeles factors in somewhere too. Yet what I really love about the rankings is the fact that the publication ranks large, medium and small cities on the art scale. It's really cool.
Who knew Saugatuck, Michigan is a serious art town complete with art school or that Asheville, North Carolina is undergoing an art renaissance? Well, okay, I did know about Asheville, but I haven't visited there yet, but I will in the near future.
For me, that's really the whole point of this issue. You get to flip through it, like I'm doing right now and get a snapshot of art communities around the nation. Art is everywhere. Art is being created and enjoyed everywhere ... not just in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and other expected places, but in spaces far and away ... here and there.
There's a whole, big art world out there. So much art, so little time. Still, let's explore. http://www.americanstyle.com/current-issue/
Dennis Hopper Dies
Like most folks, I never knew Dennis Hopper. Nor did I ever really see any of his films. Yes, he did cult classics like "Easy Rider" and "Blue Velvet," but Dennis Hopper never really appealed to me as an actor.
One day, I was watching some television show. I can't recall what, but Hopper was on it talking about something that we totally had in common. Art. He was giving the cameras a tour of his home which was filled with art. I seem to recall him showing an Andy Warhol and maybe also a Robert Rauschenberg piece hanging on his walls. It was a really cool place. Hopper seemed to be not merely a collector, but also a patron ... in the most unpretentious sense of the word. He was actually friends with artists and didn't treat them like lowly producers whose main purpose was to satisfy his consumption cravings.
Then, he said something that really hit me and ignited a dream. He talked about wanting to build an "art barn." For some reason, the term "art barn" really resonated with me. It gave me the desire to create something bigger than just an art collection. I wanted to build my own, huge "art barn" and fill it with my own beloved art and other things I liked. Hopper was really on to something.
It's a term that means so much to me now. Those two small words put together really work. Don't they? "Art" implies creativity, insight and sophistication while "barn" speaks to a relaxing, rural, laid back life on the prairie or rolling hills away from it all. By the way, I'm not implying that country life is an easy life. I'm just saying that the whole term, "art barn" really captures my own personal view of art and how we as human beings should relate to it. Art is so many things, but most of all, it should be approachable and we should have a relaxed not uptight relationship with it.
Who on earth would turn down an art barn? It just seems so right ... so perfect for whatever is ailing your needy soul. The art would feed you and the barn would be the shelter. It would be great to own an art barn outside of Venice, California where Hopper lived. You could have the best of all worlds ... the city, the beach and a fantastic, quiet place in the hills to rest your weary head.
I knew Hopper was fighting prostate cancer and I'm so sorry to hear that he lost that battle. He was 74. I saw late photos of him and he had clearly lost alot of weight. There's no escaping the human condition is there? Death catches up with us all. At least Hopper died at home and not in some impersonal hospital or clinic.
Maybe I'll go out and rent a couple of his films. I never knew Dennis Hopper, but I kinda knew him. He gave me an art barn ... a humble dream to build on. Thanks Dennis!
I was combing through my local discount bookstore the other day and found a gem. "Juan Usle: Open Rooms." I must admit that I had never heard of this Spanish artist, but it was only a matter of time. I love contemporary Spanish and Latin American art. There's something about the work of these artists that just strikes a chord in me. Usle's abstracts are powerful and passionate, yet very modern and orderly at the same time. Flipping through the book, I can see that his work is highly textural, not just in terms of materiality, but also life experience, which matters most. I'm so glad that I found this book. If I could afford it (that's always the issue), I would do backflips to own some of his work. Just fantastic. Now I have to keep my eyes open for him on future art trips. Here's a link for you. http://www.cheimread.com/artists/juan-usle/
For some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about the $123 million art heist that took place at the Paris Museum of Modern Art this week. I even had a dream about Paris last night and I've never been to Paris, although it has been a long time dream of mine to visit. I dreamed a dream.
Anyway, Parisian authorities said a lone thief broke through a window of the museum where the security system was broken and made off with a Matisse, a Picasso and a Modigliani among other great works. He reportedly removed the paintings from their frames and fled. Inside job? Hmm.
You know, there's something about art heists that make them seem so sleek and glamorous. I think it's probably because Hollywood has done its fair share of films about art heists. Perhaps it's also because art is so often associated with the wealthy, jet-setting glitterati. It takes a smooth criminal, in the Michael Jackson sense, to pull off an art heist.
Why would anyone steal art? Especially art from a well known institution where any burglary incident would make headline news all over the world? Re-selling the stash couldn't be easy, even on the black market. Everyone would know the art is "hot" ... and not in a good way either. Even if the obviously wealthy buyer acquired the stolen goods, they certainly couldn't throw a party and show it off. I mean, how would that work? What would you say to people?
"Hey, wanna come over to the house and see my stolen Picasso?"
And what idiot would accept such an invitation? Checking out the ill gotten gain wouldn't necessarily make you an accessory to the crime, but it would certainly create a moral dilemma. Should you report the stolen goods? Uh ... Yeah!
Another thing. The very act of walking out of a museum carrying a painting ... isn't it so odd? I mean, those masterpieces are really in the public domain at this point. So when thieves steal art of such high repute, aren't they really stealing from all of us? I mean, I've never seen those paintings in person. Wouldn't you like to? Now, we may never get the chance.
I remember when I was a kid, my mom kept a bunch of loose change in a Maxwell House Coffee can on the top shelf in a closet in her bedroom. You know where I'm going with this. Somehow, I had gotten wind of it and when she wasn't around, I would occasionally get a chair, climb onto it and grab the can that was mostly full of quarters. I recall hearing it jingle and rattle as I pulled it down toward me. I would often reach in and grab a few quarters before putting it back up on the shelf, never thinking my mom would one day smell a rat. By the way, I always used the stolen cash to order cool books that you could buy through the Weekly Readers at school. Remember Weekly Readers? I didn't spend the stash on candy or toys, but books! Yes, I was a dweeb even way back then.
One day my mom noticed that her coin can was running low. She asked me if I had taken any money from the can and I lied about it. Well, you know what happened next ...
I got the ass whipping of my life.
Stealing is probably the worst of all crimes ... right behind murder. It's selfish and vile. It totally ignores the fact that the rightful owners probably busted their asses getting the coveted items the old fashioned way ... they EARNED it.
Perhaps that's why I've been thinking about this Parisian art heist. Once again, my own childhood has come back in an unsuspecting way. Could you say thievery is a childish act? Certainly.
I don't know. All of this has been bubbling in my head this week. I'm glad that I've finally gotten it down on paper. Will those stolen masterpieces ever see the light of day? Maybe. Maybe not.
All I know is ... if the thief is ever caught, he (or she) should get the very same thing that I got when I was caught with my hand in the Maxwell House Coffee can ...
He should get the ass whipping of his life.
Why Don't More People Buy Art?
The other day, I was reading a blog where an artist asked what is perhaps the most uttered question in the art world. Why don't more people buy art?
As an avid collector, I might be the best and worst person to answer this question, but here's my best shot. First of all, I think there are many reasons why more people don't buy art. It's not one single thing. However, to best answer this question, I can look back at my own collecting habit these past 18 months or so. I haven't actually bought that much art, but I have committed to buying certain things from some patient artist friends. Even for someone like me who basically breathes, eats and sleeps art, it's tough. Do you really want to know why more people don't buy art? LIFE. That's right, life.
In the past 18 months, so much has happened. I don't need to go into the whole economic slump thing because, quite frankly, most people weren't buying art even when the economy was on fire. Art is at the very bottom of most peoples' priority lists ... that's if it's even on their lists at all. I hate to admit this, but even for me, art remains a "luxury" item. As we all know, luxury items get pushed to the back while life's necessities always take center stage. For example, last month I finally had to get some work done on my car. Nothing major ... just maintenance work. Needless to say, by the time they were done, I was forking over $700.00. Also, my dentist recently told me that I'll need a crown on one of my teeth soon. Despite the fact that I have dental insurance, it's going to set me back $500.00. As you know, both of those bills combined are chump change compared to what well heeled collectors spend on art. In addition, summer is almost here and I have to plan my vacation, which will be an art trip of course, so that's going to cost a nice chunk of money. Then I have the obligatory personal bills and the expenses associated with writing my books and then, before you know it, the holidays will be rolling around ...
It's like this endless death spiral of money coming in, yet swirling around you and flying away before you can even touch it. I consider myself to be fairly good with money, but like most people, I have to work for it and I'm far from rich. This is part of the price you pay when you're not wealthy. Yet even more than finances, life circumstances always seem dictate what we will or won't buy. But back to the whole "life" thing for a moment ...
One of my book consultants is a plein air artist named Ronald Bowles. He's quite dedicated. In fact, he's been known to paint in the rain. Some of his colleagues call him, "Rainman." Anyway, Ron has eight kids. How he finds time to paint is beyond me. One day, while talking with him on the phone, I asked him what his life is like with eight kids. Can you imagine? He replied ...
"Well, you just have to be ready for anything to happen at any moment!"
Then he told me how one daughter got sick and another had a fender bender in that very same week. Life can be a real pain in the ass, can't it?
I really hate to say this, but given all of the challenges we face every day, art is not a necessity. Art is an aspiration. Even for me, a collector who owns more original art than most people will see in their lifetimes, art remains like this impossible dream. Truly. I'm sitting here, tapping on this laptop in my bedroom where the four walls are completely covered by paintings hanging salon style and still, I feel like art is beyond my reach. Every day I think about art, I write about art and I look at art and it still always seems like there's this art puppet master up there who constantly dangles these great, contemporary masterpieces over my head and just beyond my lustful grasp. It's frustrating. If even if you could afford, you just can't buy everything.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't meant to be some sob story. We all know that money is tight. No one knows this better than struggling artists. Yet, in examining my own reasons for not having bought much art recently, I realize that in order to do something you really love (like collecting art), you must have long term commitment and dedication, otherwise you'll become discouraged and quit. Despite the challenges and curve balls that life throws me, I'm a collector in this for the long haul. I see beyond tomorrow and even next year.
Like a plein air artist, you have to be willing to stick it out in the rain to be a collector because no one can really show you how to do it. You have to trust your gut and find your way. That's something many people have a tough time doing. If you can't trust your vision, how can you buy art? Buying into something you don't inherently trust can be a scary proposition.
For me, art is worth the wait. It's worth saving up my pennies. For most other people, it isn't. I know firsthand how art enriches my life and re-connects me with my own humanity. That's what keeps me collecting ... especially in the face of longer hours at work, relatives who die unexpectedly, mounting bills and the other rainstorms of life. Life makes a mess of my art endeavors ... or do my art endeavors make a mess of life?
Ultimately, you can't blame people for not buying art. People do what they know. People have their own personal priorities ... and unspoken struggles. Despite my best efforts to promote emerging artists and the joy of collecting, I realize that sometimes I may as well be talking into a black hole. You can't convert everyone.
Why don't more people buy art? Hell if I know. There are so many reasons ... life itself leading the pack.