Monthly Archives: January 2011

Ras le bol de Warhol! (Part 2)

Following up on yesterday’s post, here are a few words on the consequences that can be directly or indirectly  imputed to M. Warhol.

Unfortunately, pop art continues to influence entire swathes of contemporary art. The sad success of Takashi Murakami, who was recently exhibited in Versailles, gives credence to this theory. The Japanese “Neo-Pop” artist has the ambition to show to what extent mass entertainment and consumerism have determined a puerile regression of culture in Japan and the rest of western world. His theory of superflat mixes “top” and “bottom” culture, although it rather seems to introduce “bottom” culture to the “top”. You can see the introduction of the manga culture in the arts as the same as the introduction of comic strips and industrialisation in painting by pop artists. His atelier Kaikai Kiki producing Kawai (cute) products is even more efficient than Warhol’s factory.

But the case of Murakami is an even more conquering one than Warhol as people are used to the japanese manga aesthetics since their childhood. His success is due to low expectations: his work might tackle the infantilisation of society, but it does not do anything other than to expone it, with out offering any elements of analysis.  There lies the rub.

Even more than at Warhol times, television pre-determines people’s sense of aesthetics. Television and internet format people who are used to images which are too easy to decipher, with very brief argumentation and a narrative rhythm that allows no time out. An aesthetics that is found in a lot of contemporary art practices, which leaves no time for questioning, use colours in a functional way, renew sequences permanently. This is blatant at the Venice Biennale, which resembles more a theme park for smart educated adults than a challenging vision of art. This prefabricated aesthetics does not prepare people to observe and to analyse a work of art.

The proliferation of images on the internet, the immediacy of chatting and the habit of click and scrolling down will certainly not improve this aesthetic conditioning. It is possible to avoid taking an interest in Koons (or Hirst, or Murakami), but this requires taking a certain distance towards mainstream art trends. Instead why not getting in an interest in young artists, follow the work of young curators who are there to choose and stage talents while recontextualising them. Aiming at reestablishing aesthetic judgement and deepening of thinking instead of sensationalist unchallenging art.

This is what Ponyhof Gallery strives to counter. We created Ponyhof to have a quality online gallery. All the other online galleries I came across are like supermarket of art, putting next to each other like on Amazon works of artists, without selection, without thoughts or vision behind. We want to encourage people to look at art, neither to quickly click on it nor scroll it away. And we want people to take an interest in young emerging artists who have a vision and produce a coherent work, rather than give in to reproductions or unchallenging commercial art.

Liv Vaisberg

Ras de bol de Warhol! (Part 1)

My deeper instincts always made me strongly dislike Andy Warhol and his work. Not quite sure why, besides the poor aesthetic quality of his “paintings” and his blunt commercial approach. I recently read a book called ‘Ras de Bol Warhol et Cie – Contre la pauvreté des images*” written by philosopher Gérard Durozoi and all became clear! This post is a small anti-Warhol manifesto which also highlight what Ponyhof aims at doing. Making a small contribution to make up for the damages made to the art by M. Warhol.

* “Fed up with Warhol and co. – Against poor aesthetic quality of images”

The book examines how American “pop art” was, rather than a painting movement, a way of thinking whose consequences on art history are rather regrettable. The problem with M. Andy Warhol goes well beyond his work and his intentions. It is rather the fact that he made it to art history, and worse embodies a fundamental turn of art history. Exactly like M. Dali, Warhol got ahead not thanks to his artistic skills or thoughts, but through the scandalous deeds and gestures of his public figure.

What he made was “products”, not art.  People easily identify with the subject-matter of Warhol’s mono-series which do not need to be understood, mentally challenged or debated.  By using images that were already part of the collective conscience, he produced his factory brand which literally guaranteed him commercial success. What people acquire when they buy Warhol is not a canvas, but the branding “Warhol”.

Warhol used the serigraphy technique not in order to experiment or venture in some undiscovered paths but for solely decorative and practical purposes. His aim was never to produce something beyond the naïve and superficial, unlike the role artists have of sublimation. Every work of art should be a new experience, but with Warhol, they are all a repetition of a technique: he takes someone/something famous or fashionable, serigraphies it and makes it “art”. The result: artworks with no presence, easy meaning, decorative function and with a spectacular dimension in it proliferation.

Warhol always produced canvases in a series, going completely against the tradition of painting which is to produce a subjective and unique piece. I don’t know if Warhol alone can be held responsible for changing the art market into a market of merchandising artworks denied of intellectuality and subtlety. You would answer that if it wasn’t Warhol, someone else would have done this, and that this development of the art market is just the reflection of the consuming society. But he did change the course of art history. After Warhol, the narrative structure underpinning art history since its beginning shattered.

The problem with Warhol is his intention. Art is all about the intention. And Warhol intended to approve consuming society and not to denounce it. Other artists considered as pop artists such as Rauschenberg, ended up encompassed under this label, but none of them had such a clear intention as Warhol. Warhol won. He managed to redefine contemporary art as a permanent circulation of products, denied of signification, which does not generating any thoughts.

American pop art is immediate. In a blink of an eye, you grasp the meaning, whereas art involves looking for a long time, once, twice, three times before being able to read the piece.  And each time at a different level. Always questioning yourself, never being sure of what you see or hear. This is what art is about. And this is what Ponyhof aims at sparking off.

The rest tomorrow.

Liv Vaisberg

Ponyhof’s equation

Yesterday I spoke at the Pecha Kucha Night in Brussels about the contemporary art milieu, how some people are impressed by this closed world and how you can make art accessible without being a cheap “affordable” kitchy-cliché type of gallery…

So I made the following two equations to illustrate my speech. First the clichés of contemporary art galleries (tick those boxes and you’re sure to fill in the criteria for credibility):

And then the more complex way Ponyhof has chosen to show the works of the artists we work with….

(Click on the picture to enlarge)

Katharina Grosse: acrylic on wall, PVC carpeting, canvas and latex balloons / 400x875x1000 cm

2006 / acrylic on wall, floor, soil, styrofoam boards and canvas / Amsterdam / interior

2006 / acrylic on wall, floor, glas, styrofoam and soil / 460x1050x800 cm / Taipei / interior

Un altro uomo che a fatto sgocciolare il suo penel / 2008 / acrylic on canvas, polyurethane, resin, soil, wall, floor, v / 800x1100x1100 cm / 500x1250x644 cm / Modena / Interior

Atomimage / 2007 / acrylic on wall, PVC carpeting, canvas and latex balloons / 400x875x1000 cm / Basel / interior

2008 / acrylic on diverse materials / New Orleans / exterior

I think it speaks for itself.

Katharina Grosse is since 2010 teacher at the Düsseldorf Academy.

Check her very impressive website: http://www.katharinagrosse.com/

Click on images to enlarge.

All about Anselm

Celine Felga "Bibliothèque Anselm Kiefer", 2010, Lithography

When I first saw that lithography from Ponyhof painter Céline Felga, I didn’t immediately recognised Anselm Kiefer’s famous installation at the Berlin Hamburger Bahnhof Volkszählung. I initially thought it was a library. This tribute to Anselm makes it even more interesting. And just in time to let you know that the exhibition of Anselm Keifer’s painting has been prolonged in Antwerp’s museum of fine arts until 27 March 2011. Aleksandra Eriksson Pogorzelska reports for Ponhof on the exhibition.

Anselm Kiefer Installation Volkszählung

To say the least, the name of Anselm Kiefer is in vogue. When not praised by art critics for his solo shows at museums and galleries all over the world (in autumn 2010, he exhibited among other at Lousiana, Denmark, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, London and the Gagosian gallery, New York), he makes it to the gossip pages for hanging out with the troubled but terrific Courtney Love. He is everywhere – but at KMSKA in Antwerp only until 27 March, where twenty-two monumental canvases, combining different techniques such as painting, sculpture and set design, deal with the memory of the Second World War and other failures of humanity, as seen through the prism of myths, history, philosophy and literature. One example is the painting “Lilith”, made more than a decade before 9/11 and showing Ground Zero reduced to ashes. According to Jewish mythology, the dark-haired Lilith was created by God at the same time as Adam, therefore considering herself to be his equal; when Adam tried to subjugate his first wife, she walked out of him and Paradise, and has since been seen as the incarnation of evil forces in the world. May one found one’s fame on the Holocaust (Kiefer is sometimes criticised for having devoted fifty years of artistic work to one, non-ordinary topic) and what are the reasons for Lilith’s illfame, are some questions for the visitor to dwell on.

by Aleksandra Eriksson Pogorzelska, Ponyhof Gallery

Anselm Kiefer, 1987-89, Lilith, Oil, ash and copper wire on canvas support: 3815 x 5612 x 500 mm support, each: 3815 x 2806 x 50 mm painting

Keeping up with the Vogels

Art collecting has always been one of the dearest pastimes of high society and industrial dignitaries. Over the centuries, some of the heaviest weights in the art world have been known by such illustrious names as Medici, Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Sainsbury and Getty. Also some of the finest contemporary art collections have been amassed by modern business moguls, showcasing their excellent taste and class in addition to an extraordinarily successful corporate career. Advertisement agency founder Charles Saatchi is credited to have built up the market for contemporary art in in London of the 1980s. Pinchuk Art Centre in Kyiv, the brainchild of Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist Viktor Pinchuk, is the favourite spot for hoards of art aficionados, with far longer entrance queues than any night club in the city, shedding a warmer light on an oligarch whose fortune was made when marrying the daughter of Leonid Kuchma, then president of Ukraine. Francois Pinault, founder of retail company PPR, is the private owner of one of the largest collections of contemporary art in the world, as well as of two museums, Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana, both in Venice, and the auction house Christie’s. By way of keeping up with the Joneses, his arch rival, Bernard Arnault, the richest man in Europe and founder of LVMH, set up in 2006 the Fondation Louis-Vuitton pour la création, whose acquisitions will be exhibited in a museum expected to open in 2012 in Paris.

Herb and Dorothy at their home

Luckily for art lovers that cannot compare their means to the above-mentioned, patronage of the arts does not have to be confined to those that have had the good fortune to be born into a dynasty or be one of the grandees, as shown by the refreshing and inspiring story of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel. This couple have managed to amass one of the largest and most valuable collections of contemporary art with very limited resources at hand. Indeed, Mr and Mrs Vogel are both of modest origin and worked as a postal clerk and librarian respectively, before retirement. Nevertheless, by devoting one of their salaries to the purchase of mostly Minimalist and conceptual pieces of emerging artists before those gained the attention and recognition of the art market, they filled their tiny, rent-controlled, Manhattan apartment with some 4,700 pieces by artists such as Sol LeWitt, Will Barnet, Lynda Benglis, Robert Mangold, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Edda Renouf, Pat Steir, Richard Tuttle, Donald Judd, Chuck Close, and Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Indeed, as the collection expanded, the Vogels made space for their precious acquisitions by getting rid of all furniture saving a bed and a kitchenette.

In a 2008 documentary devoted to the collector twosome, Dorothy explains that her spouse has always been passionate about art and after taking her to the National Gallery of Art in Washington for their honeymoon, “looking at art became something we did together”, spending their free time in museums, galleries or artists’ ateliers. Before long, they also started purchasing works of chosen artists over long periods of time, and, by the same token, constructed deep relationships with «their» artists and become themselves personalities in the New York art world.

The Vogels never sold a single piece of their collection, estimable at millions of US dollars. Instead, they donated it to the National Gallery of Art and fifty other American museums, because as former public servants they felt they wanted to give the art back to the public where it could be enjoyed for free.

text by Aleksandra Eriksson Pogorzelska, Ponyhof Gallery assistant

More on the documentary «Herb & Dorothy» (available at Amazon.com)

More on the Vogel collection at the National Gallery of Art

More on «Fifty works for fifty states»