Monthly Archives: April 2011

Anonymous

There is something special about an exhibition dedicated to unnamed artists. Naming (and name-dropping) is a classic way of presenting a given piece, providing short-cuts and creating a context by evoking groups, movements and parallels to facilitate its understanding. Not to mention, names sell.

by Aleksandra Eriksson Pogorzelska

That’s why I really enjoyed the idea behind Anonymous, an exhibition by Jean-Baptiste Bernadet and Xavier Noiret-Thomé and curated by Devrim Bayar, which opened yesterday at the Brussels concept-store Hunting & Collecting. Both painters got caught into a game of buying paintings  at flea markets for 5-10 EUR (without interacting with each other until this exhibition), the only rule being the price and that the pieces should trigger a special interest in the artists.

The exhibition shows those finds mixed with the artists’ own, mostly early, works. As the latter are not identified as such it is up to the viewer to set ‘the real deal’ apart from thrift treasures. The show is inspired by Danish painters Asger Jorn and Per Kirkeby, who played with the idea of upgrading bad paintings found in flea markets into the ‘real’  art market.


As Xavier Noiret-Thomé recalled when showing me through the exhibition, many important art pieces cannot be attributed to anyone specific – he uses the example of the Louvre, which has more works by anonymous artists than by known artists. The exhibition is a way to pay tribute to the anonymous artists.

The exhibition raises questions about the value of art and about what constitutes a piece of art. The paintings presented yesterday to Brussels’ downtown artsy crowd  could just as well have ended up in a trash bin at place du Jeu de balle after the end of the Sunday market. When talking to Xavier, it is clear that he truly appreciates his findings, for aesthetics and other reasons (like the sincerity of the motifs, or because they are funny). Also, the “found” paintings in the show are not for sale – but the artists’ own work is. The value of the anonymous paintings exhibited at Hunting & Collecting may not be as straightforward to all as it is to their owners. Some will be jealous, others will find that it is not art.

I left the exhibition thinking of Roman Abramovich, who in 2008 made himself a name as a collector by buying Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping for $33.6 million, the largest sum ever spent on a piece by a living artist. In the lapse of 24 hours, he had also acquired Francis Bacon’s Triptych for $86.3 million, the largest sum of money paid at an auction for a 20th-century work of art. But some strongly criticised those purchases, accusing him of championing speculation and forgoing the art of collecting. Indeed, with that kind of money, one can buy taste (or what is currently thought as taste). And on the contrary, the smaller the budget, the larger the need for hunting and selecting, choosing one’s treasures according to personal liking and what we call the “eye” rather than going for big names.

Hunting and Collecting

Exhibition 27th April until 14th May

Jean-Baptiste Bernadet

Xavier Noiret-Thomé

Art Cologne’s picks

I am quite an Art Cologne aficionado, probably because I like German painting and German galleries a lot, but I always appreciated the quality of the selection presented, especially on the second floor. So here I was last week-end at Art Cologne, wandering methodically through the alleys, regularly stopping for a break at the Kölsch corner. The last years some large galleries were neglecting Art Cologne for Berlin Art Forum, but this year seems to be marked by a come-back of all the galleries that matters. To list all my picks would probably take far too long, so I’ll have to endeavour to be concise…(and later I’ll make a pick of the Galleries that particularly got my attention).

Gadient Markus (2011) Serendipity Serie Nr. 46, 220 cm x 172 cm (TONY WUETHRICH GALERIE)

Ikemura Leiko (2000-2001) Lying with Blue Face, 110 cm x 150 cm (TONY WUETHRICH GALERIE)


Peter Frie "Last Summer" (LARS BOHNMAN GALLERY)

Carsten Fock (2010) Untitled (SEPTEMBER GALLERY)

Nicola Samori (2010) Lamina 40x30 (GALERIE CHRISTIAN EHRENTRAUT)

Daniel Richter (2005) Untitled 40 x 30 cm (GALERIE HAAS AG)

Stefan Müller (2010) "Karibu when you go I will follow try to go before you leave", Acryl, marker, dirt on linen (GALERIE BÄRBEL GRÄSSLIN)

What was this whole thing with conceptual art in the end?

I always ask myself where we stand in terms of conceptual vs pathos in contemporary art. We come from a century which basically reflects this tension between conceptual and expressionism. Take the period going from the 1960s til the 1980s where either you were into pushing further the limits of art or you were out. If painting was used, it was only instrumental. Since the 1980s, painting has sneaked back to the front stage and a clear return of the pathos through sensationalist art and experiencing art is marked. So where do we stand now?

The decades of the 1960-1970 have almost erased paintings from catalogues and gallery walls, reducing it to  a means to carry out the pursuit of interrogating art and amounting to a discourse on the limits of art. Many artists used painting as a way to test hypothesis and boundaries of art history and art.
Think: Mel Bochner infamous version of his “Language is not transparent”:

Mel-Bochner - Language is not tansparent (1970) chalk and paint on wall, 91.44 x 122.56 cm

Or his “Theory of Painting”:

Mel Bochner - Theory of Painting (1969)

Or think: On Kawara’s date paintings:

On Kawara 'Today Series' oil on canvas 20.5 x 25.5 cm, Daled Collection

Check  Art & Language’s “Guaranteed paintings” from 1967 which show the predilection of the language on the image.
Or even their “100% Abstract painting” of 1968 where instead of using paint to make the art work, the artists simply listed the chemical composition of the paint used to produce it:
And then let’s jump to 199o,  from the Hostage series: Hostage LXXVI. The title of this series indicates that painting is hostage to a certain aesthetics that the artists of Art & Language, Michael Baldwin et Mel Ramdsen, contest. This work shows a banal landscape, blackened by a liquid monochrome, crushed under a glass panel.
What I find interesting in all this experimenting from the radical conceptual art years is that this layer of history was the nutrient of contemporary paintings nowadays. If we have observed a return of the representation as well as the pathos and expressionism, this is haunted by all what conceptual art challenged and put into question. Painting became problematised painting.
This is what we always strive to explore with the artists we are working with, what is painting in 2011 and how to articulate the pathos with a discourse on art and its limits?