And … good night! This is, sad to say, the very last post of SEEN, the limited-run art site we launched November 17, with Jerry Saltz’s essay on the art world’s new conservatism. It closes today with his conversation with Matthew Weinstein about “Gaga’s law” and how art culture has eaten pop culture (which Lady Gaga actually retweeted — approvingly!). Along the way, we had a total blast, and before we turn the lights off for good, we thought we’d highlight a bunch of our favorite stuff from our 33 days in the art world ...
Over the past five years, the market for contemporary art has ballooned. Whether the reason is supply or shifting taste (or, more likely, a combination of both), we live in a world where you can buy an entire Old Master paintings sale at Sotheby’s for less than the cost of one Jeff Koons balloon dog. Of course, there are outliers: Exceptional objects in categories as unsexy as carpets can still fetch eye-popping sums. And price is not always equivalent to cultural value. Major 20th-century works by African-American and women artists, for example, rarely surpass lesser works by their white, male contemporaries. On the heels of the record-shattering postwar- and contemporary-art auctions in New York last month, can you guess which works sold (over the last five years) for the highest price?
U.S. officials finally confirmed today that they believe North Korea was behind the Sony Pictures hack that led the studio to pull The Interview from theaters. Blaming the North Koreans is convenient, as it makes sense that they would be outraged by a film about the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un, and Sony can argue that it stood little chance against a foreign government's team of hackers. However, many don't buy that a country with limited technological capabilities would be capable of such an attack and wonder why North Korea has repeatedly denied any connection to it (after all, it's a country that's fond of threatening to turn enemy nations into a "sea of flames").
"Damien Hirst is in a drawer somewhere, is that horrible?” Charles Renfro asks rhetorically when I meet him in the apartment he shares with concert pianist Daniel Gortler in the garment district. The apartment isn't huge — he also owns a modernist bungalow on Fire Island — and its walls are lined with mostly emerging artists. This Hirst is tucked away because “It’s a spin piece and I never knew how to frame it, ever. It’s a very small one, and I just never did it, so I have it sitting in a drawer; it makes the drawer really, hot.”
Renfro joined the husband-and-wife team of Elizabeth Diller and Ric Scofidio in 1997, when they were themselves working out of their apartment and known for their innovative conceptual thinking. But they hadn't built much: All that was starting to change by the time he became a partner in 2004. Since then, Diller Scofidio + Renfro has changed the landscape of New York City with the design of the High Line and the renovation of Lincoln Center. They have a high-rise going up in Hudson Yards, which is attached to the Culture Shed, a telescoping multipurpose space, and are in the middle of redesigning MoMA. Next year, their Broad Museum will open in downtown L.A., along with the Berkley Art Museum, and the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio. You might expect this home to be an Über-sleek, minimalist mansion in the clouds, for such a design superstar. Instead, I found a very down-to-earth, I-could-see-myself-living-here, kind of place with a very specifically curated art collection.
Thirty years ago this fall, The Cosby Show debuted on NBC, and its star was catapulted into the comedic stratosphere. The timing is prime, then, for the release of a sprawling biography. Written by former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, Cosby: His Life and Times documents the man’s rise from the Philadelphia projects, while also detailing the creation of his family sitcom and the murder of his son Ennis in 1997.
The book is notable, however, for its complete avoidance of sexual abuse allegations that have dogged Cosby for more than a decade. In a statement to Buzzfeed's Kate Aurthur, Whitaker says, "I didn’t want to print allegations that I couldn’t confirm independently." Regardless, their absence is glaring. Consider the following timeline an appendix to the book.
At a press conference this afternoon, President Obama said that Sony's decision to cancel the theatrical release of The Interview was "a mistake." Now Sony executives are scrambling to point out, if there was a mistake — and they're not saying there was one — it was totally the theater chains' fault, since they scrapped the movie first. As Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton told Fareed Zakaria, "We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether a movie will be played in movie theaters." (Hollywood studios have been forbidden from owning theater chains since 1948.) Lynton added that he was "disappointed" by the president calling Sony out, saying "I don't think he understands the sequence of events." The interview was accompanied by a statement from Sony saying the studio was exploring alternative release avenues for the film: "It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will be able to do so."
With all of the Champagne, Kim Kardashian sightings, and “curated experiences” to take in at Art Basel Miami Beach this year, one might forget that the whole thing is actually just a trade show. It is more glamorous than, say, the annual cloud-computing fair at the Javits Center, but it is still, at its core, about buying and selling. So how did the dealers who brought a collective $3 billion worth of art to Miami fare this year? Here are a few of the market highlights.
It’s hard to say what Mark Mothersbaugh is best known for — is it his New Wave band Devo? Or maybe scoring the music to dozens of movies and television shows (he’s composed the theme to Nickelodeon's Rugrats; all of Wes Anderson's oeuvre; and he’s worked on Pee-wee's Playhouse)? But what you may not realize is that all of these musical exploits grew out of Mothersbaugh's early art-school antics. He formed Devo with Jerry Casale at Kent State University, where he was spending most of his time working away in the art department print shop, around the time of the infamous National Guard shootings. Mothersbaugh's first large solo museum show, "Myopia," opened this fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and with the release of an accompanying catalogue, he spoke with SEEN about the stories behind several pieces in the exhibition, and his journey from isolated weirdo in the heartland to his current life ensconced in the hills of Los Angeles.
Over the next few weeks, Vulture will speak to the screenwriters behind 2014's most acclaimed movies about the scenes they found most difficult to crack. Which pivotal sequences underwent the biggest transformations on their way from script to screen? Today, we talked to Nicolas Giacobone and Alexander Dinelaris — who co-wrote Birdman with Armando Bo and the film's director, Alejandro González Iñárritu — about their film's meta centerpiece, which takes place within the play mounted by Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) as his artistic comeback.
We would have to say that one of the most — if not the most — difficult [scenes] to tackle was the "motel-room scene." It was a scene that was supposed to belong to a short story that inspired a play that is being performed in a film. (Don’t bother to read that again, just go with us here.)
Romantic comedies involving people moving on after divorce are a dime a dozen, but rarely are they as generous, sharply observed, and humane as Angus MacLachlan’s Goodbye to All That, a teeny, tiny indie opening amid this week’s big-studio behemoths. It’s the modest tale of Otto (a fantastic Paul Schneider), a likable, klutzy, self-absorbed North Carolina husband and father whose wife (an equally fantastic Melanie Lynskey) announces one day that she wants a divorce. Or rather her psychiatrist announces it for her. Otto, it seems, is so clueless to the needs of those around him that he didn’t even know his wife was seeing a shrink. The divorce is presented as a fait accompli; nobody around Otto, including his distracted lawyer, suggests he fight it or that he do much of anything, except move on.
Art is having a strange moment right now. The market today is a business, pure and simple — a depraved scramble for big money; it's as much about the businessmen, financiers, and lawyers as it is about the artists and their work. I’m not the only one who’s noticed that. There seem to be a lot of young people in New York today making “art,” simply because being an artist is cool, and because of the title’s apparent link to money, power, and, well, ... sex. But just because you have blue hair and an experimental Instagram doesn’t mean I want to fuck you — quite the opposite, in fact, especially if it means getting on the J train to deep Bushwick.
If you thought you were disappointed about Sony yanking the release of The Interview, just imagine being one of the film's actors — and then imagine being one of the movie’s actors who isn't Seth Rogen or James Franco, who have the benefit of 24-hour security. The Interview's main cast seems to have been placed under a cone of silence following Sony's announcement on Wednesday. So we called up three of the supporting players — Tommy Chang, David Diaan, and Thomas Cadrot — to see how they're coping.
Surprise! There's a BoJack Horseman Christmas special now on Netflix. There's a gentle framing with BoJack's assistant Todd wanting to partake in some kind of holiday ritual, but the bulk of the special is an episode of BoJack's crappy '90s family sitcom Horsin' Around — straight out of the TGIF/Growing Pains/Family Ties/Charles in Charge world. It's a largely stand-alone episode, but like all things BoJack there are jokes and ideas that will only really make sense if you watch the whole series. Context or not, though, the kid-actor name "Bradley Hitler-Smith" is a miniature masterpiece.
What was “the first art”? Music? Early humans humming, clucking, and sounding in scales and patterns? Maybe. But my bias makes me vote for drawing. Not just in sand and on trees and walls. But on ourselves. Body adornment and markings must have come early — scarring, scraping, and tattoos of all kinds. Tattoos are primitive, private public advertisements of self, secrets kept from the world and hinted at for all to see, signs with significance for the wearer and sometimes the world, all worn to the grave. Tattoos are tribal, cryptic, sexy, scary, or stupid. Nowadays they’re all but de rigueur for a generation or two.
What better way to celebrate your love of Friends than by drinking your morning coffee out of a Central Perk mug? How about by wearing a pin stamped with Rachel's famous line, "No Uterus, No Opinion"? Or by hanging your very own yellow peephole frame? The internet is full of Friends merch, official and not, with impressive attention to creativity and specificity to the show's private jokes. Let us wade through the waters of Etsy, eBay, and Skreened to find you the best stuff.
Could we be more excited about the streaming premiere of Friends on Neflix on January 1? We're so excited, we're counting down to the day throughout all of December — call it another one of our very own Advent calendars. Every day we'll open a new "door" to something very fun and very Friends. What's not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Friends for an entire month? Good.
1. Here are the facts about Paint Nite, presented in the order in which you realize them when you come across a photograph taken at Paint Nite:
Paint Nite has a hashtag, and that hashtag has 58,286 posts as of this writing. The majority of tagged photos show groups of twentysomething women wearing aprons to protect their sweaters. Some images show similarly young couples holding canvases with the “We made this!” grin you’ve seen on people posing with their baby. Paint Nites are held in bars nationwide, and everyone in each class makes an identical painting. Most paintings are of trees or landscapes. More recently, participants made paintings of martini glasses strung with Christmas lights, and snowpeople in a magic-seeming swirl of frost, presumably because these are symbols associated with the holidays.
This week, we finally get to see the Jay Z/Will Smith–produced reboot of Annie that we did not ask for but will take anyway, because of our plucky, can-do spirit. (But, you know, we will take it cautiously. Cameron Diaz? No “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover”? Will Stacks? It’s a tense time to be a fan of Annie.) So how’s about you and your loyal dog hop in my DeLorean GIF for a trip back to the week of May 19, 1982, when the original Aileen Quinn/Albert Finney film adaptation had its U.S. premiere? (The movie went into wide-release the following month.) Was the Billboard Top 40 as bewildering then as it is now? Maaaayyyybeeeee …