Artist celebrated, therefore clueless

Yesterday I got roped into going to a contemporary art exhibition of works by Subodh Gupta, an Indian artist I’d never heard of. Most of it was so-so, although not completely terrible, and this wasn’t bad:

What amused me, though, was the blurb which accompanied it:

I suppose he’s right in one sense: the duality of alluring excess and crippling starvation is a result of capitalism, without which you’d only have the latter. But it amused me that an Indian should complain about capitalist excess in a country which is mired in absolute, grinding poverty because it stupidly embraced socialism and continues to do so. If Gupta wants fewer Indians suffering from crippling starvation it needs more capitalism, not less:

Then again, this was an exhibition held in a gallery on the left bank of the Seine. No doubt the chap who commissioned it spends many an evening harrumphing to the dinner guests gathered on the terrace of his nearby two-million euro apartment about how terrible inequality is. To be honest, I’d have more respect for Gupta if he trotted out a few lines of boilerplate Marxism just to keep his paymasters onside than if he actually believed it. I suspect it’s the latter though; as I said to my companion yesterday, it’s nigh-on impossible to find an artist these days who isn’t some form of demented lefty.

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19 thoughts on “Artist celebrated, therefore clueless

  1. Ah I see starvation wasnt the default state of affairs in socialist India then, only came around when they decided to dump the ideas of Harold Laski and pursue a more market based approach.

    Good to know this artistic piece is informed by history.

    Do you know why broadly the ‘right’ don’t do art very well? I think its because how the hell do you fit operational concepts and boring statistics and ideas about management into pieces of art?

    It is nigh on impossible, hence the ground is ceeded to any old ‘left’ claptrap that complains, critiques but rarely indicates a solution for the problems it points at.*

    *There is some good radical which accurately porrays the confusing and complexity of issues and life, but its rare

  2. I often wonder about the strange, pseudo-intellectual blurb that usually accompanies ‘works’ of ‘art’. Which comes first: the thought behind the blurb, and then the piece of work? Or is it the other way round?

    My bet is they create whatever they fancy, and then come up with the blurb to make it sound edgy / meaningful / attacking capitalism.

    I’ve long thought of art as a mere hobby which some (very few) people are able to actually monetise (good capitalists). It ain’t a profession. I quite like saying so fairly loudly whilst sat outside a pub adjacent to Norwich Uni of Arts, when some of the oddballs and freaks from the NUoA walk past. Haven’t got much of a reaction yet, mind, dammit.

  3. Where you have gone wrong Tim is taking the blurb seriously

    Modern art is all about as being able to string together a selection of concepts from Derrida, Lacan et al to justify your work to to luminaries of the art work. very little consideration is given to actually aesthetic merit.

    How wonderful it would be if the modern art scene turned out to be an extended performance version of the Sokal hoax..

  4. “it’s nigh-on impossible to find an artist these days who isn’t some form of demented lefty”

    The kind of art that required perseverance, years of practice and dedication, commitment to self-improvement and relentless focus (i.e. non-leftie traits) went out of fashion a century ago. When modern art can literally consist of chucking a can of paint on a large white canvas then you will naturally see the shift towards the more incompetent people in society.

  5. The blurb for these works is often written by the curator rather than the artist.

    Modern art is, by and large, a load of old rubbish. Some if it is wonderful of course, but it is not necessarily the stuff that makes it into galleries right now.

    In 100 years, when much of the shit has been binned or burned or recycled, it will be easier to judge whether the early 21st century was a good time for art.

  6. In my spare time I paint a bit. Nothing serious, but in idle moments I think of some suitably socialist explanation for my work.

    While my landscapes might seem bland, they would of course be a raw, visceral examination of the destructive force of capitalism on an increasingly fragile world torn apart by the anti-gay hatred of the right and the greed of the oil-rich barons who demean wimmyn and force the common man into acts of racist barbarism… And so on until the reader’s eyes glaze over.

    Or I could just have a caption saying: Picture of hills and clouds. Enjoy.

  7. Oh, I should have mentioned the question one should ask all artists:

    Can you actually paint, or is what you do all talent-free bollocks?*

    *I once knew a guy, years ago, who found a way of twisting the offcuts of steel, once a large disc had been stamped out for industrial purposes, into sculpture. He made a ‘living’ as an artist, except all his sculptures were, um, twisted offcuts of steel that went rusty pretty quick.

  8. “Do you know why broadly the ‘right’ don’t do art very well?”

    Do you mean that heap of rubbish TimN’s pictured? I’ve seen similar done by the lads down the scrapyard with car parts. At least they have the merit of being Grateful Dead fans. There is nothing whatsoever clever or original about it.
    What I have noticed is the people who have learned to use brushes & paint with the competence to create the shadings & textures gives the illusion the canvas is a window into the artist’s imagination are rarely left wing. Perhaps it’s too much investment of effort into learning technique for people want everything to be equally available.

  9. When you need a sheet of A4 to explain the work, you have already lost.

    If the art work cannot speak for itself, what’s the point?

  10. I wish I’d kept the concert programme from a 1993 Fripp/Sylvian gig I went to. My mate had to nudge me in the ribs when they came on stage because I was still laughing so hard after reading the utter bollocks written about their “art”.

    It’s a bloke with a guitar and another bloke with a pretentiously forced vocal style.

  11. Mal Reynolds: ’The kind of art that required perseverance, years of practice and dedication, commitment to self-improvement and relentless focus (i.e. non-leftie traits) went out of fashion a century ago.’

    Spot on! Tracy Emin’s bed was the beginning of the end.

  12. There are lots of very talented artists with real skill and dedication and not lefty.

    They work in commercial art, where the money is reliable. Lefty art is a crap shoot, where a few lucky ones strike big and the result sulk.

    Posters, websites, banners, logos etc are all around us. They don’t just spring into being. Furniture, phones etc all have designers. Even clothes and shoes, although there’s big money there if you are good.

    A mate of mine had genuine artistic talent. He went from art design to product design and then part ownership of a company. Made lots without a political view of any kind.

  13. Posters, websites, banners, logos etc are all around us. They don’t just spring into being.

    Indeed: my companion who dragged me around the exhibition in the first place designs packaging for supermarket goods. I should have said “celebrated” artist.

  14. “I often wonder about the strange, pseudo-intellectual blurb that usually accompanies ‘works’ of ‘art’.”

    I had a (sadly late) artist friend. Nondescript looking guy. He used to love hanging around his own shows, nebbing on the bullshit people were spouting about what the artist’s thoughts and motivations must have been.

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