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Art by Committee
Age 78, my life lived as an aesthete, among other things, I don’t expect to discover great artists well established for a long time that I never heard of before. But it happens. Here I want to jot a word about two such: First, the most recent: Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei; and Second, the previous most recent, Polish film maker, Krzysztof Kieslowski.
A quote from Ai Weiwei is what initiates this post: he’s raising a son, gorgeous kid. The mother is his friend, his wife is a different woman. He cares for both. He said, “It’s not nice, but it happens.” Yes, profound. That’s about as responsible as a human can get: It’s not nice, but it happens.
Beijing National Stadium
I’m enraptured seeing Ai’s work and learning that his hand touches little of it: it’s from his mind, a mind in fruitful consultation with others. Furthermore, he doesn’t produce something that can hang on the wall, that a gallery in Paris can sell for $100; they’re public commissions. How many artists have never sold a painting? How many artists have never received a public commission? Should we start looking for cavemen who conceived of a system of dams and canals but was compelled by his tribe to instead tan hides all day? No, no, we only study the artist whose towers got built.
Every stroke of a Van Gogh was painted by Van Gogh, in person; few strokes of an Ai are from his hand. They’re factory art, Commie art, art by centralized authority: and in Ai’s case, art by centralized authority criticizing, taking centralized authority to the cleaners.
Contemplate his Sunflowers piece. One hundred million sun flower seeds!! Public works scale!
Like nearly everyone else I grew up thinking of art and artists like Van Gogh: his painting by his hand, painted out of his guts, with his guts, with his blood. I became an art dealer for the first time around 1957, and again in 1974: and I was astonished to learn how little of some Dali’s were touch by Dali’s hand. He had whole factories of workers. Then I realized that that was standard in the Renaissance too: the pope commissions something: in the case of Michelangelo, Michelangelo alone works on it; in the case of some more socially oriented artist, a whole team works on it.
Yeah, but are they capitalists? or communists? My anti-communist bias believes that nothing good can come out of a commie committee. Wrong! Look at Kieslowski.
I will, another time.
Sun Flowers & Stalin
Coincidence? I’m not sure: but it was just a couple of days ago I first heard of Ai Wei Wei, instantly became a fan, and just last evening that I was watching a doc on Stalin called The Man of Steel. Stalin centralized power like few in history. Now here’s one of his masterpieces of unapologetic power: 1941, Hitler was coming, Hitler had turned France to mushin one month. Stalin saw that the Soviet’s industrial enfrastructure was west of Moscow, easy pickings for Hitler. So: he moved the factories, east of the Urals! Over a million train cars! He moved the factories, the families, everything!
Even with Patton, the US couldn’t do that! And I wouldn’t want us to! I’d rather die for freedom than live for authority.
2016 08 04 Back to double check something I find myself staring at the Beijing Stadium. What a great structure! That’s one of the greatest designs every conceived. I wish Michelangelo could see it. (Maybe he can.) And Bernini. And Frank Lloyd Wright. And Jackson Pollock.