ALEX PRAGER: Where We Went From There

© 2010 Alex Prager
Alex Prager (American, born 1979) Desiree from the series The Big Valley. 2008. Chromogenic color print, 36 x 48 1/2" (91.4 x 123.2 cm) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of the Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Linda and Gregory Fischbach, and William S. Susman and Emily Glasser © 2010 Alex Prager, courtesy Yancey Richardson Gallery

There are moments throughout the history of art, when, marveling at the latest aesthetic affront, the public, the critics, and even fellow artists have thrown up their hands and asked, “Where can we possibly go from here?”

And as art has grown ever more referential and every medium, self-referential— when there is nary an image that does not lay claim to a legacy of irony that is now generations deep: well: what can possibly come next?

Answer: Alex Prager.

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MoMA’s Got a Brand New App

Today MoMA announced the release of its new app for Apple’s iPhone, and iPod Touch, now available on the App Store. It’s a free download that provides views of 32,000 works from the Museum’s collection, plus lots of very useful extras, including a dictionary of art terms, a database of artist bios, a calendar of exhibitions, film screenings, and events, and a variety of audio tours for youngsters, as well as for the visually impaired.

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Art Market Predictions

In the face of China’s rise to third-largest art market (slipping in ahead of an aggrieved France), Clare McAndrew, head of the Dublin-based consulting firm, Arts Economics, is “ looking at resale rights in Europe. There are real

Clare McAndrew, Photo for ARTINFO by Kip Carroll
Clare McAndrew, Photo for ARTINFO by Kip Carroll

worries in Europe. New markets like China emerging is very good for the market overall but difficult for countries, like the U.K. and France, that have been hampered by regulations and taxes. They have to compete not only against the U.S., which has fewer regulations, but also against countries, like China, that don’t have resale royalties.” (Via ARTINFO)

She also says that, as art becomes viewed more and more as a long term investment, speculators have been “shaken out.”

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There’s a lot of talk about art market recovery, especially as generated by the auction houses. And each time a record hammer price is hit (like Tuesday’s $106.5 million Picasso’s 1932 “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust.”), the media jump on it, eager to announce that it’s a sign that the market is recovering. But we’ve really become very excited over the teeniest hint of growth, as you can see by this nifty chart that I frankensteined together from three Art charts.

Only the Contemporary art market shows notable recovery

Banksy Banks on Mystery (and fails?)


I recently posted two stories about Exit Through the Gift Shop , a documentary/comedy by Banksy, which claims to be a true story about a star-struck street art fan with a video camera, who becomes transformed into an “artist” himself through the magic of Banksy.

I laid bare my doubts about the integrity of the storyline in the movie: I speculated that it contained a clever mixture of truth and fiction which could not easily be teased out. I also said that, no matter the degree of fiction, the basic message is that art buyers exit through the gift shop — they buy in to a genre or a new thing or provenance and what they don’t do, is look for quality, take inventory, make critical decisions.

But there is one claim I made that I regret: I stated that anyone who continues to wonder about the degree of fiction, is missing the point.

Since then, I have changed my mind. We are looking for all out artistry, aren’t we? Don’t we want to know just how much of Mr. Brainwash‘s huge LA extravaganza, Life is Beautiful, and his subsequent New York show, ICONS,  were orchestrated by Banksy? And don’t we want to know how much of the Exit Through the Gift Shop story line is true and just how much ingenuity went into making the rest of the story come to life?

Don’t we want to discover a big clever net of contrivances?

Read on: the mystery unravels

ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First

Who's on first?

Heraclitus was right. When the waters are everflowing, you can never step into the same river twice.

It is therefore, always safe to claim that some work of art, some event, some person, is a “first” — nothing will be the same after so and so, after thus and such, after this.

The controversial Damien Hirst sale at Sotheby’s in 2008 was a first: the contemporary art market would never be the same afterward.

Go ahead and say that, Google it: you won’t lack for support. The press was, after all, in a frenzy, mounting stories about the show, Beautiful in My Mind Forever, and the subsequent two day sale, onto the background blitz of financial failures and the Lehman Brothers collapse.

But what kind of “first” was it?

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Tweet This: Rhizome’s Seven on Seven Seems to Suck Wiki

When WILL the New Museum bring us something new? I ask you.

It has long been my opinion that art which partners with, or claims to make a creative statement with or about, technology, is usually crap.
And, apparently Rhizome’s Seven on Seven event proved it.

Given 24 hours to come up with a collaborative work, seven pairs of artists and technology experts failed to come up with a single original thing.
150 + people paid up to as much as $350 in order to be wowed by moiré patterns, big concept search-engines and wikis, and — gasp– movement detecting programs. Amazing.

The only charming idea: essentially a GPS and a blog for umbrella swapping.

NOW can we stop thinking the web’s going to give us anything more than variations on search engines and color-sound-movement morphs?

For deets: check this very thorough New York Times’s Review by Randy Kennedy

OPINION | Mr. Brainwash: Ce n’est pas un Banksy

There’s a sucker born every minute.
~ P.T. Barnum

Mr. Brainwash always has paint on his hand.

Banksy’s latest assault is Exit Through the Gift Shop, a mockumentary or fauxdoc, perhaps, that alleges to be about one Mr. Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, madman filmmaker and god-awful artist.

Guetta, is, apparently a nutter who attached himself to the famous street artist, following him (and other notable street artists) around for ten years or so and obtaining enough undesirable footage to force Banksy pay some attention. When he did, the story goes, he turned the camera on Guetta himself  and told him to go make his own art.

Continue reading “OPINION | Mr. Brainwash: Ce n’est pas un Banksy”

OPINION: Mine/Yours: Fair Use vs Free For All

Bloggers picking on Gallery 303
Photo mash-up: taken from, it was shot by “unidentified” New York bloggers in protest of Gallery 303’s no-photo policy: in the background, Maureen Gallace, “August” (2009)

I always thought it was pretty clear that galleries represent artists and make their living doing so to the best of their abilities. It seemed pretty clear to me that if I walked into a gallery, I was playing by their rules. Indeed, it seems like wise business practice and if I were on their roster, that’s how I would prefer things to be: my images should be protected and my market should be optimized by the gallery and its resources.

As artist Deborah Fisher puts it, “Artists are told upways and down that they really must control their photographed presence…I don’t blame the gallerists for wanting to control which images make it online. And I think it’s so easy to get good images from gallerists that there’s no excuse not to at least try to play nice.”

So imagine my surprise when I found that the very common no-photo policies held by many galleries were being decried and, lamely, protested by wanna-be militant bloggers.

Apparently the notion that anyone with an i-phone can just swing into any white cube and start pressing buttons is a common one, and is actually in need of refutation.

Curious as to how it should happen that issues of “mine” and “yours” would be so easily confused, I read many related posts.

The most profound conclusions I could reach were:

1) Issues of fair use were often misunderstood and taken by bloggers to imply a free-for-all. A quick Google or Wiki search should be enough to clear things up, but in the face of flat out bad manners, it hasn’t yet.

2) Bloggers often see themselves as anti-establishment heroes and have strangely inflated ideas about what it means to take an amateur shot of a picture on a wall.

In answer to posted comments asking why one should not simply ask for jpegs from the galleries in question, one blogger responds, “…journalists” who ask permission before doing stories aren’t journalists, they’re amanuenses. Or a member of the White House press corps.”

To which another, in more measured tones, quips, “You’re not covering Vietnam or Watergate…”

Another, jaw-dropping self-aggrandizing statement made by, I guess, another blogger, confirmed my worst fears: some of these people think their god-awful pix are an art in themselves:

“Shooting a show is part of the thinking process. I’m connecting the dots visually and verbally. I want to be able to get up close for a detail or shoot two paintings that are in a particularly interesting visual conversation.”

3) Many people think that everything is and should be free now, just ‘cuz.

C-Monster says: “In this day and age, in which information is shared and disseminated virally, this is the kind of legal B.S. that does an artist, the press and those who enjoy art a real disservice.”

An incredibly measured response from starpower was, ironically, erased by one blog host because said host was awaiting identification which starpower had apparently not been upfront about. Hmmmmm…The response, the sanest and most succinct of all the comments, is reproduced here:

By starpower on May 8, 2008 3:46 PM

All gallerists are entitled to look out for the copyright interests of works that they exhibit. Artists rely on gallerists to identify as many incidents of unauthorized use of images as possible.

The lighting on the above-posted images is atrocious, and it misrepresents the works. 303 Gallery is correct in its request that the work be removed from the Internet.

It should also be noted that attendees of the press preview at the Armory Show were advised that photographs should not be taken without the permission of an exhibitor. A blogger or journalist does not automatically have the right to photograph any work at most fairs.

In the event that no exhibitor is available to grant permission, it would be fair to say that an exhibitor does not waive his/her right to request removal of an image from a web site.


Fair Use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

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