Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Pop Life at Tate Modern

Pop Life
Tate Modern, London
Until Jan. 17

Click on the show's title above and it'll take you to a review in the Times by Waldemar Januszczak. The show is about the devil's bargain between art and the market since Andy Warhol, who kind of invented the whole idea, or did he? Art has always been a market. It's just that, in order to sell you pictures, you used to have to pretend to have a mind above such sordid things. Fashions change, and now you're supposed to be blatant about it. But is the art that results any good? Not so sure about that. Apart from the Andy Warhols. He's represented by some paintings of Gems that glow in ultraviolet light.

The rest is brash, ugly, crude, over-the-top, and screams "Me, me, me!" Or perhaps "Buy my stuff and make me very very rich!" It's not really recession art.

Says Waldemar: I should quickly add that I don’t mind most of the seedy sex in which this show is so rich. It is about time goody-goody Tate Modern risked upsetting some vicars. Those who think unsightly sex has no place in a gallery should address their complaints to the ancient Greeks and Romans who pioneered its presence. Art’s dubious relationship to pornography has 2,000 years of tradition behind it. The question is not: does showing Fraser having sex with a stranger constitute an appropriate offering for Tate Modern? The question is: does it constitute good or meaningful or instructive art? I don’t like the piece. It’s creepy and showy. But you could hardly ask for a clearer presentation of the exhibition’s central conundrum: if you make art about selling out, are you yourself selling out? In Fraser’s case, the answer is surely a loud yes. If she were ugly, if she were shy, if she hadn’t been ambitious, she wouldn’t have made the work.

The show also documents the many who didn't make it, says WJ. Or who were wheeled out from retirement in a "home for redundant artists". And if you really want to make a show about art and the market, why don't you include the gallerists, art advisors, money men and very very rich people who are persuaded to buy it, asks Laura Cumming in the Observer.

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