koi and swan, sepia

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fallen Idols

It has been a tough week. I had (choose your metaphor), my ears pinned back, teeth kicked in, nose punched, ass handed to me, well, you get the message.

In the final analysis it would have been more rewarding financially if I had simply pulled two thousand dollars out of my wallet and lit it on fire, then I would have saved gas money backwards and forwards to Pasadena.

Truthfully Los Angeles and its environs have always been a tough place for me. Last show in Pasadena was the Marty Ellis debacle, which you really have to blame on the schmendrick and not on the geography but there were certainly losers before that.

And I have found that you never know about these sorts of things, people muddle around and consider big purchases like paintings and often you harvest seeds way on down the road. In all the modesty and humility I can summon I think that my booth and merchandise has seldom if ever looked better, but it was obviously infected with a slight morsel of kryptonite and smart buyers wisely stayed away.

Not to say that I didn't have fun, eat good food and meet a lot of neat people, including some very good potential sources of material. I bought well too.

One of the cool things at the show was seeing my old friends Gail and Barry Goldberg. It has been about ten years, I think. Some of you might recognize Barry, music royalty to be sure.

He played keyboards with the first electric Dylan at Newport in 1965, with the original Steve Miller Band, later in his own Electric Flag, Muddy, Wolf, James Cotton, Mick Taylor, the discography list in endless.

Wonderful, humble, loving man as well and his wife is just as good if not better.

Barry has a new band, The Rides and Doug saw them back east and really liked them. Contains one Steven Stills.

Barry tickling the ivories.

Some, or at least one of my fails was self inflicted. Had a couple very interested in a plus 10k painting. Hip early forty guy with baseball cap backwards. Bucks up, expensive tudor revival home. We started talking about a mutual acquaintance and I mentioned that she was a bit serious but I had hear loosened up a bit with a drink in her. They looked at me like I'd just farted in church, said, "We're Mormons" and stormed off right into the sunset. No sale.

I gave a talk to Fallbrook Village Rotary the day before the show. Tom Meriwether and I got to talking about the art business a few weeks ago and he asked me to speak to his club and I suggested that it might be interesting to hear my take on the state of the decorative arts in the present age with the so called millennials.

I landed there a few minutes before they handed me a microphone, no notes, completely off the cuff and extemporaneous and think that I delivered well. We started off with the proviso that what they were about to hear was undoubtably full of falsehoods, distortions and exaggerations, essentially my opinion and went on forward from there.

I gave a brief course in art history, starting with the renaissance and 17th century period, where art was mainly the province of the patrician class and the church. Court and allegorical paintings. Perhaps there is a reason that impressionism started in France, egalité, populism and all that, Painting was stood on its head in the eighteenth century. Suddenly the common man rears his head and that gets reflected in America with the Ashcan and regionalist schools. Art reflects the current social contract.

And of course there are corollaries in decorative arts as well, ormalu and high victorian furniture and extravagant displays of wealth suddenly becoming a bit gauche and leading to the paring down of decoration of the craftsman movement, which was really the decorative antecedent to modernism.

I introduced them to Robert's law, something I conceived and coined when I noticed that people tended to reject the art of their parents and embrace the art of their grandparents. Musashi called it the law of successive generations.

When I first got into the business, the people that were passing away were collecting in the 1920's and 1930's incredibly rich and fertile periods for art and antiques, with the advent of the W.P.A.  and depression.

For some strange reason periods of social upheaval almost always produce the most interesting art. Anyway flash forward to today, current millennials grandparents came of age in the 1970's and 1980's. Besides white shag, big paper lamps, cork ceilings and banlon, what else did they offer?

I have seen a sea change in collecting in the last five years. Madmen is in, everything pre 1950 is out, especially brown furniture. Art Nouveau, dead. Deco, dead, Jugendstil, dead. Everything short of the most tawdry crap you could ever conceive now steamrolled into obscurity by the mundane.

Which is fine, to each generation their own. I don't have to like it and if you do, beautiful. The ikea generation has no use for art, unless it is their own colorful epidermis of course and they can like or not like whatever they please.

But I can't tell you how often I hear parents, many of whom have spent real fortunes on their paintings, silver and pottery, tell me that their kids don't care a lick, don't want the stuff.

We discussed how information actually hurt markets, ebay and askart driving the merchants, magicians and market makers often right out of the game. I am not going to go into that this evening. But I will tell you that one of the attractions for me of antiques is history. Each piece in my shop is evidence of another era and tells a historical story. Which is great for me because as you may have noticed, I love to research and see how things fit.

The kids today don't seem to have a clue or respect for history in the least. Which is sort of funny in a way. 99% of the world population is staring into a personal or hand held computer device most of the day. We are more connected to information than we have ever been. How did we lose our place in the world? Television? It just seems like many of us have no concept or inclination to ask how we got here and frankly don't care.

Got a good response to my talk, many questions afterwards.

Selfie, anybody?

(CNN)Another one for the "tourists behaving badly" file.
Two American women have reportedly been arrested for carving their initials into a wall with a coin inside Rome's Colosseum.
Daily Italian newspaper La Stampa says the women, aged 21 and 25, were spotted carrying out the act by fellow tourists, who then told security.
The two letters -- J and N -- were about eight inches in length and scratched on a brick wall at the historic Roman amphitheater.
The women, both from California, reportedly snapped a selfie of themselves with their initials before they were arrested. Their names have not been released.

I love the story about the russian film star who evidently shot a porn movie at the pyramids, rightly enraging the locals.

"According to a report on Newstime Africa Egyptian authorities have been angered by the graphic film which features several iconic locations around Giza and Cairo.
Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati said: 'A set of sexually explicit scenes was illegally filmed inside the Giza Necropolis by a foreign tourist while visiting the site.'
He confirmed that prosecuting authorities are studying the movie Al-Damati said the incident had since been referred to prosecutors for investigation."
Listen to this nubile dimwit, in her own words:
Driving past the pyramids, the 'actress' claims 'this f****** sucks. What is there to look at?'
'It really sucks, even our resorts are better.'
Next, she holds up a an ornamental cat which came from a souvenir stall.
She told the camera man: 'First he wanted ten bucks. I told him I won't buy it. I said I know where to get them for three bucks. Then he agreed three bucks'.
Once out at the pyramids, she points to one in the distance and said: 'Look, it's unfinished.'
When an Egyptian man approaches she tells him 'I don't want to ride on a camel.'
Her camera man suggests that she pays the man, she replies: 'I don't want to give him a dollar.'
The actress appears on the trailer wearing a tight pair of blue hotpants and a yellow top. She continually flashes various parts of her body towards the camera, even with fellow tourists in the background.
When her cameraman asked her to stand beside the Sphynx, she claimed: 'I don't want to stand here. We've already filmed it.'
But hey, at least she wasn't knocking shit down. Hammering three thousand year old statues into shards and dust in Mosul.

Bulldozing ancient wonders like Nimrud. Nimrods.

Or ploughing the tomb of the girl as shown above in Mosul. What a world we live in. What makes people more stupid, television or religion? Or is it something in the water? Kids today.

I have to run.


Anonymous said...

The sense I have is that we are accelerating into a world of technology that may well result ultimately in a world in which a small elite is the only folk that will be needed. The rest-- who knows. However at present the "kids" although clueless about the final destination, are much more sensitive to the accelerating technology than are us "elders". They sense that history and the art of yesterday are irrelevant. Only the new and dynamically changing are significant. That may screw up sales of anything old before long at least among the "commoners". Among the tiny technical and economic elite, who knows. Our history may survive as a sort of rarely visited educational/amusement park, or perhaps not at all outside of computer memory.

Blue Heron said...

Very good and insightful comment, Jon. I had dinner with four twenty something computer nerd millionaires, not one of them owned a painting or any artwork, not part of the new paradigm. New centuries have always been accompanied by big design shifts, hence the fall of victorian and eastlake and many other genres. But never have we said, oh let's collect total mass produced sheit.