Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"Art" Now

M. Kakutani (NYTimes) reviews Julian Barnes promising new book on painting, Keeping An Eye Open.  A tasty sample:
Mr. Barnes can be blunt, even snarky in articulating his tastes in art; he writes that Warhol “is an artist rather as Fergie is a Royal.” But, at heart, his essays are animated by his keen, appraising eye, and a wellspring of common sense. He dismisses critics who have discerned a misogyny in Degas’s work — based, it seems, on rumors of his own absent love life — when, as Mr. Barnes points out, his radiant studies of dancers and bathers make it clear that he “plainly loved women” in his art. He also turns out to be shrewd in reminding us how Picasso — whose life seemed vulgar and egotistic in comparison to, say, C├ęzanne’s — now appears high-minded in contrast to “the most ‘successful’ artists of the 21st century, flogging their endless versions of the same idea to know-nothing billionaires.”
Much to argue about here, as always, but I, for one, would much prefer an afternoon with anything written by Barnes or Jed Perl (and a laptop to look up the artwork discussed) to an afternoon in some Chelsea gallery puzzling over the latest shiny objects by Koons, Hirst, or Yi.  (Same goes for the soul-less current Biennial at the Portland Museum of Art--Maine's contribution to the push for "21st century" art.)  And, uh...Donald Trump is a "21st century statesman."