They've imported high-ticket Western art, modern and contemporary. American universities like Texas A&M, New York University. The Guggenheim. Leading architects including Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Rafael Viñoly, Jean Nouvel.
There's no question what those entities get out of the deal. It's green. It makes the world go round. Oh, yeah, and there are some niceties.
The cultural partners that Qatar and the other Emirates are importing to their principalities largely claim to be there in the interest of greater global understanding. There is a “conviction that interaction with new ideas and people who are different is valuable and necessary, and a commitment to educating students who are true citizens of the world,” as New York University says of its presence in Abu Dhabi. Of course, our Western elites would show little interest if these countries were still merely made up of poor fishermen and pearl divers. They are there to sell, but what precisely are these countries out to buy?
Soft power, much like the American C.I.A. wielded in the Cold War, and cover for continued basic human-rights abuses, Panero writes.
He tells the story of the Qatari poet imprisoned for 15 years for allegedly insulting the Emir. One of his poems asked the same question Panero poses: "Why, why do these regimes/ import everything from the West—/ everything but the rule of law, that is,/ and everything but freedom?”
Panero then goes on to share the story of the expensive Western art bought under the Shah in Iran, which, in order to avoid being destroyed during the revolution, had to be scurried off into storage—where it remains.
The terrible history of Iran demonstrates what can happen when a modernist culture merely overlays a repressive regime. In such circumstances, artists and organizations might profit by spreading modernity, but they are also abetting a compromised state. The two go hand in hand, liberalizing on the one and oppressing on the other. The art, meanwhile, continues its own transformation, evolving from images of Provençal peasant life and visions of abstract thought into symbols of autocratic power. Should a state like Qatar ever collapse, the results would leave a hole not only in the art market but in the culture of art itself. In the meantime, épater la bourgeoisie has become state policy in the modernizing capital of Doha, while épater l’Emir remains a capital offense.
This "hole in the culture of art itself" is interesting. Does he mean that if a state like Qatar, holding all this art, were to collapse, then the art would either be destroyed or disappeared, and that would constitute a "hole in the culture of art itself"? Like a bullet through the body of Western art?
If that were to happen, I could hardly sympathize with any of the players. (Maybe some of the artists, the dead ones, but certainly not with someone like Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons.) Because the wound is self-inflicted. In fact, a "hole in the culture of art itself" is a preexisting condition. Rich Americans are not Mother Theresas, even if you compare them to rich ruling Qataris. This art is already made of the conditions of widespread inequality, and you might even call it human-rights abuses, when you consider statistics about how the poorest Americans live today.
Anyone who follows the rise of the art market can safely say that global demand has moved beyond the realm of aesthetics on to other concerns. Blue-chip art has become a speculative sport, a trophy hunt, a diversified hedge, and a means for money laundering. Art now serves any number of functions that have little connection with value and connoisseurship.
When I.M. Pei says he wants culture to be more emphasized in oil and gas states, yet culture at these levels means little more than money, then who is influencing whom in these purchases? It's just money versus money. The rich and the ruling always find their way to each other. The real borders are not between countries but between them and everyone else.
by Jen Graves
on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 11:00 AM
A streaky, faceless Madonna holds her dead grown child, over and over, in pietà-patterned wallpaper. A drippy sculpture that at first appears to be entirely abstract is revealed as you walk around it to have multiple facades, each one the profile of a dilapidated naked man (and his erection) in a sequential state of slumping or rising...
by Jen Graves
on Mon, Dec 9, 2013 at 11:25 AM
Photo provided by Ms. Seders
Francine Seders in 1966.
Yesterday was the final opening ever at the gallery in the relative wilds of Phinney Ridge, where modernism has quietly thrived for decades under the nurturance of a diminutive Frenchwoman. We Suggested the event.
But In 2006, I wrote a full profile of Francine Seders that I think is worth revisiting, because Seders turned out to be even more interesting, more wonderful, and more ineffable than I suspected when I set out to write the piece in the first place. From the story:
Today, at 40, the Francine Seders Gallery is the oldest gallery in the city still run day-to-day by its founder, and probably the city's most unlikely art success. Even Seders herself is surprised by it. "I never cater to people with money, which would help," she says, wearing a dress and folding her hands in her lap, looking like a cross between Cezanne's proper, upright wife, and Bonnard's languorous Marthe. "What can I talk to them about? They don't want to talk about the books that I read. Maybe I should play golf and have a martini."
Rather, the 80-year-old is learning Chinese from books and gardening. She'll still work from home, where she'll still be the dealer who never deals.
Christmas Eve is the gallery's last day open. The final show is works by Norman Lundin, Dale Lindmann, Dina Barzel, Michael Howard, and Diann Knezovich. She's always got something around by Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight, so if you don't see anything, you might ask. Don't forget to look at the art in the staircase that leads to the basement. (Gallery.)
Courtesy the artist and Francine Seders Gallery
Greystone Duo, by Diann Knezovich, is mixed media on a digital print, 2013. Knezovich lives in Seattle.
by Jen Graves
on Sun, Dec 8, 2013 at 11:00 AM
The star of today’s art reception is this Old-World-charming gallery itself. It’s been operated for 47—47—years by the tremendously civilized Frenchwoman Francine Seders, now 80 years old. She’s got subtle taste in art, she’s never catered to the wealthy, and her quiet warmth has kept her a bit of an enduring mystery...
by Jen Graves
on Sun, Dec 8, 2013 at 10:29 AM
PHOTO BY AARON HUEY
SOME PEOPLE SAY AARON HUEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TAKEN THIS PHOTO But the Lakota medicine man in the picture isn’t one of them.
Captionless photos run through Aaron Huey's book of photos from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota like an unruly river, some to the edges of the pages, overflowing the banks of what we see. There's beautiful bleakness, mostly free of context—maybe because, as Huey told me, "the more time I spend [at Pine Ridge], the more confused I am about what to do with it."
As a journalist for National Geographic and Harper's, Huey became a righteous advocate, exhorting the federal government to honor the treaties and give back the Black Hills. You may have seen his "Honor the Treaties" poster campaign with street-art mogul Shepard Fairey.
by Jen Graves
on Sat, Dec 7, 2013 at 10:13 AM
PHOTO BY MATIKA WILBUR
STEVEN YELLOWTAIL After the photographs are printed in black and white, Wilbur hand-colors sections with oil paint—like the saddle, the chaps, and Yellowtail’s face and hands.
Matika Wilbur is the kind of photographer who calls ahead. She laughs loud and makes friends easily and sleeps on the couches and floors of her subjects. If she gets sick, like she did this past August, after too many nights with no sleep, driving through the American West with her camera, she is offered an actual bed, and actually takes it. In August, it was Steven Yellowtail who insisted she take his bedroom and he would sleep on the family couch. He'd never met her before. He only knew she was a friend of his older sister's and that she was doing something she wouldn't be able to do unless she had couches and beds and floors to sleep on. What she's doing is spending several years—as long as it takes, and as long as the grant money and Kickstarter funds last—visiting and taking pictures of every Native American tribe in the United States.
She's been traveling a year so far, at the wheel of her improbable black sports car, one woman following her own grand vision. But...
Well, it turns out that what's at the Hutch is the Kullman Collection, donated in 2010 by the family of Frederick S. Kullman, an attorney who'd lived in Bellingham. Full press release (I don't think I was on their list in 2010—now I believe they have added me, most likely to keep me from erroring them in future).
How did I get this so wrong? Evidently there is a plaque that names the collectors. I missed this entirely. GAHH. But a word in my defense: What you see in the gallery is not the usual gallery-naming convention. The namers' names (the Greathouses) are writ large across the top of the wall, with the collectors' names smaller. I did not notice any plaque. This plaque may be a little more obscure than is best for clarity's sake.
Anyhoo. The collection is notable regardless of who put it together; it's just not Frye-related.
This was, however, a pretty great comment comparing W. Eugene Smith's all-sweetness portrait of his children to Franz von Stuck's lurid painting Sin:
Thanks to everyone for playing, and my apologies to all of you, to the Hutch, and to the Kullman family.
by Jen Graves
on Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM
THIS IS HOW WIDE THE GALLERY IS It's a stairwell, y'all. The best damn stairwell in Seattle. Meet Tariqa Waters, owner and curator of Martyr Sauce, at 122 South Washington Street in Pioneer Square.
It's just a stairwell. But not every stairwell has a curator. A web site. A sandwich board advertising it. A name: Martyr Sauce. Actual glass jars printed with custom labels for Martyr Sauce in the window (and for sale). Not every stairwell is lined with paintings all the way up, and at the bottom, as a welcome, a giant—giant—portrait painting of Andrew Jackson, wearing a slave collar.
Tariqa Waters is the owner, curator, and painter-of-Andrew-Jackson. I just happened on Martyr Sauce walking by last night, during the grand opening. It was pretty grand. Most galleries aren't half this energetic right off the bat. Martyr Sauce advertises itself, right on the nutritional label, as 100 percent of your daily needed iron intake, and made of:
Ingredients: Piss, Distilled Vinegar (contains 2% or less of the following) Irreverence, High Fructose Cough Syrup, Non Hydrogenated Snake Oil, Street (and/or) Book Smarts, White Privilege, Black Rage, Natural Flavor, Artificial Color.
Courtesy of the artist
Elizabeth Lopez's painting Civil War (2011), is three feet by three feet. It ain't easy to see it during the opening in the stairwell, but make an appointment for any other time and you'll see it better.
Waters moved with her husband and two kids from Atlanta about a year ago; this stairwell leads up to their Pioneer Square apartment. Ryan Waters is a serious situation of a guitarist; he's in Sade's band. (Watch the second video down on this page, and here's his bio.) The Waterses are a whole infusion of art to Seattle. They came here because, well, they didn't want to go to LA, Tariqa said. (Yay for being the non-LA, Seattle. Hear that, rapidly gentrifying Capitol Hill.)
The first show is paintings by Elizabeth Lopez. Waters found Lopez working at Seattle Art Museum. "That's where all the rogue artists work, at the cafeteria and gift shop at SAM," Waters says. Martyr Sauce's next opening is the first Thursday in January; scour the low-wage workers at local museums to guess who it might be.
by Jen Graves
on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 3:07 PM
Two sculptures by Eva Funderburgh at the entrance to the Bellevue Arts Museum.
Seeing these two sculptures sitting together yesterday made me think of Ariel Levy's New Yorker story about adventurism and birthing a baby who lived only a few minutes during a trip to Mongolia. I've written first-person about the failure of a pregancy before, and it's a hard thing to do.
You can see more of Eva Funderburgh's sculptures here.