Am I jealous of rich and famous contemporary artists?

koons-vs-Kuns

Deflating Koons with Kuns. Not jealousy, but a wicked mixture of heady art criticism and good old fashioned pranking.

Someone asked me this question. He meant no harm and surely trusted me not to take offense, but I was dismayed that anyone at all familiar with me would think that was a possibility. On the other hand, it’s easy to see why they would. I’m not the jealous type, probably because I’m too practical for that (I’ll explain), but if I were to be jealous or more accurately envious, it wouldn’t be of Koons or Hirst.

The reason readers might think I’m envious is because I’ve launched full-scale rhetorical war against the richest and most popular living American artist, Jeff Koons. At the same time I’ve compared my art to his, even going so far as to make a faux Koons painting that I think is better than his originals. I forget, knowing myself for so long, that people wouldn’t see the trend in my personal history of parodying authoritative individuals whom I despise in some way. My art criticism is no more fueled by jealousy than are my political rants.

Jeff Koons painting "Arousing Curiosity"

Jeff Koons and his painting “Arousing Curiosity”. The “painting” is actually a Photoshop collage by yours truly, which easily rivals his Photoshop collages that he has his assistants make wall-sized, photo-realistic copies of.

I savaged Bush during his presidency, and even after it, recently improving his fledgling attempts at painting. I also did caricatures and impersonations of him. I still go around saying, “A Commander and Chief does what he has to do” for no particular reason, and everyone who knows me at all has heard me say that.

2-bush-drawings

Left: “You gotta be kidding” (one of my first attempts at my own Bush caricature, 2001). Right: “Does what he has to doo”. (2012)

But I wasn’t envious of Bush. I hated his policies and the effect he was having on my country, the world, and my future.

Bush-completed-paintings

My improvements or revisions of Bush’s beginner attempts at painting. If you are not familiar with Bush the artist, click on the image to see his originals and read my post about them.

But I am human and I can detect an inkling of envy towards some artists, but it’s not for their success, but rather for the magnitude of their artistic achievement. I think Koons’ work is mind-numbingly boring, and in a word – “sucks”. I no more envy his wealth or fame than I do Bill Gates’. I don’t even live in the same reality. I’m not selling any of my art for a profit of more than $50 above material production costs. I’d have to be in the same ballpark as a Koons to be envious. I’d be more likely to envy another artist who sells more cheap prints than I do, because that’s something within my grasp that I haven’t gotten, and it’s partly my own fault. Koons’ or Hirst’s success is the stuff of luck and fantasy. I no more envy them than I do someone who won the lottery.

I am more envious of Gerhard Richter than Koons, and it’s simply because his work actually impresses me. I don’t give a shit about how much it sells for. The base emotion of envy would largely be overshadowed by admiration, inspiration, and gratefulness for art I enjoy and which contributes to the richness of my existence. The envious part would be that I hadn’t done as much with my talent, and to the degree which that was my own fault. This is why my envy is practical. It has to be towards something that is within my grasp that I haven’t lived up to. And that’s why I’m taking a year off to make art.

richter

One of Richter’s large abstractions, and in just one of his several major working styles.

You may say it’s pretentious of me to think I could create work to rival Koons or Richter. I’d agree about Richter, but Koons is mostly just appropriation and boring-ass crap in my mind. But I am not really comparing my actual work to that of Richter, but rather it’s significance to me in relation to the significance of his work to me. In other words, I can make work that speaks to me as loudly as his does. I don’t imagine I would ever get the recognition he has. The chances of me having the time or resources to create a body of work to rival his are slim to nonexistent. Though, I do think if I had even five years I could make some pieces that would be worth hanging in the same room as his, or more likely on the same webpage.

Probably the main reason another blogger raised the question of if I might be “jealous” of the richly famous artists is because I include myself in my Art Prank Criticism of their work. I am the artist foil who makes ginormous sculptures to dwarf Paul McCarthy’s 50 foot inflatable dog shit pile, spray paints my own stencils over Banksy’s, and sells mall sculpture as fine art for millions. The reasons I use myself are mainly because of convenience, and to get more audience.

me-with-skull-200

The reason I want audience is not for the attention, which I rather don’t want (which is why I was virtually invisible online until I decided to try to sell work), but because without the audience I don’t have the buyers, and without them I can’t support myself making art, in which case I will have to go back to spending most my time working for someone else for sustenance wages. A little notoriety for witty pranks theoretically could help build my reputation. It hasn’t so far. I’m only a blip on the art radar if you look at the console with a microscope and a vivid imagination. That isn’t as important to me as is making the work itself.

So there you have it. My attacks on Koons or future savaging of Hirst (if I get to it) are not out of jealousy, but rather because I think they are over-inflated, and the art sphere as well as the paradigm that supports it are as distorted and corrupted by big money as are politics.

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7 thoughts on “Am I jealous of rich and famous contemporary artists?

  1. I love that point about your confidence in making something as valuable to you as Major Artist X. If a lot of people meant that about their own work, I think the diagnosis of artistic arrogance would drop. Cooler yet, it makes your subjectivity into an objective truth, a talent that science just doesn’t have!

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  2. Your notoriety point answers my question. You’re right that the question wasn’t meant in any offensive way. Putting yourself in their place seemed to have similarities not only with Situationist acts but also the kind of visualisation techniques that motivational speakers go on about. I would have asked you the same question if you were a programmer plopping yourself into pictures of Bill Gates, or a politician doing the same with Dubya. Are you going to make the news items sharable? Some people seem to make daily news sheets out of news and other items. I wonder if this technology is the sort of thing that your news items could piggy-back onto?

    I really enjoy your fakes. As someone who has used Photoshop extensively, I can really appreciate the Duchamp urinal. Actually, I would be tempted to cut corners by bringing a marker pen into a tatty toilet. The weirdest thing about your fakes is that there’s so much of the spirit of the originals about them. This is perhaps why they are so convincing. It’s as though, as with when you drop your own picture into a scene, you put yourself into the mind of the artists enough to put a bit of their mindset into the Photoshop work.

    I think it’s on Google now that you can curate your own virtual museum from major world collections. Is there some way you could construct a virtual museum of your fakes? Just a thought.

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    1. I’ll have to look into the virtual museums. Right now I’m moving away from my “art prank criticism” and exploring representational painterly renditions of contemporary tableaux. Glad you like the fakes. I still want to do a Hirst painting, a Basquiat, and a Paul McCarthy. I’m just not quite sure what to do with those. Anyway, looking forward to reading your new book.

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  3. I have run into this as well. It is quite common for any hatred of someone who is “successful” to be interpreted as jealousy. I admit I have been jealous of certain artists but it has never been based on financial success nor has it been in regards to popularity. It has always been in regards to skill and I have used it to better my own work. My hatred of Koons and the like is not based on jealousy it is based on the fact that I love art and seeing someone who does not even make art escalate the art world into a commercialized elitist popularity game through the use of money disgusts me. It seems to me that the elitists are not happy with controlling all forms of popular media but now they have to exert their control over Art as well and sterilize the last bastion of individuality and expression. Art is made by an individual not a factory, Art is expressive if you have nothing to say who the hell cares how much money you put into paying other people to make an image? If you need a multi-million dollar factory filled with artisans to cover for your own lack of talent get out of the art world and allow a true artist to ascend. I’m sure there are tons of people in Walmart looking to buy whatever nick-knack or shiny bauble your factory decides to manufacture, without the B.S. story of how its art.

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    1. That sounds about right to me. Related to that I’ve recently become interested in drawing as an arena that allows little bullshit. Most everyone can get access to pencil and paper, so to compete in that arena is to potentially compete with anyone and everyone. The questions becomes, “Can you make something interesting and with originality just using a pencil and paper?” I’m trying now to see if I can. Would Koons or Hirst be able to make a solid, interesting, novel drawing, themselves? If you can’t do that can you really call yourself a visual artist. Similarly, if you can’t make a good musical composition with juts a guitar or piano (or similar instrument), could you really call yourself a musician?

      Perhaps Koons could say, “Well, I’m an artist but I’m not good at drawing and I don’t believe anything original can be said.” That would be throwing in the towel. I think if one is an artist, one could at least give it a try. When people express the notion that it’s all been said and done before, and there’s nothing new to say in painting or drawing, the most outspoken are the ones that don’t even try. Where was the cut off point? Why not try and see where we wash up?

      When Andy Warhol teamed up with Jean Michel Basquiat to make collaborative paintings, all Warhol could think to ad were corporate logos and illustrations copied out of advertisements. Did Warhol really have no better idea, if you pared it down to just drawing, than copying advertising, as he’d learned to do as a commercial illustrator?

      Just something I’m thinking about and working with, as sort of the polar extreme of Koons and his expensive, factory made, appropriation works that end up looking indistinguishable from any other mass produced ornament.

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