Under my capacity as managing editor for the College Art Association, I live-tweeted a session at the 2016 CAA Annual Conference in Washington, DC. It was the first time I had attempted to write about an event as it was taking place. Sponsored by CAA’s Committee on Intellectual Property, the session addressed how the organization’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts, published in February 2015, has been used by artists, publishers, and museum administrators.
Is it possible to be indifferent to Jeff Koons? For many years my attitude toward the artist’s work has been impassive and disinterested. It exists whether I like it or not and has some visual interest, but I’ve never cared enough to form an opinion beyond that. Among the most successful living artists, Koons is comparable to Jay Z or U2: a talented mainstream artist whose early output is considered groundbreaking, but whose later works are noteworthy more for their high production values and their exorbitant, multimillion-dollar price tags than their aesthetic worth. Over the years Koons has managed to stay relevant, with critics and journalists dutifully covering his exhibitions and appearances, just as they would report on Bono’s activism and Hova’s exploits.
George Segal said a certain amount of “cruelty” in the art world is necessary for the making of good art, although one could reply that sufficient cruelty would exist in the art world even if artists got 15 percent residuals.
Prem Krishnamurthy’s talk “Double Agency” addressed the speaker’s two primary roles: a founder of the design firm Project Projects (with Adam Michaels) and director and curator of P!—an interdisciplinary curatorial space that he described as a “mom-and-pop kunsthalle”—on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Project Projects has a critical and conceptual relationship to graphic design, Krishnamurthy said, that includes curatorial and editorial roles, but with respect to the traditional worker/client relationship. His goal is to produce design that is porous rather than unidirectional, working with existing materials and ideas instead of starting new with each project.
When Tim Gunn was writing his first book, the designer Diane von Furstenberg told him to never lose his voice as an educator. Gunn, a fashion consultant and the cohost of the television program Project Runway, had been struggling with the assignment of writing a self-help, makeover-oriented book instead of a history of fashion, which he originally wanted to do. He hated dressing books and body types. Gunn must have taken the advice he often gives to others—trust your gut and your instincts and know who you are—and he pulled through. In other words, he made it work.
“Is it ethical for an artist to make work that sells?” was the first question asked of Randy Cohen, who responded by saying that terms like “sincerity” and “ethics” do not apply in aesthetic situations—you judge an artwork on its own merits. He then asked the room, “Is it shameful to produce work that people enjoy?” If a person has an urge to make money, he mused, then art is a quirky field in which to earn a million.
Did you get into the Paul Chan lecture? Someone at SVA said they called Columbia and were told only Columbia grad students can attend those lectures. I forgot that Jerry Saltz was also giving a talk last night. I arrived at the studios just as some fellow students were headed over there. So I went with them. It was good in Jerry’s “I’m-not-gonna-beat-around-the-bush-with-you” way. His thing is this down-to-earth, no bullshit thing. There was nothing revelatory in his talk. He said many of the same things one finds in his writing and that he regularly seems to mention.