Sunday, February 16, 2014

Two Art World Pet Peeves Collide and Break My Writer’s Block

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much recently. Let’s call it a case of writer’s block that took being sent into apoplectic shock by a recent outbreak of artspeak to cure.

As you know, MOCA has hired Phillipe Vergne as its new director. In the LA Times article announcing the hire, the writers chose the following quote to introduce us to Vergne:

"My vision is to commit to the most experimental artists of our time, but also to contextualize their work within a broader context," Vergne said in an interview. "And I think Moca's collection is one of the best to contextualize that kind of experimentation." [emphases mine]

Really? Are we expected to blindly accept this drivel? 
Once again no one seems to notice that the emperor is naked. Can we raise the bar an inch or two? This isn’t even good artspeak (an oxymoron if ever there were one)! It reminds me of trying to fake answers on essay questions when I didn’t have a clue. 

I decided to investigate and see just who this Phillipe Vergne character really is. And OMG! I found a video of an hour-long lecture by Vergne defending one of my other all-time pet peeves, the work of artist Gedi Sibony.

Quoting from my own blog, here is my one and I hope only experience of Sibony’s work:

"A couple years ago I was at MOMA in New York looking at an exhibition of conceptual works from the museum's permanent collection. One piece consisted of an ordinary vertical window shade laid out on the floor. There was some explanatory text saying that the artist had had an epiphany of sorts as he removed the blind from an empty studio and carried it across the hall to his studio and placed it on the floor exactly like it was displayed at MOMA. The piece was titled "The Middle of the World." Really? I suspect marijuana was involved." Click here to see an image of "The Middle of the World." Your reaction?

So I watched as much of the Vergne/Sibony video as I could stand, (I'm inserting it below with apologies) probably about 10 minutes, and here is my take-away: Vergne is charming, has great hair and appropriate art world eyewear, a French accent [note to self: consider changing name of gallery to “La Galerie de L’Offramp.”], a self-deprecating sense of humor, and is passionate about dry, conceptual art. I have no doubt rich people will throw money at him. Good for MOCA. But what about the rest of us?

Vergne has since publicly stated he will not do much curating but will hire curators and let them do what they do. I’ll try to keep an open mind, but the forecast from here seems to mirror our current Southern California drought.

Prove me wrong Phillipe Vergne!

Upcoming at Offramp Gallery

March 14, 6-10pm
Spring 2014 ArtNight Pasadena
Special Preview of Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not
Music by Unpopable

March 16 - April 20, 2014
Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not
Opening Reception: Sunday, March 16, 2-5pm
Closing Reception: Sunday, April 20, 2-5pm


  1. Great commentary--no artspeak here I am happy to say! (I am not sure I could do 10 minutes of the video even if it did promise transporting me to The Middle of the World.)

  2. Right on Jane. Tell it like it is. Vergne's quote of his intentions is priceless! Thanks for your words, and glad you're back at the keyboard.

  3. My thoughts were pretty much like yours. MOCA has selected the same old, same old. We can predict the shit he'll be showing, and yes, stupid rich people will throw wads of cash at him in the hope of acquiring a thin cultural veneer to cover their base souls.

  4. Haha, on MOMA's site, Sibony says, about his piece,
    " I became deeply attached, sort of overcome with the feeling of, you know, what is this thing that I'm doing here? What is my life that I'm nervously detaching this object and nurturing it in this kind of way? It was a very loaded moment carrying this thing and gently placing it on the floor. I left it on the ground, in exactly this position.
    And I felt very much like I was taking this thing from the middle of the world this place that's so close that it's right across the hall but it's somewhere mysterious."
    Ha, couldn't have said it better myself....

  5. It is the purpose of the duly institutionalized artist to provide those non-artist art theorists and art historians with stuff, that lets them yack endlessly about all that je ne sais qoie - I am not a bet your ass you're not- stuff, to folks with lots of money, wherewithal and a need to prove their cultural depth and overall goodness, that combinded with that deep seated need to piss on any architecturally significant wall (and god damn if there aren't enough walls, they have somebody build some to their specifications in the right location) is responsible for those insanely crazy auction results of recent times. Shit I'm out of breath.

  6. So glad to have you back, Jane! Your blog is a breath of fresh air in the contemporary art world. Vergne's talk is hilarious.
    Do you think maybe he's just putting us all on?

  7. ... I do like the way he says "hang-O-ver"...& the Burroughs quote; & a few other touches. That said I'm turning away after only a couple of minutes. (I'm wondering if the accent is the best feature....) I actually sort of like Gedi Sibony's minimal/abstract bricolage-sculptures. I sort of get where Vergne is going with all this (as you may know, he included Sibony in the 2008 Whitney biennial) -- but really, couldn't he compress all this within five or ten minutes? OMG -- it sounds as if he's getting defensive here .... (why??)... I have to withhold judgment here; but I'm sure his public speaking will improve over time.

  8. Sibony's words seem like he felt he had to describe an accident and make it art. I'm sure he went through a dozen imaginary titles to select "Middle of the World." A word visual about nothing. Jane, it's nice to see you. Kathy

  9. I have used the Emperor's new clothes as an explanation for art that needs an explanation. I don't spend time pondering something that doesn't elevate culture or the arts. I get it, the bottom line is always cash and marketing to get cash. Carry-on art world.

  10. Great blog as always Jane. Glad to see you're back at it. As for the window blind thrown on the floor what can I say but..."No Comment." If anything it stirred up lots of conversation and has merit to me for only that.

  11. As Tom Wolff said in "The Painted Word", …it is not the work itself, but what is said about the work that is important. Jane this is another iteration of the emperor having no clothes. This needed to be said.

  12. I suppose if Sibony were the first to take a manufactured object and put it on display as art we could give him some credit for shaking up the old standards of the art world. Unfortunately for him he was born way way way after Duchamp. At least people got stirred up about Duchamp. Only "artspeak" for Sibony...


  13. I tried to get to the end of the video but it's way more than 10 min, or more than I could endure. But who's his hair colorist? Great hair! Love the color and shimmer. That sheen and metallics are really in. He really should consider a bit of metallic spritz.