Category / Art

A selective boost February 16, 2014 at 10:56 am

I am all in favour of Keynesian stimulation when the economy is in the doldrums, but £28m for a public toilet is… perhaps inefficient? Still, as anyone caught short in many UK towns knows, we do need more public conveniences. At least this approach could provide a massive boost to would-be-edgy architects, plate glass manufacturers, and young people with art history degrees and an over-developed sense of fashion.

How not to win the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize April 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Wandering around the exhibition ahead of this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Prize, it seemed to me that there’s a recipe for how some photo prizes work. It might go something like this:

  • Select 0, 1 or (exceptionally) 2 artists with some insight for photography, sensitivity to the medium, and technical skill.
  • Select 2-4 artists who work with photography but have rather little insight, sensitivity or skill to a total shortlist size of 4. It helps if this second group is made up of conceptual artists making rather trite points about the kinds of topics conceptual artists like to be seen to comment on.
  • Be sure when deciding the winner not to take into account the quality of the photographs themselves, because thinking about a photography prize that way is just naive…

Now this may not be how it is with the Deutsche Börse prize, but given that Chris Killip actually has some skill with a camera, I wouldn’t advise that you bet on him winning this year…

Classical orders revisited November 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Jonathan Meades has a hilarious review of the new Bomber Command Memorial at Hyde Park Corner in the LRB. His altogether apposite demolition of the building – in word if not deed – reminded me of how long it has been since we did classicism well, as here:

A classical stair

Local interventions April 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

If you wander around Shoreditch, you see some strange things. Some of them are the result of the whole area being a kind of informal gallery space. Take this pair for instance:

Shoreditch signs

They just appeared a few months ago, hung around for a while, then disappeared. The two signs were indeed about 100m apart and they pointed at each other. I do appreciate someone adding that touch of oddity to my day.

Manchester Beef and other good things April 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Manchester Beef

OK, the Robert Biggert Collection of Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery might not be for everyone, but check it out, it’s awesome.

Two wonderful shows December 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

Two of the greatest painters of the last few decades have shows within a mile of each other in London. Gerhard Richter is at Tate Modern until 8th January, while Anselm Kiefer has just opened at White Cube Bermondsey. If you have a few hours free in London and you care at all about painting, you could do a lot worse than see these two fantastic shows.

They said you couldn't photograph the pictures... but they didn't say you couldn't photograph the mirror

The bounce at the top February 2, 2010 at 6:44 am

Bloomberg tells us:

European yacht makers Princess Yachts and Beneteau SA said sales are picking up as wealthy buyers resume purchases of their most-expensive models.

“Boats over 100 feet are selling very strongly as the very wealthy feel the crisis less and tend to buy bigger and more modern boats,” Simon Clare, head of marketing for Princess Yachts, said in an interview at the Dusseldorf boat fair.

I’m not surprised. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the top of the market – silly sports cars, houses priced in eight figures, even (to a lesser extent) fine art – is recovering. My advice? Buy first growth claret and flip it fairly fast. I’m not at all convinced that the plebs are sufficiently well off that this rally has legs, but if the worst comes to the worst, you can always drink that particular investment mistake.

Update. More evidence, again from Bloomberg:

A sculpture by Alberto Giacometti last night became the most expensive work of art sold at auction as wealthy collectors battled for rare works by 20th-century artists at the biggest auction held in London, Sotheby’s said.

The life-size bronze of a walking man, being sold by Germany-based Dresdner Bank AG, fetched 65 million pounds ($103.4 million) with fees.

Over a hundred million for a Giacometti? That is in crazy Klimt territory. It might just be time to buy stock in diamond producers…

Must everything be a creche these days? December 2, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Susanna Rustin in The Guardian is being annoying today:

Museums have invested hugely in access programmes over the last decade, and many have figures to prove it. Manchester Art Gallery saw pet visits increase from 32,000 to 77,000 over the last four years. Even grown-up and not obviously pet-friendly collections, such as the Wallace and Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, now have pet days. While pet owners are hugely appreciative of what galleries have to offer, and above all of the fact that they are free, most can remember a visit to an art gallery where they ended up feeling awkward and in the way.

You are probably spluttering at this point. Dogs and Delacroix? Cats and Corot? No one needs to bring a pet python to see Piero della Franchesca, right? Well yes, you are right. But neither does anyone need to bring a two year old. Yet the Guardian is actually talking about parents rather than pet owners – I just substituted a few words. Susanna spends rather a lot of the article talking about the awkwardness that occasionally puts off poor parents when attempting to use the National Gallery as a creche. What it is conspicuously silent on how screaming, running and tantrums spoil the sublimity of Stubbs for the rest of us. You can’t bring a wolfhound to see the Watteau, so why can you bring a toddler to the Titian? Or do the non-child-equipped have no rights in this matter at all?


Contemporary Art as Reality TV November 25, 2009 at 5:30 pm

The BBC has come up with a very nice programme proposition: success in contemporary art as an exploit for reality TV. (Those of you who have access to BBC iplayer can see the show here; a review is here.) School of Saatchi has twelve artist contestants struggling for favour with the unseen collector, Mr. Charles himself. What’s lovely about this show is how it has subverted the conventions of reality TV to fit the contemporary art world. There is no voting, for instance: instead of a viewer poll, all the decisions are made off camera by Saatchi. The tasks the artists are set are entertaining, but there is no pretense that success or failure at them matters in the slightest. The man with money has all the power: everyone else, none. How modern.

Making Art as Performance

Taxing Tracey October 9, 2009 at 11:52 am

That most self-promoting and least deep of YBA artists, Tracey Emin, has threatened to leave the UK in protest at the forthcoming 50p tax rate on income over £150,000. My first reaction is to join many in promising the stand on the quay at Dover to wave good bye and good riddance, since her absence would hardly impoverish British cultural life. But there is a better approach, however appealing getting rid of Trace might be. Tax all UK citizens on their worldwide income regardless of domicile. That would mean that the only way to avoid UK would be to find another country which was willing to give citizenship, and to permanently give up your UK passport. If you combine that with tight non-dom rules on foreign nationals working in the UK, you would have a much fairer tax system for higher earners. It would also have the benefit that you could not represent the UK if you did not pay UK tax. That might appeal to Tracey: I cannot believe anyone would be foolish enough to let her represent Britain at the Venice Biennale, but she might stand a chance of being allowed to represent Andorra…

Anish Does Brighton May 21, 2009 at 6:11 am

A few shots of the Anish Kapoor installations at the Brighton Festival.

Anish 1

Anish 2

Anish 3

Strained, but not entirely silly banking system metaphor no. 152 April 9, 2009 at 7:12 am

WunderkammerHappy Easter to all. Deus Ex will return on Monday or thereabouts.

A little light relief February 18, 2009 at 7:28 am

Giant Chicken“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Maybe it’s a big horse*.”

“Maybe it’s a big horse who?”

“Maybe it’s a big horse I’m a Londoner that I love London town**.”

[Hat tip the Guardian Diary.]

* Gratuitous Mark Wallinger reference.

** Classic footage here.

Credit Derivatives Unfairly Scapegoated October 18, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Safe SheepFrom Reuters:

Credit strategists at ING said on Thursday that credit derivatives were being unfairly blamed by politicians and commentators for the near meltdown of financial markets…”The CDS (credit default swaps) market is being used as a scapegoat for political and economic goals,” ING credit strategist Jeroen van den Broek wrote in a note to investors.

Quite right too, and I have been saying so for months. This particular goat (sheep, whatever) is pretty safe.

As per my earlier post, Reuters reports that the Lehman settlement is a non-event. There a nicely written elaboration from Felix Salmon on here, and a broader FT alphaville defense of derivatives here.

Short contemporary art September 3, 2008 at 11:56 am

Display StepsExcept Chinese contemporary art, obvious. From the FT:

modern art has mainly been bought by the nouveaux riches who made their money in the bull market: the hedge fund managers, the investment bankers, the media moguls. Most of these would-be collectors are running for cover, having been battered by the credit crunch, with bonuses and bumper payouts now just a memory. The few rich left – the Russians, oil sheikhs and the like – don’t buy much contemporary art. The years of easy money, which have driven so much asset price inflation, are surely over and now is the reckoning, when the froth evaporates.

I agree with Luke Johnson. This year’s Frieze is going to be interesting.

Horst and £17M Sue May 15, 2008 at 8:52 am

Two contrasting news headlines drew my attention this morning. Horst Köhler – a former head of the International Monetary Fund – singled out excessive executive pay … as a factor in the subprime crisis and accused bankers of acting irresponsibly according to the FT. And over in New York a Lucien Freud portrait of Sue Tilly set a record Tuesday night for the most money paid for any work by a living artist. The 1995 life-size painting — “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” — fetched $33.6 million during bidding at Christie’s auction house in New York according to CNN. (That’s $10M more than the previous record, by the way.)

Whatever you think of the desirability of having one of his paintings on your wall, Lucien Freud is one of the greatest artists of his generation, perhaps of all time. His unflinching cruelty, the visceral brushstrokes, the shock of seeing the reality of the body as he portrays it: no one since Goya has been as brutal about what people are. His output is of staggeringly high quality as anyone who saw his only major retrospective (the Hayward in 1988 – why hasn’t he had one since?) can attest. Yet despite the new record price, Stan O’Neil could buy four paintings at this price and still have enough left to build a gallery to put them in and staff it for life with his payoff for leaving Merrill — leaving it with enormous losses. Chuck Prince could manage three with his payoff for failure at Citi. When you see that, you realise that perhaps Horst has a point.

On my street May 1, 2008 at 6:36 pm

On the day of the London mayoral and assembly elections, and with upcoming vote on 42 day detention, this seems apposite.

HM Prison London

They have some unusual animals in Regent’s Park at the moment… October 13, 2007 at 6:02 pm

…and some of them are even more rare than buyers in the ABCP market. That however, may be about to change.

The proposal apparently (the details are sketchy) is for a group of banks to set up a mega-SIV. This new vehicle will acquire the mortgage assets now held by some existing SIVs and conduits. The range of participants is unclear – Citi, with over $100B in conduits, is apparently leading the deal structuring, with JPMorgan interested in selling the new paper. The basic idea is that having a vehicle with a more diverse range of assets will avert the need for many banks to sell their existing conduit assets causing a crash in the RMBS market. Things are not exactly going well there as it is, as you can see from the recent price action on the ABX Home Equity BBBs (this graph is for the 07-2s):

(Graph from Markit via Calculated Risk. This is pretty good on the ABX if you need some background.)

The credit enhancement for the new vehicle hasn’t been made public thus far: one structure might be for all the contributing banks be jointly and severally liable for some bottom tranche, followed by a layer of seller-specific credit enhancement. The proposal is apparently to be dubbed M-LEC, for master liquidity enhancement conduit.

In this context it occurs to me to wonder why holding assets off balance sheet in conduits have such a preferential capital treatment compared with on balance sheet credit enhancement. To see this, consider the following two trades: 1. A bank sells a diverse $500M portfolio of assets into a conduit, retains a $10M seller’s interest, funds by issueing three month ABCP, and writes a back-up liquidity line; 2. A bank holds the assets on balance sheet and buys a three month credit derivative on losses in excess of $10M, rolling it as it expires.

In both cases the bank is exposed to losses between 0 and $10M but not above. In 1., it has to fund the assets if the ABCP market is disrupted, whereas in 2. it knows that it has to fund the assets in all conditions and hence can lock in term funding. Therefore arguably 2. is less risky than 1., and certainly not riskier. But you can guess which situation has the higher regulatory capital, can’t you?

Update. The plan is now out. Or, at least, the intention to come up with a plan that may lead to the MLEC is out. I wonder how they are going to value the assets the MLEC will wave in…

Two shots from early evening at the Tate Modern March 31, 2007 at 3:00 pm

I love the way the rain-soaked evening cradles the city. It is not yet dark, but the quality of the light is so soft and grey it seems to swaddle the town like a duvet. Meanwhile inside the Tate we have a fair ground ride masquerading as art masquerading as a fair ground ride: a game from Karsten Holler that is less than it seems.

[And yes, I know I’ve just used my purple prose allocation for the year. So sue me.]

Winning Hearts and Minds March 10, 2007 at 5:41 pm

Banksy?I’m not sure if these are Banksy’s tribute to the death of Baudrillard, but they have recently appeared on a wall close to my flat.