Request rational and sober thinkers for this one.

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Jim Chinn, Dec 30, 2005.

  1. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    While looking over my various art sites I found this:

    http://www.artcritical.com/appel/BAPrinceRecord.htm

    To save some time, the image is a re-photograph of a Marlboro cigarette add that set a record for a photograph at auction at over 1.2 million dollars.

    I have often stated that today (IMHO) the only thing that determines if something is art is if someone will pay money for it. But just because someone pays money for something does not mean that it is not total CRAP.

    I understand that for the person or gallery that bought it, 1 million$ is probably pocket change. What bothers me is how the responses of most of the gallery owners questioned seem to think this is the greatest event to occur in photography. I understand it is in their own best interest spin the sale in a positive light. I mean if this garbage sells think of how much more of it is out there waiting to be sucked up by other people with mush for brains.

    I realize that Mr. Prince does not consider Photography to be his medium and that it is ironic that for photography to finally make it into the mainstream of modern art one needs to be an anti-photography photographer.

    Is this the pinnacle of photography? Copying another image to show it in a different context?

    I guess I am interested in opinions and responses to the image, the auction price and the comments by various gallery owners. Perhaps we can have nice dialogue about the current state and trends in "contemporary" photography.
     
  2. bobfowler

    bobfowler Subscriber

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    I certainly hope not...
     
  3. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I wonder if anyone would bother to discuss this work if it had sold for $1000.00 or so. This work could never have commanded even $50 without the story that goes with it...it doesn't stand on its own at all as significant. The vagueries of 'art' valuation, the testosterone driven power of an auction, and the hype of those who successfully spin a story to accompany it absolutely elude me.
     
  4. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

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    The longer that I'm in the "art world" the more apparent it becomes that there are two art worlds. The gallery world which is mostly comprised of people who actually make a living by producing or selling art, and the museum world which is mostly comprised of people with an academic background in art and mostly talk/write about art but usually do not produce any art. This was not as true in the past, as previously many artists with commercial backgrounds found acceptance in the fine art world, Warhol, Penn, Rosenquist, etc. However now the academic world seems to frown upon any previous commercial success as tainting the artist.

    The art sold in most galleries has to have qualities that are clearly evident to most people, (even those without any art history background), beautiful composition, light, technique, visual interest, beauty, etc. It has to strike a chord with people. The work prized by the academic art world is usually all about references to art world politics, and references to past art work and art history. There are artists who's work crosses both worlds, but they usually have found success in the museum world first and then when they became a "name" their work was saleable in galleries. Museums and their curators do not get attention, something they desparately seek, by putting on safe pretty shows, they get attention by controversy and shock. It seems that most curators at museums want to out shock their classmates. Every once in a while they'll drag out an old favorite, Picasso, Van Gogh, to get the revenues up, and then it's back to Damian Hirst and Serrano's "Piss Christ".

    What seems more important to the academic art world, which is not just museum curators but art writers and critics, is not the imagery but the subtext. What is the story behind the art? What is the artists saying about the art world? I was always taught that a piece of art needs to stand on it's own merits, and if you need to explain it, then the piece has not succeeded. However as the academic art world is more about reading and writing about art than actually producing it, they are more comfortable with the language than the art itself.

    That's just my own observations, of course I could be way wrong, but it certainly explains why so many poorly done, uncreative, and downright awful works receive such abundant praise and attention.
     
  5. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Interesting, Early Riser. You make a lot of sense.

    Personally, I think this is just another example of someone getting their 15 minutes of fame. This is the 21st Century--being noticed is more important than being good.
     
  6. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Not being impressed by most gallery marketing schemes and not knowing anything about museums strategies, I will say this.

    What is interesting about this image, is the fact that it HAS a story. The copying of it is more important that the original.

    The picture itself shows a cowboy riding out of frame. Perhaps meaning that it's the end of an era. No more cowboys.

    The copied work, shows the Marlboro Man riding out of frame. Also the end of an era. No more Marlboro Man. He died of cancer smoking Marlboros.

    This ad was part of a campaign when we as a society thought that smoking was cool, OK and didn't end us up on a respirator.

    So for me this image is kind of a time capsule. A DOUBLE end of an era revealing the death of our romanticising two different things.


    Michael
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    How do you think it compares to this previous record-setting photograph (about $620K at Sotheby's in London in 1999)?--

    http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/objects/oz68536.html

    It's surely a fine photograph, and the print that fetched that price was considered to be an exceptional print with clear provenance, but what makes it worth $620,000 compared to other excellent prints of great photographs of clear provenance? In part it had to do with the context of other photographs in the auction and the presence of collectors with deep pockets. But I don't the auction price is really much of a measure of aesthetic value, and I don't get too worked up about ridiculous auction prices.

    I skimmed through the comments in the link that Jim Chinn originally posted, and it seems that relatively few of the gallerists, curators, and critics quoted really believe that the Prince photograph is worth what was paid for it or that will hold that price in the long term. Many were pleased to see that a photograph--any photograph--could command that kind of price, because it means that photographs are being taken more seriously by art collectors. Some acknowledged the ways in which the work genuinely is interesting (e.g., that it makes some comment on the way that we look at advertising, or the way that American identity is at least in part constructed on Madison Avenue, or that it's not about the cowboy but about looking at a mythic cowboy, or that it is exemplary in the context of Richard Prince's other work), but those issues are really different from the issue of the auction price. "Flavor of the month" is as good an explanation as any.
     
  8. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    I think it is a lack of imagination and an excess of chutzpah. I guess you could call it marketing. The imagination thing bothers me. I have seen my first re-re-photographic project show recently. About 20 years agos a photographer did a re-photographic project out west. Recently, another photographer re-photographed the re-photographic project. The images were big, digital and included the two previous photographs in his photographic collage.
     
  9. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    Perhaps in the world of advertising art this an important piece. But I maintain the world of art that you and I refer to, is defined by artists, not galleries or critics. For something to sell for more than 1 million dollars only means to me the gallery is doing its' job. For someone to pay that price makes one wonder about priorities in life. If I had a million dollars to spend I can't imagine spending it on advertising art; makes one wonder though.
     
  10. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    If you're referring to Mark Klett's work, I think it falls into a unique category that's more historic than 'art' driven. In fact the way it was presented when I saw it (I took a workshop with him.) was quite special. On a DVD, Klett's re-photographs of 19th century images are superimposed on the originals in precisely the same spot, date and time of day as nearly as can be determined and one fades into the other. The changes and/or lack of change is remarkable in those hundred years as well as in the 20 years that elapsed till making the re-re-photographs. It's history with a capital H, not art with a capital A. And, I thought it a quite imaginative way to do what words would have a poor time equaling.

    If, on the other hand, that work has been presented differently and turned into pure gallery fodder, well....that's another story.
     
  11. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I had not heard of "re-photography" until this thread! :confused:

    Do all of the slides I've taken over the years of my wife's paintings and drawings count? :wink:
     
  12. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Mark Klett's "rephotographic project" wasn't photography of other artworks, but revisiting the sites of well known and some not so well known photographs and rephotographing the site, ideally under similar lighting conditions. The new photographs showed how the places had changed over time.
     
  13. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    One person's trash is another person's food.
     
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  15. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    One thing I've always found sort of curious is why so many photographers have an interest in photographing the work of other artists. For example, there seems to be a great interest to photograph architectural subjects or sculptures. I figure the original artist probably had a vision of what the photographer might capture in the original conception of the work, i.e., how light would play on the surface or how the form might appear from different angles. This, to me, brings those types of photographs of objects into the realm of document rather than art. Aren't such photographs similar to what Prince and others have done by rephotographing the work of another artist?

    Also, in regard to Mark Klett's work, I also participated in a workshop he led and agree totally with John on the point of History vs. Art. IIRC, Klett also has training as a geologist and I think scientific documentation was also partial motivation for the Rephotographic projects. Several of his scene pairings evidence subtle geologic change in the landscape over time.

    Joe
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I guess it just goes to show that we are entering a post-art era. The aesthetic value of something no longer is of importance. The real value of anything called art is what price it can command. I suppose that determination comes from the current crop of critics and curators who are the king makers in the art world. Somewhere along the line the emphasis changed from selecting good art to what will bring the most eyeballs into the gallery or create the most buzz. Just another symptom of our culture drowning in the cesspool of media attention and celebrity.
     
  17. lee

    lee Member

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    welcome to academia


    lee\c
     
  18. david b

    david b Member

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    Well I am grateful that they did not mention that I was the buyer.
     
  19. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I'm sorry, Jim, but I'm not at all sure rationality applies here, and it would seem that more than one person in the deal would have failed a sobriety test.

    Anyone want to rent some of my prints to re-photograph them (and split the profits, of course)?
     
  20. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    There's one born every minute. Sotheby's and Christie's seem to know where all of them are. I suspect that there is a secret 'suckers registry' that's fed by data from all the world's hospitals' maternity wards. Every minute a new entry is recorded in the database of the parents' name, address, SSNs and net worth. This registry is used as a mailing list for photography auction catalogues.
     
  21. SchwinnParamount

    SchwinnParamount Subscriber

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    Isn't there some sort of copyright issue here? Wouldn't the original photographer who made the image for the cigarette company have some rights in this? Does your right to a photograph expire after a period of time?
     
  22. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    What if the cowboy was John Wayne? Didn't most of the ad actors die from cancer? If it was a Marlboro ad then the money should have gone to cancer research.

    How many new photographers will think "I could make one worth a million dollars?"

    It's just an anomaly that's all.
     
  23. Whiteymorange

    Whiteymorange Member

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    As my used car salesman says, there's an ass for every seat.
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    actaually, he was a gay actor - a non-smoker and he died of cancer due to 2nd hand smoke.

    as for the photograph -
    i find it interesting to say the least. there is a lot of different photography out there. at least *someone* is selling their work for millions.

    -john
     
  25. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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  26. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    The old story is that real estate is sold on the golf course,
    and art is sold in bed

    don't let this stuff get you twisted up,
    it doesn't mean anything
    and it doesn't matter.

    happy new year, folks.

    .