The Tale of Two Jeffreys

At last night’s Arts Arena event (hosted in partnership with the Yale Arts Arena), guests were treated to a lecture by   Robert Storr, the Dean of the Yale University School of Art and Professor of Painting and Printmaking. His lecture, titled  A Tale of Two Jeffreys – the Koons Effect and the Deitch Problem, provided insights into today’s art industry by highlighting the relationship and career development of Jeffrey Koons and Jeffrey Deitch, both of whom Storr knows personally.According to Storr, Koons has lost his edge as an artist due to his becoming part of a system that is both widely accepted, financially motivated, morally decrepit and generally unreported. He attributes the lack of investigative journalism on the state of affairs within the art industry to the pursed lips of those in the know. Since museums are generally dependent on the generosity of private collectors for financial support and access to certain art works, it can be understood that many are reluctant to talk for fear of biting the hand that feeds, or for appearing overly idealistic (read: foolish).

(Jeffrey Koons, Balloon Dog)

One only has to look at LACMA, where 30 million dollars were granted by Eli Broad to construct a gallery eponymously titled,  which would house his private collection. Due to certain disagreements, however, Broad opted to withhold promised pieces. Broad had previously withdrawn support from MOCA due to certain disagreements, only to return with the promise of greater share of voice. While this certainly upsets the balance of control among trustees and curators alike, it has been generally acknowledged that these museums would be nothing if not for the tens of millions Broad pours into bank. The problem is, however, that museums have come to cater to the interests of a different client – the collector – rather than their intended client, the public. In this political economy of culture, the curator is now the personal shopper. Worse, this corruption is not facing opposition.

(Ed Paschke, Mid American)

Thus we have a skilled artist, with a permanent fan base among top collectors such as Jeffrey Deitch, Larry Gagosian and Eli Broad, who has found success in creating larger-than-life, shiny pop art. Easily to consume. Easy to digest. Easy to sell. And falling to the wayside are artists such as Ed Paschke, whose works remained ‘perverse’ and thought provoking until the end, or Jenny Holtzer whose works are not easily turned into ‘collectibles’.

(Jenny Holzer, Technology and Culture)

Storr closed his remarks by commenting, “You don’t want to be the wholly owned subsidiary of anybody.”
True dat.

(Robert Storr)

Storr, who has what some consider an impeccable resume, was the head curator at the Museum of Modern Art and Commission of the 2007 Venice Biennial. He is also a contributing editor for Art in America and author of numerous catalogs, articles, books and critiques.

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