Friday, January 27, 2006

Warhol or Not Warhol

What a charmless and vapid creature Warhol was. And how cold and affectless is his art - the apotheosis of the graphic designer. And of course how little of it he even touched after he became successful - apart from taking the odd polaroid. Much of his work is flat and perfunctory, the result of what Robert Hughes described as a "Franklin Mint" approach to subject matter. Whatever life and originality was there (and I did find his "Electric Chair" a powerful piece) disappeared after he was shot.

Alan Yentob and the BBC did a superb programme last Tuesday (Warhol: Denied) on the machinations of the New York-based vetting committee set up by the Warhol foundation. This foundation tightly controls the release of Warhols onto the market and jealously guards (aided and abetted by the auction houses) the right to say what's real and what is not. An English owner of an early Warhol self-portrait submitted it for authentication prior to auction, confident that it would get the nod. But it was denied, and had a dirty great stamp put on the back of the canvas that effectively destroyed it - the right to do this being part of getting the commitee to vet your piece. Now his piece instead of being worth $2 million, has only "decorative value" in the words of his solicitor. The point of the programme was to demonstrate how difficult it actually was to say what an authentic Warhol is because of his extremely off-hand (and hands off) approach to his work. He frequently didn't sign them, he rarely chose the colours, and he never went near the silk screen sweat shops where the bulk of his later work was mass produced. So in fact the only way you can prove a Warhol is authentic is to have the vetting committee say so - and they refuse to give reasons if they deny you. Such power corrupts. John Richardson the art critic maintained that he would never put his Warhol pieces up for auction as he was afraid that the vetting committee would deny them even though he had received them directly from Warhol.

You can't help feeling that the vast stash of Warhols still held by his foundation are playing a part in this charade.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Way of the Art World

Removed due to factual inaccuracies - or rather to doubts about which of the two versions I've heard is correct..

Friday, January 13, 2006


After a bracing pint in Dunphy’s (a great no bullshit pub), I went to see Woody Allen’s “Match Point” in Dun Laoghaire last night.

If you had subtracted Scarlett Johansson from the film, I would have been bored. She lights up the screen and induces thoughts of crazy carnality.

Elsewhere the film was a mess. First, and perhaps superficially, let’s look at the tennis. Using a net chord as a metaphor for luck was a bit strained – when the ball hits the net and goes over after a serve, you play the point again. Also, you could be responsible for the stroke that hits the net, this is not bad luck but bad execution. Also, anyone who knows tennis could see that the pupil was far more adept than the teacher in the coaching scene – you see it in the strokes. But this perhaps is nit-picking – most tennis scenes in films are unconvincing.

The biggest problem for me was the sudden transformation of the film from an observation of manners and mores in upper-crust Britain, to some kind of thriller, albeit a deeply unconvincing one. Did nobody ever hear of mobile phone records? Nothing in the early depiction of the limp protagonist would lead you to believe he was capable of murder – or even serious passion. In fact, Meyers (?) didn’t really have the screen presence or acting ability to carry off the role. Compare and contrast with Philip Seymour Hoffman in “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. (And, incidentally, back the latter for best-actor in the next Academy Awards for his role in “Capote”.)

What else? Well you expect snappy dialogue and wit in a Woody Allen film. You got neither in this. I don’t know who wrote the script, but they got it all wrong. It was leaden. Allen, far from his natural habitat, perhaps couldn’t see this. Compare and contrast with the verbal sparkle of “Manhattan”.

Critics have bitched about the ticking off of tourist sites. I didn’t mind this and was delighted to catch a glimpse of the Royal Court (a famous pioneering theatre in the Sixties) and the Tate Modern.

Having said all that, I loved the central premise of the film – the role luck plays in our affairs (of all kind).

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Bunch of Artholes

RTE1 showed "Art Lives" last night, ostensibly a look at the Irish art market. From the outset it was a travesty. It was edited by someone who believed in the MTV philosophy that people have the attention spans of gnats - bang, bang, bang. And the relentless pounding music seemed suited to the catwalk rather than a reasoned debate about the Irish art scene. And the participants, dear, oh dear, oh dear: An oleagenious Julian Charlton from the Apollo art shop (it's not a fucking gallery guys) banging on about Graham Knuttel and "Sly"; Rubicon's ice-queen Josephine Keliher talking about the importance of a friendly reception - not your forte dear; Bitch on wheels Suzanne McDougall telling people to buy what they like - very original; Big ego small talent James Hanley mouthing truisms; Some Foxrock fanny type collector with appalling taste and grandiose expectations - she is collecting for posterity, IMMA will benefit when she dies, she opines; And Anne-Marie Hourihane, who should know better, presiding over the whole debacle.

No attempt to analyse what was good or bad; No lingering look at individual paintings; No wit; No insight; No mention of the Taylor Gallery - Ireland's leading contemporary gallery. This program was obviously created by someone who knows nothing about art. And those watching would have been left none the wiser - expect perhaps to feel they should steer clear of the whole morass.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thank God That's Over

The blessed relief. Once the feeding and drinking frenzy ended on Stephen's Day, I was able to snatch some moments that seemed worth while:

1. Seeing Solerina, Beef or Salmon and Hedgehunter on a glorious day at Leopardstown. The beauty and nobility of the horses contrasting admirably with the bloated arrivistes who owned them. And then of course the cute tribe of trainers and jockeys for whom the whole show is run.

2. Walking across a deserted Barleycove beach in West Cork with my cavorting and delighted dogs - those labradors do so love the water.

3. A brace of pints in Levis's in Ballydehob and then across the road to feast at the estimable Annies. Sad that it's hardly likely that the Levis's experience will be repeated as the two old dears are very frail these days. The older one (Julia?) is very alert and misses little of the conversation - however she has problems with sores on her legs and is the weaker of the two. The other more taciturn one picks relentlessly at a large wart on her face between filling pints.