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CHAPMAN KELLEY Observations II

Recently painter Chapman Kelley completed another revealing chapter of hismemoirs.  In this “Observation II” piece he reflects on the U.S. art scene.

     CHAPMAN KELLEY
Observations II

 

     Dr. Maxwell Anderson’s recent book ‘”The Quality Instinct” is a step in the right direction for one’s understanding of the necessity, for all who are at all interested in the visual arts, to continually develop our critical judgments.  He has also just recommended to me a challenge by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as set forth in its “Evaluation Report –  Museums and Art Conservation,”—check it out.
    More evidence has surfaced about the damage done to the art world by financial thugs who in recent years have turned it into a commodity market manipulator’s game.  This house of cards has made fortunes for the speculators who artificially drive up the prices of work by “artists” of their choice.  Shrewdly, they have stockpiled these artists’ work.
      For example, the most notorious is artist/collaborator is Damien Hirst.  According to Steve Nolan whose article appeared in November 2012, Mail Online.com (U.K.), “Has the pickled shark had its day? Works by Damien Hirst have sold for 70 per cent of their original sale price,” ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2239014/Works-Damien-Hirst-sold-70-cent-original-sale-price.html#axzz2KeOVgvsm ) obviously Hirst’s phony market is collapsing.  This has caused the pubic and critics to question the quality of the artwork promoted by Hirst’s corporate-like investors.
     Sometimes art “investors” have the assurance that if they can’t sell at a work’s advanced prices they can instead donate them to art museums whose boards of directors they influence (they are members themselves).  Thus the investors reap handsome profits through U.S. federal income tax deductions.  The once noble and trusted art museum has been out priced and thus made a handmaiden to roguish board members.
     As a result of such shenanigans, a firestorm of indignation has erupted.  Insiders such as art critic David Hickey ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/oct/28/art-critic-dave-hickey-quits-art-world ) and art market reporter Susan Thornton ( http://hyperallergic.com/59018/why-you-should-read-sarah-thorntons-top-10-reasons-not-to-write-about-the-art-market/ ) have noisily quit the contemporary art world in part because of its culture of corruption.   A Dallas Museum of Art board member and respected veteran art collector who I have known since the 1950s recently asked me rhetorically, “Why shouldn’t the art world be corrupt when all the rest of the world is.”  The dubious practices of art auction houses haven’t gone unnoticed.   In Texas, the Dallas Contemporary Museum’s contempt for local artists and their work has shocked many, including yours truly.
      However, the bright side of this otherwise dismal picture is that artists are finally realizing that they have been used and are aware that hucksters control the current art education system and that a respectable and legitimate professional recognition system no longer exists.  And it is commendable that some Dallas galleries are publicly supportive of local artists.
      It behooves everyone to study the brilliant “A Clear View:  The Case for Museum Transparency” ( http://aamftp.aam-us.org/pubs/mn/museumtransparency.cfm ) by our new director at the Dallas Museum of Art, Dr. Maxwell Anderson.  Among other things, Anderson warns that museums face losing their 501(c) (3) exemption if they fail to clean up their act.  After all, it is the public who ultimately pays the bills via museum funding received from the government.
     Isn’t it about time for art museums, artists and dealers to unite and demand reform in order to reestablish the sanity and stability needed to recapture the public’s confidence in the art world?

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