Will billionaire-investor-collector Ronald Perelman be the one to prove illicit business practices by Larry Gagosian, finally satisfying the mass schadenfreude hovering around the mega-dealer for decades? (See N. Freeman, http://observer.com/2014/08/ron-perelman-entagles-the-mugrabis-in-lawsuit-against-larry-gagosian). Probably not. Perhaps some muted settlement, but maybe not even, as the legal snit between these formerly friendly 1%-ers proceeds. It’s over pricing and re-sales – notoriously unregulated, “back room” and ginormous leap-of-faith in the art world. The mystique and flexibility of art dealer operations perhaps annoys the corporate-mogul Perelman. It’s interesting that, even in this economic stratosphere, the old-money patron perhaps does not quite accept a nouveau riche art “merchant” as a business peer equally hedging certain legal limits of capitalist business practices.
Full disclosure: Despite all the not-so-nice gossip–personal and prof.–over several decades, I’ve remained a Gogo groupie since his early days in NYC (c. 1980) when he landed in a loft across the street from the Castelli Gallery to court King Leo. Gotta give it to him for going right for the gold (well, he did have recently accelerated credibility in L.A. by then)–anyway, the rest is ongoing history. There have been doomsayers in the Old Guard from the beginning. A lifetime later, hasn’t happened. Quite the opposite. Murmurings of tax questions here and there, status quo, at that level of luxury retail in the US, especially when shipping is involved, due to regional tax/tariff disparities; oh, and, some holier-than-though challenges to the supposed “ethics” of “stealing” artists from dealers that “raise” them?–something like that, as if he is unique among (reluctant) colleagues that have solicited talent similarly at least since the age of free agency in sports/entertainment. Given the ever-increasing stature of his enterprise, he’s stayed mostly mum through the ride about art, business and himself. Apparently he really knows how to pick ’em (partners; consultants; “experts” on this and that, including very seriously, contemporary art). Whatever its foundations and sustenance, his cohort of galleries has produced museum-rivaling exhibitions more or less consistently since at least the new millennium–so far so good, for us.
Of passing interest, performance princess Marina Abramovic took center-stage with Jay Z at Pace Gallery in July for his “Picasso, Baby” video-shoot-party, topping off her increasing appearance in haute lifestyle pages in the past decade that seem at odds with her early, radically anti-bourgeois art messages. It does, however, fall in line with the omnipresent ego-driven foundation of her oeuvre (not meant negatively, overall; just, it is what it is); and there is something admirable (if, at times, annoying) in her embrace of popular, celebrity art-fun, given all she has put herself through, physically, for her art–and performance art broadly–for much of her career.
More buzz was generated by an announcement on the “Jobs” board of the New York Foundation for the Arts website offering unpaid internships to “qualified” individuals who would be helping to expand the activities of her studio-ashram, The Marina Abramovic Institute (see J. Steinhaur, http://hyperallergic.com/140998/marina-abramovic-institute-seeks-so-much-unpaid-work). There was no couching of the recruited work in educational, artistic, or even cordial terms – only what her team (no doubt) needed, with a list of skills/qualifications, mainly administrative. In return, one got (presumably) an inside view of the divine Ms. M’s modus operandi–and the “excitement” of being part of it. (Diversion: needless to say, one might also wrangle a few [paid-for] college credits – the word “internship” really has become a euphemism for either real labor without learning or easy credits, either way, losing the values of its original infiltration into higher education in more ways than one.)
“Volunteering” to be in the orbit of “great” artists has become pretty much de rigueur in arts/media fields–okay, whatever. An individual pursuing an arts career might well get quite a bit out of such an experience. A post-war parallel can be drawn with Judy Chicago’s solicitation and assembling of hundreds of volunteers in creating The Dinner Party (completed 1979), albeit with/in highly different intentions/circumstances. This aspect of Chicago’s ultimately epic project has been the subject of several severe critiques; yet, many “testimonials” of the overwhelmingly female participants (artists and others) have discussed the project as a positive, life-changing experience in the context of the emerging Woman’s Movement. Needless to say, as a woman, commandeering the art troops has inherent pitfalls, vis-a-vis the historically male cognoscenti. The only problem I had with the Abramovic call was its tone-deaf, all-business tenor, given (it is true) the high expectations for her moral compass that her work has generated, in light of the prolonged economic downturn that looks particularly grim for student-age individuals pursuing the arts.