Friday, February 20, 2009

A bit of a legacy

I used to teach art.

A group show at 500X (a non-profit, emerging-artists space in Dallas) features the work of a number of my former students. Artists in the show with whom I've have a pedagogical relationship include Tia Petering, Michael Winegarden, Liz Elsberg, and Pati Dye. It's gratifying to see the kids doing so well.

A former colleague and estimable ceramic artist, Katherine Taylor, is also part of the show.

Thanks to Michael Miller, another former colleague, for the heads up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Local artist

Signage in front of a gallery in an area strip mall. What recession?

Only money

Paul Krugman in yesterday's NY Times:
Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial report on the assets and liabilities of American households. The bottom line is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: the net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001.
Cool, huh? Krugman compares the situation of the average American to that of a Bernard Madoff investor. The creation of wealth via Wall Street's financial engineering was a Ponzi scheme everybody bought into.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cupcakes and presidents

Cake baker extraordinaire, Zilly Rosen has created a double portrait of Obama and Lincoln in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Her medium was cupcakes. Details of the process are discussed at the Obama Foodorama blog.

Using a grid technique technique much like the great Chuck Close, Ms Rosen and her minions arranged more than 5,900 vanilla cupcakes to recreate a photo of Obama by Annie Leibowitz and another of Lincoln by Alexander Gardener.

The installation is temporary, and the cupcakes are likely already eaten as I type this.

Here's a video of the process:

Online video chat by Ustream

Monday, February 9, 2009

Brandeis ain't alone

An article last month in US News and World report has some seriously bad news for college types:
In all, the average college endowment lost 2.7 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008, according to Commonfund, an organization that manages many colleges' endowments. A follow-up survey found endowments lost another 22.5 percent in the five months that ended Dec. 1, 2008.
As Ritholtz observes, together with reduced state funding for research and teaching institutions, this financial slump will have effects on our country for decades to come. Scholarships will decline in number and value, and endowed research positions will go unfilled.

We're talking the big guns like Stanford, which has already cut business school positions and even a few of the university-issued Blackberries, according to CBS News.

Is our children learning? Not as much as they was a while ago. And they ain't gonna get much book learnin' for a while yet.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Paddy Hirsch talks toxic assets

Toxic assets from Marketplace on Vimeo.

The one on mark to market that follows is a good one, too.


My wife and I visited the Dallas Art Fair yesterday. Because I flashed my press credentials at the door, I got a badge and a thick packet of stuff about the fair and the galleries therein.

It was a real deal. Real dealers doing real deals abounded. Art was everywhere and it was for sale. Major names. The chips were bluer in some spaces than others, but all chips were on the table.

Any worries about the state of the art market in our depressed economy weren't acknowledged. Instead we were treated to Cy Twombly hand-altered prints, Donald Judd wood cuts, a Henry Darger watercolor, and works by lesser known folks. All were desirable. All were available.

The little Jeff Koons Balloon Dog I saw (a few hours into the experience and after we'd both reached the saturation point) summed it all up most eloquently: A sweet object of desire, shiny and bright, which could be mine for the right price.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Groucho on real estate

It's here, and it's relevant to the bust that followed the latest boom.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Rose is a Rose know

Roberta Smith, writing about Brandeis University's decision to close the Rose Art Museum in the New York Times Sunday:
What better way to avoid the messy legalities of deaccessioning artworks, with the attendant denunciations from Association of Art Museum Directors and other professional organizations that monitor and weigh in on sales of individual works of art? (The association’s guidelines say that art works can be sold only to finance acquisitions.) If there is no museum, there are no guidelines to violate.
The university's board of trustees have decided that the Rose is a savings account, and they need to close it out. For the money. And this decision has been reached in spite of the fact that the museum operates almost entirely outside the finances of the rest of the university. It has (had) its own donors, its own budget, its own endowment.

In something of a demonstration of just how independent the Rose is from Brandeis, museum director Michael Rush has posted a statement condemning the closing on the museum's (Brandeis-sponsored) Web site:
Do not be fooled into thinking that the Rose is being closed because it is a financial drain on the university. It isn’t. While acknowledging the profound financial challenges every institution is facing, the Rose, a fundamentally self sustaining entity within Brandeis, is in relatively good financial health. The Rose is being closed due to the University’s desire to sell the cherished collection. Period.
What Brandeis is up to amounts to a sucker punch to the museum's many donors. According to Smith, 80% of the collection was donated to the museum. People decided, for whatever reason, to give their artworks to the Rose. They could have donated to any one of hundreds of other public collections and received the same tax benefits and warm fuzzy feelings, but they gave to the Rose.

Now their gifts have been effectively nullified. They didn't give art to a museum they respected and wanted to support. The gave fungible assets to a university's board of directors.

Anybody considering a donation to Brandeis in the future will have much to ponder.