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The Death of the Artist
March 8, 2010 4:42 PM   Subscribe

With techniques like "art by telephone" and a studio called "the Factory" where even the security guard helped with the painting, Andy Warhol redefined the relationship between artist and artwork, and blurred the line between work and copy.

A generation after Warhol's death, that line separates million-dollar artworks from old pieces of canvas with silk-screened designs on them. With enormous sums of money, professional reputations, and Warhol's legacy at stake, a battle has been playing out in the pages of the New York Review of Books for the last five months between the Andy Warhol Foundation and a constellation of Warhol scholars and collectors. Original article (also linked above). First set of responses. A second set of responses. The author of the 1970 catalogue raisonné offers his views.
posted by sy (23 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've got a real nice water fountain/expensive artwork I could sell you...
posted by Artw at 4:48 PM on March 8, 2010


It's always amazed me that art not directly made by an artist is still considered the artist's work.
posted by nevercalm at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2010


Well, there's always been a market for signed and numbered prints... which is kind of what this is, really.
posted by Artw at 5:00 PM on March 8, 2010


It's always amazed me that art not directly made by an artist is still considered the artist's work.

This is extremely common throughout art history, Warhol just took it to the next logical conceptual step.
posted by bradbane at 5:11 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's always amazed me that art not directly made by an artist is still considered the artist's work.

The funny thing about Warhol is that he would have been the first to grant that the works in question were "authentic Warhols". He might have been charmed at the idea of an authentication board pronouncing on his works, but he was also continually interested in stretching as thinly as possible the line between the artist and the work of art, without breaking it.
posted by fatbird at 5:12 PM on March 8, 2010


he was also continually interested in stretching as thinly as possible the line between the artist and the work of art, without breaking it.

Which might be the true work of art, really. Everything else is just left over artifacts.
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have people really forgotten how the workshops of the Renaissance artists used to work? I mean, seriously?
posted by strixus at 5:15 PM on March 8, 2010


Have people really forgotten how the workshops of the Renaissance artists used to work? I mean, seriously?

.....or......not known in the first place? Because we're busy knowing other stuff?

Yup, seriously.
posted by nevercalm at 5:17 PM on March 8, 2010


Have people really forgotten how the workshops of the Renaissance artists used to work? I mean, seriously?

One of my favourite discoveries in art school was finding out what a weasel Durer was. He'd lowball the price on a commission, and then pester the patron with letters about how he needed more money to buy the finest pigments for the portrait, because anything less would be an insult to the subject.
posted by fatbird at 5:19 PM on March 8, 2010


he was also continually interested in stretching as thinly as possible the line between the artist and the work of art, without breaking it.

Which might be the true work of art, really. Everything else is just left over artifacts.


To me, this is Warhol in a nutshell. Well put.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:31 PM on March 8, 2010


strixus: “Have people really forgotten how the workshops of the Renaissance artists used to work? I mean, seriously?”

What's interesting to me about 'the art world' is that it's still so steeped in deeply-held and never-questioned dogmas. I know people who would dismiss 'renaissance art' as a complete betrayal and corruption of what art is supposed to be – and would say that the fact that the workshops of those 'masters' included paintings done largely be assistants is a sure sign of that betrayal and corruption. But the 'art world' would never countenance such a possibility.

Just because people did it in the Renaissance doesn't make it authentic.
posted by koeselitz at 5:33 PM on March 8, 2010


Oh, thanks. I'd never heard of this Warhol guy.
posted by clockzero at 6:00 PM on March 8, 2010


Andy Warhol redefined the relationship between artist and artwork, and blurred the line between work and copy.

Yep. And not in a good way, I'd argue. It's pretty much the norm for big artists lately.
posted by lumpenprole at 6:18 PM on March 8, 2010


Andy Warhol redefined the relationship between artist and artwork, and blurred the line between work and copy.

Yep. And not in a good way, I'd argue. It's pretty much the norm for big artists lately.


This. They might as well call themselves "designers" or "product managers."
posted by nevercalm at 6:31 PM on March 8, 2010


I am better than Andy Warhol.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:22 PM on March 8, 2010


Maybe if the security guard weren't so busy painting, Andy wouldn't have gotten shot.
posted by e.e. coli at 7:33 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


koeselitz: "Just because people did it in the Renaissance doesn't make it authentic."

I think that the point is not to normalize the Renaissance artists, but rather that this is how a lot of great art has been done. Why should the number of hands that worked on an item reduce its value? Should the fact that one person had a great idea and guided another through carrying it out somehow devalue the product of their collective labor? What is less authentic about collaboration? It's not like most of these people are trying to hide the way they work.

koeselitz: "I know people who would dismiss 'renaissance art' as a complete betrayal and corruption of what art is supposed to be"

I know alot of people that would call that weasel word bullshit. Fucking say it or don't (by the way I hate renaissance art).
posted by idiopath at 8:18 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Strange that no one is really discussing the essay. I'd like to hear the board's side of things, because this does a good job of throwing their judgments into question.
posted by milestogo at 9:37 PM on March 8, 2010


I'd like to hear the board's side of things, because this does a good job of throwing their judgments into question.

I'd like to hear more of their side too, because from the look of things, they've established quite the Warhol Mafia there. Especially damning, I think, is their stamping of "DENIED" on a work that they deem inauthentic, even when the work's provenance clearly establishes that it came from Warhol. If I owned what I reasonably believed to be an authentic Warhol (perhaps because he gave it to me himself and signed it, which guarantees at least a multi-million dollar resale value), I would never risk a self-appointed group of experts literally destroying it. That they do that speaks of an incredible arrogance on their part.

I read all the links and still wasn't clear: Where does this committee come from? Are they official in any sense, such as established by Warhol's estate?
posted by fatbird at 10:31 PM on March 8, 2010


Duchamp, and Warhol in his footsteps, carried out a successful experiment.

The word "experimental" is used in a variety of ways in the arts, but what they did was attempt something risky, and succeed. They established that art (at least art as a commercial, and social activity), is a social contract, a description that is agreed upon socially, rather than an absolute thing that can be determined and prescribed a-priori.

Though it was obviously not an experiment in the scientific sense of the term, there is a nice whimsy in imagining the various urinals that were displayed in commercial plumbing showrooms as the control group, and Fountain as the test subject. Fountain was seen by more people, sold for more money, got talked about quite a bit more, and got urinated in multiple times without being connected to any plumbing system. All of these are consistent with a hypothesis that the definition of art is something akin to "because we said so".

I do wish, though, that objections could get beyond reactionary mockery of the juvenile aspects of how this was carried out and move on to the more interesting question of "given that art is what we decide to call art, what kind of art would we prefer?".

This organization clearly prefers art that is financially lucrative and based on the brand name value of individual celebrity artists, which given the way that Warhol worked, is quite appropriate, and completely coherent with Warhol's own objective with his work. I say let them decide what is or is not a Warhol, because Warhol was unambivalently about celebrity, the brand name, fame, and the fetishization of image.

As for me, I could give a shit about this cult of celebrity collector-value oriented hypercapitalist art. No official body of standards is going to give rulings on the authenticity or value of the art I am most fond of, and I am happy for it.
posted by idiopath at 5:44 AM on March 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


The further adventures of wacky rich people!
posted by Theta States at 7:35 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


what art is supposed to be.

There's your problem.
posted by cmoj at 11:17 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Totally curious: how many of you who didn't know about the Renaissance practice of using apprentices, or believe that if the artist who conceived of the work didn't create it single handedly it "doesn't count" work artistically?

I find it fascinating that so many of those who decry "But THAT's not 'ART!'" as if "art" is some sacred concept are not artists themselves and have no formal immersion in the "art world." So much of the time, what the artist is working with is the concept of "Well, what the fuck is this art nonsense and what does it mean to me and how can I stretch the limits?" As the article states, that was Warhol's M.O. entirely.

Many art "purists" don't understand that the constraints of "Who is my audience? Am I ever going to be able to sell this?" influence the creation of art just as much as the artist's "vision." Shakespeare got to get paid, son. Not all artists start off independently wealthy able to produce whatever their heart compels them to, and to only accept that kind of romantic "pure" version of "art" is to dismiss the truth that art is, above all, a commodity and that if you can't sell it or get it the hell out of your studio it is, ultimately, worthless. And the people who are buying it? Don't really care about your "vision" so much as "Is it going to go with my coffee table?"
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:22 AM on March 10, 2010


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