Update on Dalek’s Boulder Mural, from StreetArtNews.net

This dispatch was received on Sunday from StreetArtNews.net

Dalek New Mural In Boulder, USA

Brooklyn-based artist, Dalek just finished working on this new mural in Boulder, USA where he was helped by the local community and specifically kids.
If you are in the area, you’ll be able to find it on the Victors & Spoils’ building on East Pearl Street.
Look below for more angles of this piece and then check back with us soon for more updates from USA.
We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society can attest to the delight and wonder that comes from pulling masking tape.  The big reveal!!  These young men are forever changed for the better thanks to the good Mr. Dalek.

Biennial Fail from The L Magazine

Biennial Fail | Art Fag City | The L Magazine – New York Citys Local Event and Arts & Culture Guide.

Below is a short and smart critique of the Denver Biennial of the Americas from Paddy Johnson writing for L Magazine.

Biennial Fail

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What does a biennial look like when it’s run by a group of businessmen and politicians? If Denver’s Biennial of the Americas (July 16-September 2) is any indication, like some awful, biennial-length franken-conference in the service of multinational corporations. Art, when it was given a place at all, was used primarily as a branding tool for the event; it’s not surprising then that it has little to offer art lovers or businesspeople. Even the Biennial’s expressed aims—idea exchange, and looking to booming economies in the north and south—weren’t achieved.

In the inaugural discussion forum “Unleashing Human Potential,” the only time anyone looked to the north was when Google’s Eric Schmidt observed that some snow was melting up in Canada, and that might reveal new sources of revenue. He later proclaimed that poverty would be eliminated thanks to mobile devices, and he cited The Huffington Post as a publishing model that might one day help writers get paid. (The Huffington Post does not pay most of its writers!)

Needless to say, I left that panel praying that the exchange of ideas would stop, and the Biennial did its best to make sure that it would. Whereas most such exhibitions would host contemporary art that could spark exchange, this one blew its resources on high-profile panelists like the Daily Beast’s Tina Brown and the Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington. Art was so clearly an afterthought that half the audience had already left “Unleashing Human Potential” before we were told we should sit back down because the organizers had forgotten to announce the cultural programming.

That was a missed opportunity. Denver’s art community, while not yet mature, is growing and ready for the kinds of challenges a national event can bring. The Biennial commissioned only four architectural pieces, two small art shows, and a smattering of billboards across the city. For context, Prospect One, the widely lauded 2008 biennale in New Orleans, showcased the work of 81 artists in 24 venues across the city while offering an array of cultural and educational programs to the local community. Though underfunded, the art program has its moments. The citywide billboard project curated by Paul Andersen, Carsen Chan, Gaspar Libedinksy, and Cortney Stell is probably the most successful, as it requires people to tour Denver in packs. You get to know the city, which is enjoyable. I spent the better part of a day looking for all 31 of these commissions, each by artists well-known (Michael Snow, Julieta Aranda) and emerging (Amalia Ulman).

Daniel Jackson’s “Respect the Moustache” was among the strongest, a colorful digital collage of the city’s horse statues now with Photoshopped unicorn horns and hovering over a long strip of car shops, motels and fast-food restaurants. It’s a simple subversion of an overtly masculine symbol, and I liked that even visitors could easily recognize the altered statues. It will have meaning for everyone.

That’s likely not the case for Corina Copp’s, whose text looks like it’s half written in HTML and reads like sexualized broken poetry. “I want to be alone.>> <>Please no dogs. Please no dogs. <>” Text like this is hard to read, let alone read on a billboard, which is designed to be glanced at quickly.

Far more annoying though is the small text on the side of the poster that advertises the Biennial of the Americas. Normally, I wouldn’t take much issue with this—I’ve never bought the idea that art on billboards subverts advertising, because it’s such good advertising for itself—but in the context of the Biennial of the Americas, the ad rubbed me the wrong way. Organizations invested in the arts don’t slap advertising all over their art, because most artists don’t want their message co-opted for a brand. For all their so-called interest in “idea exchange,” somehow the Biennale of the Americas failed to talk to the artists and curators long enough to learn that.
Photo c/o Biennial of the Americas

First, we at the Poorly Kept Secret Society give props to Art Fag City.  Check them out: http://artfcity.com/.
Second, this opinion is not, as some might think, a cynical view.  It seems to jibe with a common sentiment around Denver.  A counterpoint, also smart, can be found in an article by Ray Rinaldi over at the Denver Post: http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_23725005/biennial-americas-highs-and-lows-city-wide-smash.
There are some lessons to learn.  But, this whole Biennial thing is still new for Denver.  Perhaps we will learn those lessons and grow into the sophistication and reach that this event aspires to.

Christie’s Will Appraise Detroit Institute of Arts Collection, Art in America

Christie’s Will Appraise Detroit Institute of Arts Collection – News – News & Opinion – Art in America.

The Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society are following this story closely.  This is not the first time that the art collection of a municipal government, held in trust by a museum, has been examined as an asset.  In Our Fair City the nascent Clyfford Still Museum sold several of its holdings, technically the property of the City and County of Denver, for a whopping $114 million.  However, they used that bit of change to set up a foundation to sustain the museum itself.  Detroit’s Emergency Manager, Kevin Orr, seems poised to liquidate at least part of the world class collection to pay off debt.  We should not be surprised that a former bankruptcy lawyer has come up with a strategy to fill the massive gaps in the city budget by gutting everything and selling it off.

And, we find it curious that the Federal Government is willing to bail out banks and automotive manufacturers, but is silently watches one of the nation’s biggest cities spiral out of control.  Never-mind: our Agents do not have the expertise to properly critique politics or economic strategy.

The interesting chatter at Headquarters is about the sale of the art.  We will be inundated over the next few weeks with articles and commentary as this plays out.  We will hear how the sale of these assets is necessary to make sure Detroit survives.  How this is a short-sighted move that will be regretted a generation from now.  It certainly sets a troubling precedent for those of us that participate in the public expression of culture.  Municipal governments do not collect art so that it may be an asset for future liquidity.  We don’t think about tearing up copper pipes from our fresh water system to fill budget gaps for the same reason: that’s not what it is there for.  The art and the copper pipes are there to make a city worth living in.  One of the issues in Detroit is that people and companies are not clamoring to move there.  The crass auction of one of the country’s great cultural destinations doesn’t paint a rosy picture to lure business back to the city.

Our Agents have also been chatting (in hushed voices among the inky shadows of alleyways) about the curious fact that these artworks, and those at the Clyfford Still Museum, are tempting to sell because of the bat-shit crazy private art market, one of the few corners of capitalism that seems to have ignored the Great Recession.  Should Detroit sell the artwork there is a portion, no doubt, that will end up in museums.  But, most likely the bulk will go to private hands; the pockets are deeper among super-wealthy art collectors.  So, much of this art may be lost to the public.  There is so much money in selling art… the temptation can be overwhelming.

We will be watching the unsettling, but fascinating events at the Detroit Institute of Art closely.  From across the street, through the peepholes cut strategically in a newspaper.

Dalek Spotted in Boulder

This just in from the Denver Egotist:

#ShitToHit: Saturday-Wednesday – Help Dalek Mural the Outside of Boulder’s Victors & Spoils

For the next several days, the artist Dalek (aka James Marshall) is painting a mural on the exterior wall of Victors & Spoils’ relatively new space in Boulder. Both the artist and V&S want to extend an invitation to art and design lovers to come by, watch, take pics and if you’d like — grab a paintbrush. In true crowdsourcing fashion, Dalek and V&S would like for it to be a community event as much as possible. It’s happening today (Saturday) through Wednesday. All are welcome to come and paint alongside him.

Agents are being dispatched.  Can’t wait to see the finished work.

Drunken Hipsters and the Public Good

VisitDenver reports that the Reverb blog reports that Rolling Stone reports that Denver’s own Beta Night Club is the best dance club in the country.  Our Agents have observed that walking around in LoDo on a Friday night, or South Broadway, for that matter, you know as well we do that kickin’ bass and alcohol can do more for activating a city block then anything.  Anything.

 

But, when the patrons of these night clubs stumble out onto those streets, does anyone else want to be there?

 

No.

 

But, they are there.  Walking around, spending money, puking and tweeting.  (Not easy to do simultaneously.)  So, they can be an important component to a 24 hour activation strategy, filling in the gap when all their friends who married early and are back home in the suburbs putting the kids to bed are already watching Charlie Rose and scoffing at the disgusting video to be found on their Twitter feed.

Fourth Plinth Just Gives and Gives

Fourteen years after the fine folks at the Greater London Authority were bold enough to allow contemporary artists to create work for the empty pedestal in Trafalgar Square, the project is still hitting home runs.  We’ve seen artists install…

a giant rocking horse…

Powerless Structures Fig. 101

(Powerless Structures Fig. 101 by Elmgreen and Dragset)

a ship in a bottle…

Ship in a bottle

(Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare)

a big blue cock (oh, just grow up)…

Hahn / Cock by Katharina Fritsch

(Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch)

and, my favorite, a forum for people – anyone – to perform how ever they see fit…

(One and Another by Antony Gormley)

Fourteen years of show-stoppers.  Crazy, messed-up shit that makes people squirm, and laugh, and flock to Trafalgar.   What accounts for the continuing success of this project?  Here’s what we know:

Adventurous artists for a start.  Which is another way of saying adventurous sponsors. You can always find great artists, but try to find someone willing to take risks with their money!  I think it is the Royal Arts Society that is backing Fourth Plinth.  We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society commend them for letting the artists do what they do.  But that’s not all that risky, to be frank.  If your shelling out lots’ of pounds for an artist, you are going to want to get your money’s worth.  The way to get your money’s worth from an artist is to trust them, even just a little.

On a related note, the focus on temporary is key.  We at the Poorly Kept Secret Society believe that the best public art these days is temporary work.  It loosens the anuses the understandably nervous administrators and commissions who supervise the process.  Wonderful things can happen when you don’t have to worry about the word “forever” in the contract.

Okay, so we must admit that it is London.  There are already tons of people there, locals and tourists, who dig this stuff.  They are museum-goers and art-lovers.  They invented -going and -loving, for Pete’s sake!  Let us not pretend that Fourth Plinth will work the same on that empty fourth plinth in Kiowa or Alamosa.

But, perhaps most important to the success of Fourth Plinth is the fact that it so very simple of a concept.  They just put some art where there was nothing.  And, they trusted to that simplicity.  Below is a transcript of the meeting of the Greater London Authority on the day they deliberated on the Fourth Plinth project:

“I say, Reginald, do you see that plinth over there?”

“What plinth?  Are you referring to that fourth one, per chance?”

“Quite.”

“The empty one?”

“Spot on.”

“Yes, Wilberforce, I see it.”

“What should we do with that empty fourth plinth, Reginald?”

“I’m afraid I’m at a loss, old bean.  What do you think?”

“Well I certainly do not know what to do with that empty fourth plinth.  We need to find someone creative to come up with a whopping great something to put on that empty fourth plinth.”

“I say!  Wilberforce!”

“You have an idea, Reginald?”

“I do indeed!  Do you know whom is creative?”

“Why no.  Whom is creative, Reginald?”

“Artists are creative, Wilberforce!  Artists!  Let us ask a few artists to put something on that empty fourth plinth.”

“That’s a corker of an idea, Reginald!  Let’s go down in the lift to share a pint before toddling off home to the trouble-and-strife.”

“Quite.”

(Transcription may not be accurate.)

As I said, we can’t replicate London.  And, we can’t expect to learn about the success of Trafalgar Square as a public space simply by examining the success of Fourth Plinth.  However, that project is a fantastic measure to isolate.  Learning how they manage to build on their own remarkable success, year after year, is valuable.  Fourth Plinth is a model program for anyone thinking about a new public art project.