New Assignment: Bot Joy

Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society have been approached by [name redacted] to assist in the covert deployment of Bot Joy onto the unsuspecting residents of a peaceful Colorado community.


Through Bot Joy, artist Gary Hirsch has invaded communities like London, Austin, and his own Portland, OR with the charming army of tiny robots painted on Dominoes.  Read more:


Agents of the Poorly Kept Secret Society are fascinated with this nexus of social media, urban life, and the chance encounter with art.  It’s also worth discussing Hirsch and his artist-ilk: those that produce images motivated by the nothing more than spreading of joy.  Much needed, these days.  But, not always so easily accepted in the closed loop of art patronage, surprisingly.  Friends With You is a team that comes to mind, and one that has had some association with The Society in the past.  I wonder what you all in internet land think of these types of artists?


Anyhow, our agents will update this website with details on this mission at the end of May.  Stay tuned.


Agents Infiltrate the Charles Landry Lecture in Denver

First, Charlie (that’s what I call him…) is the bee’s knees.

Second, he was in Denver for the launch of Imagine 20:20, the city’s new cultural plan.  More here:

Third, I’m not going to go through all the inspiring and thought-provoking perspectives this man has on urban life, culture, and the reason most of us get up in the morning.  Read his books if you want the details.  Just know that Agents who were on the scene were blown away by a single statement that seemed to convey the spirit of his approach:

“I’ve stopped answering the question ‘what is the value of investing in culture’.  That is a dead end.  I now ask the question ‘what is the cost of not investing in culture’.”


Dig it.

The Duck is Down!! I repeat, Duck Down!!

This just in from the Herald Sun in Melbourne:

Duck down for count before NYE party in Taiwan


Duck down … A giant inflatable duck in Taiwan has exploded just before New Years celebrations. It is not the first time the art installation has deflated. Last month it was the victim of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake and in May the duck also exploded in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour (pictured). Source: AFP

A GIANT yellow duck on display in a northern Taiwan port exploded just hours before it was expected to attract a big crowd to count down the new year.

The 18-metre-tall duck on show at Keelung burst around noon on Tuesday and deflated into a floating yellow disc, only 11 days after it went on display.

It was the second time that a giant inflatable duck – a bath toy replica created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman – had burst while on show in Taiwan.

“We want to apologise to the fans of the yellow rubber duck … the weather is fine today and we haven’t found the cause of the problem. We will carefully examine the duck to determine the cause,” organiser Huang Jing-tai told reporters.

Organisers had planned to stay open past midnight on Tuesday in anticipation of a large new year crowd.

The Central News Agency cited an eyewitness as saying the rubber bird might have fallen victim to eagles which scratched it with their claws.

Three Taiwanese cities exhibited their versions of the yellow duck in 2013. But all were forced temporarily to suspend the exhibit due to bad weather or damage.

Taiwan rubber duck

Local residents gather to see Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s yellow rubber duck (C) at a harbour in the southern city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Last month the duck on display in the northern county of Taoyuan became a high-profile victim of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake, which triggered a power outage that caused it to deflate when an air pump stopped working.

Powerful winds caused the duck’s rear end to burst while it was being re-inflated. Organisers in Taoyuan had to borrow another duck commissioned by the Kaohsiung city government to continue the show.

The duck at Kaohsiung, which attracted four million visitors during a one-month display, was temporarily deflated and lifted ashore as a safety precaution when Typhoon Usagi pounded the island in September.

Since 2007 the original duck designed by Hofman – which is 16.5 metres tall – has travelled to 13 cities in nine countries, including Brazil, Australia and Hong Kong, on its journey around the world.



Banksy Shmanksy

So, I’ve been moderately annoyed with the overdone and sometime schmaltzy coverage of Banksy’s New York residency.  It is just too much about his brand and celebrity and too little about how he might actually affect the public.  He didn’t do anything really new that I can see.  Of course, I stopped following the vacuous daily news stories about what pithy throw-up was discovered by the gooey fan-club members in the media at about October 15.  Maybe 16.  So, maybe I missed the real quality…


However, I am forced to admit that on his last day he knocked his “audio guide” out of the freakin’ park.  Listen:


Banks…  (that’s what I call him…)  Banks:  I too hope that the last few centuries of art history are the anomaly.




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



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:
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:
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?




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.