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Top Ten For 2010-Books, Film, TV, Music and an App Part Two

February 11, 2011

Okay, Okay, I’ll cop to being a bit of a tease with just posting the first five a couple of weeks ago. And then came the onslaught of art fairs which kept me busy. The initial thought had been that in blogging, shorter is better. But to wait is inexcusable.

So without further delay here are the second five, or rather, numbers 6 through 10.

Number 6 is tied between two books: a Novel and a Biography.

Steve Martin‘s Novel An Object of Beauty. Having inhabited the New York Art world from 1997 to 2005 as artist, curator and Gallery Director, I was impressed by Martin’s  accuracy and insight  delivered in each chapter. Witty and razor-sharp, the book is far from an indictment of the machinations of this insular and unregulated world. Throughout I recognized prototypical characters. The sex scenes are fairly hot. The descriptions of art, both modern and contemporary, are affectionate and on the money. Martin mixes real art world denizens like Larry Gagosian with his fictional heroine,  Lacy Yeager. Her  trajectory in the art world is inhabited by pretension, gossamer reputations and insecure romantic entanglements. The final chapters fizzle out slightly under a momentum that simply couldn’t be sustained. Still, it’s a wonderful read!


The book that ties for sixth place is the absolutely wonderful biography of Leo Castelli by Annie Cohen-Solal titled Leo and His Circle The Life of Leo Castelli. I met the master twice in the 1980’s. He was kind and courteous, and at the time I was well aware of his importance and myth. The biography is exhaustive at well over 500 pages and worth slogging through it. Castelli’s life is  filmic. His importance to the course of art history cannot be overestimated. His loyalty legendary. To anyone with an interest in any aspect of the art world his story cannot be missed. There will never be another like him, for he changed the game, rewrote the rules and defined rigor, curiosity and connoisseurship for a modern era.


Work of Art...A Real Piece of Work.

Number 7 is a reality show by Bravo called Work of Art executive produced by Sarah Jessica Parker. Strangely addictive, at times it was like watching paint dry, at other tines like watching a car crash. Jerry Saltz, a judge, was always a hoot to watch, but reading his blog about the show was  better. I’ll admit I went to an audition for the show. Standing in line in the blazing sun for four hours in Culver City I communed with the others who had showed up that day. It  was a wonderful and humbling experience. Am I relieved that I didn’t get chosen? Yes. But in this world of anything goes, I feel like it was my duty to try. The show, at best, only grazed the surface of the art world. It drew me in because of its attempt to catch the wondrous alchemy of creation even if it missed the mark. That alchemy, like vampires, is probably unphotographable. Guest appearances by Andreas Serrano and Will Cotton were amusing. Phillipe de Pury was an odd choice, and seemed out of his milieu, but entertaining. I believe that the three finalists did have something to say but will they be art stars? Let’s check back in with them in 20 years at the Reunion show. Oh that’s right, reality reunion shows are 20 days not 20 years…oh well.

Banksy Rat

Number 8 is the brazen and terrific documentary Exit through the Gift Shop by the street artist and general button pusher Banksy. This is irrefutably one of the most delightful documentaries about art ever made. About an OCD filmmaker who documents the street art movement, including Banksy, the evocations of passion and obsession are pitch perfect. The film is relevant in the light of the upcoming Street art exhibition at Moca. It’s nominated for an Oscar!

Kayne West's Twitter Portrait by George Condo

Number 9 is Kayne West’s continuing collaboration with artists. This year, West hired video artist extraordinaire Marco Brambilla to direct the video for his song Power. He also hired artist George Condo to do a portrait for his Twitter account and the Cover art for the album of the same name. The resulting portrait bears a resemblance to the work of painter Robert Colescott, known for his African American mash ups with historical paintings. I contend that his paintings were way ahead of their time and seem more salient today than ever before.  The album cover is a sexually evocative image and, naturally, pushed all the censorship buttons. Certain retailers refused to display the art because of its provocative nature. I have to admit to being only slightly interested in West’s music but this dude has an unrelenting curiosity about collaborating with artists that I find fascinating. I have purchased only four music videos in my lifetime on iTunes but the one that got it going was a stellar animation by Takashi Murakami for West’s song Good Morning. I’ve watched it over 100 times, and it still delights. West’s penchant for combining pop music and fine art dovetails perfectly with Katy Perry’s collaboration with Will Cotton that I mentioned in my top five four weeks ago. I just found a Making of Video for the music Video which is an absolute riot.

George Condo's Album Cover for Kayne West

Robert Colescott, Awakening: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee, 1990 acrylic on canvas.

Number Ten is a nifty little App for the Ipad called Exquisite Corpse. Based on the fanciful surrealist game, the App is a drawing program cum parlor game. Several players can participate at once. The drawing options are numerous but not anywhere near encyclopedic. The Folks at APPlesauze in Texas are really on to something. The resolution of the iPad yearns for visual art applications but the void at the app store in this arena is nothing short of regrettable.

“Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”) -André Breton

Special Thanks to Gretchen Singer for providing this week’s thumbnail image by Magnum photographer Bruno Barbey of a truffle hunting pig in Perigord.

-Mario M. Muller, Los Angeles, February 10th, 2011

  1. I’m reading “Leo and His Circle” right now! It’s a great read.

    • The fact that he gave Donald Judd a stipend for three years without selling a single piece still blows me away.

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