Monday, May 26, 2008

1 2 3 4, art is at your Gap store

1 2 3 4, art is at your Gap store. The Star. By Stephen Marche, 05.24.08.
excerpted text:

"The Gap's new campaign is only a mainstream version of what Louis Vuitton has been doing for years, using artists as marketing devices. In 2005, LV hired Vanessa Beecroft to stage a performance art piece at the opening of a store on the Champs Elysée – she placed nude models on the shelves. The great Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has designed window displays for them. The most startling room in the new Takashi Murakami show in Brooklyn is the Louis Vuitton boutique right in the middle of the museum. It sells handbags he designed, drawing no distinction between his artworks and commercial products." 

"This is all cheeky and wonderful from the point of view of the corporation, but in what position does it leave the artist? It's not just that art has become suffused with money – a practice market for those who love markets so much they want to spend their recreation hours buying and selling. Art has always had to deal with commerce. The difference is that artists are now aspiring to be the CEOs of their work, as conceptualizers, organizers, synthesists, and packagers of other people's labour. Cai Guo-Qiang, the great Chinese gunpowder artist specializes in works that are so large they require teams to construct or perform. Damien Hirst conceived of a skull covered in diamonds, so he hired Bond St. jewellers to make one. Hirst gave the piece its name, For the Love of God, he set the price ($100 million) and he sold it on to a consortium. Conceiving and naming and selling are his jobs, not the business of fabrication. Beauty, like everything else, has been outsourced."

"In the realms of both luxury goods and art, the whole notion of the hand-made has become quaint, an old-fashioned notion like dressing for dinner or saving yourself for marriage. Murakami has argued that the idea of authenticity in art, and the lines it draws between art and design, original and fake, are Western constructs, destined to lose place in an increasingly globalized art world. That may well be true, but there are Western processes at work, as well, notably the triumph of consumer capitalism and the reduction of all things to cash value."

"There's a nearly perfect analogue to the current condition of art and commerce in one of the West's oldest myths, the story of Erisichthon from Ovid's Metamorphoses. As punishment for destroying a sacred grove of trees, Erisichthon is cursed by the gods with a terrible affliction: Famine is put in his belly. The more he eats the more he wants to eat. He begins to sell off all his possessions for food, including his daughter. Neptune has granted her the ability to change shapes at will. So Erisichthon sells her as a bull or a beautiful deer and she transforms back into herself and returns to her father to be sold again. She finds herself conjured into beauties in order to feed an insatiable hunger. Just so: The artist in his or her many varied transformations feeds the endless consumption which no glut can sate. No amount of diamond skulls or cherry-blossom handbags or Gap T-shirts will fill our inner, endless hunger for things and more things. Erisichthon can't save himself from his hunger, no matter how often he sells his daughter. In the end he eats his own guts. The myth doesn't say what happens to his daughter."

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