Tim Griffin

  • DOUBLE ENTENDRE

    IT IS AMONG the most remarkable exercises in deconstruction to appear on mainstream television in recent memory: an eight-minute segment of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, aired last month, in which predictions and proclamations made by the punditry of the cable business channel CNBC during the past two years are juxtaposed with short texts describing events as they actually unfolded to create today’s global financial crisis. “The market just won’t quit, no matter how poorly actual companies are doing,” quips Mad Money host Jim Cramer in February 2008, unaware that the Dow will fall to half

  • USES AND ABUSES

    AS THIS MAGAZINE continues to chart the rapidly changing coordinates for art within the broader landscape of contemporary culture, two recent experiences—a pair of discussions with students in graduate art programs, one of which took place in Rotterdam, as part of a symposium on art criticism at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and the other at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles—have laid greatest claim on my attention. However distinct their European and American contexts, both groups of artists seemed wary about the art-world system as it stood before

  • IN PERSON

    INEVITABLY, THE IMAGE THAT ADORNS the cover of this month’s issue will elicit from readers a searching double take: The amber vastness and big sky of the American West are immediately recognizable, with the panoramic terrain’s sun-scorched sand, silt, and shale having provided a stage for epic characters in cinema for nearly a century. And yet the protagonist here is playing his leading role in this romantic fantasy all wrong, having eschewed the commanding poses of so many outlaws and cattlemen for a quietly distracted (if not befuddled) look backward from his horse—or pony, as it happens.

  • NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

    DELVING INTO ART HISTORIAN Christopher S. Wood’s consideration of legendary Renaissance scholar Michael Baxandall in the current issue, readers may have the sneaking suspicion that they are being directly and personally addressed by the text’s first line: “Money is very important in the history of art.”

    For while those droll words are, in fact, merely cited by Wood—he is, of course, quoting from Baxandall’s 1972 book Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy—and speak to things at a historical distance, their fundamental point, and intended implications, are entirely pertinent

  • WHAT IS THAT PERSON THINKING?: AN INTERVIEW WITH MATT MULLICAN

    WHEN MATT MULLICAN is invited to lecture on his artistic practice to a large group at a museum or school, he typically begins his presentation by affixing a number of images to the wall behind him: first, a photograph of one person, followed by a comic-strip rendering of a second person; then two stick figures (one framed, the other unframed), an abstract sign for the human body (akin to those found at crosswalks or on bathroom doors) and a similarly spare icon denoting a head and chest (think of the cropped international symbol for customs officers at airports); and finally, a circle, a square,

  • SNAPSHOT OF 2008

    FOR A FEW DAYS in mid-September, it was acute: the feeling that, however little the physical contours of the world might have changed, its form now was nevertheless imbued with a kind of virtuality. How else to describe the experience of, say, a city like New York, a place seemingly intact—even prospering wildly, to judge from the ubiquitous construction cranes accenting the skyline—while headlines blared news of a financial collapse portending substantive shifts in the character (to say nothing of the underlying organization and perception) of everyday life? To walk among the glistening

  • TOMORROW NO MORE

    IN THE UNITED STATES over the past three months, it has become abundantly clear that the points for debate between the two major political parties’ presidential candidates are not nuanced matters of policy but rather the most basic tenets of the country’s social and economic infrastructure. Yet most remarkable about this particular election season is that such attention to the very contours of civil society has been prompted less by abstract ideology than by concrete circumstance. The credit crisis, for instance, required government intervention on a scale unseen since the Depression, forcing

  • CHANTAL AKERMAN: CHILDREN’S BOOK

    A CRUCIAL TERM FOR CHANTAL AKERMAN is that of evocation, which she regularly uses to describe the thinking underlying her various projects. Speaking, for instance, about her powerful 1999 documentary, Sud (South)—for which the artist and filmmaker traveled through a swath of rural America stretching from Georgia to East Texas, where she found herself confronted by the recent, horrible lynching of James Byrd Jr.—she observed: “[The film is] neither an anatomy of James Byrd’s murder nor the autopsy of a black man lynched by three young white males, but more an evocation of how this event fits into

  • ART AND AGENCY

    AMONG THE MORE INTRIGUING SCENES in the AMC television series Mad Men, a drama set in the offices of a prominent New York advertising company at the beginning of the 1960s, is a sequence in which a few of the firm’s executives sit down to view freshly minted commercials for the day’s presidential candidates, Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The contrast in styles couldn’t be starker: Nixon sits stolidly at his desk, enumerating his qualifications in clear terms before somberly conveying his views on what he considers the nation’s most pressing issues; Kennedy, by contrast, appears in his

  • Mirror Image

    A COROLLARY of Marshall McLuhan’s famous adage that art is a “radar environment” uniquely suited for making clear the effects of media in culture is his lesser known analogy between those effects and the sound waves that become visible along an airplane’s wings just before it breaks the sound barrier. “The sudden visibility of sound just as sound ends,” McLuhan writes in Understanding Media (1964), “is an apt instance of that great pattern of being that reveals new and opposite forms just as earlier forms reach their peak performance.” And so, he argues, the fragmentary quality of mechanization

  • “Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstract Painting”

    For this exhibition, contemporary artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool pair their own canvases at the Hammer with those of the earlier figures (Klee, De Kooning, Gonzalez-Torres, and Guston among them) who they say influenced them most.

    Few have managed to render the light anxiety of artistic sublimation with such comedic facticity as Frank O’Hara did in his 1957 poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” a New York School parable in which the sources of one’s inspiration—here, sardines and the color orange—are shown to be always right there in the artwork (and also not). Acknowledging this conundrum, contemporary artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool pair their own canvases at the Hammer with those of the earlier figures (Klee, De Kooning, Gonzalez-Torres,

  • “Un Coup de Dés: Writing Turned Image. An Alphabet of Pensive Language”

    With concerns over the fate of the Generali’s groundbreaking Conceptualist program running high since the institution’s merger last year with the Bawag Foundation, it would seem anything but a random toss of the die that incoming director Sabine Folie’s debut exhibition looks, according to press materials, to Stéphane Mallarmé’s provocative “unmasking [of] language as a convention that serves to subject the individual to discipline and a regulated system of capitalist exploitability.”

    With concerns over the fate of the Generali’s groundbreaking Conceptualist program running high since the institution’s merger last year with the Bawag Foundation, it would seem anything but a random toss of the die that incoming director Sabine Folie’s debut exhibition looks, according to press materials, to Stéphane Mallarmé’s provocative “unmasking [of] language as a convention that serves to subject the individual to discipline and a regulated system of capitalist exploitability.” In considering such use and subversion of language in postwar and contemporary art in

  • A New Novel

    IF ONLY IN THE SPIRIT of rhetorical gamesmanship, it seems entirely worthwhile to ask whether the concept of the avant-garde, or neo-avant-garde, is not totally irrelevant when it comes to discussions of artistic production today—even if considered simply a kind of measure against which the latter might be judged (and, almost invariably, deemed inadequate). But in suggesting as much, maybe one should scrutinize less the art than the metaphor underlying the critical model, insofar as the kind of military engagement providing the basis for such terminology is also long since a thing of the

  • LESSONS OF ’68

    WHY MAY 1968? The risks attending any real attempt to consider anew the significance of the events that took place worldwide during that month—or even merely to honor their anniversary now, forty years later—would seem prohibitive. Certainly, to address that historical moment’s ideas and actions in all their complexity and specificity would require far more than a single issue of an art magazine: Whole compendiums of studies from a wide variety of disciplinary vantages, sociological and economic, anthropological and artistic, would be needed. Yet therein rests, perhaps, an even greater

  • ART AND ITS MARKETS: A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

    EVEN AS GOLD rises and the dollar falls, the expansion of the global art market shows few signs of reversal. This growth has been characterized by incredible immediacy, liquidity, and transparency—but also by inequity, archaic ritual, and social spectacle. Indeed, the economy of art is now both wildly speculative and idiosyncratically regulated, with unparalleled levels of attention devoted to the work of contemporary artists. What are the diverse factors that have contributed to this radical extension of interest and investment in the art of our day? And to what extent have these elements either transformed or reinscribed historical relationships among art’s audiences, institutions, collecting practices, and criticism? How might we best distinguish our present moment from previously bullish episodes and their attendant redefinitions of the aesthetic and the commoditized?
     
    From the fiscal to the formal, multiple arenas of knowledge are implicated in answering such questions. With this complex set of interrelationships in mind, Artforum invited a cross-section of figures—ranging from collector and curator to art historian and auction-house expert—to discuss the ways in which different kinds of value accrue to works of art and affect their production, display, and circulation: Ai Weiwei, Beijing-based artist; Amy Cappellazzo, international cohead of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s; Thomas Crow, professor of modern art at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University; Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Isabelle Graw, a founding editor of Texte zur Kunst and professor of art history and theory at Städelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt; Dakis Joannou, collector and president of the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece; and Robert Pincus-Witten, scholar and critic, and former director of exhibitions at L & M Arts in New York. Scholar and critic James Meyer and Artforum editor Tim Griffin moderate the discussion.

    THE GLOBAL BOOM

    James Meyer: The extraordinary boom of the contemporary market in recent years, along with the globalization of art’s production and display—two related phenomena—are among the most pressing subjects in any discussion of current practice. The history of modernism is in part a history of the marketing of the new. The Peau d’Ours sale in 1914, which brought a record price for Pablo Picasso’s Family of Acrobats [1905]; the first Parke-Bernet auction of contemporary art in 1965, which featured Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture; and the sale of the Scull Collection

  • THE ART OF THE FAIR: AN INTERVIEW WITH FRIEZE'S AMANDA SHARP & MATTHEW SLOTOVER

    Few, if any, contemporary art fairs would seem so emblematic of the phenomenon’s increasing prominence and changing complexion within the globalized art world during the past decade as the Frieze Art Fair. Established in London in 2003 by AMANDA SHARP and MATTHEW SLOTOVER, publishers of the eponymous British art magazine, the event was unique for extending beyond the traditional limits of the showroom floor to incorporate talks, performances, and commissioned projects by some of the most prominent artists and thinkers of our day. The fair’s success among collectors and the general public alike—sales in 2005 (the most current year for which such figures are available) totaled $57 million, while last October’s event drew nearly seventy thousand visits— has also prompted many to call the fair a signal moment in the transformation of London into an international arts capital. To discuss the fair’s inception and genealogy, ongoing development, and evolving relationship with art exhibitions and publications, Sharp and Slotover generously spoke by telephone with Artforum editor TIM GRIFFIN shortly before we went to press.

    TIM GRIFFIN: As it happens, I’ve been editor of Artforum for four years now—my very first issue, in fact, coincided with the first Frieze Art Fair—and so I remember well the moment I first heard about your plans to create the fair, since it involved, to my mind, some reconception of an art magazine, if only by extending the infrastructure around it. In this regard, precisely what made me excited about the fair also gave me pause: At a moment when art seemed in ever greater proximity with culture more generally—and when commercial culture was increasingly interested in offering what had traditionally

  • THE PUBLIC INTEREST: AN INTERVIEW WITH PACO UNDERHILL

    Where does art stand within the broader landscape of mass commerce today? To answer this question, Artforum editor Tim Griffin sat down with retail anthropologist Paco Underhill, author of the best-selling books Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping (1999) and Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping (2004). Founder and CEO of Envirosell, Underhill studied with social scientist William H. Whyte before going on to observe the circulation of automotive and pedestrian traffic in and around urban—and, more specifically, commercial—spaces. He has advised a spectrum of clients ranging from Saks Fifth Avenue and Starbucks to the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The following conversation took place in Envirosell’s headquarters in downtown Manhattan.

    Tim Griffin: Among my favorite arguments in all of art criticism is Meyer Schapiro’s assertion that the late nineteenth-century avant-garde always bore the inscription of mass commerce—that in its subjects, techniques, and modes of attention, one finds reflections of the day’s arcades, as well as of its constructs of work and leisure. Given your work both with art institutions and retail environments, I’ve long wanted to get your views on their common and distinct traits today. And so, to begin with general impressions, how might you situate galleries or the museum in the greater landscape

  • SOCIAL REALITIES

    AMONG MY PRIMARY AIMS as the editor of Artforum has been to create a greater sense of dialogue and exchange both within its pages and without. This very column, in fact, is designed to force me to step “outside” the magazine and publicly take a closer look within. The task of facilitating dialogue beyond the printed page has perhaps been the more elusive goal. When it comes to interactions on the street, for instance, a disconcerting proportion of them revolve solely around just how large the publication has become. (“Adforum,” someone will quip, unaware he is far from the first to make that

  • PERSONAL HISTORIES

    FOR A MAGAZINE ostensibly devoted to the issues of contemporary art, there will always be the question of how history should function on the page. With any retrospective look there is inevitably the risk of nostalgia, of an Oedipal swoon wherein we merely rehearse the already widely held assessments of a given period and its work, or else unconsciously map the prejudices of our own moment onto the art of that previous time—quietly reaffirming, in every case, things as they are. To wit, the canonical might merely remain the canonical in our eyes, with its art and attending critical discussions

  • NOTES ON JOKES

    JOHN BALDESSARI, RADICAL PHILOSOPHER? You’d be forgiven for laughing out loud at the question, since the generally affable septuagenarian artist who some thirty-five years ago could be found humbly waving goodbye to sailboats (as they came into port) is not usually the first person authorities cite as an unruly element. And yet when looking at the current issue of Artforum—and, more specifically, at Paolo Virno’s 2005 treatise Jokes and Innovative Action: For a Logic of Change, a selection of which appears here for the first time in English—one inevitably gravitates toward Baldessari’s