Tim Griffin

  • Marcel Broodthaers, ABC—ABC Image, 1974, one of eighty projected slides, dimensions variable. © 2008 Broodthaers Estate/SABAM.

    “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

  • Alain Resnais, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad), 1961, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 94 minutes. X (Giorgio Albertazzi) and M (Sacha Pitoëff).

    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

  • Jean-Luc Godard, La Chinoise, 1967, still from a color film in 35 mm, 96 minutes. Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud). © 2008 Koch Lorber Films. Image scan courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Special thanks to Hedi El Kholti.

    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

  • Great Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002. Photo: Brooks Walker.

    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

  • Erik Bulatov, Trademark, 1986, oil on canvas, 78 3⁄4 x 78 3⁄4".

    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

  • Alvin Baltrop, untitled (detail), n.d., black-and-white photograph. © 2008 The Alvin Baltrop Trust. Used with permission.

    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

  • John Baldessari and Alejandro Cesarco, Retrospective #10, 2007, silk screen on aluminum, 48 x 36".

    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

  • Placard in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans for Paul Chan and Creative Time’s production of Waiting for Godot, 2007. Photo: Paul Chan.

    Waiting for Godot: Paul Chan In New Orleans

    AT THE CLOSE OF 2007, one gets the sense that art—like the ever-forgetful Estragon of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot—is once more struggling to take off its boot. In light of a booming market whose culture of investment is continually eclipsing any sense of art’s speaking meaningfully to society at large, and against the backdrop of political developments whose increasing gravity only underscores that diminished relationship, many artists are seeking venues beyond the conventional circuitry of the art world (and scuttling any vestiges of the myth of art’s autonomy) to obtain a

  • CUSTOM MADE

    REMEMBER KING TUT? Some thirty years ago, critics of the art world’s institutional workings ominously forewarned that the rise of the blockbuster exhibition—the showcase designed for mass appeal, able to draw immense throngs into the gilded tombs of history by taking up such iconic subjects as the ancient Egyptian ruler or Impressionism—would be attended by the dilution of historical discourse and the artistic community’s public sphere. After all, how could a meaningful, nuanced synthetic analysis of often profoundly ambiguous contemporary concerns take place when exhibition spaces

  • SIGNS AND WONDERS: MARY HEILMANN CURATES

    TIM GRIFFIN: We got the images you sent, but you’ll still probably have some conversations with our designer, Joseph Logan, in the next few days—just about how you see the different pictures sort of working with one another, how you want to see them laid out, what sorts of pairings you’d like to see. Even how many you imagine on a page.

    MARY HEILMANN: OK, um, I’m good with that.

    TG: And I might even ask you that right now, if you have any feelings about that.

    MH: Uh, I haven’t thought about it too much, but I’m interested in doing that. I might even be able to . . . well, we’ll talk. And I’ve sent