PRINT May 1998


High Art and Pecker

MOVIES ABOUT ARTISTS and their demimondes are notoriously unreliable. We’re not talking old-style Hollywood productions about the titanic geniuses of yore; such fare as The Agony and the Ecstasy, often screened on Ted Turner’s invaluable American Movie Classics cable network, has seen me through many predawn insomniac hours. More contemporary efforts focusing on artists, dealers, or collectors—e.g., Legal Eagles, 9 1/2 Weeks, Wall Street—have been miserable failures from the standpoint of art-world reality. (True, only those who are at best naïf go to any movie in search of la vérité, and I don’t mean four-hour Frederick Wiseman documentaries.) In recent years, Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat perhaps came closest to a believable re-creation of a certain milieu at a particular moment. In the early ’80s, the art world was taking off as a mediagenic cesspool of money-grubbing, drug-addled crazies,

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