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Tuesday, 24 February 2009


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If any of these works of art ever need to be sold these guys are much better off trying to sell a painting owned by Julian Schnabel or Annie L. than Joe six pack.

Put this on your netfix list if you have never seen it.

Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?

In my opinion this just makes her look more like a real person. She has problems, just like the rest of us.

The book sounds fascinating. I look forward to your review, Mike!

And JS, how many "real" people do you know who need to borrow over $15 million in the space of a few months to keep their investments afloat? Maybe it's just a matter of scale, but to me it simply confirms what her recent work has been saying all too clearly: that Liebovitz is more celebrity than artist.

wow! I don't think I could pick up a camera knowing that every shutter release belongs to someone else....

I was reading the below article this morning

I don't earn much more then a £1 over minimum wage so I know how Annie must be feeling, but I'd happily take seven million for my shots

The current economy reminds me of the end of a game of Monopoly. If you have big reserves of cash in this market, the world is your oyster... everyone else loses.

Annie takes the shot, but her Photoshop expert staff people make the image. Like the artisans of Chihuly make the actual glass. What amazes me is how many celeb 'artists' actually farm out the fine work. Used to be that the artist was known by his skill combined with idea. Jackson Pollock experimented and did his own work - even if you don't like it. Andy Warhol farmed out the work to a team; Annie L. farms out the fine work to her staff; Chihuly does the same. It makes them lots of money - if they can hang on to it - but I am not sure I would pay millions (as if I had it ~L) for work farmed out to staff people. But that is just my humble opinion for what its worth.

There's a long history of that, as you might know--Renaissance artists often had "ateliers," where groups of apprentices did most of the actual work, and when my grandfather had his portrait painted, for hanging at his University, the "name" portraitist just did the face and hands--his assistants did the "easy" parts, the background and clothing.

I don't think Jeff Koons actually does any of his work himself.


Gives me an idea for photo-futures market. I sell all the rights to my future masterpieces for, oh say $10 million, to some investment banker, who will pay using the government bailout cheque he just cashed.

Might work. I've had worse ideas.

What is more valuable, the idea or the finished product? Seems like there is a danger of removing oneself too far from the process and getting hung out to dry. Interesting article. Same problems as mere mortals, yes, but greatly different scale.

The book sounds pretty neat too. I'd pay $16.47 (and maybe even more) to figure out how to get a pre-sold-out gallery show. In the end is it all about obtaining a piece of the artist?

I'm sure Art Capital is a discreet operation, but financing statements are public records (the article notes they are filed with the City); that's the point--so that a propective lender can find out if a potential borrower has already pledged an asset as collateral.

Good Morning,Mike. I am aware of ateliers and I have read a great deal about art history. And I know that many works are still is being farmed out to artisans and manufacturers by the celeb artists. Every generation has such artists who have taken advantage of staff practioners. But customers, even in the time of the old masters, may well have assumed that the great artist did his own work on THEIR special commission. Unwisely, perhaps. I have noticed that today, when the public finds out that a work was mostly done by an assistant, the market price drops. I certainly have more respect for artists that complete the whole work themselves. In the end, I think its a question of ethics and art. Has no one ever questioned the contemporary art world for this practice?

"I don't think Jeff Koons actually does any of his work himself." ---MJ.

A lot of contemporary artists aren't too involved beyond the conceptual level -- Christo hires crowds of people to do his wrapping, Koons has a factory, I think in Austria, Richard Prince essentially edits photography done by other people. (I sometimes think Prince's art is popular with museums because he functions more as a curator than as an artist.)

The things that determine value are scarcity, reputation, quality and speculation, and the explosion of wealth around the world (notwithstanding the current dip) is putting huge pressure on scarce, high-quality art. I went to the Norton Simon museum in Pasadena on Sunday, with some friends, and there are three famous high-style Van Goghs hanging a few feet apart on one wall just inside the modern galleries. My friend asked me how much they are worth, and I guessed that together, if sold at auction, they might make a half billion dollars. But just looking at them, that number is absurd -- the technology is available to make duplicates that would be virtually undetectable as fakes, and that could be sold for perhaps $1,000. All the rest of the value is in scarcity. At that level, cash value is simply an arbitrary number that has little to do with any rational assessment of actual aesthetic value.

I'm sure Annie's negs are worth millions, but the curious thing about photography is that "made later" photos are worth far less than those made at the time of the shoot, and that photos printed after the artist's death, or by someone else not supervised by the artist (as with Doon Arbus, daughter of Diane Arbus) are worth even less.

The reason for this, as you'll hear from gallery owners, is that the artistic impulse is more authentic the closer the print is to the taking of the photo -- that is, the original concept is fresher in the mind of the photographer. Which is mostly BS. Who's to say that a more contemplative approach isn't better, that an art that matures over a few years isn't truer, that a later print has given the photographer a chance to think about and bring out additional qualities of the neg?

The real reason for the "vintage" photo idea is that photography presents the possibility of an essentially unlimited edition (as with Ansel Adam's "Moonrise.") Labeling things as "vintage" and "printed later" is an attempt to retroactively limit an edition, and thus increase its scarcity value. If you're more interested in the photography than in the investment, the much cheaper "printed later" versions are usually identical or better in quality than the early ones...I have a print of "Running White Deer" by John Caponigro that is about as flawless a print as I've ever seen, and that I was told had been hung in his office/workspace before I bought it. While absolutely gorgeous, it's "printed later," and worth far less than an early print would be...

Which brings up the possibility that the value of Annie's rights are actually depreciating, and would fall even more if she lost control of her negs, and that "printed later" prints, done by somebody hired by a pawnbroker, without her supervision, would be worth about as much as an art poster. Of course the negatives themselves would retain a lot of value...maybe.

I have to say that I don't like Annie's work very much -- though I am affected by her portraits of celebrities who in some way (through their work) touched me; but that value dies as the generation dies. Who will understand why the portrait of John Belushi is so compelling, when they no longer remember who John Belushi was? Still, I hate to see artists get tangled up with pawn brokers. That's just nasty.


If one is terribly worried about exactly who touched each pixel of a Leibovitz photo, I guess I would wonder why. Yes, if you're interviewing somebody for a job and they claim involvement, you might want to know if that was true. But if you like the photo, should you like it less because several people participated in making it? If you hate the photo, should you like it more because only one person was involved? If somebodies skills include assembling a team, communicating a vision, and motivating that team to produce a work, isn't the result still an artistic achievement?

I'll second charlie d's rec for watching "Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?"

very entertaining and informative

I read Sarah Thornton's "Seven Days in the Art World" recently -- an interesting window into the high-end art world. Will check out the Stuffed Shark recommendation, thanks!

The Feb 09 issue of Wired had an article about how much of the sculpture in the Fine Art world is outsourced to one major company, who do all the really creative, artisanal design and fabrication based on the artist's loosey-goosey concepts, and then they get none of the credit or the resulting list prices: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-02/ff_artmanufacturing?currentPage=all

Some artists are good producers in the true Hollywood sense: they're talented at organizing teams of people who will work hard while the producer takes the credit for the output, not unlike P.T. Barnum. The artist/producer puts all their effort into securing money and preserving the reputation of the work, while other people do the nitty gritty. However, most Hollywood producers are selfish crooks with inflated egos, surrounded by impressionable and hungry people. When one of these jackals asks you to rise to the occasion and do brilliant work on their behalf, you really need to be mindful that you're going to get taken for a ride and have nothing much to show for it in the end. They're predators.

I am thinking of outsourcing my shooting during the Winter months. It might not be as cold as Wisconsin, but Boston does get too cold for me. I went out on Saturday to take some street shots and after 2 hours I was more worried about not losing any fingers than taking good shots.

I am now looking for an assistant to take my outside pictures for me; I'll do all the postprocessing. Interested applicants should send me their CVs and a sample of their work.

I intend to be the first photographer to become famous without taking his own photographs. Wait, has Shepard Fairey already taken that title from me...?

It sounds to me like someone has raised their standard of living too high and is unwilling to make sacrifices...

Either that or she is not good at managing her assets.

Doesn't matter how talented you are - if you don't act and behave responsibly with money, it will eventually come back to haunt you.

"...if you don't act and behave responsibly with money, it will eventually come back to haunt you."

These days even if you DO behave responsibly with money you will suffer at the hands those higher up the food chain who didn't. You may not suffer as much as the folks who were completely irresponsible, but few escape unscathed.

The other question I'd want to know is whether any of her pics will be up for bargain basement sale? I am NOT a fan of her stuff but I'd be interested in knowing what kind of prices her stuff fetches. Also as a long time patron of pawn shops wouldn't it be great to walk in and find an Ansel Adams or a Lartigue for $145.

I'm reading the $12 million stuffed shark book, about 70% of the way through it & have mixed feelings. It's certainly not a great read. There is plenty of detail (mind numbing sometimes) about the inner workings of the auction houses & big commercial galleries. Unfortunately the author seems to know little about art apart from the economic aspect.

There are also some annoying glitches, e.g. a chapter on fakes is quite brief & he only refers to fakes of pre contemporary paintings such as Gauguin, Chagall & Rembrandt (!), whereas the rest of the book is about contemporary art, i.e. predominantly post 1970.

Having said that there are some valuable insights. His basic question is "Why does contemporary art sell for such high prices, when in the past such prices were only paid for older art that been historically sanctioned?" His answer is that most of the older collectable art is definitively off the market, e.g. most of the great impressionist & modernist paintings are in museums, or have been promised to museums by the wealthy owners. Leaving contemporary art as the only sector with enough stock to be chased after by the hordes of wealthy collectors.

A good read in this genre is 'I Sold Andy Warhol' by Richard Polsky, the memoirs of a 1980s private dealer.

There is a book published by the CAC Málaga [southwest spain] which develops exactly the same subject and comes to the following conclussion:

There is nothing better for the artist than having a good godfather behind [in that very case, the Saatchi brothers].

In a nutshell, I mean.

As with the portrait by Hendrik Kerstens, the success of those sharks comes straight from the overall feeling of the general public: contrary to what the rest of the Young British Artists [to what Damien Hirst belongs] which surfaced linked to Saatchi mid nineties, those physical still lifes work because they are visually so well put together.

And they got quite a stir [again] from an advertising company.

The pawnshop is just going to exploit her. Sounds like she needs help. - Signing away her rights is a desperate measure. Mind you it is a falling market. Her pictures have gotten worse. Look at this months Vanity Fair. The pic inside of Michelle and Obama is not up to scratch. Its out of focus, someone is in the way. - No way is it a memorable image. I think her earning potential must be going down. What would happen if Conde Nast fired her? She a big cost to them. Why not find a young up and coming photographer and give them the chance that she once had.

Dear Folks,

Boy, lots of people are making a lot of assumptions about what this says about Annie's finances or business sense. I respectfully submit that few of you know what you're talking about.

You're all confusing assets with cash. You can't spend assets. They're not liquid, to use the financial term.

I live in a house with a mortgage of X and a fair market value of Y. How much money do I have? Whatever happens to be in my bank account. The market value of the house is completely irrelevant until such time as someone gives me money for some or all of that market value. And good luck with that right now!

The same can be said about future usage rights to your work. Theoretically that's an asset (of less determinate value). Practically it is useless until someone pays you for those rights.

Converting theoretical money to real money is never, ever a stupid idea, unless it turns out that you can't service the debt. Taking out home equity loans is, on average, a very smart financial move. Taking out ones that you can't pay back isn't. But the simple fact that someone takes a bunch of cash out of their home doesn't tell you a thing about how smart or foolish they are about their money. It's not symptomatic.

And one last note: the best time to have a lot of liquid cash on hand is in a collapsing economy. There are deals aplenty to be had for those who can afford them.

Mike's right that this article says interesting things about the current state of the economy and its possible future...but it says absolutely nothing about the current state of Annie's economy and her possible future.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

The reason that she needs the cash is due to inheritance laws in the US. When her longtime partner, Susan Sontag died, she had to pay a large amount of taxes.


I read that too today and it does indeed seem it's got nothing to with sacrifices, but more with the fact that because a gay Leibowitz pays an inheritance taxes that a straight Leibowitz wouldn't. That said, I feel more for Leibovitz-the-person than I do for Leibovitz-the-photographer.

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