Lucky Seven

I'm running late with art fair reporting so in the meantime, a little quiz.
What do these things have in common:
. a pickled shark . . .
.a topiary puppy . . .
Louis Vuitton bags in candy colors . . .
.tangled skeins on canvas . . .
.Basquiat on the screen . . .
.a giant dome of oleagineous red wax . . .
.and a target in green encaustic?
They were made by the seven richest artists in the world, a testicular club that consists of Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, Brice Marden, Julian Schnabel, Anish Kapoor and Jasper Johns.
Not surprisingly--and this may make you feel better, or maybe not--it takes money to make money. Hirst has a business manager, Koons was a commodities broker on Wall Street, Marden made his fortune in real estate. And of course early in their careers, several of them were championed by powerful dealers. You can read the report by Amber Vilas in Artinfo.
My images top and bottom (Hirst, top; Johns, bottom); Anish Kapoor's red wax dome courtesy of the ICA, Boston; the others from the Internet


Neanderthals Destroyed Atlantis said...

Art history books are all about the testicles and the richest artists and artists most likely to get solo exhibitions and museum retrospectives (there are exceptions of course) have testicles. Therefore, one would have to assume that these things called testicles have magical powers that grant their bearers the ability to make important art. All hail the all powerful testicle!

Colleen said...

Lucky for who?? Recently I heard two statistics, greater number of females students in art school, greater number of males in galleries across america. As a female american, I've found my voiced silenced during the most important times in my life! I think america offers free speech, except when it brings women into authoritarian positions. I know I haven't allowed the current Psyche structure to silence my voice, I hope female artists continue to find their voice in america, no matter how terrorized males are by their TRUTH!!

Anonymous said...

and the most interesting and best work of the seven was made fifty-five years ago...

Joanne Mattera said...

Do I feel a cartoon coming on?

You are right that there are more women in art schools but more men showing in galleries. The Guerrilla Girls have been talking about this for years:
More recently Jerry Saltz has taken up the cause.
If you don't see a place for you in the art world, make one.

Chris Rywalt said...

I would like to point out that both EAG and I possess testicles and are just as distant from the highest echelons of the art world as any woman.

The gulf between classes dwarfs the gulf between genders. It's not about gender, it's about class. Gender is a distraction to keep the lower classes divided and squabbling.

Neanderthals Destroyed Atlantis said...

"I would like to point out that both EAG and I possess testicles..."

Speak for yourself.

Chris Rywalt said...

It struck me as unlikely that you'd have lost yours somewhere.

Mine aren't functioning all that well but I still have them.

Joanne Mattera said...

Kidding aside(along with those cojones), of course not all men have the careers they might like to have, but there is no doubt that men get more than women. As Colleen pointed out, the art schools have more female students, while the art world has more represented male artists.

Chris, class certainly has a role in there--and certainly, so do race and age--but it's gender that tips the balance.

Chris Rywalt said...

The percentage of art students doesn't really tell us anything, though. Women are a majority in all of higher education. Most art students don't become artists anyway. I'm not sure the schools are relevant.

I've argued about this before and I still sort of wonder: What would a perfectly unbiased art world look like? Exactly 50 percent female artists -- represented by galleries? Having openings in Chelsea? In museums? Out on museum walls or in storage? Imagine tomorrow, by magic, there's perfect gender equality across the entire art world. What's that look like to you?

I think it's certainly true that women are underrepresented in...well, almost all things. I just don't know how we'll ever tell when they're not.

Personally I seem to see a lot of work by women and interact with a lot of women in the arts. It feels as if most of the people I know in the art world are women.

(Personal bias: I've spent so many years in male environments -- when I met my wife at college the ratio there was 14 to 1 male to female -- that even when the gender split is exactly fifty-fifty, I feel as if there are more women than men.)

Anonymous said...

I come from an upperclass environment. It was for that reason my voice was silenced. The upperclass are afraid of socially enlightened FEMALES who have a completely independent way of responding to the world about them. My fault was being spiritually evolved and surrounded by the upperclass. In other words, it wasn't because I was poor that I was silenced.

Chris Rywalt said...

Well, Colleen, I don't know you at all so don't take this as an insult, but there are all kinds of reasons why one might be silenced. You could be an airhead, or a jerk. Or maybe the people you know are stupid jerks. I mean, I don't know. How can you be sure you're being silenced due to your gender? I'm pretty sure I don't get invited to parties, not because I'm male, but because I'm an asshole.

These are the kinds of things I think about. When I look at the art world, what I see is that almost everyone is excluded from the highest levels. Male and female. So the exact gender proportions at the top don't worry me so much. What I want to know is, why these seven? A pickled shark seems pretty dumb to me, but it's no dumber than a lot of things. Why is a dumb thing made by Hirst worth more than a dumb thing made by me? Or you? Or anyone else?

My testicular comment was to point out that it's not just because Damien is a guy. Because there are lots of guys making dumb stuff who aren't worth zillions. And there are even some guys making good stuff who aren't worth millions. Why Damien Hirst and not Larry Poons? Why Gerhard Richter and not Darby Bannard? Or whoever. Put in your own names.

I mean, how many artists are working in the world today? Out of those, how many are making a living at it? One percent? Half a percent? To then quibble that that tiny, tiny percentage isn't split evenly along gender lines seems petty to me. The question shouldn't be, why not more women? It should be, why not more good, quality, artists? And not just exchanging them for "bad" artists we already have. I mean, why can't more artists make a living? Just more?

I understand it's your thing, Joanne, or one of your things. Being an abstract artist probably doesn't help you either. I bet you have a bunch of hurdles in your way! But I understand gender is one of your things and that's okay. I'm not really trying to argue against that seriously. But I really do want you to think about your answer to my earlier question -- and it doesn't matter if you come up with an answer or tell it to me or anything, what matters, I think, is that you think about it -- which is: What would full gender equality look like? Because until you get a handle on that, what are you fighting for?

Joanne Mattera said...

Chris asks: "What would a perfectly unbiased art world look like?"

Don't answer yet!

This is such a good question that it deserves its own thread. I'm going to write a short post for the next Marketing Monday in hopes that it will have some big responses. Thanks, Chris. (And I'm quoting you.)

For the record here, I'm not fighting so much as raising issues. This is not my fight alone. Everyone contributes: the Gurerrilla Girls, Jerry Saltz, your thoughtful comments, my Marketing Mosday's post, everyone's comments--and all the artists who agitated and demonstrated from the Seventies onward so that for better or worse, you could walk into the Whitney Biennial this year and see a broader spectrum than was previously shown.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the perfect world is that my ideas are always changing and therefore perfection is always shifting. I know when I am near perfection it has nothing to do with any state of being perfect. Rather it has everything to do with spiritual acceptance.

Onto the original thread content: I have been (blessed) to be a solely self-employed artist for over 20 years. I am male. My parents are both self-employed artists, my mom for almost 50 years (!) and my father for about 35 years! It is my mother who has achieved the most success-financially and critically. That said, most every gallery I work with has about a 60/40 or maybe 65/35 ratio of men to women. Women represent a bit more than 50% of the human population. It seems to me they should also represent about 50% in all other endeavors as well. But what do I know? I am just saying!

Chris Rywalt said...

Joanne sez:
This is such a good question that it deserves its own thread.

Probably more than that, but thank you for taking it seriously. I appreciate it.

Chris Rywalt said...

I'd like to add that, in the past, I've said some pretty stupid things on this subject. I'm going to try not to say anything stupid again, but...well...if trying not to be stupid was all it took....

Unknown said...

Is it about gender or money?

Who buys the artwork? (and can they sell it for a profit in a few years)

No coincidence that Jeff Koons is a former stockbroker. Profit makes a big difference in getting into galleries.

The same folks that brought us the scandals in our mortgage lending and banks are using artwork for investment. When Koons, Hirst,'s factory's works go for higher prices each year, the sharks invest.

Chris Rywalt said...

Actually, it turns out art is a poor investment. Check out The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson. Art underperforms even a weak mutual fund.

Iris said...

The statistics, as mentioned in the movie: "Who does she think she is?" are: 80% of students enrolled in art schools are female, while 70-80% of artists showing in art galleries are male. Also, women make 52% of the population. Something is funny here, no doubt. either we are chronic underachievers, or there are less opportunities afforded for women, or some combination of both, but it's not something to be easily avoided. The point is not that those 7 richest are male, the rich elite is always the minority, but the fact that MOST of the showing artists are, that's mind boggling!
We know that most of the wealth in the world is concentrated in developed countries. Does that mean that American youth are raised to be more financially successful than, say Bangladeshi youth? or does it mean the latter have less opportunities?
Obviously, yes to both!
But I doubt anyone is going to hand anybody any opportunities. One has to seek them for themselves. Us women, we are used to serve, to support, to give, to be supported. If we accept who we are, and accept it as part of the reason why we are in this position, then we are at least one step further towards our goal. It may take us 50 years to move one step forward, but each generation starts at a different point, so in the big scheme of things, maybe we're getting somewhere?

In that movie I mentioned, it's talked a lot about raising children, and this being part of the hurdle. Obviously, raising kids is one of the most demanding occupations in the world, yet the least paying one - we rarely see women getting rich from raising great kids. Even though it is a much more important contribution to society than dealing stocks. Maybe we need to accept this as part of our training and education - mostly raising kids for 10-15 years of our lives - and not see it as a black hole of time lost forever. We need to use this energy, of being female, and not see it as a drag, as a weakness. Then maybe we can create art that is more meaningful than giant metal stuffed animals or diamond coated skulls, and GET SOME RESPECT for it!


Iris said...

Art can be a good investment, say for example, your great great great great grandfather (too many greats?) bought a van gogh for pennies from the artist while he was alive - you may have been a millionaire now!
Even if your great grandma bought a large painting from grandma Moses for $3, that would have been considered a good investment!

I guess it depends on the quality of art you invest in... spending $12 million on a stuffed shark? I believe even a kindergartner would have told you that's not so wise... well duh!

Nancy Natale said...

Of course there is also the option of choosing not to have kids. Radical idea - not!

When women get more power in general (money, business, galleries), maybe we'll see more women artists. I don't think it's class, I think it's cash. But there is still the worldwide discrimination against women - men being taken more seriously in all endeavors, not just art.

Women need to take themselves seriously. Why not decide to forgo children and make art instead? Then we might decide to forgo testicle worship and instead love and support other women in the same way that women have been supporting men forever.

Bernard Klevickas said...

GREAT question! We need more women collecting women, more men into collecting women (you know what I mean, though the phrase can sound disturbing). I do think it is a testosterone thing, and art-collectors need to mature-up a bit, instead of this vanity show of who's who crap. Louise Bourgeois, Linda Benglis, Elizabeth Murray, Rachel Whiteread, Jessica Stockholder, Agnes Martin, and I could go on- have been very strong influences on me and my work. I wish their work garnered more praise and much higher prices.

Iris said...

But of course there is the option of not having kids! however, most women do choose to have them, maybe for reasons bigger than all of us, such as our basic animalistic need to procreate? why though, is there a need to choose between the two? Why don't men have to choose? many have kids and careers, they are not expected to give up one for the other.

Women have power, a lot of power, and it is this power that causes the need to keep them locked in, even if the cage is partly self imposed.

There were times, before testicle worship, when the woman and the womb were the object of worship. Maybe we need to end all that altogether, and just worship our human spirit, or simply celebrate life and freedom of genitalia worship as each sees and feels fit, without forcefully trying to gain power over any other person's genitalia or procreation systems... That would be the day...

Maybe, as artists, it is our job to be the first to carry this flag, since as artists we are both (or alternately) reflecting society and it's future.

agarofano said...

Oh bummer, I thought Anish Kapoor was a woman all this time...

Kathy said...

Such an interesting conversation! The ironic part is that you could remove all references to the "art community" and replace it with references to the other profession I belong to, and it would still fit. Unfortunately, I don't have the answer, but I am enjoying the conversation.

Chris Rywalt said...

I'm actually the stay-at-home parent, so, you know, there's that option, too.

I've known a lot of women who were, at one point, high-powered women. Women who got through engineering school (starting when it was 14-1 male-to-female) and went into careers designing guidance systems for nuclear missiles. That kind of thing.

Almost all of them became stay-at-home mothers. Not because their husbands made them. Not because the patriarchy made them. Because they wanted to. There are a scant few of them still in their original careers; the women I know who are working are almost all -- you guessed it -- nurses or teachers.

Now, we can talk about why they wanted to quit their jobs and teach kindergarten or stay home changing diapers or whatever. Does our culture twist people's desires? Is it just natural for women to be homebodies? Are we so soaked in testicle culture that even high-powered, highly intelligent women get confused and lost? Do women just make bad engineers?

Who knows? No one knows. Humans are complicated. We don't neatly fit into theories. It is what it is. A lot of people think they have the answer, and even more people like to jump up and down and get angry about it, but in the end, we just don't know what's going on. We're all simply muddling through like every human on Earth before us.

In my case, I opted to stay home with the kids. One day my wife decided she wanted to trade places. I got a job and she stayed home. That lasted two weeks. She got herself a part-time job because she couldn't stand being home. Good thing, too, because soon enough I lost my job and she had to switch to full time. She's still doing that job, winning awards at it and everything, and she has a second one, too.

Meanwhile I sit at home and type on blogs. Oh yeah, who's the patriarch now, baby?

Iris said...

Chris, that's great of you to support your wife's career like that! It's still unusual, and the examples you gave of those high powered women just show how slow progress comes. It's hard to believe that only a century ago child labor was common practice, and it still is in many parts of the world. Change doesn't always happen over night, especially this kind of social change, pertaining to the whole of humanity, to the hierarchy and distribution of power.

Chris Rywalt said...

As a father of a twelve year old (who is arguing about going to school right this moment) and an eleven year old, I'm all in favor of repealing child labor laws. It's about time they worked for a living!

Iris said...

LOLOL Chris! Totally!! (mine are 12 and 14, so I know... )

Joanne, sorry for deviating from the subject!

Unknown said...

Thanks Joanne. You never cease to amaze me with you skill,knowledge & eagerness to share. Great pix. Great comments.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. You never cease to amaze me. Love your pix, love your comments. anne