Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pushing the boundaries and seeing what happens

Francesca Gavin recently wrote a piece for Artsy titled: 
“Steve Lazarides’s Banksy Auction Tests the Artist’s Market”

Lazarides photographed by Lars Fassinger
"Steve Lazarides is innately skilled at promotion. His career as a gallerist was for a decade intertwined with the artist Banksy - initially promoting and producing screenprints for Banksy and his imprint Pictures on Walls, before representing the artist as a gallerist. Lazarides’s gallery is now the definitive space for artists who have largely emerged from a street context, and next week Lazarides is putting up around 30 unsigned prints by Banksy at auction. The question everyone is asking is why?

“I want to see how far the market can go, to be honest,” Lazarides explains. “When you’re selling directly to a client, you set a price and that’s it. With auction you don’t really know what’s going to happen. Why not push boundaries and see what happens? Everybody does it - they just lie about it. I’m constantly being persecuted for being honest,” he laughs. Unlike many galleries, Lazarides does not work with the secondary market, focusing on largely young primary-market emerging names.
Banksy and Lazarides haven’t worked together for around seven years.“I don’t think we’ve spoken since 2008,” he considers. Nonetheless, Lazarides is the expert in Banksy’s market. “There aren’t many dealers and artists that have the kind of relationship that we had. It was an intense decade of being in each others’ lives. With the paintings, I probably know everything about them. With the screenprints, I was getting them printed, I numbered most of them. I then wrapped them up and stuck them in a fucking tube.” The Bonhams print sale, however, does not represent the gallerist’s desire to wash his hands of the artist, and he still has a significant personal holding on his work.

“I think the market has become so solid. The interest from people around the world is quite significant,” Lazarides muses. “This work has to really be absorbed into an overall umbrella of contemporary art. People like Shepard Fairey, Os Gêmeos, Vhils, JR, Conor Harrington - I think they’ve broken the shackles of being just urban artists. It’s not chumps buying the work. It’s very, very serious collectors.” 

The gallerist has uncovered a vast collection of unsigned prints that he sold to a secondhand furniture dealer on Brick Lane in the early days of Banksy’s career. The works were still in the packing Lazarides has presented them in. He brokered a deal to have access to this archive. Although unsigned, the works still have strong authenticity for Lazarides’s involvement and his relationship to Banksy. The gallerist also intends to find a way of releasing some of the unsigned prints on the market—aware that there are still 1.5 million people buying Banksy’s book who all wish to own a piece by the artist ..."

The auction in London is on January 28th (that is today people!) and included in this sale is none other than Kate Moss (Purple, Orange) from 2005:
Not one to miss an opportunity, we emailed the Director of Sales enquiring as to kate’s availability and price. We received the following response:

Hi ishotkatemoss,
Hope you're well and thanks for getting in touch.
This actually comes with all the other 5 colourways as a set of 6 for £500k.
I do have a single original colourway available for £95,000 + vat if of interest?
All the best

So, without factoring in tax (which may be able to be waived if we are taking it out of Europe, so as to hang on our fine NY walls), the single kate would set us back only US$145,000 plus shipping! For those who are looking for a slightly more affordable and tacky kate colorway, don't forget the Russell Marshall's inventory.
If anyone is seriously considering such a purchase, we’ll leave the last word to the subversive artist so many of us admire. With echoes of the Christie’s London kate sale that prompted our very own ishotkatemoss collage, on February 22, 2007, the day after Sotheby’s London sold three Banksy works, all of which soared above their auction estimates and into the six figures, the elusive and anonymous British graffiti artist updated his website with the following image of an auction house:
Observe. Slow Down. Shoot. Submit.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Photographer Series #14: reashotkatemoss

Rea Chen is a graduate from The China Academy of Art where she majored in printmaking. She recently moved to New York where she is undertaking her MFA at Parsons The New School.
Some of Rea's kites in her studio
While visiting Parsons we found her studio walls inundated with kites and knew she was a natural fit for ishotkatemoss

Each kite had a recognizable image (including the Queen, an Oscar statuette, Steve Jobs, Audrey Hepburn, Stephen Hawking, The Beatles etc.) wrapped around a bamboo frame, with beautiful ribbons adorning the sides and tail.

Rea descrices her art as "doubting the function and the formats of icons and finding the real value beyond the idol as symbol". She explores these themes by critiquing the extreme conditions in which iconography is found, while also trying to create balance in the possibilities of viewing such symbols.

iskm: Can you explain your project?
Rea Chen (RC): There are two backgrounds to the kite project. The first is a reference to the Basant Kite Festival, which has recently been abandoned in Pakistan. A potential reason for the cancellation is due to extreme Muslims not allowing the Festival to take place. I see this situation as so- called "extreme aniconism". The other reference is the Reenaction of Crucifixion in the Philippines and Mexico. At these reenactions many disciples experience a real crucifixion on every Good Friday. They have, in theory, a similar experience of Jesus, but they will get off from the cross at a point in the process and then repeat the action again next year. I describe it as "extreme idolism".
My hope is to reorganize the Basant Kite Festival, but in New York with uniquely constructed kites.

iskm: How do you build the kites? 
RC: I choose to build the kites using the core structure of a diamond kite, which has a cross beneath the kite paper, as its making process is similar to that of a crucifix. I use light materials to build the kites: bamboo sticks to build the structure, and I print the images onto rice paper. I affix the images onto the cross then I use a needle to stick through the left and right angles of the paper, let the string cross the two holes and make the spar bow. This process reminds me of the hanging and nailing of Jesus onto the cross. To complete the kite, I add the ribbons and lastly, I tie the string to be held when flying the kite.
iskm: Why do you select the images you do to put on the kites?
RC: I choose images of all kinds of western idols from Google searches. In the US, beliefs coexist and people can believe whatever they want. People should have the freedom to choose their beliefs. I feel that building the modern idols into kites and then letting people fly them is like worshiping and controlling some beliefs to critique the "extreme aniconism". However, I foresee the kites will fall down, get entangled and the images will be broken and the structures will be damaged. This part is to doubt the real function of idols, and critique the "extreme idolism".

iskm: After discovering the iskm project, Rea constructed a kate kite and photographed its flight:

iskm: Why did you select the source kate image that you did?
A cropped version of Rheims' photograph
RC: I chose a topless photo of Kate used in a worldwide ad campaign, which was taken when she was 16, by the French photographer Bettina Rheims*. Bettina has said that she shoots for the famous female superstars, to give them what they want. However, for an unconfident young girl, I question the validity of this and would expect that the girl would have a great deal of fear. After investigating, I found that Kate said she was pressured into showing her nude body, 'I'd lock myself in the toilet and cry'. She indicated that after this, her first nude shoot, she experienced a long 'nervous breakdown' and she cried for years and years. I felt that this is the real crucifixion of her, the mass show of her on all fashion media. She has to be hung on the cross, to face watching eyes with complex emotions. Kate became the world’s supermodel not only on her own, but also through a series of social selections - by others who control the kite string, to make her fly high or fall down. Even though she said she regretted doing the 1992 photo shoot that helped skyrocket her to fame, she became resigned and said 'I didn't like it, but it was work, and I had to do it'. There appeared to be a lack of anyone providing support or mental care and I can feel something through her eyes as if to say ‘To be or not to be?’.

iskm: Is there any reason the ribbon is red for kate?
RC: I use black ribbon for all, but for Jesus I utilized red ribbon, as the symbol of blood. I also used the red for Kate as I think she was crucified by the photographer and sanctified in the fashion industry.
iskm: Where did you fly the kite? Did you choose the locations for any special reason?
RC: I flew the kite along Fifth Ave; from the Parsons school, famous for its fashion major, down 5th Ave past the retail stores, to Central Park - where it finally became entangled by the tree branches. It meant flying the kite from the starting point of learning, through the fashion commerce and ultimately to the central destination of New York, the world’s hub for arts and entertainment.
iskm: How did people react?
RC: It was a little difficult to fly on NY streets because of the crowded conditions. Also, sometimes the kite string was entangled with pedestrians, which was a little bit dangerous. Some people took shots of it, and one policeman came to me. I thought I was in trouble but he appreciated that it was a lovely kite and it flew so well! He also asked who was on it, and I replied that it was Kate Moss and he let me continue. Many people looked up at the kite while I was walking, especially children.
iskm: Want happened to the kite? Did you leave it entangled in the trees?
RC: It was entangled on the branch in a very high place, I could do nothing but cut the string. I’m not sure how it is now, maybe it’s still there washed by the rain and snow, or it has fallen down and been swept away.
iskm: Do you intend to fly all of the kites together? If so, when?
RC: I’m still working on organizing the kite festival here in NY, but the date has not been decided as yet. It will depend on the weather, so more than likely we will need to wait for the spring.

iskm: Which photographer/s or artist/s would you most want to most see involved in ishotkatemoss? Why?
RC: I’d love to have seen Frida Kahlo interpret this project, because her own life was a beautiful appearance with strong torment inside, playing her role. In a strange way, I feel that there’s so much in common between the representations of both Frida and Kate.

iskm: A brief note that Rea returned to China over the winter break and we had great difficulty conducting portions of this interview as her email account was blocked. She commented during the process:
RC: Sorry for the block of instagram, facebook and google. I really feel helpless without the ability to be in contact with my friends.

It was a stark reminder, especially in the wake of our recent commentary on freedom of expression, that censorship often limits our ability to create an open, creative and positive dialogue.

If you are interested in learning more about the festival or even assisting Rea, she can be found on Facebook or via instagram where her handle is “chenhuiji”.

And, only as we will never have the chance to ever say this again: reashotkitemoss!
Observe. Slow Down. Fly. Shoot. Submit.

* This image is not readily available on the internet as it breaches the code of conduct of many sites, due to the fact that it shows an underage girl naked. iskm has chosen to display the image cropped. We wholeheartedly support Rea Chen's use of the photograph within her artistic process due to the fact that she is specifically commenting on the way the image had been taken, promoted and used. However, we endorse censorship of images that depict and/or promote the sexual exploitation of children.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Satire Lives

Text from Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker January 19, 2015 issue, interspersed with some cartoons and illustrations from around the world in response to the recent happenings in Paris:
Dave Brown, The Independent, UK
The staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, massacred in an act that shocked the world last week, were not the gentle daily satirists of American editorial cartooning. Nor were they anything like the ironic observers and comedians of manners most often to be found in our own beloved stable here at The New Yorker. (Though, to be sure, the covers of this magazine have startled a few readers and started a few fights.) They worked instead in a peculiarly French and savage tradition, forged in a long nineteenth-century guerrilla war between republicans and the Church and the monarchy. There are satirical magazines and “name” cartoonists in London and other European capitals, particularly Brussels, but they tend to be artier in touch and more media-centric in concern. Charlie Hebdo was—will be again, let us hope—a satirical journal of a kind these days found in France almost alone. Not at all meta or ironic, like The Onion, or a place for political gossip, like the Paris weekly Le Canard Enchaîné or London’s Private Eye, it kept alive the nineteenth-century style of direct, high-spirited, and extremely outrageous caricature—a tradition begun by now legendary caricaturists, like Honoré Daumier and his editor Charles Philipon, who drew the head of King Louis-Philippe as a pear and, in 1831, was put on trial for lèse-majesté.
Lucille Clerc (not Banksy), French

Philipon’s famous faux-naïf demonstration of the process of caricature still brings home the almost primitive kind of image magic that clings to the act of cartooning. In what way was he guilty, Philipon demanded to know, since the King’s head was pear-shaped, and how could merely simplifying it to its outline be viewed as an attack? The coarser and more scabrous cartoons that marked the covers of Charlie Hebdo—and took in Jesus and Moses, along with Muhammad; angry rabbis and ranting bishops, along with imams—were the latest example of that tradition. In the era of the Internet, when images proliferate, merge, and alter in an Adobe second, one would think that the power of a simple, graffiti-like scrawl was minimal. Indeed, analysts of images and their life have been telling us for years that this sort of reaction couldn’t happen anymore—that the omnipresence of images meant they could not offend, that their meanings and their capacity to shock were enfeebled by repetition and availability. Even as the Islamist murderers struck in Paris, some media-studies maven in a liberal-arts college was doubtless explaining that the difference between our time and times past is that the ubiquity of images benumbs us and their proliferation makes us indifferent. Well, not quite. It is the images that enrage; many things drove the fanatics to their act, but it was cartoons they chose to fixate on. Drawings are handmade, the living sign of an ornery human intention, rearing up against a piety.
Michael de Adder, Canada

For those who recall Charlie Hebdo as it really, rankly was, the act of turning its murdered cartoonists into pawns in a game of another kind of public piety—making them martyrs, misunderstood messengers of the right to free expression—seems to risk betraying their memory. Wolinski, Cabu, Honoré: like soccer players in Brazil, each was known in France by a single name. A small irreverent smile comes to the lips at the thought of the flag being lowered, as it was throughout France last week, for these anarchist mischief-makers, and they would surely have roared at the irony of being solemnly mourned and marched for by former President Nicolas Sarkozy and the current President, François Hollande. The cartoonists didn’t just mock those men’s politics; they regularly amplified their sexual appetites and diminished their sexual appurtenances. It is wonderful to see Pope Francis condemning the horror, but also worth remembering that magazine’s special Christmas issue, titled “The True Story of Baby Jesus,” whose cover bore a drawing of a startled Mary giving notably frontal birth to her child. (Did the Pope see it?)
David Pope, The Canberra Times, Australia

Nor was it only people’s pieties that the cartoonists liked to tweak. Georges Wolinski, eighty years old, born of a Polish Jewish father and a Tunisian Jewish mother, caused a kerfuffle two years ago by creating a poster—for the Communist Party, no less—in favor of early retirement, which showed a happily retired man grabbing the rear ends of two apparently compliant miniskirted women. “Life Begins at Sixty” was the jaunty caption. Yet Wolinski, for all his provocations, was a life-affirming and broadly cultured bon vivant, who became something of an institution; in 2005, he was awarded the Légion d’ Honneur, the highest French decoration.

In recent years, Charlie Hebdo has had to scrabble for money. It gets lots of attention, but satirical magazines of opinion are no easier to finance in France than they are in America. Still, Wolinski and his confederates represented the true Rabelaisian spirit of French civilization, in their acceptance of human appetite and their contempt for false high-mindedness of any kind, including the secular high-mindedness that liberal-minded people hold dear. The magazine was offensive to Jews, offensive to Muslims, offensive to Catholics, offensive to feminists, offensive to the right and to the left, while being aligned with it—offensive to everybody, equally. (The name Charlie Hebdo came into being, in part, in response to a government ban that had put an earlier version of the magazine out of business; it was both a tribute to Charlie Brown and a mockery of Charles de Gaulle.)
Magnus Shaw, UK

The right to mock and to blaspheme and to make religions and politicians and bien-pensants all look ridiculous was what the magazine held dear, and it is what its cartoonists were killed for—and we diminish their sacrifice if we give their actions shelter in another kind of piety or make them seem too noble, when what they pursued was the joy of ignobility.

As the week came to its grim end, with the assassins dead and several hostages—taken not by chance in a kosher grocery store—dead, too, one’s thoughts turned again to the inextinguishable French tradition of dissent, the tradition of Zola, sustained through so much violence and so many civic commotions. “Nothing Sacred” was the motto on the banner of the cartoonists who died, and who were under what turned out to be the tragic illusion that the Republic could protect them from the wrath of faith. “Nothing Sacred”: we forget at our ease, sometimes, and in the pleasure of shared laughter, just how noble and hard-won this motto can be.
Observed ...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Pledge of Allegiance

It is that time of year, where we take stock and reflect. More specifically, here at this blog, on the state of "art", the images we see every day and why iskm is pursuing what we do.

This time last year the Critic's Manifesto was front and center and served as inspiration. This year, a different manifesto, a pledge in fact:

"The feeling of new art is fugitive ... here for the moment, gone forever. It's only truly valuable before it's surrounded by the mystique of money, while it's still owned by culture, before it becomes booty." from Rene Ricard's Pledge of Allegiance published in Artforum, November 1982.

Art does need to be fugitive.

We like the idea and notion of the ishotkatemoss collage as fugitive ... and see a parallel to the Christie's London auction as further stark evidence of kate's image as booty, creeping from the commercial realm to the perceived artistic. Case in point, Mario Sorrenti's 1992 image of a certain booty, that had been used in an advertising campaign for a cologne:
This image sold at the Christie's auction for £49,875 (approx. $80,000), a world record price for this "artist".

Art is valuable before it's surrounded by the mystique of money ...

At which point the art is cologne ... "like a bad smell, the image lingers" ... and becomes booty.

So, Happy New Year. Let's go shoot kate.

Observe. Slow Down. Shoot. Submit.