The contemporary art world is showing signs of exhaustion and extreme tackiness, in some cases. Proof of this are the commissions that ‘super’ architects and artists are agreeing to do. This shows a certain lack of discernment and taste in the way artistic goods are both being produced and circulating. A very good example of this is young collector Robbie Antonio’s new house in Manila, designed by renowned architect Rem Koolhaas which will be filled by portraits of himself by world-class artists such as Julian Schnabel, David Salle and Julian Opie.
‘Robbie’ is a 37-year-old real-estate developer and ‘voracious’ collector who has managed to commit the world’s top creative names for two ambitious (one of them, just ridiculous) projects. The first is the Manila home, which also serves a a museum for his ever expanding art collection, with works by the likes of Damian Hirst, Francis Bacon and Jeff Koons. The building, by Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architectura (OMA team) is referred to by the name Antonio gave it…‘Stealth’. Yes, like the combat plane. It costs upwards of $15 million and, as you can imagine, is in, maybe too much of a contrast with the average annual Filipino-family income of $4,000. The building is basically a series of boxes stacked together in an irregular pattern, with scooped-out windows that call to mind Marcel Breuer’s Whitney Museum all wrapped in a charcoal-colored concrete a polyurethane ‘skin’; the roof features a pool flowing into a dramatic waterfall.
‘Robbie’ calls the second project…‘Obsession’ and it is comprised by a series of portraits of himself by some of the world’s top contemporary artists including Schnabel, Shang Huan, Murakami, Opie, David La Chapelle, Bensimon and Damian Hirst. The performance artist Marina Abramovic, who seems to be a friend of Antonio’s (and calls him ‘volcanic tornado’) is contributing a piece to Obsession that she calls The Chamber of Silence: a basement room in Stealth with a waterfall view that could actually lock him in for periods up to 60 minutes and force contemplation. Art as a devise to make the owner lose control by force. I think this is a brilliant idea but redefines the relationship between the artist and the patron to the point of ‘voluntary kidnapping’(!!!). ‘She thinks I am superfast and need to calm down’ says Antonio.
One day in New York this winter, as in an epiphany, tells Ted Loos to Vanity Fair, while riding in a town car to Chelsea to see the contents of his art storage unit, Antonio said out of the blue: ‘I want to work with five Pritzker winner by the time I’m 45’, referring to the prize awarded annually by the Chicago hotel and real estate family and the highest honor for architects.
The result of this bloated ego linked with what he thinks and, obviously, has been told is art is a rather disastrous pastiche where names and brands merge only to produce those concoctions of bad taste. The house literally looks like a prison and functions like a prison and his portraits are images of himself as if photoshoped in the style of the artist and cut and paste on a completely unrelated background. There is no connection with art but a splash of colour to divert the attention from the clear fact that the guy is an utter idiot (with a lot of money). Just a thought.