2013 was the year when celebrities decided to ‘marry’ art. This was the logical consequence of an analogous association thad happened in 2011 and 2012 between fashion and art. While 2012 had ended with Yayoi Kusama and her dots staining all windows at Selfridges on Oxford Street, 2013 ended with Jeff Koons and Lady Gaga desperately telling each other how cool they are. It was also the year of James Franco big fiasco at PACE London where PACE’s director Molly Dent Blockenhurst said to me that ‘it wasn’t as bad as she thought it was going to be’. With gallerists like that, who needs friends!
Lady Gaga got naked and humped an enormous crystal in an unintentionally hilarious promotional video for Marina Abramovic’s performance art institute in Hudson, New York. It was an attempt to display the so-called Abramovic Method in action, but was really a demonstration of what surrealism looks like when stripped of the unconscious: weirdness for weirdness’s sake. In other words, Marina Abramovic has tried to turn ‘performance art’ into something serialised and the two vehicles that she tried were celebrity and meditation. The outcome of that combination should be more appropriate for a celebrity rehab center or something like that. Is Marina Abramovic, on her way of becoming the new Betty Ford?
In her club anthem ‘Applause’ (2013), Gaga went on to sing about her desire to become a Jeff Koons sculpture (‘One second I’m a Koons/ Then suddenly the Koons in me’), a reference that shows less her intellectual precociousness and more that she urgently needs to read about art in someplace other than W magazine. Jay Z, in his icky rap-mogul-as-art-collector jam, ‘Picasso Baby’ (2013), at least cast his net a little wider, referencing Basquiat and Condo, even Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. But he still circles inexorably back to Koons (‘Jeff Koons balloons/ I just want to blow up’), along with his exploits bidding at Christie’s and having ‘twin Bugattis outside of the Art Basel’. A rapper with a Bugatti? Really? Is that necessary?
What is the art world but a place where aspirational wealth seems (and only ‘seems) to be legitimated. A thematisation of that precise point is what makes, till some extent, the careers of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst relevant. Art fairs have been the place where philistine financiers gave it a try at looking ‘cultivated’ in front of their colleagues in ‘arrivism’. That is why they show their collection during the art fairs: the Petitgas open their collection during Pinta Art Fair and the Delacruz in Miami Basel. That is the opportunity where those who have not yet purchased the same old shit, to announce it or, at least, to commit to it, in front of the gallerists. For them, art works have become simplified and increasingly rhetorical and sloganic. That is why the sales pitch of any salespersona at Lisson Gallery or Whitecube is limited to: ‘This is about temporality. It is a new historical piece’. In the meantime, the entertainment world is so competitive that see the opportunity to find coolness in the wrong place. This says more of Lady Gaga’s fears than of Koons’, if you ask me.