ARTIST EMMA BIGGS ADDS HER OPINION TO THE DEBATE ON GEORGE BASELITZ AT GAGOSIAN BRITANNIA STREET:
‘I think he was being provocative for attention-seeking effect. I imagine as he sees it, the conventions of the development of painting ask for the demonstration of a certain loss of responsibility, risk-taking and bravado, and I agree it’s true that the conventions DO ask for that. I’m not surprised, and I can’t imagine anyone else is either, to see those qualities put into gendered terms. I can imagine valuing another set of qualities and calling it ‘painting’, although — despite the noble efforts of Biggs & Collings — it seems late in the day for a change of that kind to be transformative. As to whether it’s ‘nasty’ or not to say so, I’m not sure. It’s not very imaginative, but funnily enough, despite what non-art world people imagine, I think convention is prized more highly than imagination in painting, and in art generally. I haven’t seen the show, but I did see the paintings through the door when they were setting up the show, and I thought they looked terrific, loose and effortless, in the way a really good actor makes all her hard work look natural and effortless.’
OUR COLUMNIST MIKE, HOWEVER, SAYS THE FOLLOWING ABOUT THIS SHOW:
‘I don’t find Baselitz to be a very engaging artist. I do like some of his smaller drawings, but they appear good almost by accident. I feel I am looking at all the work and it hasn’t been edited for quality of visual impact, it’s simply all that the artist has touched.
The upside down hanging smacks of gimmickry and is endemic of the malaise that has been in the Art Market world for decades now. Namely, the desire of artists to destroy their past, while ironically and sadly using it to justify the profundity of their present (Neo-Expressionism), which attempts to give them the same weight as the Expressionists, who are head and shoulders above Baselitz. While they achieved a new and relevant visual form, it appears to my eyes that Baselitz has a tepid imitation of their form and then does the profound move of hanging it upside down. I am guessing this distracts the viewer from actually comparing it to the Expressionists, as Baselitz would undoubtedly come out on the losing end of that exercise.
If loose markmaking, simplistic and decorative color arrangements, and gimmicks of hanging are lovely, then I’m not sure I would ever want that term applied to my work.
The truly sad part is that now so much has been invested into Baselitz as a product, we are stuck with him as an example of the time. I welcome the day when we realize that we don’t have to keep something on a manufactured pedastal just because we were sold it on a pedastal.
Like Picasso, Baselitz seems to work better on certain scales than others, and with certain media than others, which makes him like most other artists. By showing these works at Gagosian, it only highlights the lack of judgement and courage to be critical that is problematic in many galleries these days. We accept the marketing of brands as the art experience and don’t ask for better. What should we expect then? If you keep paying to see the next installment of SpyKids, there will be another one to follow. Once you stop paying, and demand more, then perhaps you will get more’