Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brutal review for Schnabel show

     Recently on my Gallery Guy page on Facebook, I posted a link to an interview with Julian Schnabel and asked whether his answers were honest feelings or artspeak b.s. I suppose that was because I was leaning towards the latter. So tonight someone else posted this brutal review by Laura Cummings for The Guardian about his new show in London with the title containing the words "colossally bad," so right out of the gate you know what to expect. Here's the link, and make sure to read the comments section, it's also quite interesting:

and here's the gallery link:

     I usually don't like to go neg here on The Gallery Guy. I remember reading a similar skewering review of a David Salle show in the 90s that left you almost gasping. Salle and Schnabel both hit it big around the same time and both are controversial as many question their actual skill. The "if ya can't make it good, make it big" line is often used (as the Guardian review does) when examining the merits of their artistry. And it's valid. Let's be real, it's an example of the difficulty of publicly discussing abstract and alot of post-modern work: if you say the work is just emperor's new clothes, you run the risk of sounding like a Philistine and/or ignorant. Although Ms. Cummings trots out the "why?" question a bit much, she balances that with pretty level-headed criticism of his composition, style, and technique. It's tricky for the average person to dismiss the "what does it mean?" question as the basis for thumbs up or thumbs down when viewing art. Simply put, one can enjoy a piece without knowing what the artist "meant" or reading the statement or an essay about it. But Schnabel's work seems so linked with art world artspeak (along with his own artspeak), and artspeak often carries the stigma of trying to put lipstick on a pig that it's easy to become exasperated by the hype, praise, and huge prices for his work. Ms. Cummings does a fine job channeling that into her review.

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