Gallerists and Dealers

I just came across a catalog of Picassos in the Nahmad collection. The Nahmad family is an art dealing dynasty that goes back a couple of generations. Recently Helly Nahmad was busted for running an illegal gambling ring in his New York gallery. Personally, I don’t share the moralism of the NY Times’ art critics. Buying paintings cheap and selling them dear sounds like a great way to make a living. Beats working. Might almost be as much fun as actually making them. Why should an art dealer be an upstanding citizen anyway? Compared to those of the craven sell-outs in Washington, Nahmad’s sins are mere peccadilloes, and quite understandable. The art world, and the art market, should be a place where all kinds of self indulgence is permitted – in keeping with art itself. Anyway, here’s a nice little still life with more of what makes real art than most abstractions. Every bump and wiggle is clear, every decision firm and open for inspection.

Pablo Picasso, Partition, Guitare, Compotier 1924

Pablo Picasso, Partition, Guitare, Compotier 1924

The problem with conventional abstract art is too many brushstrokes wandering all over the place, because they just seem like excuses, ways to hide a lack of invention. Same for “all over” composition. An artist like Richter gives us lots of incident, but it’s sealed off behind a glass wall. Many think it’s a photographic effect, but I would call it mere professionalism — nothing to be proud of in other words. The shameless morality of art is to let every decision show – the professional standard today is to avoid decisions. If avoiding choices is avoiding work then I’m all for it, but normally it just comes across as prudishness. Of course this picture would look better in person. Oddly a Richter never looks better in person, it just seems more distant.

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