two words starting by V, the most challenging-for me- letter of the alphabet..This text is about what happens in their encounter with the V of "Visual Art"-the art of things visible (that can be seen also through the eyes) or invisible (those things that can be" seen" just through that larger-and more sophisticate- eye of the mind).
Its a text written from the point of a view of a visual artist and from such a point of view Value (economic value, meaning "benefit that may be gained from goods or service"), is less an unforgiving concept than- for example from the point of view of a worker and even a quite playful one: we artists, don't assign to our work a specific value, sometimes we even think our work is not valuable at all, sometimes that it's value is immense!
Still, more than often, the idea we have over the value of our own work, depends on our the speculation over the value of the work of our pears... On that-the value of the work of others around us or even of those who have disappeared long time ago (but still their names and objects are circulating), most of us artists have a very clear idea.
When it comes to "visibility", we always have a very clear idea about our work's state of visibility. Not only: our very state of mind depends on that (our visibility) and usually the evolution of our work is determined by how much visible we think our work is. We consider, that if something is not visible, (thought the eyes or through the eye of our mind), then it simply doesn't exist. That for a visual artist would result unbearable. Considering the fact that the artists that commit suicide are not that many, one would suggest that the relationship of an artist with himself and others is quite ideal: the artist's idea of his visibility doesn't suffer (not a lot at least) from the up and downs of the economic value of his work. In that sense, his life does NOT depends on others. An artist's well-being can suffer only from a serious lack of visibility but that the artist can change at wish (by changing the work or dropping it all together). One can also suffer from confusion, that happens usually when one is overrated and there's nothing he can do about it -like Damien Hirst or Gerard Richter for example- but that's another story..From the 50's to the 90's, all that seamed settled, making from us artists - for a while at least- the only really privileged (quite shamefully privileged), group of individuals: we who could go on doing our thing without having to consider the various levels of corruption that our privilege implied for ourselves and others...
Then Internet arrived and-as in everything else-the spell was broken: Thierry Ehrmann, founder and CEO of artprice.com, came with an algorithm and placed its results online giving to each of us a unique number. The shortest our number is, the highest our market value (longer numbers stand for lower value). Andy Warhol is-for a long time now- the #1, Pablo Picasso #2, myself back in 2006 I used to be #1200 but today-ten years later- I am the #4561 artist in the world! Up to this point, no problem, I go on and live with it, (considering that some of the artists I personally "value" a lot- Leon Kossoff for example- are as low as 4985 while others-such as great Greek artist Yannis Tsarouchis- are in the range of 10,001 - 25,000 and even 50-100.000 (Freda Sargent). But because Internet isn't just a "Database" but mostly the "Visualization of database", and because The Rank would assign a chart only to the artists with a ranking higher than #5000 I started lately feeling quite uncomfortable... Suddenly, my comfort-zone was attacked and not just by my own imagination but by...well...reality.
As it happens, at this very moment that I am writing this text (and at the same time I am continuing my descent closer and closer to the terrible category of the "#5000-10.000" ), I am also coming closer to the completion of my Timeline: an internet database of my own that puts things straight-for me at least: what I am doing all these years/with who/where/ and most importantly WHY. My timeline.manetas.com is my response to the many art museums/magazines/galleries/curators/collectors/books that ignore my work. However, it's NOT a strong enough response to ArtFacts and to the version of reality it represents...
So as I am doing my Timeline, I began thinking seriously about my Rank. At some point, I asked myself : what's the rank that would really satisfy me? Noticing that Kazimir Malevich is at #332, I decide I would be happy to stick just after him at Rank #333...
"Why that isn't happening?" - I asked myself..After all, I am as "Avanguarde" as Maléfica.. A few of my old pals are already way over Malevich: Wolfgang Tillmans (#26), Olafur Eliasson (#37) Douglas Gordon (#36), Pierre Huyghe (#95), Rirkrit Tiravanija (#96), Liam Gillick (#101), Sophie Calle (#119), Maurizio Cattelan (#136), Philippe Parreno (#163), Christian Jankowski (#122), Thomas Demand (#130), Sylvie Fleury (#255), Gillian Wearing (#286), Martin Creed (#295), Knowing these guys pretty well, did I wish I had the career-oriented life- of any of them? To start, I would have had to stay put in a geographical location for a lot longer that I did until now- none of my successful friends has been as international as myself. Then, I would have had not only to restrain the range of diversity of my work but its level of innovation as well.. But more important than anything else, a 100% successful version of myself, could never afford to be the dedicated Father I am today in the age of 52 and still stay an avanguarde artist.
So am I happy with my position? Absolutely! I have discovered that by using just the 15% of my value I can go on and have a wonderful life. Do I feel safe though? Not at all, because-as I said earlier- I am now close to #5000: once my Rank will cross that line, my life will probably change.. Am I ready for that? I am NOT.. I am determined to not let it happen.. How will I achieve that?
Miltos Manetas, Christmas 2016 (to be continued)
regularly on the Artfacts Index, from #1200+ in 2000, when I moved from New York to Los Angeles-a city that wasn't back then a proper place for a "professional artist"- to #4997- today ), I can see clearly the consequences of my choices: moving from New York's hell where one has to constantly play "the artist", automatically put me in decline. Once I start "theorizing" (with the electronicOrphanage and NEEN) and once I start relating to not-yet known artists, the pace of my decline accelerated... I went on falling until I finally decide to move in London in 2007 and my career went back on track. I start going up again but when in 2009, after my First Internet Pavilion for the Venice Biennial I decided to move out of the center of the Markets again (I shut down my studios in NY, London and Milan and begun traveling to Latin America, Israel etc), I immediately start falling! Having a kid in 2011, just accelerated my fall but when a year later I opened again a studio in Rome and I start "playing the artist" again for a while, my descent stopped and my situation start stabilizing. Then, in 2014, I went back to theories (Existential Computing/ ÑEWPRESSIONISM ) and to the happy country of Colombia, I start going downhill. Exactly now, at the moment I feel I am on the top of my creativity, happy as I have never been, dedicating equal time to my daughter and to my art, sacrificing very little time for my career and using "the rest of time" to understand the world and to communicate my understanding, now in the middle of my life (52 years old, determined to live until 104), now that I finally speak a powerful language (Spanish) and I relate in an everyday basis with quite amazing people (Colombians, the precious and semi-precious stones of humanity), I see the doors of the First Cave opening for me.
There are 568,323 artists documented at http://www.artfacts.net/. The name of anyone who ever participated in any exhibition that matters, or ever did anything that matters in the various fields of visual arts is there. If your name is not included, you know with certainty that you are NOT a contemporary artist and you will probably never considered as “one of Us”. Exactly as it happens with the Real World, the ArtFacts Index we are divided into 4 categories: 4 Worlds of Visibility. The "First World" of ArtFacts is the “100 BEST” with the predictable Andy Warhol as NUMBER ONE while a relatively unlucky Picasso occupies the number two.. #3 and #4 are taken by two overestimated and quite mediocre artists I prefer not to name. The artist that closes the door of the "Selected Ones"-today at least- is the excellent Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar. Just over him, Michelangelo Pistoletto is unfortunately falling.. (#99 -). There are 32 Gringos included in the 100 best and 22 Germans.. I suppose that means something but I cant figure out what..
The "Second World of Visibility" opens with my compañero of old-days Liam Gillick. Like myself Liam is also falling from 2009 but he has started from position #71! Just before him there’s Jannis Kounellis (also falling even if he just died - the second best thing that an artist can do for his career -the very best is being dead while still alive…) There are 500 artists in this Second World of Arts, the last of them-at this very moment- another friend from my Los Angeles days, Doug Aitken, is also falling terribly... After Doug, the Third World begins: from Dara Birnbaum (#501 - ) to myself, there are 5000 artists who are not so incredibly “desirable” (collectors and museums can live without us) still, we are pretty visible.. In our group there are old-timers that never really “made it” such as Isidore Isou (just over me) and Constant Permeke, the great Belgian artist who died in 1952. In our wonderful "Third World" -as wonderful for those privileged as the real Third World where one can go on leaving a quite comfortable life without the excessive stress of the Leading Two Worlds- I am with many of my old friends and peers: Gabriele Di Matteo, John Tremblay, Paola Pivi, Lisa Yuskavage and Steven Parrino. There’s a considerable number of great historical painters in our world (Giovanni Segantini, Alberto Burri Leon Golub, Georges Seurat , Amedeo Modigliani(#1465 and falling!) Frida Kahlo etc), a few role-models of mine (Enzo Cucchi, Gino de Dominicis, Ashley Bickerton, Jiri Georg Dokoupil) some exceptional contemporary ( Mario Schifano, Helmut Middendorf (who also took some risks abandoning Germany for Greece), a few old fighters ( Jean Cocteau, Guy Debord and Jean Luc Godard) a number of arts-of-other-worlds (Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen, singer/artist Kim Gordon, and the graffiti-star Banksy) but also a few younger quite-avant garde artists of impressive rising (Alexandra Pirici, Amalia Ulman, Jon Rafman, Oliver Laric, AIDS-3D and Petra Cortright).And after the Third, there’s the Fourth World.. That’s from #5000-#568,323 (although a #568,323 ranking does not exists, the Artfacts Index ends with the name of Uwe Warnke (#99,989). But wait a minute.. is this a really FOURTH WORLD? In the Real World, the Fourth World is a world of anonymity: the term "Fourth World", coined in the early 1970s by a remark by Mbuto Milando, first secretary of the Tanzanian High Commission in Canada, in conversation with George Manuel, Chief of the National Indian Brotherhood of Canada refers to widely unknown nations (cultural entities) of indigenous peoples, "First Nations" living within or across national state boundaries. Still, for this text I”ll stick for the moment to the propagandistic Three-World Model and its competition the Maoist political concept of Three Worlds Theory. These wonderfully describe the beliefs of our Western World (Capitalist and Communist) that there exist “Developed” and “Democratic” countries, Not-well-developed not-that-democratic countries and the under-developed usually not democratic countries of the 3rd World. (Mao’s more scientific method speaks of superpowers, lesser powers, and a third world of exploited nations.). Following these models I will try to describe where artists goes when they are thrown out of the list of 5000 Best. Its a universe of Caves and “Partial Invisibility” and it starts interest me only now that I am just about to become a member of it! Partial Invisibility, means that even artists relatively famous-such as Olga De Amaral and Jim Amaral for example, artists very celebrated in Colombia, are kept into some kind of mediatic fog..
Here is a description of those Caves as they appear in ARTFACTS: 5001 - 10,000: In this cave you have no Ranking Graph (unless you used to belong to a better art-world before (such as Raymond Duchamp-Villon, today #50019, the brother of “stabilized" #29 Marcel Duchamp). Having no Ranking Graph - or better , having no visible Ranking Graph (because ArtFacts certainly has a graph for each and every artist but the large number of them has no “advertising value”: ArtFacts-like every cultural parasite- survives not only by catering "confidential information" about successful people but also by selling information about “unsuccessful” people back to them or to other speculators! From the 5001 - 10,000 Cave and in all other Caves there’s also no picture of your work (unless you are advertised by a gallery). Notorious artist that are inhabiting this First Cave include historical figures such as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, cult figures such as Gustave Moreau , Jean Genet and Xul Solar, an artist Jorge Luis Borges appreciated a lot. There are Great Masters such as Leon Kossoff, William Baziotes, Ana Mercedes Hoyos, Omar Rayo , Giovanni Giacometti and Augusto Giacometti as well as Jean Hélion, ex Neensters such as Angelo Plessas , artists that work outside the artworld such as Werner Herzog and Michelangelo Antonioni, architects that are doing business in the art world such as Jean Nouvel, Alvar Aalto, Andreas Angelidakis, a few of the best painters around today such as Steve DiBenedetto and Andreas Schulze, spectacle stars that could-be-artists such as Björk , Martin Margiela, Victor & Rolf Issei Miyake , different Chinese artists such as Li Wei, Zhaoyang Yin Zhang Jian Jun and Liao Li, important third World Conceptual artists such as Antonio Caro and great younger Greek Artists such as Stelios Faitakis.
10,001 - 25,000 in this Second Cave you will encounter a few of the best Greek painters of all times such as Yannis Tsarouchis while in the Third Cave and fourth Cave(25,001 - 50,000 and 50,001 - 100,000 a) there are again very celebrated artists that unfortunately were not German such as Yiannis Moralis and Konstantinos Parthenis together with very important artists that the art curators and art-writers still have a hard time to understand and to translate to the art crowds such as my late friend and role-model Malcolm McLaren.
Under 100.000, the World of the Anonymous begins... Its not a total anonymity of course- what would be the use of having in an index people whose names aren’t kept? The 468,323 remaining artists instead, are “punished” by ArtFacts (and by the society ArtFacts so successfully reflects) simply by not being “named”: you need to know their name to find them! Now that, brings us to the concept of the Fourth World, the World of the Indigenous and of the new Indigenous of the Internets! Between them there exist artists that not only are “GREAT” (I know personally four of them, three of them women-Priscilla Tea from Milan, Nora Renaud from Switzerland leaving in Colombia, Matilde Guerrero from Colombia- and a guy Juan Sebastián Peláez, Colombian. There are others...
Miltos Manetas, March 2017 (to be continued)