My name is Charles Saatchi and I am a Salesholic

Despite the mixed reviews, I was looking forward to read My Name is Charles Saatchi and I am an Artoholic. The book is so brief that I read it in a couple subway rides. For the most part, the questions asked to Saatchi were much longer than his answers. I felt at times he could just have filled a multiple choice questionnaire rather than being interviewed and the content would have been the same. Having said that, there are some selected points that resonated with me and they are worth mentioning from Saatchi’s responses:

  • “Being a good artist is the toughest job you could pick, and you have to be little nuts to take it on. I love them all” (p. 66)
  • What’s wrong are the art schools. In Britain our art schools are, of course, under-funded. They therefore have to take on too many students from abroad with poor skills but rich parents …. Helping the schools’ budgets but leaving talented, but impecunious, students without a look-in” (p. 88)
  • Regarding the situation of painters—“In the last ten years only five of the 40 Turner Prize nominees have been painters tells you more about curators than about the state of painting today” (p. 65)
  • “Artists need a lot of collectors, all kinds of collectors, buying their art” (p. 5)

Overall, I think, this book should have been titled My name is Charles Saatchi and I am a Salesholic. You need to read the book to understand why. But I admit, I like the book, it’s entertaining. But, I am a better fan of Nigella’s cooking show!

Have you read the book?

Who Are My Six Honest Serving Men?

Where are my six honest serving men?
I keep six honest serving-men
They taught me all I knew;
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who

~ Rudyard Kipling

The artist needs to ask the six honest serving men:

What am I here to do?
Why do I want to be an artist?
When do I apply for grants?
How do I approach the arts?
Where do I go from here?
Who is my community?

Visual Artists and Fame

How scandalous or controversial does a visual artist need to be to get the attention of the Art World? And how much baggage does a visual artist need to cultivate his public persona and consequently sell it as “Art”?

Here a very few stories:

Caravaggio – He made some of the most powerful paintings in history, but he was a convicted killer. At that time, the public were afraid of Caravaggio. Caravaggio was as controversial for infamous temper and lengthy police records as he was for his revolutionary artwork.  

Marcel Duchamp – While in Paris, when an art salon rejected his painting, “Nu Descendent un Escalier,” Duchamp had two options:  He could either paint it over and call it something else, or withdraw it form the show. Faced with this choice, Duchamp took a taxi to the Quai d’Orsay in Paris and retrieved his painting and took it home, withdrawing it from the show through refusing to change it. Later, in New York, he anonymously submitted a urinal, Fountain, to an art show that stated that all works would be accepted, but Fountain was not actually displayed. By trying to solve the mystery name of the submission, an anonymous editorial wrote and story about it, and history was made. The Fountain manages to become the most influential artwork of the 20thcentury because Duchamp shifted the focus of art from a physical craft to an intellectual interpretation.

Andy Warhol – In 1964 Warhol’s painting of a can of Campbell’s soup cost $1,500 while each autographed can sold for $6. The exhibit was one of the first mass events that directly confronted the general public with both pop art and the perennial question of what art is (or of what is art and what is not). His art was scandalous for its frank approach to sexual encounters. In his last film Blue Movie as a director and superstar, Warhol makes love and fools around in bed with a man for 33 minutes of the film’s playing-time.

Damien Steven Hirst – Death is a central theme in Hirst’s works. He became famous for a series of artwork in which dead animals (including a shark, a sheep and a cow) are preserved—sometimes having been dissected—in formaldehyde. Currently, Hirst continues to create controversial pieces grasping much attention from the media, and auction houses.

Jeff Koons – In 1991, Koons married a Hungarian-born, naturalized-Italian woman named Cicciolina who was a pornography star.  Cicciolina also pursued an alternate career as a member of the Italian parliament for five years from 1987-1992. His Made in Heaven series of paintings, photographs, and sculptures portrayed the couple in explicit sexual positions and created even more controversy, but received a lot of public attention.

I wonder was it these people’s personas and crazy lives that allowed their work to become famous? If they were normal people living in a house with a dog, a spouse, a white picket fence and 2.5 kids would their art have become so famous? Is this the public expectations to legitimate the career of a visual artist?

What do you think?

Toronto Talent, Pavlo et al.

On February 24, 2012, Pavlo and his band rocked the house at the Roy Thomson Hall.  Pavlo, a self-made musician and world artist, Toronto-born Juno Award winner, and son of Greek immigrants, has created a niche in the  international market for what he terms a Mediterranean sound mixing the folkloric styles of Greek and Latin music with pop sensibilities. His band comprises Gino Mirizio (Percussion, Piano), George Vasilakos (Bouzouki, Guitar), and Randy Rodriguez (Bass Guitar) – all Canadian musicians. They played selections from his ninth album, Six String Blvd, and some classics songs such as Besame Mucho.

This was my second time attending one of his performances. Pavlo is a dynamic, charismatic and captivating performer who shows mastery of his instrument, able to flip the guitar over his head and play it backwards, á là Jimi Hendrix.  He goes out into the audience to dance with people and invites a lady or two onstage to dance with him. When he swings his hips to the right and to the left in a subtle manner, it makes you reconsider standing up from your seat to do the same. He encourages people to dance with him but only one or two audience members are brave enough to join in.  During the show, though, most people are hooting and tapping on their legs in rhythm with the music. At the end of each concert, a lucky person gets to go home with Pavlo’s guitar; it is customary for him to give away his guitar at the end of each concert.

Pavlo told the audience that the first time he saw a guitar, it changed his life. It was his uncle who introduced him the guitar at 10 years old, and since then, he has not stopped playing. After telling this story, he proceeded to invite his uncle onstage – the man himself who introduced him to the guitar – and they performed together.  Later, Pavlo had a duet with his 16-year-old daughter:  two guitars, father and daughter playing together. ­This was an emotional moment.

This concert was unique; Pavlo had many surprises for the audience, serving as the performer, the center of attention and the master of ceremonies. He introduced an array of outstanding Canadian musicians onstage. Making a one-time-only appearance were his guest singers John McDermott and Mark Masri. There were also dancers, and more performers who shone on the stage such as blues guitarist James Mann, trumpeter Brownman, and the amazing violinist G-Pinto, who plays pop music with his violin, turning the traditional classical expectations on their heads.

Sharing personal anecdotes, Pavlo described that at one point in his early musical career, he promised to himself that the day he became famous, he would share the stage with emerging musicians; thus, he introduced an emerging string quartet, Paganini Strings.

The hall was almost full with around 2,000 people or more in attendance. To everyone’s surprise, the iconic Gordon Lightfoot was sitting in the audience, Pavlo also recognized other honoured guests in attendance, such as the Greek Consul of Toronto. The concert was a real treat for audiences of all ages and lasted over two hours; it felt as an escape to the Mediterranean! Really well done.