Tag Archives: Art

The Crusades of the Virtuous, by Nora Hoppe

Degenerate cultures generally produce degenerate art, and our degenerate culture is no exception. From Nora Hoppe at thesaker.is:

The culture and arts of a society, of a civilisation can be seen as a barometer of its development and the quality of its statehood. Confucius, who saw music as the noblest of all the arts, said: “If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.”

The arts – in their truest and noblest forms – have always posed a serious threat to despotic powers because they represent a freedom of spirit and independence of thought.

During the Third Reich, the Nazis engaged in “Cancel Culture” by censoring various forms of music, literature, films, theatre plays that were considered an “an insult to German feeling” and which they condemned as “Entartete Kunst” [degenerate art]. Instead, they promoted works that exalted the “blood and soil” values of racial purity, militarism, and obedience.

In times of Roman imperial decay the arts had no fertile soil from which to develop as the previous arts had either been “cancelled” or perverted for propagandistic purposes. Edward Gibbons described the state of culture during the Decline of the Roman Empire: “…this age of indolence passed away without having produced a single writer of original genius or who excelled in the arts of elegant composition. […] The beauties of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own, inspired only cold and servile imitations […] The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.”

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Hunter Biden’s amazing, extraordinary, sublime, unprecedented art talent has his paintings selling for $500,000 a pop, by Monica Showalter

There’s no end to Hunter Biden’s talents and accomplishments. From Monica Showalter at strategic-culture.org:

When news came out about crackhead Hunter Biden suddenly taking up yet another career as a full-time “artist,” all I could think of at the time was that this was a cleverly disguised means of taking bribes.  Sell a painting at an inflated price, pocket the cash from the special interest, then return the political favor through the Big Guy.  No one would be able to prove a thing.

Now that some of the prices of Biden’s pieces are coming out, let’s just say the suspicion grows.

According to Breitbart News:

President Joe Biden’s scandal-plagued son Hunter Biden is reportedly now engaged as a “full-time artist” and is working with Soho art dealer Georges Bergès to hold an exhibition in New York in the coming months, with prices for Hunter’s artwork ranging from $75,000 to $500,000, according to Artnet.

Amid years of scandal, the 51-year-old Hunter Biden is apparently now “laying low” in his Los Angeles home while working on his artwork. Bergès, his dealer, plans to host a “private viewing for Biden in Los Angeles this fall, followed by an exhibition in New York.” Bergès told Artnet that prices for Hunter’s work will “range from $75,000 for works on paper to $500,000 for large-scale paintings.”

Seriously, $500,000 for a Hunter Biden painting?  That he does with a blowpipe?  Something he taught himself?  Something he’s been working at for around one or two years, following his various careers in the military, finance, writing, and serving as old dad’s bagboy on his travels?  Following his wasted life of drugs, hookers, strippers, cocaine, and sleazy Hollywood hotel parties and flophouses, as described in his $2-million-advance memoirs, which brought in around $10,000 in sales?

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In Praise of Bitcoin, by Ben Hunt

Like a lot of art, it’s hard to pin down exactly why Bitcoin has value, but it does. From ben Hunt at epsilontheory.com:

One evening a few weeks ago, I was on a Zoom call with a bunch of academic, think tank and Fed economists for a Bitcoin discussion. A lot of names you’d know if you’re familiar with those circles, the most famous one being Paul Krugman (who, btw, I found to be charming, genuinely open-minded, and surprisingly humble about the entire enterprise of academic economics). I had been invited to be on the anti-Bitcoin ‘side’ of the discussion, but they needn’t have bothered. Because there was no pro-Bitcoin side.

Krugman led with a simple question – what’s the use case for Bitcoin? Not a theoretical thing, but an actual use of Bitcoin to solve a problem in the real world? – which led to an hour-long, extremely earnest and altogether unsatisfying conversation about financial transfers out of Venezuela, trade settlement and securitization on a blockchain, and Taylor Swift’s ability to control the scalper/resale market for her concert tickets.

All of which are real things. All of which are interesting things. All of which are good things. But none of which are what got 20 busy people on a Zoom call at 8 pm on a Thursday night.

None of which ARE Bitcoin.

Now, to be fair, there were no old-school Bitcoin maximalists on the call, or if there were, they were too intimidated to make an Austrian economics, hard money, neo-goldbug, Bitcoin-is-the-inevitable-global-reserve-currency argument in front of Paul Krugman. LOL.

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Fairytales and Snowflakes, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Apply today’s standards to art of the past to censure and ban that art is a crime. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

Rembrandt van Rijn Bathsheba at her bath 1654 (see video at the bottom)There are not many things that I’m allergic to. But there are some. Here’s a good example: bigotry. Behold, in the article quoted below, the danger of political correctness in all its glory. A 30-year old Christmas song, Fairytale of New York, it is claimed, must be censored or banned. For a reason I’ll explain, such things always make me think of Rembrandt’s painting “Bathsheba at her Bath” (the painting above), which hangs in the Louvre.

No doubt there are those who are offended by her nakedness. But as John Berger put it in the video below, the master painted it with the utmost love and devotion. I first saw the video many years ago in art school, and it’s always stayed with me. Berger was a British art critic (he died last year) who wrote many books and made lots of TV shows on his view of what makes art – and its viewers- tick, together. Berger loved Rembrandt as much as Rembrandt loved Bathsheba. And so do I.

Back to the song, Fairytale of New York: There are people who think/feel/proclaim that the perhaps most popular Christmas song of the modern age contains one word they do not like, and must therefore be changed. It hurts their safe space, or something. It’s not politically correct. You can’t say ‘faggot’, even after it’s thoroughly explained to you that it means something else entirely in older Irish vocabulary. This is a very dark road towards a very dark future; don’t go there.

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He Said That? 10/7/16

From Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), German composer and pianist, letter to Emilie, July 17, 1812:

Do not merely practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; it deserves that, for only art and science can exalt man to divinity

That $100,000 Painting Bought to Flip Is Now Worth About $20,000, by Katya Kazakina

The art market is yet another market heading south. From Katya Kazakina at bloomberg.com:

Emerging names discounted most as art crash foils speculators

Market is undergoing a painful but ‘much-needed’ readjustment

Art dealer and collector Niels Kantor paid $100,000 two years ago for an abstract canvas by Hugh Scott-Douglas with the idea of quickly reselling it for a tidy profit. Instead, he is returning the 28-year-old artist’s work to the market this week at an 80 percent discount.

Such is the new art season. At auction houses in London and New York, sellers are preparing to bail on their investments after the emerging-art bubble burst and the resale market for once sought-after artists dried up.

“I’d rather take a loss,” said Kantor, who is offering the Scott-Douglas work at the Phillips auction in New York on Sept. 20. “I feel like it can go to zero. It’s like a stock that crashed.”

Prices for works by young artists such as Scott-Douglas and Lucien Smith soared with the auction market in 2014, sometimes reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars, when they were traded like bull-market tech stocks. But since auction sales began to drop in late 2015, the emerging names have been hit especially hard. Sales by some artists are down 90 percent or more as the glut of work and nosebleed prices scare away buyers.

That’s because speculators purchase art to resell it, not to keep it.

‘Economics 101’

“When those speculators realize that there is no end user at a higher price, then they scramble to sell the work before they lose everything,” said Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group, who advises collectors. “The demand is driven by greed, the selloff by fear. It’s Economics 101.”

Today’s market is a far cry from a few years ago, when young artists churning out process-based abstract work presented opportunities for outsize returns.

The works were often created by artists still in their 20s. Smith saw a painting he made while an undergraduate at New York’s Cooper Union fetch $389,000 at Phillips in 2013, two years after it was purchased for $10,000.

This week, estimates for three Smith pieces are as low as $7,000. One, from the series he made by spraying more than 200 canvases with paint from a fire extinguisher, is estimated at $12,000 to $18,000. A bigger spray work sold for $372,120 two years ago.

“This whole year has been a big readjustment, a much-needed one, like a chiropractic session,” said Timothy Blum, co-owner of Blum & Poe Gallery in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo. “It can hurt, but you come out on the other end better than before.”

Scott-Douglas’s untitled canvas, one of several resembling a sheet of blueprint grid paper, is estimated at $18,000 to $22,000 at Phillips’s “New Now” sale. The work was part of the artist’s sold-out exhibition at Blum & Poe in 2013, when it garnered $25,000.

To continue reading: That $100,000 Painting Bought to Flip Is Now Worth About $20,000

He Said That? 2/21/16

From Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), Russian born American biochemist, prolific author of both fiction and non-fiction, The Roving Mind (1983):

How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.

Another Asset Bubble Cracks: Art Sales Plunge, by Wolf Richter

Suddenly the high end art market isn’t doing to well. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

“As far as I am concerned, this is a catastrophe.”

After a blistering five-year boom of near limitless possibilities, it is suddenly getting tough in another asset class – one that mere commoner millionaires are not invited to play in: the high-dollar art market.

Auction house Sotheby’s reported on Monday that revenues in the first quarter plunged 32% from a year ago. Agency commissions and fees, the largest subcategory, plummeted 37%. Expenses edged up. Hence a resounding operating loss of $32 million – a $50-million swing from its $18 million profit a year ago.

On the news, Sotheby’s shares plunged 8%, at one point trading below $26 a share, but then miraculously bounced back and today closed at $28.72. Yet, they’re still down 38% from their 52-week high last June, and 46% from the post-financial crisis high in December 2013, the halcyon days when QE was still inflating the art market and the wealth of its participants.

At the same time, a debacle played out at Sotheby’s art sale. At its auction in New York yesterday evening, Sotheby’s sold $144.5 million in impressionist and modern art, down 61% from the auction a year ago, the worst performance since 2009.

Of the 61 lots, 21 went unsold. So only 66% of the offered pieces turned into deals.

“As far as I am concerned, this is a catastrophe,” Todd Levin, director of Levin Art Group in New York, told Bloomberg. “It’s not just enough to get the works, you have to close the deals,” he said.

There were some winners, including Auguste Rodin’s sculpture “L’Eternel Printemps,” which sold for $20.4 million, well above the presale estimate of $8 million. But those were the lucky ones. Bloomberg:

The biggest casualty at Sotheby’s was Andre Derain’s painting of a red sailboat, estimated at $15 million to $20 million. It didn’t get a single bid in the Upper East Side salesroom. Several works by Pablo Picasso also flopped, along with pieces by Paul Gauguin and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

“That’s very much a reflection of the marketplace we are in right now,” said Helena Newman, Sotheby’s global co-head of Impressionist and modern art. Like many dealers and advisers, she described the market as “discerning” and “selective.” She added that the estimates for London sales in June will “reflect what we saw tonight.”

Premonitions of the debacle already became clear on Sunday at the post-war and contemporary art auctions held at Christie’s and Phillips, that kicked off a series of big semiannual auctions this week with a combined target estimate of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion.

At Christie’s auction, only $78.1 million in post-war and contemporary art was sold. By comparison, at its auction a year ago, sales reached $658.5 million – over eight times this year’s tally!

To continue reading: Another Asset Bubble Cracks: Art Sales Plunge

He Said That? 4/1/16

From Bill Watterson (born 1958), creator of the best comic strip of all-time, Calvin and Hobbes:

People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

And only an April’s Fool would think he’s serious.

We Love You, Morons, by Robert Gore

Are most people too stupid, ignorant, and benighted to comprehend truth in the sciences, appreciate beauty in the arts, and embrace wisdom in politics? That question captures the bedrock assumption guiding a sliver of the populace, a self-anointed elite who cover their disdain for everyone else with altruistic professions of humanitarian concern. They’re curiously contradictory posture: we despise common tastes, choices, and beliefs, but we stand four square for the common “folk” (one of President Obama’s favorite words). After over a century of such sententiousness, the “common folk” are beyond irritated. Before the charade blows up completely, however, this claim to intellectual, aesthetic, and moral superiority, its widespread acceptance and its devastating effects, must be dissected, analyzed, and understood.

Walk into any museum of modern art and you’ll soon come upon a work that, if you’re honest with yourself, you have no idea how or why it’s called art. Maybe its a few squiggly lines, or a geometric representation indistinguishable from the floor tiles in a restroom you once visited, or three blank, white canvases (these examples came from a simple Google search: modern art, images), but no matter what “masterpiece” first evokes it, the feeling grows that a fraud is being perpetrated. Visual art is chosen here because it’s the most obvious, but listening to the music from today’s supposed heirs to Beethoven, Chopin, and Rachmaninoff, or reading the precious gems that win contemporary literary prizes and awards will also produce that sinking sensation of intellectual and aesthetic victimization. You have, in fact, been had, and it’s vitally important to unravel this con game and what it accomplishes.

The decoupling of the “artistic” from the popular is a fairly recent development. The Renaissance geniuses were mostly recognized during their lifetimes. Shakespeare’s plays (whoever wrote them) filled the Globe theater. The serialized Crime and Punishment was devoured by Russian readers, the English eagerly awaited each Dickens’ installment, the French lionized Victor Hugo, and Mark Twain won enduring acclaim, notwithstanding some scathing criticism, after the publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (for a more contemporary scathing criticism, SLL has weighed in). However, by 1885, when Twain’s classic was published, storm clouds were already on the horizon.

For centuries the hereditary nobility, primarily the landed aristocracy, was the clearly demarcated economic and political elite of Europe. They had no need either to exaggerate their status or to differentiate themselves with incomprehensible artistic, intellectual, and moral standards. Their patronage of religion, education, and the arts was in part to ensure that their standards were promulgated and accepted throughout society, especially among the lower classes. That patronage created a second tier, the priests, scholars, and artists, dependent on their patrons and below them on the social scale, but above the “common folk.”

The Industrial Revolution upended the prevailing order. Fortunes larger than those of even the wealthiest of the European nobility went to the inventive, innovative, and ingenious. Wealth became a shifting, dynamic product of unfettered minds, not a virtually static sum based on land and rentier profits from low risk investments carefully shepherded from generation to generation, protected and augmented through political power. Heredity in the new order counted for next to nothing, except for whatever genetics had bestowed upon those who successfully navigated the ceaselessly roiling competitive landscape.

Undermining the basis of the old aristocracy, capitalism also knocked down the social status of the priests, scholars, and artists. The masses, as they disdainfully became known, certainly didn’t abandon religion, education, and art, but it was Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, and Edison, et al., that they admired and wanted to emulate, and some of them did. The devalued classes launched a counterattack that was, ironically enough, funded and supported in large measure by the new millionaires, their heirs, and their foundations.

It takes intellectual back handsprings to condemn as exploitive the first economic system in history that not only propelled countless rags-to-riches stories, but provided opportunity and raised standards of livings for millions of ordinary people who would have been previously consigned to poverty. In Karl Marx the devalued “intellectuals” found their man. Capitalism’s supposed internal contradictions would cause it to fail, replaced by a fully planned economy, and you-know-who would be doing the planning.

Only the resolutely masochistic can plow through Marx’s analytic gobbledygook and wildly errant predictions. What the intellectuals—the vast majority of whom did not actually read him—understood was that his planning and “scientific” socialism offered an avenue to restore them to primacy. They adopted two strategies. The first can only be called “baffle them with bullshit”: develop terminology, “specialized” modes of thought, and standards so abstruse and arcane—in politics, economics, the arts, and education—that the select few initiates would be seen as especially intelligent and expert. The second strategy was faux humanitarianism: the elect were not just exceptionally smart and capable, they were distinguished by their outsize concern for the wellbeing of the rest of humanity.

The presumed “exploited” didn’t have much use for a system where their ability doomed them to providing for the less industrious and competent, Marxist revolution came not from the proletariat in the industrially advanced nations as Marx had predicted, but in agrarian Russia, and demonstrated that the utopia had to be imposed at the point of a gun. Lenin and Stalin’s rivers of blood were bright light warnings of Marxism’s inherent flaws, but Western intellectuals continued to propound collectivism, undeterred, although they often called it something other than communism. The dictators derided the intellectuals as “useful idiots.” The intellectuals embraced the dictators, unveiling their true goal: power.

It is no coincidence that the century of the experts has been the bloodiest in human history. The mental chaos and intellectual abdication that have unleashed this unprecedented carnage are faithfully rendered in today’s awful art, literature, and music. However, an epochal change has begun. A growing number see the pretensions of the rulers and so-called thought leaders, the supposed brilliance, expertise, and humanitarianism, for the shams they are. A squiggly line is not the Mona Lisa, random noise is not Tchaikovsky, ten years from now nobody will be reading books hailed as today’s classics, and the “best and brightest” are just as prone to incompetence and corruption, if not more so, as anyone else; the governments they direct have run their countries into the ground.

One cannot be made to feel stupid without one’s consent. That consent, so long granted, is being withdrawn as common sense (known in some quarters as straight line logic), makes a comeback. The vaulting ambition of those exercising power always “o’erleaps itself” when those it seeks to rule rediscover that they run their own lives far better than the powerful do. The shrieking you hear is from those who have perpetrated fraud, recognizing that without their ill-gotten and undeserved power and status, they are nothing and have nothing to offer that anybody else would want. Don’t expect them to give it all up without a hellacious fight.


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