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Recently, and to a fair amount of acclaim (though not the fervent acclaim that met A Rush of Blood to the Head), Coldplay released its latest album Viva La Vida. The first time I listened to it, I thought the band had a colossal whiff — aiming for the stands and just plain missing contact with the ball. The second time I listened to it, I liked two of the songs a lot. Now I’m coming to terms with a few of the other songs. This is how I dealt with X&Y as well. I like Coldplay. As far as evoking passion, they don’t get much passion from me or anyone else from what I can tell. On the other hand, they’re absolute experts at … something, I can’t put my finger on it. And before you sophisticated music lovers start yelling, I don’t listen to the lyrics of any music really, so their possible insipidity does not bother me at all. ( But it’s best to not get me started on Chris Martin’s attempts to subject the Third World to existences of eternal poverty without trade. )

It seems, then, that this is not a band whose genius will grow into something legendary. Maybe it’s because they haven’t been challenged by a rival. In the 1960s, I have it on good authority that The Beatles and Beach Boys engaged in an “arms race” of sorts that propelled both bands to dizzying unforeseen heights of artistic expression. The story is worth recounting, briefly: Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, two of the virtuosos behind their respective bands, forced each other to get better with each album. They influenced each other, beginning with The Beatles’ Rubber Soul driving the Beach Boys (read: Brian Wilson, the only one of them worth a creative damn) to produce Pet Sounds, which Paul McCartney to this day calls the best album ever and moves him to tears with its melodies. In turn, McCartney went to the drawing board with John Lennon and they came out with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is often called their best album. According to some, this album broke Brian Wilson, whose prodigy was unleashed by the album but also broken by it. Wilson had, like perhaps Fermat grasping his Last Theorem or Nash contemplating Game Theory, become possessed by the art of the possible in his field. Unlike those two, and perhaps much more like MacArthur strategizing in Korea, he had to depend on others to realize his dream. Just as MacArthur’s vision of a united Korea and a free China was thwarted by Harry Truman, the fulminations of other Beach Boy members condemned Wilson’s potential magnum opus, SMiLE, to death. When Wilson recovered, he produced SMiLE as he thought it would have been. The result is unlike anything else that came from the 60s, or perhaps unlike anything that has ever been made. To me, the album haunts like a graveyard that evokes both a sense of the tragic and the bygone. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of it.

Chris Martin agonizes over a compound sentenceI think this story suggests that perhaps we have reveled in our glory of diversity and broadening of tastes too much to see a similar war. There’s too much terrain, too many niches, and too many diverse tastes for a sustained arms race to occur again. Jacks of all musical types and brands, but masters of none…? It’s a shame, for we may never know the realized potential of an artist without it. Coldplay will be doomed to just being good as opposed to being great.

Post-Script: Art criticism is difficult water to tread, if you ask me. Authors at The New York Times tackle it with brio however. In his famously scathing critique of X&Y, Jon Pareles basically writes that he hates the band because they’re full of cliches and commercially polished. Apparently, in the new era we won’t have any authentic feelings or expressions and we will cloud / shroud any and all genuine feeling with “oblique” references and metaphor. Yes, there is so much more artistry in that! How enlightened. In the event, it looks like there is still room for authenticity (“naivete” to an art critic) in the market, though increasingly less so. Ironically, the review crushed Martin and his bandmates to the extent that they allegedly consciously sought a makeover at the hands of Brian Eno. Hence, Viva‘s supposed break from past Coldplay albums.

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For as long as I can remember, art critics and Classicists have been saying that Byzantium was merely a time of stagnation — that for over a thousand years, the peoples of the Byzantine Empire and assorted neighbors toiled without producing any culture of note or value and failed to contribute anything to the future. When pressed, a snobby Classicist, trained in the dead and ever-dying language of Latin or the surprisingly robust but overshadowed Greek, will respond that okay, fine, yes, the Hagia Sophia is a wonder, but that was created at the beginning of Byzantium, under Justinian no less, the exception that proves the rule. But they weren’t a people at all, just a mish-mash of small cultures with small dreams and they might as well have not existed at all for the impact they left.

Poppycock.

By intuition alone, the footprint of a thousand years, for all the acts that took place and all the ones that didn’t, must affect all that comes after it. And yet, being an amateur as I am, I am hard-pressed to talk about this in any detail, though I can point out to you in a cursory manner that Greek may survive as a legacy from Byzantium, the Greek Orthodox Church still stands proudly today, the production of a military general to rival even MacArthur in Belisarius, and perhaps most overlooked but also most compelling: the Byzantine Empire preserved many of the artistic influences that would one day survive and blossom in the Renaissance. As the late and legendary Ernst Kitzinger writes in “The Byzantine Contribution to Western Art of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries” (available on JSTOR):

It was Byzantine art with its continuous and living challenge which had provided the principal schooling for the great and decisive breakthrough in the early 13th century. In successive stages, it had held before Western eyes an ideal of the human form, first as a coherent and autonomous organism, then as an instrument of intense action and emotion. This was what enabled the West finally to make its own terms with the classical past, and to create its own version of humanistic art. Ultimately Byzantium’s role was that of a midwide, a pace-maker. [Byzantine influence] was not the dead hand of tradition. It reflects a series of live impulses from a living art. These impulses entered the main stream of the Italian development, and far from retarding or interrupting that development played an important, if indirect, part in bringing about its climax.

So impress your friends and spread the word: but for the Byzantine Empire, our world may indeed be very different today — whether for the better or not is irrelevant, for it is a part of us. (Yes, it is widely acknowledged by many to be such a successor to Rome, but never with any positive connotation, never with any relish or appreciation — I hope this changes!) Let us recall Byzantium for both the sake of our forebears and progeny.

Would it surprise to know that there are pedants in this mold as well, however? I remember that Antony Bridge in Theodora absurdly claims that there were no poor people in Byzantium, that it had found that cozy equilibrium between all societal interests and resembled much less an empire than a blurry thriving utopia of yesteryear, perhaps the only one to ever grace this earth. There can be no doubt that Eden was wrong about the socioeconomics of Byzantium. Byzantium need not be twisted into something it was not or indeed ever could be (or that any human nation ever could be) in order to receive deserved respect. On the other hand, he articulated a very persuasive picture of how people interacted in their religious communities, illuminating the cultural and religious controversies of the era. He wrote that people were animated by the mystery of the Holy Trinity, not knowing the exact relationship between its constituents, and reveling in this ambiguity through their faiths. If you have seen a Greek Orthodox Church from the inside, then you have seen some striking visual arts. They have been alternately criticized as static, unbending, and useless. But some felt very differently. Rather, they thought that out of the seemingly static, transcendental and timeless truths were possible.

That is how Yeats felt about the mosaics of Byzantium:

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

And it is of mosaics that I wish to speak.

Right now there is a massive battle brewing over orphan works. According to the US Copyright Office, orphan works are “copyrighted works whose owners may be impossible to identify and locate.”

This issue deserves some background. You might not think this is much of a problem just on its face, but consider that in modern copyright law, everything that you create that you may possess a copyright to, you automatically do. Professor Lawrence Lessig, who represents the vanguard of copyright reform, calls this an “opt-out” system, whereas before, due to the need to register a work for copyright protection, it was an “opt-in” system. The US abandoned this system when it enacted the 1976 Copyright Act and sealed the deal when it ratified and enabled the 1988 Berne Convention, which imported European-style “moral rights” for artists. In some places, notably France, Massachusetts, and California, artists are seen as endowed with certain inalienable rights — and no, I don’t mean the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Instead, rights like an artist’s ability to veto a decision by a record owner of a work of art to modify the work of art or move it. Record owners or bona fide purchasers no longer own the property outright, and artists always retain some strings attached.

Most people don’t know about this and that’s the way that so-called artist rights groups and legislators probably want it. So now that we know the entire domain of copyrighted works spans an innumerable amount of creative production and content, we can better consider the consequences of orphan works legislation. As the law currently stands, as the artist Frank Stella (ghost-written by the Artist Rights Society, which has not been mentioned in any glowing sense previously on this blog) notes, the owners of copyright may sue for “the destruction of infringing copies, and damages that may be up to $150,000 for each work of art infringed” for the infringement of orphan works as it stands now. The authors substantially infer this from Title 17, United States Code, Chapter 5.

But this has led many scholars, lawyers, and economists to challenge the wisdom of this copyright law reality. Consider again: there may be millions of works out there that simply have no commercial import and the artist could not care less. According to the reigning kings of IP and economics, Posner and Landes, as well as the US Copyright Office:

Empirical analysis of data on trends in copyright registrations and renewals over the last century suggests that a large number of works may fall into the category of orphan works.\5\ Based on data of registrations of claims to copyright and their subsequent renewal under the 1909 Act, it appears that, overall, well less than half of all registered copyrighted works were renewed under the old copyright system. Because renewal was required to maintain protection of a work, this data suggests that, at least in many cases, there was insufficient interest a mere 28 years later to maintain copyright protection. The empirical data does not indicate why any particular works were not renewed, and no doubt, a certain portion of those works were not renewed due to inadvertence, mistake or ignorance on the part of the owner.\6\ With respect to many of these works, however, particularly those owned by legal entities or other sophisticated copyright owners, it can be assumed that the work no longer had sufficient economic value to the copyright claimant to merit renewal. Libraries and scholars have argued that those works that have so little economic value that they fail to merit the small expense and effort of renewal may nevertheless have scholarly or educational value and should not be needlessly barred from such use.

Nonetheless, the law affords copyright owners of long dormant works the ability to take advantage of others who have transformed or used their works to create new work. It does not seem fair — mostly because the law, which is fostered in part to facilitate and encourage the dissemination of information, prevents a vast corpus of creativity from being used in the public domain for the better part of a century! A century! Like with the subject matter of many thousands of new patents, the creativity cannot be appropriated for productive use without potentially suffering rather severe penalties, fair use excepted, though given the state of copyright law many potential fair uses will be avoided due to extreme fear of infringement.

So it seems like the system is untenable, though as copyright scholar William Patry writes, “the U.S. has considerably less room to fix the orphan works problem.” Our Congress has taken a worthy crack at it, though it seems to fall short. Their solution is that if a diligent search to ascertain the owner of the copyright does not turn up anything, then the infringer will not be liable for damages. Unfortunately, “diligent search” is not defined anywhere in the proposed law. Though this seems like a deal-breaker to Professor Lessig, who reasonably proposed a salve (“For 14 years, a copyright owner would need to do nothing to receive the full protection of copyright law. But after 14 years, to receive full protection, the owner would have to take the minimal step of registering the work with an approved, privately managed and competitive registry, and of paying the copyright office $1.”), the proposal seems a lot better than the current situation.

No, I cannot say that I echo Lessig’s comments that the legislation would really prove burdensome. It seems better to err on the side of the free transmission of information sans contractual rights. According to the US Copyright Office, and I agree with them, “Given the high costs of litigation and the inability of most creators, scholars and small publishers to bear those costs, the result is that orphan works often are not used–even where there is no one who would object to the use.” Society is losing out due to government’s needless interference in orphan works right now. What we have is an attempt to rectify that. Stella and ARS, of course, predictably err on the side of artists’ livelihoods, arguing:

The Copyright Office proposal would have a disproportionately negative, even catastrophic, impact on the ability of painters and illustrators to make a living from selling copies of their work. This is because—unlike books, songs and films—works of visual art lack universally accepted titles that permit searching by name.

Well, I haven’t seen the exact form of the proposed legislation, but if it resembles the proposal from the US Copyright Office regarding orphan works copyright infringement reform, it would have a provision whereby copyright owners can recover monetary damages from the infringer that amount to “reasonable compensation for the use of the infringed work.” Clearly, if the legislation looks like this, then Congress will have equity and balance of the various interests in mind. It seems to me that this is very reasonable, and hopefully, much to ARS’ dismay, represents a first step in a war to reform the inequities of modern copyright law that will last longer than anything even John McCain could envision in Iraq. In any event, there’s no particularly good reason to subsidize the creation of art by silly copyright law and it’s time to erase the one we currently have for orphan works.

For a much better discussion on the issue than I have given here, check this 15 page report out.

When I am not portending doom for society if we raise taxes or restrict trade, I am finding new ways to become a corporate shill. It was with glee, then, that I opened my mail today and received notice from the Bank of America regarding its “Museums on Us” (trademarked!) program:

Museums on Us – your weekend getaway for arts and culture. As a valued Bank of America customer, you can receive free admission to over 70 museums nationwide the first weekend of every month with Museums on Us (TM). Just present your Bank of America debit, credit or ATM card, along with your photo ID at participating museums. To learn more and to sign up for monthly email or text reminders visit bankofamerica.com/museums.

Hey now! It’s a good thing I actually looked at this BoA mailing because normally I just dump them in the trash. This promotion is a clever move on BoA’s part that will increase goodwill for the institution even as it broadens people’s horizons. It’s a benefit that I certainly didn’t expect, but nonetheless appreciate. These are the sorts of things we take for granted — how self-interested persons or institutions may satisfy their wants and simultaneously work in social (public) interest. ( And in an effort to make more profit but also satisfy our wants, they now allow us to customize our cards by uploading a graphic of our choice! Starship Enterprise check card, here we come! )

In any event, your BoA card will get you into some good museums. In New York, according to the BoA website, you can get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art (normal entry price for adults: $20), the Jewish Museum ($12), New York Hall of Science, International Center of Photography (ICP — a definite highly recommended institution from this author due to their prompt responses to me when I worked at the Harn– normal adult entry price $12), Bronx Zoo ($27), and New York Aquarium ($12)! In Florida, the pickings are somewhat more limited, but the state has yet to fulfill its potential in this area. All in all, we live in a pretty great world. So if you live in New York especially, make a weekend of it and have some fun.

The image of Richard Nixon is very powerful in society. Media are anxious to explain that the cynicism many Americans feel toward the Presidency, or politics in general, began at Watergate. Of course, the truth is far from that. Rather, and perhaps because of the media itself, cynicism toward politicians and political institutions had been on the rise for decades. ( One wonders if it has indeed been simply constantly high. ) In any event, discussions on Nixon inexorably return to this figure so closely tied with corruption, scandal, and disgrace.

Nixon was elected to two terms as President of the United States, and the second election by a blowout margin. Nixon’s policies were quite moderate, especially by today’s standards. Though a Republican, he supported price controls and other odd interventions to the economy. Though once a strident anti-Communist, he opened and formalized relations with the People’s Republic of China, engaging one of humanity’s most terrible butchers, the Chairman. Though elected to end the Vietnam War, he eventually fought it with relish, engaging in a spectacular set of foreign policy manipulations that brought America to the very tip of success. For all these reasons, and many more, Nixon is a character whose reality has not been fleshed out in standard media. In recent times, however, some have made more compelling portraits of the man, whose inner struggles and manifest contradictions might finally be brought to a more tempered and artistic fulfillment.

First, Conrad Black’s Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, does wonders for rehabilitating the man as a complex human to be studied — a man whose colorful and turbulent persona demands understanding. Black, who is perhaps best known these days as a Thatcherite persecuted for questionable financial decisions, renders as magisterial a portrait of Nixon as might be possible in the current time. He does not gloss over the darkness, and he wallows not too long in the light. As Christopher Wilcox writes in the NY Sun:

This is by no means the last word on the 37th president, but it is a magnificent one-volume summing up of his efforts on the world stage and, as such, provides a clearer picture of Nixon and his times.

Although I have not read the book fully, as it is 1100+ pages long, I have read several long portions of it in the library and look forward to purchasing it eventually perhaps for an… extended vacation. Black’s painstaking research and attention to detail well-serve the subject. However, if you’re like me, you want a biography more like American Caesar, William Manchester’s magnum opus and one of the finest biographies of any man yet written (it helps that the subject is Douglas MacArthur, about whom one can never say too little or exaggerate too much). Lots of drama, lots of glorification, and maybe even a touch of hagiography every now and then. You know, kind of like an opera.

If you are like me, then, you are in luck! For the other recent and compelling portrait of Nixon comes in John Adams’ Nixon in China, an opera recently performed in Denver, and four years ago in St. Louis. ( If you missed it, and I have a feeling you did, fear not for it will be released on CD “next winter” supposedly. ) According to The New York Times, in its second review of the piece:

The opera, it may be recalled (or inferred from its title), is based on President Richard M. Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to China in 1972, though it plays out more in the psyches of the principals than in the action itself, which is chiefly ceremonial. And what dominates the Nixonian psyche in Alice Goodman’s libretto is a consciousness — a sort of split self-consciousness — of history in the making.

James Robinson’s production stresses that inner dimension in several ways, using what he calls “the romantic bluish glow of the television screen.” Rather than monumentalize, as aspects of Peter Sellars’s original production of 1987 did, Mr. Robinson tends to miniaturize, through images running almost constantly on as many as a dozen television sets spread across the stage. And those images, mostly from news video of the actual meeting in China, enhance the sense of history made in the moment.

Alas, perhaps this is too nuanced for me and I might have preferred the 1987 production. In any event, I think these productions bode well for our culture’s ability to cope with media-inflicted distortions and still arrive at the truth, warts, glories, and all. This post should not be read as one in the “Politicians as Artists” series, as such an assessment of Nixon’s art is well beyond even this critic at the time. The shades and echoes of the man must grow more full yet.

This might be the only art blog (if you can call it an art blog) that professes a love for Charles Saatchi, who is roundly despised, loathed, and condemned for his presence in the art world. What else can you feel for a man whose purchases instantly alter the value of all works around them or by the same artist? Or, perhaps still far worse than that amongst those with no time for facts but eternity for pretty pictures, the Saatchis’ constantly-mentioned role in the election of Margaret Thatcher during the Winter of Discontent? More recently, he has been the subject of a grotesque feud (if you can call something so one-sided) with Damien Hirst, an artist of some renown but arguable taste or talent. I just report the facts!

So it is with some curiosity that I report, again from the Arts section of The New York Times:

The art collector Charles Saatchi was in a generous mood on Wednesday when he bought almost all the works by three young students from their final graduation exhibit at the Royal Academy Schools in London, The Times of London reported. The student artists are Carla Busuttil, 26; Angus Sanders-Dunnachie, 28; and Jill Mason, 33. Mr. Saatchi’s early purchases helped begin the careers of now-famous artists including Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Natasha Kissell and Jake and Dinos Chapman.

Consequences: Busuttil, Sanders-Dunnachie, and Mason will see the value of their other works (past, present, future) rise. The value of the works that Saatchi purchased rises. Even if two out of the three artists do not make it, chances are one of them will persevere, and Saatchi will have made an outstanding investment. The investment, of course, has less to do with the work and more to do with the name, though the name is not that of the artist, but that of the purchaser. This is part of the reason for all the resentment. Many artists believe there is no role for a patron such as Saatchi in today’s art world.

They are wrong, and deep down they know it, many surely dream of the light Saatchi can shine on them. I do not profess to know much of the man, so I do not know what lies behind his purchases, and to what degree any motivation is based on aesthetic appreciation, but I respect his role in the market and look forward to many more years of his presence.

In my daily review of the Arts section of The New York Times, a habit that I tried hard to actually not do but was recommended to me by my Art Law Professor, I noticed this interesting technique of stealing valuable art works– stealing them in broad daylight!

Two Picasso prints were stolen by three armed robbers from a museum in São Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday, The Associated Press reported. Along with the Picasso prints, “Minotaur, Drinker and Women” from 1933 and “The Painter and the Model” from 1963, the thieves took paintings by two Brazilian artists — “Couple” by Lasar Segall and “Women in the Window,” above, by Emiliano Di Cavalcanti — from the Pinacoteca do Estado museum. The works were estimated to be worth a combined $612,000. The robbers paid the museum’s entrance fee of $2.45 and then overpowered guards to take the framed works. In December another Picasso, “Portrait of Suzanne Boch,” and a painting by the Brazilian artist Candido Portinari were stolen from the São Paulo Museum of Art after men used a crowbar and car jack to force open the museum’s doors. The paintings from that robbery were later found leaning against a house on the outskirts of the city.

All things considered… maybe they deserve those art works. It takes some serious cajones to pull that off in daylight, after all. They say Sao Paolo is a nice place to visit once, get a sense of adventure, then leave. In any event, it’s just wealth redistribution at the hands of the people. Theft in broad daylight. Reminds me of some government agencies. 🙂

Just a small note. I can’t say this in public with a straight face, but I am very excited that Project Runway will be returning for its fifth season starting July 16th. Despite all the commotion for PR’s pending move to Lifetime after the fifth season, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia, and Michael Kors are all returning for this last season on Bravo. It’s hard to believe that the quality of design would improve and that the personality of designers would be more pleasant/fun than in the fourth season, but here’s hoping…!

In the meantime, between the season four finale, in January, if I recall (??), and now, the season four designers have just been all over the airwaves — even those who were eliminated earlier in the season have been interviewed and expanding their careers. Of course, most of the attention has focused on the precociously talented winner, Christian Siriano, and the runner-ups, such as Rami Kashou (who should not have been allowed on the show in my opinion as he had already dressed Hollywood starlets), Chris March, and Jillian Lewis — and to a lesser extent Victorya Hong, whose blog is linked here and who is definitely talented, but turned out to be not well liked by many others on PR. ( Oh, and… Sweet P and Kit, but I am not a huge fan of theirs. )

With the advent of season five, we will see less of this season four cast of characters as they fade from memory and all that is current — but they have given us a good ride. I hope they will be back. For more information, here is a glimpse at Heidi Klum’s business savvy (including details on the success of the show), a graphic for season five, and the press release giving details on the new season. All compliments of Blogging Project Runway (BPR).

I know the many random readers of this blog have been anxiously awaiting my return from New Orleans. As that legendary five star General of a bygone age once said on the shores of the Leyte Gulf, “I have returned.”

A few days ago, I wandered around the French Quarter, greatly enjoying the art galleries that were there. I intend on featuring some of the artists who I encountered, as well as the galleries, but first I wanted to talk a bit about an Indonesian art store I found! Ever since my stay in Indonesia during the Summer of 2006, at the behest of the very generous United States – Indonesia Society, I have thought that a terrific idea for a store would be an Indonesian art and furniture store, but it looks like someone has beat me to it at least for part of that idea. Frangipani, located at 631 Royal Street, NOLA (website forthcoming), featured many of the wares that I had thought only available on Jalan Malioboro in Yogyakarta, by various vendors in Jakarta, and in small shops by Kuta beach.

A cursory survey on the internet reveals that such things are available, though when shipping and handling are considered, Frangipani comes out on top for cost on many goods. The store specializes in Indonesian wood carvings of many sorts, from those that seem like sculpture of the human form, to wall adornments that could form the centerpiece for an entire design scheme. The co-owner/partner who I met there was very cordial and a pleasure to speak with. She said her partner travels to Indonesia for two months every year immersing in the art world there, from Sumatra to Java and Bali. They interact with the artists and survey the art as it is done. Although I doubt it is fully true, from my own experience with Batik, I know it is possible. The owner said that their works were higher quality than the works a tourist could buy off the streets in Yogya or Jakarta. I am not sure this is true, either, but I also don’t think it matters. The works are beautiful, and in the southern United States, extremely rare. Moreover, purchases from this shop would support a local art store of some character that specializes in yet another emerging art market. I highly recommend you visit them. Indonesia is a country with between 200 and 250 million people, so you might be hearing from them more and more as its democracy solidifies and its artisans become more marketable abroad.

Interestingly, I just came across an article that suggests you may be hearing more about these artists sooner than you think. Aminudin TH Siregar writes in “Bandung artists attract market enthusiasm” in today’s The Jakarta Post that:

In the past three years, there has been more activity in the Bandung art scene. Young artists have emerged and new names adorn the established configuration. They are the generation born in the 1980s: Some graduated from an art school last year or two years ago, others are still students. Not only do they use various kinds of media, content wise, but they also take on new issues. Unlike five or six years ago when Bandung’s art scene was too laid back, today it is vibrant. […]

The market’s interest in absorbing the works of Bandung artists recently has been a hot issue and even became the topic of discussion the night the exhibition was opened. Obviously, it was difficult for [Bandung New Emergence exhibition] to release itself from the market trap. Since BNE-V.1 the market has shown its teeth. And that also happens in this BNE-V.2 and it is likely that the market will become a variable in the next BNE.

If this happens, I am afraid the BNE will only be seen as an arena to “fry” artworks, an arena of speculators within the high temperature of today’s Indonesian art market. The future Bandung New Emergence should not become the Bandung New Market. From what I heard during the exhibition opening, I have every reason to be concerned. Instead of considering historical aspects — about the use of Bandung label, for instance — the Bandung art scene, I am sure, later will only be considered as the new playground of art market players, after other cities experience saturation.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here. It is good to have an art market in Bandung. But a proportional market would be much better: a market that does not buy an artwork without observing the values presented by the exhibition and the work itself. The problem is, will the market be patient and is it willing to learn?

I would like to assure the author that the market is very patient, and in fact reflexively learns. Desiring a “proportional market” is akin to telling artists not to keep producing, or not to sell their wares that a profit-maximizing price, or to close off the demand for the market by keeping buyers out. Any of these options is ludicrous. Ask the market to change all you want, but consider the livelihoods at stake. There will always be niches and if the market demands more specialized crafts, then we will get that too. One needn’t shake her or his fists at the cloud because it is raining and it prevents one from hunting effectively. One need only move or start farming so that the rain helps irrigate one’s food source. Anything else is a waste of breath or resources.

In any event, this article suggests that with a little luck, we could be exposed to yet more diverse tastes in art very soon. I, for one, am pleased. But remember this will be less likely if we support fair trade, or any kind of trade barriers that raise the cost of doing business overseas — a point which the co-owner of Frangipani was quite reluctant to agree with, but may nevertheless find out the hard way very soon.