16 January 2007

Art: Because I Say So

Even though he’s not my favorite artist, Andy Warhol does provide good fodder for Impart Art, and for contemporary art generally. One of the very first installments of Impart Art described a short-on-cash assistant who in 1968 produced a new series of silkscreen paintings, forged Warhol’s signature, and made a deal with a gallery. As planned, all of this transpired without Warhol’s knowledge, who found out about the paintings only when the gallery owner asked for authentication of the works. He claimed them as his own, as well as payment for them (surely the assistant was disappointed).

In 1969, another assistant told the press that she had been doing all Warhol’s art for over a year. Warhol, she reported, had given up art. When asked by Time magazine about the matter, Warhol confirmed the report, only to retract the statement when infuriated collectors and dealers heard the news.

Can an artist outsource, and if so, how much? I know it isn’t uncommon among contemporary artists to hire skilled painters with good technique to execute ideas on their behalf. As far as I know, the painting is still considered the work of the one who thought of it. And let’s face it. Warhol wasn’t really “painting” anyway. So what if it was his arm working the silkscreen machine? But here, if you trust the assistants, Warhol wasn’t involved at all. His participation amounted to nothing more than his saying so. And he might not have even done that much if the buyers hadn't been scandalized.


Dad said...

Outsourcing and art? I had never considered the concept. It seems like a contradiction in terms for some reason.

Josh said...

film score composers, often with a deadline looming, will turn sketches of themes and ideas over to assistants to flesh out and orchestrate. hans zimmer is notorious for being merely the 'brains' behind a soundtrack. gershwin composed rhapsody in blue for two piano and another guy actually wrote the orchestra arrangement.

is this kind of thing more common in commercial art? it seems more common in commercial music.

Mary Ann said...

dan, I think it is only a contradiction if the "hand of the artist" is among fine art's necessities. That requirement cuts out much of what we currently think was important in the 20th century, but, hey, art history has been wrong before.

Josh, I think when you say "commercial art" I hear something other than what you mean.

For me, commercial art is essentially graphic design, illustration, etc. It isn't "Fine Art being sold", which is what I'm guessing you meant (did you?). So, I would say that it is common enough in contemporary art for the artist to not necessarily be the painter (at least I know it is being done).

The work of assistants on half finished film scores seems like something far more legitimate. Peter Paul Reubens (Flanders ~ 1600)farmed his half finished paintings out to a workshop full of assistants. Now, I think an artist can just tell a painter "I want it to look like this".

Mary Ann said...

oops, that's actually backward. The assistants did all the underpainting, and Rubens finished them.

Dad said...

You have disrupted my entire impression of the painter's role in the great art pieces that I have viewed for years. The thought of another painter having a role in putting paint on a canvas and another person claiming the piece is inconsistent. Ahhhhh. I will never be the same. The same in music? I cannot imagine Ringo giving an idea to Paul and then claiming it was Ringo's song. At least dual billing. That is what we do for research in my field. At least list it as et al.

Josh said...

no, we were on the same page with "commercial art". i hadn't really thought of the concept of "fine art for sale"... it sounds so.. dirty.

Mary Ann said...

I agree, but someone has to pay for it. A messy arrangement to be sure.