Friday 25 July 2014

The Shock Of The Crude: Welcome to the world of Art Gekko

"I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal."

  Gordon Gekko

Here's a book cover. Note the publisher's logo, Zero Books, is on the cover. See? Right at the top right corner.

Right, now here's a painting which to the casual observer looks very much like the cover I've just shown you:

Here it is in situ at the Maureen Paley Gallery in 2012:

Notice the title of the book. Notice how the words on the painting actually resemble the title of the book.

Also notice how the lettering looks more than vaguely like the lettering on the book cover.

No permission was sought to use it; no reference made to the book at all.

Here's the artist. Yes I know, but read on. He's a gallery darling and what he does is some serious fucking shit you bitches.

                                                                                 GARDAR EIDE EINARSSON

"...A Norwegian born artist, now living and working in both New York and Japan, Einarsson’s often text-based works come with a certain irreverence...(sic)"

From the Maureen Paley Gallery 2012

So the buyer possibly thinks, "How cool of Einarsson; he's like Norwegian and I guess it takes a melancholic hipster to  celebrate some slogans that he's seen on a street somewhere in Queen's or the Bronx and throw it back in our faces. Like the Beatles and the Animals way back when they gave us back black music..."

The excitable buyer probably thinks that this tattooed purveyor of despair has probably taken his choice nugget from a meth cook's wall in Flint, Michigan or the side of an old Detroit car plant. 

But he didn't; he copied a fucking book jacket.

With one important omission. The logo. The Zero Books logo. So that we're left in no doubt that he's as shallow as his photograph suggests.

My friend Tariq Goddard (same age as Einarsson) runs Zero Books. For a monthly wage that wouldn't get him one of the sleeves of the cool jacket below, he works hard as an author and publisher. Zero is a brave, radical venture that gives voice to left wing thinkers who represent a growing, intellectual subculture that won't find any mainstream publishers breaking down their kitchen doors to start bidding wars. In a nutshell, Jeremy Clarkson would hate them. You get my drift.

"In his hands, surprisingly, the literal exploration of the thematic ’law is for the protection of the people' creates a non-didactic environment latent with ambiguity."
Tariq is possibly the most eloquent person I know; he's a philosophy graduate and the author of six novels. And this is the sort of crap he had to look at when researching the lissome Einarsson:

"His text-based works... offer an often politicised view of contemporary society and an authoritative claim on appropriation that brings attention to the idea of authorship that has concerned postmodernist thought since Foucault’s proclamation of  “the death of the author.”

Er, so that's all right then.

The leather jacket above, incidentally has featured in a Jay-Z video. The one with Beyoncé. I'd like to show you a still from it, but I daren't risk the lawsuit.

Tariq must be so fucking fed up with this. He's received not one red cent from all this trading on a Zero title. Nothing. 

He's written to the the artist, who, hilariously, suggests the lettering wasn't exactly traced (he couldn't be arsed to put in the curves on the letterforms), and that, really, er, actually he's been in touch with lawyers and that Tariq doesn't have a sustainable case.

This is what his picture should have looked like.  

Not quite so cool for the artist, though. How would he explain it? A book cover? Fuck off. You'll get sued.

Andy Warhol would have done it. Even though Robert Hughes didn't rate Andy's intellect; at least Warhol was honest.


Welcome to Art Gekko. Remember Gordon Gekko? He was the enviously-coiffed money suit played by Michael Douglas in Wall StreetA film made memorable by the 'Greed is good' mantra? Remember the "Lunch is for wimps" schtick as he does another deal to make the midday worth a half-million? It summed up the 80s to a lot of people. Corporate nasties sucking the fun and vagueness out of everyone's lives, and giving us Donald Trump; humourless and stupidly rich and resembling Michael Douglas' creation perfectly. 

Apart from the coiffure. Even his budget can't get him one good hair day.

     Dutch Masters ll    Larry Rivers  c1963

My personal interest in art started when I saw my first Larry Rivers painting reproduced in a mid-60s Studio Magazine, provided for the Sandown Grammar art room. It still thrills me; a painting based on a cigar box, it was called Dutch Masters ll.

It was art of appropriation; we knew it and we knew where it came from. People started to take an interest in their environment, or rather realise that artists were painting new landscapes.

Andy Warhol will probably be remembered as the artist who was 60s America; the workaholic who didn't sign many of his paintings; the confusing genius who probably made more money out of Campbell's Soup than their sales force for the whole of 1965 . 

Maybe the board at Campbell's Soups weren't thrilled; maybe they tried to sue, but of course the Andy cans gave Campbell's millions of dollars of free up-market advertising. You can just imagine the rich apartments, the kitchens with their limed glass-fronted cabinets, bulging with the raw product: here's the painting of Mulligatawny Soup, and here (so exciting, this) our interior designer has today filled the shelves with the ACTUAL cans! There's just so much to talk about.

There is a fuck of a lot to talk about. 

But don't expect the art world to engage you in any conversation. They've got lawyers; hundreds of the fuckers just dying for some easy action.

We know that big art means money, and there is nothing a nice middle-class person wants more than some edgy shit around the place. If you really don't want that embarrassing junkie you were at boarding school with at the dinner table then get a Gardar Eide Einarsson, it doesn't make any noise; it's there; so angry, so sullen, so contemptuous of our cosy value systems; like honesty and shit.

Originality, like lunch, is for wimps. Didn't you know?


  1. Unfortunately, a title can't be copyrighted. A font can, but if it's just similar, it's legal. Art is easier to protect than a design is, because a design, if changed in three ways, is considered a new design. That's how Warhol go away with it. Names and titles can't be copyrighted, only trademarked. So change the font slightly, or the coloring, or ANYTHING, and as long as he wasn't selling it on a soup can, itself, it's legal.

  2. That's very interesting. Just shows how much you can get away with when you know what you're doing.