Generative art’s rich history on show

Artnome’s Jason Bailey on a generative art exhibition he co-curated.

Kate Vass Galerie
The Automat und Mensch exhibition is, above all, an opportunity to put important work by generative artists spanning the last 70 years into context by showing it in a single location. By juxtaposing important works like the 1956/’57 oscillograms by Herbert W. Franke (age 91) with the 2018 AI Generated Nude Portrait #1 by contemporary artist Robbie Barrat (age 19), we can see the full history and spectrum of generative art as has never been shown before.

Zurich’s a little too far, unfortunately, so I’ll have to make do with the press release for now.

Generative art gets its due
In the last twelve months we have seen a tremendous spike in the interest of “AI art,” ushered in by Christie’s and Sotheby’s both offering works at auction developed with machine learning. Capturing the imaginations of collectors and the general public alike, the new work has some conservative members of the art world scratching their heads and suggesting this will merely be another passing fad. What they are missing is that this rich genre, more broadly referred to as “generative art,” has a history as long and fascinating as computing itself. A history that has largely been overlooked in the recent mania for “AI art” and one that co-curators Georg Bak and Jason Bailey hope to shine a bright light on in their upcoming show Automat und Mensch (or Machine and Man) at Kate Vass Galerie in Zurich, Switzerland.

Generative art, once perceived as the domain of a small number of “computer nerds,” is now the artform best poised to capture what sets our generation apart from those that came before us – ubiquitous computing. As children of the digital revolution, computing has become our greatest shared experience. Like it or not, we are all now computer nerds, inseparable from the many devices through which we mediate our worlds.

The press release alone is a fascinating read, covering the work of a broad range of artists and themes, past and present. For those that can make the exhibition in person, it will also include lectures and panels from the participating artists and leaders on AI art and generative art history.

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Process Compendium (Introduction) on Vimeo

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Art-adjacent

I’ve never thought of myself as an art snob but, after reading this piece about a Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, perhaps I am?

Exit through the novelty exhibition: Winnie the Pooh, destroyer of art museums
Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Art Institute of Chicago may reasonably expect to enjoy millennia-old fiber arts or Jeff Koons ego trips—a fully encompassing assemblage of artworks, in other words. And in recent years, the encyclopedic mandate of global art institutions has become still more generous, such that it now includes not just art, but the art-adjacent.

Perhaps it all began with the inclusion of high fashion, as typified by the hit Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier retrospectives that won over New York City earlier this decade. Next came pop culture, with, for example, the traveling exhibition “David Bowie is,” which garnered some two million visitors globally. And now, with the arrival of “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the novelty exhibition trend has cynically bottomed out into outright mania for triviality. […]

The deepening entrenchment of exhibitions like “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” in the art world’s consciousness has brought with it a sense of malaise. While Klaus Biesenbach’s infamous 2015 Björk spectacle at the Museum of Modern Art led even Jerry Saltz to warn that MoMA was on “a suicidal slide into becoming a box-office-driven carnival,” this Pooh exhibition has been received with ambivalence.

Get over yourself

It must take a considerable ego to venture down this path.

‘Art bastard’ Robert Cenedella sues New York’s biggest museums
Is the art world fixed? That’s what the artist Robert Cenedella charges in a lawsuit against what he terms a “corporate museum cartel”—the Metropolitan, the Whitney, MoMA, the Guggenheim and the New Museum—for conspiring against artists. […]

Cenedella, who has not been exhibited in any of the museums he is suing, is seeking a jury trial and damages totalling $100m.

Needless to say, the museums disagreed.

This artist sued museums for $100 million for declining to show his work. But a judge Isn’t buying it
A lawyer for the museums, William Cavanaugh of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, called Cenedella’s claims “implausible” during oral arguments on Monday, adding that many people experience professional disappointment, but “few of us would try to transition that into an antitrust suit.” He requested that the case be dismissed, arguing that Cenedella had failed to demonstrate antitrust standing, a conspiratorial agreement among the museums, or any adverse effect on competition from the alleged conspiracy.

The judge agreed and the case was dismissed.

An artist sued museums $100 million for rejecting his work
In his 32-page opinion (paywall), which was almost as harsh as a critic’s unfavorable assessment of an artwork, judge John Koeltl explains that he’s dismissing Cenedella’s case because the artist hasn’t shown there’s an actual controversy that can be resolved with a lawsuit. “Although the plaintiff assures the court that his work is of a quality that would be shown in the defendant museums if not for the alleged conspiracy, this subjective boast alone cannot substantiate the plaintiff’s claim that enjoining the alleged conspiracy would lead the defendants to begin purchasing his work,” Koeltl writes.

That artnet.com article concludes with:

Despite the dismissal, Cenedella remains undaunted. Responding to the decision, he told artnet News via email: “This lawsuit was never about me. It has always been about exposing the secrecy and insider dealing of the art world, in which curators, dealers, and donors conspire to profit off of the work of a select few artists, regardless of talent or artistic merit. […] This lawsuit was just the first step. I will not stop my efforts to make the art industry more transparent, fair, and accessible for artists. I believe now more than ever that the art industry in America needs to be regulated.”

Why must people jump to conspiracies when faced with a situation they don’t understand?

Why a new study about finding art-world success doesn’t mean what you think it means (and other insights)
Our columnist examines how art-market research published in the journal ‘Science’ may not be as specific to the art world as we think.

Design Museum’s political exhibition gets political

It was supposed to be an exhibition about politics …

Design Museum to exhibit political graphic design from past decade
An exhibition at London’s Design Museum will present the most poignant political graphic iconography from the past decade, created in the wakes of events such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Brexit, and Donald Trump’s presidency.

… but the Design Museum’s Hope to Nope exhibition is caught in a political controversy of its own. Here’s a post from one of the groups of artists involved, BP or not BP.

Artists say ‘Nope’ to arms
This morning, we’re part of a large group of artists, designers and activists who have written to the Design Museum asking that our work be removed from the current Hope to Nope exhibition of political art. […] Why are we demanding our stuff back? Because last Tuesday, 17th July, the museum hosted an arms industry event as part of the Farnborough International arms fair.

They’re not the only ones unhappy with where the Design Museum gets its funding from.

30 artists have requested their work be removed from Design Museum exhibition
The letter states that, “We refuse to allow our art to be used in this way. Particularly jarring is the fact that one of the objects on display (the BP logo Shakespeare ruff from BP or not BP?) is explicitly challenging the unethical funding of art and culture. Meanwhile, many of the protest images featured in the exhibition show people resisting the very same repressive regimes who are being armed by companies involved in the Farnborough arms fair. It even features art from protests which were repressed using UK-made weapons.”

The letter and full list of signatories are published in full on Campaign Against Arms Trade website.

Design Museum – Campaign Against Arms Trade
It is deeply hypocritical for the museum to display and celebrate the work of radical anti-corporate artists and activists, while quietly supporting and profiting from one of the most destructive and deadly industries in the world. Hope to Nope is making the museum appear progressive and cutting-edge, while its management and trustees are happy to take blood money from arms dealers.

The Guardian quotes a statement from the Design Museum in response to this.

Design Museum challenged over private ‘arms industry’ event
“The Design Museum is committed to achieving its charitable objective to advance the education of the public in the study of all forms of design and architecture and is thus a place of debate that, by definition, welcomes a plurality of voices and commercial entities. However, we take the response to Tuesday’s event seriously and we are reviewing our due diligence policy related to commercial and fundraising activities.”

They’ve acknowledged (kind of?) the controversy on their exhibition webpage …

Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18
As of 1 August, some artwork has been removed from the exhibition, before the exhibition closing date of 12 August, at the request of the lenders. As a result, and until the end of the run, the exhibition will now be free to visit. […] ‘We are sorry for any disappointment caused for visitors. We believe that it is important to give political graphics a platform at the museum and it is a shame that the exhibition could not continue as it was curated until its original closing date’.

… but have not made their peace yet with the artists and designers involved.

Design Museum attacks its own exhibitors, defends working with arms dealers
We were shocked to see the Design Museum’s latest statement about our request to remove our art from the Hope to Nope exhibition. Rather than engaging with the issues we and other exhibitors have raised, the museum has instead made the bizarre (and offensive) suggestion that over 40 artists and groups featured in its exhibition have all somehow been duped by some mysterious ‘professional activists’.

#artworldproblems

I would say staff at this museum dedicated to the Fauvist artist Étienne Terrus need to look into hiring a few skips, as they’ve got a lot of rubbish to get rid of.

‘Catastrophe’: French museum discovers half of its collection are fakes
Eric Forcada, the art historian who uncovered the counterfeits, said that he had seen straight away that most of the works were fake. 
“On one painting, the ink signature was wiped away when I passed my white glove over it.”

Meanwhile, from works of art that shouldn’t be in galleries, to those which were but are no longer.

Bad week for art world as Jeff Koons piece is smashed and imitation Happy Meal thrown away
May evidently did too much of a good job, as a cleaning crew working at the Marco Polo HongKong Hotel which hosted the Harbour Art Fair, mistook it for the real thing and threw it away. “A lot of my pieces involve very small alterations to familiar items: changes that aren’t maybe obvious at first glance,” the artist explains, adding that “initially, I didn’t find it funny at all. But later I realised it meant my imitation had been a success.”

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