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An earlier post on Eric Doeringer and his dustup with a Chelsea dealer declined to mention the dealer's name until someone (me? why should I do it?) called and verified that said gallerist did indeed sic the cops on Doeringer for selling "bootleg paintings" on 24th Street. As far as I know, no blogger ever followed up on this basic journalistic courtesy, but everyone just piled on with Doeringer's version, sliming Mike Weiss as "probably a Republican" and worse. Today an actual newspaper--the New York Times--did an actual story and even got Weiss's side of it. It's pretty weak. From Randy Kennedy's article:
In a recent interview, Mr. Weiss confirmed that, yes, he had called the police. He said he did so for reasons that might be condemned in the art world but that made perfect sense for any businessman like himself who has to pay a huge rent.Chelsea was always about creating a haven for upper middle class collectors, far from the subways, the plebes, and messy hubbub of the city. Weiss is just articulating one of the unspoken assumptions of the neighborhood. My guess is the "top feeders" don't like seeing Doeringer out there any more than Weiss does, but are too smart to come down on the wrong side of the First Amendment issue. Also, it's gauche to mention any class bias. Should Doeringer get kudos for teasing out these assumptions?
"We've seen what happens in SoHo," Mr. Weiss said of street vendors. "Where there's one, then there's two and three and four."
He added: "Let's say I own a Victoria's Secret and then there's someone outside selling fake lingerie and bras. It just detracts from what you're doing."
Of Mr. Doeringer's art itself, he said he did not want to pass judgment but then immediately did. It is not even original in its appropriation, he said, noting that this is an art-world idea that has been explored thoroughly by many artists already. (Only two artists have complained about the "bootlegs," [Doeringer] said, and in those cases he stopped copying their work.)
"Personally," Mr. Weiss said, "I think he's an opportunist and that he just wants his 15 minutes."
Above are my Eric Doeringers: he calls them bootlegs of more famous works by "name" artists, and sells them at an open-air table outside art fairs and in the bleak Chelsea gallery district. I consider Doeringer a "name," too--a practicing appropriationist in a lineage with Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Sherrie Levine, and especially Elaine Sturtevant. His craft is good and he has an eye for the most generic "knockoffable" commodities in a practitioner's oeuvre. The critique of authorship and authenticity is especially welcome with Chelsea dealers going nuts pushing said brand names to Bush millionaires: Doeringer is a kind of Mini-Me of the hard-working gallery owner.
Generally he is tolerated, but today a Chelsea gallerist decided he'd had enough, and allegedly sicced the cops on Doeringer. The artist was forced to fold up his table, box up his wares, and move on. James Wagner has a blog post on this. I confess I heard from Doeringer about this earlier in the day and felt that if I were going to be a journalist, I should call the dealer and hear what he had to say, since this particular gallerist has been supportive of unknown artists through publications, curating, and the like. As with the right wing echo chamber, now it's news, though, because someone posted about it. It's just rumormongering at this stage, and this page will priggishly withhold the dealer's name until someone gets a comment in the inevitable first amendment pile-on. Not that it sounds like there can be two sides to this. Assuming it's true, calling the cops for "selling art without a peddler's license" in Bloomberg's incarceration-happy Manhattan is bad karma, bad vibes, and censorship, since it's art we're talking about here and not hot watches.
Update: Someone outside the GNYNVOVEZ (Greater New York Non-Virtual Object Viewing & Evaluating Zone) wondered how bootleg these paintings really are. Left to right in the photo above: The "Damien Hirst," painted on a Fredrix pre-stretched canvas, is decently made but cookie cutter; the colors don't match any particular Hirst. The "Richard Prince" is a scan/ink jet print of a random ad with cowboys; it's not Marlboro, or at least not any Marlboro Prince rephotographed. The "Martin Kippenberger" is an ink jet print of a Kippenberger figure, cut out and collaged onto a Fredrix canvas with little flecks of paint on the surface to look painterly, then sealed with matte varnish. So, to answer the question, his craft is good enough to make a facsimile that passes from a distance, but it's not like they're meticulous forgeries. In his studio he has 10 or 20 lined up in production like an assembly line.
Update 2: As expected, search the dealer's name in technorati and the first eight hits are bloggers dissing him. The money quote, from James' blog, is "He said that he didn't like 'seeing people walking around with tiny paintings...'"
Update 3: It's Mike Weiss! But you already knew that.
Everyone in the world linked to this Mario Bros. fan art page, and well they should, it's a mother lode of punchy, brow-furrowing drawings. The content ranges from almost-professional renderings of Mario and Luigi as musclebound superheroes to endearingly inept Jim Shaw thrift store show-like portraits. In my fantasies, someone prints out all the images really large on Sintra board or Duratrans, and holds a kind of Iron Chef competition between the artists on those pages and some overindulged bad boy of the art world like, say, Sean Landers. Especially fun would be the judging, which would consist of those same five people who regularly appear on Iron Chef--the elderly critic, the pretty actress, etc.--sitting and making pronouncements to a humbled Landers like: "This is very bold, but I felt your irony wasn't quite strong enough--you are not truly weird in your art."
The New York Times ran two articles on Takashi Murakami this week, Roberta Smith's review of the show he organized at the Japan Society, which I quibbled about here and here, and a magazine profile by Arthur Lubow, which I've only skimmed. The musician Momus writes about the latter piece on his weblog, from the angle that he's glad the Times has discovered post-Modernity and recognizes that the Japanese have long been living what the West mostly theorizes about. That is an interesting thing about them--especially the degree to which their popular culture explores the post-human melding of people and machines in the tropes of the cyborg, the giant robot, artificial environments, etc.
Still, do we need the extra loop of pop culture --> Murakami's traveling museum road show --> NY art dealers --> NY Times --> pop culture or do these ideas disseminate to the West just fine through your local video and comic book stores? In other words, if the Japanese have no "high-low" distinction (as these articles are saying) and if Murakami's art and Japanese pop culture are one and the same, why do we need Murakami making this culture available at a higher price level? I maintain his main function is to make Western curators feel better about themselves that they have multicultural content and are "down with the whole Japanese postmodern thing," and once he's in an institution then Chip and Muffy just have to have one. But his work is thin compared to the real thing.
On the high-low dichotomy, I said earlier the Japanese have no Romantic, starving-in-a-garret tradition, before reading in the Lubow article that Murakami famously sleeps on the floor of his studio. But hey, we all know some of the richest people in the world are some of the cheapest, bringing lunch to work in a brown bag, driving a beat up car, paying their employees nothing. That's how they got rich--by keeping their overhead down. In the Lubow piece a curator mentions the sleeping bag factoid, dutifully building the Zen monk artist hype around Murakami. Yet it's hard to square the image of this dude walking the earth like Caine in Kung Fu also licensing his designs for Vuitton handbags and going after a younger artist like Eric Doeringer who dares to appropriate his precious work. PT Barnum had a phrase that applies to many working in US art institutions.
One should have no shame about buying bootlegs of art, if good ones are available. Eric Doeringer makes some of the best souvenirs of art world brand names: these above are all well crafted objets (respectively a painting, ink jet print and combo print & painting). Normally he sells them from a table out on 24th Street, but I acquired this group from his studio, where I got the added pleasure of seeing grids of almost-identical Currins, Yuskavages, and Peytons arranged as if on a production line, being readied to go with him to the next art fair. Most artists have been good sports about seeing their masterpieces hawked on the street like CDs or handbags. The exceptions are Sean Landers and Takashi Murakami, who told the artist not to peddle knockoffs of their work. See the removed Landers on Doeringer's website.