It is universally acknowledged that a rags-to-riches man in possession of the burning desire to be seen as a “cultural” human must be in want of some arts.
This is why defining beauty for today’s rags-to-riches men, as well as selling it to them, is such a thriving, crisis-immune business. What a few selected critics or gallerists define as art, becomes instantly marketable to those who confuse this definition for an axiom. Unlike omelette, which requires real eggs for it to be cooked, contemporary art does not need to have real art as an ingredient. Contemporary art is defined by a belief system of a few super-rich men. If they have been made to believe 30 grams of artist’s shit is art, it becomes art because they are the ones who can pay a hundred thousand dollars for a shallow gesture of irony and bitterness (the artist’s father owned a canning factory and once told his son that his art was crap).
Stocking art or buying a football club?
The question of why the newly minted super-rich want to possess contemporary art has been answered a million times before. They want to change the hoodies of ruthless thugs (the public opinion is locked onto the concept that Fortune favours those on whom Justice turns a blind eye) for the elitist white robes of contemporary leaders. There are only two ways to cut it: becoming an art connoisseur or buying a football club. While the latter is made somewhat inconvenienced by the limited supply of clubs, the former is inexhaustible.
I am sure a lot of art-world people are doing what they are doing not just for money, but out of the sheer enjoyment of working a small miracle each time they sell something. Just imagine the fun of persuading a yesterday’s thug from Russia, Ukraine or Kazakhstan who got suddenly rich by siphoning money from the budgets of their respective countries, or an oil sheikh, or a Chinese communist party bureaucrat that canned shit is art. Priceless! And, of course there is the buyer’s premium and dealer’s commission.
Now, there are super rich entrepreneurs who have risen from a background so humble that they don’t have the minimum mental capacity to understand that the magic wand capable of turning them into contemporary leaders is made with contemporary art. Guys, you can’t buy Botticelli and expect people to respect you for that. Everyone knows Botticelli is old, established, museum-quality, national-heritage type of art. You can only go for Botticelli if you hand it over to your national government. Otherwise, you are seen as a greedy, insensitive and stoopid thug, and that’s exactly the starting point from which you wanted to distance yourself! Oh, and if you buy Botticelli to hand it over to the people of your country, remember to do it only after you’ve amassed a collection of contemporary art. Otherwise, that Botticelli affair is likely to be seen not as an act of generosity but as you praying and paying for forgiveness of past sins, and that’s not leader’s quality. “Botticelli” here stands for any globally-recognised old master, of course.
Now, I want you to meet someone.
Let me introduce two brothers who have never read this blog and missed the opportunity to get enlightened on the subject of contemporary art. They have bought their “Botticellis”.
Meet the Kluev brothers from the East of Ukraine, the land of coal mines, steel-makers, and – allegedly – gangsters. I wonder why no one thought of changing the name for that part of Ukraine to Urkaine, as the word “urka” means a gangster in the old Stalinist lingo. I am sure Ukrainians from the Western Ukraine would love the idea, regardless of how untrue it is.
My grand-granddad had been a coal mine engineer there, until the moment Stalin’s NKVD decided he was an enemy of the people. A half of staff in my Kiev office is from Donetsk (one of the largest cities there), and they are the smartest people in psychology, sociology, marketing, and common sense that you can hope to get in any world capital. So, the Eastern origin of the Kluev brothers does not automatically mean they have been gangstering at the start of their careers. Look at their jaws sagging in amazement (in sync!) at such a suggestion.
The Kluev brothers are the personification of business & government marriage that people enter to beget money, just like rock and roll were married to provide fun to its listeners.
They are filthy rich, shrouded in security and secrecy. Their photographs are rare, and pictures of anything that can be described as “theirs” are even rarer. The “Reason Why” stares at you from this picture:
This is one of their bodyguards. He got famous after he introduced himself to a reporter taking pictures of the brothers’ car as, “My name? My-Dick-In-Your-Ass is my name!” Paparazzi may be willing to sacrifice the integrity of their faces for a great shot, but they still value their lives and the wholeness of their bottoms a tad above it.
Were you a Kluev brother, what would you want after a day of rubbing shoulders with a brute who loves to associate himself with a violent penis?
You’d want beauty. Loads of beauty. Pools of beauty to rinse the mind and wash the body.
Thanks to a construction worker (either extremely brave or just having suicidal tendencies), who published pics of the brothers’ house interior, we can be administered a spoonful of Kluev brothers’ style and refinement.
I need to warn you before you decide to click on any of the images. It is an atrocity against architecture and the gold-dripping interiors of an uncertain mixture of styles you’ll see there can burn a few thousand neurons out of existence.
Goldren ratio? No, didn’t hear of it.
Over the top
The curved beauty
As I scrolled down the online page with the pics, one of the images STRUCK me like a flying ball.
What? Excuse me?
Andrea Mantegna?! Who thought COPYING a Renaissance masterpiece was a good idea? I mean, buying a “Botticelli” is not right, but buying a fake “Botticelli” is stupidity squared.
And in this case, it is not just getting a fake Mantegna, it is murdering Mantegna’s ideas along the way!
Look at the beauty Mantegna created in the Ducal Palace in Mantua:
Frescoes in the Camera degli Sposi; scene: vault fresco detail; 1473
The vault fresco is the summit of the frescoed room, featuring scenes from Ludoviko Gonzago’s life (historians still debate which ones) and intricate design.
This is just one of the walls, but you can have a better look at it here:
I don’t think the Kluev brothers ordered the whole chamber to be copied. Unless, of course, they ordered something in the style of Mantegna, but depicting their own life.
I’d buy a ticket to see it.
As an afterthought, I wonder if the Kluev brothers understand the bridal symbolism of the fresco on their ceiling. I think the one who explains it to them will doom their interior designer to a slow and painful death.
I am afraid the new breed of rich and powerful from developing countries will continue corrupting art in the years to come, just as they’ve done to their own developing economies. Except that in the case of art, the effects will be global.
Any ideas on how this sad process can be stopped?
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Sources of photographs I used in this post: 1 and 2 (the text is in Russian)