There’s a real sense of backlog here at The Art Life and we’re doing the best we can to shift it. Perhaps a little bran in the morning will help?
People are writing in and asking questions like “hey, what did youse guys think of the Art House show?” and the truth of it was that we only caught two of the four episodes. We thought it was a good documentary about the secondary art market and the semi-delusional nature of the people who populate it. A tired and emotional Damien Hackett was very amusing as was Michael Reid’s after-the-fact justification for the non-sale of the Brett Whiteley painting Arkie Under The Shower while David Cook sat next to him with a look on his face that said “I am so glad you don’t work at Christie’s anymore…”
We should also applaud the documentary director’s persistence and access to sellers and buyers and those elusive investment collectors who are there to make money and sod all this bullshit about buying what you like – if it’s by John Kelly and it’s got cows in it, buy it!. The problem we had with Art House was that, as much as we were glad it was a good documentary series that welcomed both the uninitiated and the knowledgeable, the secondary market in general is a series of false highs – a bit like a sugar rush that leaves you flat and suffering acute ennui afterwards. Watching the Christie’s slaves sweeping up after the carnival was over was a completely deflating experience.
Speaking of Whiteley, the Australian Story on ABC on Monday night profiled Wendy Whiteley. Don’t worry if you missed it, it’s on again this Saturday, September 11 at 12.30pm (that’s the afternoon) and well worth catching if you can stand the heart rending pathos of that ill fated family. The program begins and ends with Whiteley wandering around her garden by the harbour tending the plants in the company of Arkie’s dogs and there’s some choice footage of the genius of Australian art at the beach, and a few good quotes from Whiteley curator and historian Barry Pearce. Wendy Whiteley was shot in soft focus but not even a truck load of Vaseline could have hid her grim countenance as she discussed the late Janice Spencer’s claim on Whiteley’s estate:
“Janice is dead now, and that’s sad. I didn’t really know her very well. I think she was a good friend to him for a while, but she never moved into the studio… she wasn’t allowed. He’d visit you, he’d set you up, you know. It was…it must have gone on, to some degree, for a couple of years, so difficult for her. But, yes, five years is ludicrous. It’s a ludicrous claim.”
It’s sad that Janice Spencer is dead? Bloody hell.
Perhaps the most interesting comment that came up in the program was Pearce’s claim that what people say – including us – about Brett Whiteley’s best art isn’t the case at all:
“[Whiteley] felt, definitely, that [Wendy] was the superior talent. Her skill at life drawing was much better than his and her sense of style was better than his, her sense of colour was better. She was sort of almost born with this natural flair. He wasn’t born so much with it. In spite of what everybody says about him – “He could draw like a bird sings,” that kind of thing, it’s actually incorrect. […]Brett had a huge energy for wanting something in his life, to be a success. And that energy made him a great worker.”
He wasn’t good at drawing after all, he just worked really, really hard until he got good. That would explain why The American Dream is all the way over in Perth and Alchemy is in Sydney. You’ve just got to keep at it. If you can’t wait for the repeat of Australian Story, you can read a transcript of the program.