Friday, March 6, 2009

Buck Naked unmasked? Nah...

So, my Seattle dealer Stephen sends me an email saying "I didn't think you were Buck Naked..." with a link to an interview with Buck Naked of How's My Dealing by a writer named Qi Peng published on out of Salt Lake City, Utah. The terse interview makes a couple of things clear. I'm not Buck Naked and it is indeed an art project. I feel bad for everyone who became so irate with the site, precisely because asking Buck Naked to alter it or change it is asking he or she to censor the work. Had people known it was initially an art project, it may have changed the nature of the site, although that didn't stop people from saying terrible shit for my parallel enemies/allies project. Still, How's My Dealing may very well be a brilliant relational artwork, creating a very social critique through others of the secretive nature of the art world and it's (awful) reliance on perception to drive business. The commercial system is largely revolting, thus my fucking work. Anyway, if people feel duped or had by How's My Dealing, I find it laughable that no one thought it might be an art project. Of the confusion about my participation, Qi Peng asks Buck Naked about why I might be a suspect? Buck Naked replies "William Powhida has a reputation for institutional critique within the commercial New York art world."

I love it. I didn't even do the fucking project, and yet, it seems so similar to what I've done or would do, that I manage to get something out of it anyway. So, if Buck Naked reveals him or herself, it will be great to share notes on harnessing the power of anonymous comments to paint a portrait of the art world. If not, I think the piece will be a stronger critique, but as a whorishBRILLIANT art world figure, I would never be able to keep out of it. Since I've already been dragged into it, I'll stand in for Buck Naked on the institutional critique front until he or she ever steps forward to receive the brunt of ire from litigious dealers who feel defamed. I was actually talking with lawyer-blogger Jonathan Melber at Pulse yesterday who laughed at the threat of lawsuits, which would launch Buck Naked from art world insider to national sensation. The lawsuit, according to Melber, would have no merit, and the dealers would have to try and subpena the IP addresses of the anonymous comments, not Buck Naked, which is highly unlikely unless you are George Bush. It's a no-win situation for annoyed dealers, and will only advance Buck Naked's goal of auctioning off How's My Dealing when he or she is satisfied with work.

Oh, it's a brilliant move, but with the amount of loathing and hatred the site has generated, I am glad I didn't do it. I think I would have used the word art visibly, to ensure that the project had a framing device to call its function or certainty into question. Especially when the artist is relying on the work, the comments, of others to produce the piece. In the Enemies/Allies project, it was evident from inception that the comments would be used for an art project to allow the community to participate in the selection of enemies and allies of New York, but knowing that an artist was involved, suggesting the possibility of intention. With How's My Dealing, people were not privy to its meaning or possible meaning as art, and while Buck Naked's role is limited to some moderation of personal attacks there certainly was an ulterior motive, money. It is going to be auctioned after all. It's not an ideological or transparent move, which sort of negates the critique. Again, I'm not a purist (everything is always for sale), and I constantly undermine my work criticism by being an artist. How's My Dealing suggests is what the art world needs transparency, even if it comes from behind opaque identities, yet it was never transparent, at least to fraying dealers.

Strangely, Qi Peng also sent me a series of engaging questions to answer for his column, as well as Ed Winkleman who passionately defended that gallery system, although, I'm sure now regrets falling into an art trap. Peng must be very savvy, so I am looking back over the questions with a jaundiced eye thinking about motives, because interviews with Buck Naked, William Powhida, and Edward Winkleman are clearly all about exploring the various connections here.

Pulse looked nice yesterday. It always looks nice. Also, Jonathan Melber has a book for artists dealing with the market coming out at the end of the month but you can get it on already. It's called Art Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career. It's probably something I should read, or have read a long time ago. I wish it had a chapter called...


Edward_ said...

as well as Ed Winkleman who passionately defended that gallery system, although, I'm sure now regrets falling into an art trap.

On the contrary...even if Buck Naked intended the site to be a piece (and what other than after-the-fact assertion is there to validate that claim now?), the dialog therein transcended the effort. The conversations between participants were not less felt just because the context was contrived. I'll stand by all the comments I've made about that site.

William said...


I was also thinking about how you removed all your comments from the actual site, and I don't think Buck Naked's belated admission that it is an art project changes any of the dialog on the site. You already removed your content, but not before it was quoted elsewhere and synonymous with dealer reaction.

I think this admission that it is art only affects how people feel about having their participation framed as art. Once the piece is auctioned, it could probably reach a larger audience who will view the project in a different way once it is presented as art, possibly even institutional critique.

I wasn't criticizing or even questioning your comments about the blog or its function. I was wondering more about how you feel about it being called 'art' and the possibility of it being auctioned, as opposed to its purely functional forum for art world gossip, slander, judgment, and defamation.
You have become a central character in the work, and part of its narrative. Whatever the merit or value of the thing, you have created a certain amount of controversy and interest in it where they may not have been any at all, in a real financial sense when it is auctioned. And of course, that wouldn't matter at all if it was just a blog; a forum for gossiping.

I'm sort of at an impasse in judging Buck Naked, because I did a drawing of Zack Feuer hexing him. It was a humorous joke, a minor critique, until he reacted in an outraged manner putting on a display of power. It helped me a lot more than it helped him in the end and simply put an exclamation point on my work. Then he even provided more fodder by emailing me.
I think your reaction to How's My Dealing was intelligent and well-justified, but any public reaction by a dealer was probably the best thing that could've happened to Buck Naked's blog. I'm worried, basically, that in the end you will have done far more for this person's art project than any impassioned defense of art dealing you offered, and then deleted. That's the art trap. I set one for Zack, and he jumped in, except mine was advertised as art unlike How's My Dealing.

Sorry to belabor the point, but my practice is rooted in some pretty questionable practices like name-calling, because the art world can be so petty, juvenile, and ordered like high school. On some days, it's fine. Other days it makes you want to vomit on someone's shoes. The article on Larry in the Sunday Times was vomit inducing, and yet no one wants to see him fail, because it will mean how badly the economy will have tanked, not people refusing to deal with him because he is 'shark' constantly feeding on art according to Schjeldahl.

I'm sorry, feeling ambivalent today.

Edward_ said...

The one thing I tried to get folks to see in my response to the Gagosian profile was that perhaps, just perhaps mind you, if his artists are so willing to help him survive and his collectors are so willing to help him thrive, perhaps there's a real person in there they see and the rest is wild two-dimensional speculation by those of us looking in and projecting.

I think you're misreading Schjeldahl...who I believe meant simply that Larry is nature's perfect art-dealing machine like a shark is nature's perfect eating machine.

The cure for ambivalence, btw, is a good dose of life-threatening adventure...ever consider bungee jumping?

William said...


I'm not convinced there is a benign human presence behind Larry's carefully maintained facade. I like Schjeldahl's comparison simply for it's metaphorical value, not Larry's single-mindedness in dealing art.

I've had the pleasure of speaking to people who've seen first hand what he's like behind closed doors, and while it remains hearsay (though I trust this person), I can also attest to the fact that artists aren't just helping out their galleries for altruistic reasons, but also for survival. At a certain point, everyone is a stakeholder in the survival of the operation. I don't think you should assume that Ed Ruscha is willing to help out because he cares about Larry. He's got a vested interest to keep that monstrous ship afloat.

I know btw, I'd love to go experience something real, but I'm locked in this cell making art. It's not helping my ambivalence about the structure of the art world and thinking about why it is organized so. As the money dries up, things will be radically different, and not in any good way for us...

I won't say who said it, but there's a new saying in the art world, $800 is the new $2,500

This Broad said...

Am I the only one who thinks this claim that "How's my dealing" was conceived as an art project smells like a too convenient after the fact switcheroo?

It seems like an "art piece" the way that an art student might say that her failure to show up in class is an "art piece." You know?

I didn't read the interview, tho. Perhaps it is convincing? For now I am unconvinced.

William said...

Am I the only one who thinks this claim that "How's my dealing" was conceived as an art project smells like a too convenient after the fact switcheroo?

You know, I want to think so, but I think that sentiment ultimately depends on if we ever find out who Buck Naked is. If the person turns out to be a failed, bitter painter living in the sticks (yes, i'm prodding you), say, then it would be easy to see it as a switcheroo. But, if it's from someone who has a history of emulating other artists and parody, then no, it might actually have been premeditated. Perhaps the person is both...

I'm of two minds about it, and no, the interview is not convincing. The answers seemed designed not to reveal much about the speaker. None of this would matter much to me, except a lot of people thought I was behind it, and it really pissed Ed off, who is a supporter, friend, and exemplary art dealer. Plus I feel bad he's the dealer that stuck his foot in the quick sand. Anything he said validated the site, offering proof dealers where reading it, that it had an audience with the market. Debating on the blog was like struggling in quick sand, it just pulled him in deeper.

I think it all sort of reveals something about the nature of blogging and the kind of personas people develop. Ed has become an avatar of pragmatic, liberal thought on politics, art and the business of art. He's reasonable and has a reputation for engagement with the readership. He's also a visible presence in the art world, who treats people, well, like people in an egalitarian manner, unlike say, Mr. Gagosian.

On the other side, Buck Naked is a cipher, an absence, a void, who we can make few if any judgments about , well some, I remember old Buck Naked posts on other blogs that were rabid rants.

Putting these two together just doesn't work. I mean, what this all needed as a sense of humor, no of the absurdity that it all represents in our minor power struggles facing imminent economic doom.

Edward_ said...

Am I the only one who thinks this claim that "How's my dealing" was conceived as an art project smells like a too convenient after the fact switcheroo?

No, you're not the only one...that's what I too meant to imply when I wrote "what other than after-the-fact assertion is there to validate that claim now?"

Here's what I think might have eventually occurred to Buck Naked: should his/her identity be revealed there is likely no gallery in the universe that will trust him/her enough to work with him/her...unless of course it was all a piece...

Even then, and I know of a few dozen other dealers who feel this way...he/she need not waste any time sending me any proposals. It's one thing to ask folks to operate their businesses with respect toward artists and hold their feet to the flame if they don''s another thing altogether to salivate over the destruction of their dreams.

This Broad said... anyone?

Is it taken?

Not that I have time for this...

William said...

Damn, howsmyblogging is taken, maybe you got it? I hope so.

Apparently, howsmyartmaking was not taken. If there is antagonism, envy, and cynicism to be had, let's provide dealers, collectors, former friends, enemies, and regular people a way to anonymously shit on the egotistical assholes (like me!) who complain and bitch about how underappreciated they are in the stable, how so and so gets all the attention, and/or how so and so has more images on artnet. I mean I'm always complaining about hard it is to have representation and sell art. If only you understood the constant pressure to sell, sell, sell.

No, no. At Schroeder Romero we are perfect artists who take out the trash and serve wine at our own receptions. Still, there doesn't seem to be enough venues for people to anonymously shit on artists. I've been getting by doing it publicly...but
there ought to be a whole blog, like How's My Dealing where people get to bomb away in perpetuity, anonymously, and salivate over the demise of artist's dreams (again, like mine!)

Ok, this sounds terrible, but I've locked up one potential blogspot address. Howsmyart is gone too.

Thanks This Broad...not that we have time for any of this...

Edward_ said... is available

Stephen Lyons/Platform Gallery said...

I won't say who said it, but there's a new saying in the art world, $800 is the new $2,500

I said it. I own it. Heh.