[...] The truth is that Cattelan’s presence at the Guggenheim has nothing to do with what the public may or may not want. Cattelan is at the Guggenheim because the big money in the art business is behind him. The other day, one of his minor works, a miniature model of two elevator doors, sold for just over a million dollars at Christie’s. (It comes in an edition of ten, one of which is hanging on Fifth Avenue and 89th Street.)
[...] The collector Eli Broad was quoted, at the end of the auction, explaining that “People would rather have art than gold or paper.” To which it seems to me the only response is that people who have millions of dollars to spend on a Cattelan, a Gober, or a Lichtenstein are not what used to be known as “the people.” Never mind. What “the people” are more and more seeing when they go to museums is what Eli Broad and a few other collectors and dealers with very deep pockets think they should see. At that same Christie’s auction, the gallerist Larry Gagosian bought an early Cy Twombly for $5.2 million. Twombly, who died in July, is nowadays regarded by some as one of the giants of modern art. His reputation is so high that over the summer the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London mounted an exhibition, “Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters,” that paired him with the seventeenth-century French artist who redefined classicism for the modern world. Whatever one may think of Twombly—and I like some of his earlier work quite a bit—the Dulwich show was a rather astonishing example of reputation inflation. And who, pray tell, sponsored “Twombly and Poussin”? I can’t say I was surprised, on opening the exhibition catalogue, to discover that the sponsor was none other than Larry Gagosian.
Money and culture have never been easily disentangled, nor would one want them to be, considering that culture is by no means cost efficient. But there are different forms of patronage and different kinds of entanglements. And culture is now in retreat before the brute force of money.
[...] In 1931 Diego Rivera was the second artist selected for a one man show at MoMA; Matisse had been the first. One of the moving forces in the founding of the museum, just two years old at the time, was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who took an interest in Rivera’s work and lent financial support to the exhibition. She was much involved in getting Rivera, an avowed Leftist, the commission for a vast mural at Rockefeller Center, a building project dedicated to the glories of capitalism. The mural was to be devoted to the theme of man at the crossroads. And the project was nearing completion when it was scrapped by the Rockefellers, who paid Rivera the rest of his fee, sent him packing, and destroyed the mural, unwilling to accept either Rivera’s flattering portrait of Lenin or his unflattering portrait of John D. Rockefeller Jr. or both, it is not clear.
[...] During the period Rivera was in Moscow filling his sketchbook, Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party, and by the time Rivera arrived in New York for the MoMA show he was a Trotskyite and thus aware of the Stalinist perils that no amount of brilliant red banners could disguise. Rivera’s Moscow Sketchbook was owned by none other than Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who gave it to the Museum of Modern Art, a souvenir of the pageantry of Soviet Communism deposited in an American museum by the matriarch of one of capitalism’s defining dynasties. The ironies are almost incalculable. And we must not forget that Rivera was himself a fashionable figure in the early 1930s, at home in café society. As I said before, art and money can never be disentangled, nor would we want them to be. But there is money and there is money. And what Rockefeller money did for American art in the 1930s is a far cry from what the rich are doing to American art eighty years later.Dirty Money, por Jed Perl.