The Jackdaw is David Lee's own magazine on the art world. It contains serious, in depth research on art issues, including the Tate, the British Council, auction houses and art dealers: this sometimes finds its way into the national press. It's also packed with debunking, satire, spoof, prejudice and bile, including his famous "Artbollocks" column quoting the very best (that is, worst) of the bollocks that artists, critics and gallerists spout about art, as well as varied contributors raising a voice against the establishment. It contains information you won't find elsewhere, and which mainstream art publications would never dare to print.
at only £35 for ten issues (Europe £40, USA $70, rest
of the world £45). (Prices as of May 2008)
ART MAFIA EXPOSED
"...the Turner Prize, and the entire world of contemporary art, is dominated and manipulated by... 17 people."
So writes David Lee, editor of Art Review [David has since left and is now editor of The Jackdaw], in The Spectator (30 October 1999). Among his list are gallery owners Anthony D'Offay, Nicholas Logsdail (Lisson) and Jay Jopling (White Cube); Tate employees Sir Nicholas Serota (London), Lewis Biggs (Liverpool Tate) and Lars Nittve (Bankside Tate); Arts Council members, Antony Gormley (artist), Anish Kapoor (artist) and Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton (Head of Visual Arts); and Michael Craig-Martin, Professor, Goldsmith's College. Charles Saatchi comes into it all as well, of course.
His thesis, which is not entirely unconvincing, is that these individuals are in permutations of rotating roles in giving public grants/ selecting (publicly-funded) exhibitions/ judging prizes/being awarded prizes and grants/representing and selling work commercially by those who have been given (publicly funded) exhibitions/grants/ prizes/awards etc. It may sound labyrinthine - it is.
The net result is the monopoly of the centre stage by "supposedly avant-garde" Brit Art with the advantageous result (for some) that "a haddock in a Perspex box" by Damien Hirst costs up to £500,000. (If anyone is interested we can tell you how to make a DIY version for under a tenner.)
An example of the process is "the current exhibition at the publicly funded Serpantine Gallery (£350,000 p.a.) which features Jane and Louise Wilson, twins who make multi-screen videos of stultifying banality." (An assessment expressed ten days previously, as it happens, by a Stuckist on BBC2 Newsnight).
Last year the happy twins received £10,000 from the Arts Council. This year to reach even greater heights of tedium they were given an Arts Council lottery grant of £19,140 (yes - that's YOUR money - do you really want four endlessly-repeating videos of corridors and lifts? If so, we suggest you live in a tower block and buy a camcorder).
Mr Lee's point is that the twins are represented by the Lisson Gallery "one of Europe's richest and most successful dealers in contemporary art... So, why didn't the Lisson Gallery accept normal business risks and fund the new Serpentine video?"
Well, that's a bloody good point. Why didn't the Lisson Gallery fund the video? I mean, does Manchester United get a Lottery grant to pay for Beckham?
He doesn't have much time for our lady of Margate, but we can't bear to dwell on that at the moment, apart from a thought that he underestimates her genius.
This is a must-read article, some of which has familiar echoes for anyone who has perused this site before, but which is astonishingly outspoken in its challenge and extremely disturbing in its implications.
We must take issue however with the conclusion to the piece:
"...let me end with a word of reassurance for you, the potential buyer. The art of Damien and his pals is as secure an investment as gilts..."
What we have seen with Brit Art is the equivalent of the house price spiral in the eighties. We advise selling now while the going is good and recommend reinvesting elsewhere. (Personal and confidential advice is available free of charge to concerned individuals. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)