This week, LaWhore Vagistan talks about being an auntie, art dealer Larry Gagosian speaks from his quarantine in the Hamptons, how blackness became a legal identity, the rise of conspiracy theories, and more.
Neither of us really cooks. Roberta can but doesn’t; I can’t but do, in a manner of speaking. We rarely go out to eat. It takes too much time. We can’t plan it with two regular deadlines in the same house — two critics living on the manic edge while trying to write, daily battling the demons that tell every writer “You’re through; quit.” Honestly, being in public at all in those flaky states always seems hair-raising to me. We do go out for pizza slices on weekends, after galleries have closed and the openings are over and people are off to big dinners and after-parties. I haven’t gone to more than five sit-down art-world dinners in ten years. Instead, over slices on paper plates, we go over lists of things we’ve seen, what we missed, gossiping about which dealers wouldn’t leave us to look in peace (hi, Gavin, you know we adore you!) and scraping over each other’s wrong ideas about shows.
We don’t do takeout either. It just seems like an invitation to overeat, which is something I worry about constantly. I haven’t had a pancake, waffle, or piece of French toast in decades — afraid I’d instantly become addicted the same way I know if I took one puff of a cigarette, I’d start smoking again. I did this once in 1986, a month after Roberta and I met. I wanted to show her how cool I looked with a butt in my mouth. I took a drag, and as the smoke filled my lungs, I still remember thinking, I am going to dedicate the rest of my life to smoking. And so I did, for 18 months from that day, before going cold turkey. Do I sound like someone with food or possible substance-abuse issues? I do. But I’ve white-knuckled it this far.
- Artist LaWhore Vagistan’s TedxTufts talk about “how to be an auntie” is fantastic:
- What’s going on with these ancient texts at Oxford University and are they going missing?
One would-be seller claimed to have a 5,000-year-old Bible that had been perfectly preserved in ice atop Mount Ararat. Another brought a box of manuscripts to the parking lot of a Cattlemen’s Steakhouse near Hobby Lobby headquarters, in Oklahoma City. When Carroll rebuffed him, the dealer set the box on the trunk of Carroll’s car, then dashed off, yelling, “You’ll love these. Call me!”
In five years, Green acquired more than 40,000 artifacts, from cuneiform tablets and Dead Sea Scrolls to Jewish Torahs and early-American Bibles. But he wasn’t indiscriminate. “We’re buyers of items to tell the story,” Green once said. And the story of Christianity he wanted to tell was of the Bible as a God-given record of “absolute authority and reliability.”
- Katya Kazakina gets to speak to the largely inaccessible (to the media, anyway) art dealer Larry Gagosian, who is hiding out in the Hamptons:
It’s from this Charles Gwathmey-designed modernist fortress that Gagosian has been running his empire for the past two months while all 18 of his galleries, which dot the globe from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, remain closed. The man, who likes his art in the flesh and still uses a BlackBerry, is coming to grips with the market’s new reality: Most sales now happen electronically. Clients are distracted. Transaction volume has plunged.
“When things go down like this you say, ‘Jesus, Larry, do you really need all these galleries?”’ he said by phone from Amagansett.
It’s a striking question coming from the man whose “mega gallery” business model has been at the forefront of the art market’s global expansion for the past two decades. The pandemic brought the $64 billion industry to its knees, with galleries and museums shuttered, auctions and art fairs postponed or canceled and countless exhibitions derailed. The jet-setting art world faces a reckoning: Who will survive, and what will the New Normal look like?
- The story of how blackness became a legal identity, and a comparison of the situations in Louisiana, Virginia, and Cuba:
By the early 18th century, Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana (all colonies themselves, of the Spanish, British, and French Empires, respectively), had legal regimes that constituted blackness as a debased category equivalent to enslavement. But 150 years later, by the mid-19th century, the social implications of blackness in each of these regions were fundamentally different.
In Cuba in the 1850s, a free man of color could marry a white woman, attend public school, and participate in a religious association that gave him opportunities to be part of public life. But, in 1850s Louisiana or Virginia, a free man of color saw his churches and schools being shut down, faced prosecution for marrying across the color line, and ran the risk of being kidnapped, imprisoned, and even re-enslaved for remaining in the state in which he was born.
In Louisiana or Virginia, when a person sought to prove in court that he was not a person of color, he would bring evidence of civic acts, because citizenship and whiteness were so closely linked in political thought and legal doctrine that a citizen must be a white man, and only a white man could be a citizen. In Cuba, similar conduct was not necessarily incompatible with blackness.
The key to understanding these divergent trajectories lies in the law of freedom. Different approaches to freedom were rooted in various legal traditions. The right to manumission, for example, was firmly entrenched in the Spanish law of slavery, and so in Cuba manumission, or release from slavery, was not tied to race, a crucial difference from both Louisiana and Virginia.
- Adrienne LaFrance writes an important story about the rise of conspiracy theories, like QAnon, which are increasingly detached from reality:
Shortly after Trump’s election, as Pizzagate roared across the internet, Welch started binge-watching conspiracy-theory videos on YouTube. He tried to recruit help from at least two people to carry out a vigilante raid, texting them about his desire to sacrifice “the lives of a few for the lives of many” and to fight “a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard.” When Welch finally found himself inside the restaurant and understood that Comet Ping Pong was just a pizza shop, he set down his firearms, walked out the door, and surrendered to police, who had by then secured the perimeter. “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” Welch told The New York Times after his arrest.
Welch seems to have sincerely believed that children were being held at Comet Ping Pong. His family and friends wrote letters to the judge on his behalf, describing him as a dedicated father, a devout Christian, and a man who went out of his way to care for others. Welch had trained as a volunteer firefighter. He had gone on an earthquake-response mission to Haiti with the local Baptist Men’s Association. A friend from his church wrote, “He exhibits the actions of a person who strives to learn biblical truth and apply it.” Welch himself expressed what seemed like genuine remorse, saying in a handwritten note submitted to the judge by his lawyers: “It was never my intention to harm or frighten innocent lives, but I realize now just how foolish and reckless my decision was.” He was sentenced to four years in prison.
- André Leon Talley’s new book gets reviewed by someone who knows the industry (Vanessa Friedman) and there’s this interesting detail about Anna Wintour:
Not long after the first excerpts from Mr. Talley’s book appeared, the designer Ralph Rucci posted his own screed against Ms. Wintour on Instagram, promising, “I have been working on all the evil memories” and “I will write about what I had to contend with concerning this very, very meaningless person.”
Meanwhile, the current issue of the French fashion magazine Dull contains an interview with Flavien Juan Nunez, one of the winners of the 2014 LVMH Prize for fashion design school graduates, who spent a year at Dior — and who suggests in the piece that the luxury behemoth only hired him to plumb his knowledge about his previous employer, Hermès.
The previously disenfranchised and disgruntled are no longer holding their tongues (or pens). If I were a fashion power player, I’d be biting my nails. Because odds are Mr. Talley is about to be a trendsetter once more.
- A new website helps you explore short Canadian films about isolation. Most of the films are only two to four minutes long.
- One Instagram account is documenting the social distancing measures being enforced in Singapore through various tape arrangements. It’s quite interesting:
- Marg Yeo wrote this on FB this week and it’s quite funny:
Papa John is giving a tour of his gigantic gaudy mansion on TikTok