02 August 2009

Why is This Not a Story About Art?

The attempted gerrymander continues. When we talk about "art" and "artists" we must do so as though they are unsullied - except, perhaps, when talking about "tortured" artists and their personal foibles and tribulations. We never, ever want to suggest that art is a business, let alone that it is - horrors! - thoroughly political. So, The New York Times runs three stories about Annie Leibovitz [1] [2] [3] in the course of two days. Each report deals with the intimate ways that Leibovitz's art is thoroughly entangled in business.

Leibovitz is a terrific photographer. No doubt about that. I even am willing to say that much of her work, although often done for commercial clients and contributing to the cult of celebrity that plagues us, is art. (But aren't such judgments political?) The thing to notice about the current episode is that the editors at The Times did not place a single one of these stories in the Arts section of the paper. That would require them, and us, to acknowledge in some explicit way that works of art - Leibovitz's portraits and the rights to them - are commodities and that, as such, they get entangled in all sorts of sordid legal and financial goings on.* You can't have that!
* This is not the first time I have noted indecorous topics in relation to Leibovitz and her work. In fact, I've commented here numerous times.



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