“Everyone is terrified,” art dealer Paula Cooper dramatically claimed last June as she promoted her quadrenial Obama-fest for artists.
“Everyone” for Cooper translates to perhaps 150-200 American artists heavily promoted in the New York and Los Angeles art scenes. What terrifies them is a matter for conjecture, but I wouldn’t frazzle too many neurons trying to figure it out; it’s pretty obvious.
The left side of the art world (the part getting all the press, so you will be hearing about it) is daubing on the war paint, making videos and planning lots of absolutely fabulous cocktail parties in preparation for the 2012 election. Four years of abysmal failure by their patron-in-chief brought some detrition and a bit of murmuring in the ranks but no real public mutiny … yet.
One artist who produced several striking posters promoting Obama in 2008 spoke of his disappointment and angrily asked me to not bring it up again when I questioned him about it last year.
I wouldn’t want to discuss it if I were him either, as Obama veered 180 degrees off his campaign promises (such as bringing peace to earth and using his personal superpowers). The lone fulfilled exception was his extravagant promotion of homosexuals in the military, marriage and government, which was hailed with much fanfare and loud cheering at Ms. Cooper’s bash. There has to be some rationalization for happily forking out $1,000 to $35,800 per person to make up what Obama has not been able to wrest from public agencies.
At the “Artists and writers for Obama” event, writer Jonathan Franzen read a short story (short on originality and relevance), which yet again attacked George Bush, to wild applause. This group seems to suffer from a mass Bush compulsive-obsession that they can’t quite let go, but it keeps them from having to speak on current reality, which must be helpful for their cause. The meeting was an art-world version of a locker room speech; Cooper also enlisted the sexually helpless law-student Sandra Fluke as their cheerleader for some inscrutable reason.
Attendees like Cindy Sherman, Toni Morrison, Richard Serra, Frank Stella, Salmon Rushdie and various museum administrators, art collectors and politicians scarcely represent the fabled “99 percent” either economically or ideologically. They do boast a cozy working relationship with the government of the United States, however, since at least 2008 and perhaps earlier, through repeat funding of their projects by national and state sponsored institutions. This symbiosis applies to most museums reps and individual artists in attendance, and the entire event could just as well be a union meeting. How can liberal artists keep up the pretense that supporting Obama serves any true ideological purpose when the bottom line is self-promotion and financial gain?
The hoped-for return to the White House by the (literal) poster boy is strewn with roses, cash and performances from New York artists and Hollywood’s stars. They began in earnest last spring when singer Ricky Martin and the LGBT Leadership Council hosted a fundraiser with and for Obama at New York’s Rubin Museum of Art. Guests, including Barbara Streisand, paid $5,000 to $40,000 a plate and Obama walked away with $15 million. As art has a way of imitating life, Martin has recently become a Spanish citizen and is in the middle of a successful run playing darling of the left, Che Guevara, on Broadway.
The actual asking price for art celebrating Obama is exponentially higher than in 2008. For instance, four years ago, Shepard Fairey’s iconic “Change” poster in limited edition of 5,000 sold for only $70, and other artists averaged about $200 for prints/posters. Prices for Obama art 2012 are in another class entirely.
“Artists for Obama” is the collective work of 19, big-name artists who created prints and other items as a fundraising tool. Richard Serra, John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, Claes Odenburg and others offer their work for a $28,000 donation to the Obama campaign. America’s tinsel town aristocracy is standing in line with checkbook in hand waiting for the next photo-op with the president. Isn’t it wonderful?
Actor George Clooney hosted an opening event in May that netted about $15 million for the prez and another took place on Sept. 13 in Los Angeles. As long as someone in America has money for a movie ticket, Obama will never have to worry about running out of film stars, groupies or funds.
The 2012 elections began with a somewhat subdued and much poorer world as a result of the president’s own policies. A few liberal artists seem to have actually taken note of that, and Obama has lost some support in the art world, but apparently not much. The White House has masterfully courted and flattered the media and “intelligentsia,” which in turn have prostituted themselves as propaganda machines for this administration. It’s an old trick skillfully used by the likes of Juan Peron, Simon Bolivar and more recently Bill Clinton – but it’s still working.
Under Obama’s watch in 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which provide funding for U.S. art and culture, were whacked with an 11.2 percent spending cut, the largest cut in the history of those institutions.
Cutting the NEA is the theoretical boogieman, the unforgivable sin and the constant terror threat from those anti-art Republicans, according to official leftist dogma. When Obama deals them a crippling blow, nary a blip registers on their little discontent-o-meters, and he retains their unquestioned and unearned loyalty. Why? None of these facts has even slowed down the steady vomitus of misinformation and histrionics that passes for news from the left on the politics of art.
Artist Chuck Close, who currently serves on the president’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities, along with 30 other private members is adamant about the necessity of keeping Obama in office. He doesn’t actually give a reasons or an example but insists that because of the current fiscal austerity Obama “must be re-elected.”
Close is a wonderful painter who seems to have little understanding of economics and perhaps cause and effect. The man he answers to is the same one who engineered the nation’s economy catastrophically downhill, but Close loyally believes he will be “the one” to pull us out.
Artists probably suffer the effects of a bad economy faster than others, as art is considered a “luxury’ market. Does Close and the committee have a survival plan in place for the artists he ostensibly represents if the economy totally collapses? I’d like to hear about it.
A smooth operator if nothing else, Obama is shining up his tarnished image by making some last-minute adjustments and reversals in policy. Next year’s proposed budget has a modest increase of 5 percent for the arts … for Americans. Not surprisingly, a lot of the funds are for foreign artists and outreaches, as Mr. Globalist increased the State Department’s budget for “cultural diplomacy” by 40 percent and set aside money for art projects in 15 other nations.
Incidentally, Salman Rushdie’s show of support for Obama last June has an interesting post-script. After more than 20 years in hiding for his life from Islamic extremists and their death threats, things had calmed down a bit for him (apparently so many fatwas, so little time for today’s terrorists). Rushdie publicized his attendance before Cooper’s event, which I thought a little odd.
Also baffling is his support for the first U.S. president to make an effort to legitimize and befriend the regime that wants him dead; but ideology is nothing if not sacrificial. This reminder of Rushdie’s continued existence and the need for new riot-inspiring material may have earned him an officially recycled fatwa by the Ayatollah Saeni. Iran also raised the reward for killing him by $500,000, as even terrorists have to consider inflation.
Coming soon … an (unfortunately much shorter) article on politically outspoken, conservative artists and artists who openly support Romney.