Thursday, October 25, 2007

Cremaster 2 On Sale at Sotheby's New York

Here's a rare chance to own one of Matthew Barney's Cremaster films. Sotheby's will be auctioning Barney's Cremaster 2 in their evening sale on November 14 in New York. The winning bidder will receive not only a DVD of the film, but also a custom vitrine and DVD case made from hand-tooled saddle leather, sterling silver, polycarbonate honeycomb, beeswax, acrylic and nutmeg. Sotheby's estimates the artwork will sell for $500,000—700,000.

Matthew Barney in W Magazine

The current issue of W Magazine (subtitled The Art Issue) has a photo essay by curator Neville Wakefield documenting a five-month transatlantic ocean voyage he, Matthew Barney, and a four-man crew made last winter (Yes, that's Matthew puking his guts out above) from Gibralter to New York City.

Wakefield writes, "Setting sail from Gibralter we passed through the straights and, taking advantage of prevailing winds, headed in a southwesterly direction via the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands before crossing to Barbados and ultimately on to New York. In the unfamiliar conditions of constant instability, the simplest tasks became problematic and facilities taken for granted are taken away. These experiences were common to all. But it was in a series of actions and drawings made by Matthew along the way that they found their most vivid realization."

The article reproduces a number of the drawings Barney made on the trip, including some drawn using fish and others made while encumbered by various restraints. I've posted some of the best photos of Barney from the magazine, others are online at

Monday, October 15, 2007

Matthew Barney Interpretive Content Study: "Waste of Brain Cells" vs. "A Great Experience"

Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint exhibtion at the SFMOMA was largely devoid of explanatory wall texts. However, visitors wishing to learn more about the symbolism in Barney's work could access a broad spectrum of information in the multimedia "Learning Lounge" attached to the exhibtion or listen to an audio guide on their cell phone or ipod (or rent the museum's audio guide for $3).

Randi Korn & Associates produced a detailed evaluation of museum-goers' use of interpretive media at Barney's exhibition, which is presented online in the paper Gaining Traction in the Vaseline: Visitor Response to a Multi-Track Interpretation Design for Matthew Barney: DRAWING RESTRAINT.

The graph above, "shows the discrepancy between those arriving in the galleries already familiar with Barney and his work and those who have had no prior exposure; furthermore, it tracks members of these two groups as they use more and more interpretive offerings. Let’s call them initiates and non-initiates, with full cognizance of the ‘art world insider’ implications of those terms. Non-initiates who did not avail themselves of any resources left the show feeling ripped off. They rated it 2.6 out of 7, and their comments were on the order of, “Don’t go,” “”Don’t bother,” “Waste of brain cells,” and “It’s good for the loony people who like things that look like garbage on a polished wood floor.” But as soon as they used even one or two resources, their rating of the exhibition as a whole rose significantly, to an attitudinally neutral 4. They saw that something intelligent was going on that they could respect, even if they didn’t fully get it or connect. Their comments were more on the order of, “Due to lack of comprehension/ meaning/purpose of the work I was a little lost” or “I haven’t listened to the audio tour yet so I don’t really feel I get it all but I know that if I put effort into it, it would become more meaningful.” There is the sense of a cosmos in these remarks, of something to understand.

As these uninitiated visitors used three or four resources, they got initiated. A cognitive psychologist would say they got scaffolding. That doesn’t mean they came away liking everything they saw, but their exhibition rating rose commensurately, to 4.6. By the time they used five-plus resources, they were immersed in Barney’s mythic world, and rated the exhibition at 5.4, a level of stimulated satisfaction. They made comments like: “A great experience to learn more about the artist” and “Do the free cell phone tour – it gives good context and you get to hear from the artist.” The net gain with interpretive offerings was from 2.6 to 5.4 – more than doubling of the rating, and more importantly, an index of real engagement. (Of course with Barney fans, the gain is smaller – from 5.6 to 6.1 – but the numbers who use multiple offerings are significant.)"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Matthew Barney: The Early Years

Gallerist Althea Viafora-Kress recently sent us a link to this wonderful web page documenting Barney's work in two group shows held at her gallery in 1990. Barney had just graduated from Yale and was recommended to the gallery by David von Schlegal, the head of Yale’s MFA sculpture department. The gallery's web site has some very interesting documentation of these shows -- here are a few choice items (you may need to click through the image links to view at full size if you want to read them):

First is the original consignment form for Drawing Restraint II (documents) in the Group Drawing Exhibition. You could have bought Barney's piece for only $2,000!!!

Here is Roberta Smith's New York Times review of the exhibtion -- probably the first published review of Barney's work.

These are notes taken by gallery staff on the day Barney installed Field Dressing (orifill): Docu/fragments in his second exhibition at the gallery in 1990. Below are two pages of notes on hypertrophy given to the gallery by Barney before the exhibition of Drawing Restraint II

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Martin Sastre at Momenta Art, Brooklyn

Madrid-based, Uruguyan-born artist Martin Sastre will be showing two new videos involving Matthew Barney at Momenta Art in Brooklyn, NY, from October 12 - November 12.

The first video, Bolivia 3: Confederation Next, is a science fiction adventure set in the year 2876 when South America has united and the United States no longer exists. Sastre portrays an underdog hero battling an evil empire embodied by Matthew Barney. The other video is an invitation from Sastre's grandmother to Matthew Barney and Björk to spend a traditional Uruguayan Christmas with her and her 6 children and 13 grandchildren. This video will be posted on YouTube as an open letter to Mr. and Mrs. Barney.