The Late Movies: The Mona Lisa Curse

Chris Higgins

Tonight, a documentary in twelve parts about how money has ruined art. Well, it's a bit more nuanced than that, but let's just say this is a scathing critique of the current state of the art world, and it comes from Robert Hughes, a former TIME magazine art critic, who has seen a lot. He's a cranky old bastard, and what he has to say about art is fascinating, partly because he is so thoroughly convinced that he's right. My favorite quote from the documentary:

Apart from drugs, art is the biggest unregulated market in the world, with contemporary art sales estimated at around $18 billion a year, boosted by regimens of new-rich collectors and serviced by a growing army of advisors, dealers and auctioneers. As Andy Warhol once observed, "Good business is the best art."

If the first minute (featuring a diamond-encrusted skull) doesn't fascinate you, you're not gonna dig this. But if you find the first bit compelling, the rest just gets better. If you stick around for Part 11, you can see Hughes berating a collector for his lack of knowledge about the art the collector himself owns. It's epic, and uncomfortable, and crotchety in the extreme.

Hughes really gets cranking when he interviews Alberto Mugrabi. Scathing in the extreme. Speaking about a Damian Hirst sculpture owned by Mugrabi: "Isn't it a miracle what so much money and so little ability can produce? Just extraordinary. ... So much of art has just become a kind of cruddy game for the self-aggrandizement for the rich and the ignorant."

(Via Brain Pickings.)