The Fifth Column

  How must it feel to pimp for a slovenly whore, doped and ravaged and destroyed by her abductors, who was once the happiest, most innocent, most beautiful girl in town?

He is Baselitz, a name tuberose, not only acoustically, with dirty connotations. He is Germany’s foremost Modern artist. He is one of those who accepted the thirty pieces of silver and turned them into a heap of gold. He is a well-received guest at the London Royal Academy of Arts, which strikes you as odd since the Brits and the Krauts, never mind what they tell you in Brussels, regard each other warily. He is loved by the country’s foremost gazettes, like the FAZ, or the SZ, or the old pansy ZEIT. He can be found in Tate modern. He owns a Giant Schnauzer with a degree in psychology who handles his castration complex, the foremost source of his creative inspiration. He produces his masterpieces watching Big Brother on TV while reclining on a sofa next to a canvas previously splattered with an undisclosed amount of colours on which he diverts an occasional glance and then arranges artistically by means of an Italian bread roll using his left hand only. Once dry, he signs it with his illustrious name, waits until that one is dry as well, and hangs it up upside-down.

This, the upside-down, has made him famous.

Ever repentant Germany, foremost bastion of politically correct forces, where, rather en passant and widely unnoticed, book burnings and show trials have been reintroduced and hefty jail sentences are handed down to those who dare to insist on their constitutional rights and challenge the official credo, is an El Dorado for those in Modern art with the necessary connections. It is less so for the ordinary citizen, because here the crunch has shown its ugly claw as well, particularly since seventy percent of the country’s produce is earmarked for export and thus a recipe for disaster once the cash flow begins to stagger. The lawmakers and law enforcers feel uneasy as well, wondering in moments of quiet reflection if the hate laws they have so carelessly set afloat or applied might come back and bite them in the backside, once the hour of reckoning arrives. Like in Nuremberg not long ago. Or in London right now, where the country’s supreme PC warriors, though not their minders, are accused of invading Iraq without the faintest shred of legal support and causing the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders, while the folks at the International Court of Justice in Den Haag are popping their garters for fear of being saddled with a trove of their own kind.

As for the Baselitz’ meteoric ascent on the murky skies of Modern art, the usual machinations were set in motion. Among thousands of candidates, both academics or naturals, all waiting eagerly for a hint from the established Modern art Mafia, now and then one is chosen. Since he is, just like his many contenders, about as gifted as a bedbug, nobody with a sane mind would assume that considerations of artistic merit ever played a part. What counts is a rigorous talent for self-representation, unfettered by the smallest grain of aesthetics or ethics, an inborn and unlimited vulgarity, and the stated objective to be the most ruthless Judas Iscariot to the Fine Arts that ever set foot on our sacred earth. As to the operational level, it works more or less in the following way. One of the great Modern art dealers, a highly visible member of the afore mentioned Mafia, contacts a few of his highly invisible godfathers, strikes a deal, and the Baselitz (or anyone like him) is launched. Surprised by the sudden onslaught, goes the latter into high gear and produces twenty masterpieces a day, all of which fetch prices that increase breathtakingly fast. The press is informed, the usual dolls and pansies from the art section do their job and tell the astonished aficionado in exalted crap-art parlance what it is all about, and a new star is born. Next he has the so far unheard-of idea to present his work hanging upside-down, a clear sign of sublime genius if there ever was one, and prices go through the roof. Retrospections in the artist’s honour are arranged, Modern art sanctuaries like the Moma or Tate modern buy his crap, even the occasional sausage-and-ham manufacturer is impressed and lays out a sack of ill-gotten money for a slice of Baselitz.

Now all this isn’t obviously any news and serves only to cast a quick glance at the antics of Modern-art-Quislings who are either in direct league with the art Mafia or have sold their souls, if not to the Devil, then at least to one of the Mafia’s representatives. Which doesn’t make much of a difference in any case.

The antics in detail look like this.

Baselitz is perhaps best known for painting his motifs upside down as a strategy to free the subject matter from its content. (Royal Academy of Arts)

The act of turning his paintings upside down endows them with instant drama. (The Times, London)

His work is painted and displayed upside down to emphasize its surface rather than its subject matter. (Britannica Online Encyclopaedia)

Upside down is his way to liberate representation from content. (Gargosian Gallery)

The butcher-painter’s  upside-down paintings reinvented art. (Royal Academy of Arts)

In his paintings he describes the chaos from which order might, or might not come. (National Galleries of Scotland)

Baselitz’ main interest is the investigation of his emotional and artistic attitude towards his own work. (L. Ferrari)

Baselitz’ new watercolours are the perception of time as a ray stationed on a linear axis supported by the notion of there being a fixed, infinite future. (David Nolan)

Just a few examples of the most hilarious, dumbest, saddest travesty since the invention of letters. How is it humanly possible that an educated and intelligent person can write anything like this and still face him- or herself in a mirror? How must it feel to pimp for a slovenly whore, doped and ravaged and destroyed by her abductors, who was once the happiest, most innocent, most beautiful girl in town?

If I remember well, it was Germaine Greer in her callous and so revealing clobber of Robert Hughes who is, with some reservations, one of the few vertical men in the art business. Smart money, she called it. New York real estate tycoons who laid out ten million greenbacks at a Sotheby’s auction for a rotting old shark. Put there in the first place by an abominable creep called Hirst. Well, we know by now how that money was made. In fact, we knew it all along, but until recently did not dare to call a spade a spade for fear of being labelled racists. As for the poor shark, one can only presume that it was dropped immediately after arrival into the Hudson river where it caused considerable stink before disintegrating completely. Because it is simply inconceivable that someone can be so absolutely barbarous and keep something so absolutely hideous in his living room. Or is it?

My son, if he stands a chance against the many Third-World competitors, will soon enter one of Europe’s more hallowed Fine Art Academies. To avoid the Installations, Representations, Videolations, Fecalisations, all exhaustively underpinned by Marx, Gramsky, Adorno or Foucault, has he opted for Comics, with the possibility to develop a sound base in realistic drawing that might serve him well in case things get better and he decides one day to take up the torch. Not everybody is that lucky.

Take a young person who has absolved an academy, or studied History of Arts, or journalism. So many dreams, so many high expectations! Then comes the crude reality, namely the realization that nearly the entire art establishment, including academies, the press, the art councils and what not are controlled by a worldwide Mafia with a rigorous codex that allows no dissent. Which leaves only two choices: to be upright and brave and turn the back on the whole pandemonium and face an uncertain future, or to join the Fifth Column, that veritable thorn in our side, and accept smart money, mountains of it. And become willing helpers for a band of cultural barbarians who seem to lack any access to Beauty’s divine joy, and therefore hate it, and thus try to destroy what they can’t have.

If a present-day mammon acrobat can siphon billions from a given economy with impunity, it is an inspired guess that to him the hundred million bucks he lays out for one of Jackson Pollocks’ hogwash canvasses are only peanuts. The transaction, widely disseminated in the Wikipedia and similar agitprop annals as the highest price ever paid for a painting, is of course only another ruse to make us believe that hogwash art must necessarily be the logical continuation of our great Christian-European art, simply in view of the sum involved. A sum so astronomical and obscene that any hardworking citizen would need thousands of years to accumulate it. But it seems the ruse has backfired, even turned into an indictment. Because what once provoked only tired disgust, has now fired a cold anger.

Modern art #2 -- Observe and Ridicule

@pdvh:  I don't hear Mr. Colhaze advocating censorship or vandalism or price controls for the art market or the creation of a new bureaucracy charged with ensuring transparency in the valuation of, or in transactions involving, art objects.  He is engaging in criticism, which is essential to the development of art.  You are in agreement with him, pdvh, that a true artist will not imitate fashionable garbage.  To help the true artist identify himself and find his way, the critic should denounce fashionable garbage.


"To help the true artist identify himself and find his way, the critic should denounce fashionable garbage."

That would be true if there was an absolute concept of "fashionable garbage", quid none.
Whether something is garbage, is very personal. What is garbage to one person is not for the other. Even stronger: What was valuable for the young Peter, was far less valuable for the same Peter a few years later. There is no such thing as a unique “right way”. So we can’t help the artist to find his way. He will have to find it on his own. What we can do, however is to show our appreciation for what we like and try to describe why it touches us. If what he makes is genuine and honest, then it is worth making. If Spencer believes that naked bodies are helping to create beauty, then that’s just what he should do. And if you think it’s ugly and offensive then you should create art denouncing it and showing the true feelings you get by looking at it.

(Michael Colhaze did this by the way:
“To avoid the Installations, Representations, Videolations, Fecalisations,”
That’s art to me. I will not cite what is coming next, because that’s fashionable garbage to me.)


I don't agree there is no place for the art critic. First, if beauty is real, the critic can help people find and appreciate it, and by extension, help them avoid what is not beauty. Second, even if beauty is in some sense contingent on variables such as cultural background, education, and biochemistry, the critic can help people discover what appeals to them, and avoid what repels them. I doubt if young pdvh would have had the opportunity to appreciate dada if critics had not made a major affair of it, or that whatever has replaced dada in mature pdvh's personal pantheon was discovered by him alone in an unknown artist's studio, though that is possible. Critics have a role in guiding other people to truth, or if you don't accept the existence of truth, into more developed and consistent and well-founded opinions.

Now that there are billions of us on the earth, we need scouts going in all directions to find paths to the Good. Artists and critics and educators all serve that role, which includes eliminating paths to the Not Good. Look how useful, for example, Prof. Bertonneau has been to the Brussels Journal readership with his music, book, and movie recommendations! Though you might respond that he does not spend time discrediting works he thinks are inferior. But that may just be his personal taste. Different critics have different callings.

modern art

“This world-wide mafia” sounds like a big conspiracy behind the modern-art scene. That is of course ridiculous. I’m not contesting that there might be some speculation now and then, but I’m sure that’s only the case for very small portions of the art scenery. A lot of it is genuine. A lot of modern art will almost certainly not withstand the test of time, but then who said that it has to? If some people find themselves attracted to “art-statements” that denounce society by shocking, then let them. That’s what art is all about. Nobody says you’ve got to agree. When I was young, I found a lot of comfort in Dadaism. I’ve moved on since. I really do object this cry of furry about the existing art-scene, and there are two good reasons for this:


The first one is easy to formulate, as the author indicates it himself:   

“To be upright and brave and turn the back on the whole pandemonium and face an uncertain future”



In my opinion, this is the condition sine qua non to produce good art. Fine art stems from passion, and never sells its soul to possible buyers. Paradoxically if “the current state of modern art” is that bad, then it becomes the best soil for real art.


The second one is the fact that trying to regulate, censor, or adapt art to what is considered fashionable or in line with “the logical continuation of our great Christian-European art” would kill art at once.  You can’t catch and control the bird. It will die in its cell, and start a new live somewhere else.


If you don’t like what modern art produces, then don’t look at it. If you dislike the persons evolving in the scene, then ignore them. Do what you think is worth doing. After all, that’s what so many great artists did before you.


Re: Upside-down art

A REAL artist by the name of Cornelius Gijsbrechts did something similar, did it first and did it so much better. Don't believe it? (Image) Google the term 'Reverse side of a painting'.