Thursday, December 19, 2013

The artist as monster

Large Interior, Notting Hill (1998)

Julian Barnes on Lucian Freud in the London Review of Books:

On Capri they show you the sheer cliff from which those who displeased the Emperor Tiberius were reportedly flung (though the Capresi, who call him by the softer name of Timberio, insist that the death toll was much exaggerated by muck-rakers like Suetonius). The court of Freud was similarly absolutist in its punishments: if you displeased him---by bad timekeeping, unprofessionalism, or disobedience to his will---you were tossed over the cliff. 

In the painting[above] which shows [Francis]Wyndham flaubertising in the foreground, the background originally held the figure of the model Jerry Hall breastfeeding her baby. She sat thus for several months, until one day she called in sick. When, a couple of days later, she was still unfit to pose, the enraged Freud painted over her face and inserted that of his long-time assistant David Dawson. But the baby had not caused offence, so was not painted out, with the result that a naked and strangely breasted Dawson is now seen feeding the child. Freud’s American dealer assumed the picture would be unsellable; it was bought by the first American client he showed it to...


Richard Florida's theories discredited

Richard Florida makes his pitch

Few purveyors of big ideas have as much riding on a single notion or catch phrase as Richard Florida does with the “creative class.” Florida’s idea of a group of highly mobile, Mac-toting professionals driving economic development has sold him a lot of books, spurred a lucrative speech-making and consulting career, and gotten him a well-paid perch at the University of Toronto. As important, it has given the admittedly status-conscious academic—previously, an anonymous professor in Pittsburgh—a kinship with the progressive elites that his theory affirmed. He is our premier celebrity urbanologist, whose home page features a clip of Bono mentioning him on a panel with Bill Clinton.

All of which explains the awkwardness of the current moment for Florida: His theories about how to boost city economies have, quite simply, been discredited. Rather than provide universal uplift, as he promised in his 2002 treatise, The Rise of the Creative Class, the clustering of high-earning professionals in areas rich in his “three T’s” of technology, talent, and tolerance has exposed inequalities both between and within cities. (Florida’s advice for low-wage service workers has been to find ways to “creatify” their work—unions or minimum wages were rarely mentioned.) 

And his ideas haven’t just failed on policy grounds; they’ve been rejected by voters as well, in places like Toronto, where Rob Ford rode a populist backlash against bike lanes and downtown arts initiatives to tabloid stardom, and New York, where Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory by running directly against the “luxury city” ideal of a mayor who explicitly echoed Florida. Ever since the economy fell apart, the creative class (which Florida defined loosely enough to include bankers along with Web designers) has come to look less like savior than culprit...

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