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Untitled: The Movie

It’s perhaps unsurprising, given the inflated heights to which it has recently risen, that filmmakers would be attracted to the comedic aspects of the contemporary art world.

Martin Creed, Work No. 227 Lights going on and off, 2000. 5 seconds on / 5 seconds off
Image: tate.org.uk

In New York last weekend we saw the film Untitled, which offers an interesting glimpse into this world – Chelsea in Manhattan, to be precise.

Click HERE for the plot synopsis and to view the trailer. It’s a decent film, best for its perceptive assessment of the characters that fill this world, their desire to succeed and their utter conviction in quite empty ideas.

The cast of familiar characters includes a Damien Hirst-like British badboy artist whose taxidermy animals draped in jewels bear an unfortunate resemblance to David Altmejd’s work. There’s also a neo-minimalist whose work seems a blend of Martin Creed and Tom Friedman, all post-it notes and thumbtacks. While installing his show, he spends hours agonizing over the correct placement of the thumbtack, befoer stiing down to sign certificates of authenticity.

Tom Friedman, Untitled (Polystyrene Tower), 1996. Image: artsjournal.com

The protagonist is a conceptual sound artist whose signature work includes the rarified act of kicking a can. His brother – a painter – makes work that sells so well that it supports the gallery, but it’s deemed too ‘commercial’ so it’s sold out of sight, in the back room.

The collector character is a perfectly pitched caricature of a 40-something man with much money and little taste (or self-confidence) who shows up at an opening in gold zip-up jacket and rhinestone eyeglasses. Which is more sad than funny, since so many of this exact type exist on the art fair circuit.

Damien Hirst, The Tranquillity Of Solitude (For George Dyer). Image: dailymail.co.uk

Hearing the dealer convince this poor guy to buy work that is “about everything…..and nothing” is hilarious, and spot on. Hearing the collector then lamely try to convince a girl what his collection is about, is just sad and speaks volumes about the market. It’s not a good look for the New York art world today.

Oh and the score that Variety calls “brilliant” is by leading new music composer and Pulitzer winner David Lang.

One Response to “Untitled: The Movie”

  1. Rando says:

    Great review of the film, Andrea. I’m looking forward to seeing it. I find it funny how everyone in the art world loves to make fun of all the pretentious people and irrelevant art yet those same people don’t realize they are just as guilty of the pretentious irrelevance themselves. (Myself included, I fear.) I remember learning when I was younger that the things people often hate most in other people are exactly the negative traits they see in themselves…

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