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February 14, 2007

Emerging Tastes

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

As power continues to slip from the hands of the media-and-art taste-dictators, what will emerge to take its place? An ever-expanding database of self-pleasing niche tastes? A roiling miasma of impossible-to-wade-through, glitzy crapola? A more flexible and service-oriented hierarchy than the absurd house of cards that's been imposed on us through recent decades? Or perhaps all that and more? Me, I'm making the safe bet and gambling on the last possibility.

My mind was sent off on this little joyride by a Brook Mason piece for the New York Sun. Mason reports that one of the hottest art genres in the auction-house world is dog art. Paintings, porcelains, and sculptures depicting pooches are hotter than ever; catalogues and books featuring the stuff are being published; and serious collectors of dog art have emerged.

A couple of interesting info-kibbles from Mason's good piece: According to one dealer, "portrayals of pointers, setters, and pugs command the highest prices"; and commissions for new portraits of pet dogs can run as high as $35,000.



posted by Michael at February 14, 2007


One thing you can't say is that dog portraits are vanity exercises. The pooch never knows its been painted. An oil painting would never be anywhere near as good as a milkbone biscuit. My guess is many of the $35,000 dog paintings would be better than the dopey portrait of George Washington Donald recently showed us.

I doubt the official hierarchy shall ever really respect the self-pleasing niches which emerge. The hierarchy really isn't into the masses engaging in self-pleasing at all, is it? I mean---their authority goes right out the window the minute people start trusting their own judgement. There will just be more of the niches, and fewer who are even aware there is a "hierarchy." I think its why people like dogs. Dogs are thoroughly unaware of the arts hierarchy and thoroughly in touch with their own self-pleasing niche. They know if their food is good (not expensive, just good) and they know which pillows they want to flake out on. Secretly, the slaves to the hierarchy probably envy them. But the hierarchy itself would not.

Posted by: annette on February 14, 2007 1:31 PM

Go to any of the larger dog show clusters - for example, Harrisburg, Louisville, Houston or Portland - and you'll always find vendors selling dog art and statuary.

My lovely bride, who has been breeding and showing Borzoi for over 35 years, is an enthusiatic collector of art in the breed. We've had a lifesize bronze head study done of our late matriarch Possum and a pen and ink portrait has recently been done on her grandson Sarge.

Because a well-bred dog is itself a work of art, fanciers have a better-developed sense of an ideal, or at least an aesthetically pleasing, representation of a particular breed. In our breed standard, Borzoi must "always possess unmistakable elegance, with flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose." That and the lines seen in the tremendous extension of the coursing dog provide the companion/function subjects of most dog art.

Show competition at the highest levels requires deep pockets, so not a few of the owners are quite well-heeled, capable and willing to pay top dollar for quality dog art.

Posted by: Greg Hlatky on February 14, 2007 2:11 PM

How do I say this diplomatically? The fact that a discredited taste making establishment leads straight to dog art indicates the need there will always be for a dictatorship of taste.

The fault is not in hierarchy nor in those on high who dictate stringent standards in matters aesthetic. Frankly, without such standards, the great unwashed, no matter how fat their wallets, are at a loss. The fault is a dearth of standards. My guess is that the core of the problem is a lack of courage. No one in the art/taste establishment, such as it is, is willing to stand up and say, "This is quality and that is trash," and stick to his guns.

As to how to fill the present absence on high? Beats me.

Posted by: ricpic on February 14, 2007 3:58 PM

Ricpic---LOL on calling it "dog art." OK. So its odd and tacky. Just like Elvis Art. "The absence of a hierarchy leading straight to dog art..." I guess we're all trailer trash at heart, if we don't have the Vanderbilts to lead the way...But this would in fact seem to contradict Michael's feelings about the NYTBR. It's like the NYTBR is all that is standing between us and the National Enquirer.

Posted by: annette on February 15, 2007 2:42 PM

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