The Greatest Villain of the Art World

“Who is the art world’s greatest villain?” was Nayland Blake‘s question to the Class of 2014 during last week’s Graduate Seminar.

From challenging the existence of a villain at all, to psychological malaises and whale killing, click-through to see the responses of Kathy Akey, Laura A González, Kasia Gumpert, Marina Leybishkis, Xavier Luján, Emilie Lundstrøm, Nina Méndez-Martí, Juana Romero, Aline Shkurovich, Kory Trolio, and Kim Weston.


I don’t really believe in villains.


Saturday morning I had a breakdown because I am struggling to maintain balance in my life. My poor boyfriend.

When we left to run errands, my rear tire came off and the majority of my lugnuts were missing.

We got the wheel back on and the tires secure enough to drive 10 miles per hour to Pep Boys, where I found the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro model car that I had left the house for in the first place. I picked up windshield wipers and air-freshners.

Tim said, “Now, thank the universe.”

The whole ordeal cost me $87. I never lost my cool.


Impatience is a problem. There is this speed at which the art world wants to see new ideas, a rapid-fire of exponentially more stunning, shocking, innovative work that is hoped and pressured for by the art consumer en masse. This compels artists themselves to hurry, to produce rapidly and with haste, and therefore, in my opinion, to produce less quality work and trend towards gimmick. It’s a vicious cycle of devouring fluff work, quickly losing interest, and then demanding more/new/different. Artists respond to the pressure and time crunch, pumping out low-effort/high volume work to satisfy the demand (and I feel they are especially keen to participate in this cycle because they, too, are impatient for fame, recognition, and success). Of course this is not necessarily a majority, but it is a trend that certainly exists within the art world, and one that makes up a fair amount of the art market.



A tunnel with no entrance or exit. Words flowing around without meaning, thoughts that one cannot catch–too fast …  art world Vs “art world” Vs Art World, good Vs evil,  positive Vs negative, mind –>mirror –> reflections –> reality? Creator? Villain? Creator must be a villain?

Creator must be a villain. To violate, to destroy, to rebel–norm, norm?




Those lucky bastards… the athletes. When they panic, when their legs shake, they hallucinate and are sure they can go on, so close to the end of the race, they have an energy and a Gatorade. Voila! Glucose leveled, moving on.

I write, cross out, write, cross, start over. Tear the page. ooooonnnnnnnnneeeeeee leeeeeeeteeeeeer and the next, nope, doesn’t work. I’m starving a full belly will clear the mind, ah much better. Now write. Wait, what? What was that great idea i was just thinking about. Shit it ain´t working. I’m gonna take a walk. Now get staff done. I´m sweating, this ain´t good. I’m sure is something serious. I have a headache, my vision is blurred, there’s the high pitch shriek in my ear again. Ask Google: i knew it is a brain tumor. Immediately call the doctor for an appointment, a minute later I call to cancel, it ain´t no brain tumor. I remember my breathing exercises and where to press in the palm of my hand to ease the headache, I’m just a bit nervous that’s all. Check the calendar, when is the deadline? Fuck that’s not enough time. Is it even worth trying? I contemplate suicide. My boyfriend calls. I forget all about those horrible intentions, life is good. I write again. Cross out. Is pointless…

This total lack of possibility, this hopeless, merciless despair that most if nota all artist have experience at least once in their life. Total blackout. Lack of emotions and diverted stream of consciousness. Lack of inspiration. No muse.

B L O C K A G E : the greatest villain of the art world.


Einstürzende Neubauten - Youme & Meyou


BANKSY: “I am proud to be the Art Terrorist” – The Greatest Villain of the Art World


I have been interested in street art and land art for the past couple of years now. It shook me, with it’s simple mission of bringing art to the outside or the everyday space; making it available and visible to everyone. Contrary to “established art”; Street art has a short life-span. The ephemeral quality of this type of art, in my opinion, adds to it’s beauty…And it’s need to be documented-an interesting and essential quality that makes me want to start mixing my own art and land art – to take my art into the public space, and see how it changes. I believe one of the most successful artist in street art is Banksy.

Back in September when I moved to New York, my roommate and I spent good amount of our energy in putting our home the way we wanted. My British obsessed roommate and best friend, Liz; had around 5 Banksy prints that she asked me if we could put up.  I already knew about Banksy, but after all he’s in my home now, so I must know more. After researching quite a bit and watching his outstanding documentary Exit through the Gift Shop, I fell in love with a faceless artist. Let’s now say that I actually would love to go on a Valentines Day date with him- and what would we do? Obviously, just go out into the streets and make some art. After all, I have been thinking about my work in terms of public space, time and it’s temporary or ephemeral quality – I would love to put my photographs outside…on the ground in the streets, on murals, on brick walls, a small photo embedded into a wall or a sign….well, you get it, the ideas are endless. Now back to Banksy.

According to Wikipedia, Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humor with graffiti done in a distinctive stenciling technique. Such artistic works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world

I think Banksy is a great art villain because his work and identity, are famous for their uncertainty. The artist refuses to be identified, which I think starts an important conversation about the importance of the identity of the artist. For example, the usage of signatures-For Banksy, his aesthetic style and his strong social commentaries have become his signature. Even his installation pieces such as the April 2006, sculpture based on a crumpled red phone box with a pickaxe in its side,  apparently bleeding, and placed it in a street in Soho, London; where onlookers spotted it as a signature Banksy.

I love the mission of Art is for everyone, the ideal that art does not only belong in galleries and museums. It can be out there everyday, functioning around us and in between all of us.

Banksy held an exhibition called Barely Legal in an abandoned warehouse in Los Angeles, California – referred to as a “three-day vandalized warehouse extravaganza”, on the weekend of September 16, 2006. The exhibition featured a live “elephant in the room” painted in a pink and gold floral wallpaper pattern, which, according to leaflets handed out at the exhibition, was supposed to draw attention to the issue of issues in life that are so evident and big, but for some reason we still seem to ignore it or as Banksy’s representation, to camouflage it (for example: isssues such as world poverty).

Banksy, often called the Art Terrorist, put this title to the test when in 2005, he installed four pieces in New York’s most prestigious museums – The Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Natural History

An artist that imposes their art on a museum.

An artist that criticizes the Art Authorities and Entities.

An artist that pushes the boundaries of sociopolitical commentary.

An artist that uses his art to impose his ideas into urban life.

An artist that refuses to be physically recognized.

An artist that questions the importance of Art organizations.

Art artist that questions his own existence and ours.

An artist that makes the ugly things in life seem beautiful, at the same time as startling – so much so that they stick with you.

An artist that shakes the very foundation of art.

Banksy’s images affect you – subconsciously, socially, physically, mentally, politically and so it goes…And for me personally, Banksy’s images say much more and scream louder than any word.

It is a certain type of passive aggressiveness he accomplishes in his art that makes him a true lovable Art Villain.

Extra Note: There is this phrase called “the Banksy effect,” which illustrates how interest in other street artists was growing on the back of Banksy’s success. (Example: Banksy’s former videographer, Thierry Guetta who later became Mr. Brainwash, a now known street and pop artist (Questionable) – Must Watch: Banksy’s Film nominated for the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for Best Documentary Film Exit through the Gift Shop .


Skærmbillede 2013-02-13 kl. 22.49.29

Self Sabotage. Anything that prevents art from getting made is a threat to the art world, especially if it’s artists themselves.

Illustration is from Efrem Palacios.


A blood red sea, dark floating killed, bleeding bodies – dolphin bodies – my favourite animal since as long back as I remember. Seeing photos of slaughtered dolphins horrified me. Slaughtering dolphins is an act of cruelty, an act of wickedness – it is a crime and as such an act performed by a villain. I have absolutely no capacity as a human being and an animal rights person to understand, perceive and digest such murdering, performed for capitalistic purposes.

Skærmbillede 2013-02-13 kl. 21.05.51

To me the worst villain is a person who kills because of money – hidden in this money becomes the worst villain – encapsulated in any act made for the purpose of money.



When I exercised (and not just immediately answered) the act of breaking down the question Nayland Blake posed to us: “Who is the Art World’s Greatest Villain,” once I got over the initial reaction aka “Oh man, people? a mean instigator? a greedy gallerist? Good Art versus Bad Art?” I re-directed my attention to the actual understanding and definition of Villain (one too many times we –me– attach absolute definitions to one word, and we fail to move forward from that initial -easy- conclusion).

Villain. I’m not gonna do that thing where you look it up in and then copy-paste the definition to your blog post including it’s Latin root and phonetic pronunciation.

What I know about a Villain is that it is mischievous, troubling, damaging. It wants to cause harm, and if it is not stopped, it will continue its path of destruction (herein I will include a copy-paste of some synonyms -not definitions- of the word “Mischief” found on -not because I am interested in two particular ones for the purpose of my post: “atrocity, catastrophe, devilment, devilry, dirty trick, evil, fault, friskiness, frolicsomeness,” etc. I’ll end the selection right there, with frolicsomeness.

I am interested in the words atrocity and catastrophe because, after the simplistic reaction of thinking about people in order to adhere a defining, or definite, or absolute meaning about them (and then shooting yourself in the foot by calling someone out. He who is without sincast the first rock!), acknowledging that there cannot be such unilateral reading (the Mean Instigator is mean, but successful! because he/she inspires sentiments that are akin to their intention; the “Greedy” Gallerist may be greedy, but successful! because he/she kept the gallery running by making a bunch of money -and creating jobs, go economy!).

I decided to think about what would actually be atrocious, and catastrophic, and ultimately devilish and villainious (made that word up) to the art world. Something that would strike a blow, and that the art world would have to fend off, or heal its wounds after a stab. SO MY CHOICE FOR AMERICA’S NEXT TOP ART WORLD VILLAIN(S) ARE:


A timely choice, because of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. Remember getting those Gallery Update e-mails from Chelsea saying we hope you’re all okay, we are too, we were hit by Sandy and suffered, but we will recover? Shit got fucked. Shitfucked. Some artwork was lost for good. This might be the most accurate -or perhaps straightforward- way of addressing the question “Who’s the greatest villain” as in, who has caused -and can cause- most damage.

So that’s that. Now there’s the aftermath. On February 12 PowerHouse Arena is opening a show called SANDY: Devastation, Document, Drive. As per their site: “at the reception, attendees will be able to remove photographs from the Arena walls for a suggested donation of $5 per photograph. Proceeds will benefit artists receiving funds through the New York Foundation for the Arts Emergency Relief Fund.” So this drew itself as a conflicting Venn diagram for me:


Which clearly is totally coming out of me reading Sekula’s relentless critique of the bourgeois-artist-lifestyle in “Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary” earlier this morning (thank you! Education!) (by the way this was written in 1976). So I’m like… ok when kids apply to school, there are specific scholarships for Hispanics, and for African-Americans, and for etc. etc. And that’s great. If Hurricane Sandy prompted Ford Motors to start a relief fund for people working for Ford Motors, that’s fine, correct? Because the relief fund is to reliefhardship, pain, your house floating the fuck away. PowerHouse Arena’s show’s profits are going to NYFA which then distributes the donations to artists that apply for money grants to re-start what they lost during the hurricane. So it places the art, artwork, art practice, or the art materials at a pretty high level in the spectrum of emergency need? Like diapers, clorox, and protein bars?

So floor’s open for questions. Talk amongst yourselves (and to me, please).


A NYC Villain
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani put together a “decency commission” of twenty members during his term as mayor in the ’90. The goal was to review the work of various artist in the New City area and police their moral content and value. His intension was to have the commission deem the works of art as offensive to various religious groups.  If the commission found the work of the artist offensive, the city would withdraw all funding to city funded art organization that supported the artist. At one point, Giuliani threaten the eviction of the Brooklyn Museum of Art for exhibiting Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary”. The work in questioned was of a black Virgin Mary surrounded by sexual collaged images overlaid with elephant dung.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also attacked Renée Cox’s “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” series. A nude photograph of Renée Cox’s  photographer) as a female black Jesus surround twelve black disciples.

The great villain in the art world, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.


Being the first time that I’m in Art school, I feel in a position where I find impossible to make a judgement about the greatest villain in the art world.

Since I don’t have the knowledge or the “balls” (I’m a girl) to participate in this discussion, I decided to look for an answer in the biggest pool of knowledge known until now. I logged into my Facebook account and found eager people that commented about my post The greatest villain in the art world…..ideas? I was surprised of how many people, from so many different disciplines had an answer. I was ashamed to see that I couldn’t come up with an opinion about the question, and therefore, decided to completely humiliate myself, and accept the reality of my ignorance about the topic.


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