As a blogger I get sent several press releases a day for upcoming exhibitions, from the weird to the wonderful and everything in between. Although 95% of it doesn’t hold my interest, once in a while something stands out. The press release for the upcoming exhibition at Gallery 138 in New York of photographs and videos by Clark Winter entitled The Wonder of it All stopped me dead in my tracks.
I knew nothing about Clark Winter, but discovered that he is a global investment advisor, a TV pundit, an art world mover and shaker (he serves on the Committee on Photography at the Museum of Modern Art), as well as a photographer and an “artist”. The release tells us that “in his photographs and videos (…) patterns appear, information is collected, everything is experienced; nothing is explained (…) Something’s coming, and you don’t know what it is.” It would seem that Winter leaves the explaining to his day job and let’s the invisible hand of chance govern his artistic endeavours. From the visuals I got my hands on, his photographs seem to be as random as the above press statement: snapshots taken in hotel lobbies, airports and assorted ‘exotic’ locations. Winter travels a lot and rubs shoulders with the powerful and famous, but is also capable of photographing the totally banal… a toaster, some flowers, a field. All of this is then thrown together in 3×3 grids where the mundane rubs shoulders with the “extraordinary things he has seen while travelling as a global financial advisor” and where the former comes out comfortably on top. In one self-portrait, Winter appears with electrodes attached to his head, suggesting his deep connection to these many complex layers of our planet, or perhaps simply to suggest the powerful brain that lies within it.
Of course I haven’t seen and won’t be able to see The Wonder of it All and this may simply be a case of overblown PR, but to me this feels incredibly misguided. Could there be a worse time to put together an exhibition that reveals “the private world of high finance” by giving us “access to things that are unavailable to ordinary travlers (sic)”? The idea that a man who certainly has a deeper understanding than most of global economics, finance and the powers that be and is clearly very successful in his field, could somehow translate this into a visual form with a series of off-the-cuff photographs, strikes me as a little overambitious, if not downright pretentious.
The exhibition is part of a series exploring the relationship between art and finance, something that is extremely pertinent at this moment in time. There is a lot that is wrong with both worlds and an exploration of how they influence and affect each other could make an interesting exhibition. But surely this is something that requires more than the contents of a powerful man’s iPhone camera roll. I don’t write blogposts that frequently and writing a critique of this exhibition may have been unnecessary, a waste of your and my time. However, I can’t help feeling that in a way this exhibition is insulting to people who are actually devoting themselves to making art. The idea that it is this easy suggests that the relationship between art and finance is a lot more twisted than I thought.
If anyone does actually manage to see The Wonder of it All I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts. However, I am concerned that for someone who cites Picasso and Piero della Francesca as influences, it may be difficult to live up to such lofty expectations.
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