Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Edward Goldman "in action" with curator Christine Duval at Arena 1 Gallery, Santa Monica Art Studios at Santa Monica Airport
For those of you who live on the west coast and follow art, you've probably heard Edward Goldman, KCRW's resident art critic, voicing his passionate opinions on the air. Formerly employed by the famed Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Edward has been a fixture on the L.A. art scene for over 25 years. His thick Russian accent sets him apart, but it's his fearlessness in speaking about the art world as he sees it, that makes him truly unique. I enjoyed meeting Edward recently so much that I thought you would too. Edward has graciously stopped by Trust Your Style today and I think you will find his take on art worth reading.
Gallery in the Hermitage Museum; photo courtesy Richard Nowitz—National Geographic/Getty Images
mj: Could you share a bit of your story about how you came to be involved in the art world, first in Russia, then here in Los Angeles.
edward: I had the good fortune to grow up in St. Petersburg, former capital of Imperial Russia, home of the famous Hermitage Museum. My parents took me there for my first visit when I was only four years old, and I got obsessed with Greek and Roman statues of the gods and goddesses and begged my parents to take me back to see these 'aunts and uncles'--the way children in Russia are expected to refer to adults. Since I arrived in LA thirty years ago, art continues to be the 'guiding light' in my life. I started by teaching at the Art Center College of Design; then I was running a gallery of Russian dissident art; later, I was guest curating exhibitions of contemporary art. For the last 25 years, I've been advising on building art collections for various corporate and private clients. And last but not least--my weekly 'Art Talk' on KCRW, the largest NPR-affiliated station on the west coast. I've been doing this program for almost 20 years.
mj: What are some of your favorite exhibitions or art pieces that you've seen recently? And do you have any all-time favorite shows?
Anselm Kiefer; Velimir Chlebnikow Schicksale der Volker (detail), 2007 Mixed media on board; Photo by Joshua White, courtesy Gagosian Gallery
edward: Hands down, it is the current show of the outstanding German artist Anselm Kiefer at Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills. His recent show at the Grand Palais, Paris was a huge success with both the public and the critics. A version of this show can be seen until the end of this week at Gagosian; the second part of the exhibition takes place in the First Baptist Church in Koreatown. I devoted a special Art Talk to this absolutely not-to-be-missed event. (Click here to read Edward's Art Talk).
My all-time favorite show here in LA would be the Max Beckmann exhibition which took place more than 20 years ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I had never heard before about this German expressionist artist, and the first time I saw the exhibition I hated his art, but somehow I couldn't get it out of my mind. Lucky for me, a friend dragged me to see it again, and this time I felt as if someone had taken the blinders off. I would describe Beckmann's art as beauty in disguise; it takes some effort to discover the treasures he offers in very unconventional ways.
mj: What is the most difficult aspect of your job and what gives you the greatest pleasure in what you do?
edward: The most difficult thing is the fact that there is so much art out there and so little time to see it all. It’s a great privilege to be able to inspire listeners of my radio program or participants of my art collecting seminars to experience art in all its life-affirming and enriching capacities.
mj: When you look back on your years covering the art scene, what are your favorite moments, your fondest memories, and what do you feel are your greatest accomplishments?
Richard Avedon poses before self-portraits; Photo/Kathy Willens, courtesy AP.
edward: My interview with Richard Avedon, who told me amazing stories about his fifty-year career as a photographer. It was probably one of the most amazing conversations I've ever had. I started by making an ass of myself, describing my favorite image of his, which turned out to be a famous photo made by Irving Penn. Can you imagine my horror at this moment? Then he gently corrected me, saying, "Edward, Irving Penn is my absolute hero, and I’ll take it as a great compliment that you think I could be the author of this photo." I cannot think of a more gracious way of helping get my foot out of my mouth.
It seems to me that as an art critic, I've been able to persuade many Angelinos that art merits more than a rare, perfunctory visit to a museum or a gallery; there are dozens of museums and hundreds of galleries in this city that provide a constant training ground for challenging yourself and discovering who you are. The wisdom and energy of art is there for everyone who is curious enough to experience it.
mj: Your passionate opinions and complete honesty have set you apart from most art writers. Have you ever regretted anything that you've said or written, or changed your mind after criticizing a show, or conversely praising one?
edward: As a critic, I do not believe in so-called "hatchet job" reviews. As my recent response to the Murakami show (Click here to read) at MOCA illustrates, I give him respect for his amazing success in the marketing of his artistic product, but I think of him as a hardworking, short-order cook in comparison to Andy Warhol, who was a really great 'chef' with amazing art recipes attached to his name.
mj: How do you see art, art shows, and the art-going public evolving in the next ten years? What kind of a part in this do you think Los Angeles will play?
edward: In the US, art used to be the subject of interest of mostly affluent and well-educated people, but in recent decades, with the opening of hundreds of new museums and many thousands of art galleries around the country, the interest in art among the general public has dramatically increased. A lot of new money created in the last decade has found its way into the art market, which has led to super-inflated prices, newspaper headlines, and competition between collectors and dealers for the works of students who have not even graduated from art school.
Los Angeles, with the highest concentration of the best art schools in the United States, has become the most important American city as far as the creation of contemporary art is concerned. Until the 1990s, it was expected that young artists, upon achieving some recognition, would move to New York to advance their career. Not anymore; in the last 15 years, artists from the East coast, Europe and Asia have been flocking to LA in record numbers. It's no surprise that in 2006, the Pompidou Centre in Paris celebrated Los Angeles with the ground-breaking exhibition "Los Angeles 1955-1985: The Birth of an Artistic Capital."
A new generation of smart collectors have been opening their hearts and wallets to the surprising variety of art produced here in the City of Angels.
mj: When you set out to teach people about collecting, what are the key ideas that you hope they will come away having learned?
edward: Last year, the New York Times published an article about the special seminars on The Fine Art of Art Collecting, that I conduct a few times each year (Click here to read). I don’t allow more than 20 people to join the group, because I want them to have a sense of camaraderie and adventure while traveling in a gypsy caravan of cars, visiting galleries, artist studios, museum exhibitions, and the homes of private collectors.
My intention is not to make people buy art, but to expose them to a wide variety of art that on occasion, surprises, perplexes, and takes them out of their comfort zone. Collecting art should not be about buying trophies for your walls. I see it as a delightful process full of learning, discovery, making occasional mistakes, meeting interesting people, keeping yourself young at heart, no matter what your age.
I'm delighted to see new friendships born among the participants of these seminars. A few people haven't missed a single meeting in over three years--could it be a case of art addiction?
mj: Finally, what inspires you--both in art and in life?
edward: To find art and people whose creative energy moves and inspires me.
Thank you Edward for stopping by! I feel so fortunate to be living here in this hot bed of creativity unfolding in Los Angeles, and I'm sure that Edward will continue to be right in the middle of it!
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