Sunday, April 30, 2017


During the pre-festival screenings Tribeca scheduled a double feature a of art related films. Here are my thoughts

Richard Hambleton was once considered the very top of the art world in the late 70’s and early 1980’s above even poster boys Keith Harring and Basquiat. His Shadow men portraits across New York were the precursor to Banksy. Hambleton was all set to become a superstar- but his erratic behavior intensified by his drug addiction brought it all crashing down.

Uneven portrait of Hambleton is a mix of glorious art (I love his shadows and landscapes) and frustrating madness. The problem is that Hambleton for all is talent is an a prickly pear of a person (and that’s being kind). An SOB who follows his muse wherever it leads he runs rough shod over anyone who comes near him- all the while turning out art of the sort that makes you think he is divinely inspired. However he’s such a pain that you want to hit him.

Amazingly the film seems to be aiming toward an ending that says that Hambleton has died, but despite being an addict and having health problems (including a cancer that is eating away his face) he is still chugging along.

Give director Oren Jacoby points for making a film about a surly son of a bitch but take a couple back for not making him likable enough that you really want to spend time with him. While I like that there is no tacked on triumph at the end I’d have liked it more if we had just had a slide show of his art.

A look at the high finance world of Modern Art. Looking at the artists, the market, the dealers, the collectors, the galleries, and the institutions this is good introductory look at a place where pieces go for tens of millions of dollars.

How you react to this film will depend upon how much you know about the art world. A good place to start, if you don't know much is BLURRED LINES, which will give you enough to have a basic understanding. Sitting in the critics screening I found that those who don’t have a detailed knowledge of the art world liked the film more than those who were already aware of the art world’s craziness.

The problem with the film is that the brief running time of the film (it only runs 84 minutes) doesn’t allow for truly detailed examination of everything it wants to present. We blow through the various topics at speed so while we get an idea who Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst are because they play the market for maximum profit, we don’t get a handle on some of the others like Julian Schnabel or Taryn Simon. Why are they important to the discussion for any other reason than they were interviewed is not revealed.

 The biggest problem with the film is that it speaks of the outright corruption and market manipulation rampant in the art world and then let's the notion lay there. After rvealing how things are being manipulated and suggesting that the industry should be regulated it then never explains how that would even remotely be possible (It leaves it at the fact the government has thrown up its hands at trying). The film seems to want to have its cake-mentioning the corruption – and eat it too-  so as not piss anyone off because it might offend the people involved.

None of that is fatal but it keeps this film being anything other than a basic primer

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