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Episode 8: Being Radical with Robert Storr


Charlotte Burns: Hello and welcome to In Other Words, I’m your host Charlotte Burns, senior editor at Art Agency Partners. Joining us today, Amy Cappellazzo, the co-founder of Art Agency, Partners and chairman of Sotheby’s Global Fine Arts division.

Amy Cappellazzo: Hi there.

Charlotte Burns: And Rob Storr, who is an artist, a critic and a curator. He was the senior curator at MoMA between 1990 and 2002 and most recently the dean of the Yale University School of Art. So, today’s conversation came about because Rob and I were talking about globalization, and Rob had a point to make, which was that there’s a difference between globalism and cosmopolitanism and internationalism.

Robert Storr: The latter two are more similar than not, but the first and the second and third are very different. I will start by stating what I don’t like, and I don’t like the term ‘global’ because, in practical terms, it seems to apply mostly to financial, military and imperial power. Those are facts to be dealt with. I’m not going to make moral lessons about it, but I don’t wish to identify with anything that presumes that a dominant power in any of those domains should dictate what goes on for everybody. Applied to art, it’s the antithesis of what I believe because I am a pluralist by conviction, by experience.

Cosmopolitan—I think its origin means simply that one is at home in any part of the cosmos. And there’s a wonderful lecture that [Jorge Luis] Borges gave in commemoration of Victoria Ocampo where he defines it in those terms. So, I’ll just take his definition.

Internationalism, I think, is a little bit more complicated because there’s of course the history of the socialist internationals and so on, and they are expansive, but they’re not necessarily imperial—and also the first, second, third internationals all failed, so we don’t necessarily have to deal with the downsides of what that might have meant. What it does mean otherwise is a recognition that, somehow or other, what’s going in different nations is greater than the parts.

Amy Cappellazzo: Globalism usually refers to a sort of economic military ecosystem. There are usually power structures within it and you can assume there’s dominance and submission in terms of who’s in charge and who’s working for those in charge. I mean think cosmopolitan is the adjective we would all happily assign to ourselves and everybody…

Robert Storr: Well, not our President.

Amy Cappellazzo: Certainly not. Internationalist is something that I think the art world has often engaged in historically whereby it looked out into the world and sort of feigned a kind of curiosity about what was going on elsewhere. But, really culture was something that you would pick and choose what you liked from each one as if they were sort of items on the floor of a department store. That’s the dangerous territory where you’re wanting to be a cultural citizen taking all that in and having it influence you, but still being rather probably imperialist and selective—even a little colonial.

Charlotte Burns: That’s the thing, who’s story is coming to you and how. How do you be an international director at one of the major museums in the west when those nations are becoming increasingly nationalistic?

Robert Storr: Let me just say a couple of anecdotal things and then weigh in a bit. In I believe it was 1906, maybe it was 1910, [Filippo Tommaso] Marinetti published the [Manifesto of Futurism] in Le Figaro, which was a conservative paper, which is interesting that it should be a radical manifesto on the cover of a conservative paper. Within no time flat—and I mean a matter of months—it was being translated into Japanese. So what we talk about as being globalism—that is to say the rapid spread of ideas—is something different in historical terms. Modernisms started in different places at different times but many of them started in Brazil and the United States, roughly at the same time around 1913. Modernism started all over the globe, and ideas moved very fast through little magazines, through the travel of particular artists and critics and so on, so forth. So, again, when you associate it with institutional power or economic power, it becomes something different.

But when you talk about the flow and friction and hybridization of ideas, I think we’re looking at a different phenomenon. That’s partly why museums exist. Museums exist to educate people about what happened as nearly as the people who were doing the exhibitions can tell.

Amy Cappellazzo: One of the things I always enjoy when I go to other parts of the Americas is that I feel like Modernism in all its tenets were—that was really kind of an aesthetic movement in America, but it was a really a social movement in Latin America. It was going to change people’s lives and fix the inconsistencies and injustices, and it was going to make everybody’s life better. So it had a social ethos that was so deep in the bones of it. I mean when I think of Modernism in America, I don’t really think of something that permeated the ethos of how we were going to live our lives and how we kind of use the modernist ethos as a substitution for religion or believing it would bring a better future for us. But in Latin America, it had that effect.

Robert Storr: It did absolutely, and it had that content in Europe, Central and Western Europe when it was founded. Oddly, what happened is that by the time most of those Modernisms arrived here, they’d been beaten up by historical circumstances in the countries where they grew, and the artists who came here tried to do something different without risking the same. So if Maholy-Nagy came here, or if Albers came here, or the Bauhaus people came here, they didn’t try to start up a whole new revolutionary Bauhaus or De Stijl or Russian constructivism. They tried to continue with the aesthetic part of it, and their patrons were corporate.

Amy Cappellazzo: Right and did they not bring the social ethos with them, rather than just the aesthetic of it, because when they got to America they were like: “We’re comfortable, we can breathe, we’re okay in America?”

Robert Storr: They would be fed. They wouldn’t be jailed. They wouldn’t be told that they could not do what they did do.

Charlotte Burns: Did they lose some of the utopia? The idea that you can change the world and the world of those around you through things you create?

Robert Storr: I think many of them did. I think it’s not to be blamed. I think they had good reasons for having lost some faith. But the Black Mountain [College] experience where Albers met all the Americans that were utopians—[John] Cage for example. Cage was part of the Black Mountain configuration. Cage represented a step into a kind of transcendentalist attitude towards life. And he wrote a famous manifesto that said something like: “Don’t try to improve the world, you’ll only make matters worse”.

Charlotte Burns: That’s really interesting. The idea of a difference between the exchange of ideas and the exchange of aesthetics and thinking about today—if we think about internationalism in the art world—are we thinking about artists sharing aesthetics or ideas?

Amy Cappellazzo: It’s aesthetics on Instagram.

Charlotte Burns: That’s what it seems to be.

Robert Storr: And it’s ideas in seminars. There is a lot of movement of ideas, and there are some people with genuinely radical ideas. There’s also a very thorough academisation of radical discourses of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which has become a new kind of conservatism. You know, the things you can’t do are dictated largely by former radicals who didn’t do what they said they were going to do, but don’t want you to do what you haven’t yet tried.

Charlotte Burns: Do you define yourself as a radical?

Robert Storr: Yes, I do. I’m a lapsed Marxist. Maybe like some people are lapsed Catholics. I don’t claim I’m a revolutionary. I wasn’t really ever a revolutionary, but I think in categories which belong to that tradition, and I think they’re still useful for some things. But I also don’t think they are just something you can quote and then call yourself a radical. You have to do things. There has to be a praxis that goes with the theory.

Amy Cappellazzo: Entirely.

Robert Storr: And most people who have the theories don’t have the praxis.

Charlotte Burns: What do you have to do?

Robert Storr: It depends who you are and what your skills are.

Charlotte Burns: For you?

Robert Storr: For me?

Charlotte Burns: Yes.

Robert Storr: One of the things I do is I do institutions. I try to change from inside institutions as much as can be changed. Why they pick me, I don’t know. I’m sure that I’ve been given opportunities that people thought I wouldn’t necessarily do what I did with them.

Amy Cappellazzo: Isn’t that great? I definitely think the rules are to be customized and adapted, so I suppose even in different institutional settings, I will figure out a way to change what I suspect is the common practice.

Robert Storr: In terms of my personal convictions, I’m probably an activist Quaker more than anything else, so I use the term lapsed Marxist, it really tries to identify an intellectual framework for that. But if you have Steve Bannon calling himself a Leninist, I guess it’s not so bad what I said then.

Charlotte Burns: Right. Changing times. Changing definitions.

Rob, when you talk about being a radical, how have you tried to change things from the inside? Do you apply that to your artwork that you make as well?

Robert Storr: What I make is of a different category. In a sense, I belong to the Ad Reinhardt camp in that I think some people have a talent for making visual images that are political: Nancy Spero, Leon Golub, Philip Guston, Felix Gonzalez Torres, a whole host of people that I admire. I don’t have that gift and I’m not going to impose my ideas on what gifts I do have, and they are mostly towards Abstraction, or kind of observational realism.

Charlotte Burns: What impact will the political events have on the cultural world’s sense of internationalism?

Amy Cappellazzo: Rob, you should take that. I can talk about how I think it will affect the marketplace.

Robert Storr: I think inevitably it will. With all the will in the world of directors and curators not to have an effect, it’s bound to. It will certainly have an effect insofar as borrowing and lending works of art across borders is concerned. It’ll have an effect in terms of how patrons—principally corporations in this case—sponsor exhibitions. What they make possible. I think that also precisely the phenomenon of globalization has muddied the waters considerably. And I’ve thought for years that we need to start all over again to rewrite a completely fresh history of modernism, and it needs to be worldwide to avoid the term global. And we need to calculate that the things that happened in South America, what happened in Eastern Europe, what happened in Asia, in Africa. To have these be an integral part of the story rather than always footnotes to or tributaries from, right?

I was in Portugal at the [Calouste] Gulbenkian Foundation. And I was in their storage, and I looked at something and I said, “What is that?” And they said: “It’s an Arshile Gorky.” And I said: “What is an Arshile Gorky doing here in Lisbon?” And they said: “Well, of course, Gulbenkian was Armenian.” So, if you have Gorky in that storage, not as a representation of American painting but as a representative of Armenian culture, in Diaspora, you’ve got a different story. And I think there are many, many, many such things going on. Those histories are histories that we should now start to write into, not just add on to. And if you write them into the texture then everything else you say about the dominant countries changes.

Amy Cappellazo: Entirely.

Charlotte Burns: How would you do that? I mean, that’s an epic project. I agree that it should be done, but are you doing this actively? Is it something you’re really thinking about?

Robert Storr: I was hired by a publisher to write such a history, and then I couldn’t do it because I couldn’t get sufficient money to do it, and support and research. Somebody will do it. And I would be happy to write a chapter or an essay, or whatever it is. But it’s a generational project.

You know, MoMA, for example, has done real effort to include all those things that [William] Ruben took out. Bill Ruben narrowed the histories of modern art on the walls and in the publications. [Alfred] Barr actually opened them wide: Barr went to Africa; Barr went to South America; Barr traveled widely and collected widely. And you can fault him in many ways, but the fact was, he understood from the get-go that Modernism was of that nature. Bill took it towards the school of New York, basically, and didn’t live it out.

So I think MoMA’s a good institution, but the Tate is starting late because of their collections, but they have the will to do it, too.

There are other museums, like in Texas, which are doing it—Mari Carmen Ramírez is doing a very good job [at the Museum of Fine Arts in] Houston. And there are other museums that are collecting for South American art. So, it’s there to be done. I think a lot of people know it needs to be done. And since there’s no definitive view on this, it’s better that lots of people be doing it in some relative dialogue with each other.

Charlotte Burns: And, Amy, a book like that—would it change the market? Because we’re still very New York school focused.

Amy Cappellazzo: I would think so, and I would hope so. If you look at the traditional auction houses, the various departments—which, in some ways, mirror museum departments at the time—are really constructs of colonialism. Like why is American paintings its own little category called American paintings, or Latin American paintings?

It’s coming from a very Eurocentric point of view of saying that American Modernist really doesn’t belong in the Impressionist or Modern field because that’s European. We don’t really co-mingle those two things. It will somehow sully the good stuff if we mix in this other stuff. Or to put Latin American artist more in that same modern tradition in the earlier part of the century or in the contemporary. Fully integrated would somehow force people to look at a different visual tradition that comes from Mexico, say, of figurative work that comes from the muralists. What would this [Rodolfo] Morales work I’m looking at in this room have to do with figurative traditions similar to Kerry James Marshall or something? It would just be disruptive to what the order of things currently is.

Charlotte Burns: Is that because collectors like buying their own nations? Someone once said to me—they were an art advisor in South America—and they said: “The problem is that it’s like football teams. Everybody wants theirs to win.” This idea of co-mingling is something that art fairs especially have been trying to do. Miami, which you helped found, is such an example of being this portal for the Americas.

Amy Cappellazzo: I think, little by little that has been happening. And as Rob says, we need a comprehensive rewrite, but we’ll take the patchwork quilt of everyone trying in the various institutions. Everything all at once, all the time. We’ll just try.

Similarly, in the marketplace, you saw efforts of the Basel Miami fair, not as a sort of tokenism, but a serious inclusion of galleries from South America, with their best representation, looking excellent alongside their American and European counterparts.

What we hope is that current political energies don’t derail or disrupt this sort of trend of the opening of the mind and the opening of the aesthetic mind. In the marketplace, most of this will be done by taxation or something like that. When governments get these ideas in mind, the way that it usually will affect a marketplace is via legislation or taxation of some kind.

Charlotte Burns: Same with Brazil. Same with Brazil tax.

Amy Cappellazzo: Brazil’s tax. In terms of nationalism, every single person from every country who gets rich always wants [to buy] their own art first. There is a little nationalism that happens.

But if someone is a really good collector and has the bug and has the passion deeply, they usually graduate from that. And they can even be told: “Hey, you’re probably like completely maudlin and sentimental about your own culture, but guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to do this for like three or four years and then wake up and go, ‘Oh my god, it’s a big world out there. I want to be a part of all of it.'”

Robert Storr: one of the things that I had noticed is that the academy is far more conservative than the market, when it comes to the recognition of people who don’t fall into the proverbial mainstream modernism. There have been markets for South American art, for African American art. There have been markets for so-called niche cultures—and that’s not what they are, but I’m just going to put it in economic terms now—far in advance of the ability of the academy to respond to them. If you really want to know what was done by artists in the ‘20s and ‘30s in the African American community, it’s more useful to look at the Swann [Auction] catalogs than it is to look at most museum catalogs.

Amy Cappellazzo: That’s exactly true.

Robert Storr: And I think that’s significant. And I think that it’s time that the academy get off its high horse and say, “Look, we are not aware of what we are studying. And we should not be quite so haughty with respect to people who are in commerce.”

I think there’s a separation between the profit and non-profit world, and I would insist on that. But I also think that the information that the profit world has is sometimes way wider and broader and more textured than what the ostensibly disinterested academic community has.

Charlotte Burns: I totally agree. Having worked for dealers in the past, that always struck me as the kind of hypocrisy of institutions in the sense that there was a distance required, yet at the same time, lots of favors asked in terms of funding this, funding that. I think that that distinctiveness isn’t actually how the world really operates and that false sense of separation perhaps causes ways of thinking that are problematic.

A prominent European museum director recently said—they were on a panel—and they were asked if they could have one wish, what would it be? They said: “I’d like to bypass the dealers entirely and just go straight to the artists.” And I thought that’s a bit ungrateful. Because the dealers are the ones who find these artists and they support them for years. And yes, they make money off of them, hopefully, if they manage to make a market for them. But a good dealer is also a good curator and a good critic. And, if you look back through history, that’s what dealers have done. Some dealers are, obviously, completely awful and just in it for the quick buck and turnaround. And there are those people breaking markets quicker than others are making them. But, it is a complicated, a nuanced industry that we’re in.

Robert Storr: It’s very nuanced.

Amy Cappellazzo: I mean, look, it’s a big eco-system and there’s a kind of haughtiness of the academic community that I love, because I find it a bit humorous because I’m usually disqualified from having an opinion or knowing about something thoroughly because I sully my hands in the marketplace, and I can’t possibly have an original insight about a work of art, because, you know, I know too much about its value, so.

Robert Storr: I don’t find it amusing at all, because it speaks to the narrowness of the people who take that attitude. And, I think that it is a huge impediment, particularly to young people who are in these institutions, to be indoctrinated with this attitude. As I came in here, there’s a painting by Carlos Mérida on the wall. Now, MoMA owns Carlos Mérida, but he hasn’t been up on the walls for ages. Most people don’t know who Carlos Mérida is. It happens that he’s an abstract painter. Somebody who wants to be interested in abstract art in other parts of the Americas should know Carlos Mérida. Well, the dealers and the auction houses do and most people who are sitting in the libraries don’t. That tells me something. I would rather have a conversation with Amy about it then some high-flown conversation about alterity and blah, blah, blah.

But, I don’t think the market always works well, and I would also just like, having said such negative things, to say some positive things. There are scholars like Kellie Jones or like Robert Farris Thompson who’ve done really important work in areas that the market would never go.

Amy Cappellazzo: That’s true.

Robert Storr: And I think we owe them an enormous debt, but I don’t see why it is that they are not valued more highly in the academy

Amy Cappellazzo: One of the underpinning questions to all of this is authority. How it’s allocated. I think of that often in the marketplace. Is the authority in the marketplace—the fact that you sell a painting for a hundred million dollars. Boy, that’s it’s own authority. Like: “Ladies and Gentlemen! Duh, duh, duh duh!” That means something, certainly in many worlds. That’s relevant. And that confers it’s own kind of authority, and being the person or auction house that was able to do that confers it’s own kind of authority. But there are other examples of authority and other ways to achieve that authority.

Robert Storr: The history of prices is really interesting in its interesting relation to the history of taste. It is not a measure of artistic merit. I had a man who in a sense I owed a favor to because he had been a patron of projects that I was involved with. And I don’t advise private clients, but he called up and asked me: “I want to buy this particular Blue Period Picasso.” And the price he was willing to pay was astronomical. And I said to him: “Listen, that’s a very well known painting, it’s sold at auction many times. I’m sure that the estimates that you got are accurate. But wouldn’t you like to take that money and buy something of Picasso’s that was more significant? How about a synthetic or analytic cubist painting?” But the analytic cubist paintings are not bright and shiny, and synthetic cubist paintings are just not figurative enough.

So he was prepared to pay a lot of money for a less developed Picasso. Now if you want to buy a great Picasso you can get bargains, so to speak, for the price that you would pay for a prime figurative Picasso.

Amy Cappellazzo: You’re absolutely right.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah. They’re just not as in demand.

Amy Cappellazzo: When an artist like that had so many outstanding periods, that’s not true with every artist, but in the case of Picasso certainly you could meander. Same is true with Warhol, I mean there’s fetishizing of the early ’60s works. But I think the ’70s is one of the most interesting periods for Warhol, for sure.

Charlotte Burns: Why?

Amy Cappellazzo: Well after he got shot by Valerie Solanas, he takes a long time to recover. Certainly that would be very destabilizing for any of us to be stalked and shot. I mean it would give you pause about your relationship to the world. And then in ’72 he does the Vote McGovern poster with Nixon’s portrait. And he proceeds to be audited by the IRS every year of his life after that. An audit every year from the IRS would make me extremely sober and paranoid about life.

So in the ’70s, he becomes very sober about his work, very serious about being a painter. In fact just as painting’s being declared dead, he’s more painterly than ever. I mean the ’60s works were actually just flat, mechanical, silk screens and you judge the quality of the work based on the crispness of color and the crispness of the silk screen. In the ’70s, there’s all this gesture and brushwork where he’s in solidarity with everybody who’s painting even while it’s being declared dead. There he is like loving this. We have a hammer sickle painting upstairs that’s like: “Florid red, beautiful, luscious brush work.” Or the Mao’s where you see…

Robert Storr: With some hot licks.

Amy Cappellazzo: Yeah exactly, I mean really great stuff happens in the ’70s. Shadow pictures, Rorschachs.

Robert Storr: And [Robert] Rosenblum loved that stuff.

Amy Cappellazzo: Loved. So I think the ’70s is this amazing period for Warhol. I think it’s like one of his most interesting, and the works are a fraction of what they are six years before or seven years before.

Charlotte Burns: I was reading an article this week by these economists in Europe tracking the major records through history. They begin—it’s all [Frans] Hals and all Europe. And then you see the center of Europe moving a little bit from the Low Countries into the warmer continental European countries. And then you see America coming in. It’s really interesting that that concentration of authority—it is to do with economic power, in terms of the market, and therefore what’s favored. Hals was setting records because the Dutch were very wealthy at that point and they were buying their own culture.

You can just see the ebb of power from Europe. It was interesting to think about that in the context of what’s happening now in Europe, and England. There’s a general election coming so obviously I’m consuming that news and thinking about that a lot. How nations shrink and shrivel, and how their markets do that and how culture moves around.

Amy Cappellazzo: I think we’re at the late stage of a culture in America. Richard Prince certainly pre-figured American decline in his work, and I think he was one of the first—he and Cady Noland, and Paul McCarthy, and Mike Kelley. That generation pre-figured American decline, and that’s sort of what we’re seeing and living through. For those of us who are just gob-smacked with what opening the newspaper every day. It’s the late stage something.

Robert Storr: I’m inclined to agree with you, but I’m not exactly sure that that’s true. We’re certainly not on the rise. But I don’t know that the decline can be assumed quite so automatically. Because the combined economic and military power of this country still is unrivaled. And I think we have rivals, but we don’t have rivals that have eclipsed us thoroughly. If you read the FT or whatever it is about the fragilities of the Chinese economy, which is vast, but which has bubbled in every corner, we may find that we in a sense by default end up on top for a little bit longer.

In terms of the market, I mean first of all I do believe that there’s a separation between the nonprofit and the profit sector, but as a museum person one works in both. So I bought very expensive art from galleries, from auction houses, and so on and so forth. And I was on a few occasions consulted about selling things from the collection back to the market, if you will. I’m very interested in the market, but I also think actually there are many markets. People who speak disparagingly of the market make mistakes when they talk about ‘the market’. There are all kinds of markets.

So if you say ‘the market’, you’re already in trouble in the same way if you say ‘the museum’ you’re already in trouble. It really pays to deal with the specifics of a particular sector.

Amy Cappellazzo: You’re absolutely right because some markets are just superb markets, they’re beautiful—they hum like gorgeous machines. They’re just lovely to watch in action. It’s exhilarating to see it at work. Then there are markets that are just doomed at the core. There’s some structural reason why. The artist, nearly everything they produce is in bad condition for one reason or another—you’re dealing with cracking, or paint loss, or in-painting, or conservation—that’s just damning. There are certain markets just dogged from the get-go, and those are really hard to watch. But it’s still a market, it just sort of limps along in a different way. Each artist has their own market, and it’s like a micro market that almost doesn’t reflect or mirror the hologram of the whole. Each one is very individualized.

Robert Storr: And for about a dozen years I was advising a family foundation that bought art that gave it directly to a museum. And the aggregate capital was not that great, but the mandate was great. The mandate was to collect under-appreciated artists—American artists—and that was fun because I could shop the bottom of the big market and get really good things that other people overlooked, and I didn’t have very many competitors.

Amy Cappellazzo: Even that space now, which is something we’ve looked at—and certainly Allan Schwartzman is known for finding those niches as well. Even that area of the market’s become so competitive because there’s so much capital coming in. What you were exploiting was a fabulous market inefficiency. You were smarter than everyone else in the market and you had the execution power to understand, “That’s about the right price, let’s go ahead and do it.” But markets never stay inefficient permanently. They always become smarter over time.

The flow of capital and the intelligence is starting to sort itself where the incredible arbitrages between pricing and future pricing, or what’s it worth today versus what it could be worth in two years. All of that will shrink and it will become much more streamlined, much more efficient.

Robert Storr: The advantages that institutions have in this game is that they’re buying by and large—we hope—to keep. So they don’t have to worry about the future value of what they buy if they buy it at a relatively reduced price. And that gives you an advantage because you don’t have to calculate whether you’re gonna get money back on your investment. You’re only considering whether you want to have this for a long time for lots of people to look at.

Amy Cappellazzo: The more important advantage is that artists want their things in institutions.

Robert Storr: That’s also true.

Amy Cappellazzo: That’s actually critical. Artists have to decide that even if they’re going to sit in the basement of a museum and be shown once every five years, it is still worth having that great work in that setting versus it trading around in the open market. It’s even worth underselling a masterpiece to place it there.

Robert Storr: There are many ways to skin a cat, the point is what will not survive is the mainstream. The mainstream is now a historical relic, and I think it’s a good thing, if I may.

Charlotte Burns: When you say the mainstream will not survive…

Robert Storr: The concept of the mainstream as codified by Clement Greenberg in the ‘40s was that there was a continual march of greatness from the 18th century, maybe 17th century to the Modern era. That made the Abstract Expressionists, the natural heirs of the great French painters, the great Italian painters, and so on. Now, it’s a lovely ideological construct, but it’s basically untenable as an idea historically. And it shut out everybody else.

Amy Cappellazzo: The need for a sort of tidy narrative x-ed out a lot of important things that no longer, no longer can we march forward without examining everything around the edges.

Robert Storr: It was the triumphalist narrative of North America coming into its own, but it was nonsense, historically, and what a lot of us have spent our life doing professionally is to try to correct that distortion.

Charlotte Burns: One of the first podcasts we did was essentially the counterpart to this, in that we were talking about the fact that there has been so much historical revision, necessary historical revision. In this podcast, dedicated to trying to pin down the great artist of the 2000s, we couldn’t figure out why there was no consensus. We couldn’t even galvanize our thoughts around that. We could agree that there was pluralism. We could agree that there was increased diversity, and increased interest in different voices than the voices that had typically been represented by institutions and sought by collectors. And as to whether those tendencies had overshadowed a need for a ‘new’, which you probably need more if you’re forming a triumphalist narrative about who we are now and as the heirs of several distinguished centuries of tradition.

Robert Storr: I would just sidestep triumphalist narrative altogether. I don’t want one. I don’t want to be part of one. But I think it’s good that these are not settled issues. I used to tell people that when you come to the Museum of Modern Art, you should look at what’s on the walls, but you should hear the murmurs in the background, because basically, all of these artists were arguing with each other about what painting, or sculpture, or whatever discipline they practiced should be. And they did not agree. You get to places like the Bauhaus, which seemed to have a codified thing, but at the same place, you would have [Theo] van Doesburg and Jean Arp teaching and showing their work. Now, those artists are not the same. They’re not talking about the same things. There are points of contact, but their differences are more interesting, and that’s the way modern art, in general, is.

Charlotte Burns: Yeah, that’s true. I’m thinking of the great German groups like Die Brücke. The members are fundamentally different, or Der Blaue Reiter.

Amy Cappellazzo: Or Black Mountain, for example.

Robert Storr: Or artists who argued with themselves. You have Otto Dix, who was an Expressionist before World War I and a Neue Sachlichkeit painter afterwards. You have Picasso, who was a Cubist before World War I and a Surrealist Neo-Classicist after.

Amy Cappellazzo: Or the ultimate chameleon, Picabia, who was everything. Everything at any time. Flipping and changing.

Charlotte Burns: It’s interesting to look at those artists you mentioned and the impact of war. Otto Dix was an Expressionist before the war and he was also an avid militarist. He volunteered to be in the war because he said he wanted to feel what it would be like to have somebody next to him drop dead. Not only did he volunteer, he volunteered to be a machine gunner. Then, with the switch to Neue Sachlichkeit, he also switched to being a pacifist and found a different medium for his voice because Expressionism is so aggressive and Neue Sachlichkeit was more cynical.

Is there anything else you guys want to say about the original topic?

Robert Storr: I wish we would just put globalism on the shelf or give it to people who can use it appropriately. I remember having a conversation with the man who designed the Coke packaging and he said, “We have a standard design, but we vary the sweetness of the drink and the intensity of the red according to culture.” That’s a definition of globalism. You’re essentially selling the same thing with minor concessions to local taste and circumstances. I think cosmopolitanism is things that travel as they are to many places.

Amy Cappellazzo: That’s true. Although we could just give globalism a Cosmopolitan.

Robert Storr: Oh, that’s a great idea. And then follow it with a Manhattan.

Amy Cappellazzo: Exactly.

Charlotte Burns: Okay, thank you both so much for being here.



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