New Emissary

Two Ways to Get Art-Savvy

If one of your 2011 resolutions is to learn more about art, here are two expert ideas for getting started on a ‘savvy’ New Year.

Each week on the New Emissary, art consultant and Tokyo art gallery owner Bob Tobin reports on the contemporary art scene in the Asia-Pacific, sharing his unique insights into some of the emerging trends and artists from around the region.

Say ‘New Year,’ and besides champagne and parties, you’ll hear people talk about their resolutions. It’s indeed that time of year, when we think about changes we want to make in our lives. My own list of resolutions looked too similar to the list I came up with last year (and the year before), so my major resolution this year became to make sure these same resolutions don’t ever turn up on my list again.

So what about art? If one of your resolutions is to learn more about art, I’ve come up with some suggestions to share over the next couple of weeks. Unlike some of my own resolutions—like slimming down and going to the gym—these are ideas that I’ve followed myself. They won’t cost you much (some are free), but your knowledge and enjoyment of art will expand dramatically.

1.Subscribe to ArtTalk, Edward Goldman’s podcast and email newsletter from KCRW-FM. I put this on the top of my list because it’s entertaining, informative, accessible–and it’s free. Goldman writes and speaks honestly and irreverently about the art world in Los Angeles. He doesn’t stop on the US West Coast though. He travels all over–Europe, Russia, and New York—and writes about what he sees. He doesn’t hold back and tells you when he doesn’t like something. (He wasn’t impressed with the Dennis Hopper or the Takashi Murakami Exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA.) You’ll see what he does like and you’ll learn how art can enrich your life.

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You may disagree with Goldman, but you’ll certainly learn things—and have some laughs too. I remember one segment when he told listeners about feeling pain in the dentist chair. When the dentist asked him what was wrong, he didn’t complain a bit about any pain the dentist was inflicting, but instead about the headache he was getting from a painting hanging in the dentist’s office.

I think about this every time I go to my own dentist and am forced to look at his postcard prints of cats. With all that I pay him, you’d think he could get something better! 

Seven Days in the Art World

2. Read the Book, Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton. This book came out two years ago, and is an excellent introduction to what goes on in the art world. The writer is neither an artist nor a gallerist, but a social scientist with a background in Art History. The writing is engaging and her observations are spot-on. The author gained access to some of the biggest names in the art world and she puts you there like a fly on the wall as she observes and listens to them. You’ll feel like you’re right there going up and down the aisles of the biggest art fairs, sitting in the auction room of Christie’s or in a classroom at CalArts.

I like the way she organized the book too. Each chapter is about a specific player or institution in the art world: the artist, the art fair, the dealer, the collector, the auction. You can learn more and order the book from Amazon here.

Next week I’ll have a few more tips on getting more art-savvy in the New Year.

Meanwhile, on another note, if you’re in Tokyo, drop by the Tobin Ohashi Gallery where we’ve just launched a show featuring two young Japanese artists, Joji Shimamoto and Mario Tauchi. Joji is just 26 years old but already on international lists of top photographers. He’s had shows throughout Japan and the United States where he went to school. Mario Tauchi spontaneously creates colourful mandalas on wood, paper, and canvas that reflect his interest in world religions and Japanese spirituality. He has had shows throughout Europe and Japan. These shows will continue at our gallery through February 10, 2011.

Images:Harco Rutgers (top), Alissa Walker (middle), Copyright All rights reserved by WW Norton (bottom)