Home > blog > For Anselm Reyle’s INTO THE VOID Exhibition Vol.2

For Anselm Reyle’s INTO THE VOID Exhibition Vol.2

Anselm and I moved to the world’s most prominent gallery, Gagosian, in NY, around the same time, and his works’ price went up explosively as well, just as mine did. He constantly produced works, responding to the needs of the market. Not only that, he was creating works with brand new ideas. His works sold immediately, and the waiting list was 10-pages long. And then… The Leman Shock. Dun dun duuun. The timing couldn’t have been more dramatic for the art world: Damien Hirst, the artist of our generation who has been leading the art scene and the market, held a solo auction of his works at Sotheby’s in London. Not only did it bear his name, but it also included some works that the artist had directly delivered to the auction house, without going through any galleries, to be sold (auctioned off). This was an incredibly scandalous and ambitious attempt, and I believe it took place on the very day of the Lehman Shock.

Here’s what was so ambitious about Damien’s auction: For our generation of artists, how we might develop our critical voice against the capitalist way had been one of the important themes. That is, there had been a competition about how an artist should act and position himself in order to represent “freedom,” how a statement could be delivered, and who could be the first to do it.

That is, this had been a scramble to see who would be the one to bell the cat. And Damian did it. And now the cat was awaken… It was more than that; the money game itself collapsed. I doubt that Damien or the auction house could have predicted this crash that coincided with the auction.

I was also in the midst of this game. The game I chose had been in the form of GEISAI, and in a sense this was facing the same direction as Damien’s Sotheby’s auction in that I was trying to invalidate the galleries and change the rules of the main market. On the day of Damien’s auction, the market boiled over and many expensive works were successfully bid, but many cancellations followed. Perhaps the Lehman Shock allowed people to cancel without embarrassment at the time, but the cancellations continued, and it was a sorry outcome as far as business went.

My GEISAI#11 was held the day before the Lehman Shock. We had the best attendance and participating artists with booths ever, and many art-world visitors from abroad were there as well. I had created this crazy decoration for the fair space, with enormous LED lights glowing throughout the space like something from a sci-fi movie, to bounce off the Western context for art. The overseas art-world visitors were astounded the moment they saw this, and they momentarily lost their ability to give any verdicts. So it appeared as though my mission had succeeded for the time being… But. The minute the structure of capitalism, which had been our longtime opponent, started unraveling, our battle itself was rendered as worthless as Don Quixote’s charge against the windmill.

Damien’s auction still casts a shadow on his market now, five years after the fact. He must have known that his short-term market would completely collapse by holding this auction. But if not him, who else would have done it? There had been such a sense of crunch in the atmosphere. The majority opinion now is that, market-wise, Damien’s judgment was off. But I think that is wrong. I believe the history of that battle will be deeply engraved in the art history, and one day his courage will also be properly praised.

During such an era of extravaganza in the art market, Anselm chose as his battle to continue thoroughly responding to the market’s needs. Those artists who were pitching camps at the forefront of art at the time were forced to adjust their formations according to the changing rules. Many people may think this silly, but such was the nature of that battle. As for me, the production costs spent for GEISAI#11 almost took my company down.

Now… The process of dealing with the post-extravaganza was quite something as well. At one point after the Lehman Shock, a certain art advisor contacted me asking for a negotiation. “My client is furious. He bought a Murakami piece, and then another work of the same size and same theme was sold at an auction for less than what he had paid for. In order to protect my client, I request that you give him a work that covers the difference.”

What the xxxx?? What in the xxxx are you talking about? Are you kidding me? I was enraged. But my opponent also got enraged, because that was his job as an advisor. Around this time, this type of struggles started to occur frequently.

I often see people who smirk knowingly at the art market, but I want to flip my boogers at such people’s frivolous sense of moral. I don’t understand the appeal of soaking in dogmatism without understanding anything whatsoever about what art is. History has proven that beauty if often inseparably paired with monstrous greed. Human greed, beauty, and its value constitute a monolith.

So, while I was enraged by art advisors who acted like hyenas, I also believe that tolerating even such elements and their behavioral principles would be part of the process of pursuing the true beauty of this moment and forget ahead in that hostile environment. That is why I was able to endure through the confusion of post-Lehman Shock.

I’m sure Anselm also had to deal with many such unjust and nonsensical claims. Six months after the Lehman Shock, I flew again to Berlin to ask him to do a show in Japan. “I’ve slowed down the pace of production compared to before,” he said. “But I think it was a good thing that this kind of situation (the market crash) happened. Now I have the opportunity to reflect on myself. Whatever happens, in the end it’s all a positive thing.” At his studio, they were contemplating various prototypes for his collaboration with Dior then. “Do you really want to do a show? In Asia? Is it going to be okay?” He was more concerned than I was.

His activities have mainly centered around European museums. He consistently manages to put on two to three solos shows a year. When there is no budget, he still comes up with ways to create a string of new works and keep posing relevant questions. He couldn’t get discouraged by a mere market crash. I fell for him all over again when I saw the tough fighter’s spirit behind his apparent naiveness. A few months later, I received an invitation to come see his solo show somewhere in Scandinavia, and the new work he had developed for the show grabbed my heart yet again.

The new work I saw was a “heap of artist’s trash” consisting of discarded paintings and pieces of broken sculptures that must have come from his studio mixed up in a huge pile with dead computers and other garbage. I thought I clearly saw the artist’s pure spirit of inquiry and strong heart in this installation that was at once self-deprecating and deriding of the world-wide museum building boom. I felt that it was precisely at such a moment like this that one could get a glimpse at the fundamental power and the truth that a person possessed.