It’s official, art is a foreign city. The makers of a series of books that includes, for example, Hedonist’s Guide To Beirut now present A Hedonist’s Guide to Art. And it is true, except for the slightly less eccentric dress code, the art world could be easily compared to Vatican City. But still I’m sure people would have expected that it’s more like a foreign country. (more)
If anyone could, no: should write a guide to the land of art it would be Rick Steves, whose enthusiasm combined with what only looks like naivete (but in reality is a combination of someone being very nice and very educated) makes every foreign country and whatever weird habits they might have there, well, almost likable. Just what the art world needs! But no, it was not to be had.
So we get A Hedonist’s Guide to Art, and there is actually nothing wrong with it. It contains contributions by various members of the art world, about the art world, so it’s a bit like the inmates of an asylum writing a guide about the asylum, but that makes for a large part of its charm.
I’m a beer drinker so I don’t know much about hedonism. But still, you don’t have to be a hedonist to realize that if you’ve ever looked at books written about art, you know you’re not necessarily in a hedonist’s territory: The rare exception notwithstanding, books about art tend to be tedious affairs. Here we have one of those exceptions.
The book is smartly edited: it starts off with some utterly brilliant and tremendously funny essays. Humour, of course, is one of those things that is usually absent from the art world - artists typically like to behave like rock stars (when you go to see The Rolling Stones you’re not going for the laughter).
Needless to say, the book can’t manage to stay in that territory forever, and it becomes more of a mixed bag around, I’d say page 43. But it’s one of those mixed bags where the good stuff easily makes you forget the bad stuff, and you never know what’s next.
Maybe having so many different people write something about contemporary art is just the thing to do (even if it’s the asylum’s inmates). Say whatever you want but that way what you get definitely reflects art itself - the hopeless jumble of so many voices that nevertheless can be so inspiring (even the “Damien and I” ones). So if you come across A Hedonist’s Guide to Art have a peek.
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