Una Stanza Per Panza
“I hope that this is far more fun to read than it is to write.” — Donald Judd, “Una Stanza Per Panza”
In the March 1990 issue of Art in America, Donald Judd took out an advertisement which read:
THE FALL 1989 SHOW OF
SCULPTURE AT ACE GALLERY
IN LOS ANGELES EXHIBITED
AN INSTALLATION WRONGLY
ATTRIBUTED TO DONALD JUDD.
FABRICATION OF THE PIECE
WAS AUTHORIZED BY
WITHOUT THE APPROVAL
OR PERMISSION OF
This was the first of many efforts by Judd to inform the public of the collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo’s forgeries of his work. His next public charge was made in a Letter to the Editors of Art in America in April 1990 in which he wrote:
Panza thinks my work has no existence beyond the paper in his files and that it can come and go as he pleases and as he designs it; now it can be multiplied as he pleases...This attitude destroys my work.
Published in installments between May and November 1990 by Kunst Intern of Bonn, Germany, “Una Stanza Per Panza,” is Judd’s longest essay at more than 25,000 words.2 It is also the culmination of years of private efforts to defend his work that Judd had, out of necessity, turned public. As Judd writes, lawsuits are “one of the institutional problems and are a way to hide vicious and mercenary behavior. They are never about the ‘substance’ of the conflict…” Consequently, Judd is eager to get to the substance of his argument, moving from examples of his dealings with Panza to broader political, historical, and societal analyses. Otherwise, “Panza alone is not worth writing about.”
Judd’s account of his relationship with Panza proceeds, “chronologically and in detail, for defense, for thoroughness, for clarity,” and he provides the receipts. He recounts multiple meetings with Panza, beginning with their introduction at Castelli Gallery around 1970; he quotes from letters sent to Panza and Panza’s responses; he recalls conversations with leading museum directors; and he quotes heavily from Panza’s own public statements in catalogues and magazines. All of this is crucial in Judd’s effort to set the record straight and to prevent the falsification of his “own efforts and circumstances.”
In “Una Stanza” Judd details wrongs done to him by an unscrupulous collector and his proxies, gallerists and museum administrators who are all too eager to prop up a collector’s wrongdoing. Significant aspects of Judd’s animus relate to forgery, and his belief in an artist’s right to establish terms for their work and that those terms should retain significance in perpetuity. Additionally, Judd uses his experience with Panza to illustrate what he sees as the increasing degradation of the arts, which he believed could lead to their disappearance. This point, made early in the essay, articulates the stakes of Judd’s opposition:
Many supposedly interested in art are not going to understand. I think the situation has declined so far that even many artists will not understand, as can be foretold by their work. Panza, many, have no respect for art, the artists, for the integrity of the activity. Panza’s only purpose is to be a rich big shot. This is in art because he thinks it’s a soft spot in the society, an easy place for a soft predator, a foggy swamp full of willing victims and lots of clear loopholes.
Art doesn’t have to exist; there is no assurance that it continue. It has lapsed before and is disappearing now.
From 1990 to 1992 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum purchased nearly 350 works from Panza and his wife Giovanna for $32 million dollars. Judd immediately objected to the purchase arguing that many of the acquired works existed only on paper and that others were forgeries. For ten years the Guggenheim Museum’s Panza Collection Initiative (PCI) has researched the Panza Collection. Part of this research has been dedicated to the works which Judd and other artists considered forgeries and case studies of this research have been recently published in Object Lessons: Case Studies in Minimal Art – The Guggenheim Panza Collection Initiative.3 Judd’s position on this matter was unequivocal, as he stated in a letter to the Guggenheim at the time of the Panza purchase:
The Guggenheim has bought dubious pieces of paper, some completely unfounded claims not on paper, and some forgeries, as well as a few pieces made under my supervision. Needless to say I have no intention of helping the Guggenheim by supervising a great deal of work, the construction of which has been lost for twenty years in this disgusting situation. The purchase without research is very irresponsible of the Guggenheim.
In 1989, Panza suggested in a letter to Judd that lawyers should be engaged to appoint an independent expert to decide whether works he attributed to Judd were correctly made and therefore legitimate. The audacity of Panza’s cynical suggestion remains astounding. For Judd, research into the legitimacy of the works in Panza’s collection was as simple as asking the artist. One can imagine that from Judd’s perspective the PCI’s re-adjudication of the Panza ordeal reaffirms the cynicism, bad faith, and broken promises that were the artist’s concern from the beginning.
An additional reason for Judd’s anger is his belief that Panza used the promise of permanent installation to buy works cheaply, later abandoning his promise and selling the works at substantially higher prices to museums. Panza’s “debasement of the idea of permanent installation,” however, and Judd’s critique of such behavior is probably best understood when juxtaposed with Judd’s formulation, in 1977, of Judd Foundation and the realization of the Chinati Foundation, in 1986.
In the essays “Judd Foundation” (1977) and “Statement for the Chinati Foundation” (1987), Judd describes the necessity of permanent installation on terms suitable to the work, as determined by the artists themselves. As he wrote, “The space surrounding my work is crucial to it: as much thought has gone into the installation as into a piece itself.”4 The two foundations demonstrate that he knew other artists felt similarly. Judd’s foundations were created by an artist for artists, in full knowledge that people like Panza and art world bureaucrats would attempt to seize control of the activity for their own purposes.
Thirty-one years after the publication of “Una Stanza Per Panza,” Judd’s efforts remain rare examples of the preservation of an artist’s vision. Still more rare are foundations established by artists which exhibit work by anyone other than their founder. There are considerably more museums founded by collectors, or which serve them. The reasons for this are as clear now as they were in 1990, and the threats to the integrity of art remain considerable.
–Caitlin Murray, Director of Archives and Programs, Judd Foundation
- This advertisement has been reproduced on the cover of this supplement.
- Unless otherwise noted all quotations are from “Una Stanza Per Panza.” First published (in four parts): Kunst Intern, nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 1990 (in German, with an English supplement); reprinted: Donald Judd Writings, ed. Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray (New York: Judd Foundation / David Zwirner Books, 2016), 630-699.
- Object Lessons: Case Studies in Minimal Art – The Guggenheim Panza Collection Initiative (New York: Guggenheim, 2021).
- “Judd Foundation” (1977), Donald Judd Writings, 284.
* * *
Una Stanza Per Panza
by Donald Judd
Guiseppe Panza makes my work himself, contrary to the original agreement that it be made only under my supervision. I wrote him once again, 26 November ‘89, after I found the work of mine installed in Varese remade at the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles, to tell him to stop making my work. Panza says that he is going to make it anyway. Part of Panza’s answer, 19 December ‘89, is:
“The only correct way to proceed is this one: Next time the works will be installed I will call you to see them. I will pay the travel expenses. If you will find something different from the project, and I agree, the work will be destroyed and remade. But if I do not agree, your lawyer and my lawyer will appoint an independent expert in order to see if the work is correctly made or not. His decision will be binding for both parties. If, eventually, the two lawyers will not agree about the expert, they will ask the President of Court in New York to choose one.”
And Panza has made my work before:
“The 4 plywood pieces was made when I made the engagement to make a long term loan to the Rivoli Castle Museum, when the building was under restoration. The Administration was willing to see some of the works quickly. There was no time to make them in America, where the cost was the double.”
In the New York Times of 8 April ‘90, Gary Wills says of Richard Nixon that he is like Thersites in the Iliad: he cannot be embarrassed, he cannot be shamed, he cannot be silenced. He has never done anything wrong. He doesn’t understand why he has been selected for criticism. Wills says:
“The Greeks thought such a person lacked ‘aidos’ (respect for others’ respect). Thersites, the ignoble warrior in the Iliad, became the shameless person (‘anaides’) par excellence. Nothing could shut him up in council, not even the threat of Odysseus to strip him to his shameful parts (‘aidoia’). Odysseus finally had to punch him into silence.”
Panza is also like Thersites, (Book II). Nothing stops him or shames him. But also Panza is typical of the situation in art. The other wholesale collectors are not going to understand my objections. Many supposedly interested in art are not going to understand. I think the situation has declined so far that even many artists will not understand, as can be foretold by their work. Panza, many, have no respect for art, the artists, for the integrity of the activity. Panza’s only purpose is to be a rich big shot. This is in art because he thinks it’s a soft spot in the society, an easy place for a soft predator, a foggy swamp full of willing victims and lots of clear loopholes.
Art doesn’t have to exist; there is no assurance that it continue. It has lapsed before and is disappearing now. Architecture doesn’t exist. There is no architecture that we have heard of; all the known architects, all architects building internationally, are not architects. Music hardly exists in this century; dance hardly exists. But imitations exist which claim the names, and also, in great quantity, construction and sound which do not concern themselves with names. Both the imitation arts and the nameless arts are boring and depressing because they lack the essentials of their claimed or unclaimed nature. Architecture is not comprehensible, is not spatial, and is not even functional. Music is nearly without sound and time. Both are dependent on a vague and squalid language of the past. Visual art is hurrying to this condition. Most of it is a new form of commercial art which exaggerated the attitudes of the earlier avant-gardes, as does the well-known commercial architecture which pretends to innovation. Also much of the present visual art is boring, repetitious and superficial and endlessly dependent on the past, which is misunderstood if the name of art is claimed and consequently unknown as a reality. Or, if work is called art only in a vague, descriptive way, the past is reduced to only forms to select. Art is increasingly literary and as literature is bad.
It’s fashionable now to say that the issue is representational art versus “abstract” art. But representational art is only the vague, debased remnants of the past often modernized with remnants from the “enemy’’, as Johannes Gachnang calls it, “abstract” art. At any rate the way to prove the viability of representational art is to make it as new and as good as the representational art of the past. But it’s far from that. It’s at the level of “social realism”, socialist realism. It’s capitalist realism, business realism, institutional and government realism, desired all along, and spreading to satisfy the present reactionary social and political situation. A historian, J.M. Roberts, says of ancient Athens: “And as democracy degenerated, so it seems, there was a waning of artistic nerve.” “Abstract” art is not abstract, is not derived from appearances. As has been said many times, the work given this name is something in itself, is new in the world, is not only painting and sculpture, but is plentiful and diverse. It’s not even without literary or so-called representational elements, but these are used in new ways with new meanings.
Second to the general social and political situation, but first among those supposedly interested in art is the attitude held by Panza and Thersites that it is not necessary to respect art and the artists. There is no respect and concern for the integrity of art. Again, there is little sense that art is an activity in itself. If there is a sense that some artists must make art, that desire is used against them, commercially, and as Panza and others have done, ultimately commercially. Art is considered a product, like any other, even an inferior product, since it doesn’t chop onions. There is no idea that art is art. There is no idea that art has a role in the society – there’s hardly any idea of the society. There is no sense that here and now is little and short. It is unknown that good art is both an unusual achievement and luck; there is no sense that the high quality and the nature of an artist or of several artists occur in time and will not come again. The sense of expendability is overwhelming.
In the October ‘89 issue of Lapiz Achille Bonito Oliva starts an article with:
“Art as such does not exist. What does exist is an art system split up into interconnected sectors controlled by their respective culture-producers: artists, critics, gallery-owners and dealers, museum directors, collectors and finally, the public and the media.”
In his system Oliva is as important as an artist. But the artists are the creators and producers. The activity is their activity. As has been easily proven, Oliva’s long list cannot produce art. Some have tried. Most, including Oliva, cannot even be responsible towards art. Why take the machine that can chop onions and make it slice watermelons? It’s odd that people join an activity in order to debase it. They join art and then resent art and artists. This attitude is common, especially in New York City.
My view of the recent history of art is not so fashionably tricky as Oliva’s. In this century over and over again artists and architects have tried to make art and architecture, in medias res and sub specie aeternitatis, in congruence with new scientific thought and new social circumstances, only to be defeated always and once again by an ignorant and venal public, by fascist central governments, earlier ruthlessly and presently less ruthlessly, and by bureaucrats, governmental, art and otherwise, who don’t want to be disturbed.
The destruction of nature in this century is disgusting. The destruction of earlier buildings by war and by “development” is disgusting. Almost all new construction is appalling, is ignorant, thoughtless, naive and again venal, and viciously petty. It’s a mean century; as someone said, the worst yet, and many were bad. As I’ve written before, what has been done to the natural world, all that we know, is a modern sacrilege. The excessive populace, which, unlike nature, but like Procrustes, always deserves what it produces, would be healthier and happier among natural surroundings and considered spaces. These might lead to better things. The general, enduring purpose is to make civilized art and architecture measurable with the best in the past, our only existing standard, consonant, like the best arts of the past, with existing knowledge, all of science now, which is the knowledge so far of the universe, all that there is, and consonant as well with human behavior that is genuinely purposeful and productive, rather than behavior that is wasteful. Art is becoming a replication of waste and of the usual trivial quarreling. This replication is a style now in architecture.
This preface is because many people think that all art and all artists are for sale and that anything that can be done to either to add to their salability is all right. They think that commerce is everything. This preface is also because Panza alone is not worth writing about. Again, it’s that he is an instance of many that makes it necessary to object, that he is an illustration of attitudes which are destroying visual art and have destroyed architecture, and in general are destroying the present industrial society, which has nearly destroyed the prior agricultural society. I only require Panza not to make my work himself. Forgery of course can go to court. But lawsuits are one of the institutional problems and are a way to hide vicious and mercenary behavior. They are never about the “substance” of the conflict, but about its legal handles, further tricks and sophistry which continue those that led to the lawsuit. And always my time is more valuable than my opponent’s. And then some like the attention of lawsuits; it’s a “shared experience with the artist”. These are the trivial complexities of simple and boring psychoses. Also I have to make Panza destroy some work already made, which fortunately for identification, is conspicuously badly made. In the earlier fight against Heiner Friedrich, Thordis Möller, the Lone Star and Dia Foundations and the de Menils, I had to save work already made and installed, as well as to save that of other artists.
True commerce isn’t everything – even in commerce there is a true and a false. In fact true commerce often has difficulty surviving against false commerce, which at the least is not productive, and at the worst, more and more, is a penumbral, destructive commerce, a shady business. Art is a soft spot in the society in many ways. One way is that it’s a soft spot for shady business. Most people are not moved by simple commerce, straightforward need or even luxury, but by attitudes which are nearly myths, so that if the myth fades, the commerce fades. The world is so luxurious for many, and most are made to believe that it is, that their attitudes alone determine commerce. But many businessmen say that business is business. They are already saying so in Moscow. Hard, isolated, “pure” commerce is itself a mythical attitude. It’s very much an old American attitude. It even suggests honesty and puritanical virtue. “Just business” is even used to defend the cost and profit of the Cold War. “Business is business” is the usual answer to the sale of weapons by the United States Government, one of the biggest businesses in the world. Is that real business?
The white and black economies may reverse. If the white economy is the land and the black the sea, art is a little swampy inlet along the shore. If the two reverse, art will still be soft, somewhat like Switzerland and other offshore islands, for good and bad. The white economy is mostly that of 9 to 5, hardworking, or not, lower to middle class, disenfranchised citizens, monitored carefully and taxed increasingly, promised more and given less. This business is guaranteed by the central governments and is in fact their main business. Their land is increasingly white and dry. They own some shorefront property though. They are publicly in the arms business. They are friendly enemies, bribed enemies, to the corporations. The corporations, for example, will be more free in Europe after ‘92, free to move themselves and their money, while the taxed populace will be more thoroughly monitored. All governments, especially that of the United States, have to have a great stake in the drug business, a stake greater than what taxes on drugs would bring. One publicized need in the United States is a replacement for the Cold War, employment for the military, a “Drug War”. The sea, the wine dark sea, as Thersites says, is the unrecorded, untaxed black business, often happily uncontrolled, the old black market, and as well, drugs and arms, the first and third, I think, largest businesses in the world. Oil is perhaps second. And some art, not all, since in some European countries, Italy for one, art is taxed, which finally reduces art to mere property. Nothing else. Again this destroys the integrity of art. In the Soviet Union the black market is about to become the cornerstone of free enterprise. Maybe black and white will reverse. This won’t matter much to the central governments. They are in the black already and can make a deal. It’s like the king and the church in the middle ages. As for art, even businessmen and drug dealers believe it’s worth every penny, all 53.9 million.
“Pure” commerce is, by the definition of art, alien to art. I think so. Many obviously think otherwise. Now it’s assumed the more art costs, the more profound it is. Recently, on the way to Delphi, the driver said of the Oracle, “The less money you pay, the less meaning you get.” Perhaps soon the less art costs, the more profound. Certainly the irrelevance of the greatly increased commerce in art is proven by its steadily declining quality, now back again to where the “real artists” are few and isolated. This commercialization of Sunday painting will continue until the activity in general as known to the public is discredited. It is standard “pure business” to debase a product to worthlessness, whereupon none buy it. Someone told a story of a village under a pointed hill, to which the villagers charged tourists climbing for the view. The villagers then blunted the point a little so that more tourists would come. That worked, so the villagers broadened the top some. That worked too. More tourists came. The villagers leveled the top some more. After a while of course no more tourists came because there was no hill and no view. This is very much what is happening to art now. The whole array of villagers listed by Oliva are furiously leveling. But good art is not made by Sunday artists. Nor helped either by Sunday critics, curators and dealers.
The categories of Oliva’s list always treat art as if it’s for something else. This is not so simple as reversal, since something else is numerous. The first impulse is not to simply make or do what’s needed in regard to art, but to try to figure out something else which might benefit the person who has been given the opportunity to have an impulse. This is also often completely against the self-interest of the person. In a fight you can’t even appeal to someone’s self-interest. Selfishness doesn’t work as well as “pure business” thinks it does. When there is simple reversal, it’s always wrong. If something should go slow, it goes fast, or if fast, slow. Using one thing for another is unfortunately one of the great ideas of the twentieth century. It’s why Catch-22 is a great book. It’s not by chance that the translation of the title is a common phrase in the Soviet Union: Ketch dvatsat dva. The rich however, and to be a collector in gross it’s necessary to be rich, know very well how to use one thing for another, and always have. The present rich and the middling but content bureaucrats have in common the use of all things for power, for their own benefit. Art does not exist. Neither does poverty, pollution, war and most problems. Try to get the attention of the “Federal” Government. Ask it and the society to hurry, to hurry to support. science, scholarship, art, architecture, even to hurry on food and health. “Nah, can’t do it, not my job, impossible.” If you go and ask in New York City, the clerk says: “Whutch ya want? Down the hall, room nine.” You have to wait in line for ten minutes. “Whaddaya want? Up the hall, room thirteen.” For seven minutes you watch the clerk drink coffee and read the paper. “Room twenty-two,” without looking up. Five minutes to room twenty-two: “Yeah, dis is it but we don’t got it.” Perhaps you should complain to the supervisor. “Ya whadda talk to de supervisor? Go ahead. I’m da supervisor.” In Washington it’s the same, just a different dialect trebled by euphemisms. I can write that too, but one’s enough. I’ve known people who can imitate Panza, Thordis Möller for one, her only claim to fame.
Panza acquired art to sell art. Secondly, as gravy, for him and for “collectors” who have bought art in wholesale lots, power is very important. People who buy works of art one by one, considering each, for themselves, are lovely to behold, but rare. I’m one of these. But the big shotgun blast collectors are a disaster for art, which ambiguously they hide and always mistreat, and for the artists whom they cheat, and for the public whom they teach to be superficial and cynical. Collecting art to acquire power is certainly the most perverse use of art. It makes commerce seem normal. As usual everywhere and always, others allow this power. In the case of art, it should be easy to ignore such boasts of power or to laugh. Panza would not be a problem if everyone laughed at him. Certainly he’s funny. In New York City during the fifties everyone laughed at Joe Hirschhorn. Oliva wants to be equal to an artist; that’s a joke. Panza wants real power. He wants to be superior to an artist, and more, superior to a lot of artists. They are only artists. He is a “Collector”. The museums will be his museums, zoos for artists. Over the front door it will say “The Collection of Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo”. Inside on little labels in small print will be the names of the multitudinous artists. Panza’s purpose is to make a lot of money and be famous and powerful. Why should artists support this pretentious, preposterous and destructive purpose? And in addition, Panza doesn’t know anything about art. I’ve noticed that arrogance and ignorance more than rhyme.
The Romans collected art, sometimes grossly, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Europeans and the Americans, also sometimes outrageously through agents, but the large shotgun collection of contemporary art is new since the fifties. Everyone’s assumption is that the most assumed, the most quiet of the attitudes and the conditions of the present have always existed and always will. But the present collecting is a particular fashion of this moment of what to do with art. It’s a narrow and exaggerated supposition by the nouveaux riches of the nature of collecting in the 19th century. Hirschhorn, the first in New York City, drove quickly around buying eight or ten of an artist’s work at once at a great discount, a lethal discount, most of the work presumably unseen or seen by his agent. He wouldn’t buy without the great discount, which of course edited his “Collection”. As I mentioned, the small public of the time ignored Hirschhorn, but as the public grew and as art became involved with the naive and mercenary New Yorkers, he became able to glorify himself with a museum, a Kunstbunker, on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Since World War II art museums have been built to look like military installations. But at least Hirschhorn didn’t charge for the art, as does Panza. As a private collection named the Hirschhorn Museum, the collection should not be on the Mall, which is a public space. I don’t know if it cost public money. The Ludwig Museum is also a private collection in a public space and did require public money. Should the citizens glorify the collector? But Ludwig didn’t charge either. In New York in the early sixties through Robert Scull and Leon Kraushaar the large contemporary collection as a type began to affect some opinion and the art market. They were not complete shotgunners like Hirschhorn, and recently Charles Saatchi. Neither does Panza quite degenerate to that, or rather he’s a paper shotgunner. It’s odd that the devious, bargaining, big collectors excite the market, since their ignorance, attitudes and practice are inimical to it. Everyone expects them to dump the work later, except some naive artists. Kraushaar or his estate sold his collection of “Pop Art”, which is the first false art marketing label to stick, to Karl Ströher. Ivan Karp brought Kraushaar to my studio once, an event which usually I avoided. He didn’t say much and didn’t stay long. When he and Ivan reached the foot of the stairs to the street, I heard him say of a large relief, “When it gets to 2000 dollars, tell me. Scull, alive and dead, sold everything. He and Kraushaar were stupid, crass and ignorant. They were part of the beginning of the end in New York City. One story about one piece of mine is enough. This is a Scull story; it’s also a Castelli story. Scull bought a piece on the floor from my show at Castelli in ‘66. The piece was made of anodized aluminum and its upper surface was recessed some three inches. Scull put it outdoors on his place by the sea, which soon ruined the surface, and because the recess filled with rain water, he tilted the piece and drilled a hole in the lowest corner. Castelli had sold the piece without informing me, as promised, and for 700 dollars. He said that he had got it out into the world. He did this for years, including making the deals with Panza. The piece cost about 500 dollars to make. Castelli took half of the 200. About fifteen years later, Scull wanted Castelli to make me remake the piece so that he could sell it. I refused and Scull and Castelli had a fight, with Castelli buying Scull off with some other poor artist’s work.
I don’t know anything about Ströher. I’ve never heard anything nice about Ludwig. The installation of the work at the Wallraf-Richartz was always crowded, a characteristic of the big collections. They had one work of mine, which was outside in the courtyard every which way on the cobblestones at incorrect intervals. My complaints over twenty years never caused it to budge. As usual, Ludwig’s museum is atrocious as architecture. But the art was free. The monument and the power are enough. Panza wants it both ways. In the powerful city of Houston, Dominique de Menil is the epitome of power. It’s a strange idea that collecting art should justify aggression. And aggression toward the artists of the work that you are collecting is even more strange. When she ousted Heiner Friedrich from the Dia Foundation, previously the Lone Star Foundation, early in ‘85, she appointed an equally heedless and ruthless board. Again, one instance is enough. They evicted Robert Whitman from a building with performance studios, a situation which he had worked on for five years, an enterprise promised permanency. Among other actions, he said, that in his absence part of his sets, and I think his files, were thrown out into the street and onto the trash. I think this happened to Schwitters.
When someone wants work for a big discount, often for next to nothing, as with Panza, bait is substituted for money. The beginning artist is told that the work will be out in the world. I said to Castelli once that when he was 100 and I was 80 he would be giving my work away in central Afghanistan, “to get it out into the world.” Next, “The collection is important.” Then, “The public will see it.” Also, “The museum will take care of the work.” Lots of artists, young and old, have fallen for these arguments. Artists don’t seem to get over the idea that the museum is the institution containing the Rembrandts and the Titians, when in fact it’s the institution for which the Schnabels and the Baselitzs were painted. And that anyway the work will be thrown in the basement. Further, “The work will be in public.” “You will realize a large work.” “The work will be permanent.” All of this means that you should make a large “sculpture” outdoors in an awful place for little more than the construction cost, which is the real definition of “Public Art”. The bait of making work, especially large, expensive work, and the bait, the promise, of permanence, are the hooks I bit. The story of Friedrich, Lone Star, Dia, etcetera, is too long and nasty for here, but the main fight was about permanence, which was part of the purchase price. Fortunately permanence was guaranteed by a contract. The construction of expensive work and its consequent permanent installation was part of the original agreement with Panza, and not at all that he have paper to sell forever. In the case of the “Tilted Arc” of Richard Serra, my main argument is that the purchase price included the guarantee of permanence, in addition to the construction cost being circularly the artist’s contribution. Given this agreement, an existence made, there is a further guarantee of free speech and available information, both large issues. It is certainly a sign of what the United States Government now is, that it could destroy Serra’s work. As for myself and Panza, I thought that he was going to make work under my supervision to be permanently installed in Northern Italy. He made one such work in Varese, although without me, and that is all. He never intended to make work responsibly and permanently. He intended to invest in paper. Later I’ll proceed chronologically and in detail, for defense, for thoroughness, for clarity. A case can be made that Panza has buried art and information for twenty years. Most large collectors do the same, and not just for lack of space. Panza has much work in storage, but he also has much that he thinks is still art on paper. Does he have the right to intentionally keep so much recent art in the basement? Does Ike have the right to keep so much recent art unmade? The Dia Foundation still has hundreds of paintings by Warhol, whose work I don’t care about except in principle, and hundreds by Twombly, of whom I have a fine painting done in ‘64, and work by many artists, all in storage, deep in their Kunstbunker, or high in their basement, somewhere, but not where you can see it. Is it ethical, is it legal to bury art? There’s a contradiction between being rich and powerful for collecting art and keeping it in the basement. But everyone seems to think it’s plausible to have a basement at the top.
Panza and Friedrich also have in common the misuse and debasement of the idea of permanent installation, which I think is my idea, which Panza took from me and the existing installations of ‘70, and which Friedrich took from both, myself and Panza. First Panza and then Friedrich realized that the promise of permanent installation could be used to acquire art cheaply, and then that a little apparent permanence could hide a great deal of shiftiness.
A few years ago I went to a “cocktail” party in Los Angeles at Fred Weisman’s house given for, I believe, the mayors of Los Angeles and Tel Aviv. We were standing on the sidewalk in front of the house when a limousine pulled up to the curb. Richard Koshalek, the director of MOCA, popped up on the off side. That wasn’t so unusual, but the speed and determination with which he came around the front of the car to the curbside door attracted my attention. He opened the door and held it while Panza gingerly got out. Since by then I had had enough of Panza and the scene was unpleasant, I was beginning to feel trapped. Then Koshalek began, “Count Panza…” So I left as fast as Koshalek had come around the car. This naiveté and servility must have had a lot to do with cal MOCA, to distinguish it from mass MOCA, paying Panza eleven million dollars for coals to Newcastle. Panza is a Mussolini count and Italy is a Republic. His father was invested in ‘40. The New York Times says now that the Guggenheim Museum is going to pay “Count Panza di Biumo” thirty-two million dollars for work that it didn’t buy for thirty years while it was being made in New York City. Panza wrote in his letter to me, in answer to the accusation of commercial intent from the beginning, “I am collecting since thirty-three years. I made in my life only one sale, to a Museum, the MOCA in Los Angeles.” Now he has made only two sales. There are several to go: “... but other parts of the collection are still available: the Minimal paintings, the Conceptual art and the environment art from Los Angeles still need a space. The collection would fill several large museums.” The labels are Panza’s. Collectors now, for example Saatchi, like to commission hacks to write new art history, labeling art for easier marketing.
Los Angeles used to have a real situation in art. It can’t be bought back. Neither can the situation in New York. I don’t want to help the Guggenheim clean up its history and falsify mine. There’s a great deal of forgetfulness now in every direction. It’s “good for business”. I’m not going to have anything to do with mass MOCA, which after all is a perversion of my own ideas. I’m not going to help the Guggenheim, which, like all four museums in New York City, helped debase the situation there. I am going to stop Panza from copying my work. I’m not going to help the Guggenheim fill a hole they plan to chop in the rock in the center of Salzburg, excavated by the worst architect in the world, if it weren’t for the others. If Salzburg gets involved with Panza, it will be the first European institution to fall for his schemes. So far only Americans have been suckers. He tried to “place” the “Collection” many times in Europe, but the placement always failed. Why? Shouldn’t the Guggenheim ask? They seem to know nothing of the attitude of the artists involved or of Panza’s failed attempts in Europe. There must have always been a Catch.
I first saw Giuseppe Panza in the Green Gallery in ‘63 looking at either a roast beef or a ship hanging on a string, one of the plaster works from Claes Oldenburg’s Store. He bought twenty of these at once, which was strange, and put them into storage, which is inexplicable if an interest in art is most important. These, along with other purchases, were stored in Switzerland. Panza says in an interview in MOCA’s book on his collection:
“I had stored my collection in Switzerland as a permanent export from Italy, in order to avoid complex regulations in force in Italy. When you have to export something, you cannot make it a long-term loan, only a loan of one or two years. It’s very complex. So I made a Lichtenstein Trust, which became the permanent owner of the collection, and this Trust was the property of my wife and I. In this way, I was free of all the complex formal obligations with the Italian administration.”
The work by Oldenburg and presumably others disappeared into storage for nearly twenty years, until it was bought by MOCA. When Oldenburg wanted to borrow the work from The Store for his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in ‘69, and again for the recreation of The Store which Kaspar König attempted in ‘81 for Westkunst, Panza refused to lend the work. This is explicable if investment in art is most important. And then, who but a shotgun investor would buy twenty works at once?
The insufficiently prescient Panza did not buy my work then and did not for several years. Hardly anyone did, so that I have most of the work first shown, as well as the earlier paintings, and so do not need to be institutionalized, as Panza writes is necessary sub specie aeternitatis, Panza says in his letter to me last December, in answer to my objection to his forgery of a work at the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles:
“Is my will to do installation made by you because will be better than the one made by anybody else. But we have to pay attention to the fact that we are not alive forever. Good art live longer than Artists. You have to be ready to give instructions so clear in order to avoid mistakes in a future, a century away.”
In other words, I am not as necessary as Panza to my work; he can make it better than I. And somehow artists don’t live forever; but Panza, his collection? Panza ignored instructions over and over and made my work himself. He never asked about an installation; he just did it. Is it interesting now, or in a century, to see Panza’s construction of my work or his version of its installation? It’s better that the work doesn’t exist than be wrong. It’s not made to be wrong.
I probably met Panza at the Castelli Gallery around ‘70. After that he began buying small pieces made at one of the factories that I use, Bernstein Brothers in Long Island City, part of New York City. At that time, as now, I didn’t like the art business, and ignored it, which I try not to do now, since I understand some of the consequences. Also at that time I naively assumed, even after the sale to Scull, and another sleazy one to Henry Geldzahler, and others, that Leo Castelli represented my interests, and so I didn’t pay much attention to the sales to Panza. Whatever the circumstances, these small pieces made by Bernstein under my supervision are genuine pieces. Artists are misled by the practice in other activities in which the actor, the musician, the writer, the client, are presumably represented by an agent to those interested. Most art dealers, certainly Castelli, represent the purchasers, and decidedly so if the purchaser is a “collector”, as much as Berenson represented Isabella Gardner. This reverse arrangement is throughout the situation in art; it still affects art history and is pervasive among museum curators and art critics. Everyone is a patron; buyer or not. The patron is more important than the artist, since, first, art is only a product and the buyer is more important than the product, and, since, second, mysteriously, the buyer’s choice and support provide to the buyer dignity and ideality, that which was removed from art as a product. Everyone thinks that they are doing artists a favor: the newest “collector” on the street, already asking for a discount; the new hole-in-the-wall gallery with a new discount stable; the first-year sub-curator; the old director; notoriously the entrepreneur of a “sculpture garden”; the big shotgun collector. To them art is defined by its lack of integrity. And no one recognizes that the activity of art supports financially, not to mention sentimentally, a vast superstructure financially far exceeding the activity. As I said quite a while ago, it’s like a rowboat supporting the superstructure of an aircraft carrier. It’s not fair.
In the early seventies Panza purchased eleven works made by Bernstein, according to Panza’s list, including a large work painted orange and an oval on the floor made of pierced metal. As usual he paid less, following Mies van der Rohe. The discounts and the bulk buying, as with the work by Oldenburg, is a sure sign that investment is the purpose. Why else buy more than can be installed? The purchase of the small works was probably bait for the large ones on paper. Panza owns only two works of mine that are real that are not made by Bernstein, the plywood piece made by Peter Ballantine at MOCA and the “wall” of galvanized iron installed in Varese, both of which I will describe later. Castelli says of Panza in an article in Art News in December ‘79:
“But he asked me if he could have a group of Johns’ works. I said I had only one available at the time, but he wasn’t interested if he could have only one.”
In the same article, to confirm my opinion that Panza used permanence as bait, Bob Irwin says:
“The works in his villa are permanent installations, unlike many of those seen in museums, which are up for a month and then disappear. The ones he has are the only ones that exist.’
In ‘73 I went to Rome to make a large work of plywood for a very large exhibition called Contemporanea, directed by Achille Bonita Oliva, of all people, to be installed in, to dignify, to justify, to recoup a new uselessness, a new garage beneath part of the Borghese Gardens: more dirty work for art. The ceiling was low, being a garage, and the floor undulated for drainage, which made it difficult to place anything. Oliva was completely unconcerned about the difficulty of making a plywood piece, and even unconcerned about the size of the exhibition and the short time, two or three months, in which to install it. This is typical of large shows. I had never been to Italy and so was excited. I figured out during three days in Rome that I had been volunteered from the stable of the Castelli Gallery because Leo had a girlfriend in Rome on the staff of Contemporanea. This didn’t help. I had a fight with the staff before I left to collect part of the airfare, on which they had saved considerably since I had arrived by way of Stockholm as part of many so-called American artists unaccountably giving their work to the Moderna Museet, which paid the fare. The American Embassy didn’t like the politics of the artists and sent to dinner, even though a Swedish princess was hostess, a minor official who was reportedly a CIA agent and who also was, as liberal whitewash, black. I needed to be reimbursed for the fare in order to go to Varese – Leo had put me in the Hotel Raphael, not considering that I couldn’t live as well as he. Contemporanea had not prepared to make the plywood piece. I never saw it and from the photographs it looked badly made and of course awry from the undulations. This was a lesson not to allow others to make what to me was fairly simple construction. After a “pay or else” ultimatum, actually without an “else”, I collected and rented a car, left Rome after a couple of tries, stayed in a truck stop near Arezzo, and then outside of Firenze for three nights, working my way to Varese to meet Panza and to see his palazzo for the first time. His schedule didn’t fit mine so that I waited three days in a big, chilly hotel in Varese, which is not Firenze. Even the people are rather indifferent looking. For comfort I read John Womack, Jr.’s biography of Emiliano Zapata. Finally Panza arrived and showed me the lower reaches of his palazzo and of course the room in the stable which he had assigned to me – everyone interested in art has a stable. The room was very nice with, I believe, four vaults springing from a central column and, again, a concave stone floor for drainage – horses lived better then than people do now. The small to medium sized metal works looked well in the space, though there were three or four too many, crowded not quite so badly as usual. I don’t remember anyone else’s room and work but my general impression was that Panza was trying to be serious, trying. I don’t remember then or ever Panza saying anything thoughtful about art. I was impressed with the ravioli. The next day the main airport, perfectly named Malpensa, was fogged in as usual, and I was told to go to a lesser one, Linate. The fog was so dense that I overshot the Car Rental sign by thirty feet and couldn’t find it again for half an hour. Later the passengers were taken after all to Malpensa.
Panza never said anything interesting to me and what he says in interviews such as that in the book from MOCA is only the patter of the art business: sales pitches, clichés, both true and false, superficial accounts of what happened, glib attributions of glib meanings. There is no real comparison of artists as to intent and none as to quality. Everyone is part of the ongoing scene. Yesterday someone did that, today someone else does this, tomorrow someone will do something. Chronology holds everything together. Time guarantees the investment. This patter of course is enforced by the art magazines, which are trade magazines. This separate language of commercial patronage, the omnipresent attitude of patronage, is part of the large problem of compartmentalization, in art and everywhere. Artists are put “in their place”, reduced, at least separated, isolated so that their product can be isolated for sale. Often artists don’t seem to realize this. The old European idea of artists as servants has been acclaimed by new millions. Artists have been placed below the salt by nouveaux riches collectors who have not arrived with new ideas but with vague and grotesque ideas about the past, mostly ideas of status, diminishingly reworked twenty times to the point of farce. An instance of this is the “Presidential Suite” of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, where by chance I stayed once. The suite had a brochure which said that it was meant to express luxury and power. It had plenty of room and a view vulnerable to a rifle, so that it was never used, its only reality. The red velvet was not velvet, not even velour, not even identifiable; the gold was not gold leaf, it was not gold paint; it was very remotely unidentifiable. Francisco Franco’s Paradores for his own meetings are the same, although the security is better, Power, now, has bad taste. This is the separate conversation about art. This is even a separate art. This is the architecture which businessmen build without any reference to real architecture. Through the separation of the patter and its subject matter, all the implications of art are ignored. No one begins to think that one thing contradicts another or that one confirms another. All thought is suppressed.
In the MOCA interview Panza claims intimacy with artists: “My experience was not simply intellectual but also the opportunity to share life in some way with the artist.” He’s already trite and wrong. Anyway Panza was obviously never interested in what I thought, any more than he was interested in the construction and installation of the work. We never discussed the nature of the work. I imagine I objected politely to the label “Minimal”, which Panza uses so much. If not, it was easy to learn of my objections. Panza continues to use this silly, derogatory term. He continues everything; he obstinately and arrogantly continues the falsification of some of the best work of his time.
I bought my building in New York City in November ‘68. By ‘70 the top floor, the fifth, had a new oak floor with, perhaps, the large work by Dan Flavin running the length of it, as well as a large work by Chamberlain and two of mine. Later there was a circular painting by Bob Irwin, which was not adequately installed, which was replaced by a large work by Oldenburg. This was the bedroom of the building. Exceptionally I was sick in bed and Panza and his wife were brought up in the elevator to visit. I was flat in a bed nearly flat on the floor while they sat very upright on an upright Miesian Italian bench from around 1800 that I had thriftlessly bought in ‘68. They didn’t say much. But of course Panza saw the work and the space and I undoubtedly stated my intention for the building. This is the source for the idea of permanent installation followed by Panza, exploited by Panza, exploited to death by Heiner Friedrich through the Lone Star and Dia Foundations; used by Saatchi in London and by Raussmüller in Schaffhausen, and about to fizzle in mass MOCA under the auspices of Panza and the Guggenheim Museum. This is the short life of a good idea, which to me seemed obviously good, and serious, necessary, fairly altruistic, and something new beyond stamp collecting. And only about art. Instead, first, Panza and Friedrich didn’t really intend for art to be installed permanently, as implied by Panza and as contracted by Friedrich. Second, they didn’t really mean to build much, just enough to fool everybody. Only a small portion of Panza’s collection is installed and less built. Third, the promise of work to be made was used to get it for nearly nothing. As I said before, the guarantee of construction and permanence is part of the price. Therefore I was never fully paid for the work Panza bought on paper. Therefore the United States Government should pay Richard Serra for the work it destroyed in New York City. Lone Star, Dia and the de Menils should pay the artists for the projects that they failed to complete, that they had promised, that they used, and then abandoned for their own irrelevant reasons. They should pay for the effort wasted and the time lost by the artists, as I said, for example, for five years, and now six more, that Bob Whitman has lost, five years worth more than their lives. Instead, Ashton Hawkins, Chairman of the Dia Foundation and counsel for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Henry Geldzahler, once of the Met, now Dia’s director of the little remnant in Bridgehampton of Dan Flavin’s large project, party in this last little building. The projects have served their purposes, which were otherwise than to be built and maintained. Fitzgerald ends the Great Gatsby with a comment that could be about Philippa de Menil and Heiner Friedrich:
“ It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Torn and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...”
Varese is Panza’s shop window. It’s the bait for the artists and the museums, the first for less and the second for more. After the first visit to Varese I didn’t question Panza’s reasons for the installations, and, as I said, I didn’t know much about what he paid for the work. Also, Castelli was always getting art out into the world and feeling sorry for the collector, as in Panza’s case, poor Panza, struggling along. Most important to not knowing was that Castelli paid an advance each month, which seems agreeable and altruistic, but instead it provided him with a sense of patronage which I didn’t realize for a long time and a weapon for polite coercion into deals and discounts, since I and others always owed him money. Guilty again. That’s how I lost the large plywood piece to Saatchi. It’s hard to argue that someone can’t get their money back. Anyway the Castelli situation obscured the Panza one. And Castelli was always obscure, and smoothly devious.
One of the many myths in the present society is that it’s a nice world, contrary to all evidence. One of the mythical functions of contemporary art is to confirm that it’s a nice world. Artists are peculiar but nice. Artists are supposed to be nice, to stay nice, to be compliant and, astonishingly, to be grateful. Of course it’s helpful if they stay nice, and nice and lucrative. But almost all serious artists have offended people in defending their work from absurdities and so almost all are “difficult”. Artists are supposed to be, and many are, quiet and, for good and bad, nice, while those buying art, big collectors and big museums, and those selling art and writing about it – much art criticism is snide and resentful – are moderately vicious. Artists are nice. It’s hard to consider art an exploitative and aggressive activity. Competition is, for example, alien to it. It’s almost naturally altruistic. It’s hard for art to survive against the general meanness and exploitation. The idea of the nice, dumb artist who needs a tough helping hand is a sub-division of the idea of the nice working class and the nice middle class who need tough leadership, which is a division of the idea of submissiveness and guilt, which all large institutions require of their people. This requirement increases steadily on those in the dry, white land, blindingly clean.
As I said, Panza is exploiting the artist’s desire to work, catching the artist between that desire and fair treatment. The artist should submit in order to work. Then the artist is guilty for submitting, then for working. Then the artist becomes a nuisance and a burden for working. Exploiting the artist’s need to work was one of Heiner Friedrich’s main techniques. Sell your soul and then you can work; he’s still at it. Of course he is a Sufi Muslim and not a Christian and so must buy other entities.
In the middle seventies, after the paper which I did sign, I became suspicious of Castelli’s discounts to Panza. Castelli said not to worry, that the discounts were always out of his share. My ongoing debt to the Castelli Gallery seemed too high. I went with Dudley del Balso, my secretary, to a meeting with Castelli and his accountant, a cold fish. Leo curtsied nervously and began with polite evasiveness. I asked Leo why the debt was so much. I suggested that maybe the money from Panza had not been completely credited. It turned out “that there had been a mistake”, which warmhearted Leo attributed to the cold fish. Instead of the discount being given from Castelli’s fifty percent, Castelli had given Panza a fifty percent discount or more. Then he had split my share fifty-fifty, so that I got less than twenty-five percent. Castelli said that this would be corrected. I thought the debt would be nearly halved and I believe this was done, but we never saw Castelli’s books and he was always very evasive about money. I never had an idea of my finances at the gallery. In a meeting after I got rid of him, Castelli said that we were even. He had pieces in his storage, not all his, which he dumped. It’s important to say that all arrangements with Panza were made by Castelli and his lawyer, not mine, Jerry Ordover, and that Dudley Del Balso, as it turns out, was on good terms with Panza. But, as I’ve said, I was not at that time sufficiently suspicious. It seemed to me that it was their job to be honest. It was hard then to imagine someone like Panza as he is. It’s hard to imagine people interested in art cheating artists and delaying or destroying work. Fortunately, I was suspicious of Heiner Friedrich and demanded a contract. But I wasn’t suspicious enough to foresee that someone would start ambitious “projects” for show without any intention of finishing them. I foresaw the commercialism – he said so –but I didn’t foresee the large scheme that negated everything. I didn’t expect a man to put on a pair of pants and then shit in them.
After a few years I began to wonder why no work was being made. Then I was told that one had been. That was puzzling. I went to Milano on the train with Gianfranco Verna, in ‘76 to have lunch with Panza and to visit Varese again. The security at the apartment building was such that if Panza ever goes to jail he will feel at home. Near the doubly secure entrance to the apartment were files, the art, the collection; I was shown a specimen of my own. At lunch Panza again said nothing profound, or even ordinary, and neither did his wife, while three or four teenagers said nothing at all. The manservant wore white gloves, which was exotic to me, and which seemed undemocratic, but the gloves were flimsy like those used to handle art, if you’re lucky, and so democratic after all. After we got in the car to go to Varese, Panza waited inside the gate of the apartment building, having been informed, for a demonstration, sotto voce, of something a sinistra, to approach and pass.
In Varese I was shown the so-called galvanized iron wall, a copy I had authorized on paper of the original work which was shown at the Castelli Gallery in ‘69 and which I have in Texas. But this work, as with all on paper, was to be built only under my supervision. There was very little communication about this work. Panza simply went ahead and built the work, not only without me, but heedless of what little I could say, knowing little. I was surprised and uneasy. The work was in the same room in the stable. The galvanized surface was very different from the first, very soft and delicate. The widths of the panels at the corners and ends were different because the room was different and because Panza never asked about these important decisions. He had not learned to ask by last November in Los Angeles. Obviously to Panza, only the configuration of a work is real, the configuration sketched on paper. He just makes the sketch in three-dimensions. Since in some works the dimensions could be altered according to the space available, Panza assumed that he could do this as well as me. And then destroy the work and do it again differently, forever. But these alterations in some works involving whole spaces are mine to decide, not anyone’s. And, if a work is installed permanently, that’s it. Since to Panza the shape only has to get up off the paper, the nature of the material and of the surface and the details of the construction are all irrelevant. Panza does not even bother to inform himself of the intervals between parts, which were wrong in the four plywood works which he made for Rivoli and exhibited in Madrid. We go to a great deal of trouble to get a certain kind of plywood and the details of the construction are so unusual that the carpentry has become unique. But Panza doesn’t care; what I require is too expensive. Consequently Panza makes mock-ups, fakes.
Blowing up designs and models is fortunately unusual in art. It’s usual in architecture. This practice is one of the major aspects of the so-called “post-modern” style, and of other kinds of architecture as well. It’s one reason the buildings usually look like cardboard. As I wrote a few years ago, Philip Johnson’s “water” garden in Fort Worth looks like the styrofoam model it undoubtedly was made from. I.M. Pei’s National Gallery in Washington, D.C., looks like an architect’s fancy isometric drawing for a client. Cesar Pelli’s Battery Park City looks flat, like a drawing of an elevation. Someone in the office colored in the squares. Hans Hollein’s unfinished atrocity in the center of Vienna looks like a cheap toy blown up. And of course, Gwathmey is going to flatten the Guggenheim Museum, and Graves the Whitney. The attitudes of all are related.
The worst aspect of the work in Varese was that the galvanized iron panels sat on a strip of wood because of the concave floor, confusing the intent of the work as a plane in front of another plane, the wall. As far as I know, the work is still there like that. I told Panza these things. He didn’t seem too interested. Finally I gave in, trapped again, and approved the work – after the fact. The alternative was to galvanize the panels again – costs too much and “that’s the way they do it in Italy”. The strip of wood could be eliminated by making a wooden floor, which could conceal the nice stone floor. Ketch dvatsat dva. Or the panels could be cut to fit. Too late. And also a new work. At that time I couldn’t understand or even completely question why Panza went ahead and built my work without me. To repeat, this is the work which Panza authorized to be remade for the Ace Gallery last November, which I insisted be destroyed, and which was destroyed. I can only guess that Panza had second thoughts about the permanency of the work in Varese and realized that by putting it in the shop window he had removed it from sale. Heiner Friedrich had such acute second thoughts when he realized that by permanent I meant permanent. Thus the copy of the work in Varese in Los Angeles must have been for sale. Doug Chrismas of Ace denies this. But why go to such an expense? He and Panza are both in the art business. That work, now destroyed, was a forgery.
The second time in Varese, inadequately, I began to wonder about Panza. Both because of the work to be made and because of the doubtful situation, it became urgent to build the work on paper, to get the situation over with, that is, to solve the problem by getting ahead of it, by simplifying it, as I later did disastrously with Friedrich, de Menil, Lone Star, Dia, Möller, and de Menil, a six-pack of bad, warm beer. I thought I could control stupidity with simplicity, but I was outnumbered.
In the photograph of the model for the hole in Salzburg, Hans Hollein proposes to carve the core of the space that Frank Lloyd Wright built in the Guggenheim Museum, the hole in the middle. It’s the hole without the doughnut. Several people have said that the Guggenheim Museum with its new wing will look like an American toilet. This is important, significant, better than the Statue of Liberty, because in a thousand years toilets will be all that are left of the brief American empire. So of course it’s a great symbol for an American museum. The American Standard. It will make a great logo, like Hollein’s for Mönchengladbach. But as form, now something which shouldn’t be discussed, toilets are a contradiction. The bowl is round and very three-dimensional and is usually sculpted, more to pour than to receive. It projects straight out from the wall. The tank containing the water is parallel to the wall and despite being a tank, despite being the equivalent in volume to the bowl, is flat. The two are a hopeless contradiction of form and so will be the round old Guggenheim and the flat post-modern box above it. However many postmodern architects say that forms, functions, all should fight, e.g., Graves, Eisenman, Gehry. Hollein has a problem because he only has the hole of the bowl and no bowl, and of course no tank. But of course the enormous amount of money to be spent should resolve these formal inconsistencies.
Panza is a great thumper of the American drum, also round, and undoubtedly recognizes an empire when he sees one and a blossoming analogy when he meets one. He and Thomas Krens and the Guggenheim all believe in thoughtless expansion, mechanical grandeur, and money, although not for art, but for Panza. They believe in corporate conquest, which resembles conquest at any time, perhaps without the killing. The conquered are nothing. Their distinctions and details are troublesome and slow the conquest. Their activities become just an excuse and are reduced to uniformity for convenience, for sales, and to suppress small independences. The same products should go everywhere – Salzburg, Venice, Massachusetts. Don’t spend so much money, time and care on the construction of the art. ‘Cheaper,’ Giuseppe says, “easier, cretinos, cattivos, bruttos. Damn the artists. They’re all the same. Molto difficile per niente.” Puppi, his wife, says, “si, caro mio, brutti e tutti lo stesso.” Oliva sings, l’aria cattiva, “è lo stesso.”
This corporate thinking in art is commercial popular art history based on often trite art history. It’s separate from the activity of art, separate as the product is from its advertising. It’s made outside to sell art. Panza has been naively and ignorantly caught by the sales pitch and has happily added to it because sales, purchases and sales in quantity, are exactly what he wants to think about. This is called the Panzini approach. It’s hard to follow the turns of Panza’s interviews and this is because he isn’t honest. He really wants to talk about his investment in art and his victory over his family in this, but must be restrained for appearances, and must whitewash investment for both himself and the public with idealistic platitudes.
On LaSalle Street in Chicago, in the state of Illinois,
Is the Chicago Mercantile and a new breed of cowboy.
You can buy yourself some cattle there, for just a little down,
And become a paper rancher, in this reborn cowtown.
And this cowboy doesn’t have to work.
His head is in the clouds and his seat is on the Merc.
He buys a breed of paper cattle that don’t require no feed,
No labor, no machinery, just inside info’s all you need,
(This is the beginning of LaSalle Street Blues,
a poem by Jack Ostergard, a rancher in Nebraska,
printed in Texas Farm & Ranch News, 2 March 1990.)
It’s hard to remember the sequence of the meetings with Panza. The next I believe was a trip to a discontinued electric plant outside of Zürich where Panza hoped “to place” his “collection”. This is perhaps after the installation of the collection in Mönchengladbach fell through. Always there was a possible deal and a future purchase. Zürich fell through also. Panza mentioned several other arrangements in Europe which never happened. I gathered from what he said that there were always conditions to the installation of the collection. I assumed, since the arrangements failed repeatedly, that there was always a fatal catch, a trap, which the European institutions were smart enough to recognize. Or perhaps the art was too unusual and so not important enough, or perhaps it was too “American”, another label which Panza promotes. At this time Panza did not mention outright sales. P.T. Barnum said, “A sucker is born every minute.” Of course his experience was American. I began to realize that Panza was not so altruistic and that his interest in art was not direct and constructive and I began trying to solve the problem of the works on paper. Panza said during my second trip to Varese, to Zürich, his trip to Texas in ’79, my visit to Varese in ’80, more than once, that he was concerned about dying, since his father died fairly early, and being able to leave money to his children: Italian inheritance taxes make this impossible. I understood then that works of art, existing, and especially on paper, could be turned into money outside of Italy which his children could inherit outside of Italy. I didn’t think that this had anything to do with art. I didn’t see why I should be his kids’ bank account. Then, in regard to European museums, he said that he would loan his collection – it’s never the artists’ work; it’s his collection – or part of it, for ten or twenty years and then the museum would have to buy the work and the money would go to the kids. I remember “the museum buying the work eventually” as a statement by Panza. I think that the museums saw this as a form of blackmail. They would maintain the work, even construct it (at third hand), exhibit it for ten or twenty years, during which, considering the enduring lag in art appreciation, where ignorance is time, the work would become well-known and valuable and both in place in the museum. Then the bill would come, even up-to-date. The museum would be trapped; it must buy or lose the collection. No Europeans bit. So in a failing game Panza raised the stakes, took cal MOCA and cashed in. And now another American museum has bitten the bait. With this sucker there are lesser suckers: mass MOCA, a palazzo in Venice, a hole in a rock in the center of Salzburg, the latter in Europe after all. For thirty-two million dollars the Guggenheim also gets the original bait, the palazzo in Varese, to maintain. Panza did not mention any of these shenanigans when I signed the papers that I did sign. He didn’t say that because of financial arrangements irrelevant to the work, the work might not be made for twenty years or thirty or ever. Panza’s schemes stopped the promised construction of the work. As I said, there was no mention that the work would be made outside of Italy, even outside of Lombardia. In the letter to me last December Panza writes of the necessity of only paper:
“In Italy there are a tax which does not exist in U.S.A. the added value tax, the 19% of the value of every art work imported in Italy. In addition a custom tax of 5%. A total of 24%. But the law totally exempt from this tax the intellectual creation, the manuscript of the writer, a project by an architect, the drawing by an engineer, and a project by an artist. For this reason to buy the project is the right thing to do, in order to follow the Law.”
Panza constantly repeats the word “project”. I never made “projects”.
These considerations, again, are not the considerations of art. And they are why nothing happened for almost twenty years. Such irrelevant concerns are why, to me at first mysteriously, little got done through Friedrich and the rest of the Lone Star six pack. The “projects” financed by them were only fronts for Friedrich’s changing schemes. And now, except for my “project”, which I fought for, there is little to show for a great deal of money, most of it still cached away in art and real estate. In ’85, the new board of Dia, appointed by Dominique de Menil, with Herbert Brownell, President Eisenhower’s Attorney General as a member, destroyed most of the projects, the only real activity of the Foundation, while hardly touching the capital, the paintings and the real estate which Philippa de Menil’s’ “money” had purchased. Stagnation is often only stagnation, but it’s also often a sign that the effort, such as it is, is elsewhere.
I don’t want to appear to be on the side of the central government in speculating about Panza’s difficulties with taxes. I object to being caught in between. I’m critical of Panza for involving art and artists in problems which were made by trying to use art for something which it is not. If he had simply collected art for itself and for his interest and enjoyment, he wouldn’t have had so many difficulties. If he had brought the art into Italy when he first bought it, when it was still cheap, there would have been no problems. The work did not go to Italy immediately because it was only an investment. Panza tries to explain in the MOCA, interview:
“But in 1976 the Italian government passed a new law, which required that every Italian resident having property in a foreign country had to bring it back to Italy, or else sell it and send back the money. I asked the government not to impose this obligation because mine was not an investment abroad, not capital kept abroad. It was a cultural activity.”
“This law required me to dissolve the Trust I had made, which I did, and the works became mine. But the Italian administration rejected my request. We were obliged to bring back the work or the money in a very short period of time. We asked for a delay, but that was also rejected. Because the new law was very strong in forbidding anyone to keep money or property abroad, there was a risk of going to jail. We were denounced to the criminal court in Rome because we were guilty!”
“C.K.: What reason did they give for refusing your request for a waiver for cultural reasons?”
“G.P.: Just because it was the law. There were no distinctions, even if there was some valid reason to keep something abroad. This law was very simple: Everything had to come back – either the estate or the money, if it was sold.”
“But the problem was not really solved. The Italian administration in charge of foreign exchange still interpreted the law differently from the court. And we still ran the risk of being caught again and going to another criminal trial, which was not an experience we wanted to repeat a second time. So I decided to look for another solution, which was to sell the collection and bring back the money. I tried to sell the works to Schmalenbach, but unfortunately his funds had been cut by the state of Westphalia because of the economic depression in 1982. So in June of 1983 I wrote to Richard Koshalek, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to ask if the museum was interested. He said yes.”
The law passed by the government of Italy, which Panza describes, requiring all assets to be returned to Italy, is a preposterous law. This is a fantastic exaggeration of national identity. Neither can it be enforced, a necessity for laws which governments forget. Probably many companies and individuals evaded this law. It’s odd that Panza could not and that indicates that there is more to all of this than he explains in the MOCA interview.
Art is a product to be taxed by the United States, except in one important way; it can freely come in and go out of the country. Then it is art, culture, civilization and free speech. In France, Germany and Italy, art at the frontier is still a product. This is a violation of the integrity of art and of freedom of speech and of civilization. This is censorship. Now, the Soviet Union wants to rent the work of Malevich and Popova. This is also a violation of art and ironically a discrimination against those who cannot pay.
Anyway another big problem, one that is very destructive in the United States, is that of the big corporations moving outside the country. In this case the government doesn’t stop it: only the small fry stay on dry land. The big fish offshore do as they please, more and more. By making exaggerated laws, unenforceable laws, governments debase themselves. By trying to collect unfair and high taxes, they force everyone to protect themselves from the government, and distrust it. But this is not a healthy, open distrust, a political distrust, this is a narrow covert distrust that usually concerns only income taxes. People don’t understand the larger context. In the United States I’ve watched the distrust of the IRS grow for thirty years. People who once considered it basic honesty to obey the tax laws, ordinary believers in the American nation-state, now figure out tax dodges, just as the rich do. Now they both believe in the same way. The United States is obviously in a doldrum of disbelief, useless disbelief. But there is little urge and no ideas for something better. The Cold War has destroyed the idea of the central government. It’s not only that communism is disqualified, it’s that central governments are disqualified. One variant has gone; another thinks it has won, when it is bleak and broke, when its people will pay for generations. The eastern countries should watch out for the central governments; they can just get a flashy version of what they had. Democracy may have broken the old despotism in a moment, after forty-five years, only to allow a new one, for another forty-five years, because it’s not that democracy has won; democracy has lost. It’s been losing for forty-five years, sixty-five. Now, everywhere, but especially in the United States, democracy and capitalism are used as one word. Democracy doesn’t have anything to do with capitalism. And what is capitalism? Capitalism now can only be that of the corporations and affiliated institutions, which is not even the majority of business, let alone all economic activity. The best Italian companies after the war, for example, the mainstay of Italy, were middle sized companies, not huge. It’s horrifying that all of the CEOs of the corporations meet Gorbachev and are supposed to represent the best of the United States. Many of these CEOs head businesses which sold out the United States. Look at Detroit, a wasteland, home of Lee Iacocca, a visible crime against the workers and the residents, a progress from wealth to poverty in thirty years, a homemade, peacefully produced Beirut, destroyed. The violence is left to be homemade too.
The United States Government is an institution, like any other; it’s not a religion, which are also only institutions. This institution has bankrupted itself and all of its people by spending money for forty-five years against an enemy who is poor and far away, the furthest ever. This is not news. It’s been obvious all along. When I first saw the Soviet Union in ’84, in the bad old days, first in Tallinn, I thought that it was obvious that it was too poor to be the competitive villain. It’s like fighting Mexico. Instead of reducing taxes now and concentrating on the impoverished people, the United States Government is searching for a new enemy, so that it can maintain military spending. An institution which has failed so badly should be drastically reduced and reorganized. Unlike the Soviet Union, the United States central government will not reform itself and the situation. It will not return power in any way to small and democratic entities. The central government failed and should go. It is nowhere near the original idea of the United States. It is the “evil empire”. The American Cold War is the most concocted, fantastic, and ridiculous occurrence in history. And lengthiest and largest, as is now possible. It’s crazy like the Crusades, like the Children’s Crusade, like Aztec slaughter, like the genocides of this century, like the Tartars having dinner on a platform crushing the Russians. You can argue perhaps, I don’t, that World War II was a normal mistake, that events grew into a catastrophe, but the Cold War is a deliberate, fantastic invention. And even if it’s over, which itself is something of a fashion, and even if the United States military would be over, the nuclear bombs would remain. With luck, the next three hundred years will be devoted to the restoration of the world.
Surprisingly Panza came to Texas early in ’79, without his wife. My children and I had moved to town. Panza spent a night in a house on the edge of town, called the Lujan house, which I had rented and beautifully reworked. The house was in a very poor area called Sal si puedes. It never got out; I lost it. Again, I don’t remember any profundities. I showed Panza around and stated the reasons for the installations of earlier work in the east and west buildings of the complex in town. He didn’t clarify the situation of the work on paper. This silence increasingly worried me and had become a burden.
In May ’80 I and my children and Jamie Dearing, my assistant then, stayed two weeks in the palazzo in Varese especially to resolve the questions of the work. Panza and la signora were seldom there and were pleasant when they were, but nothing got done. We saw some panels of plywood stacked in storage which were obviously the wrong plywood – too fancy – with the wrong connectors - chic. That’s all for two weeks. The stable no longer looked convincing – a little chic. As with my own work, but more so, most of the work by other artists looked somewhat wrong. I imagine Panza was ignoring them, as he did me, and making their work also. I remember especially that a room upstairs with red light seemed wrong since the light flooded the whole room, became the space, which is unlike Flavin, whose work it was, and more like the banal colored rooms which James Turrell once made in Amsterdam. The increasing renovation resembled museum architecture, the Antichrist of art. As to Panza’s judgement of art, although he has avoided fashionable trash, partly by the chance of expense, his judgement is too much derived from the “scene” and too concerned with followers, again money, less. He thinks in groups; his interest is corporate. At this time in Varese, there was a room of work by Richard Nonas, I think near a room of work by Carl Andre, from whose work Nonas’ is derived, and as usual in that case differentiated by conservative elements. Nearby there was a room whose painted walls had been designed by Sol LeWitt, linear fragments of a scheme, an avante-garde, excuse to go to the rear and do blown-up and mediocre derivations of perhaps one kind of Vantongerloo’s paintings. On the piano nobile, in the palazzo proper, among red and gold chairs, there was a wall drawing by LeWitt. Basically Panza doesn’t live with contemporary art; he visits it. There are people who live with art being made now. I think during this visit of two weeks I went to Rivoli, outside of Torino, with Panza, to see the Castello, which, again, was to contain his collection. This fell through. Panza said later that it was the communists. Also it was more complex as a situation since it was in Italy. Adjacent to the Castello, which was designed by Juvarra, there is a very narrow, long, three story building which in the eighteenth century was to have been a gallery for paintings. This space seemed very difficult to use. I suggested that I make shallow works in plywood for the walls of one or two floors and that this great amount of work be considered a settlement of the paper. Panza wasn’t interested. This idea was also proposed in a letter 25 November ’80. Also in July. No. I still hadn’t fully realized that a permanent installation was exactly what Panza didn’t want. This letter contains six pages of details of work to be corrected. There are many such letters over many years. It was pissing into the wind.
As late as 5 January ’83 I was still trying to honor the paper and resolve the mess. A note to me from my secretary, Dudley Del Balso, says:
“Panza: There are many restorations and/or corrections to be made on existing works in his collections. My notes to this end are in the files and in Panza’s hands. There are also works still on paper. Julia tells me L.A. is interested in exhibiting some of Panza’s collection and obviously this would be an opportunity to get to the bottom of this.”
This became ridiculous. Panza’s motives were now clearly shady. His understanding of my work was simply shady, either genuinely and superficially wrong or conveniently wrong, since his misunderstanding allowed him to build as he pleased and where and as often as he pleased, that is, happily commercially without the nuisance of an artist.
Panza’s father was a self-made man of another new wave. There is nothing wrong with being self-made; it is all there is; there is even a shortage of self-making. The presumption based on narrowness that is often part of the making is what is wrong, and especially the assumption that there is a new wave. In this century every new wave has thought itself newly made and absolutely right. The new wave in charge in the United States is struggling to gain this conviction, but manipulative capitalism as everyone’s tea is pretty weak, so the government needs an enemy. Friedrich’s friend, Franz Dahlem, told me at the time of Westkunst in Cologne that Friedrich’s mother had been a member of the National Socialist party in Berlin. Dahlem was then director of the exhibition space of the Dia Foundation in Cologne, which had been the Heiner Friedrich Gallery, run by Thordis Möller. Panza and Friedrich are going to feel superior, or try to feel superior to the artists, no matter what. However, this attitude doesn’t require a high authoritarian background. Somehow it’s acquired straight from the cotton patch. Artists are at least liberal in some fashion, so that their art provides an opportunity to get even with liberalism and to dominate it and to prove the superiority of authoritarian upbringing. And at the same time liberally whitewash that upbringing. One of my jokes about Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil was that they were rednecks in kefdiyahs, since around ’80 they became Sufi Muslims, supposedly the most reactionary group in Turkey. Friedrich once tried to gain my sympathy, as if I knew nothing of left or right, by saying that after all they were trying to overthrow the Turkish Government. The kefdiyah covers your neck so that it’s not possible to have a red neck, but being Sufi makes it possible to seem chic and jet-set and exotic, cool in New York City, while really being a redneck, that is, narrow and superior, self-righteous, simple and intolerant, racist, fascist, everything, ignorant and arrogant. If they were just plain redneck Christians, hating communism and “modern art” and all that stuff, it wouldn’t be cool for rich kids in New York City. Better to be exotic Sufis and satisfy and hide your red neck and be applauded for modern art while using and demeaning it. Just shift the cliché a little to satisfy your wealth and its illusions.
Sentimentality and a great deal about love and idealism is an extreme and a partner to the extreme of viciousness. Solzhenitsyn says this somewhere in the Gulag. Gertrude Stein describes an example. After a fight about one of his puerile dirty tricks Heiner Friedrich would sign his letters peace and love. Caesar signed his letters to Vercingetorix, Amor et Pax Romana. Because if the artist objects to what is being done to the work, the artist is disturbing the peace. Varus wrote Arminius that he deeply and truly enjoyed the shared experience.
Aside from common extreme attitudes, it is a present oddity that these people, many people, ignore the fact that art contains and the artists have opinions with which they would not agree, or they see no opinions. I don’t think it’s possible, but if I liked someone’s work and then found out that they had abhorrent opinions, I would no longer like the work. This has never happened. It could happen with Marinetti. But artists are supposed to have nice opinions. There are lots of nice easy generalizations which make even totalitarians feel good.
Panza scatters his easy good wishes to ideality and the human race throughout the interview in the book by MOCA. The reality is in the omnipresent discussion of money and taxes, in the constant assertion of what he did, especially getting it cheaper. Right away, in the first purchase of the painting by Franz Kline, Panza says: “The price was about $550. I asked Sidney Janis to reduce it to $500. He agreed.” Panza is still proud. $50! This is a silly game which finally becomes vicious when a live artist is within range. The method for dead artists and real estate is applied to live artists. Friedrich was proud of unbelievably foolish purchases in which he was thoroughly cheated. Didn’t Sidney Janis win? Someone selling real estate worth $40,000.00 would tell Friedrich $100,000.00. Friedrich would say sternly, “No, no more than ninety.” The seller would acquiesce and Friedrich would sit back and grin triumphantly. Panza and Friedrich are both lesser brothers of strong and competent brothers and sisters and lesser sons of strong and competent fathers. Art is a handy soft wet spot in which to finally succeed. Art is the new world to which to send the odd and fumbling sons, the new colonial administrators. This explains a lot about what happened to the real New World. So much so, that odd begat fumbling until they ruined two continents.
Panza is the arrogant entrepreneur in an unknown enterprise, obstinate, resistant toward the knowledge of the enterprise, unlearned for the sake of purity, the simplicity of his idea of it all. He is the guy who will shoot first, buy first, bulldoze first, whatever, because life is simple. Or wherever he is shooting, since it is unknown, life is simple. In North and South America ’92 also approaches. This description precedes 1492 by almost another five hundred years. It was the first meeting between Europeans and Americans:
“Next summer Thorvald sailed east with his ship and then north along the coast. They ran into a fierce gale off a headland and were driven ashore; the keel was shattered and they had to stay there for a long time while they repaired the ship.
Thorvald said to his companions, ‘I want to erect the old keel here on the headland, and call the place Kjalarness.’
They did this and then sailed away eastward along the coast. Soon they found themselves at the mouth of two fjords, and sailed up to the promontory that jutted out between them; it was heavily wooded. They moored the ship alongside and put out the gangway, and Thorvald went ashore with all his men.
‘It is beautiful here,’ he said. ‘Here I should like to make my home.’
On their way back to the ship they noticed three humps on the sandy beach just in from the headland. When they went closer they found that these were three skin-boats, with three men under each of them. Thorvald and his men divided forces and captured all of them except one, who escaped in his boat. They killed the other eight and returned to the headland.”
Do not stop to think. Stay obstinate. Panza says even now in Art of June ’90 in answer to a question: “It is in the nature of a minimalist, conceptual and environment art that it is not realized in the artist’s hand. The project is the original, its realization is left to a third party, that is to say to a specialized workshop.” This is a thoroughly ignorant and stupid assumption, and confused. Who is the third party? I guess Panza, manufacturing forever and through his “heirs and assigns”. As I keep saying, each of the three groups is itself a falsification; all three together is a larger falsification. All the artists have different means of production, some pointedly by their own hand. It’s an unaccountable leap from having a factory, the second party, do the work under the artist’s supervision to anyone – the third party? – doing it without the artist. As I said, Panza is very fond of the word “project”, which he got from Italian tax law. Contrary to this, an original work of mine is an existing work.
When I last saw the Crex Collection in Schaffhausen, probably in ’84, my work was badly installed. I’ve since heard that it’s badly maintained. The building of course is fine. In ’85 Raussmüller bought three works, a plywood one in Texas and two to be made by me in Switzerland. A schedule for payment was made. The plywood work was shipped from Texas. But the first payment didn’t come. Raussmüller could not be found. The work arrived in Europe on its way to Schaffhausen. There was no payment and hardly a word. I forced Raussmüller before a lawyer and he admitted that no payments were coming, that he “was not authorized to pay”. The work was sent back to Texas. It would have been a free work for Crex, as I’ve heard many are.
Panza naively says of the Crex Collection: “Today the Crex Collection in Schaffhausen is the only one devoted to Minimal and Conceptual art, and we can see how much better it is than work bought by the Hoffman Foundation.” But I’m not interested in a collection devoted to label A and label B, which are not related. A is not even a unity. Such praise is like praising an amateur rock collector to a geologist. This is slick corporate chit-chat learned from art dealers.
Panza says: “The Ludwig collection in Germany is very large, but that was made with a different goal. It’s very broad, having documentation of every event in art, and is not as selective as the Crex Collection. That one was made like mine, a careful selection of the best work of the best artists.” Of course every event in art is not worth recording. However, a “careful selection of the best work” is not buying twenty at once. If Panza were careful he could not have bought 600 works, or wish to. And I’ve shown what he thinks of care in construction and installation. And he does not have only the best artists; the more that he is on his own, the weaker the selection.
And last: “Yes. I believe the best collection assembled recently was made in Zürich, Switzerland. It’s shown now in an old factory made available by the city of Schaffhausen. It was assembled by Raussmüller, an artist who for several years ran the InK Institution, a space in Zürich for showing art. He made a beautiful collection of American artists of the ’60s. There are also European artists of the period, but mostly American. He didn’t have money, but he had a group of friends who gave him the means to buy the collection. The collection is called Crex. It really is the most beautiful collection of American art of the ’60s in the world.” If the Crex Collection is the most beautiful, it’s a denunciation of what has happened. Anyway, I’m also not interested in a collection of American art, nor of the sixties, nor any other restrictions. And what I saw of Crex didn’t look so hot. If a glib, corporate attitude of labels and gallery chatter make the selection, it can’t be good and where is the care and the intelligence for the installation to come from?
I hope that this is more fun to read than it is to write. At least the characters are bizarre and the farce is familiar. I even have Panza. Other than the necessity to resist, this subject is neither here nor there. Social substance, especially in art, is pretty thin. It’s like the saying about the muddy Missouri River: “It’s too thick to drink and too thin to plow,” which is where Panza is slowly fishing between dry, white legality and black illegality. Or the description of the Platte River in Nebraska: “It’s a mile wide and an inch deep.”
In ’83 MOCA of California wrote saying that the Count was going to lend or otherwise provide a work of mine in plywood for their opening mass exhibition. They and the Count agreed that the museum carpenters should make it. Having suffered through museum carpenters several times, I objected strongly. Not being quick to grasp the implausible integrity of art, they were hard to persuade, virtually force. Again, my way of construction was too expensive; Peter Ballantine was too expensive; his airfare was too expensive; the plywood was too expensive. Even though the work was free, being bait. Finally Peter went and made the work for the space. For me, this meant the loss of Peter’s work on new pieces. Then the show was over. Panza didn’t want to take the work down carefully or even store it. He and the museum wanted to throw it away. This is similar to my problem with Saatchi. He didn’t want to pay for Peter to go to London and dismantle the large plywood piece, which only he can do. So Saatchi had some guys take it apart. I said, therefore, the work is destroyed. The work, which cost $60,000 to make in 1981 and six to seven months of Peter’s work, does not exist. We wrote Panza that the work at MOCA existed, finally, and that if it was destroyed, it was destroyed. Panza thought, as always, that the work could be made over again for another space of different dimensions. Forever and forever. I wrote Panza:
“I was surprised that you wanted to destroy the plywood piece in Los Angeles made by Peter Ballantine. This piece is a work of mine, with my concern, and definitely Peter’s craftsmanship, which should not be wasted. The technology and craftsmanship of my work is part of the art. Work made without my supervision is not my work. You cannot continue to do so.
You made a few pieces without me at the time of my divorce, when it was difficult for me to travel. What little I could see of those pieces, when I was in Varese with James Dearing and my children, did not resemble my work. Also there was no result from this trip towards getting the remaining pieces made and the situation concluded. I think it’s been fifteen years. I was paid very little. I wonder that it has not occurred to you that it’s strange that I honor the agreement after so long. The agreement says that I am to supervise the construction of the pieces. Peter Ballantine alone can make plywood pieces. One factory near Zürich where I go frequently can make metal pieces. After all these years and my sincere efforts to conclude the situation I want to be paid for this supervision. And to repeat, I want no more pieces that are essentially designed by your factories.
Saluti a Signora Panza e anche Signore Soldati.”
Again they didn’t want to pay Peter or for his flight. But they did. My request in the letter for payment for supervision was really a ploy to stop all construction, since Panza had always been so cheap. Even less would he build and rebuild if it involved a fee. At this point, I was finally through with Panza.
But Panza is a real tarbaby. He wasn’t through. And he wasn’t going to learn. He was becoming rich and famous and artistic, like Andy Warhol. And he had made only one sale in his life, eighty works to MOCA for eleven million.
I wrote about the situation in art in Los Angeles, 26 November ’86:
“The quality of visual art sank while money rose around it. Our usually dry cup was better off before; now nearly as dry as ever, it wobbles in the sea around it. And yet this uncertain hole in the water has been given the job of defining the sea. Our cup may overflow. Art sunk lower while numerous new and expensive institutions emerged around it, purported support hanging on for dear life. One Sunday’s New York Times – 23 November ’86 – says in its magazine that LACMA spent 35.3 million on its new wing, that MOCA cost 23 million, that Getty gave 3 million to MOCA, which has a 30 million endowment, that MOCA is paying Panza 11 million for coals to Newcastle, that Fred Weisman is institutionalizing, and that 100 million is coming from J. P. Lannan. This is considered to be a sign of life in L. A.”
In Los Angeles fifteen years ago there was a live and serious situation in art, sufficiently international, as is always necessary, as the most further knowledge is, and admirably indigenous, unlike New York. Although I lived in New York, the social situation among the artists in Los Angeles was the only one, and that little, that I was involved in until recently, so that I know something about it. This was because of Larry Bell. This great situation was neglected, partly by the same people given credit in the magazine article for the present ‘Renaissance’ – when you see the word ‘Renaissance’, as in Renaissance Center in Detroit, you can be sure that the situation is dead – and the artists moved elsewhere. Now the news is that Irving Blum is moving back, to import ‘New York’ art, and that things are picking up. The real situation in art ran on peanuts and a few more would have sustained everyone. The millions – a billion – will not restore what was lost. The artists, and also the seriously interested people, the time, even the place, will not come again. The artists work hard and survive, not supported well as usual, elsewhere, Larry Bell in Taos. Since they contain art, the new museums are not completely worthless, but LACMAMOCAJPGFWJPL together are far from being worth the old situation or the present one elsewhere either. This is a bitter discrepancy.”
The circumstances were different in New York City. The art in Los Angeles was neglected. Further, the art in New York City was betrayed. This begins in the beginning. Clyfford Still wrote in 1966:
“I have been told, to my considerable amusement, that my personal departure from New York City was hailed by many remaining there as ‘a victory for their Establishment’. Certainly, acquiescent replacements from coast to coast – ex-students and perennial imitators alike – were happily hustled forth to deny that I had ever existed. So was authority restored to the institution of Art; and the crafting of histories resumed by those who would starve should their hoax be exposed. A Pyrrhic charade.
Let it be clearly understood that my relation to that contemporary Moloch, the Culture State, has not been altered. In its smothering omnipresence there is no place, ideologically or practically, for anyone who assumes the aspiration by which birth was given to the paintings reproduced in this catalogue. Few institutions that would survive among the power structures of our culture can afford the presence of an individual who would challenge the merit of their rules, nor dare they embrace a code of conduct or administration that does not seek, and yield to, the collectivist denominators of this time.”
The Guggenheim Museum has made New York City symmetrical to Los Angeles in neglect and redemption. The museum and New York City in general didn’t support, didn’t even conserve the art made there for forty years and now they attempt to buy it back. I wrote in a recent letter:
“All of the artists were in New York City with the Guggenheim. It ignored most of the artists, including myself. By this neglect the museum helped sell out the situation in art in New York, which now is thoroughly sold out. Why should the museum’s record be cleaned up? Why should I help, and in doing so, falsify my own circumstances and efforts? The purchase of our own work elsewhere is insulting. We are being turned into self-scabs in an involuntary strike.”
The New York City art establishment very early discovered that they were in the “art capital of the world”, without having to consider the reasons. The establishment was there, already in place. The art was invented and was out of place. This is a big difference, which the establishment will never forgive. MOMA didn’t expect any more modern art. Short now of produce, they think they can recapitalize.
As an example of incomprehension in art, here are two recent quotes. Alan Bowness writes in the first sentence of a catalogue:
“With the lengthening perspective of history Jackson Pollock’s dominant position in twentieth century art is clear. More than any other single artist he effected that shift of the artistic capital from Paris to New York in the 1940’s which had such momentous consequences.”
Ellen G. Landau writes in the next to last paragraph of a book:
“There seems to be little doubt, as so many critics and art historians in both Europe and America have had to admit, that Jackson Pollock’s most far-reaching achievement is his major role in the dramatic shift of the locus of the avant-garde from Paris to New York after World War II.”
Is this why Jackson Pollock is a great artist?
The book, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, by Serge Guilbaut, begins with the same assertion. “After the Second World War, the art world witnessed the birth and development of an American avant-garde, which in the space of a few years succeeded in shifting the cultural center of the West from Paris to New York.” Even Carnap would not have been able to analyze such a sentence. What is small is big and what is big is small and all are in the wrong positions. This distortion is at once a devaluation of art and an exaggeration and misstatement of a social situation. And once again, it’s an exaggeration of a small, isolated situation in art and a diminution of the social situation after World War II. You could separate all the phrases in the sentence and scramble them in a hat without any loss of logic. The rest of the book seems the same. This is an example of a new school in the art history of recent art, which pretends to be philosophically investigative while in the service of a simplistic, reactionary, representational art, growing to be of service to an increasingly reactionary political situation. Such analyses are co-options of serious thinkers, a forward manner used for backward purposes. In my dictionary of aggression, oppression and their maintenance, co-option is one of the lengthiest entries.
In ’88 his “Colección Panza” was shown in the Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid. I was not asked about the fabrication of work for this exhibition. There were no letters beforehand. I was not even informed of the exhibition. There was no announcement. I heard about it in September ’88. It was to be over at the end of December. Since I learned of the exhibition too late and was too busy by then to go and see it, I asked Ellie Meyer, my assistant, to go to Madrid and check my work, to make measurements, to take photographs, to make notes, which she did. Some of the work, that in plywood, had been made by Panza without my knowledge. He admits this in his letter of last December: “The four plywood piece was made when I made the engagement to make a long term loan to the Rivoli Castle Museum, when the building was under restoration. The Administration was willing to see some of the works quickly. There was no time to make them in America, where the cost was the double.”
Some of the work, according to the measurements and photographs, was installed incorrectly. Panza is not a very good artist. Panza himself installed the work from Oldenburg’s Store in the first mass show at MOCA, installing the pieces in a straight line, some on fake marble pedestals. This is from the interview in the book:
“C.K.: The precision of the installation is very different from, say, Oldenburg’s Store.”
“G.P.: Well, in some way it’s not. When I was in the Store, the whole space was filled with his work, only his objects, so brilliant in color. This accumulation was extremely strong. But when you are in a museum you cannot do the same thing, because to repeat the experience of the Store it would be necessary to have forty Oldenburgs, not just sixteen.”
Is this hypocrisy, commercial patter, arrogant stupidity, madness, as in the movie Bridge on the River Kwai? When they arrived three weeks after the opening, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen changed the installation. As I said Panza applies the method for dead artists to live ones; you can read his wishful thinking between the lines in the earlier quote about life and art.
When I first saw the book from MOCA in ’88, I was surprised that Panza would publish paper and photographs at all. These are not art; how can they be claimed for a collection? They should be private. The claim, as usual with Panza, is highly pretentious. Then I was surprised at the categories. There are six purchase orders signed by Dudley Del Balso. Purchase orders are for companies at the point of fabrication, and if the work is not made, they are nothing. Purchase orders are between me and the fabricator. They are private. They should not have been given to Panza. There are three photographs of the works made in ’76 for an exhibition in the Kunsthalle in Bern. Later these were to be made again for the Heiner Friedrich Gallery, the Lone Star and Dia Foundation – who can tell which? Supposedly all remaining disputes at the time of the settlement with Dia in ’86 were cancelled. Friedrich, appropriately, conned Panza by selling him these sketches, two of a kind. I knew nothing of this sale until I saw the book. I won’t make the work; I won’t allow Panza to make it. When I saw these photographs I finally made the connection between Panza and Friedrich, which I will explain later. (It’s vulgar to publish this material; it’s like publishing your marriage certificate to claim ownership.) As I said Panza arrogantly made up his own catalogue numbers and his own descriptive titles in some cases, which if so, often indicate that the work is fake; for example, Straight Single Tube, 1974, DJ 24; Large Tube, Parallelogram Inside, 1974, DJ 31; and Eight Hot Rolled Steel Boxes, 1974, DJ 26, are all fake, made by Panza without me, ignoring many objections as to detail. Through a letter of 25 November ’80 by Del Balso concerning construction details, which Panza ignored, after a similar letter of 2 November ’80 which he also ignored, I objected to Panza’s use of descriptions as titles. Panza was still using them in his published catalogues. Panza admits to making cheaply the four plywood works for Rivoli for the Reina Sofia. They are fake. The paper I signed clearly specifies my involvement. Since this was ignored, since Panza misrepresented the whole situation, I will not make these works or allow Panza to make them.
I always knew that Friedrich had gotten the idea of permanent installation from me, and perhaps by way of Panza, as well as his arrogantly stated objection to museums. But, since he is not intelligent and has no imagination, I never understood where the financial schemes came from until I saw the photographs of the works in Bern in the book from MOCA. He had learned from Panza. And also in that book Panza says:
“After our meeting with Turrell, we paid our first visit to the desert, which is a beautiful space. We planned to stop in Nevada to see the Earthworks of Michael Heizer and Walter De Maria. I met De Maria some years before in New York and was very interested in his work. Few works were available, and they already cost more than $10,000, but I was interested in seeing the work he had made in Nevada. I came with Helen Winkler and. Heiner Friedrich. He had galleries in Cologne and New York, where I had bought several works by Flavin and Ryman. He was also the dealer of De Maria. Helen Winkler had come to the West several times with De Maria to look for a site for the Lightning Field. He made a test site near Flagstaff and made a work in Nevada, not far from Las Vegas. There was also Heizer’s Double Negative to see on the Mormon Mesa, near Overton and Lake Mead. Because Turrell had to go to Nevada, too, we used his airplane.”
Panza has misplaced De Maria.
The question as to why Panza never did anything and why Friedrich, Lone Star, Dia and the de Menils never did either is answered. They had other things to do which had nothing to do with art, which was only a front for all kinds of schemes and pretentious fantasies.
The exhibition in Madrid was bait for the Guggenheim. Most of the work goes there. I only accept the metal work made by Bernstein, some of which was in Madrid, the dubious “wall” in Varese, if it stays in Varese the plywood piece made by Peter Ballantine at MOCA for the space in MOCA. The four plywood works in Madrid, contrachapado, are fake. Any other plywood or metal works are fake.
Peter Ballantine says of the plywood works in Madrid: there were never as many parts as in the largest one; there were never any works with plywood backs; the fasteners are not ours; the plywood is not American fir, but has a poplar core – which is completely wrong as an idea; some works seem to be copies of work I have in Texas; the splines in the tops are not ours; the parallelogram work seems to be wrong. There is a long document of 14 August ’75 by Ballantine specifying only American Douglas fir plywood. As I said there was correspondence on some works, but Panza ignored it and went ahead. For example, Jamie Dearing wrote, July ’80:
“Don has reiterated to me that, as is always the case with his work, despite all the planning, drawing, engineering, samples of material, and speculation, one cannot know a piece is right until it is made, installed, and seen. It remains very important, therefore, that Don see the final execution of his work or that his representatives see it and communicate with him. As you know, Don feels very strongly that no piece exist as his if it does not fully and precisely express his intentions. The meaning of the work is achieved only through the quality of its fabrication and the correctness of its installation.”
Most arrogantly, despite my well-known objections, I think despite every artist concerned, the exhibition in Madrid was titled Arte Minimal. And Germano Celant wrote an essay ¿Colección o proyecto ideal? Colección y liquidación. Should a government agency, the Ministry of Culture of Spain, pay for this sale, for this arrogant advertising, pay for an exhibition it evidently was not responsible for?
Last November I was in Los Angeles to install an exhibition at the Margo Leavin Gallery. Doug Chrismas called me at the hotel to tell me that there was a work of mine in a group show at his gallery, the Ace Gallery. I thought at first that it was a small one that he had bought somewhere. Chrismas said he had called Ellie Meyer informing her of the show, but she didn’t understand what the work was. Chrismas described the work, which at first I didn’t understand either. When I did, I couldn’t understand what it was doing in Los Angeles. Chrismas said that he had remade the galvanized iron wall in Varese in a room in his gallery in Los Angeles. I was shocked. This didn’t seem possible. It still seems impossible. He said that this had been authorized by Panza and somehow by Leo Castelli, whom I fired some time back, and that they and Dudley Del Balso had provided information for the construction. I’ve heard that Del Balso advises Panza on artists in New York City. None of these people have the right to make or remake this work or any work of mine.
The work had already been up for three weeks. If I hadn’t been in Los Angeles, presumably I would not have known of it until much later, again by chance. I went to the gallery with Ellie and told Chrismas to take the work down. It was clearly wrong, besides being a forgery. Chrismas zig-zagged a while, but because of the installation at the other gallery, I had the force to take it down, and because of the long fight with Dia, the legal quickness to get it down. Also, Chrismas had been burned in another conflagration. We went on Saturday; the work was destroyed – I left someone to check – on Monday. We even took the panels to Texas to be sure they were destroyed. I asked Ellie to send a letter to Castelli telling him to disappear. I wrote Panza telling him to stop making my work and that forgery is against the law. This is not a case some paper in Panza’s files. This is a forgery of an existing work.
The work was badly made, differently made, the corners, as I said, were wrong; the surface was wrong. Chrismas said that the work was not for sale. That’s hard to believe.
It took money to remake the work. I think Panza began to regret the permanence of the work in Varese and so its lack of marketability. As I said I don’t think Friedrich ever meant work to stay placed permanently, as required by contract. When he realized that I meant it, that work acquired cheaply to be permanent was not to be sold by Thordis Möller, his commercial agent in Europe, he began to stall. This is also why it was so difficult to get the work by Chamberlain, also contracted for permanent installation in Texas. Being portable it was part of the bank account, as is the real estate and the paintings in storage by Twombly, Warhol and others. Once in Texas, the work was to stay, as it has. I wrote Panza objecting to the reconstruction, and in general. We ran ads denying the work. I wrote a letter to the world denying the work. Then the Guggenheim Museum bought 32 million dollars worth of Panza’s collection, only the second sale. I wrote another letter to the art magazines, all that they are good for, and to the newspapers, and to the Guggenheim Museum. I am not going to have anything further to do with Panza or his “heirs and assigns”. He has invalidated himself.
The preface to MOCA’s part of Panza’s collection which corporately required two to write, Richard Koshalek and Sherri Geldin, begins:
“Giuseppe Panza di Blumo has emerged in his lifetime as one of the most significant collectors of the art of our era. His commitment to the art of his time calls to mind such celebrated predecessors as the Medicis in Renaissance Florence, Duke Vincenzo I Gonzaga in 17th-Century Mantua, Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington, in 18th-Century England, and Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, and Samuel Courtauld in 20th-Century Europe and America …
Theirs was not simply a passion to amass the very best work being produced at a particular time, but to actively engage and support the leading artists of the period, thereby affecting the evolution of art history in a profound fashion. While the collected or commissioned works themselves survive in the world as permanent testimony to the superb aesthetic judgement shared by these collectors, equally essential to their ultimate achievements was a certain spirit of inquiry that inspired them to seek and confidently support the most compelling artists then at work. In addition to their responsiveness to and acceptance of new ideas, it is also a strong commitment to patronage that distinguishes these universally respected collectors and that assures Dr. Panza a place among them.”
This is what Panza is not. It is ignorant, pretentious and false to compare Panza with such people in the past. It is embarrassing to compare him to Leo and Gertrude Stein and to Albert Barnes. It’s disgusting. Panza is a dumb, arrogant man intent on making money in a dumb, soft spot in the society, the one place he can, and also being acclaimed, a double reward, or triple if you consider the posthumous glory he expects.
The following quotation is a clear example, clear now, of hypocrisy, of the corruption of serious efforts:
“Although Dr. Panza’s early collecting primarily involved paintings, even then the appropriate installation of these individual works was of paramount importance. He strongly believed that the works of each artist should be presented together within their own controlled space, allowing for a reverberating energy among them and thus making possible a greater comprehension of the artist’s ideas and concerns. This instinctive sensitivity on the part of the collector to the inseparability between works of art and their installation spaces logically evolved into the exploration of environmental works which he began to pursue in the mid-1960’s.”
The preface ends with:
“And to collect such masterpieces cannot, according to Dr. Panza, be learned, but rather must be a genuine and intuitive expression of the collector’s unique sensibility.”
In other words, Joe is unique, he’s an artist. Even better, because he’s got a lot of them. Incidentally, the flyleaf of the book begins: “In 1956 the Milanese industrialist Giuseppe Panza di Biumo bought a painting by a then little-known artist Franz Kline.” Kline was very well-known in ‘56. This is an example of the present level of the writing about art, in which not even easy facts are correct. For further descriptions of schemes that fell through and significant psychological details, read the interview with Panza by Christopher Knight in MOCA’s book.
In the middle of this swamp it’s important to say that here and there like reeds, mimbres in Spanish, there are honorable and straightforward collectors, whom I don’t want to mention in this context, and art critics, museum curators and directors and art dealers, themselves variously exploited.
Panza is one of the waves of nouveaux riches entrepreneurs, each lacking less and less useful inhibitions, as earlier waves are overrun and all memory of even earlier standards and distinctions are lost. The history of this century can be written in terms of rising population and dwindling education, and these together as the destruction of each new ruling class. Panza is incapable of making distinctions. It’s not that he can’t tell, or further, value, terra cotta tile from fake concrete tile. It’s that he’s never heard of terra cotta tile. All tile is the same: concrete, plastic, various undefinable materials. All are variations of products used to cover surfaces which vaguely suggest an unknown past which suggests status, according to cost. Panza’s mentality is corporate: everything has to be grouped, labeled, categorized, marketed, simplified; distinctions are too much trouble. In fact the distinctions and the intentions are those of those who don’t matter. It’s a way of simplifying the world. Panza is now horrified that I’ve treacherously brought up the distinction that my work is made only by me. In fact, his wild idea of making work over again himself or by anyone doesn’t fit any of the artists he grossly throws together. Even the most conceptual conceptualist doesn’t turn work loose in the world to be replicated by anyone. I think Panza thought he was buying some sort of copyright from a dead artist, like perhaps the right to make a chair by Mies van der Rohe, give or take some on how it was originally made.
The successive waves of less informed people, newly with money and power, is very obvious in the architecture of this century. It’s very obvious in the politics. A person like Ronald Reagan could never have become president before the extolled entrepreneurs, manipulators, not even big producers like Henry Ford. These entrepreneurs are not even the old ones moving up in the society and concerned about existing attitudes. The new entrepreneurs have nothing to join or be cowed by; they are it. They are complete operators with no concerns. There is no society to them. (The soft spot in art lures the softer operators.) Obviously they are not conservatives. They are wide open free-wheeling barbarians, down to only two tokens and no restrictions: redneck Christians and anti-communists, the first popular with the rednecks and the second both popular and lucrative. The Cold War is part of the entrepreneurial business. There are subdivisions of this, new waves, every ten years. It could be followed by the corruption possible in the Presidency and below. This of course reflects the going attitudes in business. It would be inconceivable now for the incident to happen in which Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, Sherman Adams, had to resign because of accepting a vicuña coat. This is now too petty. No one now could understand that Tom Dewey lost because of his moustache, which many thought indicated slipperiness. The middle class who thought this is gone. They were narrow but honest, honest but narrow. They knew about moustaches but not about atom bombs. Nixon was too gross less than ten years ahead of his time. Now he would be O. K., in fact perhaps outclassed.
The money and the power is there for whomever wants it, almost a gift, not even difficult to take. Naturally the slickest shysters are going to take it. All restrictions are irrelevant; all distinctions are gone. There’s no upper class to propitiate; there’s no lower class to answer to. There’s no public opinion. There’s no one to be scornful except maybe six of us and Richard Huelsenbeck. (It’s famous in Zürich where they were not interested, that Lenin lived across the street from the Café Voltaire. He never came to argue; he had his own row to hoe. The only irreducible, not victorious, defense that I know is free speech. Art is obviously inarticulate to most people, but NO is hard to mistake.) The operators don’t want to be bothered by distinctions among the weak, therefore they simplify. The simpler the masses, the easier it is to make money, play exploitive games, to concoct a war. To Reagan’s generation of entrepreneurs it’s a kid’s game which surprisingly they won, a world of Struwwelpeter, cruel fun. To their direct successors, a second generation, who expect the money and the power, threats will be taken seriously, and repression will be practical, and preventative wars, that is, ones to prevent their demise, will be very necessary. Watch out, the United States will not decline as peacefully as the British Empire and the Soviet Union.
Aside from a debt for an imaginary war, the people of the United States will also pay for decades for the entrepreneurial binge promoted by Reagan’s administration, of which the Savings and Loan failures are, so far, the most conspicuous. Failure in real estate is not wholly redeemed by the Government, but is larger, and is redeemed a second time by everyone. Perhaps only at this time was it possible for the Dia Foundation to spend so wastefully. Perhaps only then could MOCA purchase part of Panza’s collection. The sale has been seriously questioned legally. Panza was a member of the board of MOCA when MOCA, in effect Panza, bought the collection. I’ve heard that this is not legal. I’ve also heard that no effort was made to check the prices of the work, as I’ve heard that none was made by the Guggenheim Museum. American museums are run by businessmen, seldom businesswomen incidentally, irregardless of the integrity of art, but sensible business practices are not used in the purchase and care of art. Again, art is a soft spot and the businessmen think it’s a place finally to float freely, when in reality it’s a soggy place, where they sink beneath their naiveté and ignorance. The Guggenheim is paying 32 million to continue to be naive and ignorant, to avoid thought and choice. The Guggenheim foolishly trusts the art market, as if artists don’t exist, and, as is customary in New York City where there is a bureaucracy for every solution, lets the art market solve everything. When the Guggenheim didn’t buy my work for thirty years, I wasn’t important to them. When now they will buy that work, I’m still not important to them, because they are not interested in present work. My lack of importance is mysteriously always in the present, rolling on, a problem unbureaucratically solved by death, but happily for the art and museum business. Their “art history” becomes a weapon to be used against artists. Anyway it fits that Panza made his “one sale” in the United States under Reagan, when no one was looking. The second sale is under Bush. Panza believes and exploits the mystique of new “art history” rolling pompously backwards while the unimportance of living artists rolls continuously forward. Panza is a Hochstapler, a word that I learned from Thomas Mann to describe Friedrich, he is a Hochstapler von Kunstgeschichte. The Guggenheim has been conned by the nouveau Count and the new art market history. And as well, most of the 32 million is for paintings, most for those by Ryman and Marden. This is the same as buying salon art in 1890. Ryman’s example did not exist in the last century because there was no such attitude between the salon and genuinely new work. His work is a sentimentalization of investigation, of innovation, of effort, of thought. There have always been artists like Marden, for example then, Fantin-Latour, competent, solid, making routine the investigations of others. Such an artist fills a gap between originators that doesn’t need to be filled. Retroactive art, retroactive art history, sells best.
Panza is about at the Watergate stage of things; Friedrich is at the stage of Reagan’s successors, who are almost established, not quite, since interest in de-establishment is rising, which places Friedrich where he’s been all along, a kid in Berlin with his mother. Castelli is at the liberal stage with Kennedy, charming and a supporter of all good causes, glib and happy, and continuing a ruinous policy and ruining the subject, art for Castelli, the country for Kennedy. Well, there are lots of villains. The Americans elected them all.
The discussion of social matters is oppressive and, while necessary, is an exaggeration of the society. In the good old bad old days of the Soviet Union, I wrote that Malevich is more important than the Russian Revolution. He sure is. Fortunately there is more to the world and to art than the goddamn society.
In an article in the New York Times, “Millions for Art, a Lot of it Unfinished”, by Grace Glueck, 12 June ’90, Thomas Krens says: “We knew that there were differing perceptions of specific works between the artists and Panza.” Krens assumes, states, that it is normal for an artist and someone else to have contrary views about how the artist’s work is made. This is the way it is. Panza is the equal of the artist in the making of the artist’s work. He is equal to several artists. He is the great expert on all of us. This is an assumption, like Panza’s threat to have a New York lawyer decide the construction of my work, about which, to even begin to argue against, it makes me feel already within the door to the insane asylum. This, and the whole situation with the Guggenheim, shows the gap between the museum personnel and the artists. How can supposed professionals think like this? Know so little? This is the superficiality and irresponsibility of madmen, foolishly splashing in water too thick to drink and too thin to plow.
The Times provides the financial information: “Count Panza estimates that the Guggenheim will have to spend $10,000 each, for instance, to construct the dozen unfinished sculptures by Mr. Judd. ‘But I made a special price to the Guggenheim of between $70,000 and $100,000 for each Judd piece, one-third of their actual value, which is about $200,000 to $350,000 apiece,’ he said.”
That’s a nice discount and a nice profit for something that doesn’t exist There was never any mention of selling paper, which seems like slavery. Sold to a new master. Panza doesn’t mention that I got almost nothing, perhaps nothing, certainly not the reality of work, for the paper, while he gets $70,000 to $100,000 each, a million for paper. Also, large works cannot be made for $10,000, as Panza must know. At least thirty is necessary.
Recently I received an announcement of a Performance Work by Robert Whitman, titled Black Dirt, which may mean something, to be performed at The Kitchen, 512 West 19th Street, New York City, which is the large building that Whitman had through the Dia Foundation. The announcement states that this is the first work since ’84, six years ago after five in the preparation of the building. Eleven. When Dia evicted Whitman one of the reasons for urgency was to sell the building to The Kitchen, itself a dance and performance organization. The Kitchen was unperturbed by the fact that it was helping Dia get rid of Whitman, who was going to sue Dia to remain. A going away present, a sop to Whitman, the little he retrieved from The Kitchen and Dia was the right very rarely to have performances in the space. The one now was the first. This is all he retained from the Dia Foundation.
The announcement says at the bottom that Black Dirt is a co-commission of The Kitchen. They claim patronage when in fact it’s their obligation. Then worst, last, it says “New York presentation assisted by Dia Art Foundation”. After killing the guy Dia still wants to take credit for his preservation, one last little insulting whitewash. Eleven years, a whole building, complex machinery, sets, art, down the drain and Dia forks up a dime to clean itself. Cheap cleanliness.
In the last minute of my fight with Dia, after most had been put on paper, I asked the director, Charles Wright, once again, what about Whitman? Well, of course, that’s the way it is, money is short, and so on. Wright said that if I cared so much about him, I should leave my remaining drawings and prints with Dia to sell to help Whitman. I recognized this old liberal zig in the zag, but agreed, since it would help. I’ve never heard that the work was sold and that the money went to Whitman. Is this it at the bottom of the announcement? It’s too nice and simple to call all of this liberal hypocrisy; that is hiding reactionary hypocrisy, hiding plain aggression.
In ’85 Whitman was going to sue Dia. He told me that Philippa de Menil said to him “Out of our deep concern for you we wish you would drop your suit because we don’t want to see you destroyed.” The sentence is perfect.
I was surprised in ’84 and ’85 by how uninterested everyone in New York City was in Dia’s behavior. This shows what’s wrong there. There is no community of art, or any other. And it’s surprising to see how easy it is for Dia to whitewash itself and how willing even artists and writers are to help. For example, I was dismayed that Bob Ryman knew so little or cared so little as to show in their space.
Dia even asks for money from the public and from the government. It asks for charity to help support what it didn’t do in the first place. Another recent announcement says that an exhibition of work collected by Dominique de Menil has been supported in part by the National Endowment. At the least this is a confusion of private and public and private. At the least, as with Hirschhorn and Ludwig, and Panza’s palazzo, why should public money support private interests? Should public money be used to convert private glory to public? Also, considerable wealth bought the art and should be inconsiderably able to maintain it. Why steal money from the real activity?
The National Endowment basically supports secondary activity, secondary, tertiary, to infinity, and not the primary activity, which has to finance itself. The government supports lesser institutions, which are supposed to reciprocate morally. The National Endowment is not newly political; it’s always been political; it’s institutional. The new restrictions against sex in art, sex and religion in art, were expected, as are those against politics in an, freedom in art, since the suspicion has arisen that there is meaning in art. In the New York Times of 26 June ’90, another new entrepreneur is described and quoted:
“‘We will end up with some kind of enhanced oversight,’ Representative Fred Grandy, Republican of Iowa, said in an interview the other day. Mr. Grandy, a former television actor in ‘The Love Boat’, is a member of the House subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, which is responsible for endowment legislation. ‘Whether or not it will be productive, I don’t know, but there’s probably not going to be a time any more when the N.E.A. will be absolutely dollars on and hands off,’ he said. ‘I don’t think we’ll leave artists to their own devices.’”
The last is another succinct sentence. The government’s money, which is the taxpayer’s money, will support Government art. But who in Iowa asked for United States Government art? In Washington, but not in Iowa. In New York City perhaps – bureaucracy to bureaucracy. An easy answer to the shots of Jesse Helms, Representative Armey, of all names, of Texas, who said a year ago on television, “If they don’t want to be interfered with, don’t take the money,” and Fred Grandy of Iowa, is to refuse all grants. I wrote years ago that the United States Government should not be involved in art, that it is too dangerous, as it proves. It could simply buy art like anyone, but this doesn’t satisfy the requirement of control, of the subjection of lesser institutions. And someone would have to make a choice. Refuse the grants perhaps, but better, simply dissolve the National Endowment and return the money proportionately to the taxpayers. And best, dissolve as well and return proportionately all other areas in which the government is incompetent.
I wrote various letters opposing Panza and the Guggenheim Museum containing descriptions of the Guggenheim’s attitudes which I don’t want to write again, including a part worth repeating:
“Among other aspects of the sale by Panza to the Guggenheim Museum of his ‘Collection’ of ‘Minimal Art’, a term he has promoted in anticipation of the sale, is the proof that there is a complete gap between museum personnel, especially in New York, and artists. In other endeavors the investigators are supposed to know something about the subject. In this case the gap is so great that even rumor doesn’t cross. In some houses Panza is a household word. Otherwise the Guggenheim would have known that many artists do not like Panza’s treatment of their work, or of themselves.
Then, does it make sense for the Guggenheim to buy the work of artists who were in New York with it for thirty years, second hand, from overseas, at a fortune? And are still alive and working. It’s perverse; it’s insulting; it exhibits the gap and the attitude. Where was the Guggenheim all these years? The two people there that I’ve met, Messer and Waldman, are dull as dishwater. There is the gap. I, a modern artist, often in New York City, have had next to nothing to do with the Guggenheim. Nor the Modern.
Then, why should museums buy collections? They used to be given collections. And still the donor, now the seller, has his name over the door, PANZA, while the artists rattle around inside.
It was naive and foolish, a sucker born, for MOCA to buy coals from Newcastle, and as well, another every minute, for the Guggenheim to do so.
The Guggenheim has bought dubious pieces of paper, some completely unfounded claims not on paper, and some forgeries, as well as a few pieces made under my supervision. Needless to say I have no intention of helping the Guggenheim by supervising a great deal of work, the construction of which has been lost for twenty years in this disgusting situation. The purchase without research is very irresponsible of the Guggenheim. The sale by Panza, well, if a sucker, then a shyster too. The law in this …
The ignorance of the museum personnel, supposedly professional, but not in regard to contemporary art, for which there is no education in the United States, and the consequent absolute gap, is one generality. A larger one is that there is no common effort among those supposedly interested in art and artists.
The Guggenheim has bought a pig in a poke, comprar a ciegas, hacer un mal negocio, puerco a panza.”
Also, as I’ve said, I have no sympathy for the Guggenheim. It could have bought work from all of the artists concerned over the last thirty years for one-thousandth of the incredible $32 million which they are now giving Panza. Other than cal MOCA, this purchase is unique in foolishness. All of the artists were in New York City with the Guggenheim. It ignored most of the artists, including myself. By this neglect the museum helped sell out the situation in art in New York, which now is thoroughly sold out. Why should the museum’s record be cleaned up? Why should I help, and in doing so, falsify my own circumstances and efforts? The purchase of our own work elsewhere is insulting. We are being turned into self-scabs in an involuntary strike. Why should I submit to the arrogant auspices of a shotgun “Collector” out to make a lot of money in the United States, money gulled from the naive natives by selling them their own goods? The museum should buy work now that it isn’t buying, just as it didn’t buy it in time before. The purchase is only an expensive shotgun substitute for care and thought, responsibility, and finally life while we’re alive. But where is the Guggenheim’s collection of Newman, Pollock, Albers, Rothko, David Smith, Reinhardt, Still, Davis…? They got the same treatment. Why not spend money now on what is good that the museum can afford? And catch up to responsibility and reality. And in addition to buying coals to Newcastle, the museum is uniquely buying a collection of contemporary art, something which, heretofore, except for cal MOCA, has been donated.
The one time that I’ve been involved with the Guggenheim is that for one mass exhibition I made a circular work of steel for the ramp in an attempt to deal with and acknowledge F.L. Wright’s architecture, which the museum itself is now desecrating, meanwhile, contrarily, expanding north and overseas. Despite my warning, this work was sold over a summer by Joe Helman to someone in St. Louis, who in passing on, passed it along to the Guggenheim, which evidently concluded that the work and the owner should remain together and stored it outdoors to irreparably rust. Years went by. Then last year Diane Waldman wrote that the museum wanted me to remake the piece. Well, the museum destroyed a work of art. Should the artist make good? I don’t want to have my work in Count (1940) Giuseppe Panza di Biumo’s Collection in the Guggenheim Museum and in its corporate departments of mass MOCA, Salzburg and Venice. I don’t share the attitudes back of this kind of behavior.
In looking at my own file of Panzata, which is primarily futile letters, I found some plans made by Panza dated ’75 which I had forgotten. These plans are engineering plans, plans to build work, drawn in Italy, in Italian, made by measuring and examining the work made by Bernstein in New York City, which Panza bought from Castelli, which are legitimate pieces. Originally I was puzzled by these plans. Why spend money to do them? Panza is so cheap. When I thought about these plans and thought about the remade work at the Ace Gallery, and Panza’s recent remark in Art, I realized that what Panza intends to do is not only to make work without an artist or one more work without an artist, but to replicate work as he pleases, unendingly. He intended to build again, or has built again, the work by Bernstein and to sell it, as was intended at Ace. If so, Panza would not only defraud the artists, but defraud his customers, immediately the Guggenheim Museum, since they are getting the palazzo in Varese which contains the galvanized iron wall, and subsequently as well. In a way, Panza is profound. But ordinarily he says:
“C.K.: Why aren’t you interested in the German and Italian painters?”
“G.P.: Because these artists are expressing instincts coming from a lower part of the body. I like artists who express instincts coming from a higher part of the body!”