Blurred Lines pro­files shad­owy art world

HOT DOCS

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN TORONTO —

The con­tem­po­rary art world can be in­tim­i­dat­ing , with its mys­te­ri­ous na­ture, sticker shock, and gal­lerists who are some­times hes­i­tant to of­fer a price or even say hello to pa­trons.

“I used to walk into an art gallery and say, ‘Oh, that’s beau­ti­ful, how much is that?’ ‘Sold.’ ‘I didn’t see a red dot,’” re­calls Toronto film­maker Barry Avrich.

“They just don’t want me to have it ... be­cause I’m not im­por­tant to them as a col­lec­tor. They can’t say, ‘That beau­ti­ful paint­ing is in Barry Avrich’s col­lec­tion.’

“They’re very care­ful in terms of who they’re go­ing to sell the art to.”

Avrich ex­plores such mys­ter­ies of the con­tem­po­rary art world — with the aim of mak­ing it more ac­ces­si­ble and un­der­stand­able — with his new doc­u­men­tary, “Blurred Lines.”

The film, which is screen­ing at Toronto’s Hot Docs Cana­dian In­ter­na­tional Doc­u­men­tary Fes­ti­val, in­ter­views a host of power play­ers in the in­dus­try, in­clud­ing renowned artists Ju­lian Schn­abel, Ma­rina Abramovic and Canada’s own Michael Snow. Other in­ter­vie­wees in­clude col­lec­tors, mu­seum di­rec­tors, heads of auc­tion houses, prom­i­nent in­ter­na­tional art gal­lerists and art fair or­ga­niz­ers.

“We cover the spec­trum to try and show how this world fits to­gether, be­cause it’s not ob­vi­ous — and some­times it’s in­ten­tion­ally not ob­vi­ous,” says Jonas Prince, the film’s pro­ducer, who is also a col­lec­tor and a trustee of the Art Gallery of On­tario.

“What is art has changed, what is the job of a gal­lerist is chang­ing, the auc­tion houses no longer earn their liveli­hood com­pletely from the auc­tion ... Col­lec­tors are now show­ing their art in their own build­ings so they be­come their own mu­se­ums.”

The film starts in Septem­ber 2008 with the col­lapse of fi­nan­cial ser­vices firm Lehman Broth­ers. Just 24 hours after the melt­down, works by Bri­tish artist Damien Hirst sold for al­most $200 mil­lion US at Sotheby’s in Lon­don.

As the film ex­plores the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of con­tem­po­rary art, it looks at how artists gain cred­i­bil­ity, how the prices of works can sky­rocket, and why col­lec­tors col­lect.

Avrich says a lot of the artists they spoke with “do want the art world to be more ac­ces­si­ble.”

“There are cer­tain deal­ers that want to keep it shad­owy and auc­tion houses that don’t want to nec­es­sar­ily lift up the lid, so there was some hes­i­ta­tion in the be­gin­ning,” he says, not­ing “a film like this has not been made in the past.”

“Blurred Lines” is show­ing May 7 at the Is­abel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. W., Toronto, as part of the Hot Docs fes­ti­val. The Cana­dian Press

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Ju­lian Schn­abel is one of the artists in­ter­viewed in the doc­u­men­tary "Blurred Lines."

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