The Social Brat: A person who adds a cultural or societal element to the discussion, sometimes irreverently, the social brat may broaden the scope of a discussion’s topic often aesthetically or creatively.
Germany may be an economic juggernaut, but they haven’t got everything; like a Champions League final win. Today Germany is again marching strong, leading from a position of dominance as in times past, but on this occasion it’s more to do with financial might rather than military might. Often with a vast upside, there is a downward corollary that, in the case of the eurozone, means Germany is stuck holding the bag (of cash) as the only qualified (solvent) economy in the unenviable position of having to fill the outstretched hands of their destitute neighbors. With the violent riots and domestic uncertainty engulfing Europe, Germany ironically resembles Israel amidst the sea of the Arab Spring. If the zone crumples, there is yet the prospect of an out of control German currency with it’s own concomitant risks.
In the world of contemporary art the typically Teutonic will for omnipotence runs in parallel lockstep to the economy—witness the work of popular painter Gerhard Richter who has for the first time surpassed the king of bling, Andy Warhol, in the high stakes multi-billion dollar arena of the auction market. And annoyingly enough, they are quite great. There are the abstracts: wildly colorful, easy-on-the-eye confectionary treats; and, the photo-based realist works that are ever so slightly out of focus, lending a sense of gravity and self-seriousness lacking in the former. Since he first began applying paint to canvas, Richter developed a numerical code systematizing every work he has made in a (very German) fashion unlike any artist before him, culminating in the website: GerhardRichter.com. This transparent and complete documentation of his entire body of work lends Richter a credibility and market heft beyond his peers and obviates the need for an authentication committee to boot, fueling prices even further. The artist himself calls the frenetic money swirling about his career “daft”, but at the same time states that it beats the alternative.
Yet, just as all is not completely well in the fragile and ever changing world of geo-political global economics, similarly there are clouds of doubt on the horizon of German aesthetic superiority. Take for example, the paintings of Anselm Kiefer. His artworks are too big, too brooding, and too boring—and just plain bad. He is collectively and continuously hitting us over the head with his didactic, patently obvious take on a history long ago learned. This is even more bothersome when you take into consideration that Keifer’s is an art tailor-made (especially at such scale) for an exclusionary, deep-pocketed art world specific audience.
So there you have it, there is always a flipside and sometimes winning is not all it’s cracked up to be. Germany is undoubtedly ahead in the Champions League of Economics, but stones are being cast from all sides. They are threatened by the lousy performance of their league-mates, and, if they are forced to stand it alone, there will be no one to play with. And in art too, yes Germany has stolen the pop from invincible American Pop art, but with every Richter cha-ching in the auction house cash registers, we are forced to solemnly stare at another off-putting, crappy Kiefer. Call it an own goal.
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