I visited the Theatre-Museu Dalí in Figueres, Spain this week. I didn’t take any photos. In recent years I’ve gotten out of the habit of "being a tourist" in favour of having an organic interaction with the places I visit. When I visited the Met in NYC there weren’t many people around so I could scrutinize the Twombly pieces at leisure. However, the inherent strangeness of Surrealism leans towards an aspect of novelty. It is harder to have an organic reaction to a Dalí (I feel) than it is to say a Rothko. In the Theatre-Museu Dalí it is almost impossible to find any time to contemplate a piece because there is an endless conveyor belt of snap-happy tourists blocking your view as they try and get a cool photo to Instagram. I even saw people approach, take a photo and move on without actually looking. I guess this is the consequence of the popularity of Surrealism. If my work ever fills a museum I am putting a ban on photos being taken.
It infuriates me that people romanticize perceived complexities of murderers and rapists. Killing somebody - even in gruesome, ritualistic ways intended to mystify and bewilder - requires no skill or wit whatsoever. Ted Bundy was a pseudo-intellectual misogynist unworthy of cult status. All of these high school shooters are fucking bores. If you want to hero-worship pick somebody actually contributing to the existential expansion of what it means to be human. Your philosophers, your Feynman’s, your Magritte’s. Not somebody who is merely a cultural footnote.
Promoting your art on Facebook (if you’re not Sebastian Bieniek)
People say that to be a successful artist in the 21st century is 20% work and 80% marketing. It wasn’t that long after I started making art that I created a website and Facebook page to show it on (probably after I had about 15 or 20 pieces, which was about 6 months into my life as an artist)
I’m a very private person and don’t accept many requests for friendship on my personal Facebook account (right now it is a modest 136, which I could probably trim by a further 10-20% if not for being such a nice person), consequently when I started my page the seeding of it by my friends wasn’t as successful as some of my others friend’s may have had, who have in excess of 1000 contacts. I quickly learnt that the best way to get your work seen and people to like your page is by joining art groups and sharing work from your page into them. However, I’m rarely on Facebook so didn’t have the time (or interest) to be setting aside portions of my day to be doing that - time I would much prefer spent actually working on new projects. So in the end I decided to take out a Facebook advert to promote my page. I can market my artwork with precision this way. If I wanted, I could market it to men aged between 75 and 80, who like tomatoes and wear glasses. However, I was more sensible. I went to New York and Puerto Rico in January 2012 and discovered San Juan had a burgeoning art scene, so afterwards I marketed my page towards Puerto Ricans that like 'Art' as an interest.
To date, my Facebook page has 4,150 likes. 3,273 of those have come directly through my advert. At a total cost of $906.57. (from February 2012 to present day).
As you can see, only 833 likes have been organic. That’s just people finding my page and liking it, through word of mouth or because of sharing my work in various art groups. Without paying for adverts I wouldn’t have been able to promote my work to as many people and I wouldn’t have the same connections.
I follow many artist’s pages on Facebook. Both well known and emerging. Well known artist’s have many pages that fans have set up for them, so whenever possible I follow the verified pages (denoted by a blue tick). For instance, the official Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon pages are examples of artist’s on Facebook whose presence is maintained by the official estates/management of the artist’s themselves. Those two pages regularly update to so well worth a like. However, there are many well known artist’s without official representation on Facebook. In this instance the page with the most likes tends to become an unofficial channel, as many people prefer liking a page with 50,000 likes over one (featuring the same artist) with 500 likes. Sometimes it can have a snowball effect, and pages which are seldom updated have (sometimes) hundreds of thousands of likes.
There is a click-happy culture on Facebook. Although I am particularly selective in what I like. For example, I previously ran a Francis Bacon page, but when I discovered the official page I closed my own page down. Partly because I felt less of an incentive to post (knowing that their was an official page out there) but mainly because I thought the popularity my own page had might have distracted people from continuing to search for an official page after liking my own (at the time my unofficial Francis Bacon page had more likes than the verified Francis Bacon page).
There was also a Marcel Duchamp page I used to follow on Facebook. One day they shared a post by artist Sebastian Bieniek which grabbed my attention enough for me to follow through on the link to the Bieniek page, which I eventually liked. However, it became sour one day when a comment that I made was removed (I posted a comment suggesting a “cameltoe” to this photo) so I sent him a personal email asking why the comment had been deleted. We had an exchange of three of four emails in which he told me I was rude and that my comment was objectifying (I think the close-up of a woman’s groin had something to do with it…) and I told him he shouldn’t remove any posts on art pages unless they are racist/prejudice, and that he was getting too precious about it. Some would argue that nothing should be off limits for discussion. Additionally, other people had made a similar reference to cameltoe but had not had their comments removed, so I challenged him to engage in the spirit of an artistic debate rather than shut one down (the comment had sparked a lively debate with loyal Bieniek apologists about the nature of sex and objectification in art). The next morning I went onto his page to respond to a comment only to discover that I had been banned. Unable to re-like and comment on anything. Although I was initially annoyed I was more in disbelief that an actual artist would actively discourage debate among his followers. I mean, if art cannot provoke an intellectual dialogue and be a platform for debate what is the purpose of posting it onto a website which is open for comments? At the time his page had 40,000 likes so one would think an ideal platform to engage in intellectual discourse. I eventually got over my initial annoyance and forgot about Bieniek.
A few months later he appeared on my update stream via the Marcel Duchamp page again (the page that had introduced me to his work to begin with). However, this time my attention wasn’t captured by the share, instead I began to question the reason for the page owner sharing another Bieniek post, since I couldn’t remember the page ever posting anything to do with Duchamp. I had originally liked the page because I like Marcel Duchamp, and then never actually gone onto the page itself. Something which many Facebook users are probably guilty of.
I went onto the page and scrolled down… then down some more… then some more… then some more…
There wasn’t one single post about Marcel Duchamp. Unbelievably, every single post was a shared post from Sebastian Bieniek’s page. I began to become suspicious. It’s interesting to note that shared posts do not show up under the ‘photo’ tab on pages, only uploaded photos appear there. So for somebody viewing that page it’s as you would expect - Marcel Duchamp posts - but the main page is full of Sebastian Bieniek shares, so for somebody viewing that page it would be fair to assume that it was a Sebastian Bieniek page, and not a Marcel Duchamp page. I began to think that either the admin of the page was a manic Sebastian Bieniek fan or it was Bieniek himself! I clicked on the ‘about’ which lists the page owners but that part of the page had been made private (mine isn’t, you can clearly see the page admin on my page as being my personal account).
The next thing I did was look at which pages the Marcel Duchamp page liked (you can like other pages as your own page and they show up in a little box) The Marcel Duchamp page happened to like only 2 other pages.
I surfed onto each page and what do you know… the entire page is full of Sebastian Bieniek shares!
At this point I was convinced Sebastian Bieniek was setting up pages of artists and using them exclusively to promote his own through. I wanted to know how deep it went so I began clicking through on each page that was liked by another. Every time I got to a page full of Sebastian Bieniek shares.
There were so many pages I eventally had to stop because it was taking up too much of my time, but I made a list of each page that I found to be comprised more of Bieniek than the actual subject of the page itself:
I lost any respect I might have had for Bieniek after discovering this. The pages he had created and was pumping full of himself had varying degrees of popularity ranging from as little as a few hundred to as many as almost ONE MILLION likes (Frida Kahlo page). Understandably, the people on the Frida Kahlo page had become annoyed at the lack of Frida Kahlo posts and the overabundance of Sebastian Bieniek posts. Some had even said it was disrespectful to use her popularity as an icon of art to seed interest in his own page.
Here is a very small sampling of some of the anger:
These comments were taken from Sebastian Bieniek shared posts between March 29th and April 8th 2014. But the anger can be found on almost every single post the page makes. Go and check them out for yourself.
I sympathize with these Frida fans, but his control is now so great due to the sheer number of people he has manipulated (well over a million) that any annoyances voiced like this will have little to no impact on his own promotional deceptions. However, his actions - although dishonest - are not in breach of any Facebook policy (to my knowledge) in spite of the fact that Bieniek has saved thousand of dollars in advertising fees. His page has risen from 40,000 to almost 130,000 since I first noticed his backhanded tactics. But that’s all he cares about. He doesn’t care that his integrity and reputation as an artist are being destroyed in the process.
He seems to be an advocate of all publicity is good publicity. And doesn’t care which artist’s memory he tramples on in the process.
One thing is for certain though, if you like any of the Carl Andre, Nobuyoshi Araki, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joseph Beuys, Claude Cahun, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Cezanne, Marc Chagall, Chuck Close, Salvador Dalí, Niki de Saint Phalle, Giogio de Chirico, Edgar Degard, Willem de Kooning, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Walker Evans, Dan Flavin, Lucio Fontana, Lucian Freud, Paul Gauguin, Nan Goldin, Dan Graham, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, David Hockney, Katsushika Hokusai, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Jasper Johns, Donald Judd, Frida Kahlo, Anish Kapoor, Wassily Kandinsky, William Kentridge, Martin Kippenberger, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Per Kirkeby, Takeshi Kitano, Paul Klee, Yves Klein, Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Yatoi Kusama, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, August Macke, Vivian Maier, Rene Magritte, Edouard Manet, Man Ray, Franz Marc, Henri Matisse, Paul McCarthy, Boris Mikhailov, Joan Miro, Amedeo Modigliani, László Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Ron Mueck, Edvard Munch, Yoshitomo Nara, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, Martin Parr, Elizabeth Peyton, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Diego Rivera, Mark Rothko, Thomas Ruff, Egon Schiele, Christoph Schlingensief, Julian Schnabel, Edie Sedgwick, Cindy Sherman, Stephen Shore, Antoni Tàpies, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cy Twombly, Vincent van Gogh, Victor Vasarely, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol, Lawrence Weiner, Franz West, Francesca Woodman or Erwin Wurm pages above, all you’re going to get is Bieniek.
I tried to tag all the artist’s he masquerades as but Tumblr has a maximum tag limit of 30, so could only do A through E.