Since I knew it would seem pretentious to have a 524-page monograph published at such a young age (I was 30 when it came out) I decided to call it The Early Years and I hired two art historians, Richard Rand and Charlie Phillips (using the pseudonym Sir Basil Chattington), to write the text as a parody of pretentious art historical writing. I asked them to write art history/science fiction, looking back on Kostabi's early years from the year 3000. These two pseudo-yet-real art historians came up with the specific idea of archeological excavations in the destroyed New York. I'm now working on an even bigger book.The idea of art historian-archaeologists sifting a ruined future New York idea echoes Gustave Doré's The New Zealander, which posited Macaulay’s New Zealander visiting a future, decayed, London ("to many Victorians this young colony seemed to represent the dominant civilisation of the future" Woodward, In Ruins, 2001, 1 [amazon, allconsuming])
Kostabi is an interesting artist: he's controversial, showy, self-assured, disliked by the artworld cognoscenti, and he writes snippy and very entertaining columns for art.net. He sells paintings on tv in Italy, and also on eBay (and the standard eBay A+++ idiom of his feedback from buyers reads like it was designed for him).
His studio, Kostabi World, institutionalises creativity. It takes the artist-as-corporate-entity notion in Warhol and Koons, and applies a big-M Methodology that McKinsey could be proud of: Most artists steal their ideas, I pay for mine*:
The workers Mark Kostabi employs to create his paintings are constantly aware of the time-clock that clicks away at the entrance to Kostabi World. Carefully monitoring staff time, this clock signifies both the control and the unique vision at the root of the controversy around Kostabi's career. While Mark Kostabi's artwork may be distinctive, his success comes from melding the efficiency of the assembly line with shameless marketing savvy.* though he's occasionally a fan of the (knowing?, Italian Job-stylish?) theft . And here he proudly admits (whilst reviewing his own 2001 show for Shout magazine) to enjoying a managerial distance, glass-walled-off from from the factory-floor, at arms-length from the product:
Kostabi has an 'Idea Person' constantly generating 'Kostabi-ideas'. Once passed by a 'Kostabi-minded' committee, these proposals are converted into paintings by underlings hired for anywhere between $5 to $20 an hour.
"In Kostabi World it's all work for hire. Even when they're doing creative things, even when they're pouring their heart and souls into an idea...that's their prerogative to do that. They're just doing their job description. I mean it's their prerogative if they want to pour their heart and soul into it, which I appreciate, but there's no obligation to do that. I just want them to do a good job."
At DFN Gallery I'm showing my portraits of Al Gore made out of chads. I got the idea to make these works from one of my idea people in New York while I was in Rome. The portraits were executed by my assistants and then featured in the New York Post before I even saw them. Subsequently I've given numerous television and radio interviews about these unquestionably good and conceptually amusing artworks, which I am proud to say I have almost no attachment to, except for the signature. I even lifted the titles from the press: “Scads of Chads”, “More for Gore”, and “Chad's All Folks”.The paintings are, let's be honest, an acquired taste. But the corporate method (an efficient production line plus good PR newsflow) adds interest. As this review of his Conversations book has it:
The structure of Kostabi World, its hierarchies of relationships, and the performative project of working these relationships out in the hard, high-contrast lighting of capitalism - all this hangs invisibly suspended around each picture.