Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Kid Could Paint That

Andras Sciff's recital so dominated my memory of last weekend that I neglected to mention I saw Amir Bar-Lev's meta-documentary My Kid Could Paint That. It records the filmmaker's desire to believe, but failure to prove, the authenticity of the paintings attributed to Marla Olmstead, a 4-year-old painting prodigy. The film leaves open the question of Marla's talent, but to the audience it looks like a scam. Along the way, the director raises questions about aesthetic judgment, commerce & exploitation in art.

I don't have any doubts about the aeshetic validity of abstract art. When the film shows glimpses of abstract paintings, I can immediately recognize the ones by artists I know: Rothko, Phillip Guston, Motherwell. In this case, the commercial aspect is probably the more interesting. There's a great scene where gallery owner Anthony Brunelli sells a new Marla painting to a somewhat conflicted art patron.

It would be interesting to compare Marla with Wang Yani, the painting prodigy from China who was a big hit with her monkey paintings in the 80's. Marla is getting older & is still selling paintings, so the story is not over yet. I'd be curious to see a follow-up after several more years.

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