The world of abstract art is a mystery to me, as I imagine it is for most people.
When you’re talking about colorful splotches on a canvas, what invisible committee decides that one person’s talent towers above another’s?
Who sets the seemingly crazy prices that collectors are willing to pay? It’s all very opaque.
But one thing I do know: Every few years, a child artist emerges from obscurity, hailed as a pint-sized Pollock or Picasso. Far too young to have attended art school or to have studied anything about the history of art or the development of abstract painting, the child emerges from diapers, allegedly, as a fully formed abstract artist.
Each origin story is similar to the next: The child started painting as a toddler, they need a step stool to reach the top of the canvas, their parents are perplexed by all the attention and worried it will be harmful to their emotional development. Until, that is, it becomes clear that people pay money, lots of it, for this sort of novelty. Then the parents reluctantly allow the child to keep working … and keep selling.
A complicit media — always on the lookout for a fresh take — swoons over the child’s oeuvre, of course, but mainly at the prodigious sums commanded by whatever gallery has chosen to champion the baby Braque.
Monday, when I read about a 10-year-old San Diego boy whose Cubist-inspired canvases are selling for six figures, I rolled my eyes and thought, Here we go again.
“The contemporary art world has had more than its share of young talent, but it’s tough to recall an artist who has generated as much early-career recognition as Andres Valencia,”
Much as I hate to disagree with the other Times, in this case I must.
In 2009, an Australian girl named Aelita Andre, hailed as a painting prodigy, had her first solo exhibit. She was 2. When she was 4, she had a solo exhibit in New York City. Television’s “60 Minutes” aired a segment calling her “The Next Big Thing.” An art professor who was unaware of the child’s age called her paintings “very credible abstract works” and an “antidote to the oppressive qualities of expectation in western painting.”