The career of art historian, writer, and
curator Michael Peppiatt has been enriched and informed by his friendships with
an impressive cast of artists: Francis Bacon
, Sonia Delaunay
, Jean Dubuffet
, Henry Moore
, Claes Oldenburg
, and Henri
, to name a few. Recently
Peppiatt directed and wrote the introduction for Voices of
, a new journal presented by Singapore’s Art Plural Gallery
explores 27 diverse contemporary artists around the theme of globalization in
the art world. Following this recent project (not to
mention his expertise on Francis Bacon), we caught up with Peppiatt to hear
about this new publication, his impressions on the record-breaking Bacon sale,
and his insights on globalization and Singapore as an emerging art capital.
Artsy: Can you give us a teaser to Art Plural: Voices of
Contemporary Art and your introduction on how the globalization of art has
surpassed the traditional duality of east vs. west?
Michael Peppiatt: We are only at the beginning of the
globalization of art. Obviously with the greater availability of images via the
internet artists everywhere can see what other artists are producing. The
internet creates a dictionary of the art forms that are being produced, and
subsequently impacts the way art evolves. However, it is too soon to predict
where this will lead.
Artsy: Given your vast experience in the western art
world, what are your impressions of the Asian art world? Why might Singapore be
a rising art capital?
MP: I have to confess, it is true that most of my experience has
been rooted in the West. It’s clear that my knowledge of Asian culture
is not extensive, but I have always been interested in Asian art. Clearly
Singapore is in full expansion and effervescence, and the dynamism and wealth
here is very apparent. It is a good base for an art capital and indeed it has a
thriving art market, but of course the wealth is only the beginning. The more
Singapore can invest in teaching people about art the better. This kind of
development has happened before in history. For example, during the late 19th
century in the U.S., the economy was thriving but the art world was still
niche, and now over 100 years later the country showcases the greatest art
museums and collections. Indeed if Singapore needs a model, they cannot do
better than follow what happened in the U.S. over the last century. With the
establishment of the National Art Gallery and Pinacotheque in Singapore, the
island is clearly progressing in the right path and can look forward to a
bright future as an important art capital in Asia.
Artsy: You’ve spoken about the danger that globalization poses to
many artists, and the necessity for artists to use it in their favor. Can you
cite examples of artists who have used globalization in their favor and how
they have done so?
MP: Artists have always used whatever means that are at
their disposal. Art feeds off of other art, and has always done so. The Greeks
used Egyptian imagery, the Romans used Greek imagery, and so on throughout the
history of European culture. Probably all artists with true originality have used
globalization as inspiration.
Artsy: Given your expertise in Francis Bacon, what were your
reactions to the recent $142 million sale? What about Bacon’s work makes it so
desirable in the global art market?
MP: I was delighted that a piece by an old friend of mine has
become the most expensive artwork ever sold. He is the most powerful artist of
the 20th century. I am pleased that this has been recognized by the market, but
also surprised because Bacon is anything but an easy artist. He makes great demands
on the viewer and so it’s very encouraging that such a difficult artist is also
the most highly prized. Indeed if the best art makes the most money, then the
future of art seems to be assured.
Michael Peppiatt began his career as an art critic in London and
Paris in the 1960s, and eventually became editor and publisher of Art
International magazine. In addition to curating numerous exhibitions
worldwide, he is the author of numerous texts including Francis Bacon in
the 1950s (2006), Les Dilemmes de Jean Dubuffet (2006), Francis
Bacon: Studies for a Portrait – Essays and Interviews (2008), Caravaggio/Bacon
(2009), In Giacometti’s Studio (2010), and Interviews with Artists
1966-2012 (2012). In 2005 Michael was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Cambridge
for his published work in the field of 20th century art. He is a member of the
Society of Authors and the Royal Society of Literature, and in 2010 he joined
the international board of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. He is
currently curating a Miró exhibition for Germany and writing the first of