Michael K. Corbin



Spreading the Gospel

Posted: 10/20/2008

As I sit here pondering the news that I got today, I can only think about how far I've come yet how much more work remains undone.
Have you ever tried to write and produce an illustrated art book for "everyday people" using your own resources on your own free time?  If not, I can't say I recommend it unless you're possessed by some overpowering sense of mission.  It certainly won't be for "the money."
But I digress.  My new book, "THE ART OF EVERYDAY JOE: A COLLECTOR'S JOURNAL," has been honored with a National Best Books Award (Art Instructional Category).  For me, this is simultaneously meaningless yet overwhelmingly meaningful.  Let's face it, awards don't feed you, keep you warm at night or fill your gas tank.  My book is the same exact book that it was BEFORE it won the award and I certainly haven't changed.  However, maybe the art world will feel a tiny jolt.  More on that in a moment.
Whenever I told people (which wasn't very often.  I didn't want to bore anyone) that I was creating a series of illustrated, memoir-like books about my love of emerging art and artists, the responses didn't surprise me.  I explained to people that the books would be targeted at people who don't know much about art and are intimidated by it or felt that they couldn't afford original art.  I wanted to share my experiences and explain to readers that with art, like everything else in life, you've got to start somewhere.  No one is born an expert.  I'm hardly an authority, but I'm learning everyday.  Everything begins with curiosity and desire.  I wanted to try to bridge the gap between living, struggling artists and people who might become art collectors but were terrified by art.  I think that most artists have absolutely NO IDEA how intimidated people are by them ... or perhaps some artists DO know this and it makes them feel big.  Who knows? 
Anyway, here are some of the responses that I got about my efforts:
"A book about art?  Nobody is going to read it!"
"Oh, that sounds nice, but I don't know much about art!"  (Hello?  Were you listening to what I just said?)
"I would NEVER walk into an art gallery!  I'm too afraid!"
"I like Monet!"
One artist blogger even accused me of trying to "join the ranks" of "established artists."  In short, the naysayers came out of the woodwork like cockroaches on a midnight dinner break.  It doesn't take much to get a feeding frenzy started.  You know, I'm 100% convinced that the human race ALREADY has the answers to EVERY problem that supposedly confounds us.  All we have to do is change OUR ATTITUDES.  All we have to do is drop the ego and the politics and the greed and get real, but of course, no one wants to do that ... so we continue to bicker over tiny issues and spin around endlessly like a dog chasing its tail.  As a species, we've got to outgrow this.  We're wasting time.
An art dealer once told me that the art world LOVES of create mystery around art.  The art world LOVES to keep art up on a pedestal so that it seems hallowed and out of reach.  As we all know, money is the root of this evil.  People will pay more for something that seems priceless and rare.  I believe that art IS precious and sublime.  Art deserves our undying respect and we should preserve it.  However ... ART IS FULFILLING ITS MOST IMPORTANT MISSION WHEN IT IS SERVING US, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.  If we can get everyday people to understand how art serves us everyday, art would take its rightful place among society's top priorities.  Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who are trying to use art to become rich and famous.  The art world is often a rat race muddied by tar and selfish intent.  There's nothing wrong with trying to make a buck off art ... people DO have to eat ... but there IS something wrong with dishonesty, greed and selfishness.
Which brings me back to my point.  I love art.  I love writing.  I love writing about art and the things of everyday life provide me with artful insights.  I believe that this is my tiny contribution to the art world.  It's my way of helping to nudge people into an art museum that they're too afraid to visit.  It's my way of getting people to gather up enough nerve at an art fair to actually say "Hello" to an artist who is desperately trying to sell his or her work.  It's my way of trying to pop the snobbish art bubble.  "POP!"  There's a whole lotta hot air in there.
It's now 7:21 p.m.  Another day is done.  This was a good day.  I learned today that my book won an award, but my book hasn't changed.  Nor have I.  Well, I WOULD say that I'm a little more grateful and humbled.  At the same time, I'm more confident in the subject matter and certainly the mission.  Art has served me well and I'm thrilled to continue writing and collecting and meeting artists and visiting galleries. 

Yes, at the end of the day, it's almost like spreading the gospel.

Fear Is the New Black

Posted: 10/14/2008

Can the signs of a great opportunity for emerging artists be any more clear?  Apparently, not even the threat of a worldwide, economic calamity can shake them from the sanctity of their creative wombs ... also known as their studios.  I'll come back to that in a moment. 
I've just read that a couple of the big, overseas contemporary art auctions had disappointing sales.  Why?  Blame the economy, of course.  It seems that even the well-heeled are guarding their wallets and purses for fear of losing it all in some grotesque bailout scenario.  What cracks me up is the fact that all of the major art publications are trying to predict the next art market crash.  Will it happen this year or next?  Who will lose out?  Could Damien Hirst finally see his $100 million, diamond-encrusted skull finally reduced, becoming worth nothing more than a shell of its former glory? 
You can smell the fear coming right through the print on the pages of these articles.  In this market, fear is the new black.  It's in fashion.  In the financial world, black is a good thing, but these days, everyone is showing up for work with bloodshot eyes, wearing panic and smelling like it too.  Red spreadsheets are everywhere.  Even folks with only 500-bucks in savings are wondering if their money is safe.  Can you buy stock in distilleries?  Now might be the time.
Do you know who'll be "just fine" in the current and continuing economic slump?  Billionaire and Richest Man in the World Warren Buffet.  That's a given, but I'm also talking about the poor.  The poor?  That's right!  The poor literally have nothing to lose.  They didn't have a pot to piss in to begin with.  They're well equipped to guide the middle class through the worst of recessions ... or depressions.  They'll teach us all how to split a bag of pinto beans four ways for four days.  For them, creativity hasn't been a whim, but a necessity. 
Survival is the poor man's creativity.  For future reference ... yes, I came up with that on my own.

It's funny because I've visited the homes of many less than well-to-do people (including my own).  Many of these folks have art hanging on their walls.  Of course, the art isn't original and can often be lacking, but it's art nonetheless.  Art, freedom of expression, creativity, ingenuity and innovation are going to get us through this economic crises.  Art reminds us that we're human and it helps us to cope.  That's why people have it in their homes.  The current and continuing economic slump doesn't have to mean the coming art slump.  Art can soar during this period like never before if we practice the art of living.
In times of great economic and psychological stress, people crave escapism.  This is where artists of all sorts enter the picture.  Can you paint, sing or juggle?  How about tap dance?  We're certainly going to be tap dancing through this ordeal.  Artists need to create more diversions for people on the brink. 
I'm constantly escaping through my art collection.  I'm doing it right now here in my den while chatting with you.  Art, music and literature will all thrive during this time.  Some of it may go underground, but won't that be fun?  Emerging artists can get off their asses, paint like crazy (using red very carefully), pool their efforts and promote the hell out of their work.  Needless to say, money will be tight and you won't collect top dollar, but isn't art ALWAYS in a slump?  Isn't there always some stumbling block, some barrier, some battle that art has to fight?  Emerging artists have the added challenge of shorter career track records, but that means they can take bigger creative risks.  Even the best of times presents challenges so why not go for it?  Like the poor, artists are well-suited to navigate the storm.  Down times are great times for artistry.  They're not so great for finances, but join the club.  By trying to keep up with the Joneses, we all played a role in this financial mess.  In short, now is the time to get creative.  Many, if not most of us are basically living month to month anyway.  The time for warriors is upon us.  
Long ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself."  I say fear doesn't have to be the new black.  If life has always been a struggle, then this too shall pass.  We can purge the red if some people stop being so greedy.  
In the meantime artists ... let's get busy.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Posted: 09/05/2008

Every blue moon, I'll see a film that I think everyone should see.  In this case, the film is Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."  It's a MUST see ... especially if you're the creative type.  More on that in a few seconds.
First off, NO ONE weaves a tale like Woody Allen.  I cannot think of another director whose storytelling is so beautifully intricate and seamless, yet at the same time, you can almost see the wheels turning inside his head.  I'm going to tell you about this film without actually telling you about it.  Woody Allen is not in the film, nor is he the narrator, nor is it based in New York City, yet this is the quintessential Woody Allen film.  Woody Allen in Barcelona.
Second, he uses narration to move the pace along pretty quickly and keep us attentive.  It totally works.  The film is a delightful basket full of wine, Spanish guitar,
laziness, craziness, profound purpose and sexual intrigue.  The cast is like a musical ensemble featuring Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, the fantastic Penelope Cruz, Rebecca Hall and Patricia Clarkson, among others.
Third, this is a film strictly for ADULTS.  Thank God.  How often do we see "thinking" films for adults?  Nothing gets blown up and there aren't any magical, animated characters that do Disney-esque things (nothing against them).  What we have here are people who are dreaming of and seeking better lives.  Doesn't that describe us all?
Four, what really impressed me about this film was ... drum roll please ... ART.  The way Allen uses art in this film is masterful.  It's not just about the painting, photography, music or writing, but also the way he captures the feelings and thoughts of the artists/characters.  Every major character in the film takes a chance and gets creative with varying results.  Every character struggles to be free.  I guess you can't put a price on creative freedom. 
This film reminds us that when you bank on artistic vision, you're on the track to happiness.  That's unless something not so great happens.  Penelope Cruz's character brings this home.  As usual, Allen ties up the loose ends with great skill.  It totally satisfies that childlike, "Tell me a story!" urge in you.  One more quick thing ... the film is roughly about an hour and a half long.  Fantastic.  I'm going back out now to run some errands. 
In short, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" is the perfect film for a lazy August day ... or any day.  It's a matinee for creative, thinking adults, but I'm no film critic.  Don't take my word for it.  See it for yourself.

Blame The Economy

Posted: 08/17/2008

It's almost like slowing down to watch a car wreck ... you MUST see what's happening.  This is the only way that I can describe my pseudo-fascination with the art market.  Here's how it happens ...
I'm either flipping through the newspaper, watching television or surfing online and I come across something like ... "ARE RECESSION FEARS COOLING THE ART MARKET?" or "THE ECONOMY AND ITS CHILLING EFFECTS ON COLLECTORS."  Suddenly, I slow myself down and settle in for closer examination.  How can you NOT get caught up in the creative, editorial swirl? 
It's funny, because I wanted to try to go to Art DC this year, but then I read that it was cancelled.  That's a shame.  This would've  been only the second year for that fair.  Why did organizers cancel it?  They blamed the economy, of course. 
Have you noticed that blaming the economy is the chic thing to do these days?  Consumer confidence is way DOWN, inflation is way UP and what poor sap driving a pimped out S-U-V can explain gas prices?  Many Americans have no real savings and we're living paycheck to paycheck ... that's if we still have our jobs.  It's scary.  Needless to say, blaming the economy for anything is pretty easy ... if not somewhat gratifying.  You can get away with a lot by blaming the economy.  If everyone's doing it, why not?  Try these on for size:
"Why are you late again for work Bill?"  "Oops, sorry boss!  It's the economy!"
"Where's your homework assignment Sally?"  "Sorry teacher!  The economy ATE it!"
"Why were you speeding sir?"  "Oh man!  Sorry officer!  The economy made me do it!"
Still, I must say that a couple of months ago, I was in the supermarket and I saw that tomatoes (organic) were like ... $3.99.  Are you kidding me?  All I could think was, "Are they super tomatoes that give you x-ray vision or super-sonic hearing?"  That's why I planted my own.  As of this writing, I have tomatoes growing out back.  I'll plant 25 tomato plants before I pay that price.  
When I'm not ranting over tomato prices, I'm flipping through these art magazines like Art & Auction and the weekend arts section of Financial Times (the orange newspaper that looks like it has been dunked in tomato sauce) where I often see articles that report on the art market.  For the most part, these articles talk about record, multi-million dollar sales at contemporary art auctions.  This is happening while fairs like Art DC have seemingly gone belly up and many collectors are tightening their wallets.  These articles are so seductive.  Of course, I usually stop and scan like a harried commuter who complains about traffic backups but always slows down to gaze and gawk at the car wreck.  We live in a visual world.  Art and the twisted metal of a car wreck ... same thing.  Just ask artist John Chamberlin.
Anyway, after a few moments that I'll never get back, something always occurs to me.  "Dude, you are NOT a wealthy art collector!  Why do you even care about the art market?"  I always ask myself.  Again, it's like slowing down to see the car wreck.  Why are you slowing down?  Keep going.  It doesn't really involve YOU.
At this point, I remind myself that it's the JOB of art publications to cover the art market because they are IN the art market.  It's their lifeblood.  It's in THEIR best interest to find silver linings in the worst of economic news.  That's just the way it is.
So, while Art DC is blaming the economy and mid-level art collectors are blaming the economy, high-end art sales continue to soar ... thanks to wealthy collectors.  They're keeping art afloat ... especially the Russian, Chinese and east Indian art markets.  Wow.  It must be tough being a rich bitch.  In uncertain economic times, the world tugs HARD on your purse strings.  Analysts depend on YOU to keep the whole economy afloat.  If you don't spend, who will? 
Which brings me to my point.  It seems to me that the best time to buy art is like ... duh ... NOW.  Everyone is blaming the economy for their poor financial performance and everyone needs money to survive.  Maybe you can get some good deals.  In some areas of the economy, it's a buyer's market.  If you're an entry level or mid-range collector, perhaps you should shift your focus to include younger emerging artists.  Perhaps you should focus on drawings on paper rather than canvas pieces.  I don't know.  Figure it out!  Many of the artists I know don't even really follow the "art market" anyway.  They're struggling in both the best and worst of times so it doesn't make much difference to them.  We should NOT try to take advantage of them because they have to live just like everyone else.  They should get the best possible prices for their hard work.  However, perhaps you'll find them more affordable.  You won't bust your budget, you'll be supporting talented, deserving artists and you'll keep money flowing in the economy.  I'd like to keep doing this myself. 
Okay, let's see.  With the money I'm saving by growing my own tomatoes, I can buy a couple of works on paper from artist Miguel Angel Avila Melendez.  Hmm.  Here's my economic forecast.  If the plants keep producing, I should be able to buy those drawings in 2019.  Great!


Actors As Artists

Posted: 07/20/2008

Sometimes summer afternoons aren’t meant for lounging outdoors … they’re occasionally better spent finding artful surprises in bookstores.

Such was the case on this day, an unremarkable one until my wandering eye locked onto something of promising note.  A book.  By the way, most people would agree that they venture into bookstores seeking books.  After my experience today, I must say that I disagree.  People shop in bookstores because they crave surprises.  Yes, in all likelihood, the thing you’ve been looking for will indeed be a book, but is it the book or the thrill of surprise that has you hooked?  Hmm.  Mystery and philosophy.  Do questions never cease?

Anyway, as my gaze ventured down the frittering possibilities among the art book shelf, suddenly … a love connection.  I saw the book … “Actors As Artists.”  “Hmm,” I thought.  “Let’s take a look.”  What a nice surprise. 

First of all, “Actors As Artists” authored by actors Jim McMullan and Dick Gautier (Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc.) was first published back in 1992.  That’s not so long ago, but they could certainly give it an update.  It’s truly a remarkable book about actors, some more famous than others, who paint in their private time.  I’ve just finished flipping through and reading some of it.

It’s really everything an art book should be.  With every turn of the page, a surprise.  I knew that Anthony Quinn and Jane Seymour painted, but did you know that Zero Mostel and Claudette Colbert were artists?  I knew that Billy Dee Williams and Phyllis Diller dabbled, but what about Henry Fonda and Lionel Barrymore?  I’m sure Drew knew, but who else had a clue?  Mystery revealed.  The book is wonderfully unpretentious and it’s so clear that the actors true love may not be acting at all.  They paint because they love art.

As I’m sitting here writing and flipping through the book again, a reminder comes to mind.  There’s no law of the universe that says we MUST do one and only one thing for our entire lives.  In fact, it’s probably just the opposite.  If you listen to your creative voice, you can do many things in a single lifetime.  That’s how it should be.  After all, we’re only here once.  While actors get comebacks, no one gets to come back.  THIS IS IT.  Of course, being an actor doesn’t mean you can pick up a paintbrush and become Paul Gauguin in one stroke.  It just means that you went for it.  You heard your calling, gathered up the courage and got busy.  When you follow your creative leanings, life is full of surprises.

Oh, another thing.  Your career is what you do for a living, but what you do in your free time is who you really are.  It may not be the WHOLE you, but it’s certainly the REAL you.  It’s who you are down in your soul.  If you’re an artist down in your soul, you’ve got it goin’ on.  In a way, we’re all actors, but how long can you go on ignoring the role of your soul?  Ahh, philosophy.  What better time than on a summer afternoon?

One of my favorite passages in the book comes from actor Michael Moriarity who says, “Art is not an avocation for me.  It is more like a periodic urge to pray in a different way … My pieces exist because there was no other way to reveal what was going on within in me.”

In short, I think Michael is saying, “Who needs a Tony, Emmy and Oscar sandwich when you’ve got art feeding you?”  And let me say, “That’s quite a sandwich!”

But seriously, I’m not an art critic, but as a collector, I must say that I’d be thrilled to own anything that I’ve seen in this book.  "Actors As Artists."  I’m so glad that I found this book.  You never know what surprise may be lurking around the shelf.  Little surprises are the spice of life.  One minute, you’re depressed and the next moment, you find something unexpected and you’re laughing at the foolishness of past thoughts.

John Forsythe, an artist?  Eve Plumb, who played Jan on “The Brady Bunch,” an artist?  Who knew?  One thing I know for sure … Eve probably never yells, “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” in HER free time.

Robert Rauschenberg

Posted: 05/13/2008

(May 13, 2008) - I was online earlier today and read that artist Robert Rauschenberg died yesterday of heart failure.  He was 82.  The New York Times called him a "Titan of American Art."
First off, isn't it funny how the legendary-sized compliments flow after you die?  We need to get into the habit of complimenting people while they're ALIVE.  Praising me while I'm dead does me no good, but a nice comment while I'm alive might actually get me through another day.  
Anyway, I feel the need to just sit here for a moment and talk about someone I did not know.  I'm not an expert on Mr. Rauschenberg or his work, but I DO remember the times when I saw his work for myself in places like the Fisher Landau Center which has a great Rauschenberg collection or the Museum of Modern Art or even the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
I'm smiling right now because when I think of Mr. Rauschenberg, I think about his GIANT, framed, pop, mixed-media pieces that always give me a sense of historical references, urban hipness and this feeling of rustic modernity.  I have NOT read what anyone else has said about him.  I'm just taking a moment to be
in the moment of my own memory of the man's work which I've seen with my own eyes.
My somewhat cloudy memory is giving me images of soldiers, black birds, city streets and spliced-together, sepia-toned photographs of things ... exactly what I cannot recall ... however I'm continuing to smile because I'm feeling myself standing in the presence of his work inside these museums and the word that comes to mind is ... communion.  I feel that as an uneducated observer of art, I actually GOT what he was doing.  For me, his splicing and dicing was about slicing life ... making connections of wayward things and times, perhaps with the hope of making sense of it all ... or maybe not.
Even though I never met Mr. Rauschenberg and will never own any of his work, I feel connected to him through my observations of what he leaves behind and the fact that he was a famous artist who was actually alive during my own lifetime.  I wish that I could say something profound about him that would set the world ablaze, but all I can say is that I'm still smiling as I'm typing these words.  He's gone, but his spirit is in my smile.  I can just feel it.  Communion.  A moment of silence.
From now on, whenever I happen upon a Rauschenberg during my art museum visits, I'll say, "Hey Robert!"  Then, I'll stand there and bask in the presence of a titan ... and as always, smile.    

Why The Art of Everyday Joe?

Posted: 04/21/2008

The title really gets to the heart of the matter.  I am an "Everyday Joe," I write for the "Everyday Joe" and art is FOR the "Everyday Joe." 
That's why my new book is called, "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal."  Before you think I'm some huckster JUST trying to hawk a book,
please hear me out.
Unfortunately, some people in the art world make things more complicated than they need to be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT talking about "dumbing
down" art.  Art is expressive, multidimensional and often quite profound, but shouldn't people be free to see and feel whatever moves them?  Shouldn't we
be able to break down the most complex work to its most basic, essential concepts?
Not too long ago, an art dealer told me that many people in the art world like to keep art shrouded in mystery ... held high on a mountaintop.  Art is lofty and high-minded, but there's a big difference between profundity and pretense.  We've done the snobbery thing for so long.  Aren't we bored stiff with that? 
Let's make art TRULY accessible for people.  If we do this, we'll spark excitement and set off a renaissance.  Let's talk about it, let's open our doors, let's be nice to people who know nothing about art.  Every single person is an opportunity to expand the reach of contemporary art.  If you really think about it, this is more than just "pie in the sky."  This is down to earth practicality.  If the "Everyday Joe" thinks that art is actually available and affordable, they'll buy it ... and YOU (artists, dealers, etc.) get to eat tonight.  Plain and simple.  We don't need to complicate this.  
I wrote "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal" because I own SO MANY illustrated art books, none of which really speak to the everyday person.  They're all academic, clinical examinations of art that seem to be written for a small circle of art historians and curators.  I love these books because I love art, but I've come to realize that even art can be too, "Inside Baseball."  Pardon the sports metaphor.
People want art, they need art, they crave art, but I think many don't even realize it.  Art hasn't been made available to them because some artists, curators, dealers, writers, professors and administrators believe that art should be kept on high.  Therefore, people are intimidated by it.  However, the reality is that art is EVERYWHERE.  It's all around us.  We're living here on earth, the greatest masterpiece of all (which we're destroying unfortunately).  As art people, it's our privilege and responsibility to introduce people to the long lost love they never met.  Art.  Yes, art for the people.
While we talk politics, appeasing people and presidential campaigns, let's get art on the agenda.  Never has the art community had such an opportunity to put art
in the spotlight, but where is everyone?  Art needs support. 
I wrote "The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal" because I'm an avid art collector who MUST write and talk about art.  I MUST share my experiences.  I want to bridge the gap between a person's first experience with art and their first art purchase.  Art is almost as broad as life itself.  Because art is so far-reaching, I LOVE writing about art and applying it to the things of everyday life.  Art is a slice of life ... or is life a slice of art?  I don't know.  What I do know is that if you give people art, you give them a shot at royalty.  Suddenly, a hum-drum existence becomes enlightened and illuminated ... black and white becomes technicolor and high-brow joins low-brow and creates dialogue rather than farts in your face.  We can raise the dialogue but we can keep it real too.  
Art is MUCH MORE than just a painting on a wall or a sculpture on a table.  It's an experience, a daily reality.  It's the real deal.  That's why I visit art museums and fairs and galleries.  That's why I love talking with and meeting artists and dealers and people throughout the art world ... all over the world.  Art is powerful.  Art people are powerful.  Unfortunately, I don't think their true power has been realized.  Let's take art to the people ... the masses.  Let's not be snobbish about this.  We've done that to death.
Art is for the "Everyday Joe."  Yes, I do want to sell books.  I don't apologize for that, but more importantly, I want to help our struggling artists.  I want people to know about the transforming power of art and the role that it plays in their lives and the world.  I want people to catch this benevolent disease for the benefit of us all.  It's a win-win proposition.  No, I'm not running for office, but if I were, you can bet your ass that the concerns of everyday people ... and art would be front and center.

Everyday Joe Press Release

Posted: 04/17/2008


Author: Michael K. Corbin

Email:  artmaestro@msn.com




The Accessibility of Contemporary Art

New Book Helps “Everyday Joes” Become Art Collectors

AUTHORHOUSE – Many people think they have to be rich or highly cultured to be art collectors, but that’s not true. Michael K. Corbin proves it with his brand new, color-illustrated book, The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector’s Journal (published by AuthorHouse). 


Picking up where his first book, Art in King Size Beds: A Collector’s Journal, leaves off, Corbin takes readers on yet another thrilling ride through the world of contemporary art, sharing his experiences as an avid art collector.


“This book is my way of saying ‘hello’ and ‘welcome’ to people who are afraid of even walking into an art gallery,” says Corbin. “There’s no need for people to be intimidated by art. We’re going to travel through the world of contemporary art together and I promise you, it’s going to be a blast!”


With his engaging and witty style, Corbin guides readers through the rewards of art collecting and introduces them to emerging artists from all over the world.


He proves that people can afford to collect art on even modest incomes. “But more than that,” says Corbin, “The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector’s Journal shows readers the role that art plays in their everyday lives and they may not even know it.”


“I’m an Everyday Joe and I wrote this book for the Everyday Joe. Art enriches the lives of everyone regardless of their station in life.”


Corbin gives readers a delightfully fresh, warm and down-to-earth look at life, art, the art world, artists, collecting, people and issues of the day. It’s a story book that’s full of large, full-color photographs of works from his own home. It’s a true memoir of the dazzling power of art and the role that it plays in society. The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector’s Journal is another fun trip that begins at the intersection of art and life.


Michael K. Corbin is an author, full-time broadcast journalist, yoga enthusiast and runner. He’s a New York City native who currently lives in Indianapolis and travels far and wide for art’s sake. He also writes regularly for www.absolutearts.com.


For more book information, see www.theartofeverydayjoe.com or www.artmaestrogallery.com


AuthorHouse is the premier publishing house for emerging authors and new voices in literature. For a complimentary copy of this book for review, members of the media can contact the AuthorHouse Promotional Services Department by calling 888-728-8467 or emailing pressreleases@authorhouse.com. (When requesting a review copy, please provide a street address.)




The Armory Show 2008

Posted: 03/31/2008

It was 11:53 a.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2008 and there I was grazing outside Pier 94 with the rest of the art cattle.  It was yet another round-‘em-up moment as we waited in line for the opening of The Armory Show 2008.  It would be my very first Armory Show on what was a chilly spring day, but fortunately the sun was shining, reminding me that the tropics would soon take over Manhattan.

“People in line!  Please step aside so that these folks can get through!” yelled the security guard behind me.

“Those are the important people, I guess!” said the guy ahead of me in line.  It turns out that guy is New Zealand born artist James Robinson.  Robinson now lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which is the new hot spot for art in New York City.  While we waited in line, we chatted briefly about the art world and why events like the Armory Show have become so commercial.  Good guy, nice chat.  If he’s willing, I may write something about him in the future. 

Anyway, the wait wasn’t that long and upon entering Pier 94, I got out my pad and pen, checked my vision and hearing and got right to it.

Before I get to meat of the matter, would you like some “dish” on your art show menu?  Hmm, I thought you might.  Get off your high horse.

Early on, I spotted artist Chuck Close wandering the fair in his motorized wheelchair.  I’d seen him at another fair in the past but left him to his privacy.  Not this time.  He looked friendly enough and I certainly wasn’t going to pass up this chance to meet him so I went for it.

“Mr. Close, I’m glad to see you here!  My name is Mike,” I said, shaking his somewhat feeble hand.  “Hello,” he said.  I asked him if he had any works in the show to which he replied, “No, I hate to be in art fairs!”  “Why?” I asked.  “Does it feel like you’re in Wal-Mart or something?”  For the record, an art dealer once told me that she thinks art fairs have become like Wal-Marts.  Here, I thought, was a chance to test this theory on Close.  “I just think they’re disrespectful of art!” he replied.   With that, he politely took leave.  Chuck Close seems to be a very nice man, but I must say that I disagree with him.  More on that later, but first, a little more dish.

I also saw Calvin Klein and Bianca Jagger at the show.  I was looking at a big painting then turned around and there they were about twelve feet away peering in my direction.  She looks just as lovely in person.  Both were wearing dark sunglasses and scarves around their necks (like me … hmm).  I don’t know how they actually saw the art with those shades on.  Perhaps they were really there to add some glitz.  Surely they could’ve gotten a private preview.  Anyway, she was wearing a white pantsuit with her long orange scarf.  Mr. Klein was wearing grayish-blue jeans and a dark blazer topped off with the scarf.  These are fashionable people so surely you knew I’d mention their appearance.  After all, this WAS an art fair!  Art fairs are visual affairs.  Anyway, I must say that Calvin Klein is the thinnest guy I’ve ever seen in my life.  I’m talking tall, stick figure.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that … I’m just saying.  Funny, because right after I caught a glimpse of them, I turned and the woman next to me was also staring at them.  Our eyes met and she had this puzzled look on her face.  I said, “Yup, that’s them!”  She replied by saying, “Oh my God!  He’s so thin!  And he looks SO old!”  In Mr. Klein’s defense, he looks great for his age … whatever that may be.  In short, Jagger and Klein were definitely turning heads and they knew it.

Now … let me give you a few quick observations about the Armory Show 2008 and then I’ll mention some of the art that grabbed me.  First, the crowd wasn’t as culturally diverse as I thought it would be … not as diverse as Art Basel Miami Beach, anyway.  Perhaps the United Nations arrived after my departure.  All I got was a three-hour snapshot.  Also, it wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be either, although the crowd did build during my time there.  Another thing … as I strolled through gallery after gallery, I kept wondering if I had seen some of these works before.  Of course I did.  That’s fine … I’m just saying.   In addition … it really seemed like female artists were well represented.  I saw so many great works by female artists.  Rock on, ladies.  Oh and another thing … what’s the deal with skulls?  It seems that SO many artists are using depictions of human skulls in their work these days.  Perhaps Damien Hirst’s $100 million diamond-encrusted skull has something to do with it?  I don’t know, but enough already.

Now, onto the cool art.  In my book, there were two stars of the show … the first was Thomas Hirschhorn’s “Tool Table 2007.”  It was such an inventive sculptural piece … two, long wooden plank-like tables that had dozens of mannequin arms standing on them with the hands holding tools like screwdrivers, wrenches and mallets.  Many of the mannequin hands also held books, some open, some closed written by authors like Henry David Thoreau and Friedrich Nietzsche.  Clever.   “This is SO twisted!  I love it!” said a young guy near me as he and a friend took photographs of Hirschhorn’s obvious hit.  Oh, the dealer told me the piece was priced at $180,000. I kicked myself for not bringing my checkbook.  Would a $200.00 down payment suffice?

The other pieces that I loved were done by Jenny Holzer.  They included “Bar 2008,” “Stave 2008” and “Thorax 2008.”  These are long, flashing, ticker-tape like LED signs mounted onto the corners of walls.  Each installation carries different messages in various colors.  I didn’t bother to ask the price.  Your power bill alone to keep those things running would have to be fairly hefty.

There were so many great pieces to see.  Mickalene Thomas’ ghetto-fabulous, rhinestone-encrusted ladies are getting more and more play at these art fairs.  Also, Norbert Bisky’s “glamour shot” boy paintings got plenty of exposure.   I saw several Julian Opie pieces that I love.  His traffic sign installations of chicks with swaying hips are so cool ... and hot.  By the way, Opie had several of those installations in my home city.  A lady actually complained about them.  She called them “suggestive.”  My guess is her hips are as tight as lockjaw.

Describing the works that I see at art fairs is difficult because there’s just no way to do the art justice in writing.   You just have to go and see for yourself.   I always just save my pennies and GO.

Which brings me back to Mr. Close and his lukewarm feelings for art fairs.  You know, I totally understand the disdain that so many artists have for them.  We needn’t rehash all of the reasons, but let me just say that art fairs are really the only way that everyday people can see available art (if you’ve got $180,000 to burn).  Needless to say, I don’t go to art fairs thinking that I’m going to buy something.  That’s not the point.  The point is that by going to art fairs you simply get to see what’s out there.  Knowledge is power.  Culture is enlightening.  Even Mr. Close acknowledged that much to me.  He’s not on such a high horse.  Commercialization and artistic integrity don’t always co-exist, but they certainly can. 

Yes, art fairs (large or small) are about commercialization and one-stop shopping, but isn’t everything these days?




The Superbowl of Art

Posted: 03/18/2008

This essay is from my first book, "Art In King Size Beds: A Collector's Journal."  I wrote it back in December 2005 during my first-ever visit at Art Basel Miami Beach.  It's a fantastic, annual art event that has grown to include about 25 separate art fairs that all take place in Miami during the first week of December.  Read on and you'll see why I dubbed the event...

The Superbowl of Art

(MIAMI BEACH) - The arena is set, the players are in place and the
spectators are speculating.

It's the pinnacle event for the National Football League. Cream of the crop
teams going head to head. The stakes are always very high.

For Art Basel Miami Beach 2005, it's the same game, different turf. Long
before I marched into the Miami Beach Convention Center for this euphoric
event, I decided that I was really going to be very alert and soak it all
up. I would be a sponge ... a fly on the wall ... a fly on a sponge?

Anyway, yes indeed, Art Basel Miami Beach 2005 was about art. In a
gargantuan way. It's too rich for my blood, but it's truly ANY art lover's
paradise. Upon entering, it became immediately clear that I would be
overwhelmed if I didn't come up with a quick game plan. So, I decided to
pass to the left and knock off one booth at a time. Perfect. I'm still not
certain that I saw all of the 2000 offerings, but some of my favorites
included: David Salle's orange-swirl, oil on canvas concoction called,
"Explorer" 2005. It's 96" by 120" and features jet planes in flight and a
fedora in the middle. In this single painting, Salle captures many of my
own thoughts about art, travel, life and why more men should wear fedoras.
He is clearly someone I could have lunch with.

I also loved Fernando Botero's still lifes. They aren't pudgy like his
people, but they're politely plump with that misty, glowing sensuality that
he has perfected. One look at "Watermelon" 2002, his 15" by 15" depiction
of two melons sitting on a table in a mellow room, makes your mouth, well,

James Rosenquist always leaves me spellbound. All I need to see is his
signature on a giant, blank canvas (has anyone tried that?) and I'm sold
(rhetorically speaking, of course). Fortunately, "Screen Test" 1978, his
gigantic oil and metallic paint on canvas makes much more of a dramatic
statement. It's a fantastic orchestration of a close-up of a sunglass
wearing, woman's eye along with a "swooshing" paintbrush, an upside-down
safety pin and upside down book with what looks like transparent container
lids and red, blue and green polka dots. I don't know what it means, but I
love it.

Also, I was dazzled by the dark drama of Israeli artist Avner Ben Gal's
untitled figurative pieces that employ heavy felt pen markings on paper.
They're jolting, black, smeary paintings that are great. The artist is from
Tel Aviv.

Despite everything I saw and loved, I had this nagging feeling that Art
Basel Miami Beach was really about what we don't always see. Then, I
witnessed it.

There were dozens of famous galleries with display booths here. I walked
into one of them, which had advertised a painting by a famous artist in one
of the art magazines. I was disappointed when I didn't see the piece. I
asked one of the people manning the booth about it and she replied, "Oh,
that sold already!" When I asked how much it went for, she said,
"$650,000!" That sounded like a high enough figure to me, but immediately,
her male colleague snapped at her and said, "No, it went for higher than
that!" He was actually angered by her response.


To the casual observer, Art Basel Miami Beach is a wonderful art fair that
has grown by leaps and bounds in only four years, but make no mistake, this
spectacle is a numbers game. It's about SCORING BIG! It's about the sale
and keeping galleries in business and for some collectors here, it's not
about keeping up with the Joneses, but rather, leaving them in the dust.
Competition amongst collectors? No!

I'm not kidding. Here are some of the things that I overheard people saying
... "She's gotta do a crapload of business just to break even!" one guy said
about a dealer. "I told you it was higher than that!" another man said
about a painting's price. "What? I can't afford that!" said one exasperated
woman. Join the club, babe.

The only thing that outnumbered the paintings were people using their
cellphones. I heard one man on his phone say ... "Buy, buy, buy! Just
buy!" One woman said, "Honey, please! You should see the light in her
hair! She's so beautiful!" She was referring to a really nice painting
that she obviously wanted, but needed spousal approval. I thought it was
nice, too. Gee, I hope she got it. I heard another guy, also on his cell
tell a woman in his presence, "Sheila just dropped over 4K!" The woman
replied, "Oh my God, what did she buy?"

It was a blast. Oh, and you know the "Power 100" rankings that the
magazines do every year about the top movers and shakers in the artworld? I
counted about a half-dozen of them here. I kept recognizing people from the
big, ArtReview November issue. Sadly, I did not see Damien Hirst. I
suppose that being Number ONE means everyone wants a piece of you.

Wondering about prices? That's why I'm here! Here are just a few of the
paintings I asked dealers about:

Jean Michel-Basquiat's Untitled diptych 1982, 60" by 120." $3.2 million. I
asked the dealer if she thought it would sell here. She didn't really
answer the question.
Pablo Picasso's "Femme Couche et Flutiste" 1967 drawing, $650,000.
Claudio Bravo's gorgeous "Green Package" 76" by 51" oil on canvas.
Also, David Salle's "Explorer" piece that I mentioned earlier had a pricetag
of 250-grand.

Don't get me wrong. There were more "affordable" works to be had. One
dealer, selling lots of small Alex Katz drawings told me they were $2,800
each. Now who can't afford that?

Shortly after, I was talking with an art dealer acquaintance who I met up
with briefly about the steep prices. I said, "I would LOVE to see someone
walk out of here with a painting!" The dealer replied, "Oh, like the
affordable art fair?" "This is the UNAFFORDABLE art fair," the dealer, who
was also a visitor, said.

The air in the exhibition hall was definitely charged with selling fervor.
It's all about money and one might ask, "Shouldn't it be?" After all, this
IS an art fair. A charming disposition will get you a free program, but
that's about it.

Finally, I still left with a nagging feeling about Art Basel Miami Beach
2005. I heard a few people talking about artists in such back-handed,
disposable ways. All of the art had taken on lives of their own. The
paintings were the unquestionable stars of this show. This fair isn't really
about artists, although I'm sure many were present. It's really about
people and their chance to get what they perceive as a hot commodity. Art
stock that they hope will rise sky-high in value. A nest egg, if you will.

To be fair, it was clear that most of the people here really do love art and
it was great to witness the excitement. However, would they still LOVE Sean
Scully's 90" by 72" beautiful, "Red Black Robe" 2004 oil on canvas if they
knew it would never increase in value?

Clearly the stakes are too high to even consider such a silly question.

Money, careers, reputations and collections are being built ... or broken.
Of course, this is nothing new. It's "Business 101." Just like the NFL.
Still, it's always stunning to see your beliefs confirmed before your very

After only a few years, Art Basel Miami Beach is the "Superbowl of Art."
Cry "penalty" if you want, but no one will hear you or even care. They're
all too busy competing for that big art trophy.