Gregory Battcock: ‘The Art World Is Corrupt in the Following Ways…’



Before we call it a day here at, I wanted to quickly share that for the past few days I have been very much enjoying Oceans of Love: The Uncontainable Gregory Battcock, a new anthology of writings by the late art critic. I highly recommend it.

As you may recall, selections from Battcock’s archive appeared in the 2014 Whitney Biennial in a project from the artist Joseph Grigely, who discovered the material in an abandoned storage warehouse in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Battcock was murdered in 1980 in Puerto Rico.) An erstwhile painter, Battcock was known for his wide-ranging interests (he wrote for both underground sex magazines and mainline art periodicals, like Art in America, covering everything from food to ocean liners to gossip to–sometimes–art) and for his willingness to provoke.

Grigely provides a rich portrait of Battcock in the book’s introduction, and writes that Al Goldstein, the publisher of Gay (to which the critic regularly contributed) apparently once called Battcock a “self-styled gourmet, bon vivant, art instructor, jet setter and international asshole.” What more could one aspire to be?

In any sense, to give a little taste of Battcock’s verve, here’s an outline he wrote for a novel that he was planning shortly before his death, which Grigely quotes:

The art world, in each and all of its many parts…is corrupt in the following ways:

a) It’s managed completely by the rich as a plaything.

b) It likes to appear concerned with the poor, social problems, etc., but is not and usually acts against social interests.

c) Many ‘prestige’ institutions, museums, galleries, etc., are really around in order to increase the value of paintings for the private gain of collectors, investors, and sometimes, artists.

d) Many of the rich, society people who control things have no real background in art, or anything else, the picture of superficiality and ‘good’ manners.

e) The ‘auction houses,’ again run by the banks, really, and staffed by wise-ass society girls, otherwise unemployable, overeducated, and flunkie art historians.

How times have changed.

The Grigely archive is on view at Marian Goodman in London through this Friday, July 29. The book, published by Koenig, is available at fine booksellers everywhere, including Printed Matter in New York.

© 2019 ARTnews Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. ARTnews® is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.