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Issue 119

My Brilliant Career

The author has paid frieze an undisclosed sum to publish the following exclusive extract

BY Jean-Philippe Obu-Stevenson in Frieze | 01 NOV 08

Livid at not being included in ethnographer Sarah Thornton’s book Seven Days in The Art World (Granta, 2008), curator Jean-Philippe Obu-Stevenson has paid frieze an undisclosed sum to publish the following exclusive extract from the preface to his forthcoming sociological bodice-ripper Don’t You Know Who I Am? Actualizing Myself in the Art World (Editions Obu-Stevenson, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, 2009).

Fresh from delivering a stunning comparative analysis of my career with that of other major international curators as my contribution to the 2008 Gordon Rhizome-Pamplemousse Memorial Lecture Series, at the Contemporary Centre Institute Foundation, Aspen, I decided one evening to enjoy a cup of sake at the Shurasagi Sushi Bar in Lounge 2 of Schiphol Airport, after my regular jog between gates 1 and 18. As the warm ginjo-shu gradually laid me flat underneath the bar stools, it struck me that as one of the world’s most important cultural practitioners, many people would embrace the opportunity to learn more about my work. As my friend Willem, head of airport security, slung me over his shoulder to carry me back to my Herzog & de Meuron-designed apartment near Runway 18L-36R, I resolved to humbly reveal the everyday workings of my geo-political curatorial praxis to you in book form.

The publication you are now reading is a ground-breaking travelogue recorded on my iPhone as I jetted between international curating seminars, multi-international biennials, trans-continental book launches and exclusive dinners with Russian oligarchs. It probes every corner of the art world and leaves no private view unattended, no major retrospective of a white, male artist unremarked upon and no collector’s private jet un-travelled in.

The opening chapter, ‘Making an Exhibition of Myself’, describes my curatorial practice, which I have practiced very hard at, from the early days of boundary-trespassing shows such as my 1968 exhibitions ‘The Gallery Must Be Destroyed’ and ‘The Gallery Really Must Be Rebuilt Again’ through to ‘Trapped! Inside the Dematerialized Gallery’ (1975), ‘Locked Out! Trying to Enter the Rematerialized Gallery’ (1977), and recent projects such as ‘Expand the Gallery!’ (2001), ‘Build Another Gallery!’ (2002) and ‘Why One Space When You Can Have Five?’ (2007). It finishes with my forthcoming show ‘Repossession! Selling the Contemporary Project Space’ (2009). The chapter also explores at length the major biennials I have contributed to including the 78th Swansea Septennial, ‘Interrogating Extinction’: the 4th Galapagos Quadrennial and ‘Never Say Die: the minus-8th Equatorial Guinea Annuale’ – now very much a fixture in the international art calendar.

Chapter Two, ‘Was It Me or Jacques Rancière Who Said …?’ explores the world of art criticism, examining my work in the mid-1970s as editor of the conceptual magazine TURN LEFT!, which I decided to fold before its first issue in order to maintain its critical integrity. It continues with a look at my recent editorship of the Austerity Review – renowned for paying galleries not to advertise lest they compromise the writing, and only covering artists who can pass a written examination on the early work of Giorgio Agamben – and Great Show!, a London-based monthly comprising photographs from openings. Finally, it glances at my work as contributing editor in the 1980s to New York magazines Oh Andy! and Guest List and also includes many reviews I have written of my own books and exhibitions, and a coruscating attack on corruption in the art world.

The third chapter, ‘If You Want A Job Done Right, Do it Yourself’ examines my influential role as an educator. As Adjunct Professor of Multi-Disciplinary Wikipedia Studies at the Jack Vettriano Academy of Arts in Laos, I have been instrumental in teaching generations of students that they must reach beyond the sphere of their capabilities in order to connect art with the broader worlds of science, politics, economics, philosophy, music, architecture, design, event catering, international diplomacy and premier league football. It also looks at shows I have curated in support of emerging students at such emerged spaces as ASBO Projects and West End Boys, London and Three Strikes Gallery, Los Angeles. The section ends with a spirited repudiation of Keith Gorgon’s recent attack on my methods in the pamphlet Teacher, Leave Those Kids Alone! (Wish-it-Was-Paris-May-1968 Press, Swindon, 2008)

Chapter Four, ‘I Spoke to the Intern Earlier Who Said My Name Should Be On the List’ takes a hard-hitting look at the art world’s networks of power, privilege and money. The high regard with which I am held has enabled me to access many of the most powerful figures in today’s art world, and invitations to lavish dinners and luxury holidays on expensive Greek islands. Here I bravely publish exposés of such figures as Rocky and Ludmilla Stalliontamer, and describe just what wonderful people they are, how much work they do for charity and their tireless support of my career. Also revealed is the blameless career of Rasputin Jones, who has nothing whatsoever to do with arms dealing and lives all year round in international waters on his yacht L’Evasion Fiscal purely for his love of the high seas.

The final chapter in the book concerns a project close to my heart but one I have not yet been able to realize due to my busy timetable: Sensation – the Musical. This is the story of Young British Artists told through the medium of song and dance, and features such numbers as ‘Let’s Just Do the Show Right Here!’, ‘My Heart Skipped a Beat When I Met the Drummer from Blur’ and ‘Next Stop: Venice!’. The chapter features the full score and libretto to the musical. Undoubtedly, this book will inspire and challenge preconceptions of …

[We get the picture. Get with it Grandad. This is a young man’s game. Eds]