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Goss-Michael Foundation: Yes-Saying and Saying Yes in Dallas

Gallery owner, art collector and pop-icon partner (he is George Michael’s lover), Kenny Goss is a Nietzschean Yes-Sayer. Goss says “yes” to tomorrow and “arrivederci” to yesterday. In a recent interview, Goss described art in terms of affirmative forgetting: “Art should have no cultural or sexual boundaries, as ideally our civic life should. Art can inspire individuals to forget where they are coming from and create a message for a better future.”

Damien Hirst...The Incomplete Truth

For the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the phrase “yes-saying” (Ja-sagen) was an affirmation of life or, more precisely, existence in the human body on earth. In saying “yes” to the world, Nietzsche demonstrated amor fati (“a love of fate”), fueled by a Dionysian dissolution of boundaries into a single shared reality, one that does not distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly. Saying “yes” to the world is a cosmopolitan gesture. It announces friendliness to radical difference, to accepting new geographies, languages and cultural mores in a disinterested fashion. To say “yes” to the world is to be, as Nietzsche put it, “homeless.” It is to forget origins and to look to the future. Yes-saying is fearless love of the world and its kaleidoscope of events and cultural distinctions.

Goss’s heart is in the right place. But is his mind? If Goss Gallery in Dallas is any proof, then his record is rather hit-and-miss. Goss Gallery has been a locale not so much of amor celebritas (“love of the crowd”) as of amor gloria (“love of fame”). So the gallery often shows work that has more to do with Entertainment Tonight and Paris Hilton’s millennium-long 15 minutes than with art. The glitz and glamour of David LaChapelle says it all: His work has been the focus of two shows. LaChapelle is actually talented, unlike Mary McCarthy (daughter of Paul) and Christophe von Hohenberg (chronicler of Andy Warhol’s funeral), who do not artists make.

In a similar vein, the Goss Gallery space at the recent CADD fair in Dallas made some viewers angry and others laugh. While other booths were filled with art, Goss displayed John Lennon’s piano with a handwritten price tag of several million dollars. Stacks of a glitzy coffee-table book, Imagine, containing aestheticized photos of war and impoverished children, surrounded the piano. It seemed that conceptualism had somehow trickled down by happenstance, and this was Goss’s execution of an artful installation. Now Goss and Michael propose to send the piano out on a “peace tour” where it is intended to “serve as a beacon of hope for various communities nationwide.” Sounds like a George W. kind of solution to real problems. Then again, artists and gallery owners aren’t supposed to solve social problems. Or are they?

The future vibrates with suggestive uncertainty.

Goss and Michael have announced the establishment of the Goss-Michael Foundation of Dallas, an omnibus art institution with the goal of teaching Americans about contemporary British art. The effort includes the gallery, an art collection, a philanthropic organization, offices for art consultation, an artist lecture series and an artist residency. Between Goss and Michael’s jetting and fêting, I got the lowdown from Kenny Goss on the Goss-Michael Foundation.

Damien Hirst...Saint Sebastian, Esquisite Pain

Charissa Terranova: In the creation of the Goss-Michael Collection, are you modeling yourself after Charles Saatchi?

Kenny Goss: Oh no! Saatchi was a pioneer in collecting young British art and, in a sense, also in creating the market around them. My interest is more personal and intimate. I collect the art of my generation, the art that speaks to me and resonates with my and George’s life experience.

CT: Will you be collecting work by what we used to call the YBA — Young British Artists?

KG: I am collecting contemporary British art in general. Since we live in England, we have personal and unprecedented access to these artists. My collection does not focus only on the YBAs. We collect works by artists such as David Hockney and Bridget Riley, who represent the previous generation.

CT: When Saatchi collected the work of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Gavin Turk, et al. (the YBAs), they were little-known artists. He bought their work in an act that was equal parts gambling and investment. Saatchi arguably created the YBAs. Will you, like Saatchi, be searching for young unknowns to make your name by bringing new art to the world?

KG: I am a great admirer and personal friend of Tracey and Damien and all of the YBAs. I am very keen on what they do today and what they still represent in the art world. That said, I am equally interested in the new talents and have been working with dealers and advisors to gain access to this new generation. We want to foster the future of British art and have begun collecting work from artists just out of college. The interest of the Foundation is to promote these talents, old and new, in America.

CT: What will be the defining qualities of your collection? Will the work be demarcated by geography or medium?

KG: There will be no boundaries to our collection. Every work, regardless of medium, has to resonate with us on a particular level. Our collection is almost autobiographical in a way.

CT: What is your goal in locating such a collection in Dallas?

KG: Dallas is my hometown, and in the last few years through the opening of my gallery, I have wanted to bring something back to the community. I have felt an incredible sense of duty to the city, elevating the cultural scene through the strong presence of contemporary art. I wish to add to existing philanthropic action my own view and my own experiences.

CT: What’s going to happen to the current gallery space? Will it remain open? Will there be a new space?

KG: The gallery space will still be open to the public and will be the main exhibition space for the Foundation. We are additionally obtaining a second space to store the collection. We will also open a private office where we can advise new collectors in buying art and in starting a collection. We are also creating a live-in studio for our artist-in-residence program that will promote artists’ coming to Dallas and producing works in Dallas.

Damien Hirst...Saint Sebastian, Esquisite Pain...Detail

CT: There has been a great deal of press recently about the great triumvirate of collectors ― Rachofsky/Rose/Hoffman ― and their giant bequest to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Dallas is now a city of contemporary art and architecture, in part due to this collective civic act of donating art. How do you see the Goss-Michael Collection vis-à-vis the other collections/collectors in the city? Are you interested in further cultivating this emergent character of the city?

KG: The three collections are absolutely staggering in their uniqueness and at the same time incredibly poignant when put together, as we saw in the recent Fast Forward exhibition at the DMA. The generosity and dedication of Howard, Deedie and Marguerite is an inspiration for me.

CT: In the press release, you’re quoted as saying, “Our collection has no cultural or sexual boundaries.…” Could you explain what you mean here?

KG: I am interested in creating a collection of works by artists who comment specifically on the individuality of their art experience. Art should have no cultural or sexual boundaries, as ideally our civic life should. Art can inspire individuals to forget where they are coming from and create a message for a better future.

CT: Are you interested in fostering an avant-garde scene in the city? By “avant-garde,” I mean bringing international artists here, cultivating young artists in DFW and encouraging an elevated discourse around objects. Are these things that interest you?

KG: Possibly. At the moment I am focusing on putting together a collection that has a strong presence and promoting in America the contemporary British artists that I associate myself with. I have a lot on my plate for the moment, but fostering the young artists in Dallas is important to me. Actually the Foundation just gave two $5,000 scholarships, the George Michael Music Scholarship and the Kenny Goss Art Scholarship, to students at Booker T. Washington High School to help with their art education.

CT: Would you ever be interested in sponsoring a lecture series through the Goss-Michael Foundation?

KG: Absolutely. We will actually start doing that with our opening show A Tribute to Tracey Emin. Tracey is by far one of the most important female artists today ― she is representing Britain at the Venice Biennale that just opened last week ― though none of her works are present in any of the Dallas collections. We will organize a series of lectures to accompany the show and help people learn more about an artist who, in my opinion, is wrongly absent from the city’s cultural horizons. We shall do the same in the fall, when I send all of my Damian Hirst works to Dallas. I am also working to put together visits by Tracey and Damian that I am sure will energize the city.

1. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), 223.

2. Nietzsche, 338.

Images courtesy The Goss-Michael Foundation

Charissa N. Terranova is an Associate Professor at SMU and a Contributing Editor to Glasstire.

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8 Responses

  1. titus_obrien

    Kenny Goss and Nietzsche in the same thought bubble: now that poetically delineates the epochs…
    Art historian Paul Johnson coined the phrase “Fashion Art” to better encompass the art of Warhol and his prolific progeny, with the YBA’s being foremost among them recently.
    I like the YBA’s, and they deserve their due. But it’s not like they are unknown and in need of Goss’s largesse. He’s going around and buying up their work when it’s at its highest prices ever – arguably too high. Just from a business standpoint, I wonder about it. From an aesthetic one, I think he’s found his niche, his way to brand his name in town and in the art world, at a time when its “simply THE thing to do, darling.”
    I wonder what it mean for those artists “just out of college” he speaks of that dilettante speculators like Goss now turn their eyes (and wallets) upon? And how it’s symptomatic of the continuing fashionizing of the fine arts, where it’s all increasingly indistinguishable from the pure celebrity worship found, well, everywhere else.
    Goss has a lot more money than sense, and what he doesn’t know about art could fill a gallery (or two) with some pretty questionable product (as he’s amply demonstrated.) Unlike Saatchi, who despite certain peccadilloes at least has a preternatural ability to spot trends and actual/fabricated genius, Goss doesn’t have any kind of real sensibility, but more just an interest in the glamorous fashion of it all. Recent British art is simply the most fashionable Goss is aware of, and so he’s going for it. Yes, I know he probably feels a “real personal connection” to the work, but since his world is George Michael’s London and Uptown Dallas, does that make his taste knowledgeable and balanced?
    All that hyped-up pabulum (its like an adverb frenzy up there; its absolutely intensely wonderfully incredibly fantastic!) about art being an idealistic storybook island where all boundaries are erased and we all live in peace and harmony is irritating – even if it might to some degree be true. I don’t doubt that he thinks this is what he’s doing. But to many that appears more like a thin veneer on a drive much more mercenary in intent, all the more so for the lack of apparent awareness about his motives. I would trust it all a lot more if he just admitted he doesn’t really know much, has a bottomless pit of money, and wants to just buy his famous friend’s art (which, between the lines, is in effect is what he says in this interview.) Up to now, he’s just a yes man to what is already canonized.
    That said, I look forward to seeing some of it. After all, more art is never a bad thing, especially here, and now.

  2. b.s.

    titus, art is fashion. we sell people. we eat brains.

    yeah, i don’t think goss wants to be like saatchi and stick his neck out. he’s more of a sloppy seconds kinda guy.

  3. titus_obrien

    art isn’t fashion. sometimes its the absolute obverse. they overlap, and engage in perverse dialogue, sometimes appearing nearly indistinguishable. But they are by definition distinct, if in perpetual uneasy alliance. One I think that should remain uneasy, no matter the seeming futility.
    but I agree, it tends toward cannibalism.

  4. b.s.

    i will see your disagreement, and raise you an impasse.

    christian art is god fashion, nobility art is aristocratic fashion. bourgeois portraiture is fashion. modernism made overt ideas fashionable. postmodernism is the market, which is fashionable.

  5. steven cochran

    99.9% of contemporary art is crap. hirst’s saint sebastian isn’t. kudos to g. michael and his partner, k. goss for bringing it to dallas. but, i don’t get the eternal return thing you’re throwing down.

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