W's "The Art Issue Starring Kim Kardashian" Sums Up Everything That's Wrong With Art

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We hope some gallery with primo real estate at this year's Art Basel Miami Beach will take the cover of W's upcoming art issue, which features a naked Kim Kardashian with her more titillating bits covered by Barbara Kruger's iconic but increasingly tired, word-art aesthetic, and blow it up so large that it's unmistakably the first thing visitors see as they enter Miami Beach Convention Center. What better way to enter a fair that encapsulates everything that's wrong with contemporary art culture than to be greeted by an image that perfectly represents everything that's wrong with contemporary art culture? [Warning: some NSFW images after the cut.]

W's annual "Art Issue" should really be taken about as seriously as a manifesto on the state of art, as, say Nylon's music issue should be taken as an academic inventory of recent recorded sound. These are just gimmicky themed issues of fashion magazines designed to fill up page space in between seasons and the advertising onslaught that comes with that. Yet, I can't help but think this cover does sum up the current state of art or at least the commercialized excesses of it.

It seeks attention more than it seeks to say anything, and it's not even particularly clever about it. It's designed not so much to provoke any thought or stand the test of time, as it it to sell, sell big, and sell now. Sort of like whatever the hell Damien Hirst is doing now (then again, Kardashian split down the middle and persevered in formaldehyde really might have been something).

I'm not really sure what to make of Kruger's part in all of this. Her best work (read: most of her work) utilizes text in a way that we don't even need to wonder so much what she's trying to say, as we think instantly about what it is she's saying. It hits you right over the head. Her work is that powerful, and that's why it has become so iconic.

This -- I can't make heads or tales off. The best I can come up with is that it's Kruger having some sort of conversation with Kardashian about the idea of sharing cover space. "This cover of this art issue is all about me, the artist. Actually, wait, it's probably all about you, the naked reality TV star. Actually, no it is all about me."

Of course, it doesn't matter much what Kruger is trying to say, because it shares the cover with the phrase: "The Art Issue starring Kim Kardashian." Think about that for a second. In fact, we think this might have made for a more stirring Kruger-style image:

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Some people will try to defend this as something meta. She used to be a magazine designer herself, and uses cliche images from mainstream magazines in her work. Unfortunately, it doesn't come off as "meta" or even Warhol-ian as much as it does self-parody.

I looked around the web to see if any one else had a better handle on Kruger's intent, but all the headlines dominating the discussion amount to "OMG! Kim Kardashian Naked! Big Ass! Nude! Hot! XXX! SEO OPTIMIZED TANTALIZING HEADLINE!"

Which is exactly why this image exists: to create buzz and sell copies. It's a joke in the New Times office that all we need to do to create instant pageviews is put the words "Kardashian" and "Naked" in the same headline.

To drive that matter home, the only intelligible conversation on the cover I could find comes from The Wall Street Journal, which writes, "Of course having a naked reality star on the front of a publication has little to do with art-but it has everything to do with selling copies."

On cue, naked out-takes of Kardashian covered in body paint were leaked to blogs.

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Maybe, tying back into the "art" theme, they hired a famous painter to apply the body paint. Then again, I might only find that half way clever if they had the artist leaves his or her signature on Kardashian's famous rear. Otherwise, this is just pretty base.

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There's been a wave lately tying the worlds of art and fashion together. Sometimes you get things like the Murakami line of bags for Louis Vuitton, which were cute and clever but ultimately more fashion than art. Sometimes you get things like last year's art issue of W (when the magazine was under a different editor) which featured a great portfolio by artist Maurizio Cattelan staring model Linda Evangelista (I actually still have it, not because I am a regular reader of fashion magazine, but because I thought the cover was a brilliant take on the recession). Sometimes you get this year's cover: a pretty embarrassing affair for all involved.

Fashion seems to be rubbing off on its new buddy art in a bad way now. Art Basel Miami Beach is one of the best/worst example.

It actually is one of the few issues of art besides the cover of a fashion magazine where C-list celebs and other hacks can take just as much prominence as actual artists.

It's practically become the equivalent of fashion week in the art world. In fact, last year there were a cadre of designer pop-up stores, including Gucci, that temporarily found a home in the Design District.

Art presented at ABMB isn't meant to be viewed as something that speaks to your soul as art should. It's presented as a commodity. A luxury to buy. A status symbol uncomfortably along the lines of a Hermes Birkin bag. And in these cash strapped times galleries are increasingly relying on buzz and gimmicks to move artwork (remember how much Michael Jackson there was at last year's fair?).

Don't get us wrong, we love Art Basel, and we have a smile on our face every year it comes around. We might not get our invite to W's party this year. No big deal. Call us crazy but instead of star-fucking with Kim Kardashian and the other VIPs, we'd rather spend our time seeking out the actual art.
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