I largely agree with rezzeJ but, of course, feel the need to elaborate.
You're right - "it's only Artnet." But what, then, is Artnet? I would argue it's the venue between eBay and Philips; it's the place for people who recognize they don't know much about art but want to know more. It's for people who go to regional gallery openings and probably own a past catalog or two but there's nobody at Christie's calling them up telling them that it would be in their interests to attend the sale in London next week. It is, in other words, exactly the venue that validates Devon Rodriquez and those like him.
And that's where the hustle is, frankly - if you're one of Damien Hirst's galley slaves you are either up or out (mostly out). If you're Saatchi adjacent you have no worries. If you're anywhere else you're a small potatoes regional artist unless you have substantial hustle and a decent commercial appeal - Hipgnosis makes money. Thomas Kinkade made money. David Wyland makes money. But the more money they make the less "art" they are, ask any art critic.
So the hustle is a given. The question becomes what part is hustle and what part is art? Warhol transcended. But he also made movies and was in photographs; those don't go for nearly as much as his paintings because the paintings are the art. Klein transcended. He also made movies and was in photographs, but if it isn't International Klein Blue it isn't worth nearly as much. Banksy threaded the needle in ways nobody else has: his stuff goes for lots of money but without the hustle it'd be nothing. The world is awash in graffiti artists trying to catch some of that Banksy magic but so far, there's only one.
The important question is whether the value of David Rodriguez is in the painting of the Tiktok video. 'cuz if it's in the Tiktok video? There's no value. None. Tiktok is ephemera. But if it's in the painting?
'member Vine? There were Vine stars. There were Vine influencers. And now there aren't. Is TikTok here forever? I mean fundamentally Tiktok is Vine with the massive revenue gap plugged by the Chinese Communist Party propaganda machine. As soon as Xi stops getting what he wants out of TikTok it's a fucking memory.
And so, argues Ben Davis, is Devon Rodriguez.
- Technically okay, but only okay
- Subway tropes are nothing new
- There's nothing to differentiate his work from anyone else's
- And what value is in the TikTok is eroding, by the way, due to the fact that it's clearly a schtick
I maintain that the "goodness me! Look how outraged the artist and his hoi polloi are!" is 100% calculated and banked on. It proves Davis' point: if he were a real artist, his benefactors wouldn't be so uncouth. And see, here's the thing. This is what Devon Rodriguez' fans are consuming:
They're all thinking I would stop and listen to Joshua Bell because my tastes are refined. Far more than every other lunkhead watching this very video on Youtube for these exact reasons. It allows them to feel cultured without recognizing that they have no clue who Joshua Bell is, what Joshua Bell is playing, or anything about classical music beyond a miasma of Amadeus, Stradivarius, "duh duh duh DUMMMMM" and waving batons around.
Nobody gives a shit about painting anymore either but if you add a schlub on a subway you get to pretend you're cultured. Ben Davis popped that balloon, popped it good, and popped it knowing full well the outcome of its loud bang.