February 15, 2019 | Via TheGuardian.com | by Jonathan Jones
In Netflix’s new showpiece, Jake Gyllenhaal sells his soul to an LA art scene full of grime, crime and flesh-eating sculptures. ‘It’s 100% accurate,’ says its director Dan Gilroy.
Want to make a funny but worrying film about the way we live now? The art world has everything you need. With its po-faced claims that mediocrity is genius, its jaw-dropping celebration of naked wealth and its cast of pretentious curators, rapacious dealers and power-mad critics, it’s an industry that’s begging to be ridiculed.
And sure enough, art-world satire is becoming a mini-genre of cinema. In Paolo Sorrentino’s 2013 film The Great Beauty, one image of emptiness inscrutably observed by Toni Servillo’s character Jep is a performance in which an artist rams her head against a Roman aqueduct. Four years later, in Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winning The Square, museum cleaners mistake installations for garbage, while a PR company’s attempt to populari[z]e “relational aesthetics” results in a viral video of an exploding child. They’re terrific fun, but how accurate are they about contemporary art?
Dan Gilroy’s new film Velvet Buzzsaw, launch[ed] February 1 on Netflix, is the most splenetic art-world satire yet. Gilroy previously savaged TV news in 2014’s Nightcrawler, a powerful trawl through LA’s seedy underbelly. Here, he turns his disillusioned lens on the city’s booming commercial galleries. The only cure for the blatant corruption of today’s dealers and critics, Velvet Buzzsaw implies, is a massacre.