Viewer's Discretion: Art collecting, artist's legacy come under magnifying glass

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'BLURRED LINES: INSIDE THE ART WORLD' (APPLE, GOOGLE PLAY, NETFLIX, VUDU)

This documentary expose of the highest end of the art world doesn't offer many surprises, but its execution of laying out the processes by which art has become the focus of an out-of-control speculative frenzy among the super-rich is enlightening. We know what goes on in that bubble, we just don't always know why. And the art market is a bubble, a self-contained separate universe from the one most of us inhabit.

"Blurred Lines" structures its examination by dividing up the parts of the film to focus on individual aspects that come together to explain what the hell is going on, giving highlights to everything from auctions to fairs, and wrapping in commentary from artists, gallerists, collectors and others. It's a parade of insiders who provide context to all the garish glitz and gauche press coverage that would judge art by the level of its spectacle and the price of its sale.

In some ways "Blurred Lines" also captures a cancer at the core of America that infects so many creative industries — publishing, music, film, they all have their versions of the same. But what makes the art world so distinct is that the other creative industries are also not embraced as a speculative market bolstered onto the foundation of perceived value. What is the difference between high-end art collecting and, say, Bitcoin? I'm not so sure there is one.

The question at the heart of the film — whether this contemporary art selling for millions of dollars will endure through time — is never answered straightforwardly, but after a tour of the world this contemporary art inhabits, it becomes clear that the answer is no. As long as it is held captive inside the bubble of wealth, it will never have a chance to walk amongst the real culture and earn any longevity. This art is not free, in any sense of the word.

'THE LEGACY' (AMAZON)

The tagline for this family drama could easily be "Her sculptures were perfect, but her family was a mess." Taking the classic Scandinavian trope of familial dysfunction and adding multiple layers to it, "The Legacy" reveals what happens when a world-famous artist dies suddenly and leaves her children to deal with the mess she has wrought.

What follows is a parade of back-stabbing and clinginess, of self-preservation and victimhood, of singular selfishness.

The series features excellent performances from Carsten Bj rnlund as Frederick, the son who's about to collapse under the weight of years of suppression of anger; Trine Dyrholm as Gro, the daughter who was raised as her mother's personal assistant and has little sense of her own identity; and Jesper Christensen as Thomas, Gro's father, an experimental musician who has little understanding of what responsibility entails.

Part of this mess includes the inadequate tools to get through life that she passed onto her kids — these are not bad people, just hopeless in their understanding of how to interact with others — but also the revelation of a daughter thought lost to the family, and who sends their expected inheritances spinning.

If art is a method by which we analyze and reflect chaos, in which we capture emotion into a form we can observe it, then the children's inability to create like their mother did casts them as wanderers in the muck of feelings, grasping for something to help them make sense. It's art that just might save this family, but only if they decide to embrace the tools they have to work with.

John Seven is a writer in North Adams who has never been satisfied by movies and television that are easy to come by. He likes to do some digging. Find him online at johnseven.me


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