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Blogging and Pop Art: Who will be the new kind of person?


“There’s going to be a new movement and a new kind of person and you could be that person.”

The writer Victor Bockris thus quotes Andy Warhol as saying to friends in the early 1960s. This was when Pop Art was massing up like a big wave about to coalesce into a tsunami that would sweep away all previous schools of painting. Not merely realism but even the abstract expressionism of Franz Kline, de Kooning and Pollock was about to be eclipsed, and everybody in the art capital of the world, New York, knew it.

Pop art — cool, unsentimental, ironic, ambitious and uniquely American in its commercial references — was the answer in those post-Eisenhower years, but it was far from clear who would lead the new movement. Jasper Johns and his lover, Robert Rauschenberg, were first out of the gate, and Warhol wanted desperately in. “There was rivalry,” Bockris writes in his 1989 biography, Warhol. “Egos were gargantuan — and there was a lot of competition…”. The old world was crumbling, the new world a-borning, and Warhol perfectly captured the wide-open possibilities, in which anyone could be a star, when he told everybody he met, “You could be that person” (thereby pre-figuring his 1968 prediction that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”


Now here we are in the dreary, depressive year of 2009, when every pundit is predicting the demise of print journalism, and every blogger believes, in his heart of hearts, that “I could be that person” — the person whom History will record rode the new wave and defined its weltanschauung. The philosopher Thomas Kuhn called a change of basic assumptions in how people think about elementary things “a paradigm shift” in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. When I studied it in high school, we thought in terms of the way Newtonian physics replaced Copernican, only in turn to be replaced by Einsteinian physics (at least, with regard to the Universe). But another paradign shift occurred when Gutenberg’s printing press made manuscripts endlessly replicable, thereby bringing them potentially to everyone in the world. What is more replicable, more endlessly repeatable with the click of a mouse than material created on and for the Internet?

Print journalism gave rise to the late-twentieth century phenomenon of wine criticism, of which Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have been beneficiaries. But there will be a successor movement, and the people who lead it won’t wait for it to happen, but will make it happen by themselves.

Warhol had he lived — he’d be 81 now — would have been pleased with how history has treated him. He wanted to be the new person, and it turns out he was. “The prince of pop art” he’s been called, but that only begins to define his place. His name is world-famous for a kind of jaded ennui in the midst of celebrity culture but “this very celebrity of Warhol’s, his sheer, inescapable fame, has often disguised the fact that he was one of the most serious, and one of the most important, artists of the twentieth century,” in the words of The Museum of Modern Art’s chief curator, Kynaston McShine. Warhol thus takes his place alongside Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and, stretching further back, Goya and Raphael as signatories of their centuries.

Warhol’s stylized off-register silkscreens, repeated images and disaster paintings did not come overnight. He experimented for a decade, slowly finding his style. “He pissed on some canvas to see what it would look like,” Bockris writes — a technique not worth repeating. He tried dripping paint, like Pollock – tried cartoon characters (Popeye, Dick Tracy) like Lichtenstein – tried putting canvasses on the sidewalk outside his apartment so people would walk on them — and was annoyed with himself that he did not discover Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures first. Then came the breakthrough: a 1960 painting of a Coke bottle.

Some wine writer will be the new person, and the medium will be the Internet. Most likely that somebody is already blogging, and thinking about his or her blog’s style and approach, tinkering, feeling the outer limits, borrowing here and there, rejecting the irrelevant, improving what works, which is to say, what people like. That blogger is establishing a style that, when and if print becomes moribund, will re-define the dominant culture of wine writing. He or she won’t necessarily be the foremost blogger, right now, but will be the new person to come.

  1. Warhol is certainly one of those “new people” (and if you’ve yet to see the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh, it’s a treat).

    But as a wine blogger, I really don’t consider myself a potential “new person” in this definition. Mostly because we’ve already seen the new person in wine journalism for the first decade of the new millennium.

    His name is Gary Vaynerchuk.

    And while I would not count myself as a dedicated fan of his videos, he has combined instantly-attainable tools, tech., and content with a grounding in brick-&-mortar store operations to make a fortune and create an on-line brand for himself that is stretching beyond what used to be the mainstream of wine journalism, and is absolutely influencing (in increasing amounts) how wines are made and enjoyed.

    I’m saying his stuff is good or bad, I’m just saying that traditional wine media and even wine blogging likes to quietly ignore the guy, meanwhile his following and influence continue to grow.

    You could even argue that wine blogging is at the end of the present and beginning to slip into the past, where traditional wine journalism is already sitting, and Gary’s style (combining tech media) is starting to become the present.

    Damn, I cannot believe I just left that thought in these comments vs. posting them on my own blog… what the hell is *wrong* with me!?!!??


  2. Keep writing posts like this Steve, and you’ll be doing everything you can to ensure that the “new-new” comes from the “old-old.”

    Good stuff. Smart, literate, storytelling based with a tangential relationship to wine.

    I’m not sure if this is a style people like, but its what I aspire to write.



  3. Mighty philosophical topic, Steve, and good points, Dude. But I hesitate to anoint Gary V. I love his energy and his video power, but until he stops riding on the 90-point shoulders of whichever critic gives a high score to whatever he is trying to sell today, he is going to be just another smart marketer.

    And Steve, you are right: that next person is going to be driven by Internet rather than print.

  4. Tish: Can Gary V. sell wine? I mean, if he likes something, does it move in the market, the way a high score in Wine Enthusiast drives sales? I really don’t know the answer to this.

  5. Guys – I think Gary does push the market with his scores. Not as much influence yet as WE or WA, but it’s definitely there…

  6. The key to Warhol’s success was that he made Pop Art accessible to the people. They understood a bottle of Coke and a can of Cambpell’s soup.
    The wine blogger/writer who does the same in the world of wine will win.
    I agree that they are legion now but a few will make a break as frontrunners to the wine public.

  7. Without doubt Gary can move wine, and he does so with his own scores (“91GV”) occasionally. I would estimate that he applies his own ratings only about one tenth as often as he flags RP and WS. And the effect for me, at least, is to worryBut anyone who has any sense of the market these days knows that Parker and Spectator are the two most influential sources of 90-point pablum. By far.

  8. Great thoughts, Steve…

  9. Tish, I don’t watch V. at all. Does he really use RP and WS scores? Anyone else? Has he explained why he uses them instead of his own?

  10. 8BitVintner says:

    As a millenial, let me just say that Gary (whether you people like it or not) is that guy. Im not some crazed fanboy, but in a matter of a few short years this guy has broadened the wine audience beyond anything Parker, Tanzer, and Robinson could have ever imagined. His use of the internet and social network mediums is reaching limitless amounts of people. My generation appreciates his passion, knowledge, and charisma. All of his “haters” are simply jealous they didnt beat him to the punch. As an aspiring young winemaker myself, I would rather take my wine to Gary as a means of promotion than any of the “old” guard. I have a strong appreciation for the men and women who built the wine journalism industry, but Gary and those like him are the future.

  11. I don’t watch often at all, so I can’t speak to frequency in terms of his own delivery. But I get the daily Wine Library emails, and weeks can go by without the pitch being anything other than a specific Parker OR Spectator score – presumably whichever is higher (duh). Alas, Tanzer, Burghound and WE scores are rare in these sell-y emails.

    No doubt the wines are good, the prices tres appealing and his overall appeal — while often in the chicken-little “buy now before the sky falls” tone — is exactly what a wine lover likes to hear.

    Again, I don’t know how frequently he gives out his own “GV ratings” verbally in his videos. But in terms of the online missives, it happens rarely, and when it does it’s kinds sad. Here is a phenomenally talented wine merchant who has been on an IV-hookup to the 100-point scale for so long that he seems incapable of simply telling us that a specific wine is a great buy becuase he thinks so! That, IMHO, is what keeps Gary from being a true superstar. By contrast, consider all of the great retailers out there who can tell you a wine is awesome because they think so.

    I respect all that Gary has done, and I bought his book, but I think the retail wine experience is far more meaningful without the reliance on numbers.

  12. An occasional GV viewer, I think he’ll often mention scores as he builds anticipation before a tasting. Tanzer too, he seems to respect. Then, along with his own verdict he’ll add “x is right on the money on this,” or, “I think x wayy overrated this one,” so in effect he positions himself comparatively to known critics.

  13. It’s a good way to associate his name with famous critics and thus put himself in their league by association.

  14. Well, Tish, you never met a number you didn’t hate!

  15. Thanks, 8Bit, for your perspective.

  16. Au contraire, Steve, I belong to the camp that all wines deserve to be rated exaclty 88 points!

  17. I’d give your comment 77 points.

  18. Gary sells a lot of our un-rated, critic-unfriendly wines…just sayin’.

  19. Great post Steve.

    I kind of find it odd that so few bloggers push the limits-

    For many, there is little or no risk, no career riding on it, no huge investment at stake, etc…

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