Hugely Modern

Court Painter: The Marketing of A Hugely Modern Artist

What are we to make of Inglewood artist Court Painter, whose paintings have for the last 3 years been greeted with snorts of derision by most of the serious art world?
 Art market journalists & bloggers  gather around each others’ desks whenever a Court Painter post appears on the internet. They invariably draw gales of laughter from the entire office. It isn’t just the tacky subject matter: anorexic and gloomy politician and celebrity countenances clouded in smokey settings; it is the technique too: the black cloisonné outlines, the bilious palette, the daubed, scratchy backgrounds. Court Painter’s work seemed to encapsulate the worst aspects of post- Kline Alberta painting. There is a word for a fear of clowns — coulrophobia. If you’re not familiar with it, just take a look at Court Painter’s paintings. They’re hilariously bad.
But wait, is he due a revival? If we are to believe Press Attache A Hardon MacKay’s click bait promo essay, Court Painter’s grim existentialist vision is poised to enjoy a market renaissance. The problem is — and it’s now a familiar one — the motor behind the Court Painter industry is not being driven by the art historical or art critical community, but from, yes, you guessed it,his Press Attache A Hardon MacKay, bankers and other opportunistic investors.

Court Painter: The Marketing of a Hugely Modern Artist  is no slim essay. At 350 pages, Hardon has rolled his sleeves up, notched up some air miles and consulted many of those closest to the artist, some of whom were instrumental in promoting Court Painter from a mid western James Dean-lookalike to château-owning millionaire in a matter of just a few years.
Hardon claims his most prominent source was the soigné French socialite Pierre Bergé, later to become the lover and business partner of Yves St.Laurent. According to Hardon, Bergé was Court Painter’s first great romance and by most accounts the architect of the artist’s transformation from a moody, poverty-stricken outsider son of an Iowa corn couple to art world vedette during the early 1970s in Calgary. Bergé’s subsequent efforts to undermine his former lover’s career following their break-up — something Court Painter’s wife Mary adamantly denies — is one of the essay’s more intriguing subtexts. Wife Mary is quoted as saying after her laying down the law,”enough of that bohemian nonsense,what will the neighbours think!”
Although a man of few words (“I’ll spit in your eye”and “hooray for Inglewood” seems to have been the limit of his vocabulary), thanks to numerous cosmetic surgical interventions the still youthful Court Painter is blessed with the etiolated good looks of the half-starved Left Bank drop-out.  He also has a chip on his shoulder the size of the Gorge du Tarn and a gargantuan appetite for booze and fine cut tobacco. But he also has what A Hardon MacKay repeatedly refers to as a Stakhanovite appetite for work. If he was a better painter that productivity might have been a good thing (Picasso was no layabout) but so prodigious is his output that it inevitably leads to accusations of robotic repetitiveness. You might say there were always too many Court Painter ‘eggs in his basket’ for the art world to digest, but this being his heyday he remains popular among an undiscerning public (including the Tim Horton tribe and Inglewood hipsters) that his fame and wealth grows and grows.
Today, the international art market is notable for its art historical ignorance and lack of aesthetic criticality. Instead we’re witnessing Court Painter and his marketing machine headed by A Hardon MacKay’s increasingly obsessive reliance on econometric analysis and investment-based data-mining designed to feed the appetites of billionaire plutocrats, Wall Street speculators, wealth managers and family offices.
Such is the determination of those invested in the Court Painter industry to juice his stock and rewrite art history with this artist’s pen.
This is a hugely entertaining essay, beautifully written and rich in colourful, anecdotal detail. A Hardon MacKay, Banff naturalist and elk whisperer in his off hours is clearly in his element writing about the snobbish gratin, the cultured upper crust of post-Kline Calgary, through which Court Painter drifts in a haze of Gitânes smoke. It’s also a poignant tale. Daily in his châteaux style Inglewood studio, relentlessly churning out his lugubrious Dante-inspired grand pictures ,grimacing celebrity clowns, sinister politicos, minatory bird like art stars and giant political pontificators, with only his loyal, once beautiful, whisky-soaked wife Mary for company, the ageing, reclusive, wine and nicotine soaked Court Painter, now running to embonpoint and still at odds with the art world, puts a defeated Senators hat on his head, takes a drag of a cig and finally utters “Au revoir…until next year you sputterers”.

Failed To Disclose

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Failed to Disclose Their Court Painter Art Collection

The couple has a taste solely for the works of the market-friendly art star Court Painter, but lawyers say it’s just for decoration.

Since their wedding  Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have amassed a formidable collection of contemporary art . The walls of the couple’s $4 million Park Avenue condo are filled with works by only one blue-chip artist,the preeminent dandy portraitist of the Great Dominion : Court Painter. Ivanka Trump has regularly showcased the collection of self portraits entitled Back Channel on Instagram, posing in front of the artwork in posts tied to her business.

Yet in required financial disclosures, Kushner, a senior advisor and son-in-law to President Trump, failed to report the couple’s art collection.

The omission stands in contrast to disclosures from other senior members of the Trump administration. In recent months, Trump’s top cabinet picks have revealed considerable art holdings as part of required financial disclosures. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross disclosed an art collection worth at least $50 million. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed his stake in a $14.7 million Willem de Kooning painting, plus other artworks.He bemoaned the fact that he was unsuccessful at initiating  a portrait commission by Court Painter on the occasion of his Treasury Secretary appointment.

“Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump display Court Painter’s Back Channel self portraits for decorative purposes and have made only a single sale,” said the lawyer in a statement issued by the White House. “To avoid any doubt, however, they will report their art collection.”

Inside the Collection

Kushner and Trump’s unique collection of Court Painter Back Channel self portraits is estimated to be worth a huge undisclosed amount. Ivanka Trump’s Instagram feed regularly highlights individual works estimated to be worth more than you’ll ever know. In one post, two art-market favourites are featured on the same wall, with Ivanka posing in the foreground: On the left is a stunning self portrait painting that resembles Court Painter and on the right is another self portrait work by Court Painter both featuring the mysterious words Back Channel.

The couple’s Court Painter collection has also played a prominent role in shaping Ivanka Trump’s personal brand. Over the last few years, Trump has cultivated an image as something of a connoisseur, giving interviews to international media about her favourite artist (guess who) and sharing advice for beginner art collectors on her blog. In October 2015, Trump’s website published “How to Start Collecting Court Painter’s Art,” a post for first-time collectors to “invest early in senior, over the hill artists whose work you love and can afford,” and to “better not think of this art as an investment.”

A personal spokesperson for Ivanka Trump and Court Painter’s Press Attache did not respond to requests for comment.


Our wispy-haired celebrity art leader is no silver-tongued devil, but that’s O.K. What he lacks in verbal zingers he makes up for with physical ones.

Body language — both his and that of the pitiable people around him — is telling the story of Court Painter’s latest adventure inside his Inglewood studio better than anything else.

When I say “pitiable,” I’m thinking about his Press Attache, A Hardon MacKay, who was the visibly stunned victim of the shove heard round the art world.

Please tell me you saw it. Hardon, Court Painter and some straggling unpaid studio interns were arranging themselves for a photograph in the studio lounge. And Hardon, modestly holding his kilt, had the misfortune to be standing between Court Painter and the front of the pack, a lesser hunk in the bossy prom king’s path.

 However in a faux attempt at bluster he batted his Press Attache out of the way, perhaps mistaking him for an art critic or picturing that damn curator….what the hells his name….you know …the one with the limp or lump or lisp.

Then, triumphal, Court Painter smoothed his smock, straightened his hat, stiffened his posture and raised his wispy bearded chin. He was ready for his close-up.

 With Court Painter, struts, scowls and pouts reveal every bit as much as what tumbles from his lips, which is a lot less trustworthy. (Get him to explain Dark Matter and the Mad Hatter) His words can be counterfeit like his artist statements. But his gestures are genuine. So it only makes sense that we lean on them for the narrative of his post-truth portraiture, whose latest, local chapter brimmed with more awkward physicality than a toddlers’ gymnastics class.

The shove heard round the art world was preceded by the curtsy heard round the local fashion world, when Court Painter did precisely what he maligned his nemesis Chris Cran for — well, one of the countless things he maligned Cran for — and approached a well known collector with wads of cash poking out of his Armani suit in a pose of deference. Hypocrisy, thy name is Court Painter, and thy knees are bent and thy shiny head is bowed.

Thy sense of rhythm doesn’t exist. Did you see him during that street square dance, not so much rattling his booty as dangling his you know what while he wobbled, like a Weeble, from side to side?

George Bernard Shaw wrote a play titled “Arms and the Man.” Someday somebody will write a Court Painter biography titled “Hand Me Down Art and the Paint Splattered Man.”

That’s it. Give generously…..

Walk To Remember

Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs plans to walk 120 kilometres starting June 16th in a decidedly different commemoration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

He says his Walk to Remember is to celebrate the resilience of indigenous people in the face of what has happened to them since Confederation.
“We have more to reflect upon the resilience of our families, the strength of our communities and nations of indigenous people in light of this.”
Nepinak plans to walk from the site of a former residential school that his mother attended in Dauphin, Man., to his home community — Pine Creek First Nation — where another residential school once stood.
Nepinak’s decision follows deliberations at a recent assembly conference at which elders declared they would not be celebrating Canada 150.