DIGGING DEEPER: Revaluing Art Value during the Great Pause of COVID-19*

Dr. Lisa Streitfeld

“Martin (Lisa) Luther’s thesis tacked to the doors of the church of AICA” — Saul Ostrow.

 GOING DEEPER: The Pluto-Saturn Astro-Portrait by LPS. The cosmic opportunity of STILLNESS with the 2020 Pluto-Saturn Conjunction linked with Coronavirus is proactively manifested a public departure for the Schirmacher Event of the Third originating this blog on September 9, 2014. The new public activist phase was launched by the 3/28/2020 submission of this article to the AICA-USA Call for Critical Responses to COVID-19. The Saul Ostrow naming of the project, “Martin (Lisa) Luther’s Thesis,” reflects the last time that Pluto-Saturn were conjunct: in 1518 when Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the church door in my German ancestral homeland.

In  2015, I initiated a lecture series in a Berlin with my presentation of a new modernist movement tracked globally as a blogger for Huffington Post Arts.  A feminist American woman artist challenged me: “There has to be a global disaster before a new movement can emerge.”  I pointed out the immigration crisis, but she wasn’t convinced and promptly exited.  Paradoxically, her departure from the discussion allowed it to go deeper, as we probed into the spirituality missing in contemporary market.

The crisis brewing since the turn of millennium, when I became a newspaper critic on the Connecticut Gold Coast, had no name until 2011 when the Occupy Movement introduced the term: the one percent.  Many of the elite lived in my reporting area. The creative use of number as exclusion (the unspoken 99 percent) is also indicative of how “art stars” of the twenty-first century bypassed the dismantled critical apparatus to be manipulated into being by insider trading among the exclusive network of dealers and collectors regulating supply, along with art world recognition.

A heated art market by way of capitalists seeking “real value” since the 2008 financial crisis served to repress critical voices that were eventually buried further by the 2010s identity politics and social justice dialectic, which sought to crush all opposing voices after #MeToo was ignited in the fall of 2017 through the Pulitzer Prize winning investigations on Harvey Weinstein.  This was the situation that caused me to retreat into self-imposed isolation in Montreal since September 2018, returning to the USA only to deliver a #MeToo reflective paper at MIT where I was confronted with the animosity of identity politics that had acted as a pre-COVID virus on American campuses.

Paradoxically, the immigration crisis that rocked Europe in the past decade has been automatically resolved by way of the complete border shutdowns in 2020 under the threat of a global pandemic.  While the crisis hasn’t changed the daily rhythm of my self-imposed isolation in Montreal, I am now experiencing my body attuned to the externally imposed quarantine of the collective body.  This  has brought the frenetic pace of the  international art world screeching to a standstill, while more cultural events are migrating online.  I can now watch an opera, a Shaw reading, a French film, SXSW shorts, attend an exhibition, and check out a library book — for free!

Germans use the word pause for a timeout.  I have started referring to this indeterminate  period as the Great Pause.  The only news coming through my digital feed is that of the global pandemic.  Within national borders, not only museums are closed, but cultural events are curtailed along entertainment and sporting competitions. Art fairs across the globe are cancelled while the stock market oscillates falling an initial free fall.  With the center of the crisis switching from the traditional western cultural center of Italy to the international center of the art market, we are suddenly and dramatically faced with a revaluation of value.

I would like to use this opportunity to reflect extended by AICA to reveal my interpretation of the crisis and its impact on a new modernism.  I have tracked this emergence, along with the timing, for two decades utilizing the tools that I have used for art interpretation but kept hidden.  The 21st century hegemony of the art market made the art world an increasingly conservative place to reveal my secret.

Astrology as an Analytical Tool

My upbringing as the Aquarian daughter of the Neo-Reichian founder of the sixties Human Potential Movement worshiped personal transformation.  In the early 1970s, my father became the first pop psychologist to appear in Life.  He appeared on the Mike Douglas Show demonstrating the encounter group experience as the Third passage to transformation.  In a sense, this is was the origin of the online social network, where processing with strangers has become a well established.

Since the crisis, I have retreated into my Facebook Mundane Astrology group because they are the only people I know who have the language to discuss the  COVID-19 crisis at a deeper level.  Astrology is both an art and a science based on numbers in the holistic 360-perspective of the zodiac.  In 2016, I became the first doctorate using the occult sciences as hermeneutics in the Saas Fee Media Lab (1998-2015) of European Graduate School.

This year began as a return to writing about art after departing to write about film while doing my doctoral research in Europe.  January 2000 marked the publication online, in New Observations, of my first art article revealing how my mystical experience alerted me to new modernist forms and content through the dream.  I’m taking this opportunity offered by AICA, a group that I have been a member of for two decades, to “come out of the closet” and reveal my astrology and numerology in my art writing as the Science of Magic. My knowledge of astrology was crucial to predict the timing of arrival, which I just did in this posting on my FB astrology group:

This is the shift into the Age of Aquarius. When you consider how most of humanity doesn’t believe in astrology, and therefore understand the shift into a new astrological age, this Stellium in Capricorn eclipsed on January 10 is the huge reset button that will finally catalyze the paradigm shift into cyclical time.  This will be the new value of digging deeper taking over from the superficial gains of the linear uninterrupted expansion of late capitalism destroying the planet.  Capitalism doesn’t make allowances for a standstill caused by a natural calamity, and so the collapse.

Nature Restoring Balance

At the opening of the 2020 decade, nature has done what no artist movement can do — create the final revaluation closing the postmodern era.  This provides a perspective of the post-postmodern dominated by the search for Third identity between the binaries externalized as the transgender movement.  The pandemic is acting as this Third primordial force flattening the hierarchy and cutting away the layers of materialism under quarantine. In cutting down expenditures to absolute necessities and obeying the external command for personal distance, we retreat further into gadget love.  But why should this prevent us from going inwards?

In February of 2000, my first art review was published in Southern Connecticut Newspapers. My drive through the woods from my house to see the multimedia exhibition of 22 artists Faith: the Impact of Judeo Christian Religion on Art of the Millennium  at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art was the embrace of uncertainty in which I discovered the seeds of a new modernism that transformed my professional life: I became a newspaper critic.  Faithtook up where Sensation left off,  the former opening on January 23, 2000  thirteen days after the closing of the latter at the Brooklyn Museum.

This progression — from Sensation to Faith — colored my personal view as a critic at the change of millennium that I knew but couldn’t write meant was the shifting to the Age of Aquarius.  My search for a new modernism was actually a search for the configuration of the Aquarian archetype, which I discovered was referred to as the hieros gamos, the name of my art theory.  The close of a decade defined by advertising, given that Sensation was collection of contemporary art owned by the advertising magnate Charles Saatchi, including many works by Young British Artists, (YBAs), which first took place 18 September – 28 December 1997 at the Royal Academy of Arts, then Berlin Hamburger Bahnh before arriving at the Brooklyn Museum to close the millennium.

After 20 years of efforts in bringing in a new modernism seeded in my first newspaper review, the art world is riveted by scandal pointing right back to the same geographical location, where postmodernism got its start and then stuck around to overstay its welcome. The only opportunity I had to present my ideas of a new modernism was “The Hermeneutics of New Modernism: Hermes’ Trans/Gender Third” delivered at an art museum in the last decade for “Crítica de Arte: Crisis y Renovación” organizado por la Asociación Española de Críticos de Arte, AECA/Spain.

The Celebrity Dealer in the Numbers Game

Inigo Philbrick.  I had been noticing this name in the art newsletters coming through my emails.  It took for me to realize that this news maker is the son of Harry Philbrick, subject of my first newspaper interview was the director of the Aldrich Museum.   If I had been the writer, the family connection would have been in the lead, not buried in the story as biography.  No article I have read digs deeper into the connection, so I will use the opportunity of COVID-19 to do it here.  I have been thinking a lot about this art world scandal in terms of my trajectory from critic who couldn’t find laying work to philosopher for which laying work is impossible — within the context of the eclipse of the critic in the 21St century.

The numbers game as a market gimmick. Undoubtedly this is  was what the son extracted from the father’s minimalist upholding of postmodern during his formative years  in the Connecticut periphery of the global art center in New York City.  In Connecticut’s fertile ground, I detected the seeds of an emerging modernism and the faith to commit to a narrative of extraction in my newspaper writing about local artists creating in the shadow of the global art market. Philbrick continued on the same trajectory of the postmodernism that initially gave the museum its status as star maker through such names as Cindy Sherman, Jane Hamilton, Elizabeth Payton and Janine Antoni (which I reviewed) as recipient of the Annual Larry Aldrich Contemporary Art Award, named one of the top ten international art prizes.  By the time, I left my reviewing position for Southern Connecticut Newspapers in 2005, I was in agreement with a famous local psychologist who examined the works of an Aldrich exhibition and said. “Isn’t there anything here that isn’t a gimmick?”

While the rise social media would make gallery space for this type of conceptual art irrelevant — even as it continued to dominate the art fairs, Inigo Philbrick’s escalation of the Michel Cohen scam of selling works on the secondary market to more than one buyer, was a hyperactive response to a hyperactive market.  In 1990, I met Michel at Ojai Hot Springs. I got the last room and he asked if he could share. No fun and games here. He was a perfect gentlemen and invited me to dinner where he demonstrated his hyperactivity through his gadget love — his hand held device tracking the markets as forerunner to the smart phone.   I had never seen this in 1992 and indicated he was on the cutting edge of the zeitgeist. Sure enough, when I returned to Manhattan months later, visited his Madison Avenue gallery to find the work of Demian Hirst, who I has just seen at Serpentine Gallery in a London.  He hated the art calling it “garbage on the walls” which just was the surface of his contentious relationship with his Generation X girlfriend — appointed as his gallery director.

How ironic that Hirst’s premiere American dealer only had interest in the secondary market, where the money is! He was trusted “runner” for the still exclusive world of uptown art dealers — who expected to have a physical encounter with the art they were purchasing!  Michel offered me a cab ride as he carried an unprotected masterpiece. I didn’t bother asking how much the painting against my knee was worth, because the price was escalating with every block of our uptown movement.

Splitting an artwork onto shares is a conceptual activity, due to the fact that more than one owner can’t divide the actual work.  So the value isn’t in beholding the aura of the art itself, but only the numbers it represents.  The million dollar price tag is the value in the marketplace, not the value to a collector who has a personal connection to the art which can only grow, or lessen, with time.

As a fallout from the economic effects of nature’s revenge on human hubris, a revaluation of the art market in light of a global catastrophe, along with the Inigo Philbrick numbers gimmick taken out of his sheltered art world upbringing in the Connecticut woods and into the marketplace takes the Observe of his game out of the artwork and into the autonomous origin of number itself, subject of my Master’s thesis (Hermeneutics of New Modernism, Atropos 2014). 

The new modernism that I was tracking globally for a decade (2010-2017) in my position as blogger critic for Huffington Post Arts, consisted of number as autonomous. The polarities of negative and positive numbers, prime and even numbers, are that of the gender opposites. An art work with this balance arrived unconsciously is the art-I-fact of the collective mission to DIG DEEPER.

The Hyperreal Reveal


Post-COVID-19 Instagram Art from Berlin.

Should we need a periodic scam to remind us that art value isn’t just about numbers as sheer quantity?   Art value is also about quality.  To understand the difference we have to look at numbers as autonomous, therefore having the dual characteristics of both quality and quantity.  An original work of creation does this — numbers are qualitative in content in unexpected ways, just as they are in literature, as I demonstrated with my deconstruction of Alain Badiou’s essay “Some Remarks on Duchamp.”

What does have to do with the Coronavirus, in which the numbers of contagion and death formulate media headlines?  From digging deeper in my exploration of the practical applications of my theorem this past year, it became apparent that conspiracy theories and the spiritual journey have something crucial in common: there is no coincidence.  The occult interpretation of number in conspiracy theories reflects the symbolic language of autonomous number communicated in dreams. The conspiracy theorists see a man-made virus by way of the number in COVID-19 indicating a psyop due to the fact of the numerology of Coronavirus is 11 added to 19 is 9/11.

As I stated in my recent article, Eros as the Driving Force of a New Modernism, the crucial occult number 9/11 creates a Third perspective between the binaries (11).  This Third space is the icon of a new modernism: the hieros gamos integration of opposites.  This autonomous regard for number as a stand alone Signifier, which my deconstructionist professors never considered due to the repression of the occult in the western academy, made the use of number as hermeneutics my academic breakthrough.  A theorem of number as autonomous entities rather than the quantitative left-brain tool  calls into the valuation of art derived from the Philbrick exposure of the “insider trading” manipulations in the highly exclusive insider world of art dealing. Under late capitalism, the art market mirrored the stock market. Art was traded as tangible asset — yet Philbrick’s fall revealed it wasn’t.

Kenny Schachter’s expose about his pal Inigo Philbrick is not only about an adolescent quest to return to the eighties bubble through a  post-postmodern aughts bubble.  He has revealed a parallel here in the insanity of pre-crash (1987 vs. 2020) valuations through accounts of $500 bottles of wine and photos of hotel deconstruction. In both cases, the oscillation of opposites was manifested in the ridiculous figures of skyrocketing prices — until they crashed.  How apt that the Rudolf Stingel  hyper real painted portraits are the phenomenological source of the scandal. This illusion of the real, a quality provided to the reflecting mechanism of photography, was the focus of the scam to artificially inflate the market price of an artist which served to burst the illusion of invulnerability that Inigo Philbrick created with the aid Schachter’s free publicity, thereby reinventing the role of the critic as screenwriter during a time in which the dealers were the only art world stars remaining to play the numbers game.

Oedipus Strikes Again

The Philbrick junior game is a gimmick one could once find on the walls of Philbrick senior’s Aldrich Museum in the opening years of the 21st century.  The director refused to dig deeper into the spiritual implications of his groundbreaking Faith exhibition but used his enhanced reputation to build a new building as an art showplace.  He was particularly proud of the rear sliding door entry to massive works of sculpture for the premiere, an exhibition of British sculpture.  This now global pursuit of trophies prolonging postmodernism in the same fertile soil of Connecticut that I had discovered to be so nurturing of new modernist forms turned the enviable position of the Aldrich as a pioneering laboratory blessed with such a generous endowment by the founder Larry Aldrich into the debt ridden institution in thrall to the global elite.  At a Greenwich dinner party with the former director of the Bruce Museum, I asked why big is always better with museums. The reply was: “they are all doing it.”

Late Capitalism “bigger is better” with no end in sight necessarily needed reflection — not only in the art with stratospheric price tags, but the characters moving it. The psychology behind the Philbrick Monster haunting the father’s prolonging of postmodernism was speed: the booming cocaine fueled eighties all over again, with no stopping for breath long enough to engage discourse over a new modernism.

As the museum debt numbers mounted up, Harry Philbrick’s reign came to an end, along with his marriage, creating just the right degree of post-postmodern animosity (according to Schachter’s account) in his son to become the monster of market destruction puncturing the 2020s art bubble …just in time for COVID-19.

This is the critical takeaway from the Inigo Philbrick scam.   The art world gadfly Kenny Schachter to find blockbuster movie material in becoming his accomplice by utilizing his outlet to glorify a secondary dealer, whose only aim for art celebrity stardom was himself.  The Instagram messages Schachter shares reveal that Philbrick considers his deceptions an elaborate game.  Indeed, Schaefer started that he is writing a movie script.

Junior is rebelling against Senior by embodying the ultimate gimmick art in his gleaming modern showplace.  The minimalist to postmodern era that his father faithfully supported during his tenure as director of the Aldrich paralleled mine as the local critic at the turn of the millennium when  postmodernism descended from authentic deconstruction of a masculine dominated modernist movement to an all-round use of  gimmickry in pursuit of celebrity.  That sums up his son, embittered by his parent’s divorce, and therefore his brilliant artist mother who once complained to me that her children, provided with clothing from the wealthy network, were so much better dressed than she was.  He seemed to be driven by some Oedipal quest to destroy the postmodernism in which his father’s minimalist aesthetic managed to continue and take his place in providing his mother with the designer clothes which has now become the focus of her art practice.

The Numerical Case for the Revaluation of Value



The missing ventilators/masks needed to combat the virus ignites the post-COVID-19 revaluation of neoliberalism.

Inigo Philbrick made good on his art pretentious name to use number establish himself a global celebrity in a completely new context — a dealer who never discovered a new art star but made himself into a numbers star.  He defined the post-postmodernism era in which value art is solely about the machinations of the marketplace, and these dirty practices exposed get global attention through the movie.  Schachter was so intent on the movie deal, at the expense of digging deeper (his mother Jane Philbrick has an Internet profile as promoter of wearable art unexamined by the journalists covering this story), that he is far more intent in creating cinematic scenes at the expense of truth.  What we get here is the critical  reader bringing their own assessment if the end of an era by way of what this and other stories about Inigo Philbrick related about the “insider trading” in the art world behind the bubble.

The scheme failed when the multiple owners of a specific artwork wanted the reality to hold in their greedy hands, and it wasn’t available.  How is that for numbers regarded strictly as quantity in the assessment of art, equating the use of numbers strictly as quantity in science? Disregarding the critical assessment of quality in their numbers meant the application of a left brain science to art appreciation.

A new understanding of the qualitative value of number enters the collective discourse by necessity: stock market figures are abstractions when there aren’t even masks or ventilators to fight the pandemic.  Clearly, businesses striving to meet the incessant demands of quantitative profits are not going to stockpile items for an emergency (I was a financial reporter & analyst prior to turning my focus to art).  The qualitative numbers are to be assessed by a government responsible for the public health.

This is precisely where the imbalanced approach to number has failed western culture.  At this moment in time, the left brain dominance in the profit driven corporate culture comes down to this: too few ventilators and mask.

A Surrealist Resurrection by Number


My preliminary gaze into the Ramuntcho Matta Tarocchi  foretelling a world turned upside down by death determining a new value.

STILLNESS demanded as a condition for combatting the global pandemic  provides the necessity of a consensus for a qualitative approach to measuring  value  post-COVID-19.  This is how the inner gaze affirmed by the Great Pause demolishes the past.  Out of the destruction arises a new perspective of cyclical time.  Within this context of Kairos, art valuation subject to new universalist criteria with inherent qualitative value of an evolving consciousness reflected in the quantitative value of the marketplace.

Cultural critics such as Naomi Klein are viewing this global crisis as the fall of neoliberalism. It is therefore time to look at “the Chilean Miracle” as the incubator again. My research during a 2008  art museum residency in southern Chile uncovered a crucial archeology of the 1970s Allende experiment: the revolution was based on number.

Number is the root of the unknown question we face with the destruction of COVID-19.  Can artists and their critics regain their status as visionaries of a world unified by global pandemic through their prescient vision extending deeper the rest of humanity?  Or have do artists, in counting their own losses from due to loss of exhibitions and therefore sales, fall victim into the externalization of number as value in science as well as the marketplace?

The solution is in the opportunity that comes with crisis:  digging deeper.  Just as the crisis was beginning to spread from Wuhan on February 8, the multimedia artist  Ramuntcho Matta provided me with some unknown Surrealist history while gifting me with the invitation to write the text for 29 numbered artworks on paper comprising #RamuntchoMattaTarocchi.

This immersion into number was my reward for a year of  self-imposed isolation: collaborating with a contemporary masterpiece reviving a six hundred year old  card game crossing all borders.  The penetration into autonomous number during a quarantine in which everything slowed down to reflect my stillness sums up my experience of quantum reality encompassing my art critical past, present and future.

As we can see now, even the American liberals who have lost their capacity for critical thinking, it has indeed required a global catastrophe for the signifiers of the New to arise. Take the Victory Gardens embedded in a paradigm shift of circular time catalyzed by the Great Pause of 2020 due to the focus on the breath by the lung attacking Coronavirus.

The lingering effect on the human corps and art corpus of humanity is a new paradigm of inner/outer reflection as a Möbius strip of interconnectedness between cosmos, psyche and life on planet Earth.

Dr. Lisa Paul Streitfeld is an American cultural critic tracking a new modernist movement around the globe. She is currently busy putting her findings in the context of COVID-19.

*This article was submitted to an AICA-USA call for writing on COVID-19 on March 28. AICA members have found reason to reject other essays I have written using my experience to sum up a new modernism in the context of what I termed a post-postmodernism. This retreated & uniform silencing of my experienced critical voice and from AICA -USA members and neglect of my global news by the AiCA-USA administration has led to my resignation. If AICA-USA cannot apply critical thinking to an extensive archeology of a new modernism movement around the globe, why do they persist in existing around the falling structures of COVID-19? Interested readers can find my AICA banned writings on my Patreon page. Thank you for joining the small but loyal ranks of my readers.


Published by #hieroshiva

#hieroshiva is the brand for the multimedia products created by Dr. Lisa Paul Streitfeld, a Kulturindustrie theorist and media philosopher of the Hieros Gamos

4 thoughts on “DIGGING DEEPER: Revaluing Art Value during the Great Pause of COVID-19*

  1. I was interested in your thinking and writing and was hardly surprised about your view of AICA’s conservatism. I was surprised why you didn’t take your case to the membership through the AICA blog, however. I’m sure you would find support from some of us there and perhaps stimulate interesting conversation, even change. And certainly It’s always of interest to know whose making decisions and speaking for others, like oneself. I was also surprised by some of your language. Modernism has a specific meaning with a social basis in the industrial revolution–why not use modern or contemporary? Ditto for Neo-Liberalism (Hans Haacke and Pierre Bourdieu being the best of those theorizing about this.) When you write for a newspaper–I was a columnist at the Village Voice for 10 years–you come with a point of view, comparable to any other biz eg galleries or dept stores. If your audience is Gold Coast Connecticut don’t the Aldriches come with that territory? Robert Atkins


    1. Thank you for reading my article and double thanks for your comment and launching a dialogue here. Your remarks, however, reveal the patriarchal bias that I refuse to fight in America, as if no other exists. Just because the last modernism was defined by men, a woman can’t be so bold as to define a new modernism? How long are these ideas supposed to remain underground… when the institutions are crashing…no longer! This was the reason for my article and the cause for my complaint when it wasn’t acknowledged, even to be rejected so I could get it published elsewhere while Philbrick was still in the news. My protest against AICA-USA is a pattern of neglect of my championing the emerging feminine voice for the last 20 years in outlets ranging from mainstream to avant-garde. How do I address this without having to endure the “subjective” label? Actually, I have addressed it in my theories, as I did in my recent New Observations article linked here, but personally I am at an impasse with AICA-USA. My views of a new modernism sourced in feminine awakening BEYOND SUBJECTIVITY found traction all over Europe from Portugal to Berlin to Cyprus and Turkey where men were instrumental in assisting me with an academic appointment. What is it about this resistance in the USA? The Europeans have a word for it — Neo-Liberalism. In my former life as a financial reporter, I experienced the effects in Chile, the laboratory of or Milton Friedman’s Neo Liberalism. Chile is exploding with an authentic feminine awakening and I’m writing a review of EMA, Pablo Larraín‘s new film which captures this neomodernist zeitgeist as my next posting. So, I will continue this argument there.

      As far as taking my complaints to the blog, what is wrong with the AICA forum? I stated I’m leaving and left the link. Thank you for following it. I feel you don’t understand my position at all, but appreciate you revealing this in your comment so I have the opportunity to state this freely. My position is that more art by women isn’t getting into museums because there isn’t a dialectic first the feminine…and the consistent neglect of my writings by AICA is the case in point.

      I’ve begun an open letter of resignation tracing the pattern of neglect from AICA-USA (I have numerous examples) to the silencing of the feminine critical voice essential for a dialectic regarding the feminine within the institution. My announcement of departure came with the news of retreating behind a paywall. If I keep offering AICA members my ideas for free, without getting the proper acknowledgement, they are liable to be stolen. And isn’t this what typically happens to women innovators through history!

      As far as your point about a bias. Definitely not! I was a critic for a daily newspaper, and subject to the rules of corporate journalism imposed by my editor. The way this particular article developed was my writing my thoughts on Philbrick from my unique point of view, thoughts that didn’t fit in the typical formats of journalism…and the AICA USA call was an opportunity that came with a rare payment. This was my final bid for acknowledgement before withdrawing from any more attempts at sharing with American art critics. I’m more than content to return to writing about international film.


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