Art Smart 

(Untitled) Kills Modern Art (with Kindness)

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"WHO ARE WE to judge what stands the test of time?" asks Grant (Michael Panes)—a mere bit player, a gallery assistant—in (Untitled), which both skewers and sympathizes with the world of contemporary art. It's a question that enunciates the heart of the film's contention that the world of galleries, collectors, and avant-garde artists is one in which the blind lead the blind and where even the best (or, at least, the most over-intellectualized) intentions can end up sacrificed to the altar of headline grabs, shock tactics, money, and politics.

The film opens with two brothers: Josh (Eion Bailey) is a painter whose pastel canvases are virtually identical—he's found success in the market for decorating dental and law offices. Adrian (Adam Goldberg), meanwhile, is an experimental musician drawn to the most emotionless, atonal sounds available—his creations are utterly un-listenable. When Josh brings his gallerist, Madeleine Gray (Marley Shelton), to one of Adrian's sparsely attended concerts, trouble starts.

Lovers, collectors, galleries, and—above all else—egos compete in this story, which leaves a few of its threads untended, like the would-be pursuit of Adrian's bandmate on the part of Madeleine's richest (and tasteless) customer. A few other things seem off, outside of the general air of a pre-recession moneyed, portfolio-diversifying New York. Adrian and company's slapstick bewilderment toward the avant-garde visual art scene, for instance, feels completely manufactured—how improbable to be among the weirdest of the weird in one genre, yet completely sheltered and pedestrian in another, so closely related? Meanwhile, the artist-caricatures Ray (Vinnie Jones) and Monroe (Ptolemy Slocum) are the quiet ringleaders of the increasingly idiotic circus that (Untitled) probes with equal measures of fond humor and accusing exposition.

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