Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In Defense of Commercial Galleries

There were some rather provocative responses to my post on "What is to Be Done," with more than one reader suggesting that commercial galleries are indeed open to rude behavior merely because they exist (the implication being that their existence is so odious/harmful/offensive, that righteous people are just in opposing them openly, foregoing good manners for the higher good of attacking the villains). Given that this is a forum created specifically to discuss, at least in part, the workings of a commercial gallery, and given that I've tried to be very honest and open about how they work, how artists can/should work with them, and what their limitations are with regards to promoting art, such comments do strike me as somewhat boorish, but, alas, this is a public space, so I'll accept those provocative responses as a call to discuss in more detail why I disagree with the notion that commercial galleries are worthy of such derision.

Of course, everyone would expect me to take that position. But this ain't gonna be your run-of-the-mill "we help artists pay their rents" or whatever type defense. This is a put-up or shut-up clarion call to those who would single-out commercial galleries as a symbol of corruption of what, one must assume the implication is, would be a much better (more "humane" one reader called it) art world, were commercial galleries to be abolished.

The argument goes that any art that enters a commercial gallery loses its "original sense as it automatically becomes an object of luxury for sale." This strikes me as a myopic delusion, as it implies that money is the only currency that has the potential to corrupt art, when on the contrary fame and critical acclaim can change art and artists just as much, but we don't see calls for abolishing the systems whereby those are perpetuated. If the original sense of art is lost in the context of it being for sale (with the potential feedback being cash), why doesn't it lose its original sense in the context of it being on exhibit for public approval (with the potential feedback being praise)?

The anti-commercial argument presumes a purity and selflessness on the part of the "true artist" that quite frankly I find mythological, if not downright ludicrous. It's an extreme, one-dimensional reading of a much more nuanced circumstance. To see that clearly all one needs to do is flip the extreme and look at its opposite: because one can become just as addicted to praise or other types of positive feedback as one can cash, the only way to avoid any corruption of any sort in one's art is to never show it to anyone at all. Indeed, that is the only failsafe way to ensure the art is always truly pure. Of course that would then eliminate the communication aspect of the endeavor and reduce it to masturbation, but it would protect the art from corruption.

So if purity is a fallacy, the question really becomes how much positive feedback (in the form of praise, acclaim, or cash) can an artist tolerate? How much can an artist expose themselves to before the potential for corruption becomes dangerously high? I believe that there's a spectrum---a range of feedback types and degrees that are simply a matter of personal choice for each individual artist. Some artists can accept lots of positive feedback (of different types, per each) and stay grounded. Others will be influenced and let a desire for more such feedback change what they might have otherwise done.

But overstating the danger here also presumes the artist is somehow not in control of such choices. It's condescending to the artist ("oh, they won't be able to resist the allure and they'll cave in and set up a factory, pumping out the same signature pieces"). While that may indeed be a risk, the idea that one has to protect the helpless artists from that potential by abolishing the system is authoritarian in the worst way.

Yes, I know, there are other perceived problems with commercial galleries. One reader suggested commercial galleries are "the reason our museums look more like a collection of flat-wall luxury objects than a space of true artistic experiments like happen in art centres." While possibly true, that is hardly the fault of the commercial galleries. Curators at museums can acquire work from any number of sources. They're not limited to what commercial galleries exhibit. In fact, this is a re-occurring theme when looking at this issue...the assertion that those in decision-making positions are at the mercy of the commercial galleries. (Again, the conclusion is that no one is responsible for their actions in all this but the commercial gallerist.)

In the end, a commercial gallery IS a business. Business decisions do influence what is exhibited, and therefore commercial galleries are not the best indication of the overall art world. No kidding. But to single them out as the villain preventing other art from not getting attention is to project the responsibilities of other spaces onto them. Not only do commercial galleries NOT harm non-commercial spaces, we spend a great deal of our own time and money every year supporting them. We volunteer for fund-raising committees, donate artwork for benefits, buy memberships, serve on boards, buy advertising in their publications, etc., etc., etc.

What I think colors perceptions here is the high-profile nature of commercial galleries. We advertise a lot. More people know about us, because we're always in their faces. But to assert that with that comes the responsibility to represent a segment of the art world that 1) doesn't belong in the context of a commercial gallery or 2) is earnest but underrepresented, is to assert that the viewers looking for other type of work have no responsibility themselves to seek it out and that the artists whose work isn't a good match for commercial galleries don't own the burden of bringing their work to the public's attention. Indeed, the implication seems to be that if commercial galleries were not distracting the public with their glossy ads and such, that the public would somehow automatically find the (implied) better work on their own. Which in turn implies that the public is being fooled or lazy. Which again is condescending.

In the end, a commercial gallery is just one platform available for artists. It's an attractive platform, because it is high-profile and potentially lucrative, but it's not like gallerists are forcing artists to work with them. Artists who don't like the context can communicate with the public via other channels. Rather than calling for the abolishment of commercial galleries, those who don't like them would put their efforts to much better use developing and supporting those other channels and stop pretending there's some dangerously corrupting aspect about commercial galleries that's making the world more inhumane. That's a cop out and, worse, a pointless distraction.


Blogger onesock said...

Very fine arguement sir. I wonder if the underlying mistrust artists have against commercial galleries is that essentially, the gallery system (being represented) allows artists much more access to all types of opportunities other than sales. These include biennials, fairs, various curatorial projects, art magazine reviews, etc. I agree with you that artists who are not in the gallery system must find other avenues to get the work out into the world. But, boy oh boy is that the hurculean task without gallery rep.

I guess what I am putting out here is I think artists (including myself) need to examine closer that tinge of condemnation of the coruptable force of galleries, and wonder if it is mostly to do with pure frustration (perhaps jealousy)that "I have something important to say, but no one can hear it because I dont have the right vehicle moving it out there."

10/18/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger onesock said...

add to the list of opportunities aided by gallery representation: (at least from my career goal perspective) visiting artist and associate (full time) professorships

10/18/2006 11:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane said...

Commercial galleries can be a corrupting influence, just as reviews, praise and the feedback of others can, as Edward points out. But this is true in every field. A young idealistic person setting out in any field is likely to become somewhat disabused of her purist notions when confronted with the real world. Somewhere between birth and adolescence, for most of us the world shifts from being a nurturing place to a corruptive and corrosive one. It grinds us down. If you have a combination of luck, smarts and resources, you develop some survival strategies. And as an artist, unless you have an old-fashioned patron or a trust fund, you go the commercial gallery route (or try to) to get your work out there and hopefully make a tiny bit of return on the huge investment of time, energy and money you put into becoming an artist. But working with a commercial gallery shouldn't stop you from also showing in alternative venues or working on artist-generated, non-commercial projects.

To participate in the commercial art world is naturally to corrupt or degrade oneself from an ideal of art for art's sake because we live in a capitalist society and "success," or how good you are perceived to be at something, is determined by how much money you make from it. But there are varying degrees of corruption and there are galleries that, while trying to sell work and make a profit, also nurture and encourage their artists to be true to their vision whether or not that vision includes making saleable work, galleries who don't drop their artists when their work doesn't sell well. Life is compromise.

10/18/2006 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane said...

ps: I don't mean to downplay the importance of the interconnectedness of art and money. It's definitely a fertile area and some of us make our work about it. I just don't think we can blame all the bad stuff on the galleries.

10/18/2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

So if purity is a fallacy, the question really becomes how much positive feedback (in the form of praise, acclaim, or cash) can an artist tolerate?

I think this is a very valuable and as yet unanswered question. It requires a test subject, someone willing to endure potentially dangerous doses of these corrupting influences, all for the sake of art and science and the greater good of course. I'd be happy to volunteer.

(If you feel the experiment would be more sound testing for one variable at a time, I'd like to suggest subjecting me to an overdose of cash first, and testing for the other two later if I survive.)

10/18/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

To run a gallery and still have time to write such a long post, your amazing! I still want to see you strutting in the Ak-Sakal coat. A sign of a truly sucessful gallerist.

10/18/2006 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

...the implication being that their existence is so odious/harmful/offensive, that righteous people are just in opposing them openly, foregoing good manners for the higher good of attacking the villians

Whoah E_, you're taking swipes at straw men here, and I think you've overreacted quite a bit. As far as I can tell from the last post's comments, only one person really disagreed with the sentiment of your post (CC at the end), as I actually agreed with you when I wrote I share your lack of fondness for his [Sergey's] tactics. I'm just not surprised that he was rude to you, considering that his group is openly Marxist, and historically, Russian Marxists aren't too keen on American capitalists, no?

...single-out commercial galleries as a symbol of corruption of what, one must assume the implication is, would be a much better (more "humane" one reader called it) art world, were commercial galleries to be abolished.

My implication was that the capitalist economic system is inhumane, not just commercial art galleries, because it is a system that rewards greed with power. The point is not that all commercial galleries are corrupt, but that the business practices of most Chelsea art galleries are motivated by greed.

A system that gives greedy people the power to shape society is dangerous because it results in oppression -- that is, equality, freedom, and altruism are thrown out the window when they conflict with profit margins. This is why so many galleries struggle with exhibiting a more equal number of female artists -- the system requires that they seek profits (i.e., most rich male collectors still want male art), and when profits clash with the ideal of gender equality, gender equality usually loses.

I would agree that the artwork of 'anti-commercial' artists is neither instrinsically better art, nor 'purer art' (a silly idea, really), than that of commercial artists. They're simply using their choice of where to exhibit their art as a protest against what they see as the inhumanity of the current economic system. The problem is that we all still need to eat, and it's pretty damn hard, if not impossible, to exist outside the current pan-capitalist system.

For some ideas on possible alternatives, artist Oliver Ressler is pursuing an interesting project.

10/18/2006 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

EW, are you back in NYC, or are you blogging from London?

10/18/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Dear Edward,

you are allowed to quote me, now that I've said something that attracted your attention. :-)

I am no radical, I am not promoting the disparition of the commercial gallery. Hell, I visit them all the time and I see tons of great art in them.

But I've been scrutinizing the contemporary art that has been bought by recent canadian museums
and have felt important gaps that urged me to draw myself a few step backs and sort of seek out a better portrait of how museum collections are being built.

I wouldn't be surprised that a great deal of american museums collections would parallel these gaps, but I find most art entering museums lately to be too befitting to be trusty. The art reads "I want to be part of a museum collection" more than anything else. It is for the most part impersonal, corresponding or responding conceptually to traditional museal themes, and of sizes that match way too perfectly the alloted space of a new acquisition room. Artists are creating art for museums, they do it with the museum in mind, and I fear that given all the responsibility to artists would be a mistake. I think gallerists also for the most part sell art with "museum in mind", and I've been quite interested in observing how that shapes (or not) our general conceptions and expectations of what we accept as contemporary arts, and more thoroughly the types of artform that are less likely to become museum-i-fied because of these conventions.

I don't like to link stuff but I wrote some more comments about this issue here, and you all have permission to think I'm rubbish and laugh ;-):


Cedric Caspesyan

10/18/2006 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Back in NYC...we missed it here.

Thanks for the link to Ressler, Jason. Interesting installation (and don't worry...I use hyperbole to stir discussion...I'm not as upset as the post suggest, although I had considered your response to be decidedly anti-commercial gallery).

As Ressler noted, though, non-capitalistic models are often immediately rejected as "utopian, devalued, and excluded from serious discussion" capitalisim is riding high, and it's advocates are somewhat justified in their knee-jerk smugness when presented with new ideas in that they're not unhappy.

Rather than focus on the benefits of anarchy or neo-socialism, in my opinion, though, the route forward is to constantly expose the excesses of globalism and to work toward changing legislation to once again favor small businesses over corporations. Once the forces of the economy are smaller/more modular again, other models can be introduced. Trying to attack the corps from their current positions of strength is like fighting the tide. Make smaller businesses sexy (adventurous, fulfilling, daring, etc)...start in the schools...then you can introduce more humanity.

Cedric, I specifically chose not to quote anyone by name because I wanted to rant with passion and didn't feel that would be fair...the quotes are indeed yours, though. ;-)

10/18/2006 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

The art reads "I want to be part of a museum collection"

Cedric, that's a great idea for a text piece. Were you planning on making it, or can I steal your idea?

10/18/2006 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Wyldcatz said...

I originally wanted to start a non-profit art space, but decided not to because of all the red tape and politics. It was easier and cheaper (if you count time) to just throw my own money at a space and make it happen.

And any non-profit spaces have the same bias that a commercial space has, just that their trying to please their benefactors instead of their collector base. You often end up with exactly the same problems. More flash than substance. Trying to meet quotas for visitors and such.

In some ways I've come to prefer the commercial system after dealing with various non-profit spaces.

10/18/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

global capitalisim is riding high, and it's advocates are somewhat justified in their knee-jerk smugness when presented with new ideas in that they're not unhappy.

Of course they're not unhappy, they've seized all the power and created a quasi-oligarchy; but I'm still not sure if you identify with them or not. You sound like a smug advocate for global capitalism when you use Randian phrases like "greed is good."

expose the excesses of globalism

Sounds like a good idea, but how can you possibly expose them, considering the alliances that your position requires? Or, do you not consider the trafficking of million-dollar artworks a global excess?

10/18/2006 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Wildcatz says,

"at And any non-profit spaces have the same bias that a commercial space has, just that their trying to please their benefactors instead of their collector base. You often end up with exactly the same problems. More flash than substance. Trying to meet quotas for visitors and such."

I actually, didn't read the last post carefully or all of the comments so I will focus on this thread. I think that a lot of the knee jerk reactions, against commercial galleries come from a desire to escape the concept of choice. Even in a non profit situation, there are gate keepers who have to deal with many of the same issues and the potential for corruption etc...

I think another thing that's being implied by some people is that all dealers are primarily motivated by money. In a hot art market, an illusion like that might seem plausible, but I think that a person primarily motivated by money could find a more profitable business. I think that Ed would agree that there have to be easier ways to make money.

So glad you are back ED. Put up as many pictures as you can from your trip.

10/18/2006 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Or, do you not consider the trafficking of million-dollar artworks a global excess?

Depends on who gets hurt, if anyone. I'm not opposed to wealth, per se. And for those who are wealthy, I think a healthy investment in supporting the arts is admirable.

The excesses I refer to include using power to stack the decks to maintain that power. I don't mind anyone making a fortune if they do so honestly and fairly. In fact, I think competition is healthy. Oligarchy is the problem, in my book. Not rags to riches captains of industry amassing fortunes and then building museums. If someone is that driven to succeed, more power to them. Just keep the playing field level and the rules in tact so everyone else that ambitious has the same opportunities.

Again, I think government's favoring smaller businesses is the best way forward here.

You sound like a smug advocate for global capitalism when you use Randian phrases like "greed is good."

I explained once that I never used that phrase, and then explained again, the context in which that short-hand for "don't apologize for being a commercial gallerist" was used. I'm sorry that phrase pushes your buttons so, and I'm sorry my original post was unclear, but're making much more of that than this deserves.

Ambition is good. Greed, like all excess, is unhealthy. "Greed is Good" to my mind is a phrase that's has come to be understood to be hyperbolic and somewhat tongue in cheek, connoting a cartoonish portrait of a capitalist...not a slogan that anyone really takes seriously. Not in my circles anyway.

But I will stand up for the collectors in that list. There are plenty of super rich people who don't collect art. The ones on that list support hundreds, if not thousands, of artists who would otherwise be unable to afford their practice. That's a service to us all, and they deserve credit for it.

10/18/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

Ain't it the truth. The sad fact is that relative to the amount of decent work out there and the even larger number of talented people with things to say, there are no where near enough collectors. Don't get me started, because, I do in fact have a lot of issues with a lot of commercial galleries,. But none of these come from the fact that they are commercial.

10/18/2006 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Edward, it wasn't the same around here without you.

10/18/2006 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Certainly the 20th century taught us that re-inventing the world from the ground up (Modernism) somehow leads to the deaths of millions of people. Marxists are not immune to egocentric and foolish extremes of self-delusion (duh) any more than fascists or capitalists are.

If anything needs re-inventing it is revolution itself, we could start by removing the leading 'r' and acknowledge that real change is slow and almost invisible. It can be aided with subtle incursions of smart and committed people willing to work from the inside with information and opinions promoted with a full understanding of the complexity and beauty of human psychology and society.

This might be acheived by establishing a 'sub-culture' of places, public and private, where these 'works' might find an audience of receptive individuals who also work in and direct the society under examination. These places might even be positioned within the social sphere to seem relatively harmless, like leisure time activity.

I'm sure the details would work themselves out, human activity tends to do that. I am also sure that this system would be abused occasionally or all the time by some. So it might be a good idea to have some relatively uninvolved people keep an eye on things and report in public on the doings of this sub-culture.

Of course, any economy develops problems with legacy and monopoly issues. This could be taken care of with an injection of fresh talent, maybe once a generation.

That is my contribution for today, Anyone think it will work?


By the way, does anyone know how to turn gravity off? My feet are killing me.

10/18/2006 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Tim, I think your contribution is the sanest thing I've read today. Sounds like a pretty good description of what we have already, but with a long-term perspective.

Here's my contribution. Lie on your back with your feet up the wall for about ten minutes. Leave gravity turned on, but make it work for you. It's an easy yoga pose. Your feet will thank you.

10/18/2006 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I went back and read yesterday's post which was great. I still haven't done a thorough job on all the comments. Given that these conversations happened in the former Soviet Union, I think that granting a lot of slack to Sergei doesn't cut it. That is the place on earth where naive collectivist fantacy dreamers have the least excuse. Honestly, my impression of his actions is that the "collective" is much more interested in posing questions than achieving any rational solutions.

10/18/2006 04:28:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I know I stepped into it this time.

10/18/2006 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

E_: Depends on who gets hurt, if anyone.

Yes, we have a genuine disagreement over whether 'the pursuit of wealth' hurts anyone. I would posit that 'the pursuit of wealth' and 'the pursuit of equality' are oppositional forces, and that the former is an unjust abuse of power (i.e., violence). Clearly, this view is in contradiction to conventional wisdom, as our collective American notion of the 'pursuit of wealth' and the 'pursuit of happiness' are nearly indistinguishable.

10/18/2006 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I never said money destroyed art.

Dia have been mentoring a few artists in a way that I find "satisfacting" (is that an english word?).

I think the reality of commercial gallery (i.e, "must sell a bunch of art items this month if I want to pay the rent") and the promiss it offers to artists (i.e., "you will survive if I am able to sell a couple items of yours this month, so please keep them coming and hopefully make it look slick and sharp so that collectors and museums can desire them, what at any rates you would be supposed to
be looking for as an artist").

I am saying that galleries entices format, the same way churches were enticing format, or worst, the same way you choose a lamp at k-mart because your living room entices that choice. I am warning about art's subjection to architecture even more than I am warning about its ethics.

What art can be done? Art that befits a commercial gallery space, optimally in a few numbered items so that it can sell? Is that the limit?

And if I take a huge canvas that fits 4 walls and paint a single black dot on them, does that make the art very expensive because the piece is physically large? Or for whatever reason is it because it is unsellable that no one would think of doing it? Perhaps that is a bad example, I am simply trying to point out at how gallery and museum reality have been shaping art "more - than - the - contrary".


Cedric Caspesyan

10/18/2006 05:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Opps, I used parenthesis without finishing a sentence.

I think the reality of gallery......(bla bla, parenthesis aad infinitum).....ENTICES THE FORMAT.

So please join my silly unfinished phrase with the next paragraph.

I do write faster than I think,

gdhj hxfdgyjr hu

(that was sparodic unguided keyboard activity for 0.0001 sec)

Cedric Caspesyan

10/18/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger John Morris said...

I agree strongly with Cedric. I think the interesting subject is how can commercial art find it economic to show and support new art and "out of the box" art. And also, whether new formats can be developed which blur the lines between comercial and non commercial venues in an honest and supportive way.

Let's just take my favorite gallery-- Pierogi. I think that gallery, for years really blurred the line between commercial and non commercial. It alway's seemed to me as an outsider, that the place was kind of run by interns and "volunteer labor" and certainly a lot of grass roots artist promotion. But, the relationship was pretty honest and win/win. Artist's with work in the files chipped in and in return, Joe was able to take a smaller cut.

I think that a lot of the hostility towards, commercial galleries is that most of them promote a very cut throat and cookie cutter path to success and few think of ways to create fully win- relationships with thier artists.

10/18/2006 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...


Welcome back.

First "What's to be done" was written by Lenin in an invective style so Sergei's just working within his tradition. Doesn't excuse boorishness, but Lenin did very well insulting everyone and ridiculing everyone else's ideas.

I want to agree that non-profits are not purer than commercial galleries. Non-profits have boards and survive on grants: all of these mitigate against risk taking.

Context is interesting. Art does look different in the studio than on a pristine wall. The Philadelphia Museum had a show on Brancusi which tried to recreate his studio (the photos were on the wall) and it definitely energized his work. And work designed for a specific space loses its impact when shifted to a different, less integrated space. The question for us, though, should be where the artist expects the work to be shown after leaving the studio. I don't expect these puppies to stay on my studio walls forever. I want them to go onto pristine walls, in a home or in a museum. So they are created with that in mind.

Money is not evil. Capitalism is not evil. Lacking a sense of humor, that borderlines on evil.

10/18/2006 06:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>And any non-profit spaces have >>>the same bias that a commercial >>>space has, just that their >>>>trying to please their >>>>benefactors instead of their >>>>collector base. You often end >>>up with exactly the same >>>>problems. More flash than >>>substance. Trying to meet >>>quotas for visitors and such."

Hmm...ok in Canada we have this situation:

There is that little amount of money provided by government for art centres. They ask reports that can reason what art centres present, but I don't think they really care. Art centres are pretty much free to do what they want, including making sure that the whole year programmation will be filled with art from friends of those who committee the gallery (an inherent problem in some places).

Artists receive barely money to help conceive their projects, but most is done benevolently. Don't ask me why artists do it, they must be crazy. They are desperately hoping to make a career later, I guess.

But I far from see the results as lacking substance in contrast of flash. On the very contrary, the art in art centres often get more of a "laboratorish" feel and lacks the slickier aspect of objects ready to put on sale. It's not about flash!

To better contrast, one has to simply compare exhibits by artists who have crossed to the commercial with what they were doing in art centres before they became marketable. This is easier to do in Canada. You can remember a Nicolas Baier early exhibit, or a Pascal Grandmaison early exhibit,
or a Jean-Paul Gauthier exhibit
at times when their art look as much installative as now they are objects (photographs or sculptures) to be easily sold and travelled.

Why is this shift occuring?
What happens to the art of a canadian artist between the time it was first shown in an art centre to when it is presented by Jack Shaiman in New York?

Yes, a Jean-Pierre Gauthier sculpture is still pretty large and installative, but it's no more an investigation of one room's hidden electrical and pipe system.
Still this example is pretty extreme, I am more concerned with artists turning out expressing themselves on formats that seem made to befit museum walls. It's like surrounding to a system that is so bigger than your art that it can only engulf it.

If you're lucky people stop by your work for 4 minutes in an endless parade of propositions that get distorted in a melting pot and forgotten once you meet back with the outside world.


Cedric Caspesyan

10/18/2006 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

Someone should tell Sergei the Marxist experiment has died and is long buried, it was doomed from the start.

Also who would want to do business in Russia, its a country run by gangsters.

Still unbridled capitalism is not good for the masses either.

Artist need comercial galleries and they need non-comercial spaces.

In the city I live in there is a artist run cooperative gallery that is in my opinion no better if not worse than a comercial one, as they have this commity of oficious artist that to me seem very corrupted by the power to grant people membership.

10/19/2006 04:19:00 AM  
Anonymous House of rats said...

"The argument goes that any art that enters a commercial gallery loses its 'original sense as it automatically becomes an object of luxury for sale'."

What's so bad about being the producer of luxury objects? Why are artists always so anxious to disassociate themselves from this notion? Why not just embrace what's the honest truth for many artist (like me)--that we are engaged in making luxury objects? What on earth is this "original sense" other than some grandiose idea that one's output is somehow too DEEP and PROFOUND to also actually have a price put on it or, perhaps worse, appreciated for its decorative nature?
Keeping one's work away from gallleries won't change it from what it is--if its wall jewerly, then its wall jewelry--and there's nothing wrong with that.

10/19/2006 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger hlowe said...

And any non-profit spaces have the same bias that a commercial space has, just that their trying to please their benefactors instead of their collector base. You often end up with exactly the same problems. More flash than substance. Trying to meet quotas for visitors and such.

Can't agree more with this--and I was behind the scene for several years.

10/19/2006 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No-one cares whether an artist is stable or not, more that they should live past 50. Most galleries don't.

10/19/2006 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

No-one cares whether an artist is stable or not, more that they should live past 50. Most galleries don't.

Stop whining!

How on earth does this apply to artists any more than it does to any other living soul on the planet?

You want people to care whether you're stable or you live past 50? Make the best damn art the world has ever seen. And keep making it!

10/19/2006 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

No-one cares whether an artist is stable or not, more that they should live past 50. Most galleries don't.

EW, you responded as though anon meant "most galleries don't care." I read it as "most galleries don't live past 50."

10/19/2006 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger paulraphael said...

As an artist, it is of course in my nature to see you and your brethren as the Embodiments of All Evil.

Nevertheless, I'm willing to entertain the arguments you put forth. Not only that, but I'm willing to suffer extreme sacrifices of my principles (and possibly even my soul) to test your theories.

I offfer my services because I present a blank slate: a shining, selfless well of creation, completely unadultered by the filthy influences of money, fame, or praise.

Since the Establishment has licensed you, evil commercial gallerist, to bestow all three of these hexes at your merest whim, all you have to do is bestow them on me, one at a time. An impartial jurry can then determine which of them, if any (or all) most thoroughly destroys me.

I suggest you start with money. Then let it sink in for a week or so. Fame after that. And I'll take the praise whenever you get around to it. No major hurry for that.

10/19/2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

EW, you responded as though anon meant "most galleries don't care." I read it as "most galleries don't live past 50."

Hmmm...hadn't even occurred to me. Guess the notion that "no-one cares" struck me as whining, so I read the rest as such.

David beat you to it further up thread, Paul...I'm sorry, but we can only conjure up the hex that bestows mountains of cash upon an artist once each blue moon. I wish it were not so, but....

10/19/2006 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger paulraphael said...

David beat you to it further up thread, Paul

we artists not only suffer the insults of commercial galleries, but the outright assaults of people stealing our ideas before we even have them.

10/19/2006 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regardless of everything said:

These are unusual but familiar times. Think the 80’s. I was there: before, during and still around. The same.

If you have lived in NYC for at least 2 years and you haven’t shown in at least 2 group shows in a Chelsea gallery you have a problem. Yes, dear artist, you missed an opportunity. Whatever made “You” stay away is wrong.

Many “Stars” will disappear (very soon) but you needed to participate. Simple.


10/19/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Guess the notion that "no-one cares" struck me as whining

It certainly could have been, but I read it as "no-one cares, so get over it." Of course it was pretty ambiguous, so who knows.

David beat you to it further up thread, Paul...

EW, I certainly wasn't asking for a hex, much less any bestowing. I was offering myself to science :)
The hex idea is all yours, Paul. If anyone wants to steal an idea though, I'd say grab Cedric's for making a painting that says "put me in a museum". That one's a winner.

10/19/2006 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous marciartz said...

"Make the best damn art the world has ever seen."
Truth, in word and deed. That, I beleave is the best any man or woman can give to this world.....
that is the pure of it,in any practice including creating works of art.
After reading all intrest on the Question, I give this, my humble response.
I took a walk in the deep of the pennsylvania woods, I was looking for the perfect place to sit and write a response, the sounds of water moving drew me to a flowing streem, lined by tall trees filled with a wealth of colors, some leaves gently falling and finding there journey in the water, glistning and reflecting the mass of beauty. The balance of nature once again, giving and receiving.
So I choose what looked to me like the perfect rock to sit and write,
beside the evolving winds of time.
Their! on that sized to sit for a spell rock, was a pile of shit. A racoon I suspect! The truth, now nearly 50, it is hard at times to deal with truth, it has its way of being a bit stinky and some may distort it in many forms, however as the rain began to fall and most often we have to sit by the shit or pick it up it will all wash away.
And, beauty and rock truth will rally one day, like nature to show the world the best art ever, revealed. marci
There is no price for honor.It will survive.Marci

10/19/2006 12:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rule #1 in the gallery business:

A) Short run- ¾ program- A gallery will and should reflect the time and situation around them. You can call it fashion.

B) Long run- ¼ program- A gallery should present and support anything it considers important. It is often difficult. You can call it taste or style.

The first (A) will keep you open and the second (B) will be History.

You have to stay open to make History and you have to sell the art of every artist you show no matter what. Even if you have to buy it yourself.


10/19/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

mls, are you an artist or a gallerist?

10/19/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

house of rats:
>>>>What's so bad about being the producer of luxury objects?

Well build some damn perfurme bottles and STOP PRETENDING IT'S SOMETHING ELSE, for christ's sake.
You obviously haven't been reading the same gallery press releases I do.

There is nothing wrong with making money but the fact that art looses
some of its aura once it's been marketed as a luxury object forces some shift in meanings
that has only been partially assumed by artists (i.e., that art is a fancy object to decor your home with),
usually by those who were the most able to deal with that problematic. What is wrong with Jeff Koons?
Nothing. He is a great artist. You can all become Jeff Koons tomorrow. But sadly to me that is sort of like a dog running

against its tail. I'm trying to move forward.

Maybe I should have never used the word "luxury", I realize luxury is not the exact
problem. I'm interested by the impact of architecture and social conventions
and how art has been inflected by those.

>>>>Whatever made “You” stay away is wrong.

I don't fit Chelsea.

>>>I'd say grab Cedric's for making a painting that says "put me in a museum".

I'm sure Ben Vautier did something similar.


>>>>>Also who would want to do business in Russia, its a country run by gangsters.

You'd be surprised of how much of America (i.e., USA) is run by gangsterism.

And I think they are more people getting killed in the streets by stupid gang thugs in USA
than in Russia, thanks to everyone having their rights to firearm.


Cedric Caspesyan

10/19/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Marciartz said...

MLS #1 RULE= truth and beauty!why be a
non amongus?A non ymous?marciartz

10/19/2006 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I'm sure Ben Vautier did something similar.

Yes, but probably in French. If you did it in English, especially Cedric-style English, it could be a hit :)

10/19/2006 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

well its not the same.

Yes we have a lot gun violence here.
We have gangs, they are into bad things such as drugs and extortion.

In Russia its on a state level.
We don't have police departments all over the country shaking people down.

Case in point:

Battle lines drawn over vacuum tube plant at center of raw rock guitar tone

Leading the charge on one side is a 64-year-old bluesman turned businessman, Mike Matthews, the American creator of some of rock and roll’s most famous sound effects. On the other side is the sometimes shadowy world of Russian business.

The prize battle is a vacuum tube factory called ExpoPUL, located on a corner of a disused former military-industrial complex in Saratov.

In seven years, Matthews quadrupled production and more than doubled the workforce at ExpoPUL. Today the factory supplies more than two-thirds of the world’s tubes used for music, sold to music giants like Fender, Peavey and Korg. Matthews’ $500,000 investment has paid off handsomely, with ExpoPUL selling $600,000 a month in tubes.

Before buying ExpoPUL, Matthews was already a legend among rock musicians. The inventor of the “Big Muff” guitar pedal, he has been recognized by guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana.

“Almost every rock star has used one of our pedals somewhere along the way,” said Matthews, a keyboard player and one-time promoter of Hendrix.

So the rock and roll world joined in a chorus of protest last fall when a Saratov company called Russian Business Estates, or R.B.E., made an unsolicited attempt to buy ExpoPUL for $400,000. “That’s less than I invested when I bought the factory,” Matthews said. “I wrote them a polite letter saying no.”

That’s when the trouble started.

“They’ve used jackhammers to stir up dust in the facility,” Matthews said. “They shut down the elevator where we remove toxic waste. And they illegally turned off the electricity.”

Attempts to get R.B.E.'s side of the story proved difficult. One company director, Vitaly Borin, ordered security guards to remove an NBC News team from an R.B.E. office in Saratov. Another representative, Alexander Bandarov, said by phone that the fire department, not R.B.E. turned off ExpoPUL’s electricity, citing safety problems. “We have no problem with ExpoPUL,” Bandarov said.

ExpoPUL’s director, Vladimir Chinchikov, says the tactics are typical of some Russian businesses, which pay off government officials and judges to help them “steal” companies by employing heavy-handed methods.

“It’s corruption, plain and simple,” Chinchikov said. “They want us to vacate the building. We hear they want to build some kind of entertainment complex. They are not interested in the production line.”

From an article on MSNBC.

I think this kind of spells it out.
I am not saying we have a great system here but for petes sake this is out of control. If this guy was still in Russia he would be dead by now.

10/19/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Does Russian Business Estates own most of the lofts in Brooklyn? I'm sure their tactics sound familiar to a lot of artists living in lofts.

One thing I'd like to hear from the readers: if commercial, non-profit and museum settings are not good for artists' growth, what should the alternative be like? Artist-run spaces end up sucking - who needs another full time, unpaid job? Cedric, short of moving all of us to Canada, what is to be done?

10/19/2006 05:35:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I've started buying lottery tickets. The odds of success are about the same as in the gallery scene, and the payoff is a lot bigger.

10/19/2006 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

They are already artists doing what is to be done.

You can walk up to Rockerfeller Centre until October 27 to meet one.

It's more a question of asking what in your art is really you or your optimal respomse to art and what is constrived by the system.
By the idea of being exhibited in a gallery or museum.

Are you being simply realistic or are you a total dreamer, that is also the sort of question good to ask. What is it you truly want to achieve and are you certain you
that is what you truly want to achieve and are you using all the best means for it?

Are you being optimal or constrived?


Cedric Caspesyan

PS: If your intention is to sell a lot of art than it is really not a bad idea to think of doing luxury, but, are you being optimally luxurious? Is your art better than
a Cartier jewelry box? I mean don't throw me your trash because outside there they are tons of competitors making very nice objects. Please be aware of just what you are confronting yourself to, don't try to hide in a museum.

10/19/2006 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

EW, you responded as though anon meant "most galleries don't care." I read it as "most galleries don't live past 50."

Thank you David! I wasn't going to respond to that outburst, but obviously it was a simple misunderstanding.
The idea was to place the same figure on each side, one for the artist, one for the gallerist. it's easy enough then to see the responsibility of the artist, and the responsibility of the gallerist, and where each responsibility lies. Absolutely unemotional!

10/19/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

My apologies Anonymous. The perils of blogging too quickly. I happily stand corrected.

10/19/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

Does Russian Business Estates own most of the lofts in Brooklyn? I'm sure their tactics sound familiar to a lot of artists living in lofts.

Bad landlords are very much like doing business in Russia, and they hire thugs to intimidate people.

Still our corruption is on a corporate/federal level, that's why we are losing our local radio and TV stations ,and why we dont have fiber optic system yet.
Its why we are 20 years behind the Japanese and Koreans with broadand connections and how much we pay for it.

10/20/2006 04:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Cedric's word "constrived". It seems to be a cross between two very different concepts: constrained and strived. I mean I like it in a poetic way. I actually have no idea what he's trying to say.

10/20/2006 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Haha ! So I just invented a term again?

Gosh my english is BAD, I was certain that word existed.


But Constrained is a fine equivalent.

Constrive sounds like something that keeps you from striving, moving forward. It should be an existing word.


Cedric Caspesyan

10/20/2006 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Lol they are 255 other fools who wrote constrived before me, on google!


10/20/2006 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger painterdog said...

Moscow gallery attack and art seizure raise fears

Sophia Kishkovsky in Moscow
Monday October 23, 2006
The Guardian

Badly vandalised pictures at Marat Guelman's Moscow gallery
Badly vandalised pictures at Marat Guelman's Moscow gallery

A group of men burst into a Moscow art gallery, destroying work by an ethnic Georgian artist and beating up the owner, it was claimed yesterday. The attack follows the seizure by officials of political art the same gallery had displayed. Marat Guelman, who is well known for displaying politically inspired and irreverent art and for his public attacks on neofascists, said the attack was carried out by 10 skinheads. He said he sustained a broken nose and other injuries.

The attack on Saturday is the latest incident to raise questions about xenophobia and freedom of expression in Russia.

On Friday, Russian officials seized 11 pieces of art Mr Guelman had exhibited. London gallery owner Matthew Bown was taking the pieces out of Russia when he was detained at Sheremetyevo-2 airport.

It is unclear whether the seizure and the attack on the gallery were related, coincidence or whether the attack was driven by news of the airport seizure. It was also unclear whether the attack on the gallery, which was showing art by ethnic Georgian artist Alexander Djikia, was related to anti-Georgian sentiment that has surged following tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi.

This speaks to how screwed up it is in former USSR.

10/23/2006 09:30:00 AM  

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