Friday, April 20, 2007

It's NOT the Art Market

Barely ensconced in his new gig at New York Magazine, art critic Jerry Saltz offers a sizzlin' hot rant against the sillier arguments being bandied about as to what's wrong with the currently sizzlin' hot art market. Not even on the newstands yet (but available online), the article focuses on the "Not for Sale" exhibition up at PS1. From the very first line, Jerry pulls no punches:
"Not for Sale,” the 46-person mishmash at P.S. 1, is a thankfully rare case of “When Bad Ideas Create Passable Shows.” Before we look at this slipshod exhibition, let’s consider the flawed notion that created it. Alanna Heiss, the trailblazing but here totally misguided curator, writes that “Not for Sale” contains only art that can’t be bought. Thus, the exhibition—which will be open for another week—is composed of work that artists either kept or, in a couple of weird cases, sold then bought back. By this curatorial criterion, nearly every artist on earth could be included. Heiss compounds the problem by haughtily stating that the show evinces her “unfortunate allergy” to the marketplace.

I admire Heiss enormously. Having founded P.S. 1 in 1976, she helped invent the alternative-art movement, and has kept its flame alive. But for the director or curator of an institution that relies on the largesse of artists and dealers—who in turn depend on commerce—to claim an “allergy” to the marketplace is not only smug, it’s deluded and hypocritical. This goes double if that curator’s institution, like Heiss’s, is affiliated with the Museum of Modern Art, the very pinnacle of institutional power. As if her organizational premise weren’t thin enough, Heiss’s jokey description of her curatorial process, if you can call it that, is flimsier still. She writes, “I called artists whom I know well and who happened to be at home.” Really, the show should have been called “Journey to the Center of My Rolodex” or “Friends of Alanna.”
Now, I haven't seen the exhibition (and generally worship the ground Ms. Heiss walks on for all she's done for art in New York), and I don't mind saying I appreciate that someone somewhere is brave enough to stand up to the power players calling the shots in this age of art fair feeding frenzies and sold out exhibitions of MFA student work, but I have an allergy of my own that I've noted time and again here, which is one against using art to make poorly thought-out political statements (again, I have not seen this exhibition...my opinions here are in response to its theme). My biggest beef with such efforts is, as I noted a while back: "[A]rtwork [or exhibitions] built around a naive POV but offered up as if it had been handed down on tablets from God. What this leads to often are laughable cartoons, easily (and rightly) dismissed as shallow....]. Jerry nailed the essence of why such exhibitions fail:
The market is an issue that needs examining. The feeding frenzy of the current moment is so invasive and pervasive, it’s hard to say how it eventually will have changed the ways art is presented, perceived, and produced. Is the market creating a competitive environment that is compelling artists to make good work, or is it mainly helping to foster more product? Is it a money-addled popularity contest based on greed, good luck, and connections, or is it simply allowing more artists to make money from their art without having to take full-time jobs? None of these issues are addressed in “Not for Sale.” Instead, Heiss kidnaps this important idea, then fails to develop it. Her purported allergy has become little more than bait.

Also, as Jerry notes, anyone who's done as many important exhibitions as Heiss has is entitled to a few clunkers, but if, as it seems, she's singling out the market as some demon, as opposed to simply a factor that deserves honest, objective examination, like many others, this show is not serving anyone. It creates an air of moral superiority, but ultimately does nothing to solve the important issues at hand. There's a back story passage on Saltz's review (which I'm not sure whether he wrote or not) that offers a very smart observation by Gerhard Richter:

“The much-maligned ‘art scene’ of the present day,” he wrote, “is perfectly harmless and even pleasant, if you don’t judge it in terms of false expectations. It has nothing to do with those traditional values that we hold high (or that hold us high). It has virtually nothing whatever to do with art. That’s why the ‘art scene’ is neither base, cynical, nor mindless: it is a scene of brief blossoming and busy growth, just one variation on the never-ending round of social game-playing that satisfies our need for communication, alongside such others as sport, fashion, stamp-collecting and cat-breeding. Art takes shape in spite of it all, rarely and always unexpectedly; art is never feasible.”

Again, I haven't seen this exhibition. My opinions here are meant to be in response to the review and elaborate on earlier ideas shared on the blog, not a critique of this exhibition, per se (can I say that enough times?). Perhaps a smart show about the current art market would require too much analysis (a CPA and a hedge fund manager might have to curate it) to be visually interesting or pleasing, but that's not a license to simply say "it's bad" and not prove it or offer any interesting insight into what makes is so. An exhibition doesn't have to be a thesis statement, but by not illuminating anything important about its subject, it's disposable.

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43 Comments:

Anonymous Henry said...

I'm missing something here. I need some help. I don't think Saltz is describing the exhibition correctly. Here's the curator's statement from the description of the show (emphasis mine).

I have tried to avoid work with issues of installation which might render the work unsaleable. Museums and collectors were not asked to lend works; this is a show of work that the creators won't part with. Not everyone I called is in the show. Some artists simply could not find works that they would not sell.

Here's what Jerry Saltz wrote in his review (emphasis mine).

Alanna Heiss, the trailblazing but here totally misguided curator, writes that "Not for Sale" contains only art that can't be bought.

I might be splitting hairs, and it pains me to speak ill of anyone so directly, but I think Mr Saltz is the "totally misguided" one. "Won't" is vastly different from "can't."

Many artists "can't" sell their works (hello), but this is a show of artists who refused to sell certain works which were meaningful to them. Let's look at the artists included in the show:

The artists in the exhibition are: Janine Antoni, John Baldessari, Jennifer Bartlett, Lynda Benglis, Cecily Brown, Chris Burden, Janet Cardiff, Christo, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl, Luis Gispert, Peter Halley, Tim Hawkinson, Jasper Johns, Alex Katz, Byron Kim, Christopher Knowles, Jeff Koons, Louise Lawler, Glenn Ligon, Maya Lin, Shirin Neshat, Richard Nonas, Dennis Oppenheim, Ellen Phelan, Richard Prince, Robert Rauschenberg, David Reed, Matthew Ritchie, Ed Ruscha, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, Dana Schutz, Joel Shapiro, Judith Shea, Stephen Shore, James Siena, Shahzia Sikander, Mark di Suvero, Sarah Sze, Richard Tuttle, Lawrence Weiner, John Wesley, Fred Wilson, Robert Wilson, and Jackie Winsor.

OH PLEASE. Please, someone, put me out of my mental misery. With all due respect, someone please tell me that these artists "can't" sell the unused toilet paper straight off the roll. C'mon. Most of these artists could sell their used Kleenexes if they wanted to.

And Jeff Koons? Chuck Close? Ed Ruscha? Julian Schnabel? JASPER JOHNS??? Anti-market??? Sorry for going bonkers over here, but c'mon. These guys practically have little gift shops at the doors to their studios, and little change-maker thingies attached to their belts. I think these guys get paid a royalty whenever anyone so much as looks at one of their works. Either Mr Saltz smoked something past its expiration date or my house's AC system is spewing something noxious. Someone help?

Sorry for monopolizing the comment space, but this one just doesn't make any sense to me.

4/20/2007 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(excellent comments Henry)
If you pay attention to the curatorial practices of the past decade with even a mild interest you will notice that curators are trying to become more and more like artists. The packaging of exhibitions has become comically intrusive and preposterous. The curator’s ideas and wall text and overall design of exhibits are often more in your face than the art it pretends to showcase. I am therefore not surprised that a curator would use an approach or strategy that is often used by artists, to pretend that they are critiquing or working outside a system that they are simultaneously profiting from. Poseurs, pseudo rebels, heavy handed political art, call it what you will.

4/20/2007 11:04:00 PM  
Blogger thanielionlee said...

hello im wondering i you could take a look at my art and tell me what you think.

http://www.thanielarts.blogspot.com/

-thaniel

4/21/2007 01:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Scarpa Kos said...

ArtXploitation: a different value

I was thinking about a definition for the new art style that collects influences from comic art, illustration, video games, in a pastiche-like form, but with a background of contemporary art; images with a circulation out of the circle of art galleries, contemporary art magazines, contemporary art museums. It’s art with a price but out of the usual “art scene”, a different value.
I mean artist as Michael Hussar, Mark Ryden: ArtXploitation (from exploitation films).

4/21/2007 05:39:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I might be splitting hairs, and it pains me to speak ill of anyone so directly, but I think Mr Saltz is the "totally misguided" one. "Won't" is vastly different from "can't."

I'm not sure I understand your point Henry. Heiss said the work won't be sold. Saltz said it can't be bought. There might be a slight shift in tone and connotation between the two, but they do equal the same thing, no?
No where has anyone implied the artists "can't" sell these works, that I can see. So I'm confused about your point.

And the individual artists who are keeping these works for themselves are not doing so to make a statement about the market (so there's no further reason to question their motivations here), the curator is. And the statement is simply sloppy.

Again, Jerry wrote that these works can't be bought ... NOT that they couldn't be sold. But your confusion here is further evidence of how sloppy the exhibition idea is, not Jerry's review, IMO.

4/21/2007 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward,

Sorry, but I still don't see Saltz's point, and with great respect to my host, I also think "will not sell" versus "cannot be bought" is a distinction without a difference. The point is still the same: The artist has refused to part with the work, refused to allow it to be bought, and refused to allow it to be taken from them.

The curator explicitly distinguishes this condition from works that are "unsaleable," i.e., cannot be sold because they are not valuable. I think it's very clear that the curator is saying that these are highly famous artists who could sell the fallen scraps off their kitchen floor, but who for one reason or another have voluntarily removed those works from the marketplace.

I think it's entirely valid to ask the question, "What makes an insanely successful artist remove a work from the market?" I can see how you might think she's reaching too far in making a connection between refusal to sell (or refusal to allow to be bought), and refusal to participate in the economy, but -- admittedly without having seen the show myself, and judging only from the descriptions I've read online -- I think she has more of a valid point than Saltz. I think he takes the criticism too far, and most importantly, misses the most obvious angle in my mind: sentimentality.

It's very interesting to me that the curator and the reviewer both avoid any talk of sentimentality. Doesn't one wonder, when an artist refuses to part with a work, whether they're doing it for sentimental reasons? Has the contemporary fine art world become so anti-sentimental that the curator felt she could not discuss the subject, and Saltz could not see the show through that lens? Must art be calculating and intellectual 24/7?

And finally, how can the curator possibly be so far into her anti-market ideology that she would admit this statement into her exhibition's description: "Some artists hold on to a portion of their production as investments in themselves." In other words, some artists removed the works from the market because they thought they could get a better price later, or that they could maintain some financial security for themselves or their heirs. That's a perfectly fine economic strategy too. It's called "buy and hold."

4/21/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Henry,

Now you're really confusing me. You started off by suggesting Saltz was saying the show was about something different from what the curator was saying:

Mr Saltz is the "totally misguided" one. "Won't" is vastly different from "can't."

And now you're asserting that

"will not sell" versus "cannot be bought" is a distinction without a difference.

Which is essentially what I argued in support of Saltz's position.

But that seems to be a point of miscommunication that's not worth resolving.

You seem to be supporting the idea of the show, but haven't yet addressed the "allergy to the marketplace" idea that defines it. Can you address that point?

4/21/2007 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Heiss needs to choke down some antihistamines. Without some kind of marketplace, who sees the art?

Open your Janson's History of Art and count the pieces that weren't, in some distant way at least, supported by or initiated at the behest of some version of a market -- a government, church or school.

I'm up with Richter's quote. Right on, Gerhard.

4/21/2007 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'm fully with Henry here.

Obviously I haven't seen the show either, but the premise strikes me as being first and foremost about the close attachment artists can develop to their own works.

I don't really see much in the way of high commentary here. It's about the value and meaning of particular works of art considered on the most personal of levels.

Heiss:

"When material works are transferable for cash, artists have the choice of whether to sell the work or keep it from market participation. In today’s robust art market, these decisions become even more pointed, even painful."

But Saltz takes an almost offhand comment about her "unfortunate allergy to the commercial aspects of art" (a sentiment familiar to anyone who's ever been conflicted about the nexus of commerce and culture) and blows it up into the organizing motivation for the exhibition and a full-on commentary on the excesses of the market.

I just don't see it.

4/21/2007 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Henry said...

Edward,

OK, I've gone and had some nutrition, plus a little caffeine, and you're right, there's plenty of confusion in my statements above. I can see why Saltz states the theme with the words "can't be bought," but I still think there is a distinction between "can't be bought" and "won't be sold." The phrase "can't be bought" is a general economic one, but "won't be sold" begs a question about the artist's mindset.

Also, I still stand by a lot of my observations above, but without rehashing everything in minutiae, I'm going to focus one statement from Saltz's review: By this curatorial criterion, nearly every artist on earth could be included. (And to a lesser degree: Really, the show should have been called “Journey to the Center of My Rolodex” or “Friends of Alanna.”)

I think these statements are unfair. First, the list of contributors reads like a who's-who of famous contemporary artists. Whether they're friends of the curator's or not is moot. More to the point, most of the artists on the list are so high-powered that the simple act of withholding a work from the marketplace is a very interesting one indeed. If I withheld a work from the marketplace it would be meaningless. But if Johns or Close does it -- taking for granted Heiss's reassurance that she has not displayed unsaleable works -- then there is something really interesting there.

I'm not too concerned with the part about having an "allergy to the marketplace," either one way or the other -- I don't think this statement condemns the show or blesses it -- but I can see how it relates.

As far as I can tell, the show boils down to this question: Can a work of art which has a known monetary value also have a meaningful non-monetary value? In other words, is there anything else to a piece of expensive art than money? I think that's a fantastic question, and that's coming from a libertarian capitalist.

If you asked Joe The Artist, he'd say, "Yeah, sure, you want to see a closet full of works of non-monetary value?" But if you ask Jasper Johns, who could sell you back your phone number after writing it on his napkin, the question is more difficult.

Do I need to go get another mocha...?

4/21/2007 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

... And that Richter quote has long been one of my favorites, though others have called it "inane".

The translation I'm familiar with differs only slightly:

"... Art happens despite this, rarely and always unexpectedly, never because we make it happen."

4/21/2007 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous nappy-headed ho said...

I think the premise would be more interesting, conceptually, if the artists in the show were unknowns. If these famous succesful, well-off artists choose to keep a few favorite pieces for themselves, they can afford to - what's the big deal? And if they fall on hard times, they can always change their mind, despite stipulating for this show that they won't ever sell these works (if they made such a stipulation, I can't believe it would be a legally binding agreement). But if an artist who doesn't sell a lot of work refuses to make a sale for sentimental reasons, that's a bigger sacrifice; they really the need the money and are choosing to have the art rather than the money. I've done this myself and it's a hard decision to make - to keep something that I made that is important to me, that is a piece of my history rather, than make some $, which I could really use.

4/21/2007 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous thelmasmith said...

thinkingbloggerpf8.jpg
Marion Barnett tagged me in this Thinking Blogger game. I was flummoxed, then proud, then intrigued enough to go digging. The original concept originated with Ilker Yoldas.

Deciding on five is difficult. My mind functions like the little silver ball in a pachinko game. It goes here and there and inhabits a very large universe. So five thinking bloggers from me are a very diverse group.I am tagging the following bloggers.

1. Postcards From Cairo by Jenny Bowker
2. El Cielo Studio - Journal by Susie Monday
3. Words by Martin Dwyer
4. Edward Winkleman by Edward Winkleman
5. KDS’ Ramblings on the Web by my friend, the Spider

Congratulations, you won a !

Should you choose to participate, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. I thought it would be appropriate to include them with the meme.

The participation rules are simple:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

4/21/2007 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Concrete Phone said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/21/2007 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Concrete Phone said...

Reasons for retaining work are many: The work is not “finished” or otherwise does not seem satisfactory to the artist; the work is completely satisfactory and too good to pass out of the artist’s hands; the work was made for a loved one who has remained, or for a loved one who has exited; the work is regarded as a turning point in the artist’s production, such as models or drafts that inspired later works. Some artists hold on to a portion of their production as investments in themselves.

Collecting has become 'buying and selling', so why not a show that focuses on keeping. Is that bad? Is that a concept difficult to fathom?

"This show is a personal one: I called artists whom I know well and who happened to be at home. It also represents some kind of manifestation of my unfortunate allergy to the commercial aspects of art.”

Mr. Saltz was probably asked to write for his first 'a broader issue' and he went for this in a passionate way that just does not match the quiet and personal premise of the exhibition. Notice the word 'also'.

”Really, the show should have been called “Journey to the Center of My Rolodex” or “Friends of Alanna.”

This all makes sense to me. And I would love to see the show... what these artists keep, and hopefully with some information to why. I ask about pieces I see in studios that look to have been there for a while, and usually there's an interesting story just waiting to be revealed.

In the end, if you are one who finds this quietude too weak a premise for an exhibition there is always 'the chase, the kill, and the sell...' That's new! Book Title!
...fair enough if that works your gastric.

4/21/2007 08:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Saltz's second review for New York not his first (this is his first review: http://nymag.com/arts/art/reviews/30627/). Also, an insider tells me to expect many more museum reviews from Mr. Saltz now that he is writing for New York. Their editors run a much tighter ship than they do over at the VV. Whatever you want to say about Mr. Saltz's views this time around, I challenege you to name a critic who even comes close to him as a stylist.

4/21/2007 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Concrete Phone said...

OK, anon, actually I read that from a link but didn't notice its source, just the writing...

rather than a one-eyed Cyclops that lived only on the island of Manhattan

... and the author -- a very funny, potent word-enlightened one.
Still, the tone and the attack on Ms. Heiss and PS1 seems a little abash, no?

... personally I was just curious as to what all the commotion was about, and right, it seems it's more related to sloppy, personal, or unimaginative curation within institutions... but again, personally, I do like the simple and 'at hand' gears that sped not for sale. Did you see it?

There is plenty of word out that the heads of some MFA's are being filled with the promise of 'a fine and affordable future', if they just, and only just tweak their production and style for the demand. In a few cases this can produce very exciting and double-edged results. Mostly, though, it's just producing short-term fodder, good for two to five years, at the most. There are, also, plenty of good artists doing grad or just out of the institutional safety, who just don't care, or have plenty to say, but prefer to get on with their art, their practice, and to get it out, their art -- for sale, but not necessarily built for it.

4/22/2007 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous pp said...

(excellent comments Henry)

- i agree, one of the best comments for a while

What next? Show artists who can't THEREFORE won't?

4/22/2007 03:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know so many artists who "can't" that it would be easy to fill every nook and cranny of P.S.1 with their work. As an art critic/artist I can't help thinking about this silent underclass when I enter the blue chip galleries.

p.s. Don't worry Edward. I am all for the art market.

4/22/2007 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I know the market is one measure of success, but it's truly only one. There are others, equally impressive, if not as lucrative, and those seem to rise in stature when there's not as much money to go around for purchasing (i.e., the market turns down), but the idea of all that cash being exchanged for useless objects in a hot market tends to blind folks to everything else while it's happening.

Those other measures haven't gone anywhere though. They simply don't get the headlines the way "$1 gazillion paid for Painting" does.

I suspect what most people really resent about the market being hot isn't that what they see as less-than-best work is selling but rather that there's relatively less attention being paid in the press to the work that isn't selling. That isn't the market's fault.

Then again, the fact that someone paid 1 gazillion dollars for a painting is indeed news. So it's not the media's fault either.

I'm fairly sure the attention paid to work that doesn't sell does indeed also go up during a hot market (all ships rise with the tide), but it is simply drowned out by the other louder noise over what's selling like hotcakes. I suspect what we're really seeing in anti-market gestures is resentment about that fact (jealousy of the noise-making work) and little else.

But a blistering hot market doesn't stop anyone from continuing to make or promote what they see as important work. They may not get as much attention as they want (feel they deserve) for it, but that's an entirely different matter.

4/23/2007 08:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are many interesting and worthy artists out there who are simply unable to get a non-vanity gallery to represent them. Period. This might relate to simple number crunching, marketability, the ages and styles of the rejected artists, etc. But it definitely has to do with the ART MARKET and is not simply "ressentiment" as Edward seems to think. And yes there are plenty of sour grapes running around out there, outside the walls of market success. Market forces leave artists behind and also, historically speaking, positively effect more artists than ever before. (I don't deny this obvious point).

4/23/2007 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

While the number the people out there lifted by the tide and not in need of full-time employment is surely on the rise, it still represents only a tiny percentage of the population of artists. (And, I think, despite the recent increase due to flush times, the percentage must be much lower than it was probably two generations ago, when artists could work a couple odd jobs and make their rent of $40/month. I'm not a nostalgic fellow, but dang.) Furthermore, I'm not one of these anointed few.

Now, unless you're a Marxist, I don't really understand being "for" or "against" the "market". Saltz touches on, without really exploring, that the market is a congomeration of many different dynamics, each affecting production and consumption in different ways. Personally, I think the competitive pressure placed on an artist is healthy, though exhausting. As an artist, I want validation, but I want it to be genuine, and not a hand-out. For validation to be meaningful, it has to pass through the filter of all the other activity and discourse filling up the world we're moving in.

And, alternately, I loathe the aspect of the market that results in groupthink, nepotism, hype, and critical atrophy. The artists that these things apply to bear different degrees of culpability for it, in my estimation. But, I suppose it's just a by-product of all the other forces at work. (Or should I say, a "buy-product" of the other forces. Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Anyway, sorry for the digression: I'm with Edward in feeling that Heiss' curatorial premise is sloppy and flawed. Besides the fact that it's little sacrifice for a successful artist to withhold a work from sale, "Not For Sale" is only in effect "Until I Feel Like It", yes; the alternative, to take the Clifford Still route, smacks of a disturbing degree of egomania, even relative to artists! So we're forced to pick our poison?

4/23/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think there are many interesting and worthy artists out there who are simply unable to get a non-vanity gallery to represent them. Period. This might relate to simple number crunching, marketability, the ages and styles of the rejected artists, etc. But it definitely has to do with the ART MARKET and is not simply "ressentiment" as Edward seems to think

There are two issues in that statement I'd like to address.

First is resentment (I'm not sure what "ressentiment" refers to, but...). What I wrote was that "anti-market gestures" bespeak of resentment to me...the "sour grapes" you acknowledge exist. But you seem to be suggesting the art market is to blame somehow for not including those artists. How so? What would you have be different?

Which brings me to my second point. The only solution I can see to such resentment is to enlarge the market (as opposed to swapping out the artists currently selling their work for those not selling it and creating a new group of resentful artists). Seriously, there are more fine artists making work now than ever before if attendance in art school programs and applications for grants and such are any way to measure.

So if the only way to address what would have to be an increase in the number of artists not represented if the market stayed the same size is to enlarge that market, anti-market gestures are counter-productive, no? I'm not saying that means artists have to embrace the market to be successful (you can measure success by many other means). But the notion that the art market is the problem strikes me as naive. Beating up on the art market will not help to expand it.

4/23/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward gives two options:

1. expand the current system without changing it, in order to make it more inclusive.

2. add new artists to the system (the disgruntled ones I referred to in an earlier comment) to the detriment of those who are currently doing well within the system.

Am I naive to think that there are other solutions? These solutions would mean a reconfiguring of the whole system. If I ever get time to write that book I want to write I can fill it with concepts that are different from 1. and 2. noted above.

Just like the critics who write for dinosaur print publications, the market is resilient and should be able to survive critical comments, no?

4/23/2007 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Am I naive to think that there are other solutions?

Well, I did ask "What would you have be different?" now.

I've offered my opinion on the question (i.e., expand the market). What's yours? It's no fair to suggest you're saving your best ideas for your book if you're gonna criticize mine. ;-)

4/23/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well if it is left up to the artist to find a gallery where their work will connect with buyers' spending habits and the styles of the gallery's existing roster of artists, there isn't much you can change. Either find the gallery that your art would best fit in with or take matters into your own hands and try to sell online. One suggestion I would make is this: perhaps more NYC galleries can begin to do what Charles Saatchi has done and expand their roster of artists exponentially online, allow artists to post a few jpegs of their work online along with a statement or CV. That way more artists can bask in the aura of the gallery, be affiliated with it in some way, and get a little bit of exposure in a respectable setting. More vanity galleries aren't the solution.

4/23/2007 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

One suggestion I would make is this: perhaps more NYC galleries can begin to do what Charles Saatchi has done and expand their roster of artists exponentially online, allow artists to post a few jpegs of their work online along with a statement or CV. That way more artists can bask in the aura of the gallery, be affiliated with it in some way, and get a little bit of exposure in a respectable setting.

There are a few galleries doing that well (the flat files at Pierogi, for example), but the trend seems to be away from larger "stables" with younger galleries, mostly because it's so much work to support an artist's career that you need a large staff to do much at all for a large group of artists. I'm not sure mere association with a respectable setting does one much good, although I don't think it does any harm either.

But what's the vetting process at Saatchi. Can anyone join?

4/23/2007 11:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only "vetting" is that you have to be web savvy enough to fill out an online registration form. So the fact that there is no vetting process might undermine the prestige of the Saatchi name but they do have a neat feature called SHOWDOWN:

"In a new initiative to generate more exposure for the artists in Your Gallery and Stuart, and to spotlight their work to as wide an audience as possible, we have created SHOWDOWN.

"SHOWDOWN is for all registered Your Gallery and Stuart artists to enter their works for visitors to score. The winner of the final head-to-head vote will receive £1000 and the runner up will receive £750. The winning work will go on display at the new Saatchi gallery."

Yes all of this is very smart PR work by Saatchi employees, but the exposure is real. The site gets over 2 million hits a day. There is an American Idol quality to all of this but is that so bad?

4/23/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

There is an American Idol quality to all of this but is that so bad?

Not if you're the art world's equivalent of Sanjaya, I guess. Getting some exposure is better than toiling away in obscurity.

If you take yourself more seriously than that, however, I'm not sure that's your best option. Then again, what do I know? I'm sure Sanjaya has a very interesting career ahead of him, for a while, at least.

4/23/2007 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

The idea of showing work artists love so much they can't part with it is interesting. The problem is just the title of the show. If they'd called it "Can't Part With It" or some such, that would have avoided the controversy.

4/23/2007 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you said, if you compare the number of art students currently in school with the number of galleries out there, there is bound to be major spill-over. Some exposure is better than none.

More organized artist collectives in real space and on the Internet might improve things a bit as well, but if the press refuses to write about anything but the shows at galleries and museums who give them big advertising dollars, that might not help much.

I think the world of art and advertising are so closely intertwined now that there would be little shame in being the "Sanjay" or even worse, the "William Hung" of the art world. How long will any artist's name be bandied about by critics and academics these days?

4/23/2007 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If they'd called it "Can't Part With It" or some such, that would have avoided the controversy.

That would be an improvement, I agree. But it would still leave the context set up by noting the curator's "allergy to the commercial aspects of art" to the artmarket. There's nothing wrong with that allergy in other contexts, but noting that here changes a good deal about how folks interpret the show.

4/23/2007 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

> I'm fairly sure the attention paid to work that doesn't sell does indeed also go up during a hot market (all ships rise with the tide), but it is simply drowned out by the other louder noise over what's selling like hotcakes. I suspect what we're really seeing in anti-market gestures is resentment about that fact (jealousy of the noise-making work) and little else.

Beyond the exhibition under discussion, Edward, exactly what "anti-market gestures" are you thinking of?

Surely you're being a bit ungenerous if you're suggesting the anti-market sentiments and anti-commodification rhetoric of, say, the "free culture" crowd and their sympathizers spring from jealousy or a resentment at lack of recognition.

That strike me as awfully cynical.

4/23/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Dan, I mean anti-market gestures by folks who are tied to the hip of the market or who would change their tune if the market would embrace them, as they clearly wish it would. Artists/curators/etc. who intentionally work outside the market have my deep respect and I didn't mean for any of these comments to be associated with them.

4/23/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous nappy-headed ho said...

'Artists/curators/etc. who intentionally work outside the market have my deep respect and I didn't mean for any of these comments to be associated with them."

Of course some people work outside the market because the market has already rejected them, or they know that it probably would and they don't want to set themselves up for failure. It's much easier on one's self-esteem to say, oh, I don't make saleable work, than to say, no one's buying my work.

4/23/2007 04:03:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Incidentally, Edward, and speaking of the "free culture" radicals...

While you're in Chicago (and I gather that you're already here), if you have the time (though I'd imagine you may very well not) you ought to check out the Version Festival, an annual "international conversion" of lefty weirdos and DiYers from around Chicago and across the globe:

http://www.lumpen.com/version_07/

In addition to free lectures and seminars, a casual science fair-style expo (bringing together artists, spaces and non-profits) and various insurgent art escapades, they look to have a couple of quality photo exhibitions on tap for the weekend. One, the 43rd Annual Versionfest Photographic Invitational, features the work of 10 photographers from across the country. The other, UNKRAUT, features the work of 9 German photographers (the common thread, apparently, being that all studied in Essen, Germany).

http://www.lumpen.com/VERSION7/a26.html
http://www.chicagraphy.org/

Even if you can't make it down to their doings on the South Side, though, they plan on bringing some of the agit-prop ruckus to you (or near you anyways), as they wage "Art War" upon the main fairs at the Merchandise Mart ("by land, water and air") on Friday evening:

http://www.lumpen.com/VERSION7/a27.html

4/23/2007 04:23:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

I have wondered why colleges don't offer courses and degree programs in becoming art collectors. Seems to be every bit as serious as a degree in journalism or business. In a tongue in cheek manner, I've also suggested that everyone who receives a degree in art must agree to become an art collector when they stop trying to be a serious artist. Both would expand the market base for art.

As for the market itself, it has always overlooked some of the best artists, regardless of how it's structured. The upside of the craze for art is that the suits next to me on the plane ride don't look like I have cooties when I admit I'm an artist. I appreciate small favors.

4/23/2007 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous nappy-headed ho said...

ml:

nyu offers some courses on how to become a collector, but I don't think it's part of a degree program.

4/23/2007 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Edward, what are these other measures of success (other than in the current art market) that you speak of? Just curious to find out if perhaps I'm more successful than I thought I was!

4/23/2007 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger Concrete Phone said...

I think you can critique the market. [you don't have to, but you can] I don't think it is a problem. I wish more artists did it today in a serious fashion instead as a springboard.

"You know, I like signing all those things - it devalues them,"

The anti-market gesture sentiment is a little scary the way it is put. But it shows 'sign of the times' but also reveals a hidden fear...

4/24/2007 12:09:00 AM  
Blogger C. I. Artist said...

Art is not practical. The moment it becomes practical, you have either become famous or are fixing up your house.

4/25/2007 01:37:00 PM  
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