Thursday, May 10, 2007

Alternatives to the Commercial Gallery System for Selling One's Art : Open Thread

Ever since I got verbally beat up by a neo-socialist artist on a panel discussion, for having the audacity to associate art with commerce, I've been careful to preface any lectures I give with the belief that having one's art be seen is simply part of being an artist, of having that dialog with the public, and that there is a wide range of channels through which to do so, a commercial gallery being simply one of them. Not only does it seem to effectively silence the sort of attacks I had endured on that panel, but I actually believe it. I personally love the commercial gallery system, but I'm rather fond of many alternatives to it as well.

Not-for-profit or alternative spaces are the most prominent among non-commercial-gallery options, but for those artists who still want to make a living from their art, there are other options as well. Here's a brief discussion of three such options and my honest opinions about their pros and cons. I hope this opens up a discussion on other effective options as well:

DIY (the Street Market Model): From the Latin Quarter in Paris to the bazaars in Istanbul to the sidewalks of West Broadway in Soho, artists have been selling their own work to passersby for ages. Bambino and I actually make a point of purchasing some piece from such markets when we travel abroad and I continuously browse the Soho set-ups. The pros of this option include being your own boss (i.e., keeping all the profits for yourself), calling your own hours, avoiding the overhead other options include, having a direct dialog with the public, etc. The cons include the context being taken less seriously by many, the weather, no buffer between you and the rowdier segments of the public, and much more time away from your studio. In all honesty, I don't think this is the best path toward having one's work housed in the great museums one day, and I can't recall any reviews in the Times of such efforts, but I do see the artists in Soho accepting cash for their work continuously.

The Online Auctions: In a column years ago Mark Kostabi touted the success many artists (including himself) are having selling their work online, especially via online auction systems like eBay (make sure you scroll down and see the image of a drawing by our very own Chris Rywalt in that article by Kostabi). At the time I was sceptical, and I assume artists' experiences with that model vary greatly, but one piece Kostabi sold went for $25,000.00 reportedly, so it might be worth the effort. The pros of this model include, again, being your own boss and keeping your profits for yourself, not having to stand outside in all kinds of weather, and monitoring as people fight over your work (that strikes as the nicest pro). The cons include many of the same noted above (i.e., no chance for reviews, less than ideal context, etc.), but also include having to deal with shipping and work damaged in transit, not getting any face-to-face feedback, having folks judge your work from a jpg, and perhaps regretting what price certain works end up going for. This idea is what truly inspired this post. I met one of the founders in Chicago, and the idea intrigued me. Begun in response to the fact that "Many of the talented students [the founders] knew were unable to find an outlet to sell their work upon graduation, and as a result, took jobs in completely unrelated fields," the website is limited to students and recent graduates, and there is a screening process, but unlike previous online efforts to sell art that failed, this one seems to be gaining some ground (which I think may be due to the comfort that collectors have developed in buying art from jpgs). I can't quite endorse this system, as I don't know enough about it yet (read: please do your research and don't assume I'm saying this is the best path for you), but the model is a good example of exactly what I've been preaching here for months in response to all the whining about the way the market is not all inclusive: Artists taking charge and blazing a new trail. The pros here include a well-defined context (all the artists are emerging), the fact that it doesn't cost artists anything to participate (there is a commission taken by UGallery if something sells though), a considerable marketing effort (they were in Chicago pushing the site), a forum for discussing your work with "patrons", and the ease of uploading your images to the site and letting them do the rest. The cons include many of the ones for eBay, as well as the fact that has the exclusive right to the artwork displayed on the website (but that seems fair, although it's not clear to me how long that obligation lasts).

Others: What other models are out there that readers may want to learn about? Any other type sites, perhaps for non-emerging artists? I used to know of others years ago, but they've since gone under. Consider this an open thread on selling outside the commercial gallery system.

UPDATE: See also this post on Todd W's always-excellent Gallery Hopper, where he points to the Lettermade site, and raises the question of whether participation in such enterprises damages an artist's credibility. Personally, I'm not sure. I haven't yet had to decide if that's a problem for me or not.



Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Just out of curiosity, just how was that neo-socialist supporting him/herself? A trust fund? A spouse? Another job? As if any of those alternatives was more honorable that making and finding a place in the artworld......

Did you ever see the artist Jenny Krasner on the corner of 22nd Street and 10th Avenue with her "gallery" set up? Here's a link:
If that doesn't work, go onto her website, , and link from there.

I can think of a couple of other ways to get one's work out there, too. I'm not espousing them--maybe offering them as cautionary tales--but they are options:

. One artist I know who lives in a large, beautiful Vistorian house--we're not talking Manhattan, obviously--holds a well-publicized salon a couple of times a year. She shows her own work and that of a few other artists, and puts out a big buffet to boot. Apparently she gets loads of visitors and pulls in a ton of money. But the dealers in her city won't consider showing or representing her because she cuts into their market.

. Bricks-and-mortar auctions. I'm not a fan of them. Auctions ask the poorest members of society to provide work so that the richest members can buy work at a discount--and cut out the middleperson, the dealer, to boot. However, if you're just starting out, they're a good way to get your name out there--at least that's the conventional thinking. The best of them give the artist 50% of the sale price.

. While we're at it, would anyone care to talk about the co-op galleries? In Boston, for instance, the co-ops are reviewed along with the commercial galleries--a sweet deal for artists--but that's the only city I've seen in which that happens. Wait, I think the venerable A.I.R. in New York has been reviewed, as well. Does anyone know of other cities? I like that artists enter an existing community of artists. Ed, any thoughts?

.And what about good academic galleries? True, they're not commercial venues, but they do offer an artist the opportunity to show her stuff, send out postcards, do a catalog--and ideally get a dealer interested in her work. It's not so much selling her work as selling the idea of her work to someone who would be in a position to sell it.

I'm passionate about this stuff. In this booming art market there should be ways for artists to support themselves from the sale of their art--or at least pay the studio rent and buy art supplies. So thanks, Ed, for bringing up the topic.

And speaking of cautionary tales, would anyone like to comment on the vanity galleries? Does anyone have experience with one.

5/10/2007 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Good post as always, Edward. IMHO, there is no replacement for a good commercial gallery, one with a passionate director. It is the best way at the moment to get your work respectably presented and purchaced. My experience so far with online sales is that it is mostly returning collectors. They may have bought a piece recently or serveral years ago, they are famillar with the work and the jpeg introduces them to new imagery. This same process is common for studio visits. Also many areas have annual artist studio tours, sign up for those, you never know who may walk in.

5/10/2007 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Jennie Rosenbaum said...

I have had some success selling online at and my understanding is that these sites are a new breed that has the approachability of a website (for artists and buyers) with the convenience of selling online without competing with traditional dealers.

Sculptr has more of a high end commercial gallery feel where boundless has a range of affordability. both have selection criteria but both appear to be vastly different as well. Both behave like a traditional dealer holding funds in escrow until receipt of the painting has arrived. commission is paid on each sale and no site fees or anything other than commission.

apparently many dealers are against eBay as a starting point due to lack of market control and cutting out the middleman. frequently artists are finding it difficult to gain representation based on selling on eBay. some artists on the other hand succeed very well with just ebay, not just Mark Kostabi (who isn't exactly small fry) but also the Raw Artist, Julia Trops and more.

I think that multiple streams are important pretty much everywhere,
I've done quite well and have built up collectors and an online presence that is now helping me in the offline art world. it's all hard work, but we didn't become artists because it's easy!

5/10/2007 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous jennie Rosenbaum said...

Sorry for a long comment and now another one, I forgot to mention that online selling is also a good alternative for people with disabilities or mobility issues. I've been restricted in the footwork involved in meeting dealers and this has been a good way to get the jump on my sales and building collectors. the galleries are starting to knock on my door rather than the other way around.

5/10/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy said...

I think it is great that the internet has opened up so many options for artists and I am sure that many do make some kind of living in that manner. However, I sure wasn't one of them! It was a ton of work that I didn't have time for and so decided to enter the commercial gallery system, which has been a good fit for me.

Anyway I am glad to have choices. There weren't so many when I got out of college 20 years ago.

5/10/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

What a coincidence! I just posted about this same topic, albeit more briefly.

The issue I addressed here,which you also bring up, is the impact to an artist's career when they circumvent the conventional gallery and dealer system. My initial thought about these outlets is that tempting for people who either don't know about the accepted channels or have been unsuccessful in getting representation. Those factors then tar those alternative outlets as "amateur" rather than "emerging".

5/10/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

Art walks the line between prophesy and luxury item. That line wobbles with the times.

Are co-ops taken seriously anywhere? Will on-line galleries/displays go that way as well?

Thanks for the post, Edward.

5/10/2007 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Kirstin said...

I really like I haven't sold paintings off their website, I consider it similar to an artist file but with price details. I more sell out of my studio during open studios, but I find that their presentation format is really nice. I'm not sure if I should just be using the internet merely to start a conversation with potentially interested folks to be continued elsewhere or if it really is a viable alternative. There is no substitute for an apprehension of the physical object and an informed conversation or exchange.

5/10/2007 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...

The cons include the context being taken less seriously by many [...]. In all honesty, I don't think this is the best path toward having one's work housed in the great museums one day [...].

Does it inevitably and irreversably lock the museum door in an artist's face once they pursue any of the commercial avenues listed above?

The other day MLS said something interesting:

Just don't sign those big sofa ones with your name. Start a company dear and if you are good you will have 2 amazing careers. [So] many have done it. That's the worst kept secret in NY. Plenty of people with 2 good jobs out there.

Does anyone have any direct experience or knowledge about this?

5/10/2007 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

With the Book Expo coming up next month, this reminded me of on line publishing. If you self publish and it dosen't sell, it is not likely that a publisher will be interested. It's a catch. What the internet dose best is an introduction, website, blogs, arrest records, flickr, commenting on posts and artist files.

5/10/2007 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Thanks, Ed, for mentioning me. I really do appreciate it.

Let me expand a bit on your comments regarding eBay based on my experience. I started selling drawings on eBay in 2001 or so and sold pretty regularly until about 2004. Over that time I sold over 200 (but less than 300) ink drawings and charcoals, several small oil paintings, and received a commission or two for larger ink drawings. I think the highest I ever got for any one piece was about $25 and the lowest was $10. I had a mailing list with about 50 buyers on it.

Right there you can see the drawbacks: Low prices. My plan -- following Kostabi's advice -- was to start small and work my way up. Starting small was easy. Working my way up was not. My prices refused to rise and most pieces didn't even get bids (at one point I was listing five a week).

Maybe if I'd had more patience it would've grown over time. But the flow of drawings in that style dried up for me and the small oil paintings barely sold, so the effort petered out for me.

eBay, of course, has its own overhead. I have access to a server to host my images, but that costs money for most people. And eBay charges its own fees. If your work doesn't sell, those listing fees can add up.

Shipping cuts into profits also, because no matter how hard you try, it ends up being more expensive to ship than you charged your buyer (on eBay they usually pay shipping). By the time I was done, I'd get about $6 of every $10.

However, you can get face-to-face feedback on your work. Whenever my buyers were local, I'd hand-deliver my work if they were willing. I met a few buyers that way and they were all great to talk to. I still yearn for one of them tragically, but she moved to Canada (I hope it wasn't my stalking that did it). One buyer turned out to be someone I went to high school with -- she'd been part of the "ruling class" of the school (she was co-editor of the yearbook) and I was a social misfit, so we didn't really know each other, but we had a good time catching up.

The one thing I agonized over -- aside from actually letting my work out of my sight forever, which was really hard -- the one thing I agonized over was the eBay context. When you put work up there, you're in the middle of some of the most godawful self-proclaimed outsider art, dreadful color-by-numbers crap, and just general junk. When I was researching putting work up, my wife wrote to me to say she'd found listings for "Busy Squirrels," which paintings were just as bad as they sound. "Do you really," she wrote to me, "want to be associated with 'Busy Squirrels'?"

Well, it's better than some of the alternatives. Since I was making what some might call erotic art (I wouldn't), I looked into sites which sell "art" far outside of eBay's listing policies. I found one site almost entirely full of amateur drawings of cartoon characters having sex. Barney does Jane! The Little Mermaid orally pleasures Mumm-Ra! What was more frightening was these drawings were selling, and for really high prices, sometimes ten times what I was getting.

Well, it was a good experience. I'm happy to have gotten the drawings out there.

5/10/2007 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 1st dibs on The Little Mermaid orally pleasures Mumm-Ra!

5/10/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hope Manretta read it. It was good advice.

A LLC would take care of her problem. Have the serious in one side and the not so (according to her-Sofa) in another. As long as you own both, you have the control. Lazy artists need not to apply.

Not only can I give you many examples ( all sort of artists and mediums ) but there are very good artists out there doing it and other similar stuff.

1)Collectives: they produce art as a group with a name " ...." and at the same time create work individually signed with their name and showing everywhere on their own. I know of 5. Assume Vivid Astro Focus is one. Check the show at John Connelly, very good btw, up now... .

So many....


...I hear my echo...often here....right?

...learn from the gays, find a way, lie to survive if you have whatever you have to do to be what you are...just don't kill anybody in the process dears....

...boycot Artworld Salon...

5/10/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

thanks to all for the additional places to check and insights and experiences. Keep 'em coming.

Don't boycott Artworld Salon (what a silly notion).


5/10/2007 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey-mls and henry
what is this about the sofa and an LLC?
Please point to what discussion this was from so I can see the context, if you please...

btw-artists collectives are a much better alternative than vanity galleries, once you get to the point where you feel you need to do that, may as well opt out, bad news. Even artists who do the worst work eventually get picked up by some type of gallery.


5/10/2007 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I visited Artworld Salon for the first time just now and I found it entirely unreadable. Is it just me? I mean, it sounds almost as if it was translated from Finnish through Google.

5/10/2007 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous anne said...

Hi Ed,
Thanks for the post. I looooooove this issue - buying and selling and creating value on the web especially - and will confess up front that one of my projects addresses it to an extent.

The responses from your thoughts about alternative selling strategies here and on other blogs touch on what I think is the central theme at play here, even if it appears peripheral to the issue of selling - and that is an artist's snob appeal (or conversely their inability to achieve 'high art' status) in the artworld. Collectors who repeatedly buy from dealers - are they hesitant to buy art on eBay (admittedly, there's a *great deal* of sifting to be done) because they need to be externally validated in their choices by the gallery system? And secondly, can't selling on eBay or through alternative web galleries be seen as a way to address accessibility to art, from the public's point of view? It seems to me that artists generally espouse a 'democratic' approach to the experience/purchase of their work (an idea tossed around a lot in my printmaking days) yet that sits in contrast to the idea of exclusivity that keeps the gallery world -and it's a beautiful world too- moving forward.

Here's the main observation - there is No Shortage of Talent out there, and of course there has never been a shortage of hacks. And every Spring thousands more graduating MFA's enter the artworld...

If the work is consistently good, then an artist's 'past history' of selling on eBay (or UGallery - which is not that much different really) shouldn't be seen as a rap sheet by the collectors/curators/dealers in the world, as is hinted at by Gallery Hopper. If that's the thing that turns the decision to show/acquire a particular artist's work or not, then perhaps lessons in trusting one's own judgement need to be relearned. The 'accepted system' is in flux because of the web, and because of the enormous number of highly capable artists practicing today.

Nice to see you in Chicago.

5/10/2007 03:21:00 PM  
Anonymous ho with hair of many textures said...

Assume Vivid Astro Focus is just one guy, Eli Sudrack, as far I know.

And why exactly should we boycott Artworld Salon?

5/10/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Anonymous says, "Even artists who do the worst work eventually get picked up by some type of gallery."

I'd suggest that we'd all better know what type of gallery we get involved with. There's a world of difference between the gallery that gives us a show every two years, sells work to a good client list that includes corporate and museum collectors, takes out ads in the national mags, does some well-selected art fairs, and treats us well--as opposed to the one that installs poorly, doesn't sell, or sells but doesn't pay, loses or damages work, doesn't take calls.

In the latter case, I'd say it's far better to be in a collective, co-op or small regional gallery where you can retain control of your career.

5/10/2007 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel Cooney said...

Hi Ed,

Good post! I have been thinking about a similar issue but more directly related to part of my business. As you may or may not know I hold auctions of secondary market material on Typically I deal with stuff that is below the live house's minimum which is now $5000 for photographs.

I have given some thought to holding an auction of emerging artists but haven't done so yet because I'm not sure that it is really a good idea. Here is the breakdown: My commission is 20% from the consignor (in this case the artist) and the buyer is charged a 20% Buyers Premium that I share with iGavel.

The advantages to the artist is that their art is seen by lots of people. I believe that iGavel's e mail mailing list is currently over 50,000 people. And, I hold previews here at the gallery so the work can be seen in person.

And, they might make some money and find a small collecter base.

Cons is that their work could sell at the conservative starting bid and they might be letting the work sell below it's actual value.

There are a number of pros and cons for me but I am honestly hesitant because I'm not sure how the situation would be understood by the "general public". Maybe this comment belongs as a post on my own blog but I'm curious what you think and what your readers think. And, um... no one reads my blog...

5/10/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Wow, no one has mentioned teaching as an honorable way to make a living as an artist. I don't teach myself, being virtually non-verbal, but I know plenty of artists at many levels who do or have including Chris Burden and Paul McCarthy before they started to sell big time.

Maybe it's a west coast thing. The UCs pay really well if you are tenured.

5/10/2007 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Teaching is certainly an honorable way for an artist to make a living, but it's not the focus of this thread, which is "Alternatives to the Commercial Gallery System for Selling One's Art."

5/10/2007 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Fair enough. I see that is the headline. Ed_ said he was berated by some socialist and someone else asked how that guy proposed to make a living as an artist. That opens up the discussion, doesn't it?

Working at a university brings legitamacy that selling on the street never could. Let's face it, museums are about the system. Artists, gallerys, collectors and museums are the system as it has developed. Another system is/was developing that included grants and teaching, alternative spaces, etcetra that supposedely brought another possibility into the mix and allowed artists to 'critique the institution of art' without paying with their career. That alternatie system was severely damaged by the right through the controversies we are all familiar with.

Does it still exist? Can it recover? This is not off topic.

5/10/2007 06:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm still angry about the vagina scroll ruining it for all future nea applicants, no art rationalizes that loss...i always thought those scrolls were pointless compared to the loss anways.

5/10/2007 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go see Assume Vivid Astro Focus at John Connelly Presents and ask the "gallerina/o".
How many people are in the collective or invited to participate under the AVAF umbrella? Simple dear.

I answered some questions J. Mattera had in the Art we Exult post earlier. Nobody did, so she was stuck with me...and I had a good time doing it.

I called for a boycott of Artworld Salon because of their facile criticism of America. Twice in a row different people did it there. I am tired of the Marxist based bulls... and parasites of the art world.
It reminded me of people looking for a position in academia. That's the talk and walk that gets you a job. (If anyone read The Guardian yesterday you would know exactly what I mean.)

But Ed said it was silly, so I am not asking anymore for your support. He is a gentleman.

And since we are talking about alternatives to selling in a "Gallery", the first question we should ask is: How much money do you need? That should give you a clue of the basic alternatives and all the possibilities. yep. I go the other way around.


5/10/2007 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

What about public art?
Books of that graffitti?

Look at Banksy... he has given away thousands of works, and that led to selling... too much work.

And since Tim (astutely) brought up legitimacy...

...what about it?

I mean, how you sell your work and your professional life is part of the game, part of what you are building and making as an artist, no?

It's really important for me to stay away from E-bay because my work is not particularly ironic and not about popular culture so much. My work would look bad on e-bay. But I have interests that make public commissions a really smart direction for me. The equation is different for you, but the point is the same.

I think the point is to attack this question from the standpoint of who you are and what you are doing, and not so much from the Gotta Pay The Bills standpoint.

5/10/2007 06:46:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Fisher6000 sez:
My work would look bad on e-bay.

I was lucky, I think, in that I was selling female nudes, which are always popular. Curiously (or maybe not), well over half my buyers were women.

5/10/2007 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Surprise, surprise, I agree with Tim's line of thinking here. There's no need to conflate "having one's art be seen" with "selling one's art." Art doesn't have to be sold in order to be seen. After I read E_'s first paragraph, I actually thought he was going to suggest ways of showing art non-commercially.

The day job as teacher is certainly a popular method (Steve Kurtz from the anarchist collective Critical Art Ensemble is another good example) for sustaining one's creative practice. I would recommend the DIY approach -- create your own community and show your work wherever there are non-commercial eyes to see it, there are many possibilities. New media designed for the internet is an obvious one -- art can be produced and exhibited with very little cost and there's nothing to buy or sell. Also, there was a time when most graffiti art was intended to be non-commercial. It still can be, of course, although artists like Swoon and Banksy have done their best to turn it into a profit-making venture.

5/10/2007 06:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

artworld salon is one of the top ten intelligent sites out there so far. thanks for the link ed. Its a pleasure to read people who take the artworld seriously

5/10/2007 07:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fisher 6000:

You did not understand my post...the last part.

Think, again....

Banksy did it that way because he did not need much money or had any....then.

How he did it many others have done it before him. Keith, David, Jean M.,....exactly the same way....and none of them had any money.


5/10/2007 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...

Selling work is pretty easy, it's getting it shown in a nice environment that is hard. Online options are fine for selling - but I feel bad every time I sell something without it ever being shown. If making money is the point, artists should do something else.

5/10/2007 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

"If making money is the point, artists should do something else." Would we say that about any other career?

Imagine going to your surgeon to get your appendix removed and having her say, "Well, I can do the procedure on Wednesday night or Friday night or any time during the weekend, but the rest of the time I'll be working at Home Depot."

You'd take yourself and your appendix as far away as possible from that doctor. Yet we as artists do the same thing. We went to school to study art. We spend our time--as much as possible--in the studio. Why shouldn't we expect to have a career for the thing we do best? We should expect to have a career doing what we do. And if we're going to do so, we need to get rid of the outdated notion that if making money is the point, artists should do something else. We probably won't get rich, but then most working people are not rich.

If you're an artist at midcareer, this thinking is not your fault. It's what you learned in art school back in the 690s or 70s. But times are different now. This is the best possible time in the history of art to have an art career in which you actually earn a living from it. There are more galleries and art fairs than ever before--including coops and collectives. In Chelsea alone there are almost 400 galleries. There are also consultants and art advisers, many of whom depend on artists' websites to find the art they like.

It's not easy to show and sell and make a living. But it IS possible. Especially now.

OK. I think I've carried on enough about this topic. I'm finished until the next one.

5/10/2007 08:44:00 PM  
Anonymous cjagers said...


My point was that making money is easy, getting good shows is harder and more significant. Sometimes this difference gets lost in conversation.

5/10/2007 08:50:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I understand your point, and we're on the same page. We want to earn our living as artists AND we want to do it with integrity and self esteem (via showing in good galleries, with other good artists, getting reviewed, etc.) Thanks for clarifying, and for allowing me to clarify.

5/10/2007 09:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once read that the best gallery is the one that sells your work. Since I don't have a trust fund, inheritance or rich spouse, that concept simplifies my life.


5/10/2007 09:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we are not in the same page people.

Let me clarify as well:

Available money shapes the work, you as an artist make it very good or plain good or not interesting. Period.

Within the available resources only you can either make it great art or ok art.

Maybe if I use a couple of examples I would be understod better. You don't need much money to make great art or a studio or a gallery or anything. To make great art you don't even have to go inside an Art Store or even go to art school.

Many of the important artists out there (in Chelsea for example) came out of the Lower East Side. Very little money and some hard conditions but still they created spaces to show their art and eventually some moved to Soho and now to Chelsea. But one important factor was that many artists did certain things with the resources they had available to make their work stand out. It was like that before the Lower E Side of the 70's and the same now in the 21st.C. Still, very few survived every change, every shift of the economy, taste, priorities or location.

Most of what we hear here is conventional wisdom and when you live in a time like this it is of very little use.

This is the worst time to make it as an artist. The art world has changed. It is like the last 100 years did not exist. New rules and new ideas. Technology is here to stay and is making art change radically for example.

The only thing you should be concerned about at the moment is to participate as much as you can in everything that's happening and to remaing making art. You have to survive unscathed and you have to be the best to move on and have a career.

Soon enough everything is going to change again and you need a fall back plan.


5/10/2007 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

So, we'll just have to disagree. I support myself from the sale of my work--good galleries, good shows, good reviews--so what I'm talking about works for me, and I see it working for others too. I've been doing this for a while. I deal with change. I'm ready for whatever comes next.
How come you're anonymous, by the way?

5/10/2007 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Great post, Ed!

For various reasons (mostly because I was taught one should not care about such vulgar things), I tried to have a career outside the gallery system for almost 20 years... academic galleries, non-profits, small museums. I had dozens of exhibitions, and consistantly awesome reviews, but never really got past a certain point, and was very frustrated.

As soon as I got a gallery (very recently), things began to happen. I think there is something to the validation that a gallery offers.... especially if your work is time-consuming and you have to ask lots of money for it. People are more comfortable writing out that big check to a gallery.

Making a living is one thing (I just met an artist today who makes garbage-y psuedo-impressionist paintings and pulls in 250K a year), and achieving that museum status is another.

I would be very interested in knowing, for example, how many artists selected for the Whitney Biennial were independent (without galleries) when they got that first studio visit from the curators?

5/11/2007 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

All these separate worlds and distinctions are soooo ridiculous to me. Artists inside the gallery system look down on those , like academics, who are outside. Academics are disrespectful of those superficial gallery artists. Im generalising but essentially thats the stereotype.

I entered the field of university teaching with the idea that I can make a living in an art field ,talk about art all day, meet others interested and knowledgable in the field, AND make whatever the hell I want. If I want to make art out of ephemeral things or not make objects that wont affect my salary.

Well, now I find it kinda does because having a dynamic exhibition history, reviews, visiting lecture experience, all that is important in obtaining a full time teaching position (it always was). But, since today the gallery system has so much influence over the ability for an artist to obtain all those things, having gallery representation has become crucial for a teaching artist as well.

As Tim mentioned earlier, before the Reagan admin an artist could show in non-profits, small museums, alt spaces, get reviews and be highly respected based upon that pedigree. I am not complaining about this, merely pointing out the shift and need for the flexibility of an artist to find ways of moving within all these worlds. Everything could shft tomorrow and different priorities may make other artists (like the more commercially oreinted) need to adapt and adjust. So we are all in the same boat really.

5/11/2007 01:59:00 AM  
Blogger Barney said...

I'd asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally one lady friend asked the right question, 'Well, what do you love most?' That's how I started painting money. -- Andy Warhol

How is making money from one's art wrong? Why would anyone listen to such faux philosophy as neo-socialism? Were your hecklers wearing sack cloths or clothing made in Asia in some sweat shop. If one really wants to change the world, it will require more smarts and moxie than it takes to pick on a visual artist seeking to profit from his creative output.

Visual artists are the quintessential starving artists. One does not think of musicians, film makers, authors or playwrights when the term is applied. It's always some oil paint stained bohemian living on cigarettes and cheap wine. What a load of crap.

Visual artists are the only ones who are forced by legacy to continue to limit their ability to earn as much money as possible from the reproductions of their work. Somehow, it is noble and proper for visual artists to cap their income from digital prints, i.e, giclees.

How is that fair? Does Steven Spielberg limit the number of moviegoers to his films? Do the Rolling Stones stop selling CDs at a predetermined level? Does a Broadway play stop its run even though demand for tickets remains? Why then are visual artists who create reproductions of their work still clinging to an outmoded vestige of the past and limiting their income potential in the process?

I think visual artists who figure it out can take more control of their lives and careers now than at any previous time. And, they have more ability to do so than other artists who are far more reliant on a host of other people to get their work seen or heard.

Visual artists who want to make a go of it ought to be using the Internet, finding alternative spaces and using brick and mortar galleries all in concert to help them get their work to market. You can paint for prosperity and posterity. The two are not mutually exclusive,they are in fact inclusive.

Look around, there are so many examples of artists who have found a way to make their art pay and to be happy and prosperous in the process. Sounds better to me than not being able to buy paint, much less support a family or even oneself. If an artist does get rich and famous, he or she can always use the money to help the arts, help the poor and drive a Porsche just to piss off neo-socialist buffoons.

I blog at:

5/11/2007 03:55:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...


I did not misunderstand you at all. We were actually posting at the same time... I didn't read your comment until later.

Actually, I agree with you... mostly.

Swoon and Banksy are great examples, because they are working with what they have, and did not wait for someone else to give it to them.

I absolutely buy that artists need to work with the resources they actually have and not whinge about what they don't have.

But I disagree with you that this is a terrible time to be an artist...

...mostly because I think this constitutes whinging about what I don't have. ; )

5/11/2007 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I think many of Ed's questions have to be answered by each artist individually, based on our own unique definition of success.

If you seek art world validation, or apreciation by "those who know and understand", if you want a review in the NYT before you die, if you want your art to hang in a museum someday, working with a gallery seems like the most effective way to achieve that. (I don't think that museum curators spend much time trolling the sites that have been mentioned here.)

As a university BFA Director, I taught my students to focus on specific goals and prepare a plan to get there. It seems that many artists spend years "trying this" and "trying that", instead of concentrating their efforts on specific goals. Maybe selling stuff on ebay will help you make rent this month, but don't fool yourself into thinking that it is getting you any closer to MOMA.

It is not impossible, but difficult, to function outside established "machines", and the art world is no different.

5/11/2007 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger soboyle said...

I would be interested in hearing more about specific websites and online galleries that artists are using for marketing their work. From my perspective as an unrepresented photographer, that would be most helpful. There are many out there, but which ones to look more closely at?

5/11/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

Perhaps this thread has already been abandoned, but I feel I must make a modest attempt to respond to the generally negative attitude that has been directed here towards so-called 'neo-socialist' buffoons (although this is certainly not meant to be confused with a defense of Marxism or communism, both of which I generally deplore):

There are many of us who object to wealth because it always comes at a price – the poor. There are a finite number of resources in this world, and you can be sure that for every wealthy SUV-driving condo-owning American, there's a poor family somewhere (perhaps right across town) being exploited in order to provide the so-called American dream. It's no coincidence that America became the richest nation in the world while relying on the most expansive system of human slavery that's ever existed. And it's no surprise that today's modern day system of slavery – international sweatshop labor (not to mention the nearly half of the human population that earns less than $2 a day) – forms the basis for the world's most economically ruthless retail company. Really, why do you think that Wal-Mart is so virulently anti-union?

In order to be rich, someone else must be poor. It’s how hierarchy works.

As Americans, even those of us who make less than $40K/year are wealthy when compared to the majority of humanity. And all of us are complicit in the abuses of the poor that make this wealth possible. Whether it's the thousands of Iraqis killed in order to protect our supply of cheap fuel, or the millions of people around the world making less than $2 a day to provide us with cheap electronics and clothing, we all bear the burden of the cost of our wealthy existence, regardless of how we cast our votes. (And I haven’t even mentioned the massive amount of destruction that this pursuit of wealth has done to the planet!)

Many of us are concerned with the human cost of this pursuit of luxuries, and want to act as a constant friction in order to stop it. Many of us refuse to pay taxes that fund war, refuse to buy food, clothing or other commodities that come at the expense of exploited humans and non-human animals, and have instead chosen to live as simple a life as possible in order to lessen our burden on others. But we know that it is never enough – we still share in the complicity of our wealthy society.

In addition to other forms of social organization, many of us have turned to art as an autonomous zone of human creativity whereby we can brainstorm ideas, communicate our experiences, and perhaps aid in creating a better world free from the exploitation that the pursuit of luxury demands. And yet the contemporary art system is a veritable playground for the super-rich – a place where those who've gained wealth from other industries come to enjoy the luxury of free time and 'disposable income' that their commercial conquests provide them (and maybe buy an elite cultural trophy or two in the process). In such an art system, it's not surprising that many artists who object to the exploitative lifestyle of the art system's patrons, and the complicity created by a dependent commercial relationship with such patrons, have chosen to forge an independent path away from artistic commercialism. It's certainly not free from it's own set of difficulties (like how to pay the rent) and contradictions, but many of us see it as the only way that artistic practice can act as a cultural form of resistance against the global system of abusive commercial wealth. In such a context (and not to excuse boorishness), I hope it's at least a little bit easier to understand why a so-called 'neo-socialist buffoon' might be a little suspicious of the intentions of a Chelsea gallery owner (however thoughtful and kind he may be) whose daily commercial existence relies on the selling of elite cultural commodities to the wealthiest, and thereby most economically abusive, members of society.

5/11/2007 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well all of that sounds good in theory Jason-but can you explain the bare bone day to day of how that is done and how one supports oneself?

I have personally been put down by people espousing that view, but have, as of yet, never heard of a truly pure refusal of the elite.

For example, even in teaching in a university, isn't that teacher giving information, therby power, to more of the elite and wealthy who can afford to attend that instituition?

I am at a loss to see how one can avoid "dirty hands" without either being a squatter or a trust fund recipient...? I am genuinely curious! :)


5/11/2007 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Well, with the caveat that I never called the artist a "buffoon," I'll address your comment as it applies to me, Jason.

There is no question that it requires a great deal of disposable income to keep the art market afloat. There's also no question that the money spent on art could be diverted to help poor people in other parts of the world get cleaner water, build better schools, buy medicines, etc.

The fact of the matter is though, that most collectors I know personally actively do BOTH. They donate their time and considerable amounts of money to charities that aid the poor AND they buy the art that pays the rent on artist's studios and creates this environment (supporting residencies, grants, etc.) in which talented people are given the financial breathing space to dream and create so the rest of us, at the end of our hard-working days, can have something to reflect upon that makes sense of it all and/or gives us pleasure.

The neo-socialist artist would have all the galleries closed down so that art was no longer a commodity and, I suppose but never got that far into it, finance art production instead through state funds. The problem with that scenario is that in general state-funded art sucks. It's compromised even more than art made for rich patrons in that it's beholden to the wastered-down tastes of the state (i.e. it can't easily rise above the lowest common demoniator of understanding without risking controversy or backlash).

Is the current system perfect with regards to humanitarian concerns? No. But it produces better art, IMHO. Given there is no perfect solution, and that liberal democracies with thoughtfully regulated free markets tend to provide the highest across-the-board standard of living for all, I'll go with the current model, rather than simply close all the galleries and hope for the best.

5/11/2007 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

also, by the very fact that someone is an artist, as opposed to a writer or musician, the work by default becomes precious and one of a kind, therby elitist in nature.

How many people all over the world have heard of,,say Radiohead, as opposed to someone famous in the art circles, like Tracey Emin?

Most people i know outside of art don't even know who she is. Maybe artists just have to accept that if recgnotion and living the art life is what they want, so is all the hobnobbing with the hierachies.

If people want a more democratic way of reaching the people, voicing political dissent or trying to stay away from the hierachy structures-- being an artist is NOT the answer.


5/11/2007 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Let me pass along, Heidi, something Bucky Fuller used to like to say.

An enormous ship at sea needs an enormous rudder to steer it. But that rudder is very, very hard to turn. So rather than turn the rudder, what ships do is turn something called a trimtab, which is small rudder-within-the-rudder. Turning this small rudder causes the larger rudder to turn, and that turns the whole ship.

Bucky exhorted everyone to be that trimtab: Be the small change that effects large change.

We, as individuals, seem powerless to change the entire system. And yet the entire system is made up of individual inputs. Change your input and the whole system does change. Only a very tiny bit, but the bits add up.

So you can't avoid having dirty hands -- I sometimes feel like I sleep on a bed of human skulls -- but you can try to tend your own small plot of land. It's all anyone can do: Take what you're given and leave it better than you found it.

5/11/2007 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

I am at a loss to see how one can avoid "dirty hands"

As I've said before, there is no way to avoid complicity completely. But just because we can't reach the ideal, doesn't mean we should avoid action altogether. The best we can do is to closely examine our individual daily choices -- from what we buy and what we eat, to how we earn a living -- and try as best we can to eliminate practices that are harmful to others. There are networked communities of people trying to do this, if you're sincerely interested.

voicing political dissent or trying to stay away from the hierarchy structures-- being an artist is NOT the answer.

No so. In fact, there's a book that just came out this year called "Realizing the Impossible: Art Against Authority" that covers a limited history of artistic practice by anarchists (who are, by definition, opposed to hierarchy). I haven't read the book yet, but it's at the top of my list for summer reading.


Perhaps it was my fault, but you've missed my point. I'm not talking about diverting money away from the art market in order to help the poor -- I'm criticizing how the wealth was created in the first place. In other words, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference to give some of the money away to charity when the concentration of wealth relies on a system of abusive exploitation. Also, I made sure to also include a caveat at the beginning of my comment -- that it was NOT a defense of Marxism or communism. I agree with you that state-sponsored art is a horrible idea.

Regarding your idea of wealthy patrons providing financial breathing space for artists -- I very clearly made the point that such a relationship comes with the complicity of exploitative wealth that many artists wish to avoid. Further, artists entering into a dependent relationship of commercial patronage become reliant on the demands of the wealthy patrons, thereby limiting their artistic possibilities (for instance, if the wealthy patrons object to the content of a particular artwork, then the artists is going to starve).

Finally, you don't have to simply choose between either (a) accepting the exploitative economic system as it is, or (b) closing all the galleries. It sounds like you're subscribing to an 'all or nothing' philosophy -- that is, if I can't imagine a perfect system, then I'm just going to accept things the way they are.

Is the current system perfect with regards to humanitarian concerns? No. But it produces better art

Not perfect? So I guess you're saying that it's ok to break a few eggs as long as it produces better art?

liberal democracies with thoughtfully regulated free markets

Thoughtfully regulated? Has this ever existed???

tend to provide the highest across-the-board standard of living for all

You're going to have to explain to me what this means, because last time I checked the trend of the last 30 years is that rich Americans are getting richer and poor Americans are getting poorer.

Be the small change that effects large change.

Great advice, Chris.

5/11/2007 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...


Your'e arguing from a place where you're standing outside a power structure and critiquing it. And if one attempts to stand outside a power structure and look at how bad it is, then yeah. Your argument makes sense from that point of view.

But is it possible to really be outside the institution so that you can do an institutional critique? We are all completely implicated--we all use one another. And it's not just rich people using poor people. The poor use the rich, too.

Everybody is a stakeholder, and there is no one perfect point of view (like outside) from which to point a finger and say "that's bad."

I would argue that this is good news. Because I would prefer to live in a world where, for instance, the Bush administration didn't keep killing people all the time. That's wrong, and because I am inside that system, because I have a stake, then I can imagine how to turn it around, how to do something.

How to be Chris' little rudder.

But in order to do that, I have to stop thinking that I am outside the problem. Institutional critique is a killer! It makes us into a peanut gallery, and that gives power to the institution (who must remain the institution in charge if the critiquers are going to continue to be right.)

I don't know what the answer is, but I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with positioning myself outside the institution. I think it has more to do with making a better institution...

...or going ahead and getting my hands dirty.

5/11/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Your'e arguing from a place where you're standing outside a power structure and critiquing it.

I don't understand. How then is someone supposed to critique a power structure from within? Surely you're not proposing that only those in power are allowed to critique their own system of power? After all, I'm an American critiquing the system of American power, and I've admitted several times that I'm complicit in that system. I've then criticized the system from within and have clearly outlined ideas (including steps I've personally taken) towards alleviating the problem (such as lifestyle changes that are less harmful to others). What more can I say to qualify as 'criticizing from within'? Are not my suggestions for examining one's choice of lifestyle and profession the epitome of "Chris' little rudder"? Please explain, I have no idea what you mean.

And if one attempts to stand outside a power structure and look at how bad it is, then yeah. Your argument makes sense from that point of view.

Sounds like a great reason to be against all power structures as a matter of principle.

5/11/2007 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Yeah, but Jason, power structures are. They exist.

It is utopian to do what you are doing--to attempt to stand outside or be "against them as a matter of principle." Anarchy is a great idea, but it doesn't work. It doesn't work because power structures arise. People organize. And suddenly you've got a power structure to critique...

...and you're not in it, and so you have no say.

The problem with institutional critique is that it ensures that only the cruelest assholes are in positions of power. The left has been completely neutered by its refusal to accept any power, and the Bush administration plays this like Orpheus played the lute!

If Bush had real players standing in his way, he wouldn't have been able to f*** up the middle east so badly. That is our fault. That is the fault of everyone who would rather critique power than go and get some and do right with it.

I think that's too bad, because it is one thing to romantically cry that the powerful exploit the powerless, and another entirely to have the temerity and flexibility to truly create power for all. Power structures (because they are powerful) can do a lot of good. Government can create a social safety net, ensure that we all go to the doctor and eat enough food. It can limit pollution, set limits on CO2 emissions.

I care too much about the *fact* of power and I have seen too much poorly-wielded power to think that I can sit on the outside and critique it in a way that is meaningful or useful. And the ironic thing, the thing I don't understand, is that you obviously care too. Why, how can you care so much that you just discredit power as inherently bad, thereby inducing a state of perpetual powerlessness for yourself?

How can you be a little rudder when you are not attached to the big rudder?

That's the part i don't get. Where is the actual getting stuff done part of that strategy? That looks to me like it is doing more to perpetuate abuses of power using the romance or the aesthetics of poverty than anything else. I'd rather get work done--there is so much to do.

5/11/2007 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

One last thought, how many musicians make their start in Europe, London, Paris, etc. before landing a U.S. record deal. Maybe a change of venue is needed to be loved. Global markets, cheap air fare. I'm thinking of moving for more reasons than the art market. And hey, Tonys' gone.

5/11/2007 09:24:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Yeah, but Jason, power structures are. They exist. It is utopian to do what you are doing...

I take comfort in the fact that people used to tell the abolitionists that slavery would always be around because it had always existed -- or that women would always be treated as lesser than men, as pieces of property, because they always had been (although, unfortunately patriarchy is still very much with us, even though great advances for women have been made). I refuse to believe that a system can't be changed simply because it is, simply because it exists, and I refuse to accept that the world will always be organized according to a patriarchal power structure wherein the powerful exploit the powerless.

...and you're not in it, and so you have no say.

This is a good point, and a perfect explanation as to why the notion of the U.S. government as a real democracy -- that is, as rule by the people -- is nothing more than a myth.

The problem with institutional critique is that it ensures that only the cruelest assholes are in positions of power.

Again, I don't know what you mean. It's as if you're assuming that criticism is automatically coupled with inaction. I assure you, I have no intention of being inactive; why have you assumed this?

If Bush had real players standing in his way, he wouldn't have been able to f*** up the middle east so badly.

I'm not sure what you mean by real players. Are you referring to the democratic majority in Congress that voted to authorize the Iraq war in the very beginning? Or maybe you're talking about (a) Hillary Clinton, who was one of the original pro-Iraq-war senators, and was very slow in offering any criticism, or (b) Barrack Obama, who has already expressed an interest in bombing Iran?

Why, how can you care so much that you just discredit power as inherently bad, thereby inducing a state of perpetual powerlessness for yourself?

I'm only against hierarchical power, power that places one person in a position of rule over another. But I'm most certainly not against the kind of empowerment that is shared among equals. I'm not some powerless victim who is resigned to inaction. Rather, I believe in the power of numbers -- that only a truly mass movement of shared power can overcome the abuses of centuries of authoritarianism. The keys to creating nonviolent, non-hierarchical mass movements are education and organization.

One of the most effective forms of individual empowerment is non-cooperation with the government -- that is, trying as best as one can to refuse to support its injustices. For example, we can end war if a mass movement of people simply refuse to pay for it -- each one of us -- we can stop playing along. Or, better yet, the soldiers could simply stop fighting. These are radical actions of individual empowerment that don't replace one form of hierarchy with another. While we all face various methods of coercion and exploitation that affects our behavior, we still have individual free choice -- we can choose to go along with injustice, or we can choose to oppose it. There is an amazing documentary about the Vietnam War called Sir, No Sir! that tells the story of soldier resistance during the war. It makes a strong case for the theory that the non-cooperation of Vietnam soldiers played a big role in ending the war, because near the end large numbers of soldiers were not only protesting the war, but were refusing orders to fight (in fact, there were many incidents where soldiers started shooting their superior officers instead of fighting).

How can you be a little rudder when you are not attached to the big rudder?

I interpreted Chris' telling of the Bucky Fuller analogy a little differently than you did. When he wrote "Be the small change that effects large change", I interpreted it as a metaphor for egalitarian revolution, whereby each individual does their part (small rudder) to affect positive change in the direction of humanity (large rudder). I wasn't thinking of government or the domination of others.

Where is the actual getting stuff done part of that strategy?

I hope it's obvious to you by now that I'm not proposing inaction; if not, I'll expound upon how one's lifestyle choices can form the basis for radical political action (although maybe we should shift this conversation elsewhere, to my blog perhaps, as this has sort of veered off from E_'s original post). Frankly, I'm surprised that you would equate inaction with anarchism -- a political philosophy that is rather notorious for its use of what is commonly referred to as "direct action." Many anarchists have taken inspiration from Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience in which he outlined at least three such methods for opposing the injustices committed by the state: (1) tax resistance (which he famously practiced, as a protest against slavery as well as the U.S.-Mexico war; which, in more than a few ways, resembles the current U.S. war of aggression in Iraq); (2) voluntary imprisonment (which he also famously practiced, spending a night in jail for refusing to pay the state poll tax; he wrote "under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison"); and (3) non-cooperation with the state (by which he meant, when the injustice of the government becomes too much to bear, "I say, break the law").

I'd rather get work done--there is so much to do.

I too want to get work done. I'm interested to hear what you have in mind, although I admit I'll be rather disappointed if you propose "Presidential campaign fundraising" or "making abstract art" as ways of curbing global exploitation.

5/11/2007 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think the fear that art does not matter and in turn that artists themselves don't matter drives us to careerism- so we can think that maybe making art sell will make it matter in the sense of making the ideas of the art matter or making the story of the artist matter but i think it is rarely the case...

5/11/2007 11:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what makes you think that is rarely the case ,anonymous?


5/12/2007 02:33:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Hey Jason,

Yeah, we are hijacking Edward's thread. I'd love to continue this conversation elsewhere.

I responded here.

Thanks for wanting to talk, this is important!

5/12/2007 08:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because money drives money, money doesnt drive content...

5/12/2007 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I have wondered about the timing of the 1994 Republican revolution. This was probably the height of influence in the humanities of liberal thinkers associated with Deconstructionism and Postmodernism - they had esconced tenured positions, notable influence on the art world, and their less outré terms were entering common usage. And yet liberals tended to lose elections, and agendas, for the next twelve years. When this finally turned around last year, it was largely because of the big patriarchal institutions. Fiscal conservatives and state-rights people feel hugely betrayed by this administration. Influential Christian groups embraced the idea of anthropogenic global warming. People who are effective in the political sphere concentrate on generating consensus, not critique.

Art has become the safe house for ideas that don't function in the real world. Deconstructionism has been applied to science, for instance, but almost no scientist embraces it. The idea of the institutional critique, or opposing hierarchies, or other radical-sounding stuff predicated on ignoring how the real world works, pretty much has no outlet except in art circles. It doesn't fly there either, but you can make a show of it - you can make something that critiques consumer culture and a gallery will sell it for you, enabling you to make another one. Have you seen the cover of the catalogue for the WACK! show? I'm sure the original piece was some kind of critique on the way women are ojectified, but my first thought was, for crying out loud, they plastered tits and ass all over the jacket of a catalogue of a feminist art show. My second thought was, well, I guess that will sell better than an image of some kind of vagina-shaped thing. My point being that the power structures actually do respond to intelligent influence, whereas willy-nilly opposition tends to get you the same old same old.

5/12/2007 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

artist+gallery+collector=power structure(inatitution)?

5/12/2007 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

You state your equation as if it were a bad thing. Who wants artist+no gallery+no collector=no power?
When you have some power you can
. Open the door from the inside
. Share info on how to open the door from the outside
. Share power
. Oh, and pay your bills

By the way, will someone please define "careerism" for me?

5/12/2007 05:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Artists can work only with architects. I know a couple... .


5/12/2007 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it hasn't happened for me, yet...

5/13/2007 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Re: careerism.

A professional artist will bend things like presentation or personality in service of the work.

A careerist artist will bend everything, even the work, in order to get a show.

5/14/2007 08:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aren't there some gray areas in the definition of careerism as well? i can think that when i first started making art i just wanted to make it- and show it- i would have found putting a price tag on it nearly impossible- but slowly i have tried to be a much better businesswoman to get my work out there, clarify my goals for showing my work and attracting collectors, and i try to sell my work and talk about it and promote it and advertise it. would you say holding down a day job in defense of the integrity of the work versus making work to sell it just to make a living is professional or careerist? and what about another topic which was does money make the work better- does it afford the artist the opportunity to grow the work or does it become the goal of the work- and is that a bad thing or a good thing? i've always thought it was and would be a good thing- but i have never been certain that making work and selling it and surviving off that would be the ultimate goal- in service of financial survivial- i have always worked towards the goal of the quality and integrity of the work... and although i work very hard to show and sell my work- i dont just grease the wheel of the art machine- i would think galleries would also be looking for integrity in the artist as a person as much as they look at the artist's work- but is the money that drives the art machine patronage or in service of itself?

5/15/2007 06:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you anon, I find living solely off my art may be damaging to the integrity in the long run.

I have a hard time on that conversation with other artists, as the obvious goal is to "quit the day job".

I have found it limits my range of expression, to use a cliched term, when I start looking at my art as my bread and butter too.

I choose to keep some non art income work to keep things seperate.... I always wondered how other artists dealt with that in the long run.
Nobody wants to talk about it in real life!


5/15/2007 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

I didnt mean to suggest that needing time to work and needing money makes you careerist.

I guess I was just arguing about the mindset of the artist. My own work requires a lot of time and a lot of equipment and a lot of space, so I think about this all the time. It is professional of me to figure out how to swing this needing all the resources thing... and that involves not having a job, or better, having a job that takes care of some of these needs.

It would be careerist of me to make different work to please a gallerist, or to otherwise not move from that center of what the work needs.

I don't mean to be romantic and/or ask artists to suffer! On the contrary. I just think that it's better to move from you and the work, with integrity, and I would call compromising your integrity for short term gain "careerist" behavior.

5/15/2007 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the Jerry Saltz review of 'Not for sale' show at PS1 moma...
'Which brings us back to the bugaboo of the market. Heiss is right: 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.'
maybe the jury is still out on some of these issues...

5/15/2007 04:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In spite of all the comments there is no famous artist left taht one can say is truly famous. The gallery scene is exclusive and does not recognise art as art in a social and public sense. There is distortion of principles. The best time for art was in the renaissance and baroque as far as quality and excitement and public recognition. To create a renaissance of art one needs to incorporate childrens art in art, like making a public art display on a grand scale constantly everywhere. Beauty is not exclusive but inclusive and many children can make wonderful works as well as primitive artists. The public needs to divert funds for great and meaningful public works to give the people what they want. The art world has difficulty connecting to the public because the hubris of galleries and artist is overblown and needs to come down to earth where simplicity is best.

9/01/2008 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Laura den Hertog said...

Here is another option that falls somewhere in between eBay and Christies:
The Brigham Galleries are a fine art auction site with monthly auctions. As far as I can tell it is enjoying steady growth and the prices are far above eBay.
I'm sure the owners would be happy to share their stats if asked.
Here is the site url:


5/10/2012 10:41:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home