Friday, April 18, 2008

The End of an Artist-Gallery Relationship, from Both Sides

This is one of the posts I know, even before writing it, that I will most likely regret, but when the stars align as they have this week, it's tough to ignore the indications that it's time to open a forum and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. Two pieces, one on a blog, one in The New York Times, appeared in the past few days that both deal with an under-discussed art world issue from opposite points of view: the end of an artist-gallery relationship. Both are eloquent and insightful, both written by people whose humanity I trust, and both add up to a picture in which the "humanity" of the art world both takes a hit and yet in the end reveals itself to be admirable, IMHO.

The blog post appears on Tire Shop, written by artist Nancy Baker, and is a generously considered essay on what it felt like to lose her New York gallery, "whose name I won't reveal, although it does begin with a W."

Yes, if you're still not sure, my gallery begins with a "W," and although I'm truly sorry that my decision to cut back our roster was so awful for Nancy personally, her blog post is a true service to artists and gallerists alike. (I've always adored Nancy--she's a true mensch in every sense of the word and a great writer--and I was waiting for this exact post on her blog.)

Even though I won't go into specifics with regards to specific artists here, I will note for those who wonder how I could be so heartless that the decision to cut back our roster (we stopped working with 6 artists last year) came at what was a difficult time for me personally, being somewhat overwhelmed after having just moved into Chelsea and just bought out my former partner, and slowly realizing that I simply didn't know how to move forward with the program we had built together. I felt paralyzed, spent countless sleepless nights in a panic, and in the end felt I had to take care of myself (emotionally and professionally). Which is perhaps ironic, because it's that degree of selfishness that we on the gallery side of the coin often associate with artists who leave their galleries for greener pastures. Like those discussed in the article by Roberta Smith in The New York Times today. It's titled "Dear Gallery: It Was Fun, but I’m Moving Up":
To interested onlookers, such parting of ways can be as unsettling as the sundering of a marriage of old friends. First you hear that the artist has left one gallery for another, or just left with no place to go, although new attachments often pop up suddenly. The news may come like a bolt from the blue or after months of rumors, courtship and offers that can’t be refused. The change may seen insane, or make perfect sense. The word sellout, however quaint these days, may be bruited about.

Some months later you receive the announcement for the artist’s first show under, well, new management, in a grander setting, with more lavish trimmings — perhaps a catalog and a pricier price list.

That announcement is like an invitation to a second wedding. It’s official; get used to it. Lots of people — the spurned dealer, other artists, longtime intimates or admirers — look on with mixed feelings while quietly parsing the event down to the last detail. They may wonder how “the work” looks in “the space”; what degree of rebranding (for artist and dealer alike) is involved; and who is or is not on the guest list for the post-opening dinner.
You should hear dealers bitch about those "disloyal" artists who move up the food chain. Each such move sends shock waves through the back offices of Chelsea. And yet, knowing some who have moved on (a few from our roster) to still be wonderful human beings, I take them at their word that in the end they did so because they had to take care of themselves, emotionally and professionally.

But where's the humanity in all this? Why, in an industry that still prides itself on being predominantly built on handshakes, do people feel screwed so frequently? Part of the reason may be that few folks in the art world ever worked in the cut-throat corporate world, where the notion of loyalty seems quaint. Companies merge, and thousands get pinkslipped on a constant basis. Decisions are made so far above the pay level of those affected that the idea of hurt feelings and upturned lives seems ridiculously irrelevant.

In the more mom-and-pop shop nature of the art world, though, there's no one that far above anyone. Every dealer knows each of his/her artists personally, and the good ones do feel sorry when things don't work out and try to ease the transition as best they can. Every artist understands that leaving their gallery will be difficult for them (it will can cause the gallery to have very unhappy collectors who were on waiting lists and lots of unpleasant questions to answer all the way around), and the considerate artists do leave as gently as they can. Believe me, this is much more humane than the way such partings are handled in other businesses, and that fact that it is such a big deal (as evidenced by the two pieces noted above) reflects well on the way business is done in general in the art industry in my opinion.

None of which truly makes it less awful when it happens to you (as either artist or dealer), though, I know. There is nothing I can write to conclude here that comes close to being as gorgeous and uplifting a sentiment, though, as how Nancy ended her post:
I still have to get up in the morning, and continue my career. It's not a bad one, I have some good things going, and my father's immortal words "this too shall pass", although hideously, unbearbly cornball, reminds me that this life is just one jangled thread of noise away from the big dirt sleep. So I'm picking myself up once again, and I'm looking forward to another walk on the wildside.
Consider this an open thread on the gallery-artist relationship. Do, also, please understand that I will not discuss private matters about specific artists.

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105 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having an artist leave your gallery for a "better" gallery at least confirms the wisdom and accuracy of your aesthetic vision. Booting an artist just doesn't have an up side from the artist's perspective.

4/18/2008 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger hr_g said...

Is your decision to let an artist loose predominantly based on sales or something else?

4/18/2008 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Having an artist leave your gallery for a "better" gallery at least confirms the wisdom and accuracy of your aesthetic vision.

Although I see your point, when it happens you do feel that that and $2 will get you a bus ride across town.

Also, in the spirit of illuminating the issue from both sides, what's "better" is not always obvious. Is Gagosian "better" than Rosen, to use one high-profile example? Not in my book. What didn't Rosen get for Currin other than absurdly high prices? There's no question to my mind that the context was more impressive at his previous gallery.

Is your decision to let an artist loose predominantly based on sales or something else?

No. Not sales. Two of the artists we stopped working with were the two top sellers. It was based on what I felt would make sense as a means to move everything forward, and it's a complicated calculus that didn't reflect on the quality of the artists kept or let loose as much as what I felt we could best do with our limited resources.

4/18/2008 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

In the end, it's bizness. Not too unlike any other. If a good relationship developes, that's all the better, but ultimately the work has to fit the program and it has to sell.
Rebel Belle is a fabulous artist, her show was great. I must say I was a little surprised at her departure, but know she'll find the right fit and I wish her well.

4/18/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Two of the artists we stopped working with were the two top sellers. It was based on . . . what I felt we could best do with our limited resources."

I don't get that. Wouldn't the two top sellers help expand your limited resources, thereby helping the gallery and the other artists who weren't selling as well?

anono

4/18/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mean, some galleries have a few cash cows that support the rest of the program, meaning the artists that the gallery believes in but that have not started selling well. In this case, if your cash cows were artists that you also believed (or did at one time), I don't understand the decision to drop them. I understand that your program changed, you went in a more conceptual direction and they (I'm assuming Nancy Baker and Joe Fig) somehow didn't fit in with the new direction, but it seems so severe to cut them off when you had believed in them at one time, AND they were selling well.

I'm not criticising, just trying to understand.

anono

4/18/2008 10:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am scared everyday of being dropped by my new york gallery, my work has changed, and i sense that i dont fit in to their supposedly cooler younger (and actually more conservative) program, does anyone else live with this fear

4/18/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

anono,

it's difficult to answer your questions, because they hinge on your sense of what happened with individuals.

I'm sorry, but I have to decline to answer your questions the way you've phrased them.

I will say that monies from sales are not the only type of resources I'm talking about, and the complicated calculus I noted includes what you think an artist needs at a certain point in their career, whether you have the connections to help them get to the next level given their work/market/direction, and how trying to do that will limit what else you can do. In other words, the most efficient programs are those that maximize the overlap of their resources to each artist's benefit.

4/18/2008 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I’m posting this comment on both blogs, Tire Shop and the Edward Winkleman blog. First, props to both of you for the honesty, respect and restraint you’ve shown each other in print. Being acquainted with both of you, I’m pretty sure this is not about personality or personal issues but about artistic vision—and business.

Speaking as an artist, it has to be a blow to be dropped by a gallery. Nancy, as you note, you are not the first artist, nor will you be the last, to have this happen—but given the issues of sex, age (anyone over 40, but especially women) and geography, it’s doubly, triply, quadruply injurious. Is it the end of your career? Hardly. But some of the energy you would have focused on your painting will now have to go into the search for new representation.

And yet, I believe you, Ed, when you say that you had sleepless nights pondering the direction of your gallery. For anyone who’s not met Ed, I can tell you that he’s a kind, decent guy. And if you’ve followed this blog for more than a couple of weeks, you know how generous he is with information and time. Manhattan —at least right now, given real estate values and our current economic climate—has to be the most difficult city in the world to run a business. You do what you have to do.

The best analogy for me as a painter is the struggle between what I leave in and what I take out. Sometimes I have to sacrifice what I consider the best individual passage of a painting to advance the whole composition; it has rarely worked when I’ve changed the entire painting to retain the little passage I love.

Good luck to you both!

4/18/2008 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't an artist want to upgrade? there may be 500 galleries in NY, but probably less than 30 that can provide their artists with anything remotely approaching a living. This has nothing to do with greed. This has everything to do with wanting to kick the soul destroying day job which sucks up your time and energy...EVEN if, like me, you are in some good collections and have been reviewed in many major publications.

I love the gallery that represents me...they are truly good people and have a great program, which my work fits into very well. But I still need to eat. I would jump in a second if I felt there would be a reasonable assumption that I could spend a year full time in my studio as a result.

4/18/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

Reading today's post just confirms for me how important it is for an artist to have a day job (or a trust fund).

4/18/2008 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

You can do it without a rich spouse or a trust fund or a day job--or even grants--if you have a network of galleries to represent you. But, trust me, it's a 12-hour-a-day-seven-days-a-week effort.

4/18/2008 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, David. While we all know from reading this blog that Ed is an honorable man, the power balance between artists and galleries is not anywhere near even. For every artist who leaves a gallery, there are hundreds of others appropriate and available to fill the slot. For a mid-career artist to be dumped by their gallery is devastating on every conceivable level, particularly given the art world's current obsession with all things young.
ml

4/18/2008 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I apologize, Ed. I'd actually forgotten that you used to have a partner in your gallery and it didn't occur to me that your roster was built by both of you. I never knew your partner and I've always thought of your gallery as being entirely you -- an outgrowth of you personally.

So I apologize for saying you lost your mind. Apparently you've always been insane.

I mean that in the nicest way. From where I sit -- forgetting as I did you had a partner -- it looked to me like you flipped your lid. You were showing what I consider good stuff -- although you know I had my questions about it anyway -- and suddenly you started showing stuff I'd politely characterize as completely wacky.

You have to know I'm okay with that -- other people have their own ideas about what art should be and all that, and by no means do I think I'm right or correct about anything (although I may sound that way a lot). It's your gallery, of course, and you should show what you believe in, even if I think you're crazy. It doesn't make me think less of you as a person. (Although my frequently abrasive attitude my make you think less of me -- and that's okay too.)

The thing that confused me was your change. I now realize you didn't change. Everything makes sense now.

4/18/2008 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous sharon said...

Here's a question for Ed, or anyone for that matter --

I've been talking with a friend from college recently about what it means for an artist to get represented by a gallery. Neither of us have been, yet, and we were voicing fears about the possibility of getting trapped in a certain aesthetic or being dropped as our art grows or changes.

Can you elaborate on some real world examples of these kinds of scenarios (without using names, of course), and what that means for/how it changes artist/gallery relationships?

4/18/2008 12:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Sroka said...

Anono said: "Wouldn't the two top sellers help expand your limited resources, thereby helping the gallery and the other artists who weren't selling as well?"

Not necessarily. A gallery, like any business, needs to create a brand identity that customers can understand. If I owned a gallery, and needed to focus my business (for whatever reason), I'd try to create a collection of art that presents a defined vision, and that approaches a specific, tangible market. If I had some artists that were big sellers, but that did not fit into that brand, I would have to seriously consider removing them . They may be bringing in money today, but the strain on a focused marketable identity could cause problems (and cost sales) in the long run.

(FYI, I'm not saying that any of this is what I think Ed thought, just what I might consider if I was a galleriest in today's market.)

4/18/2008 12:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Special thanks for this post, Ed!

I feel loyalty to my gallery because they picked me up when no one else did. They are not very good at what they do, incompetant, even. I oten think I would bebetter off without them. The relationship has improved somewhat now that I am in group shows in other galleries, they are at least treating me better. I wish I could leave them, but won't until someone else picks me up. (They do the fairs, and staying visible at the fairs seems so important.) It almost makes me passively wish that they would go under, so there would be no hard feelings, I could just take my stuff and go home, it would not be my fault. I think one of them is a bit crazy, I am afraid of what she would do if I left.

Everyone says "don't burn your bridges", but if you are dealing with an unstable person, leaving respectfully and gracefully does not seem possible.

I had a very reputable dealer give advice to just leave, and be confident that other opportunities will come up. What do you think about this, Ed?

Also, my gallery has several really expensive works, and we are not in the same city, how to actually do it so no work gets lost, damaged, etc. if they get pissed off? Has anyone out there had a bad experience with a pissed off dealer when leaving?

4/18/2008 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I feel loyalty to my gallery because they picked me up when no one else did. They are not very good at what they do, incompetant, even.

When I first moved to New York, I read a biography of Madonna. The salient aspect of how Madonna handled her career, to me, was that she insisted upon getting the highest production values from everyone she worked with, no matter who she offended in the process, and no matter how many people felt betrayed by her actions. Her stance was, "This is my career, I only have a limited amount of time, and I can't afford to keep incompetent (or even just poorly connected) people in my life out of loyalty."

That's how she got to be a superstar, even though she's not a particularly good singer, dancer, actor, thinker or songwriter. You can have talent, but professionalism is what gives you a career.

That was particularly good for me to read, because I have always been loyal to the point of shooting myself in the foot. I have allowed people to totally sabotage my reputation, my time, my money and my connections, time after time, out of a misplaced sense of loyalty, and a feeling that I ought to be strong enough to overcome everyone's weaknesses, not just my own.

Usually what happened was that the people I'd been so loyal to, at my own expense, ditched me anyway.

So please, please leave your gallery. Nature abhors a vacuum, and 'guilt by association' is how the vast majority of business works, particularly in NYC. If I were you, I'd make a trip to that other city, cheerfully pack up my works in person, and cheerfully but firmly cut the business connection. Make it clear that it's up to them whether or not to hold grudges, but you're taking responsibility for your own career.

4/18/2008 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

You can do it without a rich spouse or a trust fund or a day job--or even grants--if you have a network of galleries to represent you.

Working on it, but haven't gotten there yet. My wife is a writer and I'm a painter. We sometimes joke that one of us should have married a lawyer. Trouble is, neither of us wants to be the lawyer...

4/18/2008 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm with you there, David. My wife supports me (and I pitch in here and there), but next time I'm marrying for money.

4/18/2008 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Chris, maybe you could marry Madonna.

4/18/2008 01:33:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

You are a brave person for broaching this, Edward--my hat is off to you.

It seems to me that a gallery is fundamentally a brand--a way to organize taste in a way that allows other people to buy in.

(sorry if that's crass, I think anono's questions were about understanding curatorial vision in terms of paying Chelsea rent, right?)

That's a hard thing for an artist to subject themselves to. I think that a lot of the conflicts that arise are a function of art being what it is and what it does in a gallery context. It's a commodity that the artist takes very personally and that springs very directly from the artist him/herself but must fundamentally let go of. This deep personal investment cuts two ways. On one hand, it's a tool artists use to brand and market themselves. Blogs, kooky uniforms, bad behavior, stories in the Style or Real Estate section--these are all perfectly legit ways to market your work simply by allowing people to get to know your personal brand.

On the other hand, when your personality (ego) becomes your brand and is as important as your art, it takes superhuman effort to create the modicum of distance you need to make good decisions. Nancy is right about this.

I know from personal experience that many gallerists and arts administrators rely upon the ego-disadvantage and skillfully manipulate artists into misplaced loyalty, dependency, and business deals that suit the ego more than they suit the tangible needs of the artist.

I think that in this case the artists are the ones who have to protect themselves, particularly from the emotional sting of getting dumped. I can't imagine being a gallerist and taking responsibility for an artist's feelings in this context--that seems like a potential black hole.

The bottom line is that putting so much of yourself on the line in a way that isn't self-destructive takes a pretty amazing level of maturity. I think that's what I was getting at when I questioned the general idea of giving MFA students Chelsea shows last week. I have a lot of respect for Nancy because she does the work--she puts her ass on the line. Consistently and, more importantly, with real grace. You can see it in her work. That is why it's good. And I think you get that kind of grace when you are allowed to build it up slowly over time, with low stakes building to high.

I think that graceful commitment is often a function of an artist's maturity level. And I think that when artists unthinkingly submit themselves to a system that will *definitely* feel like it's constantly raping you if you're not mature enough to handle it, they wind up on the bottom, making bad choices and bad, conservative work.

If you've failed a million times before and bounced back, then this kind of meaningful failure that you have no control over (because it obviously is not about anything Nancy did or her work) is something you can bounce back from. Even though it's serious. If you don't fail very often, then this kind of scenario is fucking devastating.

4/18/2008 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ed - thank you for a post like this.

4/18/2008 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Blogs, kooky uniforms, bad behavior, stories in the Style or Real Estate section--these are all perfectly legit ways to market your work...

I've tried everything but the uniforms. Anyone have any suggestions?

4/18/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

A Devo hat couldn't hurt.

4/18/2008 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Pretty Lady. You are a very compassionate soul.

I know you are right, and I know what I would say to someone like me if i heard them saying this about a romantic relationship or friendship.

The reason I feel loyalty is that they have spent TONS of money in the past year, even featuring my work almost exclusively in their booth at a recent fair. But no sales, no opportunities, nothing has happened for well over a year. I think the gallerists are wealthy people (one of them fancies themselves as an artist) who want to be in this scene, but do not know what they are doing.

Thanks. Good to be reminded that (again, as in relationships) you don't find the good one till you let go of the bad ones...

4/18/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Devo hat

Chris, I like your sense of style. I'll run over to Home Depot and pick one up.

4/18/2008 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

You're welcome, anonymous. It sounds to me like they'd have done you more good if they'd just bought your work outright, instead of trying to be your dealer. It's important to know your strengths, particularly when you're asking other people to depend on you. You're not doing them any good by pretending they're competent dealers, either.

4/18/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

Ed,

I'm glad this discussion has brought out the fact that you didn't just change the name of your gallery, but have set about establishing your own aesthetic/conceptual direction. I think it's important for people to realize that you are no longer working with Joshua and your decisions about your roster are not about age, sales, or gender, but defining your own vision as a dealer. I hope your former artists take some comfort in that knowledge.

If the market sours, many of us won't have such an elegant justification for our loss of representation. It will be because the gallery can longer sustain itself through sales. That will be a lot harder on everyone involved. Right now the discussion seems to be focused on individual decisions. When a gallery closes, everyone loses. That's a thread I hope we don't see becoming prevalent.

4/18/2008 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

This is all pretty civilized, maybe too civilize.

Imagine, if you will, a dealer who owes you over $150,000. While hosting a dinner party with friends and clients you receive a call from the District Attorney’s office informing you that your dealer has been arrested and for murder. (good luck trying to collect the debt)

Or…

A drunken gallery mate calls at 11:30 pm and tells you to get your butt by the gallery because something strange is happening. You arrive to find a truck packed to the brim with unpaid for art, and the doors of the gallery barricaded. You and said friend have to break down the doors and threaten the dealer with a beating if he doesn’t give you back the work right now. Then you’re on the street at three am with fifteen 6 x 8 foot paintings. Fun.

4/18/2008 03:26:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

Those scenarios suck, James, but what do they have to do with the subject at hand?

When I read Ed's post and support material, the takeaway for me, anyway, was that even in the absence of the kind of bad behavior you describe, the gallerist/artist relationship is not strictly professional at best.

Besides, what's the point in smackdown when folks are being generous and letting their guards down? My mouth is like a fucking gumball machine, and I would not and will not write about my professional relationships like this. I'm scared to.

4/18/2008 03:35:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Kalm, I prefer story #2.

Or you could combine them. Start w/ story #2. Then at three am the dealer bursts out of the gallery w/ a machete and kills the two artists. Fade to dinner party, next night. Phone rings. Our other main character, an artist, is hosting a dinner party when the phone rings. Insert sory #1.

4/18/2008 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But no sales, no opportunities, nothing has happened for well over a year.

A year? Anon, dude - that's nothing.

In response to another anon, I had a terrible experience trying to leave a gallery. They left me nasty messages, refused to return my work, and tried to sell it in a last ditch effort after my new gallery requested that it be shipped to them. It can be nasty.

I like the Madonna story. It's a waste of time to deal with people who are not working for you, or at least reciprocating your enthusiasm. I spent way too much time waiting and expecting galleries to work hard for me - they are ALL flaky. You have to ride them for every bit of attention you get. Call them 10 times a day if you have to! It's business, and no one cares about you as much as you imagine or hope they do.

4/18/2008 03:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm. If I was a gallerist and one of my artists called ten times a day, I'd seriously consider dumping them.

- (new anon.)

4/18/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Gallerists who behave as the ones described 1n the last few posts are not whom you want to have representing you. I believe "The Amityville Horror" provides the best advice here: "For God's Sake, Get Out!"

If you can't get your work back, get a lawyer. And if you can't afford a lawyer, start with the Volunteer Lawyers for the arts: www.vla.org

We certainly have devolved from the begining of this thread,which was about decent dealers and artists who, for whatever reasons, parted ways.

4/18/2008 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger kelli said...

I guess I have two basic comments:
-The Nancy Baker show was one of the best shows I've ever seen in New York. I was taking about it and so were a lot of artists. A collector I know was talking about trying to get one because he loved the show so much. It was a really good show. That should be good enough. If it isn't good enough it says something about the entire system not just an individual gallery so maybe the blame can't be placed on an individual gallery.
-My art dealer has A.D.D. and I have O.C.D. He forgets stuff and I have my colored pencils organized by color and tone. But I think he is a good person and I trust him. I don't hear a lot of dealers described as "a good person". So for me that's enough.
If it isn't enough for an artist to make good art and it isn't enough for a dealer to be an honest businessperson everyone should be prepared for all of these relationships to splinter apart and there can no longer be any expectations on either side. The system is just going to be a revolving door of bad art and bad shows.

4/18/2008 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Folks, my point is: Ed and Nancy seem to have gone through a very typical thing that happens in the art world, and both have moved on. That’s good. The above scenarios were examples of things that happened in the eighties when things didn’t end so “civil”. Painful as the “separation” was things didn’t get ugly.

Kelli has a point when she says it’s all about trust.

4/18/2008 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If it isn't enough for an artist to make good art and it isn't enough for a dealer to be an honest businessperson everyone should be prepared for all of these relationships to splinter apart and there can no longer be any expectations on either side. The system is just going to be a revolving door of bad art and bad shows.

OK, so I've been pretty quiet through most of this and most of what folks have written I understand, even where I don't necessarily agree, but that statement reveals to my mind that there remains a lot of confusion about how most contemporary galleries build a program.

First, it's not a one-to-one relationship (one artist to one dealer), but a one-to-many relationship (one dealer to many artists) so suggesting that all it should take is for the one artist to make good art (as if that happens in a vacuum) is unrealistic. Take the best artist you can think of, put them into a different gallery, with a program that doesn't support their work (put the best painter you know into a photography gallery or the best American video artist you know in a program focussed on Chinese watercolors, or the best formalist you know into a gallery focusing on conceptualist work, etc. etc.), and you'll hopefully see what I mean. It's not good for that artist's career to be there. It's not going to matter much how good their art is if the collectors, writers, curators, etc. who gravitate toward that gallery are not going to support that work.

There are examples of galleries with such strong programs that they could possibly show anything, but they number 2 in New York and fewer than that in most other cities. (I won't say which 2, so don't ask.) All the others, regardless of how strong they are, are not able to build strong careers across the board for all their artists unless the entire program is working in harmony. This is evidenced by the fact that even some of the best galleries out there will eventually surrender to reality and change their program around...not because they didn't believe in the artist enough, but because they realized that they're not superhuman and they were not doing that artist any favors keeping them when another setting might help them reach their goals.

4/18/2008 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger kelli said...

Most contemporary galleries? I can think of at least two galleries with a varied roster where the only common thread formally and conceptually is that their shows and the art are consistently good and interesting ( Mary Boone and Deitch Projects).

4/18/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Edward, are you saying that the best galleries (most successful) show only one kind of work?
ml

4/18/2008 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

No, not at all. There are really good niche galleries, but most of the best galleries show a variety of work.

What the best galleries do well, though, is build a program where there is support built-in for any new artist they take on.

I know an artist who very wisely asked a gallery approaching him for representation "What other artists in your program support my work?" This was brilliant in that it showed he understands how a gallery works, but also because it put the dealers on the spot to defend how they would promote him.

As much as folks here seem to think I'm arguing that it's all about the dealer, each element of what I'm saying is what you as an artist should be thinking before agreeing to be represented by a gallery.

4/18/2008 06:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

their shows and the art are consistently good and interesting ( Mary Boone and Deitch Projects).

ok kelli, you just lost any shred of cred you might have had (with me).

(anon. again)

4/18/2008 07:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward, it sounds like you're saying that it's as much the artist's responsibility to create a good fit with a gallery as it is the dealer's. But since the gallerist controls what happens to the program (unless it's truly a gallery built on artist referrals, which very few are), how can a represented artist keep any element of that control? How can an artist keep from getting dumped if the program becomes more or less diverse and they no longer "fit?" That part of the argument doesn't hold up for me.

I worked at (in my opinion) one of the best galleries in NY - a gallery that has never dropped an artist and only lost one artist to another gallery. The artist/gallery relationship was taken very seriously there. I really respected that and we all saw it as the primary reason for the gallery's success. Making a commitment to an artist is a huge deal - it is the gallery's responsibility to continue to support its artists throughout their careers, based on solid choices in the first place, while keeping the lines of communication open if there are any issues. If they made that their first priority, artists wouldn't leave for better galleries so often.

4/18/2008 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading the comments on this blog.
I've never jumped in before but here goes…I show with several galleries. I sell maybe a dozen paintings a year. I was a little sick of the artist /gallery paradigm. So I rethought and reconstructed how I work. I still do the museum installations and participate in group and solo shows but I also manufacture a separate body of work in China. I have 10,000 paintings (one container) arriving in July and another in early Sept. They are all bought and I can relax for a bit.

4/18/2008 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

having paintings manufactured in China may be a fine business model, but has nothing to do with why most artists become artists.

having said that if you are going to work with galleries (99% of artists go this route) it is best to have at least 2 or 3 in various cities.

4/18/2008 09:30:00 PM  
Anonymous thomas kinkade said...

Having paintings "manufactured" anywhere is totally lame, and bragging about it on a blog anonymously is beyond retarded. Way to go, idiot!

4/18/2008 10:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a conceptual performance piece about labor & value, international trade... oh never mind. It IS lame.

4/18/2008 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10,000 paintings, all sold in advance? I find this very odd.

anono

4/18/2008 10:23:00 PM  
Blogger Beneful Dog Food said...

"If they made that their first priority, artists wouldn't leave for better galleries so often."
There might be the rare exception of a artist who would turn down somewhere like Gagosian and all that entails but come on. If the big boys come calling I think most artists would say, "I appreciate what you've done for me but I'll be seeing ya!"
Anyway, props to Ed for posting about this subject.

4/18/2008 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think most of us would be happy with ANY NY gallery interest. I wonder how many people who comment here have NYC representation?

4/18/2008 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward, it sounds like you're saying that it's as much the artist's responsibility to create a good fit with a gallery as it is the dealer's. But since the gallerist controls what happens to the program (unless it's truly a gallery built on artist referrals, which very few are), how can a represented artist keep any element of that control?

There are two issues here: choosing a gallery in the first place and then what happens when the dynamics change.

For choosing a gallery in the first place, the artist has as much control as the gallery. I know there are plenty of artists so frustrated with trying to get into a gallery that they lower their standards and agree to work with one they're not crazy about all the time, but no one forced them to. So on this front I do feel it's as much the artist's responsibility to create a good fit as it is the gallery's.

With regards to when dynamics change, I can't not mention that whether a gallery program changes is no different from if an artist's work changes (meaning neither side has ultimate control here [there might be certain instances where a contract was signed, but that's not common]). Still, because individual artists are outnumbered by the other artists in a program, you're right that individual artists don't have as much control as a dealer in determining what happens to a program, but again, the gallery can't control so many parts of the equation that it's not accurate to assert that "the gallerist controls what happens to the program" in any absolute sense.

For example, say a gallery and an artist are a great match when they agree to work together. If that artist later sets off in a different direction, is he/she in any way obligated to consider how that will impact the gallery's ability to keep promoting them? (Motivated, perhaps, but obligated? Of course not).

Because a gallery will always evolve to where it's better at promoting certain types of work/artists than others, it may become obvious that to have success in that new direction, the artist is better off with a different gallery.

Should the gallery work to change the rest of the program to match that one artist? It can try, and in some instances artists have changed dramatically and remained with a gallery, but I've more often seen significant changes in direction result in a parting of ways. Is the gallery at fault for not being the best place for that artist anymore?

a gallery that has never dropped an artist and only lost one artist to another gallery

I've heard of such galleries as well, but can't actually name one (not that I'm asking you to, but more that I simply cannot do so). I'm not saying they don't exist, but my real world experience here has always been similar to my youthful examples of the "best couples," you know those two people so truly in love and committed to each other that you use them to convince yourself or others that true romance is possible. Nearly every time I would use a couple as my example of true love someone would whisper to me that he was cheating on her or she had a lover on the side or something to shatter my ideal example.

I do know one gallery that I thought was like that...at least that was the legend. But a few years ago their program changed dramatically.

I'm not saying programs have to keep evolving, by the way. I certainly hope that's not the case. I do think it's a rare gallery that builds the perfect program without any missteps out of the starting block, though. Most of the truly successful galleries I know had rather unstable starts (pun intended).

4/18/2008 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's the gallery's job to convince the artists' collectors to stick with them, even when their work changes. A gallery should not be run like a boutique with trendy inventory coming and going with the seasons.

When a dealer makes a commitment to an artist, he/she is buying into and believing in that artists' vision. It is not temporary. If they "get" the artist in the first place, they will "get" any transitions that are made. That's part of the communication between artist and dealer. Although that can break down on either side, it is everyone's responsibility to uphold the relationship. Making art should be about change, and a good gallery grows with its artists, adds new artists to complement new directions, etc.

p.s. the gallery I was referring to does in fact exist. Their program has changed (I think we both know which one we're talking about) but they've never dropped an artist.

4/18/2008 11:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, maybe it's presumptuous to think that we're talking about the same gallery... but I only know of one in the top 5 who hasn't dropped artists. Maybe Gagosian did back in the day?

4/18/2008 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why these galleries can't be mentioned by name. After all, they're being referred to as shining examples-- galleries who are loyal, who have strong diverse programs, etc.

On another note, I find it a little sad that galleries are so eager to pigeonhole themselves with a narrowly focused program. It cultivates a narrow mindset. But maybe that's the nature, and the definition of collecting--to collect a type,genre,category of object. Otherwise, it wouldn't really be a collection, would it, just random objects. However, most artists I know are not that narrowly focused, and truly love the random objects! I am an artist who occasionally buys art, when I can afford it, and I buy all over the map -- photography, painting, sculpture, collage, assemblage,etc. I am just as interested in a still-life painting as a 'conceptual' digitally manipulated photo. Or a video installation for that matter. Or narrative work, or formalist minimalist painting. You get the idea.

My point is, Ed, that rather than reinforcing the blinders, why not work to expand everyone's horizons (sorry for the corniness)? Unless it runs contrary to your own true nature (perhaps dealers are more like collectors than artists in this respect).

4/19/2008 01:02:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

but I also manufacture a separate body of work in China. 10,000 paintings, all sold in advance? I find this very odd.

I find this intriguing, what are the details, if you prefer not to post publicly email me.

I just hope you aren't steal anyones childhood, unless that is what the piece deals with.

4/19/2008 03:43:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I'm not saying programs have to keep evolving, by the way. I certainly hope that's not the case. I do think it's a rare gallery that builds the perfect program without any missteps out of the starting block, though. Most of the truly successful galleries I know had rather unstable starts (pun intended).

Interesting paradox, art is about evolution and the art world is in constant flux, what's interesting is how the blue chip galleries that are showing artist which they have represented for decades, well established A-list artists, some whose work constantly evolves and some who have come to be known for a specific type of work, through the years those artists have fallen in and out of relevance while maintaining value based on reputation with fluctuations proportional to relevance. The gallery has a reputation based on the artist they show yet removed from the artist reputation as well.
The overall program of the galleries has survived through several era's and movements, adding and subtracting artists, has migrated from SOHO to Chelsea and I would say the program has had to evolve slightly to nurture newer artists, yet has to maintain a connection to its own place in art history again both tied to and separate from that of their stable of artists.

What you describe Ed seems like your first zeitgeist shift, growing pains, you physically moved from Brooklyn and there seemed to be a lag as your gallery program had to adapt to the new location. I would say that you made the right decisions to survive.

and I agree with Joanne

I believe "The Amityville Horror" provides the best advice here: "For God's Sake, Get Out!"

and I would say both gallerist and artist need to follow that advice equally.

4/19/2008 04:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone's so quick to assume "limited resources" refers to financial matters. Keep in mind, that it's also a euphemism for patience.

Not all artists are pleasant to work with. No matter how much money comes through the door, a pain-in-the-ass, selfish egomaniacal artist can can rob a dealer of self-respect, honor and sanity.

Gallerists are not babysitters, therapists, detox agents or banks. The minute an artist assumes this, their value starts to sink.

To every artist out there who is smarting from being pink-slipped, ask yourself: "Was I as professional in our relationship as I could have been?". If you're mature and self-actualized, you might be surprised at how differently you'll approach your next gallery relationship in the future.

4/19/2008 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

1800-HOWSMYDEALING

I didn;t see anone claiming limited resources on that blog though so I don;t know maybe limited resources is code in your world. For me limited resources has always been a nice way to say you are poor (as oposed to cheap or chintzy).

Ask youself, anonymous, do you feel lucky? Well do you?

4/19/2008 07:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two comments:

1. Often it is the artists already in a gallery who create the pathway for a new artist to enter. This is the case with Pace since Arnie stepped away and left the reins to son Marc, not the sharpest tool in the shed. So now it is Chuck Close who "advises" that the stable doors open for James Siena and Tom Nozkowski. The easiest way for an artist to "move up" is via the advocacy of an artist already anointed.

2. What happens after Gagosian? Once you have made the jump to this epitome of representation, with its plethora of branches all over the world (Gogo Dubai any time soon?) and coke head handlers, where can your career go except down? In other words, if all roads lead to Gogo, what happens to a career when Gogo sets it adrift?

4/19/2008 07:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zip:

"... calculus that didn't reflect on the quality of the artists kept or let loose as much as what I felt we could best do with our limited resources. ..."

4/19/2008 07:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People don't mention gallery names because they don't want the gallery to google their name and find the comments. Even if it's positive, you'd be surprised how upset people get being talked about on blogs. It's just not worth it.

4/19/2008 09:29:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

Edward, I think your last comment is interesting if your goal is to get to understanding why people get so upset. You are right--nobody has any control, and everyone has a serious personal investment.

In a perfect world, every single artist and gallerist would be wise enough to understand that the lack of control is mutual, that everyone is taking a risk, and that everyone needs to take care of #1 first.

But when does this ever happen?

4/19/2008 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I've been pondering this since yesterday......

I know of three artists who were let go from their galleries. All were women, good artists all, of middle age. This contrasts interestingly with Roberta Smith's piece in the Times, where the four gallery-hopping artists are men.

I'm not going to jump to a conclusion here, but I will put this out: Does anyone else see a pattern of women being nudged out (for whatever reason--age, gallery program, personality) while the mostly younger men play musical chairs with their own galleries?

4/19/2008 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Ok, so yeah, change over time = delta notation. I'm into sigma notation myself - set the limit and semper fi. Today is a great day to die, that kind of thing. Hoo Rah.

Follow this link for an urgent update on breaking news:

you heard it here first

I think.

Peel me. Peel me good.

But don;t go changin to suit me, because I'm more of a formalist. go figure.

4/19/2008 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell yes, Joanne. Women are edged out more than men. Definitely. But no one will ever admit it so don't bother trying.

Roberta should have talked more about Lisa Yuskavage - that was a way more important jump than Nozkowski to Pace, for example.

4/19/2008 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 6:56,

Analyzing why you are pink slipped is always a good exercise, but anticipating that your own behavior is the reason reminds me of blaming the victim. It is a delicate balance being an artist in a gallery - on the one hand, squeaky wheels DO get grease; on the other hand, too much complaining, demanding alienates. What works in one location does not in another.

4/19/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yuskavage and Williams left their female dealers for MALE dealers! Turncoats!

4/19/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Does anyone else see a pattern of women being nudged out (for whatever reason--age, gallery program, personality) while the mostly younger men play musical chairs with their own galleries?"
Maybe it was to make way for all the Chinese artists every gallery seems to have added over the last couple years.

4/19/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gender may be an issue, but only in the sense that a dealer is nudging his unsaleable/uncooperative artists out in favor of more saleable ones. If a dealer decides to nudge the females out first, that's their perogative. Just as its their perogative to replace them with a hotter, more saleable female artist.

No one's getting rid of the female artists in their stable just because they're female.

4/19/2008 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yuskavage and Williams left their female dealers for MALE dealers! Turncoats!

Oh great, so even when a woman artist is doing well enough to become a gallery-hopper, it only counts if she jumps to another female dealer? :-)

Since a number of anonymous commenters who I assume to be artists are voicing their opinions strictly from an artist's point of view, I'll summarize what I think could be culled from this thread from a strictly dealer's point of view, not because I necessarily see things that way, but because I'm not sure the dealer POV is accessible to artists (and as in every context in life, information is power):

Self-centered Dealer Point of View: There seem to be two main themes emerging from the artists' comments here. One is that it is a gallery's responsibility to support each of their artists fully, find them a market, and keep moving their career's forward regardless of what the artist does. Whether they slow down production or begin abusing drugs and/or become incredibly difficult to work with; whether they make radically different work that seems to have come out of left field; whether their new work undercuts the validity of other work in the program; whether their new work sucks in the dealer's opinion; whether their new work is a highly personal reaction to some event in their life and as such seems highly important to the artist but too autobiographical to transcend the subject and be good art to any writers, curators, collectors or the dealer; whether, despite the dealer's early interest and faith, the artist proves to be a one-trick pony; whether the artist's spouse is hounding them to get more and more out of the relationship to the point that the dealer dreads taking their phone calls...regardless of what path an artist may take, the dealer is supposed to stick with them through thick and thin because they believed in their vision at one time.

The other theme that emerges here is that even if a dealer does do all that, as soon as the artist is ready to move on, that's ok.

4/19/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking at Ed's roster of artists her work does not seem to fit in at all.
I'm amazed that he still does this blog. Anyone can post on here and take a shot at him. He uses his real name and often takes unpopular positions. That's fairly uncommon. I wouldn't do it (obviously!). I'm just wondering if he thinks it's worth it- putting yourself out there and allowing anonymous people to take shots at you. What does he gain from all this? I know I get something from this blog, which is why I check it out on a regular basis, but what on earth can Ed get from it. Why subject yourself to it- having to constantly defend yourself to people who don't know you from Adam? You could've done this blog anonymously.

4/19/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so you don't feel underepresented, Ed, you're not the only dealer on this blog. Thank you for your last posting, I hope it helps everyone understand both points of view.

4/19/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks for the solidarity, other dealer!

What does he gain from all this? I know I get something from this blog, which is why I check it out on a regular basis, but what on earth can Ed get from it.

For the record, I love this blog. I love the fact that we can be a bit more honest about things here than we can in real life. I love that sometimes, like on the Robert Smithson thread, the quality of thought and writing are so high that this blog transcends itself to become something major and perhaps even important in advancing the dialog about contemporary art. I love that sometimes it's just an easy place to blow off steam or gossip or grumble.

I get so much out of this blog that the pot shots, awful as they are sometimes (and really, why do people take them? Huh?) aren't bad enough to make me stop. That, by the way, is NOT a challenge. ;-)

4/19/2008 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what percentage of galleries go under within the first two years. 70%? 80%? I know it has to be an extraordinarily high number.
I think the artists who are commenting, expecting this extreme loyalty no matter what (when we know artists almost always jump to more prominent galleries when given the chance), are being hypocritical.

4/19/2008 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Joanie San Chirico said...

I have a different problem. I've had two good (for me in sales) galleries close in the past two years. Makes me think I'm a jinx!

Thanks for the interesting discussion.

4/19/2008 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know most Dealers have a tough job, were they often have to make tough decisions which are gonna hurt to survive, but most Artists I know are caught between a rock and a hard place.
I'm speaking from a European perspective here, Germany to be specific. I don't know what it's like in NYC or the rest of America but only an estimated 5% of all Artists are Galerie represented in Germany. There are tonnes and tonnes of Artists who would chew their own limbs off to get a Gallery show. Most of them think that its some sort of promised land.
But Even of that 5% most can't solely live from being an Artist.
I think a lot of hassle could be saved if dealers and artists had a more business-like relationship.
That cutout the bullshit and got down to the nitty gritty so everyone knew where they stood. Too often the artists and dealers, at least in Berlin, start off with a sort of best buddy beer drinking relationship with the new Artists and nothing ever really gets seriously discussed as the Artists are so grateful to finally get representation . This ALWAYS leads to money hassle later on. Yes, it happended to me, along with countless other Künstler I know. I sometimes felt like hurling bricks through the window, or charging in with a baseball bat and a trashcan lid. Thankfully I decided not to. Why didn't I confront them? I hear you all say. I tried but got knowhere. Problem was is I need them more than they need me. thats what it boils down to. I need shows, to be in Art Fairs. I have a wife and kid to look after. etc, you get the picture. If I left there is queue of Artists behind me who'll replace me. But I'm working all the time to try and get another Galerie and when I do then I'll be out of there faster than a fresh shit off a shovel. Sorry, to be so blunt. So, Caught between a rock and a hard place indeed.
Anyway, Is there anyone else
out there in my position? there must be..I'll finish though by stating I do think it's almost unique that E.Winkleman has the courage to write honestly about it all. If only there were more dealers who could be so honest.
Tschüß!

4/19/2008 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

A lot of good stuff here, nice to know they’ve got the same problems in Deutschland.

From my viewpoint it looks like artists and dealers alike should realize that in most cases their relationships aren’t forever. Regarding the change of a galleries program, in most cases that happens over time anyway with the change of fashions and the market. Nobody kept showing Neo-Expressionism in the nineties just because they did in the eighties. In five years people will be looking at “Pop Surrealism” and “Neo-Conceptualism” in the same way. I’ve had dealers who pressured me with expulsion if I didn’t hone to the same style they’d become accustomed to. I think that more and more artist and dealers are thinking about one show at a time, (unless there’s some BIG money potential). No one should think they’re going to be on Easy Street just because the land a dealer..

Artists should take more control of their own destinies.

4/19/2008 01:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who are these wild and crazy boho drug addicts in need of therapy? You make it sound like you dropped Dash Snow instead of the stable midcareer artists you actually dropped in favor of younger more conceptual work.

4/19/2008 02:06:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed,

With your blog you have done more than any dealer I know to share a dealer's point of view--whether it be about the artist/dealer relationship in all its facets, the cost of running a gallery, what it takes to participate in an art fair, advice to artists for finding a dealer, your take on the artist's resume and more.

Artists and dealers are not us-versus-them. We really are in this together. And if we're not working toward the same goals, it takes courage to sever the gallery relationship. (I say this in full recognition of the fact that it's harder for women to find--and, as we have seen, maintain-- gallery representation, at least in New York.)

I'm speaking from experience when I say that you can leave a gallery and still admire the dealer. There are many ways beyond the showing/selling equation in which artists and dealers can continue a relationship--including as friends or colleagues who are willing to make the references and introductions that tend to keep things moving in the art world.

And as James Kalm points out, "in most cases, their relationships aren't forever."

I also like something else James said--though I realize it's for another thread: "Artists should take more control of their own destinies." That doesn't necessarily mean working without dealers, but given the opportunities for showing and publishing that never before existed before this millennium, it is possible to carve out a viable niche.

4/19/2008 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Who are these wild and crazy boho drug addicts in need of therapy? You make it sound like you dropped Dash Snow instead of the stable midcareer artists you actually dropped in favor of younger more conceptual work.

Again, as noted at the top, I am not discussing specific artists that I work/worked with. I thought I was very clear in noting that that rant was how a dealer unaffiliated with the artists in question might see the comments in this thread. It was offered as insight that might prove useful, certainly not as an explanation of my own circumstances. Take it or leave it.

I find the tone of your question and its poorly informed (inaccurate) insinuations insulting, if that's not clear. Feel free to ask me about this in person if you're sincerely that curious. Otherwise take my word for it that you're wrong on several accounts and I'd appreciate if you not try to indict me anonymously in public this way with such a poorly informed understanding of what you're talking about.

4/19/2008 02:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were always 2 distinct visions when the gallery was Plus Ultra. It's not anymore and, as a result, the program now has a more honed curatorial viewpoint. It's Ed's perogative to define his gallery's brand and present it in a way he feels comfortable with.

As far as crackhead artists go, I had the displeasure of working with someone that Ed also worked with. I felt his pain.

4/19/2008 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...

I've been fired, laid off, and quit in a successful coporate career for 40 years. I would love to be that artist who was recognized, hired, laid-off and/or fired by a New York gallery with a "W" in their name!!! You are a real artist with a great life in front of you. A career does not end with a parting of the ways. Where do I apply!! C'est la vie.

4/19/2008 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the anon who said a dealer should continue to support artists while keeping the lines of communication open if there are problems.

regardless of what path an artist may take, the dealer is supposed to stick with them through thick and thin because they believed in their vision at one time.

That's a slightly twisted version of what I said, with a lot of extreme examples to back it up. I think we are intelligent enough to know that if there are real irreconcilable differences, relationships will inevitably end. My point was that a dealer shouldn't drop an artist just because their work changes.

The other theme that emerges here is that even if a dealer does do all that, as soon as the artist is ready to move on, that's ok.

Again, not what I said. I said that if more dealers truly supported their artists (not as shrinks, or even friends, but just by continuing to engage in a dialog about the work), less of them would jump to other galleries. Most artists choose to leave because A) They are bored and feel like they need a new context for their work, or B) They don't feel integral to the gallery's program.

4/19/2008 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

last anon,

thanks for clarifying the difference between my summary of the comments (not all of them from you, obviously) and your actual meaning. Having a better appreciation of the details here (on both sides) will undoubtedly help artists and dealers alike communicate better, which (in addition to not letting folks think I'm entirely heartless) was the main motivation for this post.

The topic has been exhausted, though, with regards to my ability to discuss it without getting into specifics, so I'll bow out now.

I'll let y'all continue though. I'll ask that you respect the fact that I don't want specific artists' circumstances to be discussed here though and will remorselessly delete any comments that delve into such.

4/19/2008 05:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming into this late, but...

I am one of the few people who seem to actually like the art fairs. I find it fascinating that artists and galleries from all over the world hit common denominators simultaneously. One year work is sexy, the next it's all about nature. This year seemed to proliferate with paper-cuts. That said, another common denominator seemed to be artists complaining about their dealers.

I wonder if perhaps the boom has created this situation.

I will also put forward that it is my belief that dealers should embrace artists not artwork. And follow the artist to where that vision leads them. And while I know this is not necessarily always good "business," the art world is not so easily reduced to black-and-white commerce despite Madonna's example may offer. If it was only about the money, most of the dealers out there would be in real estate.

4/19/2008 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

My former dealer, a close friend of Leo Castelli, said that late in his career Leo could only support a particular body of work, something that existed and he felt was “quality”, not potential. This was after he’d worked with Johns, Rauchenberg, Warhol, Oldenberg, Stella,et al.

"If it was only about the money, most of the dealers out there would be in real estate."

What makes you think they’re not?

4/19/2008 08:13:00 PM  
Anonymous dubz said...

The gallery that has never dropped an artist and has only lost one artist is David Zwirner.

4/19/2008 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Ed, this is really fascinating:

"Whether they slow down production or begin abusing drugs and/or become incredibly difficult to work with; whether they make radically different work that seems to have come out of left field; whether their new work undercuts the validity of other work in the program; whether their new work sucks in the dealer's opinion; whether their new work is a highly personal reaction to some event in their life and as such seems highly important to the artist but too autobiographical to transcend the subject and be good art to any writers, curators, collectors or the dealer; whether, despite the dealer's early interest and faith, the artist proves to be a one-trick pony; whether the artist's spouse is hounding them to get more and more out of the relationship to the point that the dealer dreads taking their phone calls..."

You may call that a 'rant' (didn't you? I seem to recall that you did.) But I love how completely unadorned and blunt it is, and I'm one of those self-involved artists!

4/19/2008 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the David Zwirner comment, I think you're wrong.....Doug Kolk was dropped, as was another guy....a photographer whose name I've forgotten. Took pics of smoke.

4/20/2008 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Jumped here after reading Nancy's post. I always give this bit of advice when it comes to business be it a gallery or a corporation-- read the Art of War. :)

4/20/2008 04:19:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Mention of Castelli, reminds me that Schnabel notoriously left The Count for Mary Boone sometime in the 80s amid a certain bitterness - as I recall The Count swore The Schnab's career was 'over' from that point.

I've often wondered what happens up the top of the tree there, egos getting paranoid and power drunk.

Like when Lari Pittman left Rosamund Felson in LA. There's probably a story there, beyond the bread.

In a sense The Count was right, but what American artist has a second act? One is usually enough, so long as it's popular.

4/20/2008 07:09:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Schnabel started out with Boone. Boone was in a tiny space on the ground-floor at 420 West Broadway right below Castelli. Leo and Mary shared Schnabel for a couple of shows (at this point Castelli hadn’t taken on a new artist in ten or fifteen years). When Schnabel jumped it was to Pace.

4/20/2008 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ga. Painter

Does anyone know what happen to Charles Locke, the dealer who was caught with a fake Picasso?

4/20/2008 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The observation that few in the art industry have experienced corporate America is significant. As one who has lived in corporate America for years, let me tell you that this kind of normal movement of alliances in the art world is tame compared to what we experience. So for whatever comfort it may provide, let me say this to artists and gallery owners alike:
You are in a business, and that comes with obligations that have nothing to do with the inherent value and work of you as a person. These often non-welcome changes are just something you have to learn to navigate with grace, and realize that it's a bigger deal to you than it is to others, so don't feel like your discomfort is plastered on the front page of the NY Times. It's no big deal, and this happens in similar form to everybody. In fact, in most industries it happens much more than it's happening to you. So take a deep breath. Notice the beauty in your day, and get back to what you do best. Your art, and your gallery.

4/20/2008 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger love is all said...

A war is just as much an expression of Culture as a poem, a factory as a cathedral, a rifle as a statue.

4/20/2008 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon the corporate world is governed by laws regarding gender and age discrimination and also contains a myriad of potential employers. When one relationship ends a new one can be easily found. There are only a handful of reputable galleries in Chelsea and then a few dozen second tier galleries that have any sales. Also there are many more artists than galleries and some gallerists will black list an artist when the relationship ends. Think independent contractor in a small, cliquish industry and you might have a more realistic idea.

4/20/2008 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

doug kolk? please tell me that's pronounced 'dug cock'.

4/20/2008 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dig Kolk.

4/20/2008 05:40:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

from the perspective of an artist who goes to see alot of gallery shows trying to figure out the realtionship of artists and galleries, it is confusing to see one person's work in a gallery then the same artist's work in another gallery- i assume there is a vast amount of loyalty between artist and gallery like a holy relationship of trust and loyalty but then finding out or discovering that it's not necessarily so makes me wonder what it's all about...

on another note- was in chelsea on friday and saw alot of good shows...
Marlene Mccarty at Sikkema Jenkins thru May 3rd- http://www.sikkemajenkinsco.com
Yong Hi Ji at Gana Art 568 West 25th- http://chelseaartgalleries.com/Gana+Art/Yong+Ho+Ji+2008.html thru May 10th
Dennis Wojtkiewicz at J. Cacciola Gallery- http://www.jcacciolagallery.com/ thru April 26th
Sati Zech at Howard Scott Gallery- http://www.howardscottgallery.com/ thru May 3rd
The Date Farmers at Jonathan Levine Gallery thru May 3rd- http://www.jonathanlevinegallery.com/
Devorah Sperber at Caren Golden Fine Art thru April 26th- www.carengolden.com
Kim Simonsson at Nancy Margolis Gallery thru May 24th- www.nancymargolisgallery.com
Lori Field and Megan Greene at Kinz Tillou & Feigen thru April 26th- http://www.ktfgallery.com/
Ai Weiwei at Mary Boone Gallery thru April 26th- www.maryboonegallery.com
Peter Coffin at Andrew Kreps Gallery thru April 26th- www.andrewkreps.com
Piotr Uklanski at Gagosian Gallery thru May 17th- http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/21st-street-2008-03-piotr-uklaski/
Inaugural group exhibition at Joshua Liner thru May 10th- http://www.joshualinergallery.com/

4/20/2008 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Thanks for the correction JK.

4/20/2008 11:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Each December, many of the gallery advertisements in "Artforum" features lists of the artists represented by each advertiser. Other journals feature similar ad at various times of the year.

It is sometimes instructive to go to the public library and browse through back issues published 5, 10, 15, and/or 20 years ago and see how gallery representation rosters change from one year to the next or almost entirely differ from each other after 10 years. Likewise, one can see how an artist's name could be found on one roster or another or on multiple rosters over a period of time.

It is also worth observing that the artist-dealer relationship is not feudal. Artists and dealers are free to enter into and maintain/dissolve representation agreements. Neither are forced into working together for a lifetime.

4/21/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Wasn't that the big news a few years ago when David salle left mary boone for ... then went back to mary boone?

4/22/2008 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger José said...

Hi,

I had writen a comment but then the captcha image didn't show up.
This thing of the captcha verification is one of the most annoying things that was invented.

Kind regards,

José

4/26/2008 10:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm....

Love is not infinite.

There will always happen the day when someone will tell you "I don't love you, anymore".

No need to bring a thousand reasons and explications.

Nancy, if you were hurted by this, than you should make the kind of art where you will feel able to think "That is so good that the gallerists who don't want to sign me NOW just don't have any clue".

Life offers plenty chances at loosing everything. You are allowed a brief cry (or sometimes, a longer cry) but you really need to get up on your feets, girl, and stop using that dropping excuse as a reason to go down with your art
(if that is what you intended to do).


Don't ever forget that the sentiments of Ed or anyone else towards you have absolutely nothing to do with how you
regard yourself.


Good luck,

Cedric C

5/15/2008 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous mike said...

Having jumped out of the corporate world into the wonderful world of art (gallery ownership) I find myself agreeing with those who suggest that there are similarities. Though, some insiders seem to prefer a status quo whereby the rules of the art world must and should remain byzantine. In starting up Art251, we've found that applying a degree of corporate governance to the artist-gallery relationship is advantageous for both parties. However, all our artists are unique: they have different goals, dreams, short- and long-term needs, and so on. So, unfortunately we have no "cookie-cutter" approach. We do know, however, that artists value honesty, stability, no surprises and some flexibility from their gallerists.

7/01/2008 08:35:00 PM  

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