Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday's Aside : Hope or Audacity

Tuesday's Aside, a weekly post in which I will try to answer your questions. In order to keep each Tuesday's thread on topic, I'll ask that you post any additional questions on the original thread (even though it will fall off the main page, I'll be emailed each time a new comment is added there and so, thus, will be monitoring continuously).


Anonymous wrote:
Do you think it is appropriate to contact curators who have organized group exhibitions with content specifically and directly related to one's own subject matter? For example, "Dear ___, I was excited to learn of your recent exhibition at ____ exploring the subject of ____. As my work also relates closely to this content, I thought you would be interested in learning about it..."

Basically, Ed, I'm wondering how to get my work more into the conversation with regard to a specific topic in art over the last few years. Upon learning of these exhibitions I've thought of contacting the curators directly, but am apprehensive about coming off as too direct.
I'm going to present my thoughts about this in a roundabout way so as not to suggest I understand the subtleties of the position or speak for curators. Any curators reading, please do jump in.

To frame the topic as broadly as possible, let me note that I think the dilemma here boils down to whether you simply wait and hope your efforts will be noticed or take the more audacious step of asking someone to pay attention. As is true of any dilemma, both courses have potential downsides. Simply hoping for recognition reminds me of the charming expression a family acquaintance used in my childhood to dampen expectations among we overly hopeful (i.e., non-initiative-taking) children: "Hope in one hand, and piss in the other, and see which one fills up faster." Taking the audacity route, however, might backfire in that if you push too hard, the target of your campaign might take to crossing the street to avoid you and rather than ambivalence you've spawned active avoidance in that potentially helpful person.

Art dealers actually deal with this dilemma on a daily basis, but curators, writers, and collectors expect it of us. There are, of course, dealers whom collectors or curators will cross the street to avoid, so you can't overdo it, but in thinking about anonymous's question I realized that the criterion I use to make such a call is how certain I am the party I'm approaching will truly be interested in what I'm suggesting they pay attention to.

It is possible, for example, to suggest...as a dealer...that a critic should make a special effort to come see an exhibition, with the subtext of such an invitation being clear that you feel the critic might want to consider writing about it. Dealers do this all the time. The only thing that will keep a critic from mentally (if not literally) blacklisting you for repeated patterns of such effrontery is being correct in your assumptions. That is, the writer will generally be grateful for the heads up if the exhibition is truly something up their alley.

This then comes full circle to the number one piece of advice I give in approaching anyone in the art world: Do your homework. In the case above, that means be certain that this curator's interests are indeed aligned with your work. To soften the impact of being wrong about that (and despite your best assessment, there might be one minute subtlety about your work that contradicts the curators thesis that would be nearly impossible for you to know before talking with them, so...) I would consider phrasing the inquiry more like (and assuming from the way you've worded your opening line that you didn't actually see the show):
"Dear ___, I was sorry to have missed your recent exhibition at ____ . As my own artwork relates closely to this content, I would have loved to have seen it. Will it travel at all?

It's exciting to know this topic is finally being explored so thoroughly. In my experience, the limited number of people able to discuss it in depth has been disappointing. Indeed, it would give me great pleasure, if you had the time, to invite you to my studio and show you my recent progress on... I've enclosed some images and a statement, as well as a bio.

Please don't hesitate to email me or call if you have any questions. I look forward to the opportunity to show you my work as well as hear your thoughts on {{the subject}}."
or something like that...the focus being to acknowledge that your interest truly is in the dialog and not just another notch on your group exhibition bedpost. Being as specific as you can about why the dialog would be interesting/helpful for you will go a long way toward helping the curator assess whether or not they will benefit from it as well.

If the response to such an inquiry is the long lonely cry of crickets, I would follow-up...once and only once...and then let it drop, at least in correspondence. If you happen to be in the same place as that curator I think it's fine (good) to repeat the effort in person, but I would recommend beginning afresh...noting how you liked or would have liked to see the show and appreciate that someone is finally delving into the subject matter, etc. etc. Don't ask why they didn't respond to your inquiry. Nothing but awkwardness lies down that path. Let that go.

Anonymous's central question though is "
I'm wondering how to get my work more into the conversation with regard to a specific topic in art over the last few years."

If the curators are not finding you, and your inquiries are not producing interest, and this topic is definitely one for which you feel you have a significant contribution to make, one way to get the attention of others also interested in it is to compete with them for the public's attention on it.

One of the tricks I used in writing university theme papers was to find a book on my subject by my professor, quote it heavily, and then heartily disagree with any portion of it I could. The professor wouldn't necessarily agree with my conclusions but they never failed to notice the challenge, and, I believe, graded me more generously for my audacity.

If you can't get a curator to come to your studio, perhaps write a review of their exhibition (on, say, a blog you start on the topic) and outline what you feel they missed. If you're right about it, word will get back to them...and if they're good (and you were gracious about it), they may very likely wish to continue the conversation with you. I know, I know, you're not a critic, you're an artist...but you are saying you're interested in the dialog, and you would be expected to use language during a studio visit...so I'm sure you can find your way to express what the curator missed.

Or curate your own exhibition and do a better job than the curator did. That might backfire (it might piss them off that you upstaged them), but my guess is you're interested in a dialog with the general public on the topic and not just one curator, per se.

None of this is as easy as having them simply include your work in their next exhibition on the topic, I know. I'm merely looking for alternatives, should your inquiry not meet with the desired results.

Do other artists have experience or advice with approaching curators?

Labels: Tuesday's Aside, working with curators


Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Sometimes curators find you through your artist friends who recommend you to them- sometimes they find you because they are jurying shows in your area- sometimes curators are approachable through their institution and you can submit your materials for review which can open up a dialogue- sometimes you get extremely lucky and your work doesn't fit their institutional program even though it aligns with their personal interests and they will curate a show around your work and put it in context/dialogue with other like minded artists- if you want to find an expert in your field- search UMI dissertations and become knowledgeable about the major players in your intellectual field of interest- and work backwards to find them- academics curate shows especially if they have an institutional afiliation- in addition to what Ed suggested- these are some things that have worked for me. Things that have not worked so well for me but were great learning experiences and led to helpful dialogue about my work were curating group shows with other artists around (what i thought were the major) themes in my work but starting an artists group for dialogue/discussion in my studio has been very fruitful- artists can be very knowledgeable and sometimes generous with one another but artists dont have alot of power and control of who likes them and their work- good luck!

8/12/2008 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

In the past year I have moderated two panels in which curators participated. Here is some of their advice:

. Do your homework. Visit the shows they have curated. Read some of what they have written

. Get to the opening and introduce yourself. Don’t monopolize the curators’ time or try to do business, just congratulate them on a great show and let them make your name-and-face connection

. Say something intelligent and/or complimentary that lets them know you are familiar with their institution and their work (this is easier with smaller institutions, but valid everywhere)

. Sometimes personalities click. This won’t guarantee a solo at a major institution, but it may make a curator more inclined to talk with you about your work (have a short description ready) or visit your website (have a card available)

. One curator of a well-known regional museum told the assembled group that she had received 200 artists’ packages in six months. She was way too overworked and understaffed to open them, let alone actually sit and consider them all, but she did make a point of looking at the packages of people who had come to the openings and chatted (briefly) with her. They went the extra distance with her, and she with them

. These and other curators say they hold on to many of the postcards they receive. They have files into which they drop images that interest them. At the end of a year, or when there’s a lull in the schedule, they see what they have. A preponderance of postcards in one genre might prompt an exhibition idea. Along the same lines, if they have retained more than one image from a particular artist, that might prompt the curator into requesting a studio visit

. Both of these curators said they welcome leads and suggestions when they are putting shows together, and both said that postcards with an image of the artist's work are a good way to get their attention. E-mails are more hit or miss; on a busy day when dozens arrive, they might delete anything they are not expecting, while on a slow day they might be more inclined to look. But everyone always looks at a postcard, even if for a second.

. Should you be invited to participate in a show, make it easy for the curator. Most institutions are not particularly well funded, so the curator does a lot of the administrative work. If she asks for a one-paragraph statement, give her one paragraph, not a biographical opus or an essay written by someone else—and get it to her by the date she asks.

. Should a curator make a studio visit or include you in a project, a thank you is in order. A curator turned critic put it this way: “I remember every thank you note I ever received . . .all three of them.”

8/12/2008 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This past Winter i heard that an artist-(independent)curator whose work I like was putting together a group show, and from what I understood of the theme I thought my work would be a good fit. I'd never met the curator although we had e-mailed once before about one of his other projects. I e-mailed him a very brief note saying I had heard of the planned show, including some links to my work in case he wan't aware of it.

Never heard anything back at all.

8/12/2008 05:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be considerate of time. Don't send an email with large attachments. Send a brief email with your website. Send postcards or a brief note with one printed image and your website address. Never send anything which should be returned. Never expect a response.

8/12/2008 07:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a curator.

If the show is truly "in formation", by all means send slides/jpegs/prints. This CANNOT hurt and I have, more than once, added an artist to a show as a result of having received an unsolicited mailing.

That said, I do not agree with Ed's suggestion of contacting the curator AFTER the exhibition (even if the show is travelling). To me, it would come across as snarky. Almost as if the artist were questioning my curatorial choices. How does he/she know I was not already aware of the work? I may not have thought it was a perfect fit. Or maybe it was high-quality enough to maintain my exhibtion's standard.

Another suggestion I'd like to add is that you never approach a curator in person about inclusion in an upcoming exhibition. Unless I'm standing in your studio, it's extremely uncomfortable for me and, once I nimbly sidestep the suggestion, for the artist as well. This becomes even more irritating when an artist says "I made a piece a few years ago that would be perfect for that show!". I cannot speak for all curators, but I am uninterested in artists' anomalies. When I include an artist in a show, it's the work they've made a reputation on that is important to the theme (again, the exception being if I am standing in your studio and the piece is present).

And as far as not hearing back from a curator: it is almost impossible to respond to every submission I receive, no matter how earnest the request. You cannot take silence personally. Keep plugging on and making new work and keeping me up-to-date. Artists are often surpised when I contact them after years of never hearing from me. But I keep a very thorough file and peruse it regularly.

I hope this helps.

8/12/2008 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

As someone who’s been on both sides of the equation, from a curator’s standpoint it would be almost impossible to induce me to include your work in a show. Sorry, but I’ve already got an idea of what and whose in going to be in the show from the get go. Still there’s no harm in trying to influence the curator, and any serious aficionado will try to make studio visits perhaps considering artists for future projects.

As an artist I think you privilege the “curator” with too much power. I like the DIY approach. Rather than confronting the curator as an artist, approach them as a fellow curator, ask them for recommendations or tips, homework is important.

Things not to do (actually recommended by an old European dealer/curator): Don’t threaten their lives or those of their family members. Don’t throw wine or cheese on them. Don’t swear at them and call them obscene names in public. Don’t threaten to commit suicide if you’re not included in the show (especially during a studio visit)

“The artist edges towards the open fourth floor window, his glassy eyes focusing on some distant goal…”

8/12/2008 08:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I write deep obsessive love letters to curators and afterward they evitate me on the streets like pest.


8/13/2008 07:21:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

The best way to be included in things is to be a useful part of an intellectual community and focus on giving rather than getting.

Writing about other people works really well, although I don't think I'd be able to pull off the kind of writing Ed suggests. There's nothing wrong with a little calculation, but whenever I try it, it telegraphs, big time. I do much better when I inadvertently offend someone who I was sure would never in a million years deign to read my pissant blog...

Other ways to give are to have parties; introduce people who need introducing; remember things like jobs that you hear about and pass them along; curate something yourself, as Kalm James suggests; build a reputation for giving particularly thoughtful studio visits. Any time you share information and build community, you are helping yourself.

This won't get you into that specific show, or under that specific curator's lens. But I think that's the hardest, most depressing way to look at a career anyway. While there's nothing wrong with working to cultivate a specific relationship, it's more important to feel...

...Okay. This is totally corny, but I don't know how else to say it. I think it's important to feel like you are already experiencing abundance. When you feel internally abundant, it's really easy to give. Looking to someone or something specific that you don't have makes it harder to keep that feeling of abundance.

8/13/2008 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That said, I do not agree with Ed's suggestion of contacting the curator AFTER the exhibition (even if the show is travelling). To me, it would come across as snarky. Almost as if the artist were questioning my curatorial choices. How does he/she know I was not already aware of the work? I may not have thought it was a perfect fit. Or maybe it was high-quality enough to maintain my exhibtion's standard.

Thanks for your insights and comments, anonymous.

Regarding this statement, I think I was unclear. I didn't mean to suggest in any way at all that an artist should try to insert themselves into an existing exhibition. I feel that's disrespectful and sure to backfire.

I had two ideas that I conflated into one bit of advice, not realizing how their combination would sound.

First, by asking if the show is traveling I meant to suggest that you inquire whether there would be another opportunity to see the exhibition. I didn't mean at all to imply that this artist might then be included in it. My thinking is that they could start a dialog about the current exhibition that might lead to an understanding on the curator's part that they have shared interests. Maybe later, down the road, in some other context, the curator and artist might work toward a studio visit.

Second was to suggest that the best way to start a dialog with a curator is to acknowledge that you understand what they're doing and note that it's interesting to you and why.

never approach a curator in person about inclusion in an upcoming exhibition

I would say the same about dealers, but I understand that it's hard when the dealer is right there and you're right there and...there are plenty of examples in the history books of artists getting exhibitions because they were bold enough to ask (see, Rauschenberg at Parsons), so it's hard to weigh in on whether or not it will always backfire.

And as far as not hearing back from a curator: it is almost impossible to respond to every submission I receive, no matter how earnest the request.

This I wholeheartedly agree with. I'll be honest, one of the reasons I write the blog is to try to make up for the fact that I simply cannot respond to all the submissions we get.

8/13/2008 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a lot of nice, touchy-feely suggestions being put forth here, but the initial request was from an artist who feels she/he is making work that's in keeping with a current trend or movement and would like to be considered and included in those shows.

It's important to note that, unlike an artist, a curator rarely plumbs the same territory. If a curator mounts a cutting-edge show of young artists working in a geometric leitmotif, it is unlikely they will do a similar show any time soon.

There are exceptions and they usually revolve around underrepresented voices in the artworld. Some curators will take a particular minority (african-american, latin-american, gay, feminist) and make a career out of shows that explore those themes. But I do not get the sense that the original poster was referring to this.

The best thing you can do if you truly feel that you are part of a swelling movement is to associate yourself (socially and professionally) with other successful artists operating in the same sphere. Sometimes writers will continue to explore a theme as well, so it's a good idea to get those writers who are enamored of a your particular genre into your studio.

8/13/2008 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about art scenes outside of NY? How does it work?

This is what happens with curators when they work outside of the big market...


8/13/2008 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

the initial request was from an artist who feels she/he is making work that's in keeping with a current trend or movement and would like to be considered and included in those shows....

curator rarely plumbs the same territory

I appreciate what you're getting at, but even here you're using the plural "shows." So we're tasked with discussing two situations at the same time.

But to address the one you're bringing up (i.e., what looks like a single effort by a curator that will pass by and possibly not come round again), I agree that this would seem to demand more drastic measures.

The problem is, as curators here have noted, any inquiry will imply that the curator hasn't already considered this artist's work and rejected it for the show.

That, to me, is the first question/issue to be figured out.

Personally, I think if you're in that situation (i.e., a curator is known to be building an exhibition that your work is perfect for and you suspect they're unaware of your work), you don't have much to lose by sending them an inquiry. Especially if this is the only time you suspect your work will be of interest to them.

But in my experience, curators will return to themes and it's perhaps best not be viewed as the pest who demanded attention.

Several people here have highlighted the importance of associating yourself with those working in the same area (other artists, writers, etc.). That truly is the very best advice to be had, imo.

8/13/2008 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Okay. This is totally corny, but I don't know how else to say it. I think it's important to feel like you are already experiencing abundance. When you feel internally abundant, it's really easy to give. Looking to someone or something specific that you don't have makes it harder to keep that feeling of abundance."

Deborah, thank you for this. I am generally a cynical, prematurely crochety type, but sometimes I read or hear something that, while corny, is just what I needed to hear. This keeping the feeling of abundance thing is useful in all areas of life, not just career.


8/13/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger gnute said...

I was in a similar situation a few years ago when I felt that a series I was working on would fit in perfectly with an upcoming show. I asked a friend of the curator (of that particular show) for advice, since this friend was also a well-known curator.

His advice was to not approach the other curator. Instead, he told me to continue making work and doing shows, as that was the best way to get noticed.

I think his advice works because it is such a small art scene where I'm at. I guess in larger circles one would have to risk more embarrassment.

I agree that associating yourself with other artists who are researching similar stuff to be very useful. But... so tricky with all that rivalry going on.

8/13/2008 11:30:00 AM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

I'd like to post some comments/questions that are probably borne of naivety than anything else.

I have always considered most curators to be more on a peer level with the artists, in terms of approachability. Is this a totally false belief on my part?

Every piece of advice given to artists emphasizes the over-sensitive social dance that they have to perform. It is a wonder that any young artist isn't completely terrified to approach anyone or talk to anyone for fear of annoying them.

It is a strange top-down power structure. The pecking order goes increasingly downward to the person who makes the entire hierarchy possible in the first place: the artist.

If artists are never supposed to approach anyone, how do you get the studio visits? How do you meet the curators? How do you get that show in the first place?

As an artist I enjoy writing and researching but that's not my work. As an artist I enjoy drawing connections between works and 'fantasy curating' but curating is not my work. And for all the advice about "getting to know other artists", this is tedious advice. Other artists are equally difficult and snobby to approach and get to know because (here's the punchline) the word is out. To attempt to befriend an artist because of what they do is viewed as naked careerism of the most parasitic kind. To speak abstractly about "socializing with other artists"--to expect non-organic relationships to develop and mature, just like that--is rather abject and not the way most professional adults in this town behave.

To respond to Deborah, I think your words are not corny but very enlightened and nice to hear. The only caveat with this is that when (certain) others (who are legion in this town) perceive you as being abundant and giving, they will be first in line to take all you can give and then ask for more.

It just sounds to me like artists occupy an increasingly disadvantaged position, and the only advice that is being given is to accept it, and furthermore, to accommodate and yield to everyone else's sensitivities.

It is a position of fear and capitulation. It is a position that makes artists look unprofessional and timid.

At the DUMBO art seminars that were hosted a few months ago, one curator speaking advised artists to "get out and meet other artists!! It's key!" The artist speaking on the same panel interjected and said "No. Who has time for that? Stay in your studio and work! Work!" It was a funny moment that spoke volumes. When did artists have to become party animals in order to get recognized?

My favorite bit of advice came from Tobias Meyer, head of contemporary art at Sotheby's. In an interview he talked about his relocation to NYC: "You have to work and you cannot enjoy your life as much and you can't be really spontaneous...(but) what I love about New York is that people say 'yes' before they say 'no.' They always listen to something that they might consider interesting because it's a town based on ideas of opportunity."

I don't know why but those simple words resonate with me, that we can do our work honestly and conduct our social-professional selves without abjection...

Ok. That was more of a rant than I was intending. Stir the pot...

8/13/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a curator and I write reviews too. In response to the original posting, if you have work like that in an exhibition definitely let the curator know about it. But I have done shows on specific themes and have no intention of returning to those issues. So, prepare not to have anything happen either in terms of an exhibition. One of the great things about the artworld though is that people recommend people to each other. Dealers sometimes become curators, artists sometimes write criticism, etc. I have pulled up names from long ago when friends and colleagues ask me about a particular issue or aspect of art.

Artists should have websites that function and include their current contact e-mail. Have a card with your website on it and take it to openings. I spend lots of time researching on the internet because there is no possible way I could attend all the openings or shows out there as I have a full-time job in a university and have family responsibilities too. Post your work on websites like Artists Space and other similar locales. It is helpful to include your specific location information as I lead tours and sometimes have a cancellation or an artist in a neighborhood who I like and need to find other artists in the nearby. So sometimes, I need to find an artist in a given area quickly.

I appreciate when artists, curators, and critics introduce themselves at openings. I am grateful when people ask for my card and then send me materials that pertain to the discussion we had at the gallery or museum. I also like to receive updates about what is happening for the artist. I especially like when artists whose work I follow tell me about their friends who make interesting work. I have had great experiences with this approach.

Studio visits definitely demand a thank you from both the curator and the artist, in my opinion. Art schools must be spending more time on presentation, because many of the artists I meet in their studios have really organized their materials well.

The only cautionary tale I have about these things is to speak well of others in the artworld. Though the tentacles of the artworld seem large, it is surprising how interconnected we are. I am in agreement that it is important to put out good energy.

8/13/2008 03:29:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

There are a lot of nice, touchy-feely suggestions being put forth here, but the initial request was from an artist who feels she/he is making work that's in keeping with a current trend or movement and would like to be considered and included in those shows.

At the risk of going from touchy-feely to total asshole in sixty seconds, a lot of the dialogue here today seems to assume that the artist gets to decide their relevance. But that's not true. Anyone can get a handful of shows. But no artist has much of a say in whether or not other people find their work relevant--especially over the long haul.

I don't really think we are really struggling to get the right people to notice us. I think it's harder than that. The goal seems to be how to live well with that fundamental uncertainty, so that whatever is going to happen can happen without too much ego getting in the way.

8/13/2008 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...


Simply, absolutely well spoken.


8/13/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot stress enough how important it is to meet other artists, share ideas and look at each other's work. There have been many occasions when, during a studio visit, an artist will mention a peer who is making work that interests them. Sometimes it's because they're working in the same vein. Sometimes it's just basic artistic admiration. Either way, there are many benefits to forging relationships with other artists.

If you don't have the time to share work/ideas with other artists, then I can't imagine you have much time to socialize with curators. Or time to stuff envelopes with your exhibition resume and images of recent work.

It goes without saying that the work is the thing. But if you find yourself with some time to spare, seek out like-minded artists and start a dialogue. There are a lot of benefits that come from such an activity, both professionally and emotionally.

I once read that Klaus Kertes was up in Boston to see the work of Ellen Gallagher when he was putting together the Whitney Biennial. He'd already decided to include her in the exhibition and was there to select work for the show. She mentioned to him that there was an artist nearby named John O'Reilly and that Klaus should take a look at his work. He took her advice and made a studio visit with this artist without ever having seen or heard of his work. He was so impressed, that he decided there and then to include him in the '95 Biennial.

No a bad payout from a little socializing.

8/13/2008 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Being friendly with other artists can unlock many doors. However, some people lack tact and it is obvious if they are being a chum simply because they hope to gain something from it. I think that is one mistake many artists make. Just remember that you are talking to people... not objects-- and that goes for interactions with artists as well as curators. Walking on the backs of others has worked for a few people, but it is often not the best route to take. Most of the successful artists I've interviewed are where they are today because of friendships-- real friendships.

8/13/2008 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Sean (Capone): VERY well said. Thank you. I agree with every word in your comments, and you have expressed my gut reactions in a much better way that I could.

May I just add to your comment "When did artists have to become party animals in order to get recognized?". I feel this is especially challenging for some visual artists, as many of them (us) chose this specific form of art exactly for the reason that they ARE introverted, that their PREFERRED and BEST way of expressing their creative soul is alone in a studio, or working alone out in a field. Even if they are surrounded by assistants, which some are, the creative process is most times solitary and individual. Unlike other art forms, such as music or acting, which thrive on communication, the visual artist thrives in seclusion. It doesn't mean necessarily they are anti-social (although they could be), but being communicative will not necessarily be their best attribute. It also relates to Ed's previous blog post, 'artists organizing'. I don't mean to say it should be this way, but it simply is, it is the way many of us are built. Whenever artists DO organize, whenever they DO socialize, they are profiting and benefiting immensely, but not all can do that.

Artists express themselves in their art. It is their way of communicating. It is their language. It isn't only their attire. It isn't just a dress they wear today in order to be included in the current conversation, to match the most talked about, fashionable art exhibit. Art is not the same thing as attire. Art should speak for itself.

So, I don't mean to say that I am against communicating in words, and ideas, and positive thinking, because I'm not. I also agree with what Deborah says "When you feel internally abundant, it's really easy to give. Looking to someone or something specific that you don't have makes it harder to keep that feeling of abundance." Sure, all true, but you know, different people feel comfortable and abundant in different situations. It's all good. It simply happens to be that many artists simply feel the abundance in their own imagination, manipulating their raw materials, privately, or in the company of very few close people. Once they are all done with their creation, they may open the door and let you see it, or may gather the courage and invite you, or ask for your opinion, but not all have the double talent of being good at what they do all alone and secluded, AND ALSO being party machines with incredibly super tactful socializing skills.

So, should an artist court the dealer/curator, or should it be the other way around? The way the art world (or the art world politics) is running these days, it is certainly the artist who does the courting, but that is maybe the reason why today's art is what it is, because the most successful artists are the ones who possess those highly developed social skills, and that is what they bring to the table. Which reminds me of the great Chuck Close quote that 'anonymous' posted in the comments to Ed's other post (http://edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com/2008/08/selling-solo-vs-working-with-gallery.html):

"There were no beautiful women in the art world. There was nothing glamorous about the art world. The fact that supermodels would come to an art opening was unheard of. The whole mingling of art and fashion is the worst thing that could ever happen."

Here's the link to the interview:


8/14/2008 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

joe wheelwright, my art teacher always says- it's the work, the work, the work that opens doors and draws people and opportunities to you like a magnet- so stay in the studio and do your best work- it's a valid strategy- for me who came to art self taught/later in life ~25, i didnt get into a mature body of work until i was nearly 30- it has allowed me to blossom as a person- and now i love socializing- because i am confident about myself and my work- and i found something to do with my life- whether i meet a curator who invites me into the whitney biennial or i make a new friend- i love openings and honestly i am just looking for the people who like my work and want to talk about art- or have a conversation- that really turns me on- i love artists and i love the way they think and what they think about- and i like learning more about curators, galleries, dealers, museums, writers, and networking with the other 90% of the art world i don't know about because i do spend alot of time in my studio working on my art- on a personal level- i was unpopular and just very awkward when i was younger- art is a reason to overcome some very personal obstacles in my self that regardless of career choice- it's just helpful to have self-confidence and social skills to meet new people, make new friends, find opportunities and let people know about what i do... i would say know thyself and craft your best strategy around self-knowledge... not all artists are one type of person... look for like-minded people in any field...

8/14/2008 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

It does sometimes happen that curator's ideas for small exhibitions expand and evolve into larger traveling exhibitions and/or books.
I am presently involved in a situation like that: I have sent a few additional artists to the curator for the future opportunities and she was grateful.

8/14/2008 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

So, should an artist court the dealer/curator, or should it be the other way around?

Talking about "courting" suggests an "us vs them" relationship, with the artist above (or below) the curator. Yet curators these days talk about anti-hierarchical modes, heterogeneity, dispersal and pluralism. In '79 Rosalind Krauss wrote an essay titled Sculpture in the expanded field. Today we may as well talk about curating in the expanded field. The role of the curator has shifted, with the curator taking an increasing stake in defining art, in "originating", in upending the old relationship between artist and curator. Surprising things today are called curating, and now we have the auteur curator, the collaborateur, the artist-curator, and so on ([1], [2]).

Are things more porous now, or do the old hierarchies still hold?

8/15/2008 12:42:00 PM  

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