Wednesday, November 26, 2008

PULSE Miami and Compound Editions

Ahhh, the Holidays...warm friendly gatherings with those you love---

We're rendevousing at Newark Airport at what time A.M.?"

---the exchange of packages---

OK, so FedEx this one to the hotel to arrive on Monday, this directly to the fair to arrive on Tuesday, and if this one comes in Wednesday (dear Lord it had better come in Wednesday) overnight it priority hand delivery to me, got it?"

---and tidings of charity---

So you're charging $79.00 a night up until the fair begins, but then $478.00 each night until Sunday? Do we get a room with actual glass in the window this time?"

Actually, we have much to be thankful for this year. We're very happy to be joining our good friends at the PULSE Miami Art Fair next week (we only get to see some of the folks we adore there once every year), and we're thrilled to be presenting 3 installations by Christopher K. Ho, Sarah Peters, and Andy Yoder, as well as a new work by Jennifer Dalton. (Come visit us in booth A-301!)

In addition, it is my extreme pleasure to announce that Schroeder Romero and Winkleman Gallery are collaborating on a new multiples publishing venture. Under the name Compound Editions, we are pleased to launch this new project with a collaboration whose mere mention is sure to cause fidgeting throughout the art world. That's right---it's a match made in hell---Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida have joined forces. For details and images of Our Condolences, Volume 1, their first joint effort, see the Compound Editions blog.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cultivating a Cult of Personality (or Not) : Open Thread

In a long but highly engaging essay, Linda Yablonsky explores what contributes to the Cult of Personality in the fine art world. Focusing a slight bit more on gallerists than on artists, her thesis turns mostly on the notion that "star power = sales":

The question is, how often does a work sell on the strength of an artist’s personality alone? “Most collectors are unaffected by artists’ personalities,” says [Mary] Boone. “They only care about the art.” But Donald Baechler has observed just the opposite. Through his friendship with such collectors of his art as Yoko Ono, Baechler has been bumping up against celebrity ever since his paintings of dripping ice-cream cones and long-stemmed roses hit the market in the early 1980s. “I met George Condo then, and it seemed to me people were taken with him before they were with the paintings. Everyone was charmed by him. [The sculptor] Walter De Maria, on the other hand, was notorious for not showing up at his openings. It was always a puzzle how he got to be so famous without bothering to be there.”

While Yablonsky ponders through a series of possible sources for star power (arrogance, charm, provocation, oddness, sex appeal, etc.), the one thread I saw running through most of the examples she sighted was a true interest in other people, a generosity of time for them:

Warhol was one of the past century’s most charismatic figures, a bewigged enigma who attracted crowds of the curious and paparazzi wherever he went. He galvanized not just artists and musicians but collectors and socialites, and his influence has only grown over time. Yet he spoke in monosyllables and revealed very little of himself. Like Koons, he disarmed through flattery, although in a different way. “Despite his fame,” says Colacello, “Andy would still ask for advice—should he use this wallpaper or not?—and he was accessible. You weren’t going to run into Jasper Johns or Cy Twombly in a nightclub. And even if you did, you wouldn’t hear, ‘Oh, hi! You should come up to the Factory and be on the cover of Interview.’”
Of course, there are plenty of people turned off by the notion of the cult of personality in the art world--as it often is seen as supplanting the art---and indeed, New Museum Director Lisa Phillips voiced this sentiment when she argued in the article that
[A]n artist’s importance is determined by his or her work alone. “That’s what will survive over time,” she points out. “Dan Flavin had zero charisma, but he was a great artist. Russell Crowe, the actor, is not charismatic, but his fame attracts a crowd. They’re different things.”
The part of the article I found most interesting was that dealing with what Yablonsky termed "inverse magnetism," the notion that the more distant or inaccessible an artist or dealer is, the more others want to be near him or her. A high-profile art critic in New York once admitted that he was oddly attracted to a gallery in which they very consciously (if not down right rudely) ignored him whenever he entered. It was liberating in a way, he noted. Of course, this disposition probably only attracts people to you when what you're offering in terms of art is still of high quality. Otherwise, I suspect, folks are more than happy to leave you to your inaccessible self.

In the end, I suspect, it's best to excentuate whatever it is you naturally have going for you without trying to be something you're not. Yes, there's a bit of theater in it all (even the Marlene Dietrich's of the art world are guilty on that count) and yes, I would advise worrying much more about your studio practice or solid sales and marketing efforts than crafting some persona, but within an industry full to the brim of strong personalities, making yours work for you is simply part of the terrain. Consider this an open thread on the perils and/or pleasures of the cult of personality in the fine art world.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Quick Programming Note

The exuberantly charming Duncan MacKenzie of Bad @ Sports fame interviewed me a while back and, well, now my embarrassingly fruity voice is recorded for all time in Episode 169. I have to note that Duncan is a remarkably comforting interviewer...talking with him was a total pleasure and his humor is wonderfully infectious. Thanks to the Bad @ Sports folks for what (I'll in-humbly admit) I found an entertaining piece.


Friday, November 21, 2008

How to Buy Art in a Recession, Part 2

In Part 1 of this thread we discussed discounts, payment plans, and advanced payments as means of buying work when money's tight or taking advantage of the situation to secure a better position in a waiting list or pecking order. In Part 2, I'd like quickly to recommend a few other means of feeding your art habit and positioning yourself for the next upswing.

Don't Stop Looking
Even if your art buying budget has been squeezed due to the economy, that doesn't mean you should stay away from galleries. Looking is free. I suspect many collectors cringe at the thought of an anxious young dealer swooping down upon them with desperate discount offers or pleas for any purchase, but it's easy enough to be frank with such gallerists, saying you can't make any purchases at the moment, but you're still very interested in their program and wish to continue to see their new shows.

Tell them you'll let them know when you're ready to make a new purchase, but for the time being you want to stay up-to-date with their program and will continue to visit. You might see a physical response representing disappointment to this announcement, but bear in mind that even this interest is something your dealer will appreciate once he/she gets over their initial assumption that your presence meant a check was coming. Most critical in all this, to my mind, is that the dialog around artists' work (especially younger artists who the art world is just getting to know) remains strong. Yes, I know, dialog won't pay the electric bill, but it does feed the soul and spirit.

Inquire about Multiples or Drawings
Say you're very interested in an artist whose prices are a bit out of your range at the moment, but you want to ensure when things turn around you're well positioned to get a new major work. Another way to work up the pecking order is to support that artist by purchasing more inexpensive works, like prints or drawings. Some galleries may not exhibit such works in a show, even though they're available. Asking whether this artist has any such pieces available will lead to the conversation with the dealer that you want to have, ensuring they remember your interest and support when new major work becomes possible for you.

For artists whose prices are in that difficult zone (too high for impulse purchases and low enough to indicate you haven't yet had a retrospective at MoMA), a recession is perhaps a good time to consider making less expensive works...just to keep your market active. If your project doesn't make that possible, consider a collaboration with another artist or any project that gives you a product that seems a no-brainer pocketbook-wise.

Request an Overview of an Artist's Oeuvre
Experienced collectors who become interested in an artist new to them, even when there is no economic turmoil, often sit down with a dealer and ask to see all the work by an artist, even if it's been sold. This obviously gives them some clarity about the overall project and helps them make up their own minds about which works are stronger, but it also often fleshes out an overlooked gem among the work on the backburner of the dealer's conscience. Fifty attempts to place a piece that failed, despite how much a dealer believed in it, will tend to make them not think about it right away when someone new asks about it. Often the dealer was right, though...the piece was a gem...and by asking for an overview you may just snap up that work for a song.

I've said it twice now, so once more won't hurt anyone:
if you wait until the market rebounds, you'll miss out on the opportunities available now. Knowing how to maximize the opportunities really boils down to going into the gallery and talking with the dealer...asking questions, admitting you're just looking if that's your current situation, but keeping the dialog open. On those slow days, when the Dow is plunging and the phone's not ringing, believe me, your dealer will make a mental note that they really like you and your collection.

Image: Christopher K. Ho, Recycled Drawing, 2008, ink and graphite on vellum, 16" x 16".


Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Not-Entirely-Selfless Proposal

There's no doubt that most galleries will have more than enough to do in Miami this year (the openings, meetings, and party schedules remain as frantic as ever), but inspired by the G20 meeting in Washington last weekend, in which the leaders of the world's top 20 industrial countries gathered to pool their best ideas for reviving the global economy, I would like to propose that the international leaders of the art gallery world host a summit of sorts at which experienced dealers share their insights on the best ways for dealing with a global downturn in the art market. Exactly who those "leaders" are might be debatable as such, but it should be straightforward enough for the Presidents of the various art dealers associations (e.g., ADAA, AIPAD, IFPDA, NADA, etc.) to use their representational positions to serve as executive hosts and recommend dealers well suited to share on the subject.

What I personally feel might be extremely appreciated by younger dealers (in particular), who have never experienced a significant global downturn like this one, is an opportunity to listen to a panel of dealers who have been through one discuss what measures they had taken in terms of cutting costs and other survival tips. Then a Q&A session in which audience members could ask them questions.

Obviously, not every established gallery would be all that sorry to see a few of the younger dealers close up shop, should it come to that, but I suspect even the most competitive among us can see, perception playing such a significant role in consumer confidence, that a perceived collapse of the market is not in the industry's interest.

My guess is that Friday morning (December 5) might be a good time to schedule such a summit. By then, many of the biggest collectors will have made most of their big decisions, and interest in a meeting like this will be pretty clear to most. Even if the meeting ends up being simply celebratory (fingers crossed), the opportunity to learn a few tips would probably still attract a lot of interest.

I know it's easy for me to suggest other people scramble to organize something when they already have plenty to do, but if 20 of the world's most powerful political leaders can manage to find the time to meet, surely this is feasible. I'll volunteer to serve coffee.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fair Use and Unfair Use

Questions of copyright and fair use are running rampant across the arts blogosphere. I'm a bit pressed for time this morning, but here's a short list:
  1. [via Newsgrist] German Artists Defend Copyright in Google Era. (Essentially, he doesn't feel his copyrighted images should display in Google's search results)
  2. Catherine Spaeth's blog (Catherine discusses a case of a writer plagiarizing her blog writing and at least one magazine he writes for not taking his work down).
  3. The Estate of Helmut Newton objects to Paddy Johnson's use of an image. James Wagner applauds her response.
Among these issues, it probably won't surprise anyone that I support Catherine's request that the magazines publishing her plagiarist's work stop doing so and apologize to her, I feel the use of images on blogs are probably not worth hiring lawyers to fight over (but to each his / her own), and I feel the artist who doesn't want Google to display thumbnails of his images in their search results might be a bit more careful in what he wishes for.

Again, pressed for time, but my short response is: Personally, I feel you have to choose your battles in all this. Is it really worth suing a blogger over a copyright issue (yes, I know that if you don't, you may stand letting such inaction work against later, more important claims), but as Google is saying, they can't check the copyright issue for each image on the web, so I think anyone who doesn't sue bloggers can use the same defense (the Internet's too big to police) when they feel they do have to sue someone bigger...someone clearly using that image to make money in an inappropriate way.

And with that...I'm off for coffee...Consider this an open thread on the evolving dance between copyright holders, the Internet, and the Law.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Buy Art in a Recession: Part I

It's a buyer's market right now, there is no doubt. Even Damien Hirst is admitting it [from]:
Brit art superstar Damien Hirst has accepted the fate of the art market, admitting that it had been too expensive and saying that he will gladly sell his work for less.

In an interview with the Independent, Hirst admitted that his Beautiful Artemis Thor Neptune Odin Delusional Sapphic Inspirational Hypnosis Painting, which failed to sell at Phillips's contemporary auction last week with a $3–4 million estimate, "was overpriced," saying: "It was bought from me less than a year ago at half the price. In a way it's good. We are looking at more realistic prices."
And while seasoned collectors like Eli Broad knew how to wait and save on the artwork they wanted [from Bloomberg]...
Eli Broad and fashion designer Valentino were among the collectors who converged on Sotheby's in New York last night to pick through big-name contemporary art at discount prices.

"It's a half-price sale," said Broad, a 75-year-old billionaire who predicted for years that prices would fall. "Things are a little more reasonable."
...there's no reason only he should enjoy having the upper hand. In the article quoted above, Damien Hirst noted, "As an artist, you don't stop making art because people are not buying it." True enough, but as Broad and the Rubells (see here) are demonstrating, as a Collector, you don't stop buying art because other people are not buying it. Now is the time to add those important key pieces to your collection...believe me.

Of course, if you're not a fellow billionaire like Mr. Broad, you may still need to reconsider how you're going about that. So this thread is dedicated to things I've learned, by both buying and selling art over the years, about how to buy art in a recession.

It's Not All About the Discounts
You can expect a much meeker response from dealers to your inquiries about discounts these days, I'll be on that. But focusing on discounts alone may not be your best means of securing that piece you want. Discussing discounts in conjunction with a long-term interest in the gallery program is your best avenue here. If you're only interested in one artist or one piece at the gallery, you might try asking for a significant discount, but personally I've turned down such offers recently and I will continue to do so (I value my artists' work too much to essentially "give it away" to folks who aren't in it for the long run). A one-time huge discount may make sense to a dealer and artist if your collection is world-famous, but few world-famous collectors buy so shallowly.

The purchasing advantage to this combination approach here should be clear. By showing interest in the longevity of the artist's career and the gallery (what many gallerists are most focused on at the moment), your offer becomes one the dealer will consider from a long-term perspective. You can always fib about your interest, obviously, but dealers are generally pretty good reads of sincerity (spare me the "how ironic" cracks please).

Payment Plans
Many younger collectors may not know that most galleries are happy to work out some sort of payment plan. I suspect this willingness is hitting a decade high about now as well. When I first started buying art I asked for payment plans, and got them, all the time. Most dealers will not offer both a discount and a payment plan, so you may want to consider what makes most sense for you. Also, keep in mind that a dealer will not deliver the piece to you until it has been paid for in full. If you want to install it by a certain date, you will want to consider that as well.

One easy way to handle a payment plan (and one that may just encourage a dealer to also offer a discount) is to give the gallery a series of dated checks totaling the full amount that they can deposit over the course of the payment schedule. Having the checks in hand helps them not have to send out reminders (which is why they may be more willing to consider a discount combination).

Advanced Investments
Say an artist you want to buy a work by is having a solo show in a few months. But even in this economic environment, you know the likelihood of you getting first pick of the new work is low. One way to perhaps work your way up the pecking order is to offer the gallery an advance payment toward a piece. (In case you didn't know, collectors make financial arrangements with dealers they like all the time, investing in the gallery and its artists for access to work down the road.)

Many dealers may not volunteer that they are willing to accept such an offer (because it sends the wrong signals), but it's easy enough to ask them about business in general, suggest you're willing to help out in this difficult time, and then define the terms of the arrangement to suit your goals. You would definitely want to get something in writing and perhaps even have your attorney review it (think what happened with The Project a few years back), but usually such arrangements go off without a hitch and are truly mutually beneficial.

There are other options you can discuss with dealers (some of which I'll discuss later this week...pressed for time today), but the main message of this post is that if you wait until the market rebounds, you'll miss out on the opportunities available now. Take a page from Mr. Broad's is the time to get that art you want.

Image above:
Jennifer Dalton, Are Times of Recession Good For Art?, 2008, Mixed media (two gumball machines filled with plastic capsules with custom foil-wrapped chocolate coins inside), 72” x 24” x 24” (on pedestal), Edition of 3.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition...

A young artist I adore recently told me that a gallery in another city she had scheduled a solo show with told her they were closing instead. I felt awful, because I know she had been looking forward to that show, but I was a bit surprised when she voiced the opinion that the other gallerist should have been able to prepare for the economic crisis hitting us all and made contingency plans. "He should have expected and planned for this," she told me. Again, I was quite surprised.

Most of my surprise came from knowing that in normal markets it takes 3-5 years for a young gallery showing emerging artists to turn profitable (the reason for that becomes clearer when you realize many seasoned collectors wait for a new artist's second or third solo show to start buying their work, even when they're intrigued upon introduction). So this gallerist in the other city never really stood a chance to get prepared for the downturn...he was in the every-dime-goes-back-into-the-business phase of building his business.

Another reason the statement surprised me is that I know how long in advance most dealers put things in motion. You have to pay for many of your key promotional efforts way in advance (like advertising, or art fair fees) and having that much money wrapped up in something that may not pan out can seriously impact your cash flow and ability to respond to rapidly changing economic realities.

But the final reason the artist's response to the news surprised me was that in an era when companies like Lehman Brothers, Circuit City and possibly even General Motors are failing, it seems a bit much to expect a small business owner with less than 2 years' time to plan to be able to predict and prevent what teams of high-powered captains of industry were not able to predict and prevent.

Indeed, the key sensibility that keeps jumping out at me as I read the art market press and hear the speculation from the rumor mills (they are cranking at full speed these days, don't ya know) is how focused everyone seems to be on expectations of effective prognostication. Consider these quotes from the New York Times report by Carol Vogel on recent auction sales, titled "In Faltering Economy, Auction Houses Crash Back to Earth":
Still, given the depth of the global economic crisis, auction house experts were expecting worse. [...]

But timing was not kind to the auction houses. The sales were put together in summer, well before the financial picture darkened, and were overloaded with works from sellers trying to cash in on the last several seasons’ wave of inflation. [...]

Mr. Ruprecht of Sotheby’s expressed similar sentiments: “We’re preparing for a different market. We are out of the guarantee business at least for a while. It’s too hard to predict what tomorrow looks like.” [...]
Indeed, the situation everyone finds themselves in at the moment is unprecedented in our lifetimes. Predictions are somewhat of a fool's game at this point. This leads me to believe that normal expectations aren't so applicable any more. That leads me to feel that everyone involved should give everyone else involved a bit more benefit of their doubt. Don't assume the worst motivations (or competency) of people simply trying to stay ahead of a situation unlike any they've ever seen before. That cuts both ways, for sure. Collectors, artists, auction houses, and dealers...everyone is in unchartered territory right now.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Backlash Whiplash

Everywhere I turn these days, gay rights supporters are advising against overreacting to the passage of Proposition 8 in California. "Don't become what they're saying you are," is the general gist of their advice. "Don't be intolerant, when tolerance is what you're asking for." And the culmination of their advice is "You'll just generate a bigger backlash against gays." Were they to finish that sentence it would read "... if you stand up too fiercely for your rights."

I go back and forth on this actually. On one hand, I understand not throwing out the baby with the bath water. There's no point in becoming a militant if what your ultimate goal is is to settle down and have a peaceful life. On the other hand, were it me ... were Bambino and I to have lived and married in California and then someone we knew, anyone, had the nerve (via their donations, or their votes) to pass judgement on how valid our marriage was, I know (because I'm bullheaded this way) that I'd spend every waking hour devoted to making them as miserable in every conceiveable way as possible. They would pay and then pay again and then pay again for such disrespect. And then Babmino would start in on them and, well, God help them then....

So I'm torn about how to respond to this article in the Times today about Scott Eckern, artistic director of the California Musical Theater in Sacremento, who resigned as the result of some pretty intense protests because he had donated $1000 to the effort to pass Proposition 8:

In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Mr. Eckern said that his donation stemmed from his religious beliefs — he is a Mormon — and that he was “deeply saddened that my personal beliefs and convictions have offended others.”

His donation was brought to light by online activists angry about the measure’s success at the polls.

“I understand that my choice of supporting Proposition 8 has been the cause of many hurt feelings, maybe even betrayal,” Mr. Eckern said. “It was not my intent. I honestly had no idea that this would be the reaction.”

But the swift resignation was not met with cheers by those on either side.
Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Protect Marriage, the leading group behind the ballot measure, weighed in again on this latest response to the ban passing. I won't repost his comment, as I think that he of all people involved in the mess should just shut the fuck up for now. {OK, so I must get this off my chest.} Schubert, a nonentity in any other sense in my opinion, has been acting like he's some sort of community leader speaking for "the people" he's not some guttersnipe gun-for-hire. This "political consultant" (a slur where I come from) had the gall...the frickin' say "It's time for us to heal" in the aftermath of the vote. Seriously, Mr. Schubert...just take a very, very long vacation and stay away from a microphone for a while. You've done enough damage to have earned your tainted money.

The thing I keep coming back to when reading stories like this though, is the notion that anti-gay bigots will hurt us even more, that there will be significant backlash, if we don't acquiese and accept their judgment...if we don't let them adapt at their pace to change. Dan Savage warned of what they have planned in a column in the New York Times yesterday:
[W]hile Californians march and gay activists contemplate a national boycott of Utah — the Mormon Church largely bankrolled Proposition 8 — an even more ominous new law in Arkansas has drawn little notice.

That state’s Proposed Initiative Act No. 1, approved by nearly 57 percent of voters last week, bans people who are “cohabitating outside a valid marriage” from serving as foster parents or adopting children. While the measure bans both gay and straight members of cohabitating couples as foster or adoptive parents, the Arkansas Family Council wrote it expressly to thwart “the gay agenda.” Right now, there are 3,700 other children across Arkansas in state custody; 1,000 of them are available for adoption. The overwhelming majority of these children have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their heterosexual parents.

Even before the law passed, the state estimated that it had only about a quarter of the foster parents it needed. Beginning on Jan. 1, a grandmother in Arkansas cohabitating with her opposite-sex partner because marrying might reduce their pension benefits is barred from taking in her own grandchild; a gay man living with his male partner cannot adopt his deceased sister’s children.

These supposedly "pro-family" monsters can indeed inflict even greater harm on the gay community and their loved ones. But I can't keep straight now (no pun intended) whether this Arkansas law is already evidence of an anti-gay backlash (for Massachusetts, perhaps) or whether it's something we're not supposed to respond too strongly against for fear of even greater backlash. In other words, I've lost track and now have backlash whiplash.

All of which tells me to give up this handwringing and stand up for what I feel is right regardless of how it irritates the other side. The fight for equality is on...there's no turning back now. Connecticut residents can now legally marry regardless of the gender of their betrothed. New York will hopefully soon follow suit.

I honestly don't know how to feel about the fact that Mr. Eckern felt the need to resign in the face of the backlash for his donation. I would advise him to consider the same advice: Stand up for what you feel is right. Not quietly with donations you'd rather folks you work with not know about, but openly, proudly, triumphantly.

If you can't do that...then perhaps you need to reconsider what you feel is right.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gulnara Kasmalieva & Murtabek Djumaliev @ Winkleman Gallery, Nov. 13 - Jan 10, 2009

Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev

A New Silk Road

November 13 – January 10, 2009
Opening: Thursday, November 13, 6-8 PM
Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11-6 PM

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present “A New Silk Road,” our second solo exhibition by Kyrgyz artists Gulnara Kasmalieva and Muratbek Djumaliev. Featuring photography and a stunning five-channel video, commissioned in 2007 by the Art Institute of Chicago, together this gorgeous body of work forms an essay on the local impact of global economics.

Shot along the highways and small villages connecting China through the Central Asian country Kyrgyzstan to the Western markets—one of the actual routes that still form the renowned “Silk Road”—Kasmalieva and Djumaliev’s images and video capture the determination and resourcefulness that define this mountainous, poverty-stricken region. As Lisa Dorin, Assistant Curator of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Contemporary Art, wrote in her essay on the commission, “The five-channel video installation…provides an abstract set of instruction for resilience in the face of hardship.” Indeed, the central messages of “The New Silk Road” take on a wider poignancy as the entire world begins to reel from an economic crisis that seems to know no boundaries.

Subtitled “Algorithm of Survival and Hope,” the five-channel video presents a nearly hypnotic panorama of exquisitely edited scenes juxtaposing the dilapidated Soviet trucks (that continuously break down as they haul carriages of scrap metal from Central Asia into China) against the caravan of shiny, behemoth Chinese 18-wheelers barreling through the narrow passes filled with cheaply manufactured good destined for European markets. Along the way, the residents of the Kyrgyz farms and tiny towns exhibit stunning entrepreneurial ingenuity in finding ways to bond with and benefit from the drivers of both sets of trucks. Dorin summarized the piece beautifully, noting “Devoid of nostalgia for the ancient Silk Road, with all of its romantic connotations, the project foregrounds instead the contradictory currents in the existence faced by the living, breathing populations along these well-worn trade routes.”

Gulnara Kasmalieva and Murtabek Djumaliev live and work in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, where they also organize and curate the highly acclaimed international biennial “Bishkek Contemporary Art Exhibition.” In addition to a solo exhibition at the Art Institute in Chicago in 2007, they have exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Singapore Biennale, the Shanghai Zendai Museum of Modern Art, the Montreal Biennial, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Taipei, and many other international museums and biennial. Their work has been reviewed in Artforum, Flash Art, Frieze, Art in America, and many other arts publications.

For more information, please contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or


Monday, November 10, 2008

M&G for Short

Got a crazy busy week ahead of us, with an opening this Thursday by Gulnara Kasmaleiva & Muratbek Djumaliev featuring their amazing 5-channel video, so I suspect blogging might be light. Then again, perhaps the installation gods will smile on us and I'll have more time than I anticipate.

One of the interesting things about working with artists whose names are difficult for Americans to pronounce is you learn that that fact alone can make some folks otherwise interested in the work a bit hesitant to ask about it. They don't want to butcher the pronunciation, so they simply don't ask. I do this myself sometimes with artists in other galleries (there are names in certain languages where my brain just shuts down until I've heard it several times and I say it from memory, never quite making the connection between how I know it sounds and what English characters make up that sound).

Although Muratbek and Gulnara are fairly straight forward names to pronounce, their family names are a bit daunting for most English speakers, so we've taken to calling them simply "M&G" for short and encourage anyone interested in their work to do the same. M&G ahve returned the favor, and now call Bambino and I "E&M" (Bambino's first name is Murat, if you didn't know).

At a certain point, though, such efforts could overlap...all of which made me wonder if, in the increasingly global nature of the art world with a flurry of new difficult (for me) names by important artists, I shouldn't seek out some pronunciation memorization techniques. Anyone have any tips?

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Nothing More Important This Weekend Than Bambino's Birthday

We're heading out of town for a few days to get an early start on celebrating Bambino's 23rd (*ahem*) year on this earth.

Because I won't be able to moderate comments from where we're going, I'm opening them up for the time being. [I'll trust folks to be particularly polite this weekend and not make me regret that decision. ]

SEE you next week.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Auction Reporting Turns Ugly

Editor at Large of Art+Auction, Judd Tully, wrote something in response to the paltry performance at Christie's last night that truly surprised me:
It was an evening of price corrections, and some bottom-feeders took advantage. Long Island dealer David Benrimon acquired three significant works, including two bargain-basement deals: Georges Braque’s Nature morte à la corbeille de fruits for $842,500 (est. $1.2–1.8 million) and Joan Miró’s Femme et oiseau devant le soleil for $2,154,500 (est. $2.5–3.5 million). “Tonight you had great opportunities,” said the dealer. “It’s between 20 and 25 percent below market value,” he added of the works he purchased.
Now I don't know David Benrimon, and perhaps the exchange Mr. Tully quotes is supposed to help us understand why someone whose profession it is to secure work for his clients at the best price he can, and who does so with total transparency, deserves to be publicly labeled as a "bottom-feeder," but I found this truly shocking for the editor of a magazine. I mean what was Benrimon supposed to do, bid against himself or offer to pay more so as not to offend anyone?

Clearly he bid as long as he wanted to...clearly he met the reserve...isn't that how auctions are supposed to work? Isn't the notion that, if you're there at the right time you might get a really good price on something the auction houses' entire appeal? (It can't be the cramped cheap seating.) So someone who recognized a good deal and had the money to seize the day did so...that warrants name calling? Perhaps there is a history there I am not privy to. Perhaps for Benrimon and Tully "bottom feeder" is a shared term of endearment.

It's an emotional time for all of us in the art world, but let's not assume that the frenzy that preceded this slow down was the auction houses' birthright, nor that of folks selling now. More than that, let's recognize that the cycles in the market are simply part of the system and not cause for scapegoating. Personally, with only the information presented, I feel Mr. Tully owes Mr. Benrimon an apology.

UPDATE: Perhaps the term is less derogatory than I originally read it to be. Reader Christopher Howard notes in the comments:
Carol Vogel of the New York Times used the same term in her report on the auction: "Early on, a Cézanne watercolor landscape from 1904-6, “The Cathedral at Aix From the Studio at Les Lauves,” was expected to bring $4 million to $6 million. It failed to sell. One bottom-feeder was willing to pay $2.8 million."
If so, my call for an apology would seem unwarranted (or both Tully and Vogel are being inappropriate). The term still strikes me as a grotesque characterization of someone merely taking advantage of the auction houses' main appeal.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Book Release Party for The Chadwicks, Thursday, Nov 6, 6-8 PM

Book Release Party
Thursday, November 6, 2008, 6-8 PM
Winkleman Gallery
637 West 27th Street
New York, NY 10001
T: 212.643.3152

Please join us this coming Thursday, 6-8 PM for the Book Release Party of the long-awaited publication, The Chadwick Family Papers, published by Periscope Press.

In 2004 the duo Jimbo Blachly and Lytle Shaw began to do installations and performances in which they pretended to be the editors of the papers of the Chadwicks, a mysterious family of connoisseurs, dandies and amateur historians. The plausible and the fabricated switch cushioned seats as the editors attempt to unravel the byzantine history of the Chadwick dynasty. This book includes numerous photographs of the Blachly-Shaw assault on the art world, along with a judicious selection of the Chadwick papers now known to be extant.

About the Authors
JIMBO BLACHLY is an artist based in New York City whose work has been widely exhibited in Europe and the United States. LYTLE SHAW is a writer who teaches American literature at New York University.

In the Gallery: The Genretron, by The Chadwicks


A Nation of Community Organizers

A very dear friend of mine who grew up in the one of the reddest parts of the Commonwealth of Virgina, coming from a family with old money and ties to the Republican party, someone who had voted for the first Bush who became president and then Ross Perot, rather than Bill Clinton, emailed me the other day to explain what she was doing to help get out the vote for Barack Obama:
It's all very exciting. And nerve racking. I just came from our "Campaign for Change" Arlington VA headquarters office where I dropped off breakfast. A very good buzz while they got ready for the final push. There were several intersections where "young people" had signs that said "Honk for Obama". I passed several very long lines at voting places. We have volunteers at all the polling places to help people pass the time.

It will be a very long day. I woke up at 5:45 to cook after not much sleep last night. Yesterday I put door hangers on 71 houses. I will have some time to take a nap this afternoon and should... but it's hard to sleep. And I'm sure I'll be up late tonight, either way!
In an earlier email, in which she explained how she got from supporting GHWB to supporting BHO, she put it plainly:
I'm just trying to pay my penance!
Indeed, I think we as a nation have a penance to pay. Change will not come just because a new President will move into the White House. This will become apparent to us all quickly enough. I suspect the euphoria over the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United (and yes, I mean "United") States of America many of us feel will be short lived. There are simply too many incredible challenges facing us for the celebration to last. The hard work begins now. As the former community organizer said in his victory speech last night:

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. [...]

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

If you watched that speech though, you couldn't help but notice a certain heaviness in President-Elect Obama's tone. On a night when he should have been so very proud of his accomplishment, he seemed genuinely humble and perhaps even a bit somber. Something George Packer noted [via Sullivan] might explain why:

Obama seems a bit grave to me these days. The death of his grandmother has edged his public mood with sadness, but this heaviness preceded it. [...]

The reason came to me when I was reading the galleys of H. W. Brands’s new biography of F.D.R., “Traitor to His Class.” On the night of his landslide victory over Hoover, in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt had an intimate conversation with his son James:

“You know, Jimmy,” Franklin said, “all my life I have been afraid of only one thing—fire. Tonight I think I’m afraid of something else.”

“Afraid of what, Pa?”

“I’m just afraid that I may not have the strength to do this job.” He paused reflectively. “After you leave me tonight, Jimmy, I am going to pray. I am going to pray that God will help me, that he will give me the strength and the guidance to do this job and to do it right. I hope that you will pray for me, too, Jimmy.”

As I watched the throngs celebrating last night in Chicago, in Harlem, in Rockefeller Plaza, in Times Square, I thought to myself that President Obama need not be afraid that he will not have the strength to do this job. He need not fear because we, the people, will be right there working with him. Things simply have to change. Thousand of people are losing their homes, their jobs, their healthcare insurance, their businesses, and their security. The "Era of Me" must come to an end. It's time for the US to become a nation of community organizers. We have a penance to pay and it's truly now or never.

Bambino and I attended a benefit for The Coalition for the Homeless Monday night and the event's co-chair Richard Gere told the assembled what must become our mantra: it's easy to give when you're flush with's easy to be generous when times are good...but it really means something when you give when it's hard. It's gonna be hard for so many folks. Unfortunately, the experts all seem to feel it will get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to donate to your favorite charities. Now is the time to volunteer in your community. Now is the time to ensure our new President that casting our votes was our commitment to do our part, that we understand it's not "Mission Accomplished," but rather mission just getting underway.

For anyone out there still unfamiliar with the term, I should explain what a "community organizer" is I suppose. It's a bit tough, actually, as the term is used more as a description of a belief system than any concrete sets of tasks or responsibilities, but I guess a community organizer is kind of like a small town mayor, except that a community organizer can actually change the world. *

*OK, so pettiness and immaturity are hard to give up...but I promise to try hard to make that my last swipe.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008


"In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."
---Barack Obama


Monday, November 03, 2008

A Note to American Addicts: Buy Smart....But Keep Buying

According to Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, the biggest threat to a recovery for the global economy at the moment is a fear-based downturn in spending. I know it seems counter-intuitive. When times are tough, it feels right to save everything, squirrel that cash away and wait out the storm. The problem is, though, if everyone does that together, the impact on everyone is even worse than if people simply modify their spending to a more reasonable pace. Here's how Krugman put it:
[O]ne of the high points of the semester, if you’re a teacher of introductory macroeconomics, comes when you explain how individual virtue can be public vice, how attempts by consumers to do the right thing by saving more can leave everyone worse off. The point is that if consumers cut their spending, and nothing else takes the place of that spending, the economy will slide into a recession, reducing everyone’s income.

In fact, consumers’ income may actually fall more than their spending, so that their attempt to save more backfires — a possibility known as the paradox of thrift.

At this point, however, the instructor hastens to explain that virtue isn’t really vice: in practice, if consumers were to cut back, the Fed would respond by slashing interest rates, which would help the economy avoid recession and lead to a rise in investment. So virtue is virtue after all, unless for some reason the Fed can’t offset the fall in consumer spending.

I’ll bet you can guess what’s coming next.

For the fact is that we are in a liquidity trap right now: Fed policy has lost most of its traction. It’s true that Ben Bernanke hasn’t yet reduced interest rates all the way to zero, as the Japanese did in the 1990s. But it’s hard to believe that cutting the federal funds rate from 1 percent to nothing would have much positive effect on the economy. In particular, the financial crisis has made Fed policy largely irrelevant for much of the private sector: The Fed has been steadily cutting away, yet mortgage rates and the interest rates many businesses pay are higher than they were early this year.
Krugman goes on to explain that policy is the only thing that can truly save the economy at this point. The best minds I've read seem to feel the best policy would be a significant Federal investment in infrastructure (you'd think that collapsing bridges would be all anyone needs to see the wisdom of some investment). This would create jobs (giving more consumers money to spend) doing work that clearly needs to be done. Moreover, we'd be keeping the nation's framework strong so that when things eventually turn around we're ready to roll again.

It won't shock anyone that I see a strong parallel between that advice and what I think the art world's response to the current situation should be. Word out of Paris and Berlin is that sales were surpisingly strong at both fairs. After the disappointing auction and fair results in London, that is a relief. But the word is also that there were far fewer Americans buying. The ones who are still buying fall into that category of collectors that we lovingly call "addicts." Supercollector Mera Rubell put it as well as anyone I've read recently:
The financial world has been turned upside down, but we’re still addicted to art. We’re not going to start looking for the best stocks; we’re going to continue to do what we’ve done for the past forty-five years: look for the best artists.
Continuing to buy work by the best artists will, like upgrading our bridges and highways, be a wise investment despite how long the downturn lasts. Feeding one's addiction now is unquestionably going to be easier than it will when the market heats up again. As Krugman says, if everyone stops buying, it can leave everyone worse off. Don't let the Europeans get the upper hand and all the best pieces, you American smart, but keep buying.