Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Thought We Won the Cold War : Open Thread

OK, so I'm torn.

Torn between staying true to my word on this Artworld Salon post in which I note:
As Barack Obama keeps demonstrating, however, success does seem to come from listening to a wide range of informed opinions and them choosing wisely. So with that, I will note, as a dealer in Chelsea, that I would very much appreciate any feedback or advice on how best to navigate the current economic situation.
and unleashing a torrent of snark upon Charlie Finch for this
How would a new gallery system work? The first step would be to require written contracts between a gallery and its artists. A gallery would commit to a stable of, say, ten artists for a contractual period of five years. Each artist would receive a monthly stipend to cover the basics such as rent, food and materials. In return, any monies received from the sale of works by gallery artists would go into a collective pool to pay these stipends and the expenses of running the gallery. Part of the stipend arrangement would require the artists to commit a small amount of time weekly to working in the gallery to cut down on labor costs.
Mr. Finch goes on to make some other suggestions in his article on Survival Strategies (a topic worthy of considering as many view points on as possible), but this particular idea smacks of a Neo-Soviet Artists Union...5-year plans and all. Putting my urge to dust off my repertoire of Cold War-era rhetoric on hold and taking the suggestion seriously, though, my sincere questions about such a plan would include the following:
  • If artists must work in the gallery, how could the process of selecting artists for the gallery stable not include asking them about their "gallery worker" skills? And how would that not impact the quality/vision/identity/professionalism of the gallery? It's more than simply skills, as well; gallery workers need to be reliable. If Artist A refuses to show up on time or pull his/her weight compared with the other artists, but Artist A still has a 5-year contract, what option does the gallery have for resolving such slackery?
  • Moreover, in building a stable, how could a gallery in good conscience include an artist who they know won't have a market as strong as the other artists for years, if ever? Weighing whether the artist would bring other things to the gallery, such as great press or prestige is clearly one part of this, but no stable I know of manages to reach enough of an equilibrium of sales among artists that would prevent eventual resentment. This concept seems to require a great deal of magnanimity among every artist in the stable.
  • How much start-up capital would this model require and how would that impact who can start a gallery? Stipends for rent, food, and materials (which would vary per artist, obviously) x 10 (in New York) = about a million times more than your average Williamsburg gallery had to start off with (and with emerging artists programs it can take years to become profitable anyway). Does this plan spell the death knell for the likes of my space and others that founded on the bootstrap model?
  • Profit is not mentioned at all here. Is that even part of the model? Monies from sales go into a pool to pay the stipends and running the gallery (and believe me, you can always expand on the expense of running the gallery...increasing advertising, increasing the number of art fairs you participate in, etc.), but what say could/should the artists have in what the owner's take should be? Any?
And that's just off the top of my head.

Still, and sincerely, I'm interested in what others think about Charlie's suggestion. What are its pluses, and what are its minuses?

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43 Comments:

Blogger patsplat said...

Charlie Finch is off his rocker. You don't change the disheartening economics of the artworld through the application of copious amounts of bureaucracy.

1/14/2009 09:12:00 AM  
OpenID dorfmeister said...

As someone living in former USSR, I would note that Finch's idea is a bit removed from the basic principle of an Artists' Union. And the principle was that by arranging artists into government-funded hoards the state could much more efficiently control the output of artistic production. If that won't be the case with a gallery run like Finch suggests - and how can it be the case? - his idea has sonething in it.

I mean, let's say a gallerist really loves an artist's work. This artist is not commercially sucessful, and the financial climate makes it much harder for him to cover production costs. The gallerist may, of course, choose to let it be, but if he thinks of helping in some way that does not seem patronizing and annoying to other artists, the Finch's structure is as good as any.

And of course, it schould first and foremost work for younger galleries.

1/14/2009 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Charles Browning said...

The Finch plan is a fantasy. It's too rigid system to apply to something like the art world. We'd have to be little art-proles. Neither sales, art production, or the needs of running a gallery are consistent enough to fit the plan. And who makes the decisions? Is there an artists' committee? What a nightmare!

The financial ups and downs of being an artist are REALLY stressful. It's the artist's dream to have a stipend or a patron, to smooth things out, but it's a pipe dream for most of us most of the time. You make the best work you can, you build the best relationships you can. You research and evaluate your options, in your life, in your art.

The only thing that will make life easier for artists is if society comes to value art more. MAYBE we'll see this under Obama. But with all the pressing issues of the moment I'm not holding my breath.

I thought your Art World Salon Post was great. I agree with Andras that there are a lot of ways to collaborate or merge gallery operations without losing the individual identities. Galleries could alternate programs in a single space, etc. But in hard times there will always be some trimming of galleries and artists both.

1/14/2009 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I would note that Finch's idea is a bit removed from the basic principle of an Artists' Union

Thanks for that comment. I was indeed being snarky with that line. Sorry for suggesting otherwise.

Galleries currently cover production costs for artists who are not yet commercially successful, but it doesn't come out of a pool of money other artists feel should rightfully be divvied up for them. It's not the idea of supporting such artists I think this model changes so much as how the expectations of the artists who sell a lot will impact such decisions.

1/14/2009 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

I commented on the wrong entry. I'll try again. I think art dealers need to think about alternative markets for their business. Why not open a shop on your site with paypal as an option? You could take on more artists that way by representing them online. While still focusing on your stable of artist in the gallery itself. I know people instantly think "Ebay" when someone mentions selling art online but Ebay is not the end all be all of selling art online. You can create your own online shop and auction with minimal skill. That probably will not happen until people drop the stereotypes of buying and selling art online though.

1/14/2009 10:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leave the government out of it. Do you want the government choosing which artists you represent?

1/14/2009 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Finch's idea sounds more like commune than communism, right down to artists contributing labor to the gallery to keep costs down. You know how it is in communes - some slacker keeps weaseling out of doing the dishes.

There probably is a viable model that hybridizes the commercial gallery and the artist collective, and it might not look so different than what Finch is proposing. Like many grand schemes, it could work if you had a group of generous, magnanimous, honest participants to work with and a huge cash reserve. Assuming human nature an normal resources, it could still work if you had some way of getting rid of slackers, if the stipend were augmented with commissions to reward the artists with better markets, and if the gallerist didn't make much more than the artists. It would be easier to pull off if the gallery owned its own living spaces and exhibition space, which I guess doesn't qualify as "normal resources" in New York.

Really, if Finch thinks it's such a good idea, he should try it.

1/14/2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The Finch folly would fail art.

It would result in corporate art, art that feels like television, a bad mixture of pandering and dilution. It removes the profit incentive and opens up the possibilities for exploitation and fraud.

Exception: As a unique event, practiced by a group of artists with a mission, for a limited time allowing the members to flower, it might have possibilities.

1/14/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger matthew langley said...

While finch's plan is not really part of the gallery system we know (and love) today, it the past is was very close to standard.

Leo Castelli gave many of his artists a stipend - Richard Serra in particular has gone on record saying he would never had gotten to where we is without it. Further Serra has said that Castelli did not count on having a single sale for at least 2 years.

Rothko and Newman (I think) also had situations like this during part of their career. So the germane idea is really not that uncommon.

However the "collective pool" idea is a bit of nonsense.

1/14/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

With those ideas, it's clear Finch is neither an artist nor a dealer.

His new-model gallery is not all that different from the co-op model, where artists "sit" the space for a designated term each month and pool resources in the form of dues. The ones who sell well get back much more than the ones who don't, because everyone is paying equally for the opportunity to show.

There's an irony here. The co-ops began as an alternative to the commercial galleries. Now he's suggesting that commercial galleries adopt the co-op model.

One thing that has struck me in this shakeup is that many dealers are now having to invent, reinvent, rethink, adapt and slog forward in the same way that most artists have been doing since forever. And all of this comes on the heels of the rejection that many galleries have faced in recent years at the hands of the art fair committees.

Never has the situation for artists and dealers been so similar, a reminder that while we may be at different ends of the boat, it's the same boat.

1/14/2009 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger fish said...

Seems like Finch's plan would be a great way to totally overturn the current gallery system and encourage people to find new ways to showcase art. It would be silly for galleries to agree to this because of all the limitations it places on them.

While there are artists who wouldn't mind signing such a contract, in the long term the gallery system would come to be viewed as too much like a business in which the artists are the employees and ultimately the success of the business is more important that the individual art that is created. Finch seems to forget the reason people become artists and how much they value their individual freedoms.

Once the contract system was in place, those artists that would scoff at the idea would eventually find another way to showcase their art and newer galleries would open up with a keener eye as to how artists create.

So if we want to take all the current galleries and place restrictions on them to limit what they can do, the end result would be many of those galleries folding and being replaced by newer galleries without the silly rules.

We would then have two types of galleries - the contract business ones where the success of the gallery is the ultimate goal, and the new galleries (which (suprise!) would look an awful lot like some current galleries) which would be more artist friendly in the long run.

Which one would most serious, push-the-envelope, f_ck the status quo artists choose?

1/14/2009 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every business model changes. I think change is long overdue as to how art dealers function. I don't have much sympathy for their plight. As mentioned above artists have endured the same struggle. Welcome to club. Have fun coming up with those art fair fees.

The days of working within the market in isolation and placing your collectors in a lockbox are over. The art dealers who wake up and understand that the art market is truly global will be successful. Those who say but don't do will fail.

Instead we have art dealers who say that selling at an auction house, selling at an art fair, or selling online is somehow lacking soul. Which is funny because the same charge has been made against art dealers for the longest times.

Classic case of shoe on the other foot.

1/14/2009 11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finch's idea is a simplistic "fix" for a complicated problem, and like most of his proclamations, is not serious, but an attempt to create controversy (or at least get people talking about Finch).

You can't just impose a socialist model on one industry within a larger capitalist system and expect it to work, and even if you could, art production and art sales would be the industry least likely to succeed within this framework because art is not a "product" with an agreed-upon worth. The supply/demand equation is totally out of whack. It's not like food or shelter or heat, something everyone needs and/or wants. Art's "value" is created and fluctuates according to several factors. It just doesn't fit into the model. Art-making is not a "job" and an artist therefore can't achieve job security. If you "hire" an artist into your stable, then her "job performance" isn't up to snuff (maybe her style changes so she is not producing the widgets you hired her to produce)... well, it just doesn't work on many levels. If art-making does become a job that the artist has to continue to perform consistently, chances are she will eventually become alienated from the product of his labor (Marx got some things right), the artist will suffer, as will the "product". Socialism has some great virtues and great applications (I can haz universal health care? education?) but the art world is not an area where it could work.

Oriane Stender

1/14/2009 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I don't have much sympathy for their plight.

Garghhhh! I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning!!!

1/14/2009 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Bromo Ivory said...

Well a "commercial Gallery" is a business first and foremost. At least it has to pay attention to its sales and profits or it won't be a gallery for very long.

As the economy gets rougher, it will be interesting to see what strategies are adopted that survive. I am not sure a profit sharing model will work, but the co-op model might work for artists as the number of commercial galleries decline.

1/14/2009 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

Unless I'm missing something, Finch is only saying that artists should become gallery employees. (Or more accurately, independent contractors). I read nowhere in his post that the stipends for each artist needed to be equal, or that the gallery was not allowed to retain profits through the careful calculation of those stipends. He's basically just saying that galleries should treat artists as independent contractors rather than vendors. Which frankly seems like a very interesting idea.

But not a workable one, not by a long shot. At least not without a lot more thought.

First off, if Finch is suggesting that the stipends be equal, then the idea is absurd on its face. "Communist," indeed. One artist could contribute ten paintings and forty drawings a year and receive an equal stipend as another artist contributing less. This idea is obviously a non-starter.

The only artists who would join that type of system are the ones that are either extremely young and need exposure, or those who are -- allow me to be diplomatic -- not confident in their ability to produce a significant amount of work on a timely basis.

To make Finch's proposal work, you would need to pay the stipends as if they were an advance against sales, and put into the contract some kind of review period where the stipend could be adjusted or eliminated if the work was not being provided. Maybe you give the artist a two- or three-year review period, for example. You don't want to treat the artist like a manufacturing plant, but you do want the deal to be fair both ways, otherwise it's an abuse of the stipend.

All of which is starting to get quite hairy. Finch's proposal cannot be taken seriously. He does not even begin to think through these difficult questions of production and equity. He seems to have proposed a system where the art itself comes from Heaven.

1/14/2009 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

John,

I can see your read of it (it's not detailed enough to suggest you're in error)...but then that's so similar to any gallery model that pays all its artists stipends, that all the talk about monies going into a pool seems unnecessary (which is why I assumed he meant something more akin to Communism -- from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs).

1/14/2009 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

A gallery is a business. Galleries which cannot generate sufficient sales to cover operating expenses fail or are tax shelters. This is the Capitalist way, why should it be changed because the economy is in a downturn?

1/14/2009 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Although not the exact same thing, this reminds me of the Artists Pension Trust. I think it was started as a "for profit" company around 2004 (MutualArt?). Selected artists would contribute a certain number of artworks over a period of years, to a trust, the work then held for a number of years, eventually sold (hopefully), with proceeds going into the trust. Artists would start receiving income after 20 years from the start of their trust. I don't know whether it's been successful or not, but I wish it was something that became possible for more artists to participate in.

I thought Charles Finch's post was ok, an idea worth considering and expanding on - and although not all his suggestions for a gallery system are workable, I liked his basic concept. I could envision it working with the right combination of owner, and artists, and it needn't be anything like a coop gallery.

Ed mentions a concern about "the expectations of the artists who sell a lot..." I get that, but every artist has ups and downs in their career, so maybe one artist is contributing more during their up cycle, but that changes when his cycle goes down and someone else's goes up. It would balance out.

1/14/2009 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

If you're an artist. in April when you file your taxes, do you file a Schedule C? Well, if you do, your a business.

In the modern world, there are a lot of artists and those who cannot successfully function as a business will be pushed to the side by those who can.

1/14/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Art centres will be art centres and they will never die because money was never the purpose for them (those which die are lacking enthousiasm in finding alternative means to their problems).


But solution for the commercial gallerist?

Move your butt to where the art sells and there's a lack of interesting galleries (or of the type of art you propose).


Cheers,

Cedric C

1/14/2009 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I think Charlie's suggestion is insane, for the reasons enumerated by various people above. He's like those people who Don't Drive. You know, the ones who want all the control and none of the responsibility, who agitate on behalf of Social Justice as long as it's Somebody Else who pays the bills, and who derive a sense of moral superiority from acting like outraged victims. You can find them gumming up the works in most bureaucracies, unions, and non-profit organizations.

Ed, I went and read your ArtWorld Salon post, tried to comment, and discovered that I wasn't allowed to, because the people at ArtWorld Salon didn't know me. I emailed them to introduce myself, and the email bounced.

So I shall comment here, to point out that in your post you perspicaciously note that collaboration among dealers tends to be problematic, because 'most dealers can't stand one another.' Earlier this month, however, you suggested that 'collaborative art may be the art form of the future' [paraphrasing].

Artists, however, find it just as hard, if not harder, to collaborate than dealers do, because the reason we are artists is because we need to express a singular vision. If you can admit that dealers have the same issues, despite the fact that their vision is necessarily more wide-ranging than that of a single artist, why would you imagine that the temperament of the average artist would undergo a drastic reconfiguration in a single generation?

Just this week I was rereading Steinbeck's 'East of Eden,' and he flat-out states that our species "has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of man."

I am not sure I entirely agree with this statement, but it generated some lively debate when I brought it up at home. We concluded that the essence of art may be its communication of a singular perspective, and that when our society changes to the point where this no longer serves any meaningful value, we may not need 'art' any longer.

1/14/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger christian said...

I have no idea as to who Finch is, but I do know too much 'ink' has been wasted commenting on his idea.

1/14/2009 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron Wexler said...

Such a sweet drop of blood in the parana tank!

This parana moslty agrees with the other fish.

If you're interested in Finch's argument as it applies to the rest of the world, you should read up on John Locke. Here's a start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke

1/14/2009 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

PL, I love the new picture of you!

Apropos of artists joining forces or artists doing the same, my sense is that those who can, might; those who can't won't.

Open Studios are a great example of artists joining forces. For an unaffiliated artist, it can be a way of selling work and making contacts. With good promotion, the effort can resonate well beyond the weekend of the event.

As for dealers, at the Miami fairs there were several instances of galleries that had joined forces to exhibit in one booth. Perhaps they were doing this outside of Miami as well. It seemed like a good idea in terms of rent and time required to be in the gallery. The Williamsburg Gallery Association had a large booth that showed a representative sampling of works and a few people to talk about all the galleries and their programs. To be honest, the concept was beter than the ewxecution, but it was a start.

1/14/2009 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Chandler said...

If people want to join a co-op gallery, they can do just that. But building contracts for all galleries with this 5 year-10 artist model would be stagnating and stifling for many galleries. Part of the draw of attending galleries and openings is seeing new and interesting artists, not the same 10 on a rotation. And if the artists are there working, isn't that a bit of a conflict of interest?

I had the chance to be part of a co-op gallery at one point, but couldn't afford rent at home plus paying rent to the gallery at the time. I still worked there once in a while, and was represented there for a few years. It was not profitable, to say the least, and ended up closing as the co-owners found other opportunities. I can't even imagine a gallery in this economy having the backing to give artists a stipend.

1/14/2009 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger jeff f said...

Finch forgot one thing, there is still the bottom line.

If you don't make money you fail, period. Any alternative gallery space needs to make some money to survive.
You know those little things called bills for electricity and heat as well as rent.

Pipe dreams are cheap and a dime a dozen in the big town....

1/15/2009 01:58:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

BTW- Congratulations, Ed, on the review of the Adopt Lenin show at your gallery in Art in America. I saw that show and thought it was a very original concept- glad the artist Yevgeniy Fiks got the recognition he deserved!

1/15/2009 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finch brings up a good point in theory. However, a real practical solution is only workable if you balance Finch's idealistic impulse with rationalized thought that is concerned with the here and now real world circumstances of the art world.

The biggest obstacle to real change and progress is the fact that artists, collectors, art consultants, gallery owners, museum directors, etc. have not come to the conclusion that the system in which we work is not sustainable.

Before the artists go insane, before the gallerists are bankrupt, before collectors find that there is no market to sell their hordes, before art consultants return to their wall street jobs and become homeless, before museum directors return to academia and become homeless, etc. we have to admit that some form of systemic restructuring is necessary.

We have to admit that some form of uniformly recognized labor agreement and risk management methodologies are also necessary for gallery entrepreneurs, gallery workers, artists, curators, etc. Some basic rules must govern our interactions and make said interactions sustainable, i.e., profitable for all concerned to the highest degree possible.

We have to get our egos out of the way and understand that Finch's comments can point the way towards a better system. What Finch is describing is Hollywood or professional sports (NBA, NFL, etc.). No one would agree that professional sports creates more collective revenue via labor and capital agreements than most industries. While the world is in rcession, let's try to figure out why professional sports remains a growth industry and try to smartly and conservatively apply similar principles to the art world.

1/15/2009 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"let's try to figure out why professional sports remains a growth industry and try to smartly and conservatively apply similar principles to the art world."

Well, a very basic difference is that professional sports (as well as movies) are POPULAR. There is so much money involved because very large numbers of people will pay money to watch sports. This is NOT the case with contemporary art.

Art is nothing like sports. In sports there is no subjectivity, no question about which player is "better". The one who hits the ball the farthest, and most consistently, is the best. There is no universal standard about which artists are "the best".

The whole competitive ethos of sport is alien to art. The two have very little in common; the analogy is almost absurd.

Oriane

1/15/2009 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Aaron Wexler said...

...days later...

oh how I wish Ed, back from D.C., would compose a post based on the argument between Anon - 1/15/2009, 4:27pm
and
Anon - 1/15/2009, 8:32pm.

please, please.

1/16/2009 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oriane said: "The whole competitive ethos of sport is alien to art. The two have very little in common; the analogy is almost absurd."

My main point Oriane, in case you missed it, is that the art world/community needs a capital structure that allows for a more sustainable management of art production and art transactions. We need to minimize risks, while maximizing gains. Whatever road we take will be decided based on market demands and serious reflection on the part of the art community (hopefully very successful dealers, collectors, artists will take the need for reform seriously and explore new business models very soon)

Oriane you obviously don't know a lot of artist and did not go to a major art school in this country. Artists are not angels. We don't operate in silos with blinders, just doing our own thing, with wings, living carefree, eating manna that falls from heaven, and such. People say they aren't competitive, but it simply is not true. There is an odd mix of mutual love/admiration and shadenfruede in the art world. This is true not only for artists but for gallery owners and collectors. Working artists are no different than anyone alse, we all want to improve our quality of life, fulfill dreams, and be the best (in both a critical and market oriented sense) that we can be.

There are Terrel Owens (egomaniac footballer) Alpha type personalities in the art world, some of these persons are overt about their passions and egocentricity, while others are not. Just read any Julian Schnabel interview and you'll get my point. And trust me his drive for success is not an anomaly.

1/16/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I do know a lot of artist (sic) and I did go to a major art school in the US. (I also went to a major university and know how to spell schadenfreude, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous Smartypants.) I live in (arguably) the center of the art world, show and sell my work regularly and know many dealers, collectors and critics. Just because I disagree with you does not mean that I don't know what I'm talking about. Yes, artists are competitive, but the visual art world is such a different realm from the sports world that the comparison doesn't hold up. That was my point. Now please excuse me while I go back into my silo and eat my midday manna.

Oriane

1/16/2009 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Anon, you obviously don't know Oriane. Which fact puts you much farther outside the system you claim to speak for than she is. Don't embarrass yourself.

Although I appreciate what you're saying about art and good business sense, the nature of artmaking does not allow for 'minimizing risks' in the same sense that other businesses do. Artists with integrity--and I do not allow that artmakers WITHOUT integrity are artists--do what they do because they do it, not because a market demands it.

The problem, in my view, is that the current capital system in the art world has created an illusory and fraudulent 'demand' for ludicrously hollow, pretentious goop. Art students are lured into producing more of this goop, because they don't yet realize that the goop we see in major galleries and institutions like the Whitney is not there because of its goopish qualities, but because of the arcane network of political connections among the goop-purveyors. If you are not connected with this network, your goop will be ignored, no matter how similar it is to the contents of the Whitney Biennial.

At the moment, then, artists with integrity are faced with the challenge of getting our work in front of the people who will appreciate it for its conceptual and aesthetic qualities, with minimal assistance from the vast confidence system known as the high-profile Art World. It would be nice if this system would re-examine its values in light of the current market situation, but I'm not holding my breath. 'Very successful dealers, artists, collectors' are not suffering nearly so much as we are.

1/16/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady,
I understand your point. There may be great difficulty in translating risk management methods and business models from non-art oriented or mainstream industries. It may in fact not be possible in the immediate future, due to the fact that any experimenting with new business models will be risky and require very brave and well capitalized gallery owners and artists who are willing to push the envelope for change in a hypersensitive and vulnerable economy. Hopefully, we'll see greater cooperative/collaborative work on the part of galleries and maybe such closeness and cooperation will produce business model experimentation.

As for Oriane, I made a typo and I am sure you've made at least one typo in your life when in a rush. I sincerely apologize for making such an error. I really did not mean to err in such a manner. Please excuse me. I hope you forgive me. I have a art degree and a degree in economics. Unfortunately, my day job is in finance/economics and a work on my art and writing on my days off (2-3 days per week). I know a lot of artists. I've worked with a few major artists in the capacity of assistant/gopher. I never claimed to be an industry expert with a keen market awareness. My awareness or past interest is actually limited as far as names of very successful artists in multiple media. I go to galleries often, but I read art news sporadically. So, I am sorry that I am not informed of your work. Seriously. But such ignorance is easily remedied with Google search and a trip to your gallery the time I'm in town. I guess I have to get out of my own silo much more often!

1/16/2009 08:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, lighten up. I'm not the Queen of Sheba. How about we all get over ourselves. See you back at the silo.

O

1/17/2009 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finch can tear down but an opportunity to build up shows he is living in a trustfunded fantasy world.

1/17/2009 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Anon 1/15/2009 04:27:00 PM

With all due respect I don't believe you know what you are talking about.

At the present, the art industry essentially functions using a small retail business model. The economy is in a severe downturn and as a result a number of small businesses will fail nationwide.

This is part of an unpleasant but normal, adjustment process which is cyclical in nature and serves to cull out businesses which cannot operate efficiently. The economy will stabilize and regain its footing within a year or so and retail sales will improve.

If members of the art industry had followed sound business practices the problem would probably be less severe. There is no need for some form of systemic restructuring.

Second, I believe your comparison of art with sports is fundamentally flawed. Sports is entertainment, people pay money to watch someone jump through a hoop. One person jumps, millions watch, this is an example of the "one to many" business model. Entertainment is a business which in the past has been more resistant to the pressures of a recession.

With artworks, people pay to own an object. This is a one object to one customer model and includes 'editions' which tend to be finite in number. Art is essentially a luxury retail business and in a recession luxury sales contract. The two cannot be fairly compared.

Curiously, the quasi entertainment side of art, museum attendance is roughly three times the attendance of major sporting events.

Further, the artist is also functions using the small business model, with or without additional employees. Suggesting that some type of 'labor agreement' is formed between an artist and a gallery makes the artist an employee working for the gallery.

Not only does this have extensive financial implications for the galleries but it alters the relationship between the artist (the producer) and the gallery (the vendor) The artists will find themselves experiencing pressures on their their freedom of expression, especially is difficult economic periods or times of fallow creativity. If you doubt this, I would suggest that these things already occur within the present system but that they are less pronounced than they would be under a labor agreement.

We are in a recession, so what? Collectors are not broke, but because the future still appears uncertain, they are acting more conservatively. Some galleries are going to go out of business. At the peak of the art boom, owning a gallery seemed like an easy or fun business and the number of galleries expanded, just like they have in every other art boom. Just like in the past, when the economy contracts, the number of galleries will contract. It is a natural expansion and contraction cycle which resists modification without disastrous consequences.

Finally, some artists will leave the industry for greener pastures either by choice or because of financial pressures. It is unfortunate but necessary.

1/17/2009 10:04:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

George says, "We are in a recession, so what?"

You're the finance guy, correct? Presumably that's a job which pays your bills.

Your financial comments seem right on the mark, but you appear to be totally unaware of (or insensitive to) the artists who are in panic mode over losing their dealers(and thus their incomes), and dealers who are losing their businesses.

As for artists leaving the industry being an "unfortunate but necessary" situation, you might not be so cavalier if you'd spent 30 years running a gallery, or working in the studio. I'm OK, for now, so I'm not being personally defensive, but I cringe when I read "so what?"

This is not an instance of my blaming the messenger for the situation. The situation exists. But HOW you discuss the situation does matter. People rents, studios, businesses, identities, lives are in the balance.

1/17/2009 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Joanne,

I apologize if I sounded harsh, it was a poor choice of words.

While I know a little about finance, I am a practicing artist, for thirty years. So I've seen this type of situation before.

We had an unusually strong art market since the mid-nineties and I suspect that a lot of young artists expected that is how it always would be. As we are now seeing, it's not.

So many artists will find themselves combatting the same stressful economic pressures as other members of the working classes. If one has chosen to live the life of an artist, this is something to be expected several times over the course of a lifetime. One learns how to survive.

Whatever changes are made to society, health care is one example, should be made for the benefit of all members of the working classes, not just for artists.

1/17/2009 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Nouriel Roubini said...

As orthodox monetary tools become ineffective, policymakers will turn to unorthodox approaches. We’ll see traditional fiscal policy, in the form of tax cuts and spending increases, but also worldwide bailouts of lenders, investors, and financial institutions, as well as borrowers. Central banks will inject massive amounts of cash into financial systems to unclog the liquidity crunch. More radical actions, such as outright purchases of corporate and government bonds or subsidization of mortgage rates, might also be necessary to get credit markets functioning properly again.

This crisis is not merely the result of the U.S. housing bubble’s bursting or the collapse of the United States’ subprime mortgage sector. The credit excesses that created this disaster were global. There were many bubbles, and they extended beyond housing in many countries to commercial real estate mortgages and loans, to credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. There were bubbles for the securitized products that converted these loans and mortgages into complex, toxic, and destructive financial instruments. And there were still more bubbles for local government borrowing, leveraged buyouts, hedge funds, commercial and industrial loans, corporate bonds, commodities, and credit-default swaps—a dangerous unregulated market wherein up to $60 trillion of nominal protection was sold against an outstanding stock of corporate bonds of just $6 trillion.

Taken together, these amounted to the biggest asset and credit bubble in human history; as it goes bust, the overall credit losses could reach as high as $2 trillion. Unless governments move with more alacrity to recapitalize banks and other financial institutions, the credit crunch will become even more severe. Losses will mount faster than companies can replenish their balance sheets.

Thanks to the radical actions of the G-7 and others, the risk of a total systemic financial meltdown has been reduced. But unfortunately, the worst is not behind us. This will be a painful year. Only very aggressive, coordinated, and effective action by policymakers will ensure that 2010 will not be even worse than 2009 is likely to be.

1/17/2009 08:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Joan said...

in the balance?

1/18/2009 04:44:00 AM  
Blogger Tina Mammoser said...

A belated thank you! I have passed on your post to an artist run gallery I'm part of, and leaving soon for reasons very inline with the kinds of decision making you're discussing here - and lack of it on their part. These are some great starter points to think about for any gallery plan now. I think new galleries *can* succeed right now if they can think creatively and laterally.

1/20/2009 05:52:00 AM  

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