A Quick Note On Little Ways That Artists Can Help
Thumbs sideways for the article's writer, David Segal, and the section's editors for puffing up the article with more of the same old anecdotes we've read time and time again on the tight-lipped uber-dealer (seriously, my journalism friends, a moratorium on the Schjeldahl shark quote already, OK?). The truly "new" parts of the story here were an opening to the question of whether Gagosian is (like AIG, Ford, and Citibank) "too big to fail" and what one can piece together from the nebulous snippets to discern how Mr. Gagosian is handling the downturn.
Thumbs way, way up to Mr. Ed Ruscha, for a quote that made my weekend and did more to reveal who the man behind the dealer myth is, at least in the eyes of his artists, than any profile I've ever read:
Of course, Mr. Ruscha benefits greatly from Mr. Gagosian's sustained stature, but in an era with nearly cannibal-ish death watches in some quarters (I've said all I have to say on the one you all know I'm referencing), I find the way Mr. Ruscha is willing to step up and participate as a partner in the survival of his gallery a truly inspiring reflection of his dealer. (Not all dealers accomplish for their artists what Mr. Gagosian has managed, it's true, but then he's been at it a good deal longer than many of us. :-)
Were Mr. Gagosian to actually flame out, many in the business would quietly exult. But that would be a mistake, says Stefania Bortolami, a gallery owner.
Ms. Bortolami isn’t alone in believing that Mr. Gagosian has achieved the contemporary art market’s version of too big to fail, though for reasons that have nothing to do with toxic assets. The glamour and networking energy that he has brought to the business added a zero to the price of just about everything, Ms. Bortolami says. If his business were to fold, the new buyers he brought to the market, as well as a lot of added, buzz-laden value, would disappear along with him.Ed Ruscha says he won’t let that happen. “If it springs a leak,” he says of the Good Ship Gagosian, “I will roll up one of my paintings and plug the hole. As long as Cy Twombly does the same.”
I should note, in full disclosure, that the artists in our gallery have all been total heroes in how they're willing to help us trim costs over the past few months (I mean it...you guys rock!!). But I'll lead off from the Ruscha anecdote to note that now is not the time, for any artists, for prima donna poses or unrealistic expectations.
There is much to be gained for artists if their gallery survives the downturn in terms of sustaining their position in the market, their name recognition, their dialog with the public and critics, etc., etc. I fully understand that it's very tough for artists as well (believe me, I know that never really ends for 95% of you), but in fighting for that place in the history books, it's smart to keep your eye on the longer war and not let a few set-backs in the current battles lead you to throw out all you've worked for all these years. I'm not suggesting you offer up a painting to plug up any holes, but do keep in mind that all art dealers are facing a challenging new reality in the martket, even the likes of Mr. Gagosian, and that by letting your dealers know you understand the situation and doing what you can to help them trim overhead (by, for example, occassionally calling in a favor to help move artwork or happily responding to the after-party idea that's not quite as extravagent as your last one or simply letting your dealer know you've heard it's tough going out there [believe me, the emotional support is huge]) you can help yourself as well.
Labels: art market