Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Judging a Book by its TOC

As truly grateful and flattered as I am that so many artists I know are interested in the book I have coming out (two weeks and counting, wahoo!!!), I wanted to make one last declaration about what is in the book that might interest them and what they may not find all that relevant to their own interests. Not that the book is so expensive, but I wouldn't want anyone to buy it thinking it is a summary of the topics discussed on the blog. There is some overlap, but its focus is on starting and running a gallery, not getting into one.

Personally, I find that artists who have worked in galleries, especially within public-facing or artist/collector-relationship-based roles, have a huge advantage over other artists in navigating through the commercial art gallery world, but, again, that may not be the sort of advantage you can glean from a book. Anyway, with an eye toward full disclosure (because I do plan to promote it), below is the Table of Contents (TOC) for the book. It is, as advertised, a "How to..." manual. There's a great discussion among some contemporary art collectors in Chapter 15 and interviews throughout with dozens of dealers more experienced than I am that anyone interested in the contemporary art market might enjoy, but for the most part it is a business-oriented title (with a sprinkling of anecdotes...hey, I can't help myself). Here's the TOC:
Introduction: The Easy Part and The Hard Part
Chapter 1: Education: How to Learn What You Don't Know Before Opening a Gallery
Chapter 2: Identity: Defining Your Program and Other Branding Issues
Chapter 3: Business Models and Customary Practices: The Primary Market
Chapter 4: The Secondary Market
Chapter 5: Start-up Capital: How Much You Need and Where to Get It
Chapter 6: Writing a Business Plan: Pulling it All Together into an Action Strategy
Chapter 7: Location and Build-Out Issues
Chapter 8: Managing Cash Flow
Chapter 9: Logistics: Crating, Shipping, Framing, Photographing, Managing, and Insuring Artwork
Chapter 10: Staffing and Management Practices
Chapter 11: Promotional Efforts: Publicity and Advertising
Chapter 12: Getting Expert Advice
Chapter 13: Art Fairs
Chapter 14: Artists: Where to Find Them; How to Keep Them
Chapter 15: Collectors: Where to Find Them; How to Keep Them
Chapter 16: Peerage: The Art Gallery Community
The Standard Art Consignment Agreement
Regional Art Dealers Associations
Because I spent close to 18 months working on this project (and because your rescue from how dull this might be for you is only one click away), I wanted to "think out loud" about the outline before my recollection of it all fades and as a means of, again, being totally above board with blog readers about what's in the text.
  • Chapters 13-16 are most aligned with the focus of this blog and most indebted to the readers here. I noted in a comment a while back, but it bears repeating it here, in the acknowledgments I wrote:
Much of what you’ll read in this book was first explored through the open forum of my blog (, where generous art world professionals, passionate art lovers from around the globe, and artists in particular have contributed to and helped me refine what I consider the best practices for dealing in art. I am very grateful to my readers for their comments, questions, and constant reality checks.
  • Chapter 6 on Writing a Business Plan (although I'm rather happy with how it turned out) is most likely a good sleep aid for those not engrossed by the minutest of business details.
  • The "Brief History of Art Dealing" section of Chapter 1 was the most fun to research and write.
  • The Cash Flow chapter was the most painful, because just as I was finalizing the manuscript, the Stock Market was taking a nose dive and I had to keep adjusting the tone.
  • The section least likely to age well is in the Art Fair chapter, where I discuss in detail the hierarchy and brief history of those fairs new art dealers should know about. So much is changing in that realm even as we speak. Other parts of the chapter will remain relevant for some time, but between the first and second revisions, I had to edit out some of the "pecking order" discussion.
  • The Location and Build-Out chapter was also fun to write. I can't pass an empty storefront without daydreaming about how I'd build it out into a gallery.
  • The most fascinating interview for me, in terms of how much I learned that I didn't know before, comes in Chapter 12 in which I talked with an art conservator about her theory and practice. Truly an eye-opening experience.
PS. I'll ask anyone not interested in the book to forgive me in advance for what will be regular references to it and (hopefully relevant) excerpts from it. Promoting it is part of the deal of writing it. I'll trust you all to let me know when enough is enough on that front here.



Blogger Joanne Mattera said...


Promote! Promote!
The agony of writing a book is mitigated only by the joy of seeing it out in the world, in the hands of people who respond to the information you have provided.

Don't worry about how the information ages. That's what second editions are for.

Meanwhile,I hope you'll savor your achievement. Congratulations.

7/01/2009 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Tatiana said...

Just ordered this for our library.

7/01/2009 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Ok, the billion dollars question:

If the gallery is commercial, what does that make of the art?

It feels like the title is secretly admitting that all artists working in the art market are "commercial artists", which is not a reproach, I actually find this honesty interesting.

At least it confirms that in the art market, any artist intention is eaten by its purpose: to sell.

I guess it's the big taboo amon artists. When you hear of the New York artists meeting in cafes in the 50's and 60's, it's always these intellecual confrontations, and you neve hear quotes like "how much did you made last week? Is your art sill selling?". Well, there was Agnes Martin who said "My art ALWAYS sell" at some point (which I guess was her way of saying "I'm the best").

Cedric C

7/01/2009 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

The first time (or is it?) an artist mentioned the commercial aspect of art:

"je cherche fortune,
autour du chat noir,
au clair de la lune,
à Montmartre le soir"

(my interpretation is that he's
putting his singing career at the same level as prostitution)

7/01/2009 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

If the gallery is commercial, what does that make of the art?

A commercial "art gallery" in this context means as opposed to a non-profit "art gallery." Meaning you can most likely purchase most of the art in that gallery (some, that isn't for sale, might be exhibited to complete a curatorial statement [think the museum-quality exhibitions Gagosian does in which much of the work is is borrowed]).

"Commercial art" is typically understood to connote work that is commissioned in the service of selling something else, like cars or sodas, rather than the artwork itself.

7/01/2009 02:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

It's a polite answer Edward, but you know that I'm taking about a
conflict between intention and function in the market of "Fine Art", which has seen a plethora of recent books (those "art is dead" books). At least I've seen a good conference by Michel Onfray about this topic.

Ah well, I like this unintentional sous-entente of the "commercial aspect" of Fine Art of today.

Cedric C

(sorry for my english mistakes, using did with made, in previous post)

7/01/2009 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Sous-entente schmoos-entente. Any artist who wants to show in a commercial gallery, as opposed to a museum or a non--profit, engages intentionally in a commercial activity, or the hope of one.

Why pretend otherwise? And why pretend that there's something intrinsically dirty or wrong about the arrangement?

7/01/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's not a polite answer, Cedric, although it might be a political answer. Essentially, though, we disagree on this point.

How I see it is that there is nothing any artist in history has ever made that a dealer couldn't figure out some way to sell. That's our job. Because some dealers are so freaking good at that, though, artists are free to present anything...anything at their work. This makes artists worrying about whether their work is commercial enough a personal choice, and not a necessity within the commercial art gallery system, leaving nothing inherently corrupting about that system.

Even artwork that subverts the commercial art market (and, in my opinion, work that takes that as its primary intent is usually so contrived and extremely meta as to be conceptually lame anyway) finds its way into the market in one form or another, whether by intent to support the market-subverting work (think Christo and Jeanne-Claude's drawings) or as documentation of such work sought as for its historical value. Again, freeing artists up to make the work they wish to, free of market concerns, if that's how they choose to operate.

Making your art with the market in mind doesn't make it "commercial art" in the sense most people use that term, though, so either way I think you're working a bit too hard to make some still somewhat nebulous (to me anyway) point here.

7/01/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Anything can be sold, but to rephrase Tom Hering from a previous post, you can tell when the work wasn't originally intended to be sold. A greek
statue for example. I don't think those were made to be sold. A distinction was made of "Fine Arts"
around those times pinpointedly to make a distinction for visual works that offered more than superfluous visual artifice and commodity. It could be be a narrative, a meaning, a philosophy, or a product of theory (seeking new forms of beauty was a philosophy of aesthetics, same for
later formalists attempting to make "pure art").

If we come back to political art, drawing a Che Guevarra poster for propaganda and selling it are
two different functions. Indeed, commerce today has eaten the Che Guevarra figure. I am saying (and on this we won't agree) that any work pretending to be Fine Art is a form of philosophical propaganda
(a form of propaganda in the sense that it pretends that a certain realm of aesthetics can "advance", "move in different directions" or help "think in a new way"). Ben Vautier once said that this was all meaningless
because the work of Fine Art of today becomes primarely about the signature of the artist, a promotion card for his ego, and that most artists only want one thing which is recognition. But I don't see it this way. Artists can genuinely believe that they have something important to say, and
this would be the Bergsonian thrive for creativity. It is the communicational power, the intention, or the philosophy of the contemporary work of art that gets lost when the work becomes a
commodity that rich collector invest in and exchange for
monetary value. The intention is secondary, it serves to promote an item of luxury, and is presented
as such in the museum (guards are around it, people aren't allowed to touch, etc, there is a message
delivered by the museum that art is luxury before being anything else).

I agree that artists need to eat, but I will always prefer the commission model to the market model. The Sixtine Chapel
was an unfortunate model offered by Joane because the commission had such a bias. Today a rich person (I am talking of the really
rich, not those who seek a fortune in contemporary arts, though the "really rich" can be an institution or a government) can commission a work to an artist to
have their artistic value expressed. The artist receives an opportunity to make their best work
(or doing a shitty job and not be called for again), knowing their art will be received for what it
is. The capitalist model is good for a lot of things but bad for the Fine Art artwork. People will not loose money for the sake of Fine Art anymore. The piece of Fine Art is automatically adressed
by economists in terms of their financial value, and the best artists are those who know hoe to "deal" within this context. Acceptable reality? Not if the artist wants to be a Che Guevarra of contemporary art. Not if he/she truly feels like she/he has something important to say (yes, I will still listen today a young naive who think thay have something important to say). Or maybe I don't want a dealer to be so good that he can sell me? Maybe
I have other ambitions than to bring food on plate for about 20 people?

In light of this, The Pirate Bay just got sold to people who think they can buy everything and shift the world in their ways (a company which the original group that was suing the torrent site have interests in). It remains a question wrether the future of internet will be forced to respect the laws of the market, or if internet will bend and break that market (which really profits a mere few people), forcing people to find new ways of understanding and designing society than the current economic models. But all I will say right now to the young rebellious artist, is that if you torrent your art, at least than you ensure that no good dealer will ever be able to sell it.


Cedric Caspesyan

7/01/2009 06:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Fine Art is not exactly art for art's sake. It is the promotion of an elitist idea that it is better than art's sake.

The art market has encompassed Fine Art in a little snow globe
where one can watch it turn into a parody of itself.

Cedric Caspesyan

7/01/2009 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Edward said, "'Commercial art' is typically understood to connote work that is commissioned in the service of selling something else, like cars or sodas, rather than the artwork itself."

It couldn't be explained any more clearly than that.

7/01/2009 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I need to define something that may not be clear. When I speak of the function of an artwork:
a function is how the work is used once finished and past the artist's intention.

Therefore I think any artwork have inherently two purposes: the purpose of intention and the purpose of function.

Reception usually occurs through the contextual filtering of function.

When you visit a gallery, the art is there to be sold, that is a function. Sometimes the pocket-empty visitor is almost an
annoyance to the function of the art. Or, the amount of visitors popularize a work and enhance its function (it will sell loads at Sotheby's).

Artists should be more wary or conscious of the function of their art. Function can easily escape their grasp.

Cedric C

(from Cedric Caspesyan forthcoming book "Contemporary Art And Concupiscence: The New Dilemna
For Artists In The 21st Century")

7/01/2009 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger Philip O'Mara said...

Look forward to reading it.

It’s time to read a great new romantic comedy, entitled Classes Apart.
This is an adult sporting comedy that follows the fortunes of Paul Marriot, the secretary of the Barnstorm Village Sunday soccer team and coach of a school cricket team in Yorkshire, England. The story describes the remarkable camaraderie between the players and supporters of this little club and their desire to achieve success. The team had previously been known more for its antics off the field, rather than their performances on it.

During his time at the club he meets and becomes involved with Emma Potter, who is the sister of James Potter, a major player for their bitter rivals Moortown Inn. Thus, begins an entangled web of romance and conflict. He also begins working at Derry High School, a school with a poor reputation of academic success, where he becomes coach of the school cricket team. Here he develops an amazing relationship with the children and they embark on an epic journey.

7/02/2009 04:34:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Signing party!

7/02/2009 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

We're trying to organize one in the gallery in late July...details to come!

7/02/2009 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Tom points to:
+++work (art) that is commissioned in the service of selling something else

If you think about it 7 times, most Fine Art exist to sell something else.

I'm not putting the blame on anyone, but I think artists should admit that nowadays there is nearly only commercial art. There is no more Salons Des Acceptés and Salons Des Refusés. There is no debate. Or the debate is irrelevant. Everybody does their thing and try to sell it. The art PR is not a source of information but of PRomotion. What is Fine Art? There is no more academy, temples for the thought. It's gone. Zwoof. It's all about career-this and career-that, and if you refuse to participate it means you lack self-respect. Today is all about fears and insecurities. We are not in the state of luxury that would permit the emancipation for Fine Art that it would require to again become relevant, culturally. We need to cure poverty, and the art market is actually not helping with that.

Cedric C

7/02/2009 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Cedric C,

Don't think about it 7 times. Leave that to the philosophers of art. It's their problem, not the artist's. Just make art, just make a living. And let the intellectual chips fall where they may.

7/02/2009 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

But let's face it: the art market is not simply a "market". It is culture. It's the culture of the 20th Century, where economy has dominated everything, every currents of thinking. I believe the "market" culture have reached
elocutions in contemporary arts which are hard to surpass (Hirst, Koons, etc..). These are artists i find marvellous, but like other artists before them, they will merit the reply from younger artists that they deserve, and this
reply is not going to happen at the level of the art market, because this cultural phenomenon is reaching the end of its history (read: corporates are going crazy
over the freedom of internet). There is a great opportunity for artists right now to shift this system in which one is recognized for how much they sell. I think the power is going back to the artists, and to those who provide
an open-source forum of expressions for them. It is time to move on.

Cedric Caspesyan

7/02/2009 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Lynne said...

Hi. I've come to this thread a few days late regretfully, so I'm sorry if my comment's a bit after the event.... however I did want to ask: does your book discuss the whys and wherefores of two strategies I observe commercial, or put another way 'private' galleries working to? The two strategies being: the rotating exhibition programme, and, the roster of 'resident' artists always on display. I'm not sure understanding the 'whys' or 'wherefores' will help me assess the implications for my own developing art practice, though I'm hoping. I'm a curious artist, rather than a potential gallery owner.

7/05/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger david john said...


can't wait to read it...

david john

7/06/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I have this book on order and can't wait to read it. I worked in 3 different galleries in NYC while we lived in the environs and it was an eye-opening experience. Often toying with the idea of opening my own gallery I will read your book with great interest. thanks!

7/07/2009 12:46:00 PM  

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