Thursday, July 30, 2009

Quick Link Thursday

We got a book signing party to get ready for (in the gallery, tonight, 6:30 - 8:30...stop on by!!), so this will be somewhat less than my usually tome-length post. Just a few of the items out there worth considering the implications of:

Joanne Mattera has stirred a fair bit of commentary in her most recent Marketing Mondays post in which she declares her days of writing recommendation letters for grants and residencies applicants are over:
I just received my third request this month to write a letter of reference. One was for a very talented young artist, another was for a colleague who has a full-time teaching position (and thus more salaried time off via sabbaticals and vacations than I will ever have), and the third was from someone who likes my blog and thinks I'd write "a kick-ass reference letter," never mind that I don’t know this person from Eve.
With the exception of the young artist, my response was a polite No. reports that a recent law in the EU will essentially censor a wide range of artworks made from lightbulbs:

Come September 1, the European Union has banned the sale of traditional lightbulbs with a glowing filament. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Till Briegleb reports, the ban will have an impact on art, specifically works that use lightbulbs for either functional, aesthetic, or historical effects. A case in point is the work of the Russian artist Ilya Kabakov, who often hangs a bare lightbulb in his installations as a melancholic homage to the Soviet-era ideal of electricity, which was not always available to the citizens.

“Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to [the law] 2005/32/EG” writes Briegleb. “And thus artists, restorers, and museum technicians find themselves faced with the bizarre necessity of small-time criminality.” Kabakov is not the only artist to use bulbs. There are 140 in Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space-Modulator; the German post–Word War II “Zero” Group was fond of lightbulbs. There’s a host of contemporary artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller, Jorge Pardo, Valie Export, Stephan Huber, Isa Genzken, Mike Kelley, and Adrian Paci. Even artists who did not work explicitly with lightbulbs have used them: Rauschenberg, Kienholz, Tinguely, and Beuys.

As Briegleb notes, the illegal sale of lightbulbs—even to museums—comes with a hefty fine: $70,000. Even if the existing bulbs could be saved, it’s clear that the supply will eventually be exhausted. To keep a lightbulb work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres or Höller shining bright, museums and collectors will need more than one thousand bulbs, since the traditional ones tend to last on average sixty to eighty days under the kind of constant use that is typical for such installations.

For living artists who are able to reconstruct/reconsider their work this is still pretty horrendous, but to be quite honest, it's the EU's loss (and a significant one at that in my opinion) that they've now essentially outlawed the exhibition of works like Untitled (North), 1993 (how freaking moronic, really?).

Brandeis University is being sued by the Rose Art Museum Board, if you haven't heard. Art Fag City has the lowdown:
The wait is over. Yesterday, the Rose Art Museum trustees filed a suit in Massachusetts State Court to halt closure of Brandeis University’s museum and the sale of masterpieces by Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg. The move had been expected for some time. In January, the university announced it would shutter the museum, but after a deafening public outcry, the administration sent out an array of different messages, including most recently that the museum would not be closing, but rather transitioned into an education center. The museum’s Board of Overseers weren’t buying it, and said as much back in April. How can a museum function with no director, no curator, no education director, no administrator, no funding stream and no exhibition program, they asked? The university’s failure to sufficiently answer these and other questions prompted the suit.
And Felix Salmon, who's usually quite astute about such matters, misses the fact that rent is hardly the only overhead a gallery has in assessing what a Chelsea gallerist who recently closed was "making a year." A commenter clarified:
$10,000 a month in rent is not the only expense a gallery in Chelsea may incur (or any gallery in the country, for that matter.) Please include at least another 40% to 80% of her net devoted to health insurance, marketing, staff, utilities, packaging, shipping, materials, events, travel, entertaining, etc. The costs of doing business as a gallery are tremendous and even the most frugal gallerist/owner still comes out of it with less than you might imagine.

Labels: quick notes of news


Blogger Tom Hering said...

I doubt that any light bulb artist, now or in the past, ever thought that the filament bulb was a technology that would be around forever. So their intentions must have included the thought that their works were ephemeral, though indeterminately so at the time of creation.

Regardless, there are replacement LED bulbs that look similar enough to filament bulbs. Pricey, but they last 45,000 hours instead of 750. And I'm sure some clever person, recognizing a market, will produce non-filament bulbs that look exactly like the classic bulb - for artwork maintenance, theater marquee restorations, retro interior decorating, etc.

7/30/2009 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

A little more research: Look-alike bulbs already exist. Judging from the photo, the original sockets on works of art would have to be replaced, or fitted with adapters.

7/30/2009 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems as though a lot of the confusion about this issue related to the cost of running/maintaining a gallery is due to the lack of transparency in the arts. No one really knows what artists or galleries truly make, its all one big mystery. (Consequently, I don't see any galleries or artists eager to disclose their earnings statement)

Maybe if people really knew how much/little artists and dealers really made, perhaps people would have a little perspective. However, unless someone really understands the financial bottom line; any discussion involving the financial struggles of an artist and a gallery sounds like a bunch of whining.

Afterall, we choose our professions so why seek sympathy by sharing our burdens.
I'm sure some blue-collar Joe has reason for more sympathy with regard to his/her struggles.


7/30/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rev says: "we choose our professions."

True, but we don't choose to be poor. I don;t think I;m alone when I say that I chose this profession when I was 18. My experience about life, art, self support was non existent. Then in art school you never think about real life. Then you graduate and it's a 10-year slog just to make sense of what you've gotten yourself into.

At that point you're 30 and two things have happened:

1.) It's kind of late to go into another field (your BFA and MFA are essentially meaningless outside of the studio unless you want to teach--another issue)

2.) Art has become so much a part of your life that you can't give it up. Can anyone say "jones?"

Frankly it's embarrassing for adults in their 40s, 50s, 60s to admit just how little they make. I'm sure this is true of dealers, too. Wining just makes the pain a little more bearable.

Actually, those blue-collar workers probably have insurance through their jobs. And if they don't have jobs, they probably qualify for unemployment--something self-employed artists don't really have access to.

7/30/2009 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Today light bulbs tomorrow oil paint. I’ve had conversations with artists working in college art departments who’ve said that, due to the “noxious fumes” emitted by turpentine and petroleum distillates, they were on the verge of banning the teaching of oil painting from the curriculum. The cost of proper ventilation and fire proof storage makes the technology unsupportable, and anachronistic. If Big Guberment gets hold of this, they’ll be in every studio sniffing out your paint and charging you with endangering the welfare of your children.

7/30/2009 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

By the way, the common incandescent light bulb in the 40-to-150-watt range will be phased out in the US between 2012 and 2014. Though lower and higher wattage bulbs, and some specialty bulbs, will continue to be allowed. The trend is international, and specifics vary from country to country.

7/30/2009 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Dalen said...

"artists working in college art departments who’ve said that, due to the “noxious fumes” emitted by turpentine and petroleum distillates, they were on the verge of banning the teaching of oil painting from the curriculum"

This already happened a few years ago when/where I went. The head of our art dept was also the painting prof. We learned using water-mixable oils.

I've used traditional oils on my own and they do handle a bit differently. The shorter drying time and easy cleanup of the water-mixable are advantages, but I think some of the luminescence of trad. oils is lost. Hmm...that term is related to lightbulbs too, isn't it?

7/30/2009 02:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Wow, a new opportunity for art subversion: using a lightbulb.

I love ecology but...
Are lightbulbs worst than cars?
Can't they open a license for specialty production and use?

There is a good band in Montreal named Artificiel who do these installation-computer-concerts
filling rooms with huge filament light bulbs. The intensity of the light and the buzz of the lamps are integral to their work. What will happen to that?

How about premonition (piece called Condemned Bulbes (2003):

I sense a lot of lightbulbs jokes coming.

Cedric Casp

7/30/2009 04:29:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...


Thanks for the mention of my no-more-reference-letters campaign.

The second item in your post is scaring the bejesus out of me. Criminality aside, how we SEE art is going to change. I use filament bulbs in my studio, and that seems to make an OK transition to a gallery's various types of incandescent or halogen illumination. But what if we're restricted to those curlique "ecological" fluorescents? I have daylight-spectrum tubes for just-need-to-run-into-the-studio-for-a-minute illumination, but it's way too green.

Add to that the way digital projectors flatten and muddy every hue. We're gonna be in deep doo-doo--though it will probably look magenta.

7/30/2009 05:34:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

If you still want incandescent lighting in your studio after the US 2012-2014 phase-out, you can use the bulbs that will still be allowed. 200 watt bulbs as general lighting for a large space (which would require the installation of fixtures rated for these bulbs), and adjustable-position arrays of 25 watt bulbs over specific areas where you work with color. I expect such arrays will become available in art supply stores. But it would be easy enough to make your own.

7/31/2009 10:09:00 AM  

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