Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The System Works (in #class today)

Capsule Wrap-Up: If you missed Sunday's opening, you missed two performances while they were happening, but, this being the digital age, you can catch them online. An Xiao's Photoglam photos are now up on Facebook. Vote for your favorites to see them printed and exhibited in the real world. And Alan Lupiani's roving reporter performance videos are now up on YouTube!
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As the first full day of #class, today is mostly reserved for Work Space time (in which Jennifer and William will make work in response to the opening discussions and comments on the chalkboards).

This evening will be the first of the formal Table Discussions. Today's topic: "The System Works." Because I can, I'm going to get a jump start on that discussion here (no one ever said extracurricular activity was prohibited).


Three main questions/thoughts occur to me when I think about that title, "The System Works."

1. As has already been addressed by William and Jennifer on the walls, it is important to keep in mind that this, like any, system can easily work well for some people and not for others. Is that an issue? Should the system guarantee equal opportunity to all? The obvious answer seems to be "yes," but that's not implicit in the title statement.

2. That title statement cries out for what I was ranting about in Monday's post: a clear, agreed-upon definition. Not only of the "system" (Jen and Bill have clarified we're discussing the "art market system" [see item 3 below, though]) but also of what would qualify as "success" within that system. When we say "the system works," do we mean simply that money is rightfully distributed to the people who work the best/hardest within the system, and everyone involved gets good value for their money? Or do we measure success by something more lofty? Do we mean that "the system works" to elevate the best art of its era? To ensure the best artists receive the support they deserve?

3. Finally, when discussing the "art market system" most people limit their considerations (and scathing commentary) to the commercial art gallery and auction house segments of the art market. In my opinion, in measuring whether "the system works," this discussion must also take into account artists selling work out of their studios, artists selling work directly online, collectors selling work directly to other collectors or to institutions, museums buying work or deaccessioning work themselves, and any other transaction between two parties that involves art and money or services. All of that comprises the "art market system." Do these actions also serve to elevate the best art of their era or ensure money is rightfully distributed to the people who work the best/hardest within the system and everyone involved gets good value for their money? If not, then those actions must also be examined and be part of the search for better alternatives.

The Table Discussion begins in the gallery at 6 PM today. You can watch it live on the webcast if you can't make it in person, but that won't be anywhere near as much fun. If you can't wait until then, you can share your thoughts here or over at the #class blog.

PS. If you're thinking to comment that you're not interested in the "art market system" or don't give a rat's ass about this discussion or anything of the sort, don't bother. I understand such sentiments, but I'm not going to approve any such comments. This discussion is focused on what what it is...there will be plenty of others...ignore this one if you prefer.

Labels:

35 Comments:

Blogger zipthwung said...

A lot of people think the concentration on the art market is boring, rather than an interesting spectacle, a white hot center of conflict in the cultural wars.

At the root of this discussion is of course POWER - to an artist the only question that matters is "how can I get more power" or at least cocaine.

Many artists agendas are transparent. The agenda of fashion is often sex. Many collectors are motivated by sex - like teens who think turning the collar up on their Izod is cool, or at least signals class, getting one of each trophy piece can be the game that frames the whole experience - in the narrative of art, collecting is a framing device.

framing devices allow many disparate stories to be told as if they are a part of one single history. Art is an open ended framing device. It makes everything sparkle.

One distinction for Art is that Art has a "coonversation" - that Art history ties it all together and that this history is constructed by the ebb and flow of gallery shows.

If you are not part of the conversation, because you don't live in New York or dont go to any art fairs, you don't count. You probably should just not even read this.

Art is more self aware, more self-reflexive than craft by rural or marginal people who are "just doing" in unselfconscious reverie what they do naturally, pure animal nature, noble savages.

Art is transformative or transcendent, and though it is hard being more enlightened or "cosmopolitan" than the noble savage, we do enjoy knowing why it is worth 10 dollars for a shot of whiskey, where some don't even name a single brand of top shelf booze that hasn't been endorsed by a rapper with a straw.

If art is transcendent, then we must casually ignore the power game and instead play with the notions of power and meaning as if we ourselves held the power of self determination instead of being submerged child-slaves to a social system, constrained to move like trophies to endless soires and social obligations.

The contradiction here is that art has to have meaning, or it ceases to hold value. I am fine with the idea that gold is only interesting when used to make computer chips and not jewelry, an art form that is second only to dance as something I try to avoid. Unless there are chicks there. I would gladly forgo another screening of Mathew Barney's opus to see some real live nude girls to snort cocaine off of.
Who the fuck wouldn't.

2/24/2010 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

At the root of this discussion is of course POWER

Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.

Yes, in each conversation I've had at #class so far the discussion eventually, ALWAYS comes back to who has the power.

Artists (and others) will say that they (artists) should have the power, as if "artists" were some homogeneous group with identical goals. But as soon as you begin to pull that apart just a bit you realize what's behind such sentiments if the notion that "I," the individual artist (not plural) "want power."

Also, with regards to power, I had a few conversations in which artists who felt they had none wanted to tear down the current system and replace it with something more equitable. Pressed for details on what that was, I was (without fail) met with "I don't know." There's a neo-Marxist wind in the air, but no one wants to call it "Marxist," that term having the stench of failure attached to it.

I personally feel it's reckless to tear down one system until you have a really solid plan for the replacement system. The chaos and power vacuum that will ensue might sound fun and exciting, but the problem with power vacuums is that they come with the risk that some *sshole with thugs on his/her payroll will take advantage of the anarchy to swoop in and impose his/her power system on everyone left powerless by the destruction.

Indeed, a gradual transition to a really good and solid replacement is always preferable where possible.

2/24/2010 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Like Somebody Cares said...

If we're going to talk about "the system" we think it's important to talk about the early stages too. This is when artists and others need opportunities that get them to a place where they can compete against those

>> who work the best/hardest within the system<<

Another question might be "how do those that we say "have fallen through the cracks" get there in the first place? The answer to this will show where the problems are and how they can be addressed.

Anyway, we think the system needs some repair from bumper to bumper but we need to start at the beginning.

loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ya hon!!!!!!!! H+H

2/24/2010 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

rtists and others need opportunities that get them to a place where they can compete against those

>> who work the best/hardest within the system<<


OK...what does THAT look like?

2/24/2010 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Another question might be "how do those that we say "have fallen through the cracks" get there in the first place?

Lack of opportunity based on class, geography, connections, personal histories, etc.

In other words, a mixture of factors (some of which can be addressed via civil rights legislation and education), but others of which need something more, dare I say, Socialist to correct. There's that neo-Marxist wind again.

2/24/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the art market system works in that artists for whom money is a big driver are more likely to make money, especially if they have a talent for understanding what others desire. They can either adapt their work to the market or they can develop a selling strategy to suit the market. Shrewdness, rather than good, hard work, better fits the equation. Another dull and seemingly obvious comment by...

Cathy

2/24/2010 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's a fair comment Cathy, but I think it suggests a limited view of the art market's goals. In the introduction of Sarah Thornton's book "Seven Days in the Art World" (which, in my opinion, no one at any art school in the world should be permitted to graduate without first reading) she notes, and I agree, that despite all the money and greed and politics and power involved, everyone (well nearly everyone) in the art world actually, truly appreciates art. There remain much better, less risky ways to earn money if that's your only goal.

2/24/2010 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There remain much better, less risky ways to earn money if that's your only goal.

Amen to that! That's true of everyone in the art world, artists, collectors, dealers. Maybe it IS like cocaine. Or for those hoping to make money off the system, simply the thrill of the risk involved, and the sexiness of that.

As for artists, maybe what they really want is more freedom. But what is the difference between freedom and power in this context?
Freedom to make the art they want, freedom to make a living, and then, of course, fame, sex, drugs, and fortune following shortly thereafter.

2/24/2010 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous David Palmer said...

When we say "the system works," do we mean...

From the system's point of view, the system works if the system keeps going...

2/24/2010 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yes, someone noted that on the chalkboard, David. The system is ambivalent so long as it keeps functioning.

2/24/2010 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Like Somebody Cares said...

We feel the current system is crumbling because of corruption - (nepotism, cronyism "frenzism" special interest groups etc.) Sound familiar? There is such a thing as fair play and that's all people want both from the government and the art system.

We blame/thank the intertoob and social media for opening the doors for the dialog to happen finally, and this blog is helping in that regard as is #class. Bruce HQ is showing people the way, x-initiative, the pop up galleries, etc. are good ideas. Opening up the doors and spreading the luvvvvvvvvvv around a little. Is this MaxBros-ism? Nah!!!! We believe if you give equal opportunities to begin with the market will then take over in a more even handed manner to a better degree anyway.

We actually think everyone already knows what to do because we are all taught those thingz as children in the play yard. Friendly good... gangs bad!

2/24/2010 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed that getting into the art business primarily to make money is, generally, a dumb idea but I guess the word 'market' is throwing me here. Isn't the goal of any market an economical one, for buyers and sellers to exchange one thing for another? Individual preferences and circumstances shape what one sells, whether art, bicycles, sex or trailer homes, but the market has no personality, it just wants things to transfer.

Cathy

2/24/2010 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Like Somebody Cares said...

Many artists aren't concerned about selling as much as they are by making the work and having a place to show it. J. Mattera did a post lately on what success means and that came up over and over again in the comments section. The conversation goes off in a completely different direction when money comes in. Then we're talking at the minimum of two systems. "System" doesn't necessarily = sales. Lovvvvvvvveeeee ya!!!!!!! H+H

2/24/2010 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Someone should make a node map with the connections between artists, schools, teachers, alt-spaces, noncomm spaces, galleries, secondary market, auction houses, collectors, museums, magazines, newspapers, critics, historians ect.

2/24/2010 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Critical support has failed to engage the audience in a meaningful and clear way.

2/24/2010 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

This project makes me think of Ingrid Bachmann's Talking Walls (1996):

http://www.ingridbachmann.com/site/prj/talking-descr.html


I am not sure how easily one would have find a project like Talking Walls in Chelsea in the 1990's. Maybe I'm wrong, but I am generally suspicious of the art market for being late on what occurs in the margin, in places where art research is encouraged and, indeed, funded.

This said, the art market system is inevitable. There is not enough people and money interested in the advancement of fine art, especially not since "contemporary", while there's
always been plenty of people looking for trophies. The art market creates jobs, it is a need of capitalism. It also brings a different challenge than with art
research. In art research, your primary goal is to be the pioneer of something, while in the art
market, you must consider how your art is desireable within the system. Would people buy what you do? If they don't, you have a
problem, because the market can be your only mean of survival.

The market system accepts a broader range of works today, but it is still influenced by trends
of desire, especially materialistic (owning fine
art as a trophy). But you can't say "the system doesn't work", because if you erase that system,
you erase a lot of high quality works that could only have existed or been shaped because of that system.

Thus, because both worlds (market and research) bring different but equally successful works, the best
is to sustain both worlds. And if the new research space at Winkleman is a step toward trying to have a taste of both worlds, I certainly think it is a great concept and hope that it will be viable in Chelsea (I mean, to have an extra space dedicated to experimentation where monthly rent bills are killing).


Cedric C

2/24/2010 01:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, I think artists are just too damn individualistic to to pulling off a marxist overthrow of the system. It's been tried and failed before. Just read The Mandarins for a depressing take on that idea.

2/24/2010 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

For the record, I think success is being able to make a living at what you do best. For artists, that's making art, not serving coffee, selling paint, driving a truck or waiting tables.

Midcareer artists learned in art school that to even think about a career was "selling out." Recent graduates, many being taught by those same midcareer artists who have divested themselves of old think, are learning something different: You're a small business. It doesn't mean the art is tainted, just that there is a system for getting the art out into the world.

As for power, no one is going to hand it to you. You have to assume it.

2/24/2010 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Yes, ideally a group serves everyone, like Bacardi has Grey Goose at the high end and 151 for everyone else. It's a great system,because Bacardi doesn't have an agenda as far as I know. On the other hand, I'm really glad they broke the Polish vodka monopoly, because now you can get ten brands of vodka that are essentially the same quality but flavors to suit more tastes.

I guess what I'm saying is more transparency might put you out of business, but it also mixes better and in the long run you have to give back to get, and you reap what you sow and so much art is made by angry people with an agenda, it gets kind of tiresome after a while and you just tune out stop trying to figure out what everybody's dammage is.

Topically we could pick on the Whitney Biennial - a widely recognized farce of a Cinderella story. If you disagree, check out one single tentacle of their PR engine:

here

Like a Whitney curator ever "broke" anyone that wasn't already thoroughly vetted by the social scene. They would be beheaded!

I'm glad museums all look like Genius stores now. Why not let Apple have a show? Talk about the zeitgeist!

Twitter feed for the Whitney is currently flooded with people shilling a Tommy Hillfiger. That drowns out any legitimate conversation you might have via "this amazing new medium" without resorting to weird hash tags like #waspfail or #totesfail or #aspirational that only real insiders would get.

2/24/2010 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger twhid said...

There is a useful tool for thinking about systems where you define the actors in the system. In the art market system you could then think about each actor, assess whether the system is working to benefit that actor and thereby judge whether the system is working, i.e. are the majority of actors gaining the best result possible.

Let's define the actors:
• artists
• art sellers (gallery owners, artists selling from studio, auction houses, etc)
• art buyers (collectors)
• non-buyer audience (break this up? museum-goers, gallery-goers, students, etc???)
• the art (yes the art should be defined as an actor in the art market system)
• critics/theorists/philosophers (includes news papers & anyone making money from writing about art)
• curators (anyone organizing shows of art that they are not selling)

Am I missing any actors?

I can't make it tonight but I urge anyone there to attempt to bring up this idea. It may help focus the conversation.

Good luck! Sounds fun.

2/24/2010 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Julian Lorber said...

Has the art selling business and by that I mean all the major existing galleries, sold themselvees a line? That line being, serious enough to sell cultural relevance in the form of a mode of expression - the artwork.
Often the gallery doesn't match the thing it is showing, a lovely white wall gallery with large photos of shit in frames for example.

The distraction can also be the gallerist is no longer content being the seller or merchant of someone else's ideas and wants to play a more integral role in the way ideas or understood. The idea of POWER being who gets credit where credit is due.

Remember that scene in Basquiet when JM discards Rene dispit Rene giving him the time of day and helping him get his foot in the door? Who wants to be that guy?!

This seriousness in which galleries need to exist and be taken thus seriously is what also keeps it from expanding to a size that can handle the growing number of artists. I'm not speaking about size of space but mass acceptance by society. The music and film industry runs laps around the art industry as far as influence, money, compensation for the artists etc... because it doesn't take itself as serious as art does.

Can the arts reach those levels of acceptance and sales through the gallery without loosing its DESIRED cultural relevance? -Musicians and film actors hold a different relevance.

Personally I think some art can't stand on those stages because it is powerful an idea and stands on a stage of the pure, thought-based and taking life into account.

Another example is how great literature is able to stay afloat in this society. Perhaps it is a question for the publishing companies.

2/24/2010 04:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Great suggestion Thwid!

Hmm... I think a rapid pyramidal power scheme for both the fine art market and non-market (Research?) contexts would give something like:


Art Market:

Collectors
Fine Art - Sellers
Artist - Curator - Critic
Non-Buying Audience


Non Art-Market (Art Research?):

Curator
Fine Art - Artist
Critic - Non-Buying Audience
Sellers - Collectors



The Fine Art can never be first because there will always be the forgotten genius.


Cedric C

2/24/2010 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

In an ideal world, Curators and Collectors would be having swordfights, but in the current system, Curators are at the mercy of Collectors because Collectors have the products that they want to present in institutions. Criticism have an impact on Collectors but many Collectors (feel like they) are already their own critic. An adventurous Collector looks where the Curator or Critic haven't already put their feets. This doesn't happen much in contexts where the art is not up to be sold, and that's exactly where you start questioning why it is the case, and how can people be so conditioned by a system.

Cedric C

2/24/2010 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

There is a Maori concept that might be relevant here: turangawaewae. This is usually translated as 'a place to stand'. Sometimes it can refer to a physical location, your home, where you belong. But it can also refer to a more existential place.

This, perhaps, is the power that individual artists want: the power to define or create a place to stand and be heard.

2/24/2010 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The art world may be more politically charged than any other system I can think of. At the heart of the structure you have all types of authority figures (dealer,collector,critic, curator etc) which exert varying degrees of influence upon the rest of the system which feeds on the raw material of artists.

Within and beyond the system, you actually have artists struggling to assert their own authority and influence within this tangled clusterfu*ck. It's as though any artist that wants to be worth a damn must run the gamut of all these authority figures (many of whom are failed artist's themselves) just to prove that they are worthy of being heard.

As an artist, I cannot decide to continue to pursue my art in escapist isolation or charge right into the mouth of the eternally hungry machine that is the art world...Too bad I don't know someone at the top, my voice doesn't carry all that far.

Solipsist

2/24/2010 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Anon, 7:06 - Sounds just like corporate America to me.

2/24/2010 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Zippy said:
"Like a Whitney curator ever 'broke' anyone that wasn't already thoroughly vetted by the social scene. They would be beheaded!"

I had a dream last night about "#class", only it had grown to 8 or 9 huge buildings, lined in blackboards. I went from building to building, looking for a space to write the word "access" very large. There was no room anywhere. (I suppose it's quite telling that I did not think of erasing another artist's writing to write my own.)

When I was first starting out, I sent out LOTS of targeted packets to curators, gallerists, etc. I would say about half of them came back without being touched. I think it is rare for someone with power to stick their neck out and take a chance, but once that first curator does it, it can be like a dam breaking... people start calling you instead of you calling them.

As I have said before, I would be curious to know how many of the Biennial artists are not represented by galleries, that first step in the vetting process.

2/25/2010 07:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched and listened as much of the stream last night as I could. My connection was choppy and after about 7:15, I had to shut it off (both out of frustration and because life away from the screen called).

I think I really have a hard time with the wide open definition of the Art World Edward (and Jen over at the official blog) have steered the dialogue towards. I guess it's one way to be inclusive, but it feels sort of silly at best and Orwellian at worst.

Selling a few pieces here and there to family constitutes inclusion in the Art World? Really? Working craft fairs at VFW's in the Midwest is INSIDE the Art World as well? Seriously? Having a day job in NYC, sharing a tiny outer borough studio space, and never showing anyplace but coffee houses out of labor of love is also on the inside? C'mon.

This is so NOT the Art World that Thorton describes in her book. Edward you know that. This definition is a dodge and it does a disservice to when The System of the NY Art World actually does work. Let's not conflate The Arts with The Art World. The borders of The System may be quite fuzzy, but there are definitely many clearly defined moments that are either inside or outside of the Art World.

Last night, health care was brought up as an analogue. Though not a perfect match, this comparison is useful for grounding these conversations about the system. For this green social democrat, a health care system is working if a) it permits doctors to spend as many of their working hours possible on medicine (vs the business and paperwork of medicine) and b) patients in need of all backgrounds are able to find ready access to health care in times of need. This is followed quickly by c) the general populace is well educated on home-ready means of preventative medicine and these behaviours are readily engendered in the population. Then comes e) efficiency in overall cost tied with f) healthy wages for all involved in the health care supply chain. And trailed lastly by g) reasonable and modest profit for those within the health care supply chain.

Comparing this to The System of the Art World, my highest priorities when determining if, when and where it works would be a) does the artist being considered get enough time within this system to focus on being an artist and making work (or are they buried under marketing and grant writing or legal battles, etc.) and b) is the work getting out there to a reasonably sized audience in any way that contributes to the mass culture (even if nominally--as others pointed last night, the visual arts trail by far the influence of film, television, pop music and video games).

Despite years of effort, The System (see my definition implied by exclusion above) has not worked for me. But I have seen it work for several friends.

These friends are able to work full time as artists. Some are art stars. Some are just recognizable names within the Art World.

The art stars do well, leading what often looks like upper middle class lives. Homes separate from studios. Children at private schools. Anywhere from 2 to 6 full time employees in their studio system. Their incomes, by all outside signs, fall well above the $50k/year mark suggested last night as one measure of "success" within The System.

Those I know that aren't art stars, without exception, have it much tougher. They live on the edge. Often residing where they work, exposed 24/7 to toxic dusts and vapors. Often living without health insurance and eating on a budget. But they are making work. Sometimes large museum filling work. But without full time assistants. And showing around the world doing it. But they are poor. Even in years with $100k+ sales, after dealer cuts, studio and travel expenses, before taxes there is only about $30k left to live on, sometimes much less. And forget about retirement planning. (running out of room. continued next post)

2/25/2010 10:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(continued from above) In either situation though, when The System works, other people (paid employees, dealers and gallerists, and in some cases where it is a family venture: partners or adult children) come to the aid of the artists and help insulate them from all the "business of being an artist and navigating the Art World." This comes in the form of securing funding, handling rewrites of grants, publicity writing and mailing, bookkeeping, customs documentation, initial networking, appointment scheduling, shipping and freighting, etc etc. Edward, I'm sure you more than most of us here appreciate how this type of work can be a full time job and then some. And though The System may heap on an extra layer or two of this sort of work, when The System itself does in fact work (just the extra players involved requires another layer of communication!), someone within it helps shoulder this burden so the artist can spend as many of their working hours as possible doing what they should do best: making and showing art.

Art making is a state of mind. Handling business is another state of mind. For many, myself included, these are mutually exclusive states and shifting gears can be difficult. Knowing someone else will handle the business end can really free a person up to wander off into the lala land that is the studio mindset.

From the outside, these extra layers of work (networking, paper work, competing for publicity, etc.) become a further barrier to entry for those of us outside The System. The work itself, the gear shifting and the need to make a living wage somewhere, somehow can really eat up the majority if not all the time one would rather dedicate towards the artwork itself. This fosters resentment and frustration. For some of us, it inspires attempts at end-runs outside The System. I get the sense that this is the spirit that moves both Bill and Jen with #Class, but I can't say for sure. I'd love to know what their definitions of success are and when, even if only in hypothetical fantasy, The System would be considered as working. I wasn't able to glean that from last nights discussion.

Anyways, as I've already stated The System has not worked for me. I do often wonder if things could be done differently. But when I think about some of my favorite celebrated contemporary artists, I'd be wholly disingenuous were I to assert that The System never works.

2/25/2010 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think I really have a hard time with the wide open definition of the Art World Edward (and Jen over at the official blog) have steered the dialogue towards. I guess it's one way to be inclusive, but it feels sort of silly at best and Orwellian at worst.

Sigh...it's a no-win situation, though, you know. In several conversations I had with artists at the opening, they vehemently argued that the art stars and others your definitions would place within the system do NOT constitute the art world as they know and live it. At a certain point I have to agree with them about that. Their role may not be as central as the million-dollar-a-year sales artists, but to try and draw lines around the "inside" and "outside," no matter how fuzzy a line you use, creates so many additional paradoxes that I simply think it's best to discuss the entire system ("Thornton's world" and the rest of the art world) as if a whole.

Mostly, I think that's important (to take that wider point of view) because in essence what #class is really talking about is how those on the outside of that fuzzy line get to the inside. If you don't address the realities on the outside, you're never gonna get to that.

2/25/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh...it's a no-win situation, though, you know.

Anonymous from the long two-parter here.

I hear you Edward and feel your pain. Semantics is a b*tch. (sic)

I think moving towards a wider viewpoint is good. But doesn't that term Art World mean something already? If we redefine it to become synonymous with The Arts, don't we then just need to reinvent another term to describe that inner hive of activity where so much money, power, and opportunity is at play? When I look at Bill's work, I don't think he's railing against recovered alcoholics making pinchpots at a community center or late-bloomers showing landscape photographs at a small town non-profit.

And I so agree that addressing the outside is important (as someone "outside" I feel I have a vested interest in that!), but even by asserting that there is an outside implies there must be an inside to this Art World as well. As I tried to convey in my posts, I don't think as many of the streets are paved with gold as those of us outside like to imagine, but there are some 24 carat avenues.

I've worked around celebrities before in this and other industries. I've seen the access being deep inside any System can provide. For a celebrity in any given field, a yawn (okay, hyperbole, often a SINGLE phone call!!!) can provide the same access that someone else labors for 14 years to acquire (constantly working AND rolling the dice!). I'm still uncertain as to whether I blame any one System for this reality. Many days, perhaps in effort to find inner peace and simply carry on, I think "That's just how the world works. And it's a might bit unfair. But time to deal with it."

oh, and I've been meaning to forward a link to this article since I think it is DEEPLY germaine to this exhibition and event series:

Scientists find first physiological evidence of brain's response to inequality

2/25/2010 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

But doesn't that term Art World mean something already? If we redefine it to become synonymous with The Arts, don't we then just need to reinvent another term to describe that inner hive of activity where so much money, power, and opportunity is at play?

Just for clarity, though, the artists I was referring to who don't see the star system as relevant to how they live and work as artists are, in my opinion, still insiders. They have degrees, studios, exhibition histories, reviews, and sales under their belts. They simply don't live and breathe the market. This is what I mean about layers of paradoxes. To a "late-bloomer showing landscape photographs at a small town non-profit", they would likely be viewed as a huge success.

So we'd need concentric circles (Dante, anyone?) with each more-inner ring representing some milestone (gallery representation, solo museum show, cover of Artforum, American pavilion, etc., etc.) to delineate them.

Or we simply attempt to discuss it all as one system with the understanding that the higher the reward, the fewer artists there will be who'll ever see it.

2/25/2010 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we'd need concentric circles (Dante, anyone?) with each more-inner ring representing some milestone (gallery representation, solo museum show, cover of Artforum, American pavilion, etc., etc.) to delineate them.

thanks for the chuckle. :)

Or we simply attempt to discuss it all as one system with the understanding that the higher the reward, the fewer artists there will be who'll ever see it.

Okay. I get that at this point. And I see the value now in what you describe.

For my own uses, I will likely continue using the term the Art World to describe a little bit more inside The System than I currently operate (maybe 1.5 rings inside?), but definitely within the context of #Class related dialogue I'll slow down now with each participant till I have a clear sense of what they mean by The System or the Art World.

2/25/2010 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

I would have participated but I was busy working because the system works for me! I was picking up a piece from Pierogi to send to Raleigh for my upcoming 2-person show, with Nancy Baker, "Empire Falls."

http://www.flandersartgallery.com/Shows-Detail.cfm?ShowsID=68

The system works when you work it!

(Ed, thanks for indulging me in a little self-promotion.)

xox

O

2/25/2010 12:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Jen Dalton said...

Sorry to be late to this. The show duties have seriously cut into my web-reading time, along with all the other kinds of time. I hope I still have a job and family when this is over....

But I don't think my idea of The Art World necessarily differs so widely from Sarah Thornton's, in '7 days in the art world.' She includes as crucial to the System (not her term) a day-long critique of student work at cal arts. Those students had likely never sold work, never exhibited outside the school, etc. Are they Insiders? To someone who has some sales & solo shows under his or her belt, no. To those kids who didn't get accepted to cal arts, yes.

The problem with defining the art world in a more exclusive way is that the placement of the delineating line seems to depend 100% on your perspective. Everyone feels *at least* 1.5 steps away from the border. And the border is more like a mile-wide line in shades of gray.

So I guess what I'm saying is not that we're all insiders, but that what's interesting to me to examine is the endeavor of art in its entirety, not just the stuff you read about (or don't!) in the magazines.

2/26/2010 10:03:00 AM  

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