Friday, February 05, 2010

Winter Blues : Open Thread

It's about this time of year I REALLY long to be on a beach in the Caribbean without anything more pressing to do than finish my cheap paperback mystery novel. Looking around at the people in my life, I see several of them are in the same place. Personally, it's merely the season for me (the long winter nights, the cold, the coming snow storm, the ever-dwindling scotch bottle), but for others...well, I'm no psychiatrist, so I'll stop short of diagnosing, but this response to the BYOA thread stuck in my mind all night and I wanted to respond to it from a kinder, gentler place than my original reaction to it, assuming its author might be a experiencing a bit of the same Winter blues and not truly feeling entitled (as I had first read it):
not to be too much "sour grapes" about it (because I actually wanted to participate but couldn't take the time) It was a cool idea and a good chance to be part of a potentially memorable event

but in a way, this is just another example of how willing artists are to in effect work for free. Even most gallery shows don't break even for the artist (or the dealer) when all is said and done.

It is amazing the lengths artists will go to show their work, for the sliver of hope that they can be that one in 10,000 that "makes" it. Even accomplished artists with impressive resumes can seem desperate to get their work out there.

The aggregate effect of this is to subsidize an industry in which the spoils go to a very, very select few. Even in terms of the real estate that the work gets shown in. If you are an artist participating in a non commercial show you are still working to increase the cachet and value of the space and the neighborhood.
I'd like to pull out a few of the ideas in this for a more open discussion.

First, I've heard that complaint a lot over the years...that artists are working for free. Don't get me wrong, I know artists are working. But the notion that just because you're working, someone (anyone) should be paying you to do it, has always struck me as misguided. Should I choose to systematically turn over each individual leaf that fell from the trees in Central Park, for example, I think most people would agree that that would require a great deal of "work," but who would volunteer to offer me cash in exchange for it?

I know, I know, what artists are doing is more valuable to society that my leaf-turning exercise...but let's face it...what some artists are doing is seen as MORE valuable to society than what some other artists are doing. So we can't talk about "artists' work" as if what any individual artist was doing was as valuable to society as, say, what any individual firefighter,or doctor, or accountant, or teacher was doing. The value of an artist's work is determined by how good it is.

OK, so I can hear heads exploding all over Williamsburg and Bushwick.

Surely, Ed, you're not suggesting that some of those pathetic fashion-flinging poseurs raking in tons of dough by pulling the wool over the eyes of the curatorial cliques and collecting class are making "good" art! You can't be so naive as to think there's a direct relationship between what's hot and what's actually of high quality!

OK, so maybe I should rephrase : The value of an artist's work is determined by how good it is considered.

The point being, though, just because someone declares themselves an artist and makes work doesn't automatically mean they are doing something anyone/everyone should be willing to pay for.

Second, I can't help but think of Bambino watching his beloved Animal Planet when I hear sentiments about how artists seem too "desperate to get their work out there." In particular I think of specific segments I've caught (I'm usually in the other room on the computer and only come out when he seems particularly animated about something) about tree frogs in the Amazon so desperate to mate that they leave the safety of the trees and congregate on the rain forest floors (where snakes and other predators make a feast of them). Usually the males end up fighting each other for the available females more than they do any frog-eaters, though. Or the penguins that march 100 miles to the middle of Antarctica for their one chance at reproducing each year. If they don't find a suitable mate or that one egg freezes, they have to march back and wait a whole other year.

Yes, there is a window of opportunity for each artist (the 50 or so years they're producing work), for them to leave a mark on art history, leave a legacy, get the world's attention. And yes, there is competition...the history books are only so thick, the room for meaningful legacies that grab the world's attention only so big. So yes, the resources for those goals are limited and limited resources lead to desperation (as we can see so clearly right now by the looters in Haiti). This is part of the survival of the fittest. Even the word choice in the artist's comment: "an industry in which the spoils go to a very, very select few" [emphasis mine] reveals a sense that this is viewed, by this artist, as a battle...a war.

But then the commenter turns to a notion that suggests, to me anyway, that this is some sinister plot by people lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce and take advantage of hard-working artists. "Even in terms of the real estate that the work gets shown in. If you are an artist participating in a non commercial show you are still working to increase the cachet and value of the space and the neighborhood."

It cuts both ways, though...the space in which the X Initiative (and before it Dia) was housed has exhibited some pretty fantastic artists. The cachet of the space was pretty fricking high before the invitation went out to Bring Your Own Art. Should the previous artists who exhibited there, who made the cachet of the space so high, ask the BYOA artists to hand them some cash?

OK, so about this time I imagine some folks are thinking, "this is your '
kinder, gentler' response?" What was your original response? (It had a lot more four letter words.) Consider this an open thread on sour grapes, or being down on the system right now, or being encouraged by what you saw or read about the BYOA event...your choice.

Labels: art careers, open thread


Anonymous Gam said...

the pedestrian walks down the sidewalk and looks at what is important to them. Maybe it is the ads, maybe the person in front of them, maybe the red light, maybe the cops on the corner, amybe the drug dealers on the other corner, nayber their own shoes, maybe the clouds floating in the sky. People are made to filter out what they consider irrelevant, and to pursue what they consider relevant. That's why an artist can state the obvious but it seems so innovative and new - they took the time to say out loud "hey look at this!"

So what may I take from this morning rant(?) I though t it was cool someone paused before responding to something that ticked them off on the web - way to go ED!
I think it would be cool to cover a gallery space floor in sand, paint the walls blue, bring in some potted palm trees and hang mythical mystery paper back cover designs on the walls and invite storytellers to improvise their own chapter from a given art work.

Art is social, if it ain't seen, it ain't nothin but a pretty picture. Culture is about how we use things, not the things in of themselves.

BYOA sounded great. Sure some may benefit more then others, but exploitation is where you have no choice. We all had choices for that opportunity. Thanks for offering it.

2/05/2010 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

The art world is part of the world, and the world is social. If you want to succeed, then - as in any other field - set out with the intention of making friends first. Rather than with a sense of entitlement, or the conviction that good art should sell just because it's good. (When has the world ever guaranteed justice?) The biographies of artists who succeeded while they were alive reveal again and again that they made friends (real friends) in the art world.

Of course, this still leaves the problem that the number of artists in the world has grown far beyond the number of collectors in the world. Supply exceeds demand - greatly. All an artist can do in response to this situation is refuse to give up. Until someone opens up more markets. Which may never happen. Unless you do it (alone, or together with a business partner).

2/05/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger HMNA said...

I had a conversation with someone recently about success as an artist and they mentioned to me a quote from...someone (sorry can't remember)..that in essence described the pyramid of artists with the folks on the bottom clawing to make their way to different levels or even the top where there are very very limited spots. I feel like that metaphor is true in all aspects of life. Even corporately, the CEO at the top, expendable masses at the bottom. Some folks have the ability and skills to make their way up that ladder others have the desire but lack the skill. Others are content.
All that aside, my question is this. Is "making it" a veiled reference to making money?
Just curious on what artist would accept as "making it"

2/05/2010 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Re: "making it." I'll go first. It's making art full time, and selling enough to meet basic needs. Everything else is icing on the cake.

2/05/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael Sebastian said...

Edward, might I recommend Pappy Van Winkle as a better remedy for Seasonal Affective Disorder than scotch?

The gray is killing me. Your thought-provoking blog posts notwithstanding.

Now, where did my Pappy go?

2/05/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really, do you believe the motivating factor for all artists to make art is in order to 'make it'? I am willing to bet that the sour grapes response to BYOA has a more to do with the perception that there are all these people out there who seem to profit off of art, while the artists, the ones who actually create the work, often don't. Case in point your earlier post about Art Assure, or such news of the Giacometti sculpture bringing a record price at auction. Both are clearly cases where the artists do not profit in any way from the exorbitant exchange of money.
I don't think artists, even the sour grapes post, expect all artists’ work to be compensated, but perhaps the poster is simply showing some exasperation at artists’ willingness to be taken advantage of by other people hoping to gain from their talents.
That said, I wonder how much of that VanGogh syndrome is perceived, and how much actual?
It is also darn hard to make a living as an art dealer, and really only very few do very well. For that matter, it is darn hard to make a profit on investment when buying art. The few cases out there are so often publicized that they seem to be the norm, but I doubt that is really the case. It is just that there is such a huge difference in price point from the top to the bottom.
And of course, the big issue for artists is always, how to keep making art when you can’t rely on it as a means to support yourself? The elusiveness of the answer to that question is probably the biggest limiting factor for art, artists, and in turn, for the whole system, The frustration of that endeavor certainly turns away a lot of awesome talent.

2/05/2010 10:10:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

the poster is simply showing some exasperation at artists’ willingness to be taken advantage of by other people hoping to gain from their talents.

I agree with most of what else you wrote, but I fail to see how BYOA was taking advantage of anyone.

2/05/2010 10:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you show your art for free or work for free is it perceived as being of less value then if you paid to see or do it? It seems the artist needs to take control of what they see as exploitation and just say no. Does a lot of this working and showing of ones art for free have more to do with ego then thinking it going to turn into a paying gig? I just don't think that throwing your piece on a wall or in a space with a million other artists is going to bring you fortune (a living) or fame (recognition).

2/05/2010 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Actually, this gets to the heart of it. The underlying implication in this line of reasoning isn't just that artists should be paid for exhibiting their art, but that anyone viewing it should pay to do so.

Nice work if you can get it.

2/05/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger words in a line said...

Reading this sequence of posts made me think of gender stereotypes with the description of the artists position as similar to the historically prototypical
female role.
The concept of social attractiveness, for good or ill, feels very relevant. If you look at finding a mate, or a gallery, or collectors as a means to survival of the species or the culture, then it is neither good nor bad but simply the only functioning method . We may not like or be happy about individual stories, but I can't for the life of me figure out how else it could work.

2/05/2010 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The number of artists has skyrocketed since 1960, but this does not stop a lot of people from trying to achieve 1960-style success. When several thousand people in the entire country were trying to make progressive art in one way or another, and there was still something recognizable as progress, it was reasonable, or at least not insane, to dream about a scenario in which making good art might lead to gallery representation, which might lead to museum recognition, which might lead to the history books, abetted along the way by thoughtful written criticism.

This model is dead. Academia fosters an extremely specific narrative for contemporary art history, with Duchamp as Jesus, Greenberg as Satan, and Beuys, Kosuth, Warhol, and Bourgeois as the Gospels. The contemporary museums have for the most part become the enforcement arm for that narrative. That same narrative rotted criticism from within, and it is now lacking a viable revenue model to boot. Only a handful of galleries have the ear of the museums, which are no longer content to lie at the end of the process, and thus are showing ever-younger talent (I use the word with reservations) with unprecedented freedom to discard them afterwards. People whom at one time might be described as having an eye (I still describe them that way) are about as rare as they ever were, but relative to the number of people now involved in art in some manner, they are a vanishingly small subset.

The system is only as good as the art that it fosters, and at a certain point you have to wonder, with apologies to Marx, whether you want to join a club that wouldn't have you as a member. (Groucho, not Karl.) I'd recommend to anyone desiring an art career in the meantime to start figuring out how to get in touch directly with their audiences, and question whether the traditional mechanisms of validation represent what they purport to represent.

2/05/2010 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

This was posted back in the "keep the baby" thread. I think it bears repeating here: (Ed, delete away if you don't concur)

Its a shift but sometimes that allows one to better see their assumptions.


here is a nice paradigm shift from over at

the blog there deals with musicians but the paradigm shift might apply hear too it is a different approach to considering access -:
"Get over the idea that your success is equated with selling the right to listen, or selling control over when people listen. Relinquish the opportunity to make money by controlling who can listen and when. That's gone. It's over. It would be like a bakery selling the right to sniff the fresh bread or a wine maker selling the right to look at the cool label. It's now a public good, something you see as you walk by.
What you can sell, what you better be able to sell, is intimacy. It's interactions in public. Souvenirs. Limited things of value. Experiences. Memories. People will pay for those things, IF: your art is actually great and if you make it possible for them to buy them. "

2/05/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Righteous Rant Franklin, but how many of the artists back in the 60s who were passed over would have offered a parallel analysis of their time?

2/05/2010 11:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ed, are you accusing me of sour grapes?

2/05/2010 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


Wouldn't dare.

My point is that with the rise in the number of artists, there has been a substantial (if not entirely parallel) rise in the number of galleries, non-profit spaces, museums, grants, residencies, etc. etc. etc.

So you can't just cite the increase in artists as the only factor in the widespread frustration.

Think about getting on a train you have a reserved seat for. Even if you know you're gonna get a seat, if you're like me, you have this sense of dread leading up to the boarding process if the platform is packed. It's not enough to know you'll have a seat...we generally want to pick our seat.

In other words, I think part of what is causing this malaise (and I'm not saying for you in particular, but for artist in general) is the wealth of opportunity making some of the available options looks less desirable in comparison.

Had BYOA happened in the middle of Podunk, it would have been seen as a huge gift to the art community there. Only in New York can someone view something that generous as having a down side.

2/05/2010 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

should clarify...I mean you have a ticket that guarantees a seat, but which one is not specified.

2/05/2010 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

We have cynical types here in Podunk, too.

2/05/2010 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Woodward Simons said...

Only a very small segment of working artists will make it big time or go down in art history. That's a fact.

The good part is that you art doesn't have to be the best in the world to make a living at it. There are so many ways to sell art these days, and I see many of my friends making money (but not a living) at selling online - these are not great artists, but they have a small following.

I'll just put in my two cents here: quality sells. It's not impossible to get good at what you love to draw or paint. There are plenty of venues out there - besides top galleries.

2/05/2010 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Tatiana said...

Ed...perhaps you should go the way of many newspapers and charge for viewing (your now free) online posts? ;)
My point is, that people will pay for plain *hype*, and people will pay for plain 'good art' and sometimes both are happening at the same time.
"Making it" can mean: mass recognition or money > or both, as well. In the struggle to "make it," having the opportunity to BYOA is, and should be perceived as, a welcomed opportunity to 'hype' your stuff. I dont think it's insulting to ask this of artists and yes, i agree with keeping 'quality up' within the *profession* as well. I think we artists can handle such balances. We can do pro bono and keep it pro-fessional.

2/05/2010 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I have a Marketing Mondays post coming up in a couple of weeks that deals with the issue and definitions of success. Surely Jeff Koons is living one definition of success while Marina Abramovic is living another while Josephine Schmo and her cohorts (that would be most of us) are living a very different version of success, if indeed we call it success at all.

The big difference between artists and other professions is that if you train for a job in another profession, you have a reasonable expectation of working in that profession. I mean, how many surgeons are working at Starbucks or Pearl Paint four days a week and squeezing time in the O.R. evening and weekends?

The irony, Ed, is that people DO get paid for turning over leaves. They're employees of the parks and recreation departments, landscape architects, even suburban kids with rakes after school.

And here's the frightening thing: In this economy even MORE students are entering art school!

2/05/2010 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most, if not all, of my positive professional changes as an artist, have been the result sour grapes; of being really distraught and angry with being denied an opportunity and intensely feeling the need to prove that I'm the ultimate victor. To do this with any success involves self appraisal,self delusion, and knowing when it is time to try to let go of some desires (for me, commercial success) in exchange for others, like the professional friendship and respect of artists I admire. It has felt like a series of small deaths and rebirths.

Writing and publishing critical pieces about the local art scene and serving on organizational boards has allowed me to attempt to change the system from within. Stirring the pot is a healthy exercise and I live in a place where my ripple can be felt. I have real enemies!

So yes, artists have power to harness all the crap that's thrown their way into something that may be of value if they have the will and the stomach for it.


2/05/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BYOA doesn't strike me as an attempt to exploit the desperation of artists--it struck me as a community-minded way to bring together artists, spark a dialogue (like this one) for instance. It struck me more as a social event, an art mixer of a kind, a way to acknowledge all of the artists our there making work with no venue in which to show it.

However, another sort of open-door, first-come-first-serve, hang-em-all event that DID seem to exploit the desperation of artists was the Art Bazaar run over last summer by the Lyons Wier Gallery. I can't recall the specifics but artists paid a certain amount to participate, were allotted a certain amount of wall space, and gave a certain amount of any sales to the gallery (and the artists were responsible for conducting sales as well as hanging their art, I think.) Also--if I remember correctly (and please correct me if I do not)--the highest selling artist was awarded a solo exhibition. In contrast to BYOA, this Bazaar project seemed woefully cynical to me--a way to harness the desperation of artists to show/sell work and, at the same time, boost sales during an historically slow time for galleries: summer (during the Great Recession no less.) In addition, this approach seemed duck many of the traditional responsibilities/relationships of a commercial gallery direction--brokering sales, installation, creating a aesthetically- / conceptually-coherent program, working to get artists placed in collections, etc.--while still allowing the gallery some chance at making a profit.

I'm curious--did anyone participate in both shows? If so, were there any similarities/differences? Is one more or less exploitative than the other? Or are neither exploitative and am I just a crackpot?


2/05/2010 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

You never know when a break will come your way or meeting someone that will be crucial to your path as an artist or whatever your up to. You have to take advantage of opportunities for this to come about. Getting to place your work in a great space in one of the most prominent art destinations in the world for 24 hrs, with Jerry hanging around as a bonus is a good start, WTF is the problem here?

2/05/2010 01:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

I agree with Franklin. I can't know fully what the art world was like before I was born, but there does appear to be (or have been) an explosion in academia. So many art schools letting in so many students, perhaps because there is no clear-cut criteria to judge talent, not that there should be, but so often it seems that the words around the work or the degree from an Ivy League school goes farther than the work itself can go. There are so many hopes for acknowledgment or monetary reward in a vague field that relies on taste and/or convincing others of its own importance. Often an MFA seems to lead over craft or experience.
To be shown in Gagosian or Gladstone guarantees a level of success, but to lug your work to a chilly chock-o-block grad-student art carnival: BYOA (I'm too cutting there, I actually enjoyed the experience, but the ratio of grads to out-of-school artists seemed high) shows it is obvious that the context of one elevates while the context of the other confounds. It is hard if not impossible for new work to break free of a too narrow context while the box the unknown artist is put into appears to grow smaller. I certainly don't see any easy resolution, but I like the fact that this dialogue is happening.

2/05/2010 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Art O.T. Grid said...

Maybe if I had invested in art school I would feel entitled to a living as an artist? Having come in the back door through scrabbling around for production work (now known as "graphic design") I mostly taught myself, I think of painting, etc. as the work I GET to do when the PW (paying work) is taken care of. Seems to be less and less PW all the time, a troubling and delicious turn of events.

But I wish the sun would come out.

2/05/2010 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...


Home Depot sells 6500k full spectrum desk lamps starting around 20 bucks, put it where ever you read the morning paper (blogs) and have you morning coffee.

It won't give you tan, but it will boost your mood. :-)

2/05/2010 02:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Responding to anonymous and to elaborate on my earlier post ragarding BYOA:
I participated in BYOA and I felt it was a good opportunity to have work seen. I had reservations about it, but it was on my off-day from work, and I figured what the hell; I'll give it a shot. I feel that what Cecilia Alemani, Elizabeth Dee, staff and others involved (sorry there are more names that should be included, but these are the ones I recognized) were very hands-on and I feel the intention of the event was sincere.
There was a little bickering between artists about space and some I think took unfair advantages (claiming multiple spaces, moving others work, etc.), and many were young, possibly still in school students. There probably was a hint of desperation between the young students wanting attention and the older unrepresented artists wanting dialogue. Many put work up and left. I stayed til 2am at my work nearly the whole time. Jerry Saltz made rounds and was there from 5:30pm to atleast midnight. As I understood it he reviewed those who friended him on facebook, but I weaseled into a review too because I was in a class of his back in 93. Gallery dealers were accessible, maybe they approached some artists, I reached out to one and she was very nice and gave me honest comments. Many of my business cards were taken. There was not a big public or many noticeable art collectors, but I feel the experience was worthwhile, and hope for more events like this in the future. It would be astounding if something like this could happen during the art fairs. I do not like to be harsh or unfair to grad students, but they have other opportunities that those out of art school are shut out from and maybe should be excluded until they are out of school.
The Art Bazaar, which I went to, but was not in had a viewing public but probably not gallery dealers other than from the gallery itself. I felt it was a bit exploitative, and too competitive in a field where competition is not always a good thing but better to open opportunities to new artists than to do nothing.

2/05/2010 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

critique is a better choice of word in the above post, not review. Oops

2/05/2010 02:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Joanne Mattera said...

I'm not participating in BYOA, and I didn't participate in Art Bazaar, but I think both are great ideas. Kudos to the organizers, and good luck to all the artists who participate.

Every time someone organizes an event, someone else is there to cry "exploitation." It's easy to piss and moan, much harder to organize, administer and oversee a big project.

BYOA and Art Bazaar are very different projects, one being in a non-profit space and the other in a commercial gallery, but both are generous gestures by people who have access to space, PR and community visibility. I think they're good opportunities for artists to network, and potentially great opportunities for a lucky few. And if they also draw attention to the organizers, or help a dealer defray the expense of running a gallery while such an event takes place, what's the problem?

(I'm much more concerned with artist exploitation by vanity galleries that ask for thousands of dollars from artists who are naive enough or, perhaps desperate enough, to pay.)

2/05/2010 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

At 4pm I was amazed that it was still light out.

Spring is not far away.

And the art world is tough. But that toughness brings me hope. Sadistic hope, but hope.

This was an exhibition space worth showing in offering free space. And someone worth hearing from offering a pro-bono critique. Everyone I know who took part in this had nothing to say but good things.

Hatah gunna hate.

2/05/2010 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

'Stirring the pot is a healthy exercise and I live in a place where my ripple can be felt. I have real enemies!'

Now there's a definition of success!

2/05/2010 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger ryan said...

I've helped put together similar events as BYOA, though mine were at dingy lofts and storefront spaces where the established art world did not take notice. For me (and I believe most of the artists involved) it was a fun experience and allowed some networking amongst fellow artists. It sounds as though the X-initiative event offered the same benefits. Why someone would feel it wrongly takes advantage of artists is beyond me. This is the sort of thing that happens throughout Brooklyn (and wherever artists congregate) on a regular basis. Money isn't expected, and it's not really the point. Kudos to the X-initiative for hosting this type of quirky exhibition / art event and giving many many artists a platform to show their work. They may have not made money from it, but I'm certain it was a valuable experience for many of the artists involved.

2/05/2010 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Regarding, the changes since the 1960's. Been there done that and disagree.

It's my opinion that the opportunities today are substantially greater for merging artists than they have ever been in history. The idea that there was quest for "progressive art" and that making "good art" would lead to some kind of success (in the 1960's), misrepresents the era.

The critical hegemony of the time functioned to define paths for success to particular approaches of art-making excluding, or at least making it fairly difficult for those working in different modes, to achieve recognition.

It really had little to do with "progress or quality" and more to do with the politics of what would be defined as "progress or quality" This led to the backlash against certain critics and media in the late 1960's early 1970's.

What developed out of this period was a broadening out of the 'acceptable' mediums and styles, as well as an attempt to address both sexism and racism within the art world.

One cannot out of hand dismiss conceptual art, installation, photography, video, assemblage, digital art, etc because you like painting or macramé better. All new media are in the process of defining their own historical precedents for 'quality' and must be judged accordingly.

As a painter I feel that there as many painters working at a high level today as there were in the past. The difference is that today, they compete for publicity with artists working in a dozen other media. Accordingly, I believe the opportunities for representational painters are greater now than any time in the last 100 years (with the exception of the 1st generation POP artists)

All of this has been accompanied by an art market which is significantly large than any in history. At the same time we have seen the idea develop that being an artist is now a professional practice. This has led to an increased academism as the 'professionals' become teachers and to an increased focus on the commercial aspects of making art. While I find these two aspects problematic they do increase the potential opportunities for emerging artists.

Finally, regarding BYOA, cool. This was an art event nothing more nothing less.

2/05/2010 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are an artist that is concerned with having your art sold in galleries (not exhibited, these are not museums), you probably might believe that galleries are relevant to the current issues of artists (not art). If these commercial brands (galleries) are part of the discussion and art is a profession, then at what point do artists consider that they are not talented in any respect, including the marketing of one's own art and should consider giving up to try something else?
Simply - galleries being part of the name of the game (if you believe that) and in this day and age, commerce is part of surviving as an artist; If your art not being sold at a gallery is part of your plan to support your art-making and that doesn't happen (for x amount of time) - when do you stop trying and put your creative energy towards something else?

2/06/2010 12:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Ok, I wish everyone here to have lots more success than I could ever have, as long as I could make art so great that even the earth trembles when they are no more trees left to fall on empty. If my art one days is able to make unconscious rock matters rock even more, than I win.

I'm starting to think this type of art can only exist in dreams,
but there it is, it exists, and that is all that really matters.


2/06/2010 02:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

+++then at what point do artists ++consider that they are not ++talented in any respect

But then you might be tricking yourself with false judgments. Is it even possible for nature to not have talent? This is a game we play, a theatre of judgment.

Maybe the point could be: make art all your life until you can be satisfied with the idea that you have talent. And if you reach that point, stop it. Stop everything. You have proved yourself what you wanted, time to move on to other things.


2/06/2010 07:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

You might also be making art just to remain sane, to deal with
stress or anxiety, or to protect you against spiritual curses sent
over you by ancient pagan gods.

Why are you making art?


2/06/2010 08:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The idea that there was quest for "progressive art" and that making "good art" would lead to some kind of success (in the 1960's), misrepresents the era.

This contradicts what Ed Ruscha has said about his own practice in interviews, Irving Sandler's writings about the scene in New York at the time, and much else.

One cannot out of hand dismiss conceptual art, installation, photography, video, assemblage, digital art, etc because you like painting or macramé better. All new media are in the process of defining their own historical precedents for 'quality' and must be judged accordingly.

The first sentence is true. The second one is false. Not all practitioners are concerned about quality, scare-quoted or otherwise. Not all the historical precedents are validating. And the only way to judge art, regardless of style or medium, is intuitively, individually, and according to one's own taste.

At the same time we have seen the idea develop that being an artist is now a professional practice. This has led to an increased academism as the 'professionals' become teachers and to an increased focus on the commercial aspects of making art.

This is just completely wrong. Academicism has been a deleterious force in art for 200 years. Getting professional practice courses introduced into university art curricula was a huge struggle, largely waged by academics against pragmatists. Caroll Michels has written about this in detail.

2/06/2010 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

The only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a fine artist. In my early twenties, I gave up my dream and followed other creative paths - for about thirty years. But I still turned out one or two pieces of fine art per year, because something inside me needed to. It took a brush with death in my early fifties to finally say, "I was born a fine artist, I am a fine artist, and I will never be anything but a fine artist - even if this means I will never be anything but a failure."

All questions of talent and validation eventually become meaningless.

You're a fine artist - you continue to make fine art, because you're unable to stop making it. And time and energy spent on being angry at the art world is time and energy robbed from the studio. (You've only got a limited amount of both; less and less every year.) Forget your goals, and get to work. Fine art is worth doing for it's own sake.

2/06/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger Sowa said...

Abstract thinker, creative channel Sowa Mai is addicted to art. Like air and water the need to make art is a necessity. We can benefit from this compulsion while pitying the predicament and laughing at feeble attempts to live a normal life. Or try to ignore and pray it never happens to us. Either way evidence suggests.

Thanks for all the great ideas. Keep talking about art.

Gam said a couple of things its taken me years to figure out:Art is social, if it ain't seen, it ain't nothin but a pretty picture. Culture is about how we use things, not the things in of themselves.
I have been working on a documentary of Artists who are approaching the end of their carrers and you still havent heard of them. The one thing that keeps on coming up is the relationships they have made being the reward.

2/06/2010 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The 1960's idea was "Good art will win out." The thing was, it only applied to those who were working within the sanctified canon. For example, there was little room for representational artists -- this led to POP art. The backlash against the critical politics of the era led to Conceptual art etc.

I think the practitioners of the new media will be the ones who decide what artistic examples are important and good. FYI, I don't think painters are qualified to judge conceptual art. People who dislike a particular media or style are not very good at determining its quality or critical merit.

I said [professionalism] This has led to an increased academism as the 'professionals' become teachers and to an increased focus on the commercial aspects of making art.
I'm not sure what makes you assume that I'm saying anything positive about academism and commercialism - I'm making an observation about what happens -- we are seeing an increase in these two things.

Regardless, I think the opportunities for artists today have increased, there is a greater diversity of opportunities.

2/06/2010 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

You know, my favorite art piece in the world is the ensemble of statues on Easter Island, and I'm trying to think:

"This means it's the art I should be the most willing to pay for."

And somehow the sentance comes up highly clashing with my sensibility. It's probably great because in fact I shouldn't be paying for it, or wanting to pay for it. It's probably great for just standing right out there in the free.

Maybe great art is art you keep coming back to. Like a new song you love so much it is on constant repeat on your ipod.

Just saying,


2/06/2010 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

++It took a brush with death in my ++early fifties to finally say
++"I was born a fine artist

Michael Haneke started film directing past 50. There is not many directors whose film I find as pertinent as Haneke's (yes, I adore Das Weisse Band).

I relate to "brush with death". It didn't teach me that I can be a fine artist if I want. It taught me that building an art career was the least of my concern. Do I have time for an art career?


2/06/2010 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The 1960's idea was "Good art will win out."

For centuries, it had. I don't blame anyone from that time for thinking it would continue.

The thing was, it only applied to those who were working within the sanctified canon. For example, there was little room for representational artists -- this led to POP art. The backlash against the critical politics of the era led to Conceptual art etc.

Sure, if you get your art history for free with a box of Froot Loops. The bias in the American canon wasn't stylistic, it was New York-centric, and de Kooning had spawned so many local imitators that some especially slavish artists adopted a Dutch lilt. By the '60s even Clement Greenberg was noticing a mannerist streak developing in Abstraction, and his initial take on Pop was positive in part because of it. There was a movement away from abstraction because people like making pictures of stuff, and because the New York art world was getting overrun with second-rate paint-hurlers. Even good abstractionists like Guston and Alfred Leslie finally had enough. Conceptualism in certain respects embraced the critical politics of the era.

I don't think painters are qualified to judge conceptual art.

I'm not convinced that conceptual artists are qualified to judge conceptual art.

I'm not sure what makes you assume that I'm saying anything positive about academism and commercialism - I'm making an observation about what happens -- we are seeing an increase in these two things.

You switched from professionalism, which is not a bad thing, to commercialism, which is. Nobody has the populists beat on pure commercialism, but there is definitely a commercial streak running through contemporary academic art. See what I said above about the museums as the enforcement arm of a particular narrative.

2/06/2010 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The statues on Easter Island - that perspective, Cedric, feels correct.

Gam, it's an interesting comparison between the visual arts and music. It's a purer art, when it doesn't bow to topicality. But more than making paintings and such that are never seen by others, composing music, like symphonies, that the composer never has the opportunity to hear performed seems harder.


2/06/2010 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger grace said...

Yes it cost the artists to exhibit - particularly if the work needed to be trucked to 22nd St. BUT aren't most artists expected to pickup and deliver their work for the privilege of showing in a Chelsea space. Of course a ONE day show makes it even more difficult. And we artists live on hope - like gamblers - we will hit the jackpot soon...we keep on dreaming.
It is a sad situation but the pie is just so big. I sadly agree with your rant.

2/06/2010 09:24:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

To simplify: Franklin's dream model, what I paraphrased as "good art will win out" is as flawed today as it was in the 1960's. I was there and nothing's changed. There are a lot of variables in this equation and it's all hampered by the fact that there is no real agreement on what "good art" is.

Also note that I said professionalism led to increased academism and commercialism. "Increased" is an indication of degree and does not mean ALL artists took this path.

Finally getting back to the gist of Ed's post I would suggest that aside from the increased size of the art world, its psychology remains the same as it was in the past. The poseurs, the exploiters, the sensationalists etc were always a part of the scene but tend to eventually be overlooked and forgotten by history. Reading the biographies of artists over history is informative

2/06/2010 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I am always struck by the obviousness of style within regional schools - the influence of teachers and regional prejudices in work. A lot of people enjoy these differences and look for them as part of the sport of competitive viewing.

Much work will fail to move you, and it is the superficial differences like surface treatment and color palette that you have to engage with - as with movies without any heart where you end up watching for edit points or camera moves. Hair styles. Set dressing. Who gives a shit.

I do.

"Academia fosters an extremely specific narrative for contemporary art history, with Duchamp as Jesus, Greenberg as Satan, and Beuys, Kosuth, Warhol, and Bourgeois as the Gospels."

Only at shitty schools, and probably this information is out of date - lets hope so. I know there are schools like this, but fuck them. They suck. Really fucking suck. Fuck them.

Educational reform is fucking important.

As far as Bring Your Own Alcohol, i am all for it, why should galleries foot the bill for my buzz?

And I will continue to not show my not work. Fuck everyone! Fuck Fuck Fucking Fuckity Fuck! Free is for assholes. I really don;t think showing your work is an obligation like a civic duty - jury or otherwise. If you want to show though, go ahead. You should get a free PHD to do so though, it's a fucking chore. People get paid for all kinds of bullshit, like making textured soy protiene burgers. WTF is that? Give them what they want? Fuck you. and you. and you.

2/07/2010 01:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Also note that I said professionalism led to increased academism and commercialism.

Apparently you were trying to. Professionalism is the practice of art as a career. Broadly speaking, academicism is the practice of art according to approved formulas, and often, but not always, it refers to the formulas approved by the literal academic establishment. Commercialism is the practice of art for money at the expense of integrity.

Professionalism may have pushed more artists through the academic system, but there has been increasing pressure since the '60s for everyone to get a college degree, and I tend to think that the former pheomenon merely reflects the latter. Likewise, academicism as we see it in contemporary art reflects a tendency towards capital-T Theory in the humanities as a whole. (People in the know keep telling me that no matter how bad the College Art Association gets, it's a cakewalk compared to the Modern Language Association.)

Some friends recently shared a sad tale of colleagues who scrimped and saved to send their daughter to an art school in New York, where she is now busy screwing carrots into the wall. There's societal pressure for the kid to get a college degree, and this feeds more bodies into the academic machine, which (if you end up at one of the trendy schools) spits out cookie-cutter academicists on the other end. Buying into that system requires an academic mindset from the get-go.

Too, saying that professionalism led to increased commercialism is bit like saying that brokerage licenses led to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Commercialism is misapplied professionalism, or what you get when you deprive professionalism of values.

I believe you're right that the psychology of the art world remains as it ever was. I also think we're in a toxic set of circumstances at the moment, uniquely our own, that is going to require a century for everyone who should be forgotten to be forgotten.

2/07/2010 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Franklin, Cool, We can clump you in the "sour grapes" group making vinegar rather than wine.

Ever notice how much more wine than vinegar you can drink?

2/07/2010 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

When it comes to drinking, I defer to your obvious expertise. Have a pleasant afternoon.

2/07/2010 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Original Anonymous here...(the one who's earlier post whas quoted by Ed)

First of all, I never meant to imply that there was anything exploitative, or unseemly about BYOA. I would have loved to participate, especially since Jerry (who had a de facto involvement in the event) has known my work for almost 15 years.

It just so happened I was busy doing (well paid) work which I need to do because despite a nice bibliography and decent resume and having sold quite a few works through the years I have never come close to making a living doing this. Not even close. In fact, my art practice has just about paid for itself (studio, materials but not living expenses) but nothing more. I would venture to say that unless you are represented by the likes of Paula Cooper, Marianne Boesky, 303, Friedrich Petzel or higher than that (in other words about 30 galleries max for 100,000 artists), you will not be able to live decently in this city without supplemental income. And believe it or not not all of the artists on those rosters are making it either.

Making (and yes dealing and curating and criticizing) art is something we do because we need to, but you can only live like an ascetic for so many years on part time work while "building a body of work" before the writing is on the wall. And if you have a family, it becomes impossible.

Yes, you can always structure your life in a way that you have some time for your work - I have - but that's not the are still subsidizing it and subsidizing an incredibly top heavy system and one which is the furthest thing possible from being a meritocracy.

You can look at this as sour grapes, or as a reality check.

2/07/2010 04:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric said...

+++for 100,000 artists

There's only 100 000 artists in NYC? I'm disappointed. I thought it would be at least 4 or 5 times that.

I think when you can't find the time and means and space to create art, than what you can do is think a lot about your art so when you do have the means, time and space you only create the top best art you could possibly make. Scrap off the fillers! Successful artists need to produce fillers because they are constantly in demand.
Your advantage and priviledge when not being in demand, is you can slowly built over many years the best work possible, and no, you won't be making a living out of it, but after 5 or 10 years, you may have amounted the art that can pull up a kick-ass show. You know?

And shame on you if you become successful: you'll likely start to build on fillers just like everybody else.


PS: and if you never create any work you feel is great, keep trying, there's no reason to
stop trying, whatever people tell you.

2/07/2010 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Cedric -
original Anon here.

I disagree, strongly. Making art requires time and space, and a studio practice is just that, a practice. Not something you can just do when you get a few hours between all of your other responsibilities.

You can make that time and space for yourself by forgoing some of the niceties of life like dentistry, decent housing and health insurance, for example. That can be an acceptable way to live, even romantic and exciting when you are young but it's a pretty grim way to live as you get older. And forget about it if you have a family. (Yes, some artists actually go down that route)

I guess my original point is that to make recognized (i.e critically validated) cultural contributions and STILL not begin to make a living at it kind of gets old...especially when you suspect that others are deriving economic benefits from it, however indirect.

2/07/2010 10:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Art as a PROFESSION is disgusting.

Art as a CALLING is disgusting.

Art WORK is disgusting.

CVs are as disgusting as VDs.

CRAFT is disgusting.

CONCEPT is disgusting.

Art SCHOOL is disgusting.

Art as VIRTUE is disgusting.

SUCCESS and FAILURE are disgusting.

MAKE what you WANT TO MAKE, find a way to SHOW it, and STFU.

2/08/2010 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a strictly cost benefit perspective, I think dealers are crazier than artists. Most artists I know have figured out a way to survive and weather the ups and downs. Dealers seem to keep "betting the farm." Crunching the numbers of the outrageous gallery rents, advertizing, and payroll makes me happy I don't try to negotiate that territory. Watching great galleries come and go for the last twenty-five years, I have seen great dealers, who are not operating with another source of wealth backing them, and when they are too old to keep going, they have nothing for themselves, yet what they have given the art world is so valuable.

2/08/2010 07:36:00 AM  
Anonymous zipthwung said...

Why be a part of the "top heavy" system? I see it more as a lava lamp (available at JandR Computer world for 14 and change, get yours now while supplies last).

Because the lava lamp is the stand in for larger industrial forces as well as social ones - what Marx called "le scaffolding" - the agony and the ecstasy is written all over it in bloody Chinese pictographs!

A Saussurean dealio - I could never get it straight, - focus on the finger and the moon at the same time and you get my point. Fall, shadow fall! Just don't put your lava lamp on the stove.

Maybe we are actually pointing to the new york moon of the unwashed intelligentsia, probably 3 million strong in NY (some of them actually think they are artists, many of them have never read Adorno, who is ponderous man, ponderous).

The three p's of professionalism, priviledge and pedantry go hand in hand in hand. Who has time to write, let a lone PRESS and read anything?

Maybe it's too easy to write manifestos shouting in all caps. Or book reports. Or obscure rebuttals, Like John Yow, who is supposedly a poet, rails against the machine with his neo-marxist fist a little too tiny for the whopper, who, disgustingly, participates and affirms the many backed beast's core principles, even as he accuses JS of a certain lack of criticality (DOes anyone read between the lines JS draws? Or is it only the great Yow?)

Yow can't criticize the Yow anymore than the Saltz, because they form the core of his identity and livelihood. But I mean if you have to continue lying to earn a living or not earn (I assume Yow is teaching), don't pretend it is more noble than selling lava lamps, because when you buy art, or talk about Cloaca, you support the beast.

BUt Jerry Salt's Facebook rebuttle is pathetic, resorting to lame ad hominem attacks on Yow as "deranged". I say more derangement. I say, yes, lets cut open Koon's sculptures and see what the fuss is about.

But if you choose what you eat wisely, the theory goes, the beast alters itself and you get a kind of segueway - a two wheeled chariot or a genesis machine. You can CURATE your way out of the machine. But no, the masters house will not be destroyed by the masters tools. Only built, even if the nails are bent.

Most of the poetry I have heard of is the poetry of flying buttresses as far as I am concerned. Poetry is disgusting, especially after Auschwitz. it has:

"a universal potential to coerce without remark"

You don't need an art degree to sell art. All you have to do is flatter your client without being obsequious, unless that's what they want. Build a consensus of one.

And how nice to live in a world where art is so heavy it alters your orbit.

I've been harping on the "art is not a virtue" angle - the best grapes are the ones you puke up in the morning.

2/08/2010 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous zipthwung said...

Tacit consent is a pretty strong, intangible force - and advertising is just manufacturing the will of the few into a blanket statement for puppies everywhere.

You know I had forgotten there even was a puppy until someone mentioned it - and then someone mentioned Cloaca - will we ever see these two pieces in a show along with those larger than life butt plugs and hey, maybe all the proceeds could go to fund arts programs in Haiti, maybe send in some swizzle sticks so visiting dignitaries will have something to moralize about wile they muddle over intractable problems.

2/08/2010 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Great article by Holland Cotter:
The Boom Is Over. Long Live the Art!


2/12/2010 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

The above article was printed in 2009.
It seemed so prevalent when I came across it online (even more so now than last year) and in line with some of the current blog topics.

2/12/2010 04:36:00 PM  

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