Friday, October 15, 2010

A Few Hurried Thoughts on Private Museums and Public Funding

We have an opening tonight (!), so I'll try to make this quick (which for me means less than three pages of text).

In the "Art for Everyone (?)" thread, I again suggested that artists (including Franklin, who I was addressing) have the power to alter the current system (and its exclusionary "grouthink") if they feel it's not working for them, the same way artists have always done it. I offered, "History shows us...that even groupthink had a genesis and if you want to change things, all you need do it take a page from the previous books: i.e., inspire one wealthy patron to open a different type of museum that shows the way toward a better tomorrow." Franklin (who was offering more on his well thought-out objection to the use of public funding to exhibit/promote contemporary art), noted:
Right. I'll get to work on that.

I have reasonable career goals that hinge on finding viewers who are sympathetic to my work, or at least not antipathetic, some of whom operate in the public sphere and most who don't. If I win the ear of someone with enough money to singlehandedly open a museum, I'll work on them, but to my knowledge the last collector to do such a thing was Isabella Stewart Gardner. In the meantime, artists who are not supported by the groupthink cited by Bernard are being forced to underwrite their own exclusion. If you think this is fair, make a case for it.
I'll get to public funding in a moment, but one notion in that statement strikes me as too pessimistic to let it go.

Collectors who opened their collections of (at least partially contemporary) art to the public (sometimes calling it a "collection," sometime calling it a "museum" but always in the process helping to educate the public about particular artists or movements they championed as well as help further their careers and/or change art history) have also included Peggy Guggenheim, Duncan Phillips, Albert Barnes, and John and Dominique de Menil, just to name a few. Privately owned and operated institutions today in the process of becoming the same thing include The FLAG Art Foundation, the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, the Rubell Family Collection, the Boros Collection, The Hoffman Collection, and on and on and on and on.

Whether each of these collections relatively recently opened up to the public will go on after their founders pass away to become actual self-sustaining museums or not, only time will tell, but clearly the model is alive and well. And so are the non-public-funding opportunities they represent for contemporary artists. So, I reiterate: if the system isn't working for you, inspire one wealthy patron to offer an alternative. This is how artists who were not part of the academy or in-crowd or groupthink group have changed art history for centuries.

Mind you, in regards to Franklin's first somewhat snarky comment ("Right. I'll get to work on that.") just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Other artists before you (and those around you now) weren't daunted by how hard this obviously is. There are artists and collectors collaborating as we speak to advance this or that idea in contemporary art-making. If that seems too pie-in-the-sky for you, please note that that doesn't change the fact that those artists are still your competition. Their willingness/ability to team up with a wealthy patron will give them an advantage in how history is written.

As for the final sentiment in Franklin's comment ("In the meantime, artists who are not supported by the groupthink cited by Bernard are being forced to underwrite their own exclusion. If you think this is fair, make a case for it."); although this post is about a different funding option, the bottom line is the same for both options: Fair ain't got nothing to do with it. If the private sector can advance a new idea or new group of artists to where the public-at-large wants to see more of them, then that new group will eventually get public funding too. Every popular (i.e., funded via demand) movement/idea/artist group has a genesis. But taking away the public funding of the arts (because it's perceived as unfair) will have repercussions beyond who is excluded and who's embraced by the curatorial preferences of the day. I don't think that's the way to go.

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32 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward,
I wonder if this same sense of revolutionary idealism with regard to artists applies to your feelings about galleries and particularly your own gallery. Are you a part of this groupthink status quo that has been discussed, or do you feel a need to offer some sort of alternative through your own somewhat broader influence. Or perhaps you think of your gallery as a business first and foremost making these other questions a concern left for someone else (artists).

If you are suggestioning that artists outside of the establishment can influence the development of a new establishment; then I have to squarely ask you as a member of the establishment what obligation do you have provide something more worthy of the status quo.

If you offer revolutionary idealistic advice to artists, where sir do your own intentions lie? Do you apply this same sense of idealistic purpose to your own gallery or as I suggested earlier are you merely a businessman?

10/15/2010 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

where sir do your own intentions lie?

Ooooo...a question with "sir" in it...so "Masterpiece Theatre."

My gallery hardly has the most salable of programs (ask my accountant), so I wouldn't consider myself "merely a businessman." Nor, I'll admit, are we revolutionizing art history show in and show out (although I'd like to think a few of our shows have contributed somewhat to the dialog, and that I am getting better as a gallerist...I'm certainly working at it).

If I had to define or place the vision of the gallery, I guess I'd say it is an honest attempt to present the ideas and images I personally find most compelling among the art I see today. In other words, it's a labor of love and although I will grumble from time to time if we don't get this or that pellet of acknowledgment for our efforts, overall you should know that I love my gallery.

And perhaps because I love it, I'm not arguing that the system is unfair. Because I'm OK with how it works now (although I am always willing to have my eyes opened to new ideas/images/methods) and because I am not demanding others change to suit my desires, I don't actually see the relevance of your line of questioning.

Moreover, and most importantly, I honestly feel that it doesn't fall to galleries to change art history. It falls to artists.

10/15/2010 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So your ambitions are not that of Castelli, Goodman or Metro Pictures? All of these galleries did in fact change art history perhaps more than any one single artist of their stable. This whole agitated state of questioning arises out of the suggestion that anyone can offer idealistic advice to artists, without applying the same principle to themselves. To be honest it is a bit tiresome, and to suggest that any artist can change anything about the monied and self absorbed art world from the outside is completely ridiculous. If the system is to be changed it must come from within the system, Ultimately in your example, the collector affects the change more-so than the artist, so someone in the system has to recognize what is going on and take the risk to alter the course.

10/15/2010 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Woo Hoo! I'm cited in your blog!

There is some old phrase originating with Upton Sinclair "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
Nothing changes from inside if it is a more comfortable position than what is outside. I agree with Edward (gosh, I'm shocked) that it will have to fall on artists, it almost always does. Problem is today their is a cacophony of voices and directions among the artists.

A few Abstract Expressionist artists can have a meeting with Alfred Barr and convince him to start buying their art rather than always buying and showing European art and it worked. Today there are so many artists out there that a few can easily be ignored. Artist Unions have been tried and they eventual loose steam.

Early shows by the Surrealists, Duchamp (separate from the surrealists), and Abstract Expressionists in New York were largely put on by the artists themselves without gallery support. Shows put on that way today are completely ignored by critics. And who can afford the rent today anyway? The commercial art world has the eyes of the public, and they operate on a closed door policy. Galleries that were experimental and allowing new artists to try things, Plus Ultra being an example, have hunkered down with a set roster of artists. Myopia is the state of the day.

10/15/2010 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

[[strike]]Wow. Do you know how obnoxious you sound?[[/strike]]

{it dawned on me, I probably sound obnoxious too}



Again, if I were bellyaching that the system was unfair to me, then I could see your argument of "applying the same principle to [myself]." As I'm not, I can't help but feel you're projecting here.

As for Castelli, as you know he didn't paint his artists' paintings ---it can be argued that he often barely even recognized how good they were (Sonnabend was reportedly the one with the real eye)---so he did NOT change art history. Leo's gift was he could sell art. He changed the art market. Despite the confusion we see around us today, they are not the same thing, and history will sort things out in the end.

Further, I wish I had the same gifts as Leo or Ms. Goodman or the Metro Pictures dealers...as do thousands of other dealers worldwide. The fact we don't doesn't make our efforts unimportant. It all contributes. But all of those dealers will tell you it's their artists, and not them, who changed things. Just ask them.

Where I will agree with you is here:

Ultimately in your example, the collector affects the change more-so than the artist, so someone in the system has to recognize what is going on and take the risk to alter the course.

The thing to remember is that the collectors (the good ones) are seeking to be taught. Which is why, again, I note that it's the artist's role to INSPIRE those collectors...the rest will take care of itself.

10/15/2010 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I want to reiterate an earlier point, that the 'public good' occurs because the museums have artworks which are preserved and there to be seen.

Part of the earlier confusion may lie in what Ben Davis said But here’s the rub: To advocate effectively for public support for the arts, the public must actually believe that art is a public good. And this is where the sense of irrelevance that comes from passively basking in art’s semi-privileged status as a luxury good comes back to bite.

This is, at best, badly phrased. It requires that one accept art as a commodity with its ultimate status being only a luxury good. In all fairness to Ben, commodification is certainly one of the thorns in arts crown but I think it is important to separate physical ownership from public ownership, luxury item or not.

Art has always been a luxury item. Take the Sistine Chapel, it was funded by the rich (privileged) but made available to the poor to view, inspire and cherish. (yes, propaganda and all that, but you can find your own example, Monet's Nympheas?)

While I believe that money distorts our perception of art, it doesn't actually change the art objects. Artworks remain luxury items and the culture decides what artworks are relevant and special enough to be preserved in our museums.

Capitalism characterizes the economic structure of the present era and we should not expect that the cultures selection of art would be unaffected by this fact.

10/15/2010 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe my work would INSPIRE collectors if I had more opportunities to EXHIBT IN a gallery (most of the good ones say - NOT LOOKING). The current model (exhibition/representation @gallery) is mostly CLOSED to artists.

If, as Edward notes, "artists take on the role to INSPIRE collectors...", then it will be interesting to see what transpires, and whether galleries would be happy with the results.

10/15/2010 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obnoxious, perhaps, but civility does not always generate the desired affect. Personally I have always liked this blog the most when it generates a sharp discussion involving genuine thought and feeling, so I have acted out a bit to stir things up.
I seem to have been successful in this attempt.

Your final comment regarding the artist's job to inspire and educate those in positions of influence really came across perfectly for me. I too believe this is the key.

I appreciate your time and I realize that you have other things to attend to, so I will cease with my obnoxious antics.

I am sure your postings will provide us all with ample material to rumple our feathers over in the future. Despite the annoyance that I have caused you, I am a huge admirer and I actually believe that you are doing more than your fair share to alter the course of art history through your engagement with social media.

Obnoxious ANON

10/15/2010 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I believe my work would INSPIRE collectors if I had more opportunities to EXHIBT IN a gallery (most of the good ones say - NOT LOOKING).

And if no gallery ever gives you a show, what then?

Are you going to let the gallery system (only one small part of the "art world") dictate your success?

Or are you going to find some other way?

10/15/2010 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

George,
I concur, well put.

Edward,
Sorry if that was a little to heavy handed. I could've used Bellweather (now closed), Black and White Gallery, Jack the Pelican (closed) a host of mostly Williamsburg galleries that popped-up for a time, or non-profs which at one point would show unrepresented artists of which many of these spaces seemed to have disappeared.

I agree with Anon 11:30 that gallery representation allows more opportunities to inspire collectors. On top of that it vastly increases an artists chances to obtain grants and to get museum exhibition opportunities. Places like FLAG also appear to pick artists who are represented. A commercial gallery does not guarantee an artist success in the art world but it has become the expected rite of passage to getting there.

10/15/2010 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I appreciate your time and I realize that you have other things to attend to,

yes, this needs to be my last comment today, but...to be continued, I'm sure.

10/15/2010 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fair joust it has been. I will happily duel on another day. Now go inspire some collectors!

-Obnoxious

10/15/2010 11:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

In my defense, if "Right..." and so on was snarky, it's because "All you need to do..." was as blithe. (Really, is that all I need to do? I'll take care of it as soon as I learn to juggle eleven chainsaws.) But I stand corrected concerning Gardner. I was thinking, a little too specificially, about collectors who maintained long-term friendships with artists and were thus inspired to open museums, but certainly Peggy Guggenheim qualifies, and the point isn't the friendships but the ardent collecting of contemporaries. I watched the Miami Model (Margulies, Rubell, etc.) develop first-hand in Miami and I have trouble thinking of them as museums, but as organizations they're indistinguishable from what Gardner's or Frick's would have been while the owners were alive. (My work is in the Margulies collection, although you won't see it unless you go to his apartment. I've seen it demonstrated repeatedly that people in a position to do both often live with one kind of work, and display another.) So I agree with the larger point here that a sufficiently motivated and sizable audience, generated privately, will eventually attract public-sector support. Probably. That may be enough of an argument against scrapping public support, although it doesn't solve the violations of public interest that inevitably result from it. It also presupposes without examination that art is a public good, which it is not.

Calvin of "Calvin and Hobbes" once lamented, "I know life is unfair, but why is it never unfair in my favor?" Ed is telling artists to do the legwork so that the system eventually becomes unfair in their favor. I fully support this. It beats the hell out of nurturing feelings of unrequited entitlement. But concerning ethics and policy, Davis's essay for example, you have to address fairness and efficacy. Davis asserted that work he aptly described as in touch only with "rich-guy reality, or even just smart-set reality" is going to undermine public support of art. I countered that public support of art abetted the creation of this work in the first place, which I don't think he realizes. At this philosophical level, fairness is a fair thing to talk about. At the level at which Ed's gallery operates, or the operation of most artists' careers, fairness is a dumb thing to talk about. Seriously, people, get out and hustle. But as someone who has the ability to write about these larger issues, this is part of my hustle, and I would encourage people similarly inclined to do the same. Change will come around that much faster. Thank you as always, Ed, for the forum.

10/15/2010 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

On "groupthink": In the meantime, artists who are not supported by the groupthink cited by Bernard are being forced to underwrite their own exclusion. If you think this is fair, make a case for it.

Underlying this call for 'fairness' (pay attention to me) is the assumption that you are actually making art which connects with the audience. Let's be generous and assume this is true, thousands of artists do exhibit their art in museums, galleries, pop up shows, even on the sidewalk in front of the Met.

These thousands of artists find they do have admirers, that they do communicate with a part of the audience. This people puddle of artists becomes the undifferentiated pool from which the culture can select its art, the art of a specific era in history, the art of a moment in cultural time.

How does this selection occur? For sure, 'fashion' plays a big part. Fashion is nothing more than a rolling wheel of tastes which fixates on one form or another and ELEVATES it to VISIBILITY from the undifferentiated pool of artists and artworks. Fashion only instills momentary visibility, it gives the artists a push start but is no guarantee of success.

So who dictates fashion? That's the wrong question, the correct question is "Who can change fashion?" The artists, period. If the artists do not make art which breaks the status quo, then the current styles (fashion) remain in force.

The problem is that in the undifferentiated pool of artists there will be numerous opinions about what the next fashion should be (your art of course!) With this unmanageable number of artists the culture, which is the audience, filters this cacophony for what seems to be momentarily relevant, exciting, different, beautiful, in essence whatever is needed by the culture.

There is a difference between changing the status quo, between being in the avant guard and being in the pool of artists who manage to exhibit and have their work collected. The majority of artworks being made at any point in time fall into a neutral zone, one which conforms to known qualities, tastes, styles, beauties and provide pleasure for their collectors. There is nothing wrong with this but it will not change the status quo.

Art which aspires to the edge, to being avant guard, cannot just attempt to achieve this goal by reiterating old aesthetics under the guise of a critique of present art. Avant guard art must assume a new position with history (in the way Polke referenced Picabia) without appearing to just repeat the antecedent.

Just declaring that a style or aesthetic is bankrupt isn't sufficient. Displeasure and discontent belong to the avant guard and as such only reinforce it. What is required is a viable alternative, one which piques the interest of the culture and which won't get lost "in the school of"

What Bernard and Franklin fail to accommodate here is that what is being called "groupthink" is the current cultural opinion, the cultural consensus about what it (the culture, artists, collectors etc) wants as art, in the present moment.

10/15/2010 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Edward 11:54am...

I wasn't specific, but I meant EXHIBIT in NYC.

I'm confident also, that I will eventually be offered a show by a good gallery.

To answer your second question - NO, I'm not so pathetic as to allow the gallery system to dictate my definition of success - but that doesn't change this artists belief in his work, and goal to exhibit with a good gallery.

You ask if "I'll find another way?" ABSOLUTELY! I'm already on it.

Thanks Ed. I appreciate your time and POV, given your schedule.

10/15/2010 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I want to reiterate an earlier point, that the 'public good' occurs because the museums have artworks which are preserved and there to be seen.

Part of the earlier confusion may lie in what Ben Davis said But here’s the rub: To advocate effectively for public support for the arts, the public must actually believe that art is a public good. And this is where the sense of irrelevance that comes from passively basking in art’s semi-privileged status as a luxury good comes back to bite.

I've been thinking about 'public support for the arts' especially since listening to the Nov 2009 panel review at artcritical.com on David Hockney and Sterling Ruby. Please note that I'm not advocating Hockney or Ruby.

What struck me most was the panel dismissed Hockney's because of the lack of review by 'serious' art critics and his popularity with the public and that these points were discussed more than the work they had seen whereas they discussed Sterling Ruby's work at great length and said his work was more important because he was aiming his work towards 'serious' art critics and graduates of art school.

As I said, I'm not interested in the pros/cons of either artist. What interests me is this disconnect between the public, public taste in art, the desire for public support of the arts and promoting art geared towards a very small minority of the population (graduates of art schools) who want money from the majority.

Yes, I do understand that public taste lags behind cutting edge art. But I think the disconnect is important if public money is sought. Last week a local city council cut all funding for the arts (which has been a huge supporter of the local arts) and while the cut was because of the city's budget crisis I wonder if the tax base will reinstate the public funding (especially after reading all the negative comments posted on the story).

10/15/2010 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

reminds me of Yate's poem:
"To A Wealthy Man Who Promised A Second Subscription To The Dublin Municipal Gallery If It Were"

"
...
And Guidobaldo, when he made
That grammar school of courtesies
Where wit and beauty learned their trade
Upon Urbino's windy hill,
Had sent no runners to and fro
That he might learn the shepherds' will ... "


do what you need to do.

10/15/2010 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time I come to this site and read the comments, they always seem to devolve into the same whine of, "no one will show my work." It gets tedious. I'm with Edward on this.

When I moved to New York City, I joined an artists group. I immediately involved myself in the running of the group and managed to become part of the steering committee and then became an officer. The group made its own opportunities for its members and often I was showing my work in a group show every month. When the politics of the group (there are always politics) became to much for me to bear, I left the group. When exhibition opportunities became scarce, I opened my studio and put on my own show. With a partner, we bought a building to house our studios. In the course of time, we went from open studios, to devoting one room of the building to a permanent gallery. Now we are in the process of turning that gallery into a non-profit. You can do it. It takes motivation and dedication to your goal. And in our case, day jobs to make the money needed.

Being on the other side of the artist/gallery relationship, I can say that artists I've dealt with (even in the artist's group) don't seem that motivated to being successful. I love artists, but many I have worked with have proven to be unprofessional; ignoring deadlines, presenting their work badly and not being present when needed - to name a few of their peculiarities. But my point is, if you can't get a break, make your own and keep on making breaks until you are satisfied with where you are. It is going to take more time, money and work than you will want to invest, but it may be the only way it is going to happen. The only one who can help you is yourself.

And a word about public money for art. There is very little public money for art and a lot of institutions are trying to get at a diminishing pot. Most money in the arts comes from private grants and foundations, and again, there are more institutions than money for them. All money from outside sources comes with strings; that is, it is given to fund a particular project - and only that project. The organization must show proof that the money was actually used for the intended project. A lot of the government money is funneled into regional distributors and is intended for the promotion of regional art events. Most projects that are funded have to do with social programs (even art) that contribute to the public good. Teaching, children and the elderly in my experience get the most attention. Sexuality, nudity and highly conceptual work most often get a pass. If an arts event was controversial, the government will probably not fund it a second time. There is very little money given, either through private or government sources to fund overhead (salaries, utilities, rent/taxes, etc.). The more established and smarter institutions have been able to accrue an endowment; money held in investments whose interests contributes to the funding of their own programs. Endowments take donations to build and are subject to the vagaries of financial markets.

Art institutions have to answer to more than the government, they have boards, donors, the public and critics who each have a say in how things are run. More arts funding would be great, but it still may not solve any problems. The money will not be free, it will have regulations and targets for its use.

10/15/2010 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Anon 4:34,
Why be Anonymous?
You begin by saying it can be done but then devolve into complaining about artists and the minutia of how sticky/tricky/limiting it is to run a gallery.
If an artist has a dayjob and also tries to do their own work where is the time for running an art organization?
Tedious? yes, of course it is.
I hope your non-for-profit is successful.

10/15/2010 06:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Underlying this call for 'fairness' (pay attention to me)...

I see that we're back to ascribing motives. Heaven forfend that someone might object to the status quo on principle.

...is the assumption that you are actually making art which connects with the audience. Let's be generous and assume this is true...

Good idea. Doing the opposite didn't work out so well for you.

Art which aspires to the edge, to being avant guard, cannot just attempt to achieve this goal by reiterating old aesthetics under the guise of a critique of present art. Avant guard art must assume a new position with history ... without appearing to just repeat the antecedent.

We haven't had an avant-garde for three decades. It had a good run - a little over a century, from the birth of Impressionism until the late seventies - but it's by no means a permanent feature of art history. It fizzled out with the rise of pluralism, which is an incompatable project, and the preceeding 400 years were largely a drive towards greater naturalism. Talking about art in terms of the avant-garde is quaint. The present condition makes it possible to charge anything with "reiterating old aesthetics under the guise of a critique of present art." My main issue with what people are provisionally calling "post-minimalism," for instance, is that truth in advertising would require a more accurate label: neo-Fluxus.

What Bernard and Franklin fail to accommodate here is that what is being called "groupthink" is the current cultural opinion, the cultural consensus about what it (the culture, artists, collectors etc) wants as art, in the present moment.

No, it's a cultural opinion, a cultural consensus. Institutionalized taste has always reflected the taste of the academic class. But if you look over the last 150 years, you can see that institutionalized taste finds it increasingly difficult to make good calls as the variety of styles increases. At the present, when insitutionalized taste reflects that of the academic class, it does so at the expense of entire genres. People went bananas over the Brenda Goodman show in Hudson this year, but try finding its like in the museums. Jane Freilicher, who deserves a retrospective in a New York museum as much as anyone on the planet, might as well not exist. This notion that there is "the cultural consensus" somewhere is an artifact of a time when we had hegemonic styles, which hasn't been the case since before I was born.

10/16/2010 09:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

...in terms of change of the system, it does happen, often from the most surprising avenues. A case in point to note is something Ive noticed to the north in Toronto. It's a slight shift but a shift non the less. What is regarded in T.O. as the paper of the nation - The globe and mail, has recently undergone a design overhau. One of its "new" features is that some pages are printed not on newspaper stock, but on a glossy paper - it's almost positioning itself between a newspaper and a magazine. This is combined with more color printing... doesn't sound too impressive, but a side result is seen in the art gallery advertising section - suddenly the number of ads has jumped and they actually are impressive ads in color (like the first time seeing color tv, or 3d tv, or high definition tv)- Art works in art gallery ads are suddenly vying for attention in the daily paper of the "business" class and during our "morning" rituals. This impetus for visibility for the art galleries is within an affordable media such as the daily paper (as compared to other media with stable market share) This shift, of art being suddenly on equal notice-ability as the rest of the daily news offerings and adverts, might or might not help living artists or exhibitions. (that remains to witness) The point is that a change in the art system is happening simply because of the affordability of meaningful (read color) visibility becoming available. A newspapers :simple" redesign to include color imagery on a daily basis suddenly has a positive effect on the art world system within its territory.

again how significant or widespread this is, is slightly beside the point, that being that the art system as rigid as it may seem, can change, and be changed from the most extraordinary places.

10/17/2010 07:56:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

because "All you need to do..." was as blithe. (Really, is that all I need to do? I'll take care of it as soon as I learn to juggle eleven chainsaws.)

As I've noted before, and write in my book, it was a "blithe" bit of advice just like that which got me off my butt and motivated me to open my gallery ("just get a space and put art on the wall" I was instructed. When I argued it "wasn't that easy." I was corrected..."it's exactly that easy.").

The fact is that inspiring a wealthy patron is probably easier than trying to fight the groupthink the way you're going about it, Franklin. It's too easy right now for the groupthinkies to just move around you.

10/17/2010 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

As I've noted before, and write in my book, it was a "blithe" bit of advice just like that which got me off my butt and motivated me to open my gallery.

And for the record, you've sold me on it with the above post. I've also added your book to a pending Amazon shipment, which I've been meaning to do since it came out.

The fact is that inspiring a wealthy patron is probably easier than trying to fight the groupthink the way you're going about it, Franklin. It's too easy right now for the groupthinkies to just move around you.

This is only the forward line of attack. (The avant-garde, if you will.) A lot is going on behind the scenes, out of the view or conceptual range of officialdom. It would surprise you to learn who is involved, and how effective the early results have been. That doesn't mean we couldn't aim a little higher, though - thanks for the inspiration.

10/17/2010 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

There still is an avant guard, but with such an expanded artworld and so many new mediums maybe we should call it the 'New Wave' - It's a separate discussion.

The question of motivation is not irrelevant in this discussion. I suspect that all artists have an opinion of the art world which varies depending on their personal feelings of inclusion or exclusion. I don't have a problem with this nor do I expect everyone to support the same art and artists I might.

I agree with Franklin, I AM suggesting questionable motives but not as a form of argument. I am suggesting that in part, his motivation against public support of the arts, is personally motivated and that this is harmful, especially in the current economic climate.

From 10/14 -- I said earlier "the 'public good' occurs because the museums have artworks which are preserved and there to be seen."

To which Franklin responds "I sympathize with this point in the abstract. But when you apply it to work made in the last five years, preservation is a non-issue and the designation of "public good" upon the work is an absurdity. If art is a public good in general, then someone's works of art are specific instances of public good....twit"

And...That's all public art support as well. Indirectly or directly, if not both, you and I are underwriting the circles of groupthink.

It is apparent that Franklin believes that public funding for the arts is supporting "groupthink" and a kind of art which he doesn't like. Fine, but before we cut the public funding for public arts programs, museums, alternative spaces, artists grants, etc., we should have a much better reason than dissatisfaction over the art being exhibited.

Further, he fails to consider how public arts funding provides some degree of balance to the other major funding sources, private and corporate donations. He wants to argue that with less public funding that "art fashions would recycle" (towards something better, I suppose?) However is a function of time regardless of where the funding comes from.

Again, this is a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics of the art world. Public funding is benign (unless if funds art you don't like, eh?) but the real power in the artworld is wielded by private money. Look deeper and it is apparent that Franklins suggestion that Artist X career path is "a direct result of public arts policy" is a innuendo and not supported by the facts.

Finally, when I suggested Franklin had "nothing to offer" I wasn't directly speaking about his artwork which I believe is sincere. I was speaking specifically to his history over the last decade of bitching about the art system without ever offering any positive alternative. To be fair he references Brenda Goodman's recent review in ArtCritical. But even this is after the fact which is regrettable since he doesn't really step up to make the case for this particular type of painting as vehemently as he complains about the art he hates.

10/18/2010 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

George, your comment at 12:38 is a near-duplicate of your 8:12 comment at the previous thread with insubstantial revisions, and I have answered it there as fully as it merits. I'm happy to debate, but this is just pestering.

10/18/2010 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Sorry about that, it was unintentional, I had intended to post my remarks here in the flow of the current discussion. I've deleted the duplicate.

10/18/2010 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Re Ben Davis and public goods.

In the beginning artworks are generally private goods and are either owned by the artist or a collector for their own private use. Once artworks enter into museum collection they become public goods and become more or less freely accessible to the interested public.

The kind of artwork, including its perceived quality has no bearing on whether it is a private or public good. The change in status occurs when the artwork is made freely available for the public, typically in a museum.

The recent rising costs of artworks does have some bearing on this issue because it makes the acquisition of artworks more expensive and therefore restricts a museums ability to enlarge their collection of works (as public goods) This is currently a difficult issue which has no clear solution at the moment.

Restrictions on the access to artworks (as a public good) occur when the museums are under funded, which causes constraints on what they can add to their collections and puts pressure on public admission prices (one example which affects the viewers)

I find it difficult to conceive of how any argument which advocates a reduction in financial support, public or otherwise, could be seen as a positive development.

10/18/2010 04:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The kind of artwork, including its perceived quality has no bearing on whether it is a private or public good. The change in status occurs when the artwork is made freely available for the public, typically in a museum.

The kind of artwork and its perceived quality have enormous bearing on whether a museum acquires it. That is not a neutral evaluation that represents a wide swath of public interests, but a tendentious one that represents academic interests. When it comes to contemporary art, academic consensus, such as it exists, is one opinion among many. The act of turning it into a public good is perscriptive, not descriptive.

We agree that drinkable water is a public good. We'd regard an urban government that couldn't provide it as at least a partial failure. In contrast, when it comes to sex, beer, massage, philately, tulip gardening, backgammon, and a million other pleasures and pasttimes, we have decided to let people figure out how to assess their own interests and put whatever resources they like, or none at all, into indulging in them. And for reasons unclear to me, people think that contemporary art belongs in the former category. Why?

10/18/2010 09:28:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Franklin is evading the issue, which is his opposition to public funding for the arts.

To support his 'get the government out of arts' position, he is arguing that the artworks in question are not a public good because their "quality" is inferior. The question of "quality" is always a point of debate.

Regardless of Franklins motives (hurt feelings or political ideology) his call for curtailing public financial support for the arts would have highly negative consequences for all members of the art community.

The consequences of his arguments flow from the specific to the general, as he uses art he dislikes (the specific) - as an argument against public funding of the arts (the general).

Are we to believe that, just because the biases of a disgruntled critic, other institutions and members of the artistic community are to be penalized? Or maybe, he just wants to punish specific institutions, which ones?

At a time where the economy is under stress it is not unexpected that there will be calls for belt tightening. Moreover, we can expect activity from the political right to argue against public arts funding by using hand picked examples of artworks to incite their constituency. What can make matters worse is enabling an appeal to authority, to allow the ultra-conservative right the ability to quote a critic to light and fan the fire.

Regardless of the other arguments are presented here I support public funding for the arts without qualification.

10/19/2010 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Why? I would suggest that objects can change status from being exclusively 'private goods' to being 'public goods.' The way this occurs is by making them freely available to anyone.

More specifically, let's consider works of art. Works of art are special objects which the culture preserves and cherishes as examples of the creative spirit of an era. Every individual will have their own sense of what an artwork is, or should be, but regardless, the culture makes a decision to define, save and preserve the objects it believes are important.

The use value of artworks is less tangible than other things which we say are public goods. Clearly by definition, museums collect and preserve art objects, just the same as individuals or corporations. This suggests that physical possession of an artwork does not affect its status as a public good.

What changes an artworks status to one of a public good, is its availability for viewing by the public. When an artwork becomes part of a museum's collection it becomes a public good by definition. It is freely available for the public to see. (yes there are some restrictions but in theory this is the case)

So once an artwork becomes part of a museum (freely accessible private collection etc) and is available for any mamber of the public to view -- it becomes a public good.

Franklin is trying to argue that "contemporary art" and/or inferior artworks are not public goods. Distinctions about 'quality' or even if something is 'art' are
relevant only as critical, aesthetic or political issues to be discussed in a different context.

It does not matter, if an object is an art work, a bowl, a carved stick or an ivory toothpick, for it to be a public good and conserved as such in a museum or other public space where interested individuals have access to it. Only when the viewers have access to an artwork can they form an opinion, either in agreement with the pundits or in disagreement.

Years ago, the most powerful critic in the nation, declared Jules Olitski the nations greatest living painter -- because his paintings a

10/19/2010 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

oops! cut and paste error...
Should have read:

Years ago, the most powerful critic in the nation, declared Jules Olitski the nations greatest living painter -- because his paintings are now 'public goods' we can debate the folly of that statement.

10/19/2010 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Franklin is evading the issue, which is his opposition to public funding for the arts.

As I understood it, "the" issue under discussion as far as this thread is concerned is the idea of convincing a wealthy party to open a museum better to the liking of those who feel unrepresented by system as it stands. There was also some continued discussion about Ben Davis's essay from the previous thread, which has now been hoopelessly mashed into this one because George posted a comment there, revised it, reposted it here, and deleted the first one. In the process of moving this discussion to what George apparently would like to be the issue instead, he is lying about what I wrote, attributing disreputable motives to me for claiming the ensuing distortions, and repeating arguments that I countered in earlier comments as if I never did so. He has peppered his remarks throughout with gratuitous insults that I have been careful not to return. I am hereby asking Ed to close this thread. George is welcome to continue this discussion with me by e-mail, and I do not have the time at the moment to counter each of his slanders upon my political leanings, artistic preferences, and character while he conducts a campaign against a caricature of what I actually said.

As for you, George, I think you miss Artblog.net more than I do.

10/19/2010 07:44:00 PM  

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