Monday, December 13, 2010

New York, New York: If you can make it probably should...or not. You choose.

I received a cold submission from a painter living in the Midwest a little while back that was memorable because of the appeal in its handwritten cover letter. The artist noted that they had reached a great age (almost 90) and enjoyed many achievements over the years, but that a solo exhibition in a New York gallery was the one missing part of their career that they truly wanted while still alive.

My first response to the appeal was to have my heart go out to this artist. I know it's not easy to network from outside New York, and with how long it can take to arrange a show in New York, time was surely running out for this goal. But my next two responses to the letter were resentment for how emotionally manipulative it was, and even more than that, exasperation at the notion that a solo show in a New York gallery (apparently any New York gallery, as the work was unlike anything the artist would have any reason to believe we would exhibit if they had done just a little research) is somehow still viewed as this goal unto itself, completely irrespective of which gallery or which context the work is viewed in. Ask the thousands of artists who have had one or two or even more solo exhibitions in New York if it made all their dreams come true. More than 95% will tell you "no."

I brought this appeal up when talking with a few folks while down in Miami, one of whom is a highly accomplished New York based artist with magazine covers, plenty of glowing reviews, mid-career retrospectives, and high-priced sales under their belt. This artist expressed a resentment of another kind in response that I hadn't felt at first, but that I totally understand. If this painter wants a show in New York, the artist said in Miami, then he/she should have moved to New York and become an active member contributing to the artist community.

Mind you, this New York-based artist worked hard for many years before success came their way, and is indeed an active voice for artists in the community. And I can fully understand that with the sacrifices such artists make, they would feel resentment toward someone who thought a solo gallery show should be theirs for the asking.

So I'm torn. On one hand I believe New York is quickly becoming just one of a series of art centers around the globe and that holding it up as some crowning achievement on one's resume seems a bit out of the loop. On the other hand, I cannot tell you how amazing the art community in New York rich the conversations can be, how committed the artists are, how exhilarating it is to find myself challenged again and again during studio visits here, and how high the standards are among the very competitive galleries here. It's a feast for the eyes and mind nearly every day.

But it's just one of many centers that are growing in that same exciting direction. And with more and more artists connecting more and more online, what constitutes a "community" is shifting even as we speak.

So I guess I wish to tell that Midwest artist (and everyone else out there in a similar state of mind) that New York is great. I simply love it. And if you want to make it probably should...make it here, that is, as in move here or at least visit frequently. Become a generous member of the artist community and you'll see that generosity come back to you. But don't hold up New York as the Holy Grail or whatever. Without being here all the time, your chances of landing a solo show are pretty slim. It's probably smarter to take advantage of the Internet or one of the art centers closer to you to reach your goals.

Labels: art careers, artist community


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The artist friend of yours is expressing a common refrain ... "That artist hasn't paid her dues and I have" and "because of that it wouldn't be *fair* for her to get her show." It is emotionally manipulative in its own way, it is appealing to someone to not rock the boat and to make that person's position more secure - no upstarts unless they, too, become part of the system. (that by no means guarantees success - a NY gallery show is not always a result of this "dues paying", BTW, and you point out several times in your blog)

I am not really defending the submission - I have no idea if the work measures up, but I think the strength of the work needs to be considered on its own merits.

Last thought: The pre-eminance of New York is not of a really good regional art center, its importance is that of an international one - this is why people move there. In an age of poor communication, and transportation that is what one had to do to participate in the international culture. Apparently it may still be true of the art scene, but I do wonder how successful galleries could become when they draw from more than a regional stable, even if that stable comes form many places.

12/13/2010 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

"Ask the thousands of artists who have had one or two or even more solo exhibitions in New York if it made all their dreams come true. More than 95% will tell you 'no.'"

Going on show #2 soon myself, I would definitely agree with that statement. I will also agree that the brilliant conversations had, the amount of other artists that came out, and the overall experience of the show was definitely greater than any other city I've shown (London & LA).

I'm not sure I understand the last bit of the post about being there and such? Not saying I disagree at all, just not really sure I follow?

12/13/2010 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Not sure my thoughts on it are clear to me actually.

What seems clear to me is that artists should be aware, because many seem not to be, that New York is great, but not a guarantee of recognition or success. What I think I found most off putting about the submission was the insinuation that this artist could die happy if they got a New York show. I just don't think it would measure up to that estimation.

12/13/2010 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

OK...but Midwestern Fella aside, this statement didn't sit right with me...Made NY sound like a members only club.

"Become a generous member of the artist community and you'll see that generosity come back to you. Without being here all the time, your chances of landing a solo show are pretty slim."

12/13/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's certainly not members only. plenty of artists (including several we work with) who show in New York don't live here. But all the ones I know who do had some kind of interpersonal connection with someone in New York that led to their hooking up with the right gallery. So, again, spending time here networking is important IMHO.

12/13/2010 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Tatiana said...

I have to speak up for the Midwest here...Chicago has not only a vibrant arts community, we also simply are a GREAT city! Spending time in big art cities is important. And if you want to show within one of the great-big-art-cities, you have to explore and experience. I agree.
NYC certainly has the upper hand in terms of intl recognition and such...but there are plenty of other cities artists can gain great success in. Being "regionally well known" has it's merits, even if it's not in NYC. I understand the *goal* of NYC acceptance's like tryin to date the HS quarterback/head cheerleader -- it's a goal for some (although i've always leaned more towards the hairy, unkempt loners ;)

12/13/2010 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Oriane Stender said...

I'm not sure that an artist's reasons for wanting to have a show are relevant to anyone else, including gallerists. Mostly we want some variation of the same thing: recognition, validation, respect of peers, sales, prestige, etc. Being able to "die happy" is maybe just a less sophisticated way of articulating the same basic goal. It was a little corny of said painter to mention that goal to try to persuade you to give him/her a show, but really, who cares what we call it? We're all [mostly] after the same thing. If this person's work really knocked your socks off, what s/he wrote in the cover letter wouldn't be all that important. This post seems like another way of saying to artists, "do your homework and convey to the gallery why you think your work would fit with their program." Implying in your cover letter that you could die happy having shown in NY does not fulfill that function. But it sounds mildly entertaining.

12/13/2010 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger man said...

Re: online community. YES. BUT the strength of the online community that I'm a part of is still largely contingent upon my ability to meet and see most of these people in person (on a somewhat regular basis).

My suspicion is that the types of artists who are talented, resourceful, smart and/or lucky enough to have a solo show(s) in NY are also the types of people who believe there is much more to the picture than just getting a solo show. :)

Lastly, as someone who lived in Chicago for five years, I didn't move to NY to date a cheerleader (@Tatiania)! I moved here because there are more opportunities (not necessarily always better, just more), and more people who are deeply ambitious. I love Chicago, but after five years there I wanted...more. And New York definitely has that. Of everything. The vast majority of folks I met in Chicago were happy to just...subsist. Which is great for those people! Just not for me.

12/13/2010 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tatiana said...

Ha! well, Im glad that "man" has more criteria than just dating a hot piece of city. My point was/is that a show in NYC IS an end-all goal to some (like ed's letter writer), and to others it's a way of life....and to others it is not essential for success.

12/13/2010 01:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would advise anyone against moving here. It's just too damn expensive, and the city isn't the only game in the world like it once was. LA or Berlin are better alternatives IMO

& as someone who has had 3 reasonably successful solo shows here and a couple in europe, and has lived here for 15+ years, I can say that it's a huge honor to have a solo show, but unless you get reviewed in all major publications not just one or two, and get poached by a blue chip gallery it's not going to be a career changer.

12/13/2010 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger Nina Ulana said...

This was a very interesting post - - and a very interesting online interaction. Does this virtual communication work because of face-to-face interaction or does it thrive on its own? Can any online community exist without true-life interaction? Further yet, will the actual "gallery" ever become obsolete? And if indeed the "virtual" can replace "reality," (or be a viable substitution), isn't it then a form of reality? My brain may be twisted in all kinds of directions (and without any definitive answers), but I truly appreciate you inspiring people to question!

12/13/2010 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

unless you get reviewed in all major publications not just one or two, and get poached by a blue chip gallery it's not going to be a career changer.


12/13/2010 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger alana said...

"And with more and more artists connecting more and more online, what constitutes a "community" is shifting even as we speak."
sure, but will you, as a gallery owner, visit an artist's studio that isn't in nyc?

12/13/2010 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, if the artists work had appealed to you BUT was different from your program, would you have considered exhibiting the work?

I'm interested in your answer, because I think many artists do simply "take a chance" with a cold submission, that the work might appeal to the owner.

I don't think the artists "appeal" was appropriate, but I think the submission was more a compliment - because they see you as the type of gallery/owner they want to be affiliated with.

12/13/2010 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I think we should work through do a longer post on this topic, but in essence I think when artists suggest they don't know what a gallery might or might not show, I think they're not being professional enough or simply fooling themselves. Curators, other dealers, writers, and even collectors accurately identify the type of artists and artwork that would make sense for our program all the time. Again and again, I'll hear very insightful connections between what we show (although it's perhaps formally eclectic it tends to be conceptually within certain parameters) and the work of an artist whose work is unfamiliar to me.

Which isn't to say some artists whose work might be right for us under other conditions, don't sometimes find that their work isn't, unfortunately, what we're looking to add at the moment (a sense of balance in the program being a big part of what we seek/need to maintain). To them, I encourage them to keep talking with us if they like...that balance is constantly shifting.

But I think its the job of an artist looking for representation to come up to speed on what makes their work right for this or that gallery. And like any job, the better you are at it, the more successful you'll be.

12/13/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see your point and logic. That said, I think the artists are sometimes just working from "hope", that their work might get the attention, consideration, of the gallery, even if their work isn't seen as "right" at the time they submit. Artists know galleries often change their programs/direction.

I guess the place where artists are operating from is changing - and artists are possibly still caught up in old "myths" about how to make it into the scene. It's clear that galleries are saying it's up to "them" to figure out. Personally, I find "understanding" exactly what a gallery's "program" is (sometimes) confusing at best. And I would say I do my research - actually following your advice/guidelines on the blog.

I hope you'll do a longer post on this - seems like a good time for it. I'm sure it would be appreciated.

Thanks so much Ed.

12/13/2010 04:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is wrong with artists doing cold submissions? You send out a couple quality prints, a postcard, a brochure, exhibit card. Why is a gallery offended? Isn't it a chance to see what's going on, different kinds of work being done. Maybe you will see something new, exciting, or with potential. If not, it goes in the recycle bin.

12/13/2010 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Cold submissions with research behind them are not so bad, but the percentages suggest many artist cast a wide net with no real idea whether the galleries they're spending money approaching would ever consider showing their work. Not only is that a waste, but it generates a artificially negative view of the way the work is perceived in the market when it may not be that the work is unready for a gallery show, but that the artist simply hasn't approached the right gallery.

12/13/2010 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

Just because you live someplace other than New York, it doesn’t mean you haven’t paid your dues. In many cases, it means that you have to do that much more to get to a certain level in your career. There are many reasons why even highly dedicated artists might not be able to move to New York (family issues, health problems/need for jobs with insurance, teaching jobs, etc).

It is a members only club, but you can sometimes make it in as a guest member. If you live in a major city, and visit New York often, you can make some headway, but it will never be the same as living there. It helps to have a few friends there who can introduce you around. I have rented studio space and lived in NYC for a month at a time, and it really only served to let me know that I need to come back as often as possible.

The studio visit problem is a big one. I have had enthusiastic offers of studio visits that fell through because I did not live in The City:

I think the New York solo show dream exists because there are many artists living elsewhere who have dedicated their life to their work, had solo shows, had great reviews, etc. but cannot get to the next level. They are the trees falling in the woods that no (important) person hears. They feel certain (and may have even been told by others) that their work is good enough that “if they could only get it seen by the right people...”
Alas, so many of the right people are in New York.

12/13/2010 05:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Kate said...

That future post you mention would be appreciated... when a gallery clearly states their vision in the "about" section of their gallery, it's a no-brainer, but going through and looking at the work of artists on their roster is open to a bit more interpretation.

While I would never pitch my work to a gallery showing minimalism, for example, I might be jumping to conclusions when I assume that it is the obsessiveness in most of the gallery artists' work that makes me think they might show an interest in my own.

And I'm sure that this is further complicated by the fact that galleries might hesitate to strip their vision down to a defining sentence, the same way that artists don't always want to give a 30 second answer to what their work is "about".

12/13/2010 05:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ed "...but it generates a artificially negative view of the way the work is perceived in the market..."

By whom? What does this mean? How does a cold submission cause this?

anon. podunk.

12/13/2010 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, give generously to the community and it will give back? New York is not a 1960's hippy commune. New York is more like a capitalist high school.

12/13/2010 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

well gee anonymous, with community spirit like yours, it is kind of shocking that New York hasn't offered you everything your heart desires

12/13/2010 08:18:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

anon. podunk.

I've seen artist blanket dozens and dozens of galleries in the city with submissions (CDs, nice print-outs, postage, etc.) only to get no response from any of them.

By artificial negative feedback, I mean that the conclusion one could draw (and some do) from not getting any response at all is that their work has no place in the New York art market. This may not be even close to the case though, if, for example, the dozens of galleries they sent submissions to were selected because they were cited as the best galleries in the city by someone advising the submitting artist. What neither of them may know, though, is that those big galleries (i.e., working with blue chip artists and probably not accepting submissions), often don't even open cold submissions and certainly aren't looking for new artists via that method. So there is only silence in response to the submissions for the artist to gauge its success (and the response to their work) by.

For some artists, there is no other way to interpret no feedback than negatively. And yet that's not real (it's artificially negative feedback) because those galleries' silence was not not an indication that the work's not good enough but only that they don't open cold submissions or simply don't show that kind of work at all.

If you want good feedback, you have to ask the right question of the right person.

I realize I'm rambling here...but is that more clear?

12/13/2010 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger ellen yustas k. gottlieb said...

Outside NYC art scene art folks can create more comfortably, but only 1 in a million (maybe I am being cynical) would mature on their own to fit the highest art ground that indeed is in here, in the capital of the art world, I see what Berlin galleries show and still there is a bit of provincial feel to the art, overdone, or extremely conceptual. New York is good in a way of teaching people to grow up and do it quickly if they want to survive as artists. No place but here the artist if he is the real creator will absorb the best and turn into the final product, THE MASTER. Thanks for the post, Edward, always a pleasure to read your interesting observations.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!

12/13/2010 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I moved to NYC many moons ago because at that time I thought NY was the place to be. I didn't want to turn 50 and wonder "What would have happened if I had moved to New York". What happened is irrelevant, a life is a life but I discovered that I love New York, as a city to live in, not to just visit.

Regarding being part of the community... The internet has changed how artists can network and expose their work but it has limitations. Facebook is a wonderful tool for networking with others in the art community -- as far as it goes. Nothing can replace face to face contact and seeing the actual artwork. "Facebook friends?" is now sort of an in joke at NYC openings, don't I know you from?

The particular art center notwithstanding (it could be NY, LA, London, Paris etc) I think that artists who don't move there/here at least for a short while, are selling themselves short and should reassess their career aspirations. If that sounds harsh, I intended it that way. If one is looking for a front line career it won't happen by mail order. Aside from face to face interaction, being there/here is a subliminal plus regarding ones ambition and the artworld pays for that.

12/14/2010 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone who went to Grad school in Chicago and moved to NYC it is interesting to see the lives of those who stayed and who left. What I see now is that the people who stayed in Chicago were not willing to give up comfort. Today they have nice teaching jobs, children, huge art studios and are home owners. (except those who moved to Chicago after getting NY galleries)
What did they give up??
They may still be making art. But no one in New York is talking about the art in Chicago. Their artwork is not part of the international dialogue. Even the star artists in Chicago are pretty much ignored here. (they do get into the occasional Whitney Biennial) It is unfortunate because artists like Ann Wilson perhaps deserve an international reputation.

12/14/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not about what NYC has or has not given me. And it is not doubt about the goodness of people here (and brilliance for that matter). But I do know the system, and am part of it, and the 'community' would happily spill the blood of their neighbors. I love the idea of community, but so far, not much is reciprocated. Art world aside, NYC changes people, changes artists and thinkers and that is an invaluable experience.

anon 8:04 pm

12/14/2010 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Today they have nice teaching jobs, children, huge art studios and are home owners. ... But no one in New York is talking about the art in Chicago. Their artwork is not part of the international dialogue.

No one is New York is talking about the majority of art being made in New York, and that "international conversation" is taking place among a vanishingly small subset of humanity. This weekend I was chatting with a friend who is doing well as a comics artist, and I had to explain to her who Jerry Saltz is. If you want to be a part of that conversation, good luck to you, but I would take a hard look at its real and ultimate value.

12/14/2010 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Whatever conversations with Jerry Saltz there are happen online, in the NY Magazine comments section and on Jerry's Facebook page. Anyone can participate so I fail to see how anyone could use him to characterize the NY artworld -- it just isn't the case.

12/14/2010 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger ambermaida said...

Change is good.

Passion is required as an artist- which is boundless.

Yet the magic of the city (NYC) is still felt...

Seems as though we are on a teeter totter...

12/14/2010 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous michelle muldrow said...

This is an interesting post and it touches on many issues.As a gallerist,I think there is a frustration when you feel manipulated and frustration at the naivete' of the artist.There are elements of "Waiting for Hockney" and many artists,whether they are in NYC or in Idaho, are misinformed,"don't get it", really exist so far outside the art world,that the mechanisms are beyond their capability of understanding,it is tragic..As for making it happen in NYC and landing a solo show,of course it doesn't "make" a career.but just like the thousands of bands who work hard for a record deal,then finally get signed and see it go nowhere,there is the dream and there is a bit of the crapshoot and the reality.I think all artists hope for the solo NYC show,because having that audience in the center of an art world,is exciting and it is an accomplishment...sadly, there are no promises of art stardom, but there is the accomplishment of having your work seen as a series and a dialogue,and that solo show is always a wonderful opportunity,NYC or otherwise..I think it is myopic to think you must be in NYC to be an artist showing in NYC> This would jeopardize the very nature of what makes NYC exciting as an art world center, it culls from all over the world.There are things happening in art outside of the bubble of NYC that are very exiting,culturally there is a world outside of NYC,as exciting as it is..The community is amazing and there is nothing like it in the United States,but one cannot make art on networking alone.I see many of my friends in NYC extremely frustrated,saddled with massive MFA debt,running from art event to art event,paying immense amounts in studio rent,hoping every chat with a gallery will lead somewhere,it is a bit of the NYC kool-aid that this will pan out-it will pan out for some..I don't know if that qualifies as doing what an artist should do.I would think it is about the work.Don't get me wrong,the networking helps,sustains and the bar is so high in NYC,it will push an artist to be better..but it is not the only way to be an artist.

12/14/2010 03:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I fail to see how anyone could use him to characterize the NY artworld.

I was using him to characterize the subset of humanity involved in the international dialogue. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

12/14/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This bears repeating: many artists,whether they are in NYC or in Idaho, are misinformed,"don't get it", really exist so far outside the art world,that the mechanisms are beyond their capability of understanding,it is tragic..

12/14/2010 04:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some artists need to be surrounded by chatter - brilliant and otherwise, and other's need to get away from it. If comfort is the reason artists choose to live elsewhere, is careerism the reason they wind up in NYC?


12/14/2010 05:32:00 PM  
Blogger Saskia said...

Interesting comment thread.
I think we could all argue until we are blue in the face about whether or not you have to be in NY to 'make it' or not as an artist, but looking at it from a slightly different angle, when I think of my favorite internationally acclaimed contemporary artists, only a handful of those actually live in NY... and many I can't imagine working there at all.
I don't know the inter-workings of those famous artists connections or career paths well enough to say how many NY connections they did or did not have, but I imagine there is more than one way to get somewhere, if that is your goal.

I have to admit, I really wonder if 'making it' is really all that anyhow...
making art, on the other hand, IS definitely all that, even if I have to bankroll it myself for my entire life.

12/14/2010 05:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get tired of the "I've had it rough in NY" rant that so many artists who have made it there or are trying tend to do. NY artists choose to live and work there when they could have made the same powerful work of art elsewhere. It is a choice. Live with it. The same goes for artists elsewhere.

Just because you suffered in NY does not mean you get a badge of honor over artists who live and work elsewhere. That arrogance has been spewing out of the NY art community since the 1950s and perhaps before.

If NY artists are upset it is due to the fact that today with enough talent, marketing, and personality you can easily becme very well known just by taking an online path.

Honestly, many of the artists represented by NY galleries have little to no online presence. In todays world that means they don't exist. They are known in their community, but everyone outside of it has barely heard of their names. It is naive to think that NYC will always be the spearhead of art in the United States.

Galleries may still have the collector lists, but I can promise you that as far as promotion goes most artists can reach more people on their own than a NY gallery press release ever could.

As for communicating with the NYC art community. Been there, done that, and did not have a conversation that I could not have had online with brilliant people from throughout the world. I enjoyed the beer, and frankly, the easy women in NYC, but I could have got that elsewhere as well. Just keeping it real. Represent.

12/14/2010 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this idea that all artist must have an MFA and live in NYC is rather old hat and a clear representation of blind-sided ignorance.

MFA programs are not what they once were and moving to NYC to become a famous artist is like moving to Hollywood to become a famous actor. I wonder how many of the homeless in both areas were once fame seekers?

12/14/2010 06:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"unless you ... get poached by a blue chip gallery it's not going to be a career changer.

Ed says..."ugh!"

but is it not true? Only blue chip galleries or something approaching it make their artists enough money to live decently in this town. Galleries representing emerging artists certainly can't.

12/14/2010 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Fifty years ago, New York might have been the place, but today there is obviously more than one major art center in the world, in the US it's NY and LA. Artists decide what they want from their career as an artist and no one says you have to go to NYC (or LA or Paris etc), artists choose that for themselves.

Artists get to choose where they will be and if an artist desires international exposure and visibility the odds of this happening are significantly greater in a major art center. This doesn't mean it cannot happen in some other city, just that the odds make this kind of success is less likely. It requires getting on the "A List" where you are, just to have greater access to visiting curators or gallerists (who should I see while I'm here?)

Just being in an art center is no guarantee of success either and I don't buy into the idea of "paying your dues". You do it or you don't. I do believe the internet is an important tool but I don't think it replaces real life contact. Sure, a lot of artists have internet exposure but the artists people are talking about are the artists which have exposure in the major venues, the art center galleries, museums, art fairs and auctions, everybody else is more or less invisible.

In the end I think it is always about the art and the context the artist wants it to be seen in, because the context frames what an artist does. If you are willing to settle for being a big fish in a small pond then go for it but don't confuse it with being a big fish in the big pond.

12/14/2010 09:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New York is a fantastic place to be an artist...if you have a family money or spousal support. If you are self supporting, not so much.

If you still want to move to NY and make the sacrifices that that entails, fine, but just be clear eyed about the fact that your chances of making a living from a serious contemporary practice is still effectively zero.

12/14/2010 11:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I held my breath and moved to New York, and America, for that matter. No support, totally invisible.. It has been horribly difficult, but my 'career' is actually beginning to pick up which never would have happened had I not taken that step. My quality of life is terrible for certain and I am not sure how long I can sustain, but I now have representation in European nations through being in this city. It is worth it, at least for a few years.

12/15/2010 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I would think it is about the work.

Amen sister. I chose Boston over New York because I can live here affordably, and consequently I can make my work and write more or less as I please. That means more to me than trying to become part of a historical narrative that is now largely a charade.

According to one of my mentors, who was there, in 1950 every artist worth a damn was living on Eighth Street and dealers used to drop by once a week to see what was going on. His peer group believed that the way to greater commercial success was to get back in the studio and make better art. New York became an artistic center because of a confluence of cheap real estate, post-war wealth, European immigration, and a certain coming-of-age in American intellectual life. None of those factors exist anymore, and in its place there is an enormous commercial structure, which now has to be dealt with as such as described in Ed's post today. I don't deny that exciting things are happening in New York, but this has all the markings of a late phase of empire. And exciting things are happening all over the place.

12/15/2010 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Back in 1950, before New York became the draw it was, though, there were far, far fewer artists competing for commercial success than there are now, Franklin. Moreover, those artists were more willing to wait until they were middle age for their first break than artists are today. Combined together, these facts have changed the path to commercial success. Or at least the fast track to it. New York still seems to reward a large number of its truly gifted artists in their latter years.

So it's still about the work...but with so much good work and so few slots at the top (if that's a place you care to get to), people are less secure they can get there without fighting harder/smarter for it.

I'm not saying it's good...just that that's how it currently works.

I'll also note that the hatred for other artists on 8th street in 1950 was perhaps much more palpable than it is anywhere in greater New York today.

12/15/2010 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon. podunk here.
Ed, Thanks for clarifying.

Going further about cold submissions:

@ed said: "Cold submissions with research behind them are not so bad, but the percentages suggest many artist cast a wide net with no real idea whether the galleries they're spending money approaching would ever consider showing their work..."

I think artists have to cast a wide net due to the number of galleries. I believe there are more than a dozen that my work could fit with. I think its worth the postage for making the possible connection.

@ ed: "Not only is that a waste, but it generates a artificially negative view of the way the work is perceived in the market when it may not be that the work is unready for a gallery show, but that the artist simply hasn't approached the right gallery."

I disagree that its a waste. But there's merit to your point about a "negative view of the way the work is perceived." But I attribute that to be a personality issue. Artists should be prepared for the rejection, and even more, "no response." There are bright spots though - some very fine galleries, professional and thoughtful enough to send a reply letter, often with encouragement.

Someone commented earlier back, that when a gallery "clearly states their vision in the "about" section of their gallery, it's a no-brainer..."

Totally agree! How about more galleries helping out the artists by adding that information to their website.

12/15/2010 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon. Podunk here again.

Ed. Over @Joanne Mattera's blog is her coverage of the art fairs, and of interest was SEVEN here:

Can you understand how artists, upon seeing pictures like the ones at links below, think their work can/does fit? I believe this is more the "thought process" of the larger number of artists out there.

12/15/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I respect anon-9:27's comment. It takes a lot to pull up roots, especially if one moves to a different country. In my personal experience, these wanderers are almost always interesting and talented people.

12/15/2010 12:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks George.

12/15/2010 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anon. Podunk.

While I understand how they might think their art fits on that salon-style installed wall (the point of which was to find a rhythm and formal beauty from the mix of truly disparate works and offer viewers something to take their breath away), that is a reflection of 7 different gallery's visions. So, just because your work would look great on that wall doesn't mean it would fit the program of each and every one of those participating galleries. You'd still need to sort out which gallery would be the best to approach, because as much as the SEVEN galleries share in common philosophy-wise, we're rather distinct in our core programmatic visions.

12/15/2010 12:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, No. I understand about the salon-style wall installation, each different gallery's reflected visions, etc.

But what I mean, is, looking at the artwork on the wall, individually... it's difficult to see a "big leap" from, say, my own work (or some other artists) to many of the pieces on the wall - i.e. like a Shane Hope painting (I like his work, so convenient example thats all).

As far as "translation" of how those individual artists works shown, fit their gallery's program's, perhaps I'm not sophisticated enough to understand... but its never explained "clearly" either.

Gallery programs seem subjective to me, and when viewing a gallery's roster, studying the past exhibits and individual thumbnails, etc. I don't always see "the programmatic vision." What I see, is more... "I like the artists work this gallery shows, its contemporary in an appropriate way to my work, I like the look of the space... my work doesn't seem inappropriate." But there's no other information to confirm or deny whether to approach, so therefore, I will send a brochure.

Indulge me another moment.... Say you have two paintings, both visually stunning in the same way, both technically proficient, etc. Both artists on the same level. Could you explain how you see one fitting the program, and not the other?

Is it the artists own philosophy, approach, etc. that makes the difference for you in selection? Are your collectors more the factor? Or if you can sell one artists work more readily? I know there are many factors involved, but, can you expand some more on all this - and I'm following today's post too.

Anon. Podunk

12/15/2010 04:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

So it's still about the work...but with so much good work and so few slots at the top ... people are less secure they can get there without fighting harder/smarter for it.

If there were only six people on the planet who could sing, we wouldn't care what they looked like or what else they could do. But millions of people can sing, and technology can make millions more seem like they can sing, so the problem of becoming known for singing entails a massive undertaking of self-presentation and showmanship that has little or nothing to do with singing. Substitute making art for singing in the above sentences and you have described the contemporary art world. It wasn't always thus, but like you say, that's just how it currently works. Music's officialdom is more likely to anoint a passable singer with enormous acumen for self-presentation and showmanship than a gifted singer with passable self-presentation and showmanship. Art's officialdom is no different. (To its credit, music's officialdom realizes that is in the entertainment business. Art's officialdom thinks that it is undertaking serious work.)

The truth of the matter is that the better art, just like the better music, is getting done outside of officialdom. That may not say anything for or against New York, but it may say something about the picture a lot of people have of a successful New York art career.

I'll also note that the hatred for other artists on 8th street in 1950 was perhaps much more palpable than it is anywhere in greater New York today.

I wasn't there then and I'm not there now, but the picture described by Irving Sandler was that of a collegial if sometimes cranky bunch.

12/15/2010 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post and comments. I think what distinguishes NY from other places is the sheer number of players. Like everywhere else, most work sucks, but in big places there is more that truly stands out and there is a richer variety of directions than in smallsville.

12/15/2010 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward, you should have pointed the letter-writer to one of the Manhattan vanity galleries. They basically built their business on catering to those who are desperate to say they had a NYC show.

12/16/2010 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The truth of the matter is that the better art, just like the better music, is getting done outside of officialdom. This is idle conjecture, certainly there is always good art being made in the underground. This is generally the choice of, or failing of, the artists.

If anything galleries are looking for fresh art to exhibit. Aside from the propensity to gravitate towards a current style or taste, something which has been true for 100 years at least, officialdom isn't excluding anyone. Much of this "good work" is derivative, a rehash of earlier styles which makes it difficult to separate from its historical antecedents - it lacks identity.

For example, the Painting Center currently has an exhibition of small paintings by (about) 140 artists. What impressed me more than anything else was how accomplished they were AND how undistinguishable they all were. Aside from a handful of artists they all lacked the distinguishing identity which is a requirement for success in the greater artworld. That doesn't mean these painters cannot enjoy a successful career exhibiting and selling their artworks but it is unlikely they will garner the interest of museum curators (officialdom??)

This is the kind of observation which one can make in NYC (or LA or...) because the sheer number of artists exhibiting allows one to see the difference.

12/16/2010 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the artists outside the gallery system wanting in: Have you ever considered how many submissions a gallery gets in New York? How most of it has no relationship to the programming? It is disrespectful to think that a small staff at a gallery has the will or interest to sift through the junk that is received. Because of the decidedly uneducated bunch constantly submitting portfolios the researched individuals get lost and discarded as well. If you can find a way to motivate the submitters to do research, the system may not be entirely about insiders anymore. Nope, I am not a dealer, just someone who takes the time to LOOK around.


12/16/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Of course, George. Galleries are looking for fresh art to exhibit. Officialdom is excluding no one. (At least aside from a preference towards a current style or taste, which is not a shortcoming and is caused by gravity.) What I call better art is really quote "good work" unquote.

Talk about idle conjecture.

I hope the art world one day appreciates the fact that it has such an enthusiastic apologist as you. My position requires a greater degree of realism, as incorrect calls about the conditions on the ground could have material consequences for my art and writing careers. Good for you for not being similarly burdened.

12/16/2010 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

"Good work" is a distinction determined by taste and eventually history. There may be a lot of good work around which never makes it into the vein of art history, it may be good but it lacks that extra something. There is nothing wrong with this career path as long as an artist doesn't confuse their goals, otherwise you can easily end up disgruntled and bitter.

Maybe I'm misreading your last remark but there is nothing in my previous remarks which should be construed as being directed specifically at you or your situation. It's not my problem.

12/16/2010 04:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I wasn't addressing you either. In fact, I'm not addressing you now.

12/16/2010 09:38:00 PM  
Anonymous rebecca klementovich said...

This article is very true in my opinion. I lived and showed my work in NYC. Now I live in NH doing the same. If people connect, and support each other, your reputation grows as a great person and artist. Doing your best to help represent and nuture your gallery gives you the same energy back. Good for you Edward in explaining the process in such a kind way!

Rebecca KLementovich-painteress.

3/29/2011 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Caio Fern said...

you and your "friend" sound only as the power looking for an excuse to exclude people and keep the confortable status you have had with politic and manipulation.
But the new generation with a new view of art is already turning the back to its NY achievement .
Nobody there really wants to contribute to the "comunity" , they are only after the gold. When appear an artists that smells like money nobody will mind if he is "contribuiting"... people will want to get it.

4/18/2011 07:41:00 PM  

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