Friday, July 15, 2011

Shut Me Up

Murat and I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of artists last night, organized by our dear friend and hot new blogger, the art historian, critic, and curator Jane Harris. Much of the conversation focused on what galleries wants with regard to artist statements, or bios, or jpegs vs. links to websites, etc. It was an open and frank conversation about networking in New York and how best to go about approaching galleries, and, well, it covered a lot of the same ground we've hashed out in these posts.

But it led me to climb up on my soapbox at one point and preach a bit more about something that really began sink into my consciousness during #class. In a nutshell, it's the idea that the art world (galleries, museums, collectors, etc.) doesn't exist because artists are nice people. It doesn't exist as some charity for the sensitive or perceptive types who'd much prefer to spend their time making things than getting a job like everyone else. It's not your surrogate parents. It doesn't care how famous you want to be. It doesn't care how much you really, really put your heart and soul into that painting or video or performance.

The art world exists to find, support, and ultimately preserve the objects or ideas worth preserving. It's not about you or what you want. It's about the most amazing artwork being created in our time. Either bring that to the plate or stay in the dugout.

Too frequently in such discussions (not so much last night, but in general), I get the sense that 1) artists feel getting a gallery will be the key to all their career dreams (it ain't so); and 2) because they feel that, they spend way too much time considering what it is they think a dealer wants. How should I craft my artist statement? What types of shows should I include in my CV?

Who cares?!?!?!

You want to know what we really want (...and I know it's a tall order...the tallest, actually...but...)? We want you to shut us up.

We want you to show us something so jaw-droppingly amazing, we're left speechless.

Do that, and the art world will do anything for you. We'll be your charity. We'll be your surrogate parents. Just keep feeding us that jaw-dropping art crack.

Or get back in your studio until you can.

Labels: ,

75 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes "Tough Love" comes in the form of a grand piano crashing into our tunnel vision from the 13th floor of common sense.

Buyers want the same thing. If I stand there and have to hear or discuss, for a length of time, what "it" is...well, I could have done that anywhere. I want "it" to make me smile, consume my mind with obsession, make me cry, or simply just move my heart to move my hand to my bill fold and take "it" home.

Well said Mr. Winkleman.

7/15/2011 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous LG said...

In recent chats I have had @ crits and with other artists, I've heard the term 'all on the wall" come up fairly often. I agree that work, good work, shouldn't require explanation. But I would argue that the 'all" part lies in different places in different people. Eye of the beholder. Is there a work that pretty much shuts everyone up? My selection would be Guernica . But I bet many would disagree. This somewhat unknown factor is why I love art and why I continue to strive for that universal "shut up" level of work. Good post!

7/15/2011 10:26:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

As an artist, what I want is a viewer/dealer/curator who is worthy of being shown such an artwork. It's not a one way street.

7/15/2011 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

As an artist, what I want is a viewer/dealer/curator who is worthy of being shown such an artwork.

Hah!

As opposed to what? Hiding it from the world until your own private perfect audience is worthy?

Get over yourself.

7/15/2011 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Shut Me Up "


It's on like donkey kong !!!!!

7/15/2011 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's on like donkey kong !!!!!

do it!

7/15/2011 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

I agree with George.

A tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it; does it fall?

You, Mr. Winkleman are oversimplifying the issue. Come to my studio or George's or actually go out and look in unusual places.

The other thing worth mentioning is that anything REALLY new is usually met with annoyance, fear, and derision. Most things touted as new are small modifications to things already done. It takes a leap of faith on behalf of the viewer to see something new.

7/15/2011 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Bernard, the context for the post is clear. Rather than concern yourself with what a dealer wants, concern yourself with creating work that any dealer would be a fool not to want to represent.

All the rest of your post sounds to my ear like excuses.

7/15/2011 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

@Ed, Nonsense. You are assuming that the viewer will 'get it' and drop their jaw. -- In my experience this isn't true, a huge portion of the audience is waiting for some outside validation before they open themselves up to a new experience.

7/15/2011 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Maybe 'worthy' wasn't the best choice of words, but you get the idea

7/15/2011 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

@Ed, Nonsense. You are assuming that the viewer will 'get it' and drop their jaw.

Not at all. I'm assuming they don't have to "get it" to have it drop their jaw.

7/15/2011 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"To restore silence is the role of objects." ---Samuel Beckett

7/15/2011 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

excuses? Explain.
I don't concern myself with what a dealer wants, I just make art and it fills up the studio.

The art world is a club, if your not a member no one will pay attention.

You dare artists to make better work but you offer no outlet for that work to be seen or bother to see the work yourself.

I take the context of the post to be: Artists, (you dumb knuckleheads) you're not making good enough art! Get back in that (already overcrowded) studio and continue to make work that no gallerist will come to see, because you are not in our friendly clique.

How dare you rouse the lemmings into action!
(granted, lemmings don't really intentionally run off cliffs, but Disney's people scared them off the cliff for a good photo-op, [Rest assured the generation of artists getting attention today will have no idea what this is about])

7/15/2011 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

excuses? Explain.

Don't need to. The rest of your post does so perfectly.

7/15/2011 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Perhaps, this is all to arouse the troops for Jennifer Dalton's upcoming show?

7/15/2011 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's what it proclaims to be.

Take it at face value, or carry on assuming it's the rest of the art world's fault you're not meeting your goals (as your posts suggest you feel).

7/15/2011 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Don't need to. The rest of your post does so perfectly.

Ha! That's an easy out.

I could be so idiosyncratic as to not see it, but I've been around enough galleries to verify that even instant successes have some curator, dealer, benefactor, or rich uncle in the background helping to get the work seen.

Any artist with half a brain knows that most dealers can't do everything for an artist, but a gallery is a (in most cases) public space that allows art to be seen with some degree of objectivity by those with an interest in art (by the mere fact that they chose to enter the gallery). It also adds weight (theoretically, of course) to an artists resume when it comes to applying for residencies and proposing museum and curated shows.

7/15/2011 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous tskross said...

hmmmm...Its funny, at my most naive and idealistic time, right out of art school with a BFA I really thought that this would work, just make brilliant work and everything was sure to work out... Of course in retrospect my work was in no way capable of of shutting anyone up at that immature point in its development. But I found a small amount of success, and more than that the realization that I really didn't have any other choice in life than to continue making art. So that is what I have done for the past eleven years.

Edward, I think what you are saying is a great idea, perhaps the ideal even but its not so simple.
First of all how and when is an artist expected to be aware that their work has attained this level of success? I think at best most artists will know that they are perhaps "on to something". And even if they were able to realize that they were doing something utterly unrefutable, wouldn't that be a bit of a turn off, to say the least? Surely not every great artist through time would have the ego to be able to say that their work is good enough to "shut someone up".

So then is it not left to those art world professionals, curators, dealers, directors etc to go out and find these artists? The ones making the work that deserves to be preserved for humanity? But where do they go to find them?
I know that you would answer that it is a variety of places and through a variety of means, but there is no way someone can sort through all of this:
http://ps1.org/studio-visit/maps/allartists
to find those few, and I wouldn't ask them to. It's not possible. So in the end it is up to the artists to get their work out there to be seen. We know that. That is why we like to hear answers to concrete questions like, "what do you like to see on a c.v." Not that they really help, its just nice to have some concrete advice to latch on to!

I guess my real point is that it is easy as a gallerist to ask artists just to make their best work, to amaze them, and not worry about the rest. But given the present saturation of artists and the amount of opportunities to get your work seen that's not the most helpful advice. Most of us, who take this seriously, already know that. And we sometimes find it frustrating that dealers and curators (especially curators) seem to want to see the same sorts of things over and over again.

And not to sound sycophantic but this isn't a frustration with you or your gallery (in fact I am grateful for your venue, both in brick and mortar and online). But it lays with the multitudes of other venues who don't follow this philosophy. The fact is that not all of us artist are lucky enough to make work that fits into the program of a gallery whose direction is as noble or to be in the right place at the right time no matter how hard we try. We just have to keep making and hope that someday we can make it happen.

t

7/15/2011 11:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because art is "good" doesn't mean it's good for every gallery. (We all know that by now so there's really no need for me to repeat it.) It's also true, in my opinion, that plenty of "good" art isn't particularly "new." I went to school with a number of people who aspired to be like Rembrandt or Sargeant and they never seemed to "get it," that there's a big difference between wanting to be like an artist from the past and really attaining that ability. Whatever you do, you have to produce consistently.Plus, there are plenty of talented artists who aren't especially motivated by the gallery scene and if that's you then you just have to accept it and build your practice in a way that's good for you.

7/15/2011 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Edward, I think what you are saying is a great idea, perhaps the ideal even but its not so simple.

Phew! Finally!!!

OK, so everything else you say, t, is true. It's not so simple, even as the artist, to know you're making your best work. Some times you can assume you are/or are not, and the world will disagree, etc. etc. but until an artist begins with and remains first and foremost focused on the realization that this is THE IDEAL and shoots for that in their studio, they are rarely going to even come close to achieving it or their other goals. Too many artists see getting a gallery as some sort of end goal, to the detriment of focusing on the more important task of pushing themselves as hard as humanly possible to create works of wonder.

The competition is fierce. And as unfair as it is, how nice you are or sincere you are or whatever doesn't change that. Defeat the competition with your work!

Now, I'll talk to any artist for hours about how the system works or how to navigate it (believe me...I have). But if I sense they feel getting a gallery is THE IDEAL, rather than squeezing out every ounce of brilliance in their marrow, I'll drag their sorry asses back to that inescapable requirement. Prioritizing getting a gallery over producing work worthy of the system preserving it is all about the artist. And what I'm telling them is that the system doesn't care about them...it only cares if they can make our jaws drop.

If you make it, they will come. If you think you've made it and yet they're still not coming, well...work harder.

What else you gonna do? Blame the system? No one cares if you do that either.

7/15/2011 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous tskross said...

Edward,

can't really argue with that.
There are plenty of us out there for whom getting a gallery is not the end-all be-all, but rather that having one's work be shown in a gallery is just another part of the puzzle (a part that is most likely to directly allow one to finance the continuation of the work, maybe) I would think that from your perspective, as a gallerist,and in NYC, that you probably get exposed to more artists desperate to achieve this. Whether they see it as the puzzle or just a small piece.

Please, just know that there those of us out there for whom this is not the ultimate goal!!

7/15/2011 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

As I've said about that wonderful line of Beckett, not everyone is capable of silence. Not everyone wants silence. Even those of us who do don't find it easy to come by. Try three minutes of sitting meditation and you'll know what I'm talking about.

My work has many shortcomings. For all I know, my work has nothing but shortcomings. But to whatever extent it succeeds, it succeeds for the benefit of whomever is sensitive to its particular successes. I don't care whether these people are part of the art world or not. The art world doesn't want silence. It wants chatter. There are exceptions, and it is my job to find them. But it cranks along according to its own logic. The art world exists to entertain the people who like that sort of thing. Some worthy objects and many unworthy ones get preserved in the process. Many worthy objects are not preserved. This is not necessarily the fault of the objects.

Silence is a country that will admit anyone, but few reside there.

7/15/2011 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger Reid said...

Edward,
You're right in pointing out the mistake artists make in thinking of the gallery as a nurturing parent or charity. Yet there's just as much folly in the marine corps order to "get back in your studio" and deliver. I'm not an artist, but my heart goes out to artists for whom the aggressive order to produce alienates their practice and tends to flood the market with loud-spoken self-promoters.

The complaint that good art is outsold by art that grabs people's attention can often be a cop out, coming from a place of flakiness, childishness, or jealosy. It is nevertheless a legitimate concern, slyly confirmed in your comparison of the product you deal in to crack.

I, for one, tend to think of galleries in a more benevolent light, though I admit that the time and effort spent in search of a more accessible, more instantly and intensely gratifying derivative of what galleries would otherwise offer is ultimately good for business. Never mind how good it is for posterity.

7/15/2011 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ed, your wrong in assuming the 'jaw drop' experience will be universal. It may occur for a viewer in a singular sense but to assume that it will occur collectively is not supported by the facts.

This wasn't the case with a number of very famous artists, Pollock, or Johns, or Warhol... all had positive responses from a selected group of viewers and at the same time they had an even larger group of detractors, many still to this day.

Moreover, I think artists view dealers and make similar judgments, that this dealer has a better eye than that one.

7/15/2011 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm not an artist, but my heart goes out to artists for whom the aggressive order to produce alienates their practice and tends to flood the market with loud-spoken self-promoters.

Please don't confuse a tough-love encouragement to "make the best work you can make" with a production order for product. Not that the later isn't frequently commanded by dealers, just that it's not what I'm saying here.

7/15/2011 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

George,

none of what you say contradicts "until an artist begins with and remains first and foremost focused on the realization that this is THE IDEAL and shoots for that in their studio, they are rarely going to even come close to achieving it or their other goals."

You seem to be arguing that even if an artist doesn't push themselves, the art world still owes them something.

At least that how it sounds in this context.

7/15/2011 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Caio Fern said...

" We want you to show us something so jaw-droppingly amazing, we're left speechless."

Why do you lie to people ? I know it isn't about that.

7/15/2011 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Why do you lie to people ? I know it isn't about that.

Just as I know you're not really a potted plant but a creature from the planet Mercoim 7 spying on us humans in anticipation of an imminent invasion. Why don't you come clean about that????

Or better yet, why not explain why you're so threatened by the notion that artists should be encouraged to push themselves to create their best work that you'll drop common decency and actually accuse me of lying?

Fuck off.

7/15/2011 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ed, um, what you think it might have sounded like isn't what I meant.

Lee Krasner remarked about the painters in the 1940's, to the effect ... since there were very few sales, nobody was concerned with selling their paintings, they were concerned with their place in history...

One of the biggest obstacles an artist has to deal with today is the expanded marketplace. It creates new conditions which affect how one contends with making art in the present day.

Young artists speak of 'branding' as if it was synonymous with 'style,' a word used in the past as a descriptor for how an artists work achieved a visual identity. 'Branding' has a subtle but different meaning since it assumes in advance that the artwork is to be a product. Making work which affects history, that's a different ballgame.

7/15/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Ed, um, what you think it might have sounded like isn't what I meant

Thanks for the clarification, and fair enough.

I did intentionally frame the "art world" to include museums, the only truly consistent guardian of artists' place in history. And I do consider whether a work is amazing much more important than whether or not I think it can sell.

Most dealers I know do.

7/15/2011 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

I'll harbor a guess of what Caio might mean (though I would couch it much more politely, if I were to make the same claim). And this jells somewhat with what I think George also suggests, which you seem to claim is about being owed something by the art world:

The art world and your part in it as a gallery dealer is to commercially promote your artists. You are suggesting artists make better work, but there may not be any intention on your part to look for results in what you are propelling artists to do.
That's the norm, it's what anyone would offer "do the best you can to some assumed ideal". It's a very American kind of thing (individualist, entrepreneur: invent, enhance, improve, etc. etc.)

From this pool of strivers the "best" (by subjective, hierarchical standards) may get picked for prime spots in some galleries that may have open slots in their roster. Do you Mr. Winkleman have any intention of looking to have your "jaw dropped"?
You seem to be making oversimplified and empty claims, at least to the vast majority of artists who truly feel they are doing something of value, but they do not fit your fancy (assuming you have any room on your roster, or are looking to inform other dealers who may.)

7/15/2011 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Do you Mr. Winkleman have any intention of looking to have your "jaw dropped"?

That's the third time you've implied I'm not looking enough, Bernard. I have looked at images of your work. Why don't you acknowledge that here?

7/15/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

This is not JUST about me. But since you bring it up:

I make sculpture that is meant to be seen in person, not as images.

Anyone else curious here to see images can just click on my name because it links directly to my website, but again, those are just images.

My point is this:
To everyone out there who continue to do just as you say "make better art" most won't get the work seen or thought about in a manner deserving of the effort put into the art. In suggesting that if its "jaw dropping" it will get attention that doesn't fit the vast majority of the art in galleries, museums and remembered through time. You and others will come across work "worthy" of recognition and maybe support it, but you will miss things along the way. You cannot see everything nor appreciate everything. You make a claim that cannot be substantially verified and you face no repercussions and cannot be held accountable for it (other than verbal arguments here).

Yet you expect artists to continue to make art, and they will though not to please you, but because it is some innate desire to create something of beauty.

You Mr. Winkleman have nothing to lose by making proclamations and can use your words and position in the art world to convince. While the artists out there (meaning unknown and unrecognized) give much and lose much of the time.

I put myself in a vulnerable position by not being anonymous. Mr. Winkleman is not interested in the type of art I make, though he has never flat-out said so (it was implied through previous communications).

I find this blog interesting because Mr. Winkleman does relatively openly touch upon issues about the hierarchy of the art world. I appreciate being able express myself on it though my arguments are not just about ME as an artist, but about what it is like to be AN artist trying to get the art out there along with the other kindred artists in the world.

7/15/2011 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Rico said...

Seems like you really touched a nerve!

I read your post and physically uttered a colorful affirmation. I felt the spirit of Tyler Durden for a moment there, and I liked it.

Full disclosure: because I don't live in a city or an active art scene, I readily accept it as a given that no one is coming for me. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were slogging away in Brooklyn, but I don't think so. I'm the one who has to bring it, and I better bring it heavy when I do.

The work is the most important thing, -not what I want, not what I need, but whether at any given moment I'm being true to the work. When it's there, I shop it, when it's not, I drop it or re-work it or put it in storage until I can actually see it and not just look at it.

I don't think what you're saying is any more over simplistic than giving a bullet list of "how to approach a gallery". In fact, it's refreshing to get called out; it gives the ubiquitous "Art World" a human face.

I also think it's about being honest about what you want. Sales don't translate to greatness necessarily. If you want to sell, then make work that will sell. If you want to be a legend, than push yourself to the absolute limits of the known and then push beyond. It's up to the artist to show people (and galleries, critics and dealers) the possibilities. A scribble can be art, but it took someone like Twombly to show people that. And if your work is not somewhat rejected in your time, you're probably not doing it right, or at least not pushing your boundaries.

Getting Representation doesn't solve the problems. It's a potential step in the process, and personally I don't think that process ever ends.

7/15/2011 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Consider the affects of the larger art market. There are more artists and more art works being sold than ever before. The artists making 'jaw dropping' artworks are statistical outliers in a system which now cranks out "professional artists" by the thousands.

Graduates of the MFA mills enter the art world with whatever the current skill-set of the month is, but probably little or no understanding of what that subtle difference is that elevates an artwork into the best of the best category.

I pay attention to paintings, and I see a lot of competent paintings around, especially by older artists who have honed their skills over the years. Unfortunately they all fail to separate themselves from being just ordinary, they're good but ordinary, no jaw drop.

7/15/2011 02:13:00 PM  
Anonymous jend said...

great post Ed, thank you! for sure, one of the most challenging aspects of being an artist may be the constant returning to one's own center, and finding time and again, that you/your art is still the only one steering the ship! committing to/cultivating your artistic vision over the long haul is consistently both terrifying and enthralling--both of which are probably requisite for jaw-dropping work.

7/15/2011 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Big No said...

To be financially successful, you must work within the established historical narrative of the art world. But to be historically successful, you must reach outside that narrative to alter its trajectory. The tension between these two opposing definitions of "good" art is the source of the intense passion in this discussion. It's why artists recoil when they hear someone say, "just shut up and make good art." That can come off as total disregard by those on the inside for those on the outside. But Ed is right: no one in the world is owed anything by the rest of us. You become rich only if you can make other people richer. The game is complicated and if you cant figure out how to play it, you can go play another game… or make one up of your own. Actually my advice to artists is to just shut up and quit making art. Your vision isn't that interesting. Make room for mine!

7/15/2011 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward-
Honestly, I'm not blown away by much of the work that you show, with the exception of Ivin Ballen and Shane Hope. However, I am engaged much of the other work on a more cerebral/conceptual level. However,unfortunately, I must say that some of the other work just doesn't move me in any way, no matter how much time I spend with it.

You are right, galleries owe artists nothing, but as Caio suggested it isn't merely about the work..Luck, trends, pedigree (social, academic) etc all play into this equation in varying degrees.

On the whole, I do agree that artists need to focus less on complaining about politics and carry on aspiring to make their best work...However to suggest that politics are not at play is rather naive and disingenuous.

7/15/2011 05:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. What a complete circle jerk

7/15/2011 06:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no universal shut up factor. Afterall, it's not really shutting up that matters...its about the discourse and connecting with the broader art world machinery - as prescribed by market and curatorial trends. Don't simplify the concerns of an artist. Good art (of the shut up variety) does not matter as much as smart art (of the curatorial BS variety).

7/15/2011 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I was jurying a show in Boston the other day. The gallery director was looking over my shoulder as I scrolled the images. At one point we saw an image and both went, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh." It was a swoon rather than a jaw-drop, but I think it was within the realm of Ed's description. And that kind of reaction can happen almost anywhere--on a monitor, in a studio, on gallery walls. When evokes something in you, it's powerful. We've all experienced it as art viewers.

Ed is the messenger. He's telling you what he and other dealers want. Heed it or ignore it.

However, I do agree with George, who said early in this conversation, " . . . what I want is a viewer/dealer/curator who is worthy of being shown such an artwork. . ." So, yes, WE have to swoon, too.

7/15/2011 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I disagree with Dr No above. I don't think his proposition is supported by the facts. Almost all artists who we might consider as historically important have the potential to be financially successful. Moreover I think they command higher prices and account for a considerable portion of the entire market sales volume.

Most artists don't fall into this category, yet they may be quite financially successful because they have properly branded themselves and give the market what it wants.

7/15/2011 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I disagree with Dr No above. I don't think his proposition is supported by the facts. Almost all artists who we might consider as historically important have the potential to be financially successful. Moreover I think they command higher prices and account for a considerable portion of the entire market sales volume.

Most artists don't fall into this category, yet they may be quite financially successful because they have properly branded themselves and give the market what it wants.

7/15/2011 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed..come on man where's my comment!? I made some good points and you can't acknowledge any of it. I guess you don't want people to shut you up if you shut people up first.

7/15/2011 07:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are most dealers looking for amazing work? Most of the work I see in Chelsea and elsewhere is competent, but not imaginative, not amazing. Some other standard must be at work.

7/15/2011 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edward, I’ll try this again - because my points are valid (regardless of whether you agree with me or not).

Honestly, I'm not blown away by much of the work that you show, with the exception of Ivin Ballen and Shane Hope. However, I am engaged by much of the other work on a more cerebral/conceptual level. Unfortunately, I must say that some of the other work just doesn't move me in any way, no matter how much time I spend with it.

You are right, galleries owe artists nothing, but as Caio suggested it isn't merely about the work. Luck, trends, pedigree (social, academic) etc all play into this equation in varying degrees.

On the whole, I do agree that artists need to focus less on complaining about politics and carry on aspiring to make their best work...However to suggest that politics are not at play is rather naive and disingenuous.

7/16/2011 01:52:00 AM  
Blogger Meltemi. said...

Hurrah I like the concept of shut up & paint! As an artist I paint I sell just enough to keep going. There are too few galleries & too many artists. So the artist statement is as about much use as the linen napkin and the napkin ring. The buyer buys my art not the twaddle of the statement. I put one together just to go along with it in case it was important!

7/16/2011 06:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

jaw dropping = falling in love

they are both universally possible yet viscerally felt individually -not logically explained (ya know it when it happens to ya and the who/what won't be the same as for anyone else, even though it is the same feeling)

an artist (female photographer if I remember) wrote to the effect if " you’re part of the collective, ... you’ll earn the collective (average) price. " L Kim

Historically or financially, as others have pointed out above, there are good reasons to firstly seek art that emanates that grab you feeling. Obviously those special moments are special because they are uncommon. We live our lives with in the quotidian,so to be reminded its the exceptional that is prized might be taken as insulting since it is an obvious truth, even if its utterance bears repeating.

7/16/2011 07:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Mery Lynn said...

Louis Menand wrote something about writing which is applicable to Ed's comments here:
"Literature is a report on experience. I just don't think that it's a PRIVILEGED report on experience. It is as Trilling felt in his darker, anthropological moods, simply part of the cultural activity of making meaning."

Many of us in the arts think we are privileged and expect assistance based on that.

7/16/2011 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

We want you to show us something so jaw-droppingly amazing, we're left speechless.

Now if only galleries were consistently filled with such work, I'd have a little faith in the theory that's it's all down to what's on the wall.

7/16/2011 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Saskia said...

Yes its true, we artists are a bunch of whiners sometimes. It just comes with our sensitive nature. (ha, ha, yes, I'm joking here...). But really, artists complaining about the system is just as likely to change as the art world is to magically transform into a meritocracy.
Let's face it, the art world is not full of love. You have to do it for yourself.
We artists can own that, can't we?

I do it for myself.
(It's good to reminds myself of this, often...)

Seriously, the art world is not the only 'world' that is totally whack. Just look around you... it's a crazy world we live in.
It's a crazy world and the art world is rigged, but I'm still alive, and actually living pretty well comparatively speaking, and I'm still making art. To me, that's actually pretty great. Seriously, I count my blessings daily.

But just because it's so much fun to be contrary, I have to add: I'm not sure that going back to the studio and focusing on making the greatest art possible is actually a good recipe for making the greatest art possible. It's kind of like chasing after happiness-- that's probably the surest way not to find it... So how do I say more about that without getting up even higher on the soapbox? It's good to trust yourself on the quality of your work, because you know better than anyone else if what you're making is good, mediocre, great, or crap. But sometimes it's a really good idea to let yourself fail.

oh yea, and maybe then, we can shut Mr. Winkleman up... but I do kind of like to hear him talk, he's pretty good at it...
Maybe one day I can shut myself up, that would really be something!

7/16/2011 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, maybe I'm just a cynical SOB, but please, do we have to constantly hear how its always about the supposed "worth" of the great artwork? Can we never just have just a tad bit of honesty? I would love to see an "honest" version of what dealers 'really' want, like "The Wire" for the artworld. Now of course, Ed would never think these things. But someone else, maybe something like:

1) I want you to be personal friends with a personal friend of mine. I wont even look at your work unless you get a direct referral from someone in my own tiny and elite social circle.

2) I want you to be already famous, or at least semi-famous. People already buy your work, so I dont have to do as much to promote you. Yer a known brand/commodity.

3) Tit for Tat: My artists tell their friends that I just 'loved' their work when they saw it and that's the only reason I show it, but the other real reason I represent them is because the artist cashes in favors for me, like when his rich brother in law's sister pays for that public art installation and I get a cut of it. Giving him a show every couple years is my form of payback.

4) I admit the work isn't actually any good, but it generates publicity and hype for me. It is full of all the identity politics and art bollocks I can find to get the work "in the dialogue" and people talking about it. Who cares if it is any good? People talk about it, and even if they hate it, I make money on it.

5) Oh, yeah, every now and then the work IS actually good, and its actually hanging on my wall bec. I think it is good. This is like 10% of the time, when politics, favors, and other self-interested things dont come into play. But even though my image is predicated on the fact that I am an all-knowing art tastemaker, in reality I have a really limited knowledge of what is out there bec. I only know artwork already recognized in the art-industrial complex, and go out of my way to avoid any work that isn't personally recommended to me or in my limited circle. When I do show good work, it is from only within this very tiny sample of what's out there bec. I just dont know any other stuff, and it would embarass me to acknowledge as such.

7/16/2011 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Julie Miller said...

Thank you for taking the time to come to our class. Your visit, thoughts and information where very helpful. Julie Miller

7/16/2011 01:11:00 PM  
Anonymous rory said...

This is definitely one of the more refreshing and honest art career tidbits I've heard in a while. And it involves making more stuff which is always cool.

7/16/2011 05:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Rev. Jones said...

Ed, could you please tell us if your gallery's finances are in the red or black for the year? And, how do you define a successful gallery? When you wrote, "And I do consider whether a work is amazing much more important than whether or not I think it can sell.", it made me curious as to how you keep the gallery going. If a gallery isn't a business, that's in business to make money, then what is it besides a tax deduction?

7/17/2011 02:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Edward. I am going to put it back on you .

I have a modest proposal that possibly could turn into a decent money maker and give Artist a glimmer of hope and a kick in the ass.

Start a website, Possible Names Edward Winkleman's "Rough Trade" , "Put up or Shut up" ect. You get the idea. I like Rough Trade.

The site would give Artist ,Curators,Critics Writers,Philosophers ,Art History students and professionals a chance to be seen and heard.

The Artist would have to pay a small fee to submit a work of art.

The Fees would go to cover administration, guest Curators , Writers ,Critics.

So lets say you post 50 to 100 works of art a month . Then you have your Guest professionals give their opinion.

You could have a seperate section For Writers and poets philosophers.....

This Thing could evolve into a MONSTER. WHO KNOWS WHAT DIRECTIONS IT COULD GO.

Thank You
Best Regard's

Anonymous

7/17/2011 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse me for being frank, but are you saying that all of the artists on your roster have this amazing quality of jaw-dropping "shut me up" power within their work!? I think that they have somethig else to offer for sure, but I wouldn't say that all art should engages the viewer on this level. I think speaking of jaw-dropping art is an oversimplification of the idea of what art asks of the viewer.
Ryan Trecartin & Gedi Sibony don't shut me up like Rothko or Lee Ufan, but I respect and admire their work greatly... for different reasons not always related to the dropping of my jaw.
Fair enough?

7/17/2011 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have had solo shows with 3 emerging galleries both in NYC and Europe. All have closed. (Having a gallery is usually more of a money losing proposition than is being an artist). I can also say that in terms of sales, I have sometimes done better in years that I don't have gallery representation than those in which I have.

Having said that, nothing gets your work out there & makes your representation like a respected (or hip) contemporary gallery. That's why artists want to have one so badly.

I do disagree with Ed's premise however in one way...as someone else said, what's jaw dropping for one dealer will be met with a yawn by another. That's just the way it goes. And yes, there are gatekeepers in the art world, everyone knows this. When you're in, you are in, at least for the moment. And if you are out, it takes someone with real power to stick their neck out on your behalf (our out of their own self interest, more likely) to validate your work...

7/17/2011 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous A Blade of Grass said...

There's a structural tension here that George and Bernard are right to call you on. You're telling people to drop your jaw, or make something that blows past fit, in a context that's all about fit.

You give good advice to artists all the time. That advice is always about understanding that gallerists have programs. Since galleries are looking for something specific, artists need to target their search and the right gallery program for their work.

Now you're saying that you just want to be blown away, and that artists can make something that "any" gallerist will want to represent if it's "good enough."

When you do that, you essentialize and re-mystify a process that you've been breaking down for artists for years. You have a program. If I make the awesomest landscape paintings known to humankind, you are not going to represent me unless they have a specific conceptual back-story that fits your program. You're very good at talking about this concept of fit with artists. It helped me a lot when you saw my work that you told me exactly how what I was making fit, and also how it didn't.

There's nothing wrong with responding to the MFA Industrial Complex and the panoply of styles that come out of it by creating a system of galleries that sort and market those styles. But I think it's problematic to try to have it both ways. You are saying that you are truly interested in innovation of any kind and that you just want to be wowed, when in practice you discern and sort with a known end result in mind.

Can you tell me how you manage to maintain a truly open mind while you're looking for something specific, are engaged in a project that's about reinforcing the values of a stable of artists and are invested as the author of your gallery and vision?

What if the truly amazing next thing actively rejects what you're already looking for? Will you be able to see it?

--Deborah Fisher

7/18/2011 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

sorry for the delays in posting comments...was out of town and didn't have anything approaching reliable access.

Almost titled this post "Tin of Worms...Meet Can Opener."

I had no idea, apparently.

7/18/2011 09:03:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Will say that I find it interesting that the only time I get comments like this on a thread is when I put the onus on artists to change things.

I sincerely believe that's the only kind of change in the art world that is ever meaningful or lasting.

7/18/2011 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."
— John Steinbeck

I see similarities in this quote to the belief that each artist (myself included) has that we are "great" artists but just temporarily unrecognized.

7/18/2011 10:52:00 AM  
Anonymous A Blade of Grass said...

For what it's worth Ed, I agree that artists are the ones who need to change things. I am not entirely sure that the gallery system is where that change is going to be recognized.

The gallery system isn't bad or good, but it is a system. It has specific resource streams, a way of being and doing. It has specific needs. It might not know what to do with the kind of change artists are offering that's really... you know... change.

BTW, I think it's good that you create a forum for these thoughts. Another big part of embracing change is questioning your reality.

Thanks!

--Deborah Fisher

7/18/2011 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Saskia said... It's good to trust yourself on the quality of your work, because you know better than anyone else if what you're making is good, mediocre, great, or crap.

Hmm, I think this is rarely true. Artists aren't really that objective about their own work.

7/18/2011 12:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Ward said...

i love the essay in theory, except that the key issue (for those possibly about to make the mistake of fretting too much about the statement, etc) isn't there: the "how" of ever getting to show a gallerist one's images. i can't complain since most such essays usually leave that part out. whether one's images "wow" or not is usually moot since galleries generally don't want to be shown unsolicited materials --and they won't solicit anything unless they have some reason to think you're a "wow" worthy artist. which they won't --being unaware of your images. its a big catch-22.

7/18/2011 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@Anon with the "rough Trade" website idea... This already exists in various forms. There are websites doing this already.

More importantly there's Facebook where any artist can create a folder full of images of their work and self promote. There are a lot of artists doing this and I think some are even selling work off Facebook.

7/18/2011 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gary J. Noland Jr. said...

This post did exactly what art is supposed to do. It created a conversation. It doesn't really matter which side one chooses in this argument. All that matters is that one or more artists will use this as motivation to improve their work and/or one or more dealers will be motivated to look outside their "program" for new artwork.

7/18/2011 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey George , I was thnking of a more commercial type site with with NYC In the game art professionals. Imagine Getting your art work flogged by Charlie Finch or Jerry Saltz or who knows they might like it. I'd pay good money for that.

The best rejection letter i ever got was from Hudson at Feature Inc . He is very cool.

Ed should do a rejection letter show in his gallery.

7/18/2011 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Hey Anon... I'm assuming you are just out of art school and are going through crit withdrawal. Your fantasy is right in line for Ed's "shut up" slapdown - Why would any critic bother to give you the time of day?

Consider the two writers you mentioned, what would make either of them a better critic of your work than, say, one of your artist friends?

Would/could one of your artists friend give you a decent crit of your work? Would you believe it?

Your question says to me "not ready for prime time, needs more study or mentoring."

7/18/2011 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

"shut up" slapdown???

Ok, so this is precisely what's been bugging me about many of the responses to this post.

Rather than take the "shut ME up" (not "SHUT UP") meme as the tough love encouragement it's meant to be (although, clearly many artists writing in here have), some of you seem to have misinterpreted it as "SHUT UP."

Reading is essential.

7/18/2011 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Duly noted.

7/18/2011 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Micaiah Hardison said...

What a great inspiring post. This thought is constantly on my mind and keeps me striving to make better more relevant work.

For the Artists complaining: There are structured and reliable access points into the art market: submit your work to juried shows such as Oil Painters of America, Art Renewal Center, International Salon, etc. There are shows/competitions for all medias.

These jurors are typically masters of the craft and if your work is phenomenal you will be accepted to show in the venues (museums/galleries) and win awards, be published in magazines, work will be sold, etc. Use the funds from the awards and sales to repeat this process over and over and you will establish yourself and representation will follow.

Its hard work, but that is how its done! Im climbing up that path now.

If your work is rejected you should continue with great fervor to improve it with classes, study and practice. Even if your work is accepted you must still continue to improve or be left in the dust by the great young artists entering the market.

Enjoy Painting Everyone! (or drawing, sculpting, etc)

7/18/2011 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

In all fairness to anon above, "crit withdrawal" is common among recent MA-MFA graduates. The 'ivory tower' doesn't get named arbitrarily, the sheltered academic world is different than what one finds upon graduating.

So, when this happened to me and my friends after we graduated long ago, we formed a group. It was roughly 8 artists (pared down from over 50 - which indicated real interest but was unmanageable) We met once a week, alternating from studio to studio, drank a lot of beer, talked art world shop and about our work. It was fun, and lasted several years. I'm sure this must still go on today in one form or another. Your artist peers are where the juice is, where the aesthetic can change through mutual support and where new forms are born.

7/18/2011 04:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first question to all of this is "WHY is the artist making the art in the FIRST place?" A few things stand out to me for those most frustrated by lack of recognition or finding a gallery: 1) artistic acclaim 2) public acceptance/fame 3) Financial / commercial gain. Of course (hopefully) most will be doing their work for the sake of the work and the ideas behind the work and the artistic expression itself. It seems to me that like any creative endeavor, that MUST be the live or die underpinning to your choice as a creative. In this day and age of social media, globalized markets, and money transfers, everyone wants a piece of the action and they want it now. Well, like ED is implying, no one cares (inherently). Just like no one cares about a gallery or a gallerist or art dealer who puts their capital and energy and integrity (hopefully) on the line to promote works they believe in (ideally). No gallery is guaranteed commercial success or recognition just like an artist isn't either. An artist, like a gallerist, could try to be clever and cater to the market for commercial or critical gain - many do I'm sure. But, let's remember,there are an equal amount of artists and gallerists in this profession for the pure thrill and satisfaction and inspiration and, frankly, privilege that we can exist in a livelihood that allows us to create and enjoy and exhibit and share this creative work with other people and shapes our current history and defines us. There is no guarantee of success for anyone, in any profession. If you chose to be an artist, that's a heavy choice. Hopefully not a bohemian fantasy. A curator/gallerist/dealer becomes an unintentional filter for discovering quality work. The gallerists and curators have their work cut out for them just as much as the artists do to stay true to their critical and artistic merit and notbe swayed by commercial or convenient market whims. If we all acted to the best of our abilities (like Ed is implying) we'd all be dropping our jaws everywhere we looked by different things. But that's a fantasy too. Let's not confuse a MARKET with the CREATIVE genesis of an artwork. Artists have it difficult. They need to stay in touch and in tune with the weight of the world and all the ideas and artworks that have proceeded them. And make a flash, an intelligent flash, an inimitable flash, a genius work. That's a tall order. But that's the best piece on the menu. The rest are all just appetizers.

7/27/2011 06:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a mom of 43, not particularly connected, kinda chubby and ordinary, no arresting quirks or demons do you think I would get shown if I consistently created great work that was in tune with the zeitgeist? If I walked in in my jc penny clothes with a body of jaw dropping pieced would I stand a chance?

8/04/2011 07:09:00 PM  

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