Tuesday, December 06, 2011

White to Blue

I art handlers.

Forget that they're the unsung heroes of the art world, that they're the single best sources for who's poaching this or that artist or who's about to close, or that they're more fun to party with than a ship of sailors on shore leave. The best ones are freaking magicians.

Having just returned from Miami, where for the second year we participated in SEVEN (which got some lovely press here and there), an exercise in Extreme DIY pop-up art exhibiting if ever there was one, I cannot express enough gratitude to the men and women who helped put that show together, troubleshoot it, and take it back apart. More than just exhibiting extreme DIY flexibility, these folks demonstrated a staggering aptitude for brilliant problem solving under the most stressful of conditions. Most of them are also artists, which is how they prefer to be publicly introduced, so I won't thank them by name...but you know who you are, you MacGyvers on steroids.

Of course, you'll be hard pressed to find seven harder working gallery owners than the proprietors of these establishments either. There were no pre-show mani-pedis or massages for this crew. If their names are on the door or gallery website contact page, there they were with drill guns and ladders, packing tape and brooms, with cuts, scrapes and bruises galore. Of course, none of us could hold a candle to the man himself...SEVEN's fearless (and I mean that) leader...the entirely indefatigable and multi-talented Joe Amrhein of Pierogi Gallery fame. Seriously, I've never met a harder working human in my life. He's also a prince among men and a brilliant gallerist, but when the rest of us were nearly falling down tired, Joe was just getting started. We all greatly admire him and owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

One of our artists was visiting in Miami, and she noted, quite astutely, as we were preparing to close the show late Sunday afternoon that "This is where you go from being white collar to blue, isn't it?" Indeed, my favorite dealers are the ones who are as comfortable being art handlers as they are trading bon mots over champagne. This willingness to get your hands dirty, to ruin a pair of jeans to ensure the work is installed just so, to bring an extra pair of clothes so you can take a quick sink bath in the restroom before heading out to meet clients...it transcends mere glamor for me...it's real, and fun, and only fair in my opinion.

The artist who acknowledged that part of what we do at fairs is blue collar is one who has the exact same dichotomy in her life. I told her as she left, "Yes, a big part of presenting this to the public involves wearing my blue collar. But it's the same for you artists." She nodded acknowledgement.

I'm not sure I would like the art world if my role in it were limited to only the white collar bits. (Ask Murat, I insist on repairing and repainting the walls of the gallery between shows myself. For me, it's a zen like taking of stock and a chance to think through in-depth our assumptions about the next installation...it's also, oddly, fun.) Mind you, I also very much enjoy lounging in the VIP section of the big fair, air kissing and trading gossip, and on those rare occassions when no one else is looking, having just a moment by myself with some fabulous work of art. But I'm a working class boy, and the idea of just watching as someone else labors makes me more uncomfortable than a bit of grime on my hands or a splinter or two.

But now we're back, and so too are our white collars...until the next installation at least.

A huge thanks to the interns, art handlers, and other dealers of SEVEN for making Miami feel so much like home.

Image above: How many artists/dealers does it take to figure out the timer on a camera? Murat, Justin, and Max taking a photo-op break from installing at SEVEN, 2011.

UPDATE: And here's the photo they were eventually able to take. The crew at SEVEN. I love these people.

Labels: art handlers, SEVEN


Anonymous Michelle said...

I applaud them, SEVEN was an amazing fair!! The pacing and intimacy of the space transcended the whole fair craziness.I was able to get an experience rather than a mish mash of art.Wonderful show! Wonderful Fair!

12/06/2011 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

:) Need more pictars!

12/07/2011 08:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ed , Seven Video. You owe me man. http://vernissage.tv/blog
I like the broad in the rock n roller trousers .

12/07/2011 12:08:00 PM  

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