Monday, January 31, 2011

A Few Thoughts on the VIP Art Fair

Well, we've packed up our virtual booth, returned to check out of our virtual hotel, caught a virtual flight home, and crossed our fingers that our virtual shipment arrives back at the gallery on a day when the snow isn't piled 5 feet deep in front of our door. In other words, the fair is over and our gallery team is returning to running just one operation at a time, rather than two, and yet I'm not as physically exhausted as usual at this point.

The initial response to VIP was less flattering than we had hoped for. The overwhelming numbers of people who visited the site on the first day and tried to use the Chat functionality, well, overwhelmed the system and made it painfully slow to navigate around it, eventually bringing it down completely at one point. This understandably frustrated a lot of people who either assumed it was a problem on their end or who (knowing it wasn't on their end) had been truly looking forward to experiencing the fair. It frustrated we galleries a bit too, as we were online waiting to receive inquiries about the work in our booths.

Once the site had been stabilized though, the feedback became a lot more like what we had hoped for. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea, of course (what in the art world ever is?), but eventually it grew to become what I would declare a successful venture for us. Not only did we sell work to new clients (your ultimate goal in any fair), but we connected the dots on long-standing clients who didn't know about certain works by other artists we work with.

I took a straw poll among other dealers who participated this year, and the vast majority I spoke to agree with me that it's definitely worth doing again next year....that it seems destined to become a strong supplemental part of our overall outreach efforts. No one expects it to replace real-world art fairs, but in January, when most of the Northern hemisphere is risking serious travel delays due to weather, it brought us a very nice influx of new business and potential for more.

Just like it was for us when we started doing art fairs in real-life, there is of course a learning curve and a bit of trial and error, not only in logistics, but in what artwork to present in which contexts. I'd say that London's Limoncello gallery wins the prize for smartest presentation concept at VIP (they presented Polaroid shots of the work in their booth, forcing you to zoom in to see it...maximizing the interactivity of the site). I expect we'll see other web-savvy booth concepts next year.

If you ventured onto VIP, let me know what you thought. Anonymous comments with foul-language or what strikes me as gratuitous grumbling (yes, I'll be the judge of that) will not be posted, though, so at least try to be constructive if you have criticisms.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Take a Survey; Help Influence a New Artists Grant

Ever wish there was an artist grant designed around your needs? Well now's your chance. A Blade of Grass, a new family foundation that "will provide grants, loans, investments and other resources to foster a vibrant, innovative visual arts community in New York City," is seeking information on what those needs are. Take their quick survey here:

https://spreadsheets.google.com/a/abladeofgrassfund.org/viewform?formkey=dGV5aEIteTA2VUYxd3NORjh4b1NzS2c6MQ&ndplr=1

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Leslie Thornton Review in Today's New York Times

Well, this makes me feel much better about the grimy gray slush blanketing Manhattan. In today's New York Times:
Art in Review

LESLIE THORNTON: ‘Binocular’

I’m not sure if Leslie Thornton’s digital flat-screen diptyches completely qualify as art. But perhaps it’s not necessary. Ms. Thornton, an experimental filmmaker best known for her “Peggy and Fred in Hell” films, is having her first gallery solo; the pieces shown here — which she calls Binoculars — amount to amazing little revelations orchestrated at the intersection of art, science, nature and technology. Whatever you call them, they will stop you in your tracks.

The main ingredients are Ms. Thornton’s films of different creatures: brief, mostly close-up views of a black parrot, some zebras, a python, an orangutan, the eye of a Gabon viper and a swarm of ants. Each film is projected on a pair of small circular screens; hence the binoculars. On the left, we see the creatures as the camera originally saw them. On the right, the same sequence is digitally refracted as through a prism, splintered into a breathtakingly gorgeous abstract pattern that evokes a superfine kaleidoscope or rose window. And this pattern constantly moves — not because you shake it as you would an old-style kaleidoscope, but because the subject moves. It slithers, blinks, kicks up its heel, breathes. The slightest change reverberates visually through the abstract patterns.

It is sort of a gimmick and sort of not. The transformation, while purely technical, creates the illusion of seeing through to some underlying layer of natural beauty and order. Nature is devoid of ugliness, these works seem to say. As if to prove the point, the final work here is a film of a dead baby bird whose head is teeming with maggots, presented on its own, straight up, without the benefit of the digital prism.

Oh, and if you read it in the print version, there is this humongous photo of Leslie's "Parrot" piece...just humongous!

I'll seek clarification with Roberta some other day on which definition of art she uses (mine is a mix between Johns'
Take something, do something to it, then do something else to it....and Rauschenberg's This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so....but I realize other people have other working definitions.) As for today, any review that describes the work in the show as "amazing...breathtakingly gorgeous...will stop you in your tracks" is a keeper!

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Break : Day Two

What can I say...it won't stop snowing:


Actually, as we approach Moving Image, my blogging is going to be spotty at best. I'll see what I can do to stay current.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Break

Need to catch up on some things today, so I'll leave you with this for now:

http://www.earthcam.com/usa/newyork/timessquare/

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh, The Places You'll Go

The New York Times has a review of Nicholas Delbanco's new book, “Lastingness: The Art of Old Age,” that explores the question:
Why do some artists ... mature early and then run out of steam, producing only second-rank work in their last decades, while others gain momentum and occasionally even peak in old age?
Even as a child of 7, I understood that old age would reveal wondrous secrets held back from youth. It was mostly the effortless way my grandparents or other older people could connect the dots between things in the world around us. "It's going to be a fast, violent thunderstorm. You can tell by the way the wind is turning the leaves on the trees." Such simple revelations seemed like pure magic to me as a kid, as if the curtain cloaking all the mysteries of the universe was momentarily pulled back for me.

Upon first understanding this, I wanted to know all such things myself. But somehow I knew it took time...decades...possibly several of them...before one could master such magic. Not that I didn't try to accelerate the process. I practiced acting like my grandfather as a child and (now I realize) well into my early adulthood. From mimicking the groaning noises he made when he rose from a chair when I was 7 to dressing in pastel cardigans and vintage sharkskin jackets while in college, I was emulating him, because I couldn't wait to be like him...to be myself the keeper of such marvelous secrets.

OK, so thanks for humoring my trip down memory lane, but the question Delbanco's book reportedly raises is why some artists seem to tap into rich veins as they mature and others do not. Perhaps it hinges on whether an artist finds their way to what Delbanco sees as the dividing realization. From the NYTimes review by Brooke Allen:
In youth, [Delbanco] posits, “it’s the reception of the piece and not its production that counts. But to the aging writer, painter or musician the process can signify more than result; it no longer seems as important that the work be sold.” It is a profound observation; with time and age, the act of showing becomes increasingly subordinate to the act of making, and gratification turns ever further inward.
This follows nicely from yesterday's post on The Woodmans, in which we see Betty and George Woodman speak about the overriding importance of being in their studios, making their work, as opposed to their daughter Francesca who seemed to become depressed that there weren't more opportunities to show her work and receive the acclaim she felt she had earned.

I have noticed among some of the artists I know what is best perhaps termed a "clarity" that came to them later in life. This clarity is something they are positively delighted about, both in how it is reflected in their work and how it guides them in their practice. In Allen's review of the book, a wonderful metaphor for this is provided, via Yeats:
The question of “old-age art” is mysterious and perennially fascinating. Creative artists who continue to work late in life so often seem to undergo a sea change: a distillation, a new intensity, a sloughing off of excess and ornament in favor of deep essentials. W. B. Yeats, himself a notable example of the phenomenon, provided an image for it: “Though leaves are many, the root is one; / Through all the lying days of my youth / I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun; / Now I may wither into the truth.”
Of course, there do exist prodigies or simply smart young people among us, and what they see should not to be minimized. I'm not at all in the camp of people who feel artists have to be old to be important. I do think, though, that those who peak early should consider turning ever more toward their practice rather than seeking more and more attention, if they wish to remain important.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Woodmans

"There’s a famous Diane Arbus photograph in which a pair of elderly, incredulous parents stare up at a son so huge that their apartment can barely contain him. The Woodmans is that picture."
---Gothamist
We couldn't stop talking about The Woodmans last night. With the documentary film as my only personal insight into the family dynamics of this "weirdly competitive couple" (as one critic termed it), I found myself bouncing back and forth, during gasps or guffaws from the audience, between thinking "But that's understandable, if you only consider how..." and "Oh, so that's why they think those of us in the art world are freaks."

At the very opening of the film, Betty Woodman (who I have never had the pleasure of meeting, but who I know to be an accomplished artist with a career many other artists would give a body part for), says she couldn't live with anyone who didn’t take art as seriously as she did...that she would "hate" them. In any other context, this wouldn't be such a controversial statement (a bit of hyperbole revealing an intense personal passion, perhaps), but as the film progresses and the audience members who don't know already begin to realize that the Woodmans' talented and remarkably driven daughter, Francesca, took her own life at age 22, the statement seems to take on a wider, even harrowing significance.

In general, the film is a stunningly frank discussion by Francesca's parents, George and Betty, and her brother Charlie (all artists with varying degrees of success in their careers) of what it means to make art the center of not only your own life, but of your family life. As the story began, with the parents' rigorous studio schedules and annual trips to Italy where the kids were allowed to wander unchaperoned through the great museums of Tuscany, I have to admit to being a bit jealous. What a marvelous childhood! And as Francesca developed into an artist (focused on photography, often using herself nude as her subject) who nearly everyone saw as having a sophistication and eye well advanced for her age, I thought, "That's because of the advantage her parents gave her. What a gift."

Then it all goes terribly wrong. The documentary suggests that Francesca's expectations for recognition were as advanced as her eye. She wanted the acclaim that she felt she had earned (remember she died at 22), and when it didn't come fast enough, she grew despondent.

It would be easy to oversimplify the Woodmans' lifestyle as a cautionary tale ("Look at what her unconventional childhood did to Francesca"), but in truth there is nothing to directly connect the parents' disciplined approach to their own art making with their daughter's decision to end her own life. Many other children in a similar situation don't make that choice.

Still, the dynamics of the family do send chills down your spine while you're watching the film. None the least of which is how the death of their daughter (and the fame and acclaim that have come for Francesca's work since then) coincided with changes in Betty and George's own work: Betty shifted from functional clay objects to entirely "useless" fine art objects, and, somewhat unnervingly, George seemed to pick up where Francesca left off in her photography.

As someone who sees it as part of my job to support and help artists as they navigate through the social complications of choosing art over more stable/conventional careers, this film is going to take me quite some time to fully process. Again, I think it's far too oversimple to see it merely as a cautionary tale. It's one family's tragic story, but there is plenty of triumph in their story as well. And in that way, like any other story, it merely reflects the complexity of life itself.

I'd be curious to know what you thought, if you saw it, though:

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Good Artists Borrow; Great Artists ... Sue? (Or, Does It Really Matter Who Got There First?)

In other news, attorneys representing legendary American painter Cy Twombly have filed suit in Akron, Ohio, against pre-schooler Becky Gunderson for allegedly violating Twombly's intellectual property rights by using squiggly swirls and smudgy crayola red valentines in a series of fingerpaint and pencil drawings she convinced her older sister Lori Ann to post for sale on E-bay. Twombly's attorney Wilmington Findlestien-Schmidt said at a press conference today, "There is no mistaking the blatant copying of Mr. Twombly's signature style in these drawings." Lori Ann Gunderson, speaking for her younger sister, who still has trouble pronouncing the "tw" sound, insisted, "We swear! Becky never saw Twombly's paintings before in her life. She's only 4!"

....OK, so let me be clear this time...the above is ONLY A JOKE (we wouldn't want another "Franco-in-Venice" situation to emerge from this post), but it reflects my first inescapable response to the suit being brought by Jeff Koons against a San Francisco gallery and store and a Toronto manufacturing company for allegedly violating Koons' intellectual property. The Times has the latest on this:
The artist Jeff Koons has developed a distinctive style, and made a lot of money, by appropriating pop-culture imagery and mass-produced objects, from inflatable toys to vacuum cleaners and kitschy greeting cards. Over his three-decade career that approach, while helping to make him famous, has also brought accusations of exploiting other people’s copyrighted images. He has been sued for copyright violation four times, losing three of the cases.

In a reversal of roles Mr. Koons is now going after two businesses that his lawyers say have violated his intellectual property rights by producing and selling bookends that resemble his famous “Balloon Dog” sculpture, 10-foot-tall versions of which have been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Versailles and acquired by major art collectors. Mr. Koons’s sculpture also comes in a 10 ½-inch version, comparable in size to the bookends.

In late December a lawyer for Mr. Koons, Peter D. Vogl of the firm Jones Day, sent cease-and-desist letters to Park Life, a San Francisco gallery and store that sells the bookends, and Imm-Living, a Toronto company that manufactures them.

Jamie Alexander, a co-owner of Park Life, and Rod Byrnes, a lawyer for Imm-Living, both rejected the idea that the bookends, which are made of painted resin and come in matte colors — unlike Mr. Koons’s reflective “Balloon Dog” — were a copy. The bookends are also slightly less bulbous than the Koons.
OK, so there is no question that a lot of people saw Koon's "Balloon Dog" at the Met and Versailles. How many of them live in San Francisco is a good question, perhaps, but more than that, I have to truly wonder how many people outside the minuscule fraction of the population we call "the art world" would first think of Koons upon seeing these tchotchkes:

[surprisingly blurry image from New York Times]

The manufacturing company that made them insists it "wasn’t familiar with Mr. Koons’s sculpture until it received the letter from his lawyer." And I have to say, I don't know for sure, but I do find that easy to believe.

Now I know just enough about such matters to know an entity with intellectual property to protect has to be vigilant in prosecuting violators lest a history of not doing so be used against them should they later sue. But that's about the extent of my legal knowledge, so I'll turn this thread in a direction much more aligned with my experience.

Far too many times to count in my career, I've had artists feel compelled to tell me that they were doing work like that on exhibition somewhere long before the artist getting attention for it now was doing it. It's human nature, I suppose. And yet for a few it seems to become a mantra. One artist I know has mentioned it about three very distinct bodies of work by three different artists. At a certain point, you'd think they'd take solace in how multifacetedly influential they seem to be and leave it at that.

I know outright theft takes place in the arena of new ideas and styles, but when another artist is doing work like yours and you know they were not before they saw your work, I still feel the only recourse you have is to take away a lesson from the VHS - Betamax war and realize it's all about who fights harder or smarter to win the hearts and minds of the public:
Exactly how and why VHS won the war has been the subject of intense debate. The commonly-held belief is that the technically superior Betamax was beaten by VHS through slick marketing. In fact the truth is more complex and there were a number of reasons for the outcome.

Sony's founder, Akio Morita, claimed that licensing problems between Sony and other companies slowed the growth of Betamax and allowed VHS to become established. However most commentators have played down this issue and cited other reasons as being more important.

It is certainly true that VHS machines were initially much simpler and cheaper to manufacture, which would obviously be an attraction to companies deciding which standard to back.

And in the art world, that seems to be one of the keys to emerging as the winner in battles to be associated with an idea: making a complex idea or development more accessible. That's not to say by dumbing it down or making it more commercial, but by working to bring to it
(imho) the ultimate in artistic achievement: clarity. Manage that, and no matter who was first with an idea, the public will turn toward you.

Of course clarity usually only comes through intense focus, and often years of it. But it will ultimately shine through any slick marketing by competitors.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Online Arts Reporting as Performance Art? | Open Thread

There are some fabulous, well-established examples of arts-based news/reporting that I consider a form of performance or art itself. Examples include Loren Munk/James Kalm, Bad at Sports, and our own Joy Garnett's Newsgrist. What differentiates such efforts from strict journalism are the concepts behind their approaches, and the fact that they're being created by artists.

Recently, though, we've been introduced to two other chroniclers of the fine art world whose work is unquestionably performance in nature. First is Cognac Wellerlane working with Long Island Exchange. Here's a video she recently created of an interview/performance at our last opening:



I have to confess, that I was so mesmerized by Cognac's eyelashes that it was difficult to focus on the questions. Leslie later told me she too was captivated by Cognac's performance. Undoubtedly the performance added a splash of fun to the opening, but I'm still sorting through how to think about it as "art."

Already well-established in art circles, but raising the standards of his reporting to what is approaching an art form in itself through both its accumulation and increasing wittiness, is The Two Percent's David Behringer. In addition to his current Top Five video, which also kindly features Leslie Thornton's exhibition...




his videos on how to navigate his site and the scene (second and third video on this page) are gems of production and enthusiasm. As much energy and charm as David puts into these videos, I have to suspect the effort influences his practice as a painter, or at least as an art entrepreneur. He does streams video of his studio via his blog, and because his gallery guide is so useful, at the very least gallery-hoppers using the site will be tempted to view the latest work on his easel.

One of the things I always recommend when people ask me how to get more traffic for the blogs devoted to promoting their artwork or gallery is to be generous (in fact I mention that in this interview with art curator/writer/historian Jane Harris who has just launched a fabulous new blog called Janestown). Give the readers something that keeps them coming back, preferably something they're surprised you're not charging them for.

Consider this an open thread on online arts reporting as performance, or at least as a gift that hopefully gives in return.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Early Press for Moving Image (or When Is a Fair [Not] "Anti-Fair"?)

As we march toward, er, March (3-6) I promise not to make this the Moving Image blog, but I wanted to share some of the early press the new venture we're launching has garnered so far, including:
I also wanted to make one clarification about a statement in Mackie's post on Art Market Views, which read:
Touting an anti-fair formula, organizers promise free entry and a visitor experience “without the confines of booths” or “time and space limitations” of the average art fair.
I may be deluding myself, but I have never thought of this approach to exhibiting art, in what we are quite consciously labeling a "fair," as somehow "anti-fair," as much as simply an experiment in the ongoing evolution of the fair format. Not only did it feel really great to participate in the open atmosphere of Independent last year, but it felt invigorating to do the same AND to see the artwork intermingled at SEVEN. None of which is to say I don't also recognize the ways in which booths are still superior to these models (there are logistical issues with openness, for sure), but simply that there must be something of our time that these efforts seek to address that the confines of booths cannot.

We will see, as they say.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Announcing Moving Image : An Art Fair of Contemporary Video | March 3-6, 2011 | New York, NY

PRESS RELEASE

Moving Image, a new art fair of contemporary video, will take place March 3-6, 2011, during the Armory Show in New York and within walking distance of Independent. Located in the Waterfront Tunnel event space between 27th and 28th Streets with an entrance at 261 11th Avenue in Chelsea, Moving Image will be free to the public. Fair hours will be

Thursday: March 3, 2011, 11:00am to 8:00pm, with an opening reception from 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Friday: March 4, 2011, 11:00am to 8:00pm
Saturday: March 5, 2011, 11:00am to 8:00pm
Sunday: March 6, 2011, 11:00am to 3:00pm

Commercial galleries and non-profit institutions from around the world have been invited by Moving Image's international curatorial advisory committee* to present single-channel videos, video sculptures, and larger video installations. Moving Image has been conceived to offer viewers a flexible viewing experience while providing a rich program of contemporary and historical video work without the confines of booths or the other time and space limitations of standard art fairs.

The list of participants of emerging and established galleries from around the globe is in formation. For updates on exhibitors and programming information, panel discussions and tours, please visit our website www.moving-image.info. Or contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or contact@moving-image.info

*Moving Image's Curatorial Advisory Committee
  • Zoe Butt, Co-Director and Curator of SanArt, (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • John Connelly, Director, The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation (New York, USA)
  • Elizabeth Dee, Principal, Elizabeth Dee Gallery (New York, USA)
  • Raphael Gygax, Curator / Art Historian, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst (Zurich, Switzerland)
  • Kevin McGarry, Director and Programmer, Migrating Forms (Los Angeles, USA)
Moving Image was conceived by Edward Winkleman and Murat Orozobekov of New York's Winkleman Gallery and co-organized with Penny Pilkington and Wendy Olsoff of New York's P·P·O·W gallery.

Sponsors (list in formation)
  • Art in America
  • The Art Newspaper
  • Le Parker Meridien, New York
  • La Colombe Torrefaction
  • Rosaura Segura, Encanto Vineyards

Moving Image

March 3-6, 2011

Waterfront New York Tunnel
261 11th Avenue (between 27th and 28th Streets)
New York, NY 10001

T: (1) 212.643.3152
E: contact@moving-image.info

Hours
Thursday - Saturday, March 3-5, 2011: 11 am - 8 pm
Sunday, March 6, 2011: 11 am - 3 pm

www.moving-image.info

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Don't-Miss Discussion : Tonight! "Iran Hostage 30th Anniversary Meets WikiLeaks"

With a great title like this, and in light of what's happening as we speak across Northern Africa, you don't want to miss this discussion:

Iran Hostage 30th Anniversary Meets WikiLeaks

WHO: Author Stephen Kinzer, Grand Theft Auto Director Navid Khonsari, Newscaster Amy Goodman, Emmy-nominated Mike de Seve, Columbia University Chair of Iran Studies Hamid Dabashi and renown media critic Mark Crispin Miller

WHERE: 2 West 64th St. & Central Park West, NYC, (New York Society for Ethical Culture)


WHEN: TONIGHT! Tuesday, January 18, 2011, 7 p.m.

Event is Free and Open / Wine and Tea will be served.



New York, NY, Jan. 13, 2011 – January 20 marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the Iran Hostage Crisis, when students and militants imprisoned 52 Americans in Tehran for 444 days. The event will occur two days before the anniversary, on Tuesday, Jan. 18th at the NY Society for Ethical Culture.

To commemorate the 1981 event, New York Times veteran and best-selling author Stephen Kinzer ( All the Shah's Men ) joins Amy Goodman and Columbia's Dr. Hamid Dabashi (Chair, Iranian Studies) to re-examine this historic incident, and discuss its impact on current events.



Contributing: Media and tech pioneer Daniel Burwen, founder of Cognito Comics and publisher of Operation Ajax (an interactive iPad app about the crisis' roots); renown media critic Mark Crispin Miller; Emmy-nominated Ajax author Mike de Seve; and eBook innovator Harold Moss of FlickerLab. They'll present breakthrough ways history can be brought to new audiences in today's wired world.

Also presenting will be iranian-born Navid Khonsari, director of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, who will announce his multi-player game, 1979 - Revolution, in which several players can take roles as Iranian revolutionaries, students, hostages and U.S. soldiers.

Among the panel questions:

  • How would modern technology, wikis and social networking have altered the hostage crisis?

  • What if secret 1953 CIA coup plans had been leaked in 1978 instead of recently?

  • Will new "weapons of mass instruction" including WikiLeaks and iPads aid or harm the causes of peace and democracy?

  • How will popularizing the history of Iran and America's relations alter them in the future?

As an example of breakthrough technologies used to re-examine the era, Kinzer, Burwen and de Seve will unveil Operation Ajax, their new iPad collaboration. Operation Ajax is an innovative "motion graphic novel" that uses cinematic, multi-touch and gaming techniques to teach about the roots of the crisis — and is an interactive source for several leaked CIA documents about the overthrow democratic Iran, and the instigating role of BP.

Stephen Kinzer notes: "It's been fifteen years since, during a reporting trip to Iran, I decided to write a book about how the CIA overthrew Iran's Prime Minister in 1953. That's why I was so thrilled when a group of digital visionaries approached me about producing an interactive iPad app about the coup."

"FlickerLab is setting new standards for ebooks and digital art, which are truly the news and education tools of the future. We're excited to be part of this panel with progressive journalists and media makers," says Harold Moss, FlickerLab's Creative Director.

Mike de Seve adds, "It's an amazing array of voices and ideas about this anniversary."

-# # #-

Contact: Natalia Mount
Mount & Rehbein
130 Barrow #505
New York, NY 10014
USA

Day #: 315.440.5036
Evening #: 315.440.5036
Email: natalia@mountrehbein.com
Website: mountrehbein.com

***


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Monday, January 17, 2011

Countdown to VIP Art Fair

It's the sort of venture that makes people perhaps a touch uncomfortable (as evidenced by nothing so much as all the puns used in the headlines of press about it), but as it approaches and those of us who have been preparing the virtual booths compare notes, I'm getting very excited about the VIP Art Fair. It opens this Saturday:
The Fair will open on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 8:00 a.m. EST and conclude on Sunday, January 30, 2011, at 7:59 a.m. EST. Browsing the Fair is free of charge. To access interactive capabilities, visitors must have a VIP Ticket, which on January 22 and 23 will cost $100 and thereafter will cost $20. Visitors are encouraged to request an invitation in advance.
VIP Art Fair is admittedly an experiment. How well it's going to work remains to be seen. The press so far has been overwhelmingly positive, but it has also included quotes from a few folks who are not sure it's right for them. If you feel that way, I'd humbly suggest you try it in the privacy of your home, where no one can see, and judge the experience yourself once it's live. The organizers are as smart and tireless as any I've ever seen attempt a venture like this; so you just might be pleasantly surprised. Besides, you can do it in your pajamas, if you like, or naked, or covered in jello. No one needs to know.

Moreover, on your schedule, you can reach out to the galleries for real-time information about the artists you're interested in via chat, Skype, or that quainter digital communication format, email. Here are three screenshots to provide a sneak peek at our booth and how the site delivers information. You can't get the full interactive effect from these, obviously, but they hopefully convey a sense of how much info visitors will have access to. The first shows one 'wall' of our booth with a ghosted figure to indicate scale of the installation by Jennifer Dalton:



Additional views of the work appear at the bottom right. You can zoom in on the work to see incredible details. This screenshot below shows only 1/2 of the zoom capacity of the 4th additional view from this work (for paintings and drawings you can zoom in to see brush strokes and gestures). The ease of zooming in and out is one of the most user-friendly parts of the VIP experience:



There is also a wealth of information about each artist available at your fingertips...in a format much easier to use than what you can normally access in an art fair context. We've even had the time to translate our texts (VIP is global in its scope), so you can read about Jennifer Dalton, if you prefer, in Spanish or Russian:


A week from now, we'll all have much more information about how the VIP Art Fair has been received and what the participating visitors and galleries think about this bold new frontier. Right now, I'm kind of giddy with anticipation. Yes, I'm a geek like that, but I'll encourage you again to give it try. I suspect you'll like it.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

From the Vault : A Clarification

Back in May we discussed whether or not getting a MFA was essential to having a good career as a fine artist. As happens from time to time, but isn't obvious perhaps because they don't make it to the front page list of recent comments, someone found their way to that older thread and added to the conversation. Usually I publish the comments, but imagine few other people ever read then. This time, however, I wanted to highlight it because I've been thinking about this since we had a particular conversation at the #rank debriefing (see this video kindly posted by Kinaga Ellis). The video focuses on whether or not artists should go to art fairs, but it gets at what I think was at the core of that May thread, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned While Getting My BFA."

The comment it recently inspired was:
This is such crap. I tried to read all of the comments but just couldn't stand it anymore. You do NOT need to go to school to be an artist. Going to school will NOT make you an artist. That is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard. You are born an artist, period. Whether or not you're a successful artist depends on how you define success and I think any true artist would define it as selling enough to be able to afford to make more.

As far as being able to speak about your work goes - if you have to explain it, it's not art. Your art should do all the talking.


A small part of me wants to cheer for the commenter, of course. It's a fabulously romantic sentiment expressed with passion. But the rest of me wants to ask how the commenter misses the (to my mind) obvious fact that he/she is not the only artist out there with the exact same goal ("selling enough to be able to afford to make more"). There are arguably hundreds of thousands of them. And I also want to ask how the commenter misses the connection between selling one's work (i.e., essentially being an entrepreneur) and developing some skills and professional contacts to facilitate selling enough of one's work.

Perhaps you can do this without getting an MFA (plenty of artists have), but the clarification I wish to make here is that hoping to sell your artwork does indeed make you an entrepreneur. Hoping to sell your work well should mean you wish to be a good entrepreneur. Toward that goal, there is nothing wrong or "anti-artist" about networking, investing in a higher degree, or sharpening your skills. It can give you an edge over the other entrepreneurs out there you're competing against for sales. Many artists feel they can learn to do those things even better via a higher degree.

I can see certain artists in my mind's eye cringing at that notion; intentionally going about being an artist with an eye toward becoming a stronger competitor in the field...a stronger seller. But you want to know who they're not, those artists in my mind's eye? Those artists are NOT Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, Warhol, or Hirst. These artists innovated in the studio and the market, and competed with vigor (Hirst still does, obviously).

So do you need an MFA? I would agree it depends on your goals and on how you define success. Will an MFA ensure you become a better entrepreneur? It probably depends on how you spend your time while getting one. But whether or not people are born artists, as along as they're forced to compete with other artists out there for sales, they might do a little reflection on what (besides their art) can give them an competitive edge.

Their competition is.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kickstarter and the New Era of Arts Funding | Open Thread

Deadlines are approaching for a number of grant applications, always a joyous season for artists whose production costs far outweigh the income from their art. And while I have nothing but admiration and respect for the institutions who spend their money supporting the arts, I do know from talking with my artist friends that there are far more people applying for the funding than money to go around. I also know that the complexities of the various applications are stressful for the applicants.

Which is why I've been watching to see how Kickstarter is doing. As an idea, it borrows from the micro-lending organizations that have made a huge difference in the lives of people in poverty-stricken countries and apparently not the worse place you can invest your money either. But Kickstarter is focused on creative projects. From their website:

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.

We believe that:

  • A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
  • A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

The beauty of Kickstarter is that, being about creative projects, the more creative your appeal is (rather than the more exact or bureaucratically complete, as seems to be one of the keys to successful grant applications), the greater your chances of success will be.

I first started paying closer attention to Kickstarter when Laura Isaac used it to fund her hysterical project for #rank. At first I thought that was a wonderful, but certainly too-time-consuming video to produce just to raise the money. Then I realized, that funding hopefuls need to creatively attract not only those willing to part with cash to support them, but also the Kickstarter editorial staff in order to have to highlight/recommend their project over the others on the site:
What gets featured on Kickstarter is an editorial decision by our staff. We pay particularly close attention to fun projects that use the system creatively, have compelling videos and rewards, and have a nice head of momentum behind them.
So it's still highly competitive, but not with regards to who you know on the grant committee or how precisely you can complete the application. You want people to fund your creative project? Show them how creative you are.

Here is a quick cross-section of interesting fine art projects currently up on Kickstarter. Consider which of them you might support. Did I mention, your support always comes with REWARDS?
Please consider this an open thread to share your own Kickstarter project or commiserate on the grant application process.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spats and Such for a Snowy Wednesday : Or, the Long, Long Memory of the Internets

Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
---James Joyce, "The Dead," from The Dubliners
A new snowfall, like the one blanketing New York this morning, tends to bring a sense of calm reflection (unless you're driving in it, perhaps).

Reflection seems to be the sentiment of the week throughout the country, as the nation comes to terms with the shooting in Arizona; politicians slow down to reconsider the wisdom of the resulting political spats (including a more somber Sarah Palin*, who still incredulously lectured the rest of the country on how to behave [without irony]), and even the acknowledgment over at Fox News that perhaps it is time to bring the rhetoric down a few notches.

But just about the time I get all comfy with my cocoa, I stumble upon another art writers spat (that now seems to have calmed down, but not without first opening up some seemingly long-simmering tensions). I've already gone on ad nauseum about how much I respect both these writers, so I'll spare you the caveats and get right to their public disagreement:

Monday Tyler Green published a post critiquing Jerry Saltz's New York Magazine piece on the "The Greatest [New York] Artwork." I had read Jerry's piece and found it entertaining and thought-provoking, but Tyler found it problematic:
Critics typically don’t like it when their editors make up a silly rubric and then demand that the critic find something that fits within it. That’s the game at New York mag this week, where the magazine is featuring a January-is-slow bit of silliness called “The Greatest New York Ever.”

Naturally, New York art critic Jerry Saltz was expected to play along. A mention in Saltz’s write-up rings false and merits a bit of consideration: “Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 is an image of what New York felt, looked, and sounded like in 1950,” Saltz wrote. [Image at right, collection of the Museum of Modern Art.]

Fortunately, Saltz drove by the Pollock on his way to naming a Robert Moses-commissioned model the greatest New York something-or-other ever (and he mentions lots of other artists whose works would be good choices), but still… One?

In 1950, Pollock was doing most of his looking and listening far from New York City. By the time he made One, Pollock had lived outside New York City for five years. (In 1945 he married Lee Krasner and moved to Springs, Long Island.) I could find no historical record that Pollock thought One — or any of the magnificent drip paintings he made as a near-series in 1950 — had anything to do with New York City. I could find no critical response to the painting (which was shown with the others in late November, 1950 at Betty Parsons Gallery) that suggested there was anything particularly NYC about them. Sure, MoMA chief curator Ann Temkin included the painting in MoMA’s recent exhibition “Abstract Expressionist New York,” but that show is notable in part for playing fast-and-very-loose with geography. That’s about as close as One gets to being “in” New York City.
Jerry responded with a Facebook post that he subsequently decided wasn't the way to go. Jerry later wrote:
An hour ago I posted a haggling peevish “note” about an art-blogger from Wash. DC named Tyler Green. I realize now I don’t have the stomach for stuff like this. I deleted it. I love that people can & do write anything they want about anything or anybody (including me). I do it too. I just can’t get into one of these feuds. I think that’s it; hey, it’s 1-11-11 so maybe that’s what got into me.
The thing is, like old soldiers, old Internet posts never truly die, they are simply cached somewhere. Tyler found it and posted it on the thread of his critique of Jerry's post:
Jerry Saltz replied here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhastings/5346661991/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Now, the Lord knows that I have found myself wishing I could take back some comment or even post I put out there. I still cringe when someone mentions a certain site I let get the better of me a few years ago. But I know my red-headed Irish-German temper well enough now to know I'll do it again. It's simply my nature. So I deal with it as best I can.

As for Jerry and Tyler, I do wish they'd find themselves stuck in an airport together through a long snow storm, share a few beers, and realize that they actually have much more in common than they realize. Perhaps then Tyler wouldn't seize on every single opportunity to point out how New York City isn't the only place in the world people make or discuss art, and Jerry wouldn't be so red-headed-Irish-German (is he any of those things? No? So what's his excuse?) and so quick to take the bait.

And now, with my daily pontificating out of the way...I return to my cocoa....

*Update: Ok, so I stand corrected. No reflection apparent there.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who's the Star? Who's the Star? You're the Star! Yes, You Are!

Still within the first month or so of having left Artnet.com for Artinfo.com, one of my all-time favorite arts writers, the unstoppable Ben Davis, penned a piece that raised hearty praise from nearly every quarter. Titled "Total Eclipse of the Art: The Rise of Art News and the Crisis of Art Criticism," the essay centered on Ben's argument that "'art news' ...has definitely replaced 'art criticism' at the center of discussion" :
There's been an enormous proliferation of writing about the art scene. Artforum.com's "Scene and Herd" was founded in 2004. Artinfo.com, the publication I write for, was founded in 2005. And of course, there is the tremendous excitement generated by the art blogosphere, which draws its strength from attitude and outrage.
[...]
A simple logic governs this proliferation of "art news": Readers care a lot more about reporting on the art world than they do about reviews of art. By whatever metric you use — Web traffic, reader feedback, or just percentage of the collective brain taken up — people are more inflamed by the latest institutional scandal or art-related celebrity sighting than they are by quaint, old-fashioned discussions of what, exactly, makes an artwork good.
As I noted a while back, though, one could point to the very distribution source of this criticism as one source of the stated problem.

Now I'll be the first to admit that as much as I love spending time alone with great art, absorbing it, contemplating it, revisiting it, and secretly wondering what it might taste like (too much information?), I do find human beings a bit more interesting in general. I find interesting human beings more interesting than anything in general. So I understand why news about the art world's people and their foibles would be popular. [I recall a piece (maybe a promotional piece advertising their services, I can't remember) in which artnet.com noted that their most highly visited regular column is their horoscope.] And who doesn't love to see themselves in Scene and Herd's glamour shots? (I have appeared a few times and, yes, it is fun.)

But if you want people to develop an appetite for other, deeper discussions about actual artwork, well, it helps if you invest a bit more in showing them actual images of actual artwork and perhaps fewer party photo ops.


Which is why my irony meter went all wonky this morning, when I saw what I hope will be a regular staple not only on artnet.com (Ben Davis' old home), which has launched the new(?) feature, but also quickly copied by all the other online sources for news and reviews of art. I'm talking about Picture Post, by Emily Nathan. The short introductory text says it all:
Browse a selection of images culled from gallery exhibitions opening worldwide between Jan. 10 and Jan. 25, 2011. Cities include New York, Los Angeles, Munich, London, and Chicago.
Kudos to the artnet.com team for this idea. It's as simple as it is genius, and obviously needed.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Shooting in Arizona: More Questions Than Answers

"… we're on Sarah Palin's targeted list but the thing is that the way she's had it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun site over our district. When people do that, they've got to realize that there [are] consequences to that action." Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, March 25, 2010
Anger, they say, is merely the human response to not having as much control as you wish to have over a situation you care a great deal about. If you truly have total control, like say an emperor or dictator or multi-national CEO does, you need never get upset. You simply, calmly express your will, and it is done.

Therefore, I've always considered calmness (or the lack of visible anger) a good indication of which people in the public eye feel they are in control and which do not. John McCain is clearly not in control of the domain he wishes to be. Barack Obama on the other hand seems much more calm than I imagine anyone else in his shoes could be.

Generating anger in the public via political rhetoric, therefore, is as simple as encouraging people to feel they are not in control over something they wish to be. Especially over something they care a great deal about, like, say, the health of their loved ones:

As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we’re saying not just no, but hell no!

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.

---Sarah Palin's Facebook entry on the Health Care Overhaul designed to increase the number of Americans who have access to coverage.

Sarah Palin's now infamous "Cross hairs" map targeted Arizona Congresswoman Giffords specifically because of how Giffords voted on the Health Care Overhaul bill. Sarah Palin went to extraordinary rhetorical lengths to encourage her readers to feel the control they have over their own "life and death decisions" was being threatened by this legislation. In doing so, Palin encouraged the resulting anger that such a personal insecurity would generate.

But that's actually all we know at this point.

There is no evidence yet that Congresswoman Giffords' attacker was specifically angry over health care legislation, that he ever saw the Palin map or heard her rhetoric, or that he wasn't in fact a Democrat. All indications so far suggest he was simply deranged.

Still, it would be the best response to the shooting imaginable by the Palin camp to make a strong statement that indeed there are dangers to stirring up people's core insecurities. And for them to tone it down a few notches. Out of respect for the victims and their families.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

How Soon a Review? Open Thread

News that Lindsay Pollock has been named the new editor of Art in America was the main topic of gossip in Chelsea yesterday. The news has been gobbling up bytes of internet chatter as well. In this harrowing publish-instantly-or-perish world we live in, I shudder to think I'd be the last blogger to comment...but then again...hold that thought.

First, credit to where it's due: I first heard about the appointment via Artworld Salon's András Szántó, who I think blogged about it first, but certainly who wins the prize for the most charming headline on the story (it's a pun on Lindsay's fabulous biography of early American dealer Edith Halpert, The Girl With the Gallery).

The best (and as always, the bitchiest and funniest) behind-the-scenes report of the news comes from our Charlie Finch, of course:
Peter Brant may think, andropausally, that he has hired Jackson Pollock's daughter, and Lindsay will have fun dealing with Brant's vibrant and idea-filled adult children, but, oddly, Lindsay is the perfect choice to carry on Art in America's staid and solid legacy, unchanged. She will go to any show, however obscure. She loves road trips to museums. And, Lindsay has the best attitude towards art-on-the-walls, childlike amazement.
But let me back up.

This is not the first time
I've thought about Lindsay's particular set of gifts. She has always stood out to me as the arts writer who best connected the digital dots in a seemingly effortless way. And I've assumed that this knack was in part what attracted the powers that be at AiA to hire her for the job.

But then, came this brilliant comment by painter and artists champion
Lisa Ruyter on Artworld Salon that got me thinking:
Regarding the speed of publishing, I am not so sure that it is a good idea to remove reviews from the print version of the magazine. I appreciate the desire to read about something in real time, and certainly there is a commercial benefit to positive public opinion to a still-open and available exhibition, but isn’t there something strong and very different about an opinion/review that will be published a bit more out of context, and in print? It is one thing to have an opinion about current events and entirely another to write or read about something that happened three to six months before. A different type of self-consciousness and even intelligence perhaps comes from occasionally NOT having the discussion in the moment. Also, let’s not forget that the bulk of Art in America’s audience, and its strength, are people who do not live in geographical vicinity of these open exhibitions, and it could be a disservice to lose sight of that beyond the immediate situation in art capitols. However, I do like the idea to circulate these reviews online, AFTER they appear in the print version.
As a dealer, I of course love reviews that come out during an exhibition. They do increase awareness and traffic (and, yes, often sales...so sue me), but they also crank up the dialog on a particular body of work at the point when we're entirely focused on it. It's exhilarating.

But I have to agree with Lisa that "A different type of self-consciousness and even intelligence perhaps comes from occasionally NOT having the discussion in the moment." They're not as frenetic, but the conversations we'll have about shows that happened years ago are often the richest.

Following up on the sentiments I tried to express in
Tuesday's post, such later conversations benefit from having had the time to process the immediate feedback, circle back round through other experiences, and see how it holds up after some time. I can imagine that for a critic writing about a show, an incubation period can greatly increase the depth of one's response as well.

But the most salient point that Lisa makes (and I think publication editors need to keep in mind) is that "the bulk of [their] audience...are people who do not live in geographical vicinity of these open exhibitions" and, hence, for whom an immediate response is arguably not as valuable. If what we lose by getting the reviews while the shows are still up (which mostly profits those who might go see them [and, again, those hardworking, virtually tireless slaves to art...we the dealers :-P]) is the depth that a little more reflection might provide, perhaps demographic calculations on the circulation should influence a balance here. By that I mean, if 90% of your readers live where they're not likely to see a show while it's up, perhaps it's ok if only 10% of your reviews come out during the actual exhibition, and the other later reviews are chosen because they'll benefit from more reflection. (I'm sure I've totally f***'d up the calculus there, but you get the idea.)

Consider this an open thread on the issues surrounding timeliness of art criticism.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

New Column : Gallery Jobs

While the newly instated Republican Majority in the House of Representatives spins its wheels trying to figure out how it's going to both pander to the Tea Party that helped put them their AND look like they're the party that should run things at the White House in 2012, President Obama has vowed to work with them (once the position jockeying ends) to help create desperately needed jobs. Expect to see "job creation" touted as the White House's top priority between now and the next election cycle.

Indeed, with the unemployment picture still pretty grim across the country, I've decided to see if I might help in the effort and by posting listings for jobs in the New York gallery world. I can't promise to do so every day (or even every week), but I can promise to post jobs I believe are with good, solid galleries or institutions that I respect and feel you can too.

I will ask that if you want to publicize your job listing here, that you email it for consideration to the following email address : jobs@winkleman.com. That email again is JOBS [at] winkleman.com.

Please note that because we rely on them for other business needs, we cannot accept listings at any of the other gallery email addresses (any listings sent to them will be deleted unopened...sorry). Further, we will simply hang up on anyone who tries to call the gallery with a listing (What? I'm a stenographer, now??? :-) ). We will check the jobs@winkleman.com email daily.

I see this as being at most a weekly column, so please note that if I don't publish your listing, it's not because I don't respect you (well, it may not be), but me simply trying to keep the balance up on the blog...so please include how time sensitive your open position is in the email.

Our inaugural listing is with one of the galleries I respect most in Chelsea. With, IMHO, as important a program as any young gallery out there, Alexander Gray Associates has quickly risen up the ranks with a steady stream of smart and gorgeous exhibitions. Their entire team are as knowledgeable and sweet as any you'll find in Chelsea, as well. They are looking for a "Registrar / Art Preparator." Here's the listing. Do yourself a favor, if you're interested, and follow the submission instructions:
Registrar / Art Preparator
Alexander Gray Associates is seeking a full-time registrar / art preparator. MA preferred, BA / BFA required, with primary study in one of the following areas: Art History, Museum Studies, Arts Management, Curatorial Studies, Art Studio. Candidates without the minimum of a completed BA / BFA will not be considered.

Must have a minimum 2 years non-internship working experience in an art gallery, museum registrar department, or collection management.

The position entails a wide range of duties focused on the care of artworks:

Registrarial / Archival
  • Manage art inventory database / software / website
  • Prepare and oversee consignment and loan agreements
  • Oversee artwork inventory
  • Maintain artistsʼ exhibitions records
  • Coordinating and overseeing photography sessions, including minor digital image corrections
  • Organize and oversee all artwork and gallery digital images
  • Maintain inventory records and condition reports in database
  • Oversee hardcopy books and catalogues library
  • Manage email and mailing list database
Art Preparation
  • Coordinate and prepare installation and de-installation of gallery exhibitions
  • Manage shipping and receiving of artworks
  • Coordinate and track incoming and outgoing shipments of artworks
  • Oversee artwork storage
General Administration
  • Maintain press list
  • Interface with artists, clients, and vendors
  • General staff support

Candidates must possess a friendly and professional manner with strong organizational skills, passion for contemporary art, excellent written and verbal communication skills. He or she must be detailed, personable, well-presented, outgoing, able to practice discretion, follow procedures accurately and have an exceptionally strong and rigorous work ethic and focus, with a healthy team mentality.

Email resume with cover letter as a single PDF, labeled with your name to: position@alexandergray.com

No phone calls or in-person inquires.
Good luck!

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Opening Tomorrow! Leslie Thornton's "Binocular" @ Winkleman Gallery

Leslie Thornton
Binocular

Jan 6 - Feb 5, 2011
Opening: Thursday, Jan 6, 2011, 6 - 8 PM

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Binocular, our first solo exhibition by New York artist and filmmaker Leslie Thornton. Thornton’s ongoing investigations of the cinematic image have taken her into unexpected and exquisite territory, where she traces the complex interactions between nature, technology, and abstraction.

Binocular consists of a series of flat-screen monitors and one projection. On each screen two circular fields appear: on the left, images of animals — birds, reptiles, fish, mammals, some exotic, others familiar and commonplace — beautifully captured, filmed in the wild; on the right, the image is folded back on itself in a centripetal pattern, reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. The two circular fields are intimately connected: the movements of the animals on the left are remapped into the elegant mathematical abstraction on the right. The effect is unexpected and profound: the viewer notices minute tremors and shifts (a small heart beating, for example) in the left sphere, by catching the very same resonant motion, multiplied, recast, and folded into itself in the pattern on the right. There is no anthropomorphism here, no Disneyfied cuteness, no identification or domestication. Thornton gives us a glimpse of a world prior to language and exterior to consumption, mute, opaque, and absolutely other.

Leslie Thornton’s beautiful, meditative, camerawork locates the movements of predator/prey relations in the most subtle fragments and configurations of behavior and morphology. All of her work has this intensity, an almost painfully precise focus on the fundamental minutiae of being in the world. In Thornton’s magnum opus, Peggy and Fred in Hell, for example, the tumultuous cacophony of post-apocalyptic litter surrounding her protagonists (two small children) was animate, threatening, epiphanic, and it was inescapable, because as viewers we were carried along into their world. There was just enough for us to make our way without being totally consumed (their own eventual heroic disposition saves Peggy and Fred, and rescues us).

We are similarly transported by the succession of animal/animate spaces in Binocular. Nature is not subsumed or (re)produced, circumscribed or contained, so much as it is reflected, in a strange and elegant mirroring that acknowledges that the space of otherness traced in the image of the animal is filled by an abstract artifactuality, that in fact, there was nothing but an artifactuality present to begin with.

Leslie Thornton has been at the very forefront of experimental film and media since the 1980s, having completed more than twenty film and video works and installations. Her major works include Peggy and Fred in Hell (an astonishing and profound multi-episodic work), Adynata (an important early work on perceptions of China), Another Worldy (one of the strangest and most engaging musicals ever made), Let Me Count The Ways: Minus 10, 9, 8, 7... (a serial, modular, work, an ongoing and deeply moving ‘portrait’ of the artist’s father, who participated in some of the defining events of the 20th century), and many others. An acknowledged pioneer in media, Thornton is a legendary and influential artist whose early works first addressed the interplay between cinema, video, installation and improvisation, in a manner that prefigured many contemporary media strategies. Her works have been exhibited worldwide, at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, Centre Pompidou, the Tate Modern, PS.1, and many others. Leslie Thornton has also received numerous prizes and accolades, including the Maya Deren Lifetime Achievement Award, and the first the Alpert Award in the Arts for Media.

For more information, please contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or info@winkleman.com.

For a low-res excerpt of one of the videos, click here. Believe me when I say you have to see these works in person.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Values for a New Millenium

George made the following fabulous literary connection on yesterday's comment thread about the soon-to-be launched "Stock Exchange for Art":
Right out of William Gibson:

Chapter 15 - Box - "... Marley studied the quotations. Pollock was down again. This, she supposed was the aspect of art that she had the most difficulty understanding. Picard, if that was the mans name, was speaking with a broker in New York, arranging the purchase of a certain number of "points" of the work of a particular artist. A "point" might be defined in any number of ways ..." [William Gibson, "Count Zero," 1986]
Gibson's predictions of the shift in what we will value in the future are celebrated for their accuracy (although I find it quaint that in Neuromancer he predicted you would be able to trade a few meagbytes [I think] of memory for a plane ticket),.

But this bullseye is rather unnerving.


Especially when I mix it in my mind into a conversation we had over the holidays about the seemingly non-stop stream of high-profile liars being exposed after they've gained public sympathy for themselves or some other cause. From NYTimes reporter Jayson Blair, who lied in countless stories in the paper of record; to Oprah Book Club embarrassment James Frey, who lied in his memoir about his addiction; to "Balloon Boy," whose parents claimed that their six-year-old son was trapped in a helium balloon wafting off into space; to WABC-TV weather anchor Heidi Jones who lied about being raped---there have been enough cases of "trauma hucksters" gaining public sympathy--only to later be exposed--that a psuedo-medical term has been coined to describe the general impluse: "false memoir syndrome."

In our discussion about this, one of our new and very astute friends noted that we're likely to see such false accounts only multiply because the rewards from mass sympathy are the same whether or not the history is true. The teller of the tale still receives attention, empathy, and celebrity. And apparently, more and more, these are the things that collectively we value. These are the things worth getting at any price.

My first thought when I recognized the truth of this was to wonder why are these the things we value? What is so desirable about attention and celebrity that people are willing to risk losing their jobs or livelihood to attain them? To my mind, that sounds like an addiction.

My second thought was to wonder which old values those new values were replacing, which made me wonder what I really value and am willing to get at any price. After a quick accounting, I concluded that (after my loved ones) I tend to value new experiences and the expansion of what I understand or who I meet perhaps more than anything else, which is admittedly hedonistic of me.

But upon giving it some more thought, I realized that what I truly value most is the accumulation of experiences...the resulting layering and depth that enables me to connect the dots across the places I've been or the conversations I've had. It's not that I'm discarding my past in the never-ending search of the new, but that I'm tacking the new onto the old in this crazy quilt of life experiences that just gets more complex and richer, circling back round to the things and people I love with new experiences under my belt, new things to share and see, new dots to connect.

It's like coming back to view Les Demoiselles d'Avignon again after having spent some time learning more about el Greco. It's the same old painting I stand in awe of, reborn yet again before my eyes. It's also probably why I re-read my favorite books or plays repeatedly (I'm up to 17 readings of "Streetcar"). What I understood when I read Joe Orton's plays at age 22, for example, was nothing compared with the outrageous double entendres and scandalous word play I recognize in them now.

Richer and richer human experiences, aging like a fine wine, only getting better with time. That strikes me as a good central goal on which to build one's life. And so it disappoints me greatly to see people valuing short-lived celebrity or attention to such an extent that they're willing to risk so much to gain them. It's valuing the short-term over the longer-term that I simply cannot relate to. There's no point to a series of short-term "successes" that lead to one big failure to my mind. I don't understand it. It seems in opposition or completely unrelated to what life is about to me.

Just like Marley, in Count Zero, who "studied the quotations. Pollock was down again. This, she supposed was the aspect of art that she had the most difficulty understanding."

She had difficulty understanding this "aspect of art" because the "number of points" one should purchase for this or that work of art is in opposition to and, for most of us, completely unrelated to what art is truly about.

But perhaps that is truly shifting.


I know as soon as I go off on such rants that someone will say, "But you're an art dealer. You contribute to this commodification-over-culture-enrichment aspect of art. Who are you to complain about it?"

My defense is twofold. First and foremost, I view what we do as enabling artists we believe in to get the attention and hopefully the sales they deserve so they can keep making art. My proof of that is that we focus almost exclusively on the emerging artist section of the primary market. Second, if dealers are indeed responsible for the "art stock market" being born in this new age with its new, questionable values, then it's up to dealers to speak out and note why such a venture misses the larger, longer-term point of art.

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