Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How Long Does an Art Scene Last Anymore? | Open Thread

Count me among those who enjoy the energy and unbridled optimism of new art scenes. That combined sense of raw creativity and "taking on the world" attitude is empowering and contagious and, let's face it, most of the best parties happen in the "happening" places. This weekend, for example, in Bushwick (New York's rising scene in Brooklyn) in conjunction with its annual open studios, not only is this event so of-its-time that it has its own app, it's also got its own version (smackdown?) of the dominant force in the art world at the moment: the art fair. As GalleristNY reported a while back:
Since the worldwide explosion of fairs began about 10 years ago, some artists have made their peace with them, and even deign to show up at their galleries’ booths to chat up collectors, while others have remained ambivalent, or aloof. [artist Jules] de Balincourt is taking a different approach: for two days, June 2 and 3, he’s having his own fair, in his studio, known as Starr Space. And he’s calling it Bushwick Basel, thumbing his nose at the world’s most important modern and contemporary art fair, Art Basel, which takes place annually in Basel, Switzerland, in June. “It’s kind of a parody,” he said. “But kind of not.”

Instead of the 300 brand-name galleries hosted by its namesake, Bushwick Basel will have just 11, all of them little known outside of Brooklyn, including some Bushwick stalwarts like Regina Rex, Norte Maar, Storefront Bushwick, English Kills, Parallel Art Space (formerly Camel Art Space) and Valentine, as well as newbies like Airplane. “This is the salad bar of galleries,” Mr. de Balincourt said. “You can sample and see.”

He is rolling out his salad bar on the weekend of Bushwick Open Studios, put on annually by the nonprofit organization Arts in Bushwick. This year 450 spaces representing thousands of artists will open their studios to the public, presenting everything from straight-up art exhibitions to musical performances—or just about anything the artist wants to do. Because the event, which began in 2007 with 150 spaces, is open to anyone willing to pay the $35 entrance fee (or volunteer for five hours), it is sprawling and hit-or-miss.
Again, how can you not want to inhale that energy?
Seriously, get it while it lasts.
Having opened our gallery in another, then, new and exciting scene (Williamsburg), I've had a front-row seat for how scenes explode and then fade away. Usually it's a matter of real estate or other forces beyond the galleries' control (for us, the main impetus to moving into Chelsea was how frequently the L Train [the only easy means of getting to our space] was out of service over the weekends back then) that chip away at the energy and excitement. Sometimes, it's simply time. People grow bored with the same conversations or the same bars for after parties or what have you. Other times, it's the seemingly spontaneous emergence of a newer scene somewhere else, and the energy addicts abandon their old haunts for The New...always The New.
Or should I say "Neu"? As Artforum reports:
In a rather hyperbolic article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Niklas Maak writes that “concern is growing that Berlin might be over soon, as an art center.” He explains that several factors, including the end of Art Forum Berlin, have caused many to perceive that the Berlin scene is undergoing a sort of brain and money drain. According to Maak, it has become much more difficult for artists and dealers to find visibility. He suggest that this was evident in the latest Berlin Gallery Weekend, where most of the interesting work was shown at non–art institutions. The Deutsches Architektur Zentrum, for example, exhibited the collective sculptures of architects Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge and Sam Chermayeff. As critics debated the weekend’s most successful sites, however, one notable addition to the gallery weekend went beyond the physical world entirely: This year, new software allowed users to virtually navigate Berlin Gallery Weekend via a preselected avatar.
Apps and avatars. Perhaps technology is the art scene killer. Seriously.
Not so much due to this or that app or avatar, per se, but indeed as everything else accelerates in the information age, I wonder how long a new scene can last these days. Williamsburg was hot for about 8 years, 1997-2005. Don't get me wrong, there remain world-class spaces well worth your visit in Billyburg, and I love the place, but clearly there's not the concentration of spaces and events there once was.
I mean, I've visited Bushwick spaces perhaps a dozen times, but because of social media, online broadcasts of events, and other technology that permits me to stay where I am but feel much more connected, I can't help feel that I've been there many more times than that. Indeed, I wonder if my sense of "knowing" Bushwick (and perhaps one day sooner than normal, yearning for "The New" again) hasn't been artificially accelerated. Take, for example, the odd fact that although I've gone in, I've never actually eaten at Roberta's (who can wait 40 minutes for pizza?), but I do have that "been there, done that" sense of accomplishment when ever its name comes up.
Consider this an open thread on the life expectancy for any new art scene and the factors that nudge it toward being "over."


Blogger kalm james said...

Ed, this is an endlessly fascinating question that I've been pondering since the early 1980s and the East Village scene. In many ways it's more a question of perception than one of actuality. Your time frame of 1997-2005 probably coincides with a time in your life when you were involved there, as well as experiencing your own "bloom of youth". But every generation will have different reference points. When Ward Shelly published his "Williamsburg Timeline" drawing in 2002, I heard a young local dealer say "why is he calling 1986-1994 the 'Golden Age'? If you ask me, the 'Golden Age' is right now". Similarly, this current infatuation with Bushwick as the hot "new" scene might already be late. As someone whose covered this nab since 2003 I've watched and documented many of the changes and additions to its cultural community. There's a self-conscious awareness and commercialization of being the "new scene" that might already be signaling its demise. There are lots of really smart kids there, many Williamsburg veterans, who've seen the history and know how the cycle works, and how important it is to catch and ride the wave. BOS is a good example of how they're capitalizing on this notoriety. Because of the resulting real estate boom, many of the new galleries that have recently opened are even further east, in Ridgewood Queens.

Still no matter how things change, it's ironic how they stay the same. Last year's BOS weekend was squelched by the MTA again closing down the L Train for the duration.

5/30/2012 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Diane McGregor said...

I'm positively drooling over all the art you guys get to see in person, Ed and James. The Bushwick scene sounds like a magnicent opportunity for artists and viewers alike. Here in Santa Fe we have 3 "scenes" - Canyon Road, Downtown, and the Railyard. Our annual art fair, Art Santa Fe, is coming up in July. I would say that Canyon Road, which put Santa Fe on the art "map," is pretty much dead, while the Downtown and Railyard sections are more active. However, due to the struggling economy, none of these scenes are thriving. Still, we're hanging in there, and occasionally we get some really great shows, especially by the newcomer David Richard Contemporary.

6/02/2012 08:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was part of the live music scene a long time ago, the trends and styles would last about 24 to 36 months. Some realy good Muscians, none of them ever made it. I watch our local Art scene from a distance. They are a very small group of scrappy artists, God bless em.


I wonder how much Apple paid John Malkovich to snuggle up to Siri ?

I got a real problem with Siri , She is very boring and gender neutral. If I want to talk to a robot I would rather talk to Hal . Hal Fucking owns.

When is the geek Squad going to invent Sexy French Siri who talks dirty to me?????????????

GET ON IT NERDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6/04/2012 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous John Armstrong said...

Re scenes: Just finished reading Anthony Haden-Guest, True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996). Many of you may know the author better than me; all I was able to gather was that that he was/is a magazine writer and fixture of sorts in the NYC artworld 1970’s-1990’s. People (that is, Amazon reviewers, the only people who really count) knock the book for being anecdotal and gossipy and yesterday’s news, but I thought it was great.

And all the more so after plodding through Matthew Witkovsky, Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964-1977 (Art Institute of Chicago Art Institute of Chicago, 2012), which managed to drain all the life (personality, attitude, quirkiness, humor) out of its subject matter and leave nothing but a row of mummified corpses leaned up against a museum wall. My take: the scene is half of everything and half of what needs to be experienced and remembered. Better too much than too little.

BTW I also liked the just out Michael Findlay, The value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty (Prestel, 2012). The author, who is/was a dealer specializing in Impressionist and Modern art (esp. Picasso), described the same scenes as Haden-Guest, less flashily, more cirumspectly, but you can tell they saw the same things and had mich the same reactions.

6/04/2012 10:45:00 PM  
Anonymous resonanteye said...

art galleries and business people always show up just as us artists are moving out.

4/10/2013 04:49:00 AM  

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