Monday, April 30, 2012

More Fair Logic

No one knows.
That's the response you most often hear when the question "What do you think the coming week is going to do to the New York fair landscape?" crops up. And it's cropping up so constantly as the week begins that the answers are overlapping and like cacophonous sound waves cancelling each other out to some degree, leaving a numbing white noise in their wake.
With regard to the main fair, Frieze New York, everyone seems to think the location is the big variable, and how easy it is (or isn't) to get on or off Randall's Island may determine the inaugural version's success. Will you take a cab, the train, or try the ferry? seems to be another common question. (A friend of ours born and raised in New York, more than 70 years ago, has never been to Randall's Island either, so he was no help in deciding how to get there. And he's probably more typical than not, which gives non-New Yorkers some idea why the location seems such a big unknown.)
No one doubts the fair itself will be high quality. No one doubts New York has the bandwidth for more great art. Short of Art Basel opening up shop in New York, though, I don't think any other event could have caused this much commotion, anticipation, or uncertainty in the Big Apple. At least where the contemporary art market is concerned.
I've mused on all this recently, but to be honest it feels as if it's all shifting so quickly, I personally can't get enough feedback on what it all means. One thing is clear, we're in a tumultuous art fair era, and experimentation is the order of the day. Clearly things will need to settle, but how they settle is being worked out even as we speak.
Murat and I are in an interesting (though, perhaps not far from in the Chinese curse sort of way) position to observe this evolution. Collaborating with 6 other galleries to play with the model in Miami, and having started our own small, niche fair in New York and London, even as we participate in more established fairs and other innovative models, we're monitoring it all on the iPad and iPhone even as we are finalizing plans on the laptop, all the while trying to remain as flexible and rested as possible in the non-online world (so, you know, we can actually visit or work the fairs). We're certainly not bored.
What we're noticing though from our particular position, very gratifyingly, is how experimentation in particular seems to be paying off. Especially when the experimentation is driven by galleries' needs and the realities of both viewing art and selling it. For two examples I can report on firsthand, traffic increased significantly at SEVEN in Miami this past year, and sales jumped dramatically at Moving Image New York this past March (with several galleries eventually grossing more than 10 times the participation fee). More than increased traffic or sales, though, is what seems a growing awareness that hybrid models (whereby, for another firsthand example, one art fair is invited to curate a film series within another art fair, as happened with Armory Film) are paying off (again with an emphasis on meeting the needs of the galleries and with an eye on better viewing experiences).
We're not alone in our wish to experiment, obviously. No experiment has been a more brilliant triumph, in my humble opinion, than Independent. It simply looked and felt fantastic this year. I heard sales were stronger as well.
What's in store for the galleries participating in fairs this week? We'll know soon enough. Personally, any effort that brings quality and excitement to New York is welcome in my book.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Opening Tomorrow : "Loughelton Revisited," Curated by Barbara Broughel, at Winkleman Gallery, 6-8 PM

Installation view of "The Double Bind," an exhibition
at Loughelton Gallery, New York, in 1987.
Loughelton Revisited 
Curated by Barbara Broughel
April 27 - May 26, 2012 
Opens April 27 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM 

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Loughelton Revisited, a group exhibition curated by artist Barbara Broughel, featuring work by Polly Apfelbaum, Richard Artschwager, Gary Bachman, John Baldessari, Paul Bloodgood, Barbara Bloom, Leonard Bullock, Chris Burden, John Dogg, Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, John Franklin, Jack Goldstein, Lisa Hoke, Win Knowlton, Annette Lemieux, Amy Lipton, Suzanne McClelland, Peter Nagy, Marianne Nowottny, Tom Radloff, Josef Ramaseder, Richard Rezac, Walter Robinson, Barry Schwabsky, Kunie Sugiura, Carol Szymanski, James Welling, Sue Williams, and Thomas Zummer.

In 1986, with her gallery partner Amy Lipton, Broughel founded the Loughelton Gallery in New York’s East Village, curating works by dozens of artists into group shows with topics ranging from schizophrenia to the formation of the universe. Whether targeting the inarticulate meanderings of “post-modernist” discourse, the pseudo-sacred status assigned to high-brow painting, or the aloof impenetrability that sometimes passed for conceptual rigor, Loughelton’s shows were often conceived with a healthy irreverence, to counter or challenge the blind assumptions of the moment. The gallery’s pokes were not just gratuitous but also serious and pointed, and often delivered with humor, pathos, or even political urgency.

Nothing was too banal or too sacred to be part of the dialogue. Clement Greenberg visited the gallery in 1986 to “see for himself what his dilemma was,” when Loughelton opened Greenberg’s Dilemma, an exhibition of works by artists combining formalism with Pop Art. With tastes leaning toward work that was witty, formally elegant, conceptual but accessible, the gallery’s program engaged with the surrounding art world, contemporary discourses in the philosophy of language, avant garde film, and underground music.

This exhibition includes many of the original works which were exhibited at Loughelton Gallery, as well as artworks by other artist/curators whose orbits intersected with the gallery's, including Peter Nagy who co-owned and curated Gallery Nature Morte, Colin deLand, the proprietor of American Fine Arts, and John Baldessari, who curated a show for Loughelton in 1987.

Barbara Broughel is an artist based in New York and Connecticut, with an extensive history of exhibitions. Over the years, Broughel's work has taken a variety of forms, often presented as installations and investigative projects, including games, films, video-works, sculptures, photographs, paintings and drawings. Her work has been shown at various museums internationally and in the United States, including the Queens Museum of Art, Aldrich Museum, CT, Katonah Museum, NY, San Jose Museum, CA, the Hermit Foundation, Czech Republic, Kilkenny Castle, Ireland, Kunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau, Switzerland, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Ireland, and many others. She has had commissions in Europe, the United States and the Far East, including installation works at the Sanskriti Institute in New Delhi and at Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam, Holland.

For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Digital Dialog || Open Thread

In response to the question raised in yesterday's post about regionalism (i.e., Could there be such a thing as conceptual regionalism?), self-declared "Generic Artist" (who lives in self-declared "Quaintsville" [i.e., no where near a major arts center]) suggested:
Maybe a long time ago people from Quaintsville were less informed on current conceptual trends, but that's certainly not the case now. You can be typing away in Elk River Idaho, working on your MFA thesis from a top conceptual University via correspondence. Most people have access to all of the same information.

To assume that an artist is less involved in progressive dialogue simply because they're in Quaintsville is highly dismissive. Everyone is on Facebook. Everyone Tweets. Everyone blogs. We all know what color tie Jerry Saltz wore to the last opening. Quaintsvillagers have their finger on the pulse.
And while I certainly agree that the Internet has facilitated a much wider form of connection than we've ever had in human history, the depth of that connection remains in question, in my humble opinion.

Indeed, in a great op-ed in the Times a few days back, Sherry Turkle (a psychologist, professor at M.I.T., and the author of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other”) argues that while technology has permitted us to connect, it has also essentially killed conversation:
Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.
We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.
FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”
All of which both rings true to me and makes me question the value of the so-called digital dialog, particularly as it feeds a conceptual art practice.

Of course, as soon as I say that, the old question "do I have to move to New York?" rears its head, and there are clearly enough examples of artists with successful careers living in other places to suggest the answer is no. But, and with recognition that he/she was merely making a lighthearted point, it should probably be emphasized for some people that knowing what color tie Jerry Saltz wore to an opening (sidebar: I have never seen Jerry wearing a tie, but...) is not the same as face-to-face feedback from sources you trust about the ideas and experiments you're wading through in your studio.

Consider this an open thread on the value (or limits) of the "digital dialog."

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Epiphany about Regionalism || Open Thread

OK, so this is not a well formulated idea yet. I suspect it has the potential to be viewed as insulting to some or make me sound like the worst of snobs, for which I will preemptively apologize. That's not my intent here. But to get a conversation started about it, I'll throw it out there anyway.

Last year, Murat and I almost bought a house upstate. We were almost in contract, we had been preapproved, had the lawyers lined up, etc. etc., but something told me we should clear our schedules, sit down and crunch the numbers again more granularly, do some serious soul-searching, and be sure before we signed.

After that process, we decided the timing wasn't right. Among the factors bringing us to that decision were how busy we are with the gallery and Moving Image, and admitting that it would be a constant struggle to find time to get up there.

This was a few weeks before Hurricane Irene caused the terrible flooding upstate that wiped out so many fabulous houses and village main streets in the region. The only bridge to the house we almost bought was washed away as well. As much as it broke our heart to hear the tales from the people we knew up there who had their property damaged, we were also somewhat relieved about our decision.

But with Summer approaching (seriously, it is...), almost no weekend goes by that we don't pine for what might have been. We imagine ourselves, after a busy day of working on the house and garden, relaxing on the porch, watching the sunset, or lighting a fire in the fireplace and falling asleep watching an old movie. Ahh....

You see, we like the area we almost bought in a lot. In searching for a house (we must have looked at 60), we have spent a fair bit of time up there. We like the people up there, the pace of life up there, and the gorgeous scenery. We probably have overly romantic views of it, in part because we don't (yet) own there (and, for example, didn't have to clean up after the flooding or fret about our investment, etc. etc.), but somehow the region has got into our blood.

And so, when I got an email recently about a gallery show in the upstate region, of paintings of the scenery up there, my heart jumped a bit. I really wanted to see that exhibition. Even though I didn't know the artist, and though the few images I saw suggested the work was well done, but not necessarily going to rock my world, the fact that the work was about something I care about...about a place I really like...made it seem really special to me.

It was a very odd realization for me, too, when I figured out why I wanted to see that show. It was ONLY because it was painted in and was about the region I like. The art snob in me, always seeking out the "universal" or widespread appeal of artwork, was essentially told to sit down and shut up by the would-be gentleman farmer (WGF) in me, whose knee-jerk reaction to the invite was "I'd love to own a painting of that mountain range."

And then it hit me, that this feeling was a unique appeal of artwork that we would classify as "regionalist," and not just of representational regionalism, but of artwork created in and reflecting the lifestyle and mind set of a subsection of the world better than any of the international, universal work out there ever could. Yes, its specificity is perhaps also one of it's "problems" from a critical point of view, but the WGF farmer in me didn't care. He responded viscerally to the work, or at least its subject matter, and wanted to see more of it. It was its specificity that made it special and desirable.

Even if Famous Artist X were to travel to that region and paint the same subjects, I don't believe I would have been as immediately intrigued by an exhibition of the work. There was an element of local hero worship in my response to the announcement. But more than that, there was an emotional attachment that overwhelmed my carefully cultivated big city cynicism, battling back the voices sneering "if the exhibition were worth your time, you'd have heard of that artist before" or "how silly would that look on the wall next to your {Famous Artist Y}?"

That immediate emotional attachment, though, was exquisite (before I began deconstructing it, anyway). It was genuine and intense. Those are not two words I often use to describe my response to work I see at internationally renown galleries or even contemporary museums. Which isn't to say the regional work is more accomplished or deserves to hang in said museums more than the work one typically finds there. But it's not nothing, either.

Consider this an open thread on what regional art can do that work created for an international audience cannot.

Labels: art viewing, open thread, regionalism

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quick Answer Thursday

Two questions came up on the previous thread that I would normally have answered within the thread, but both I think deserve a higher profile than that. I'm beginning to realize there's a great deal of confusion, especially among artists, as to what art fairs are all about. This first question is a good example of that:
The problem is that art fairs are absolutely crap way to look at work. Also they are horribly inefficient. You have to move artwork, temporarily, across the country or across the ocean...and then whatever isn't sold, ship it back. then the plane tickets, hotels, meals.....I can't imagine it could possibly be profitable unless one is selling work in the mid five to six figure range.

it seems like participating in fairs is something of a "loss leader"....just something you have to do in order to maintain a profile.

Ed...can you weigh in on this?
The answer to this needs to be broken into two parts.

First comes a bit of a history lesson. Back in 2002 through more or less 2007, most younger galleries participating in one of the main satellite fairs in Miami (NADA, Pulse, Aqua, etc.) could make more money selling art in those 5 days than they would in 6-10 months back in their galleries. This is why the competition to get into those fairs was, for a while, so fierce. There was nothing "loss leader" about that aspect of participating in fairs.

Second, however, is a more complex explanation of most galleries' short- and longer-term goals with regards to art fairs. Most galleries would prefer to be in the premiere Miami art fair (Art Basel Miami Beach [ABMB]) because many of the world's top collectors visit that fair, and only that fair, during that week. Also it's a status symbol. It can help you meet more collectors, it greatly pleases your current collectors, and it can help you attract higher-profile artists.

But the competition for positions at that fair is, as they say, off the hook. Younger galleries need to pull out all the stops and submit a proposal that knocks the selection committees' socks off to get in. This can often lead to proposing booth concepts that will be difficult to sell, but will garner attention. (And it can't be emphasized enough, that it helps if the artist/s being proposed is/are having a high-profile year [e.g., biennials, museums, major commissions, etc.,] themselves.) In addition, galleries who didn't get accepted into ABMB, but know the fair directors and committee members often visit the satellite fairs, will sometimes present a booth designed to garner attention there (but, again, may be difficult to sell or even if it does sell, doesn't cover their costs), with the hopes of getting noticed and getting into Basel the following year.

In these cases, yes, you can call that a loss leader approach. But even then, the even longer-term goal is to secure your place in ABMB and eventually be able to make a lot of money there.

Of course, your position in ABMB will not remain secure if you let the quality of your booth slip, but if you look around you'll see the larger galleries tend to play it safer than the younger galleries in terms of how salable the art they bring is.

Finally, to get kind of theoretical about it, a gallery tends to want/hope for some combination of four main things at any fair :

1. To get their artists attention (with collectors, curators, or critics)
2. To establish relationships with new collectors
3. To make a profit
4. Barring that, to at least cover their costs

Any combination of these can make a fair a success, with item 3 being the exception. It alone can make the fair a success. The others tend to make me happier in groups.

The second question has a much shorter answer:
Bonus question For Edward Winkleman. If Rush Limbaugh walked in your gallery and wanted to purchase a work of art would you sell to him?
Answer: Yes.

Labels: Art Fairs, art market

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Difference between a Single Malt and an Art Fair

Too much of anything is bad,
but too much good whiskey is barely enough.

~ Mark Twain

Next week, whether you be in Germany, Brussels, or Mexico, you can visit a major contemporary art fair presenting an international selection of high-profile galleries. You can even visit a fair from the comfort of your own home, as VIP launches its works on paper edition.

If you can't wait until next week, don't worry, you can dash down to Dallas or over to Milan today, right now, and find impressive international galleries gathered under one roof (admittedly mixed in with a few you're likely to have never heard of, but...) leaving one to wonder when, if ever, a collector can expect to find a dealer occupying their own gallery.

Now of course, I'm one to talk about the proliferation of art fairs, having co-founded one myself, and even working with the co-organizers of another we participate in to present an exhibition during the explosion of fairs coming to New York in May, just to turn around and head out to San Francisco the following week to try out a new fair, ArtPadSF, that some dear friends of ours are involved in.

To be entirely honest about it, I'm somewhat unusual in that I actually enjoy art fairs (and would probably do more if I could do them AND be in my gallery at the same time AND if I didn't prefer sleeping in my own bed much more than staying in hotels). But one does begin to wonder what the limit of all this might be.

As Jane Cohan so aptly explained in an article about the coming blitzkreig of fairs in New York in May, "I think we are all aware that the contemporary art market is increasingly event driven." Or in other words, that's where the sales are happening. And even Larry Gagosian noted in response to Morley Safer's suggestion that he had to participate in Art Basel Miami Beach, "Yeah, for me it's a place to sell art; it's a place to make money." And knowing that, it makes sense that dealers will participate in as many events/fairs as they can.

But surely we're reaching a saturation point, no? Even if we accept that, like a good whiskey, too many fairs is barely enough, eventually too much of the brown nectar will make one pass out, if not throw up.

During the fairs in New York back in March, one of my personal heroes in the art world, Peter Schjeldahl, was quietly making the rounds, doing research on the phenomenon of art fairs for a major article he's working on (and which I eagerly open each new issue of The New Yorker that arrives at home, hoping to find). I'm not sure when it's coming out, actually, but I am sure, having talked with him about fairs for a while that week that he's likely to argue that he (at least) is well past the stage of throwing up.

And yet, we dealers hitch up our wellies and wade back in, month after month, experimenting with the model as best we can (e.g., the wonderful Independent and our own efforts SEVEN and Moving Image), but recognizing the inescapable logic of being where the money is.

Thank God for Oban.

Labels: Art Fairs

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

What to Make of Morley's Musings

Now that the alpha dogs have had their fill of the carcass, I imagine it's acceptable for we "smug, semi-informed" pups of the blogosphere to shyly sniff around it for scraps. :-P

The carcass I refer to of course is the barely warmed-over update to his 1993 hit piece on the art market that made closet watercolorist and TV journalist Morley Safer a force to be reckoned with (or not) in the contemporary art scene. Having spied him traipsing around Art Basel Miami Beach this past December, camera crew in tow, most art world insiders were anxiously awaiting the reappraisal.

To understand why the update has been such a relief-producing flop, though, it helps to revisit the original:
In his now-infamous 60 Minutes story "Yes...But is it art?" Safer took on artists, dealers and critics of the 90s with equal gusto. The artists, he said, make mostly "worthless junk," or better yet, hire craftsmen to make it for them. Dealers, he said "lust after the hype-able." Critics write in a language that "might as well be in Sanskrit."

Indeed the original was truly controversial because it hit a number of bulls-eyes that sting still today. How lame the defenders of contemporary art looked next to its detractors back then was mostly a matter of stagecraft (detractors were comfortably seated in what looked like offices of power absent only the pipe and smoking jacket, whereas defenders were literally forced to think on their feet) and poisoning the well before the defenders were able to speak (Safer ensures we agree with his position on Koons by insisting his answer is "shaky" before we hear it). But lame they did look all the same.

In the update? Not so much.

Partly, that's because of a shift in collective values. In 1993 it was still widely assumed that it was a valid position to take that crass consumerism was bad. Today, consumerism has been not only equated with capitalism but virtually with patriotism throughout most of the first world. So the 2012 response to Safer's 1993 question "What makes it art?" is an unquestioned (even by Safer) "Look how much it's gone up in price."

But it's also because of a shift in power. Back in 1993, "60 Minutes" had the power to shape opinions. Today, many people are surprised to learn it's still on the air. Moreover, back then, the mainstream media in general was feared (look at how Koons accepts insulting question after insulting question and still pants like a puppy dog for more). That has greatly changed. In fact, Larry Gagosian never bothers to stand up when Safer approaches him in his Basel Miami booth, making it crystal clear who has the power now.

Partly, though, it's because art history has done its job and sorted out a few things in the past two decades. Watching Safer mock Twombly in the 1993 piece, it's easier to dismiss his position today. Being a fan of Twombly, that pleases me. Not being a huge fan of every other artist he mocked in the first piece, though, I'm a bit less self-satisfied.

And so, Safer's highly anticipated revisit to his infamous smack-down comes and goes, not with a firestorm, but with barely a whimper. It's hard to imagine we're not all the worse for it though.

Labels: art criticism, art market