Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Primer on "Nano-Nonobjective-Oriented Ontographs and Qubit-Built Quilts"

Even though we’ll do the occasional controversial political exhibition in our gallery, such as Yevgeniy Fiks’ “Homosexuality Is Stalin’s Atom Bomb to Destroy America,” which generated quite a few written responses, including this selected sub-list:
  • Евгений Аронов, "Неблагонадежная любовь," Радио Свобода, 11 апреля 2013
  • Zach Savich, "April Reviews: Jena Osman; Yevgeniy Fiks," The Kenyon Review, April 2, 2013
  • "Gay in the USSR," by Nora Fitzgerald, Foreign Policy, March 26, 2013
  • "An Artist Asks, How Swishy Was Karl Marx?," by Blake Gopnik, The Daily Pic, March 26, 2013
  • "The Modern Art Notes Podcast." by Tyler Green, Modern Art Notes, March 21, 2013
  • "The Queer Bombs of the Cold War," by: Ivan Savvine on Wednesday, OutThere, March 20, 2013
  • "In Sight/In Mind: Yevgeniy Fiks," by Kathleen MacQueen, Shifting Connections, March 14, 2013
  • Sophie Pinkham, "The Homosexual Atom Bomb," n+1, February 25, 2013
very few exhibitions we’ve presented have generated the technical (and with that, oddly, in some cases hostile) level of discussion that our current show by Shane Hope is doing. 

I suspect the hostility comes from the fact that partially what’s at stake in Shane’s work is nothing less than a vision for the future of humankind. 

Because of the interesting/challenging nature of most of the questions we’re getting on a daily basis though, and because I can’t easily call Shane each time someone in the gallery asks me something beyond my knowledge base, I asked him if he’d be willing to do a quick Q&A with me on the types of questions we get most often and a few raised by comments to reviews of his show online. His answers were so charming, intriguing, and in places unexpected, I thought I’d share them here: 


Q (EW): Let’s begin with a few easy ones to set the context. The question we hear most often by people who’ve never seen your work before is “What am I looking at?” With the experience you now have after The Armory Show of people from all walks of life (with widely different knowledge about art and/or technology) asking that question, have you found a single best answer? 

A (SH): That “What am I looking at?” question has a some serious semantic gamut gap. Here are at least two go-to replies: Firstly, the future. Actually, allusions to the future's futures as in visual art answers to technological singularity blindsightedness. Secondly, 3D printed molecular models. My main goal as of late has been to visually relate the operative ideologies, promises, and hype of 3D printing to the R&D and speculations surrounding theoretical molecular manufacturing. 

Q: We also receive a very interesting array of comments about what people thought the work was until they came up close to it, including textile/fiber artwork or quilts, collaged toy bits, and even (by a prominent art critic) painted macaroni. The textile artists in particular are very enthusiastic about the similarities between their practice and these works. Does that surprise you, and if not, why not? 

A: Not so surprising as it is confirming. I’m trying to increase awareness of object-shock styled otherness after all. And that's akin to how abundance technologies will manifest objecthoods the likes of which we’ve not known and maybe can’t know without equivalently extraordinary exocortical enhancements. Arguably, objects are already starting to be thought of as more about their semantic-brainstorm-cloud formations of computability above and beyond them. 

Q: Another common question (I’ve heard it a dozen times myself) is “If these are generated on a machine, why does it look like I can see the artist’s hand in these works?” 

A: Distributed agency. The hand of the artist has always been about algorithms, albeit biological and heuristic. To trial and error is human? Naw, not only anyway. Human is NOT as human does. If you can hack them well enough, all machines prove to be more than what they ever do too. To properly problematize, I refer to my 3D printers as mindchild-playborers yet consider them not-so-much mere collaborators. We share together in new collablobjecthoods. Carpentry can now be considered an act of making an object become philosophy. Plus, I do actually paint on and compose parts upon these pieces. My approach to painting is to put forth solution spaces spanning across problems. Some artists show only answers, whereas I show the work. 

Q: Now for some more technical questions. Can you give us a quick overview of the software and hardware you use for your 3D-printer-generated work? 

A: From molecular modeling to 3D printing, my open-source linux-based software toolchain is considerably lengthy. Here’s a shortlist: PyMol, NanoEngineer-1, Blender, MeshLab, Skeinforge, Slic3r, and Printrun. Several of those I'm myself modifying and configuring before compiling. There's also plenty of python scripting going on in-between and throughout. I also always assemble all my own hardware from scratch. There's definitely a discernible difference to pursuing an Arduino-based RepRap piecemeal approach to 3D printing rather than building some 'some-assembly-required' kind of kit such as an Ultimaker, Up!, or Makerbot. Sourcing all your own parts separately and having to learn how to hand-hobble it all into working order each time produces printers with personality. I can hear my gear. 

Q: When you say your process involves certain types of “hacking,” can you be more specific? 

A: Hacking generally means to tinker with any kind of system in order to better understand how it works, discover exploits etc., and ultimately redirect or expand that system’s use parameters and creative deployment potential. My ability to hack so many systems involved in my overall toolchain additionally accounts for that aforementioned “hand-of-the-artist” look. And as far as the future of hacking matter is concerned, materiality may become all about atomic administrator access-privileges and whether or not you can root your reality. 

Q: In one of the online articles about your current show, a commenter wrote “So people will buy my scrap filament and failed prints if I stick it on foam board and claim it is art.” Aside from the dismissible snark, though, that comment does raise the rather interesting question of what, in your practice, constitutes a “failed” 3D print? 

A: All models are all about how wrong a model has to be to not be useful. While I do actually code for generative molecular designs and algorithmically-automated alternative representations of nano-scaled structures, I additionally aim at atomoleculuring anythingyness artifacts for itselfhoods. I mean, more attention might well be properly placed upon that which 3D printing pundits too often dismiss or discard as fails, extraneous, unfinished, scrap, unusable, and ultimately recyclable (soylent green tea anyone?!). The most useful 3D printed prototypes aren't so much exhausted or collapsed into fully exploitable usability in the Functionalist sense. Parts provide qualities serving only as temporarily useful caricatures. Artifacts are kinds of qualities that objects do. It should by now be better understood that the sum of the parts is actually much greater than the whole. 

 Q: Another commenter on that site asked whether these works are not better described as “collages” than “paintings.” How would your answer that? 

A: I use paint as a binder to affix my 3D printed molecular models to sundry substrates. My “Nano-Nonobjective-Oriented Ontographs” and “Species-Tool-Beings” are sculptural reliefs and yet somewhere between collage and assemblage since some models are printed paper-thin. When I say I work to inscribe object-to-object fault lines of relata distortion on equal ontologically flattened footing with humans, 'fault lines' can be taken to mean literal painterly reconciliations. When I claim to consider my compositions compendia serving to lay bare the interobjectivity between unit operations, paint is precisely that which must behave like scar tissue, as evidence of paying dues, earning injuries and also healing. 

Q: Personally I was floored that Bruce Sterling (the highly influential science fiction writer and one of the gods of the “cyber punk” genre) was so impressed with your technical “rap” (if we can call it that) in your press release that he wrote on Wired: “check out that last paragraph where the gallery pitch turns into pure Burroughsian gibberish. That’s some pretty good stuff.” What role does terminology (at times of your own invention) play in your overall practice? 

A: I consider my praxis to be first and foremost a form of Future Studies. To round out that program by indirectly describing that which definitely defies depiction, I draft these “pathetic-prophetic techno-poetic cognitive haze phraseologies”. Sterling's tip of the proverbial hat is professional peer review proper and affirming feedback bar none. To the initiated, my writings prove parsable inasmuch as the content obviously originates from or refers to sci-fi, hacker, transhumanist, singularitarian, and futurological terminology. Regarding my refined “rap” or rather “enzymin’-rhymin’ chmodder-fodder” style, I say I'm speaking “in speculative-vernacular”. 

Shane Hope's exhibition Nano-Nonobjective-Oriented Ontographs and Qubit-Built Quilts continues in the gallery through this Saturday, May 4, 2013.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bill by Bill

A while back I wrote the following in a thread about the alarming number of art world insiders (the "true believers") who were expressing profound disappointment with the way the gallery system had turned lately:
There are artists out there making work worthy of the true believers. But for them to help change how soul-crushing the system has become to many, how "vulgar" or "nasty" or "filthy" and therefore how unappealing to the true believers, those artists need to help stop the seemingly endless numbers of artists who aspire to emulate the multi-millionaire artists dominating the market today and show the world something more important than clever observations of how superficial we've all become. They need to look deeper at humankind and themselves...and to look away from the cynicism-fueled influences that get all the press and attention these days....and become the new influentials. The new leaders for the next generation of artists.
Most of all, they need to not take for granted that the true believers who have supported the art world for all the right reasons will continue to do so if artists don't start taking control and making the vulgar way the market is operating today look unappealing to those who see it only as a mean of buying social credibility, without even caring about the objects they're using toward that end.
You know how to do this. Don't underestimate what's at stake if you don't.
Get to it.
I'll admit. One of the artists I was thinking of when I wrote that was William Powhida.

Even as I wrote that, with Bill (among others) in mind, though, I knew the real challenge in shaking things up was going to be "to look away from the cynicism-fueled influences." 

This is a particular challenge especially because the order of the day would seem to include a new approach to institutional critique (because the institutions have grown immune to the current approach). How do you both look away from the cynical forces and meaningfully comment on them too?

It would seem our friend Bill has found a way.

Few exhibitions recently have excited me as much as the William Powhida one that just opened at Charlie James Gallery in Los Angeles. The press release alone is reason to cheer:
Dismissed Acclaimed provincial New York-based artist William Powhida is pleased to announce Bill by Bill, a new collection of art works fabricated exclusively for Charlie James Gallery and the fast-growing Los Angeles art market.  Conceptualized and designed by William each work of art has been crafted by better highly skilled artists, designers, friends, family and fabricators under the artist’s supervision in a studio he visited at least once.  After years of going to art fairs intensive market research Bill by Bill represents a decisive breakthrough for the artist into the fields of sculpture and painting by creating unique variations on some of the dominant formulas trends in contemporary art.

Bill by Bill brings together classic Modernist forms with bleeding edge post-studio, conceptually based[1] practices to create a mercenary stunning vision of contemporary art. Begun over a year ago while on residency at the Headlands in beautiful Marin County, William has designed a line of auction-ready commodities objects across stylistic boundaries for market-savvy executive producers collectors. These objects are primed and ready for purchase to move quickly at Phillips de Pury. With a focus on painting and sculpture Bill by Bill avoids problems of reproducibility inherent with photography, new media, multiples, and editions which have diminished the deep satisfaction of buying art.  These one-of-kind objects are able to offer the ‘experience of art’ at a price that isn’t quite for everyone, which affirms William’s belief that art holds an elitist special place in culture.

A unique, signed certificate of authenticity in the artist’s signature style accompanies[2] each hand-touched[3] object. The certificate provides the artist’s critical insight into the fascinating design and fabrication process behind each work. These intimate, text-based certificates contextualize each object in a theoretical and aesthetic discourse while situating them in the broader social and political space of neo-liberal capitalism late modernity. Charlie James Gallery is relieved pleased to finally bring this moyen-garde model of art production and distribution to Los Angeles, which we believe is the only city capable of buying this.

William Powhida was born in 1976 in Ballston Spa, New York.  Powhida has no upcoming exhibitions at any major art institutions.  Recent exhibitions include “Market Value: Examining Wealth and Worth” at Columbia College in Chicago, IL; “On Sincerity” at Boston College in Boston, MA; (2012), “Seditions” at McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas, TX (2012), “Derivatives” at Postmasters Gallery, NY (2011) and Dublin Contemporary in Dublin, Ireland (2011).  His work has been discussed in October, Art in America, Art Forum, The Brooklyn Rail, Frieze, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. His art was recently featured in the Village Voice, America’s oldest corporate-owned alternative weekly.

[1] This does not mean conceptual.
[2] The collector agrees to purchase the certificate of authenticity to receive the object.
[3] The artist may have only touched to the work indirectly receiving the work or crating it.
But that's not why I'm bringing this to your attention. The review of Bill's show in the Los Angeles Times is exactly the sort of response we need to see more of in the press for anything to change.The opening paragraph is one many artists would give a body part to receive:
So rare is good satire in contemporary art that its appearance — as in the newest exhibition of William Powhida, a New York-based artist who is fast evolving into one of its sharpest practitioners — makes one inclined to stand up and applaud.
But it's this response to the work that really made my day:
What saves the work from grating sarcasm or smart aleck cleverness — toward which the artist has erred in the past — is a curious undertone of sincerity. Powhida is not mean-spirited or bitter but seems genuinely driven to understand his subject: the internal mechanisms of this peculiar social and economic ecosystem. How does the art world work and how should we feel about that? How much of ourselves should we reconcile to it?
He clearly takes these questions seriously. If he didn’t, his excoriation wouldn’t be nearly so funny. [emphasis mine]
Folks who know Bill understand that, despite the obnoxious persona (a character also named "Powhida") that is one part of his practice, he's genuinely sincere about doing what he can to curb the negative impact that too much money and too little critique is having on the art of his generation. 

All I can say to the other artists of Bill's generation is, go see this show if you can. And if you can't, pay attention all the same.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Venticinque | Open Thread

A quarter of a century ago, I was living in Milan and heading toward birthday number 25, which caused a bit of embarrassment because, for some reason, I had a mental block about how to pronounce that number in Italian. Eventually a pop song came to my rescue, though, when I realized venticinque had the same number of syllables and syncopation as the refrain in "Panic," the relatively new song (at the time) by The Smiths. It helped that it rhymed as well. After that epiphany, any time I needed to say venticinque, I'd first quickly sing along with Morrisey in my head:
Hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ
and swap out the lyrics for 
Ven-ti-cin-que, ven-ti-cin-que, ven-ti-cin-que
E Ecco! Parlo Italiano (or something more comprehensible than before anyway).

More recently, I've had a different sort of anxiety, as I now head into my second 25 years of life on this rock. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "panic," but like no other milestone birthday before this I've been reviewing where I am and measuring it against where I always imagined I would be. It's been weighing on my mind and rather annoyingly distracting/depressing me.

Then came last week. 

If the world's seen a more hellish 7 days in my lifetime, I honestly can't remember when. From the catastrophe in West, Texas, to the horrendous earthquake in China, the floods through the Midwest, the undeniable corruption in Congress, and of course the surreal insanity in Boston, the constant barrage of breaking news of people with real problems snapped me out of my pity-party-for-one and helped me make peace with turning 50. 

But my maudlin self-absorption about age was only one of the preoccupations that, as you may have noticed, brought about a bit of writer's block for me recently. The other contributing factor has been a similar string of heart-breaking or revolting news coming out of the art world. From the truly unsettling news that the brilliant Daniel Reich had taken his own life to the "I told you so's" and calls for more regulation in the wake of the Helly Nahmad Gallery-related indictments, there's been a sense that the status quo in the art business simply cannot persist much longer. 

Now, imo, Benjamin Genocchio has adopted the right attitude toward what all the uncertainty could mean: 
I have this gnawing feeling that the time is ripe to make something new and exciting happen in the art world. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I’m convinced that fairs, galleries, auction houses, even museums are changing the way they do business and that the art world we know now will be almost unrecognizable in 20 years’ time.
And yet, in conversations with a wide range of artists lately about what they see when they look at the art world today, I've heard another refrain that reminded me again of the lyrics from "Panic":
Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play
It says nothing to me about my life
I haven't wanted to write about these conversations, because they involve individual artists and/or galleries, and it's not my place with my limited insights to toss stones at anyone else, living in a glass house as I do. But I would like to find a way now, given how many times the issue has come up recently, to gingerly start a conversation about it.

In my humble opinion, the most important appraisers of any artwork are other artists, because its potential influence (or not) on them will play a role in the future of art history. The dialog among artists reigns supreme among my interests in the art world. Nothing else comes close to being as exhilarating or eye opening. So it's upsetting to hear that "sterile" is the word often used to describe what these artists report seeing in the galleries. 

What they say they mean when pressed on this is a response more precisely aimed at the generation of rising stars who had once excited them but who, upon reaching higher-tiered galleries, seem to have lost their edge. The pressure to produce more and larger work to fill the cavernous spaces of their new dealers is painfully obvious to their contemporaries. These once inspiring heroes have gone fully into Production mode, or so it seems, they say. And it's depressing them because now they're not sure now what it is they want from their own careers. They used to think they wanted the big galleries and the flexibility and the "freedom" that seemed to represent, but now they're not so sure it ends that way. They know they don't want to have to simply phone in series after series of market-ready trophies for the endless art fairs in between obviously rushed solo exhibitions. That's not why they became artists.

Of course, it's easy to dismiss their observations as envy, or it would be if I didn't know these artists better than I do. I'm not sharing any names, so you'll either have to take my word for it (or not). But the potential influence of this, let's call it, professionalization of art making on the type of art that gets shown or made seems undeniable.

I realize this is opening Pandora's box, but I have moderator control and I'm not at all afraid to use it, so consider this a request for "polite" opinions on what it means today to become a successful artist in one's lifetime and the impact that may/may not have on art history:

Monday, April 08, 2013

Announcing the Moving Image London 2013 Curatorial Advisory Committee

We are very pleased to announce that Moving Image will return to The Bargehouse for the third edition of Moving Image London, October 17-20, 2013. Moving Image has been conceived to offer a viewing experience with the excitement and vitality of a fair, while allowing moving-image-based artworks to be understood and appreciated on their own terms. The newly formed Moving Image Curatorial Advisory Committee for London 2013 is inviting a selection of international commercial galleries and non-profit institutions to present single-channel videos, single-channel projections, video sculptures, and other larger video installations.

Curatorial Advisory Committee for Moving Image London 2013:

Sabin Bors
Founder, curator, and editor of Anti-Utopias Contemporary Art Platform
Cluj-Napoca, Romania

Olesya Turkina
Senior Research Fellow at Contemporary Art Department, Russian Museum
St. Petersburg, Russia

Julia Draganovic
Independent Curator, LaRete Art Projects
Modena, Italy

Jacopo Crivelli Visconti
Writer and Curator
Sao Paulo, Brazil

Alia Swastika
Curator and writer
Yogyarkarta, Indonesia

Moving Image was founded by Murat Orozobekov and Edward Winkleman.

Selected press about Moving Image:

  • February 13, 2013 : “The Moving Image, Armory Week’s Video Art Fair, Announces 2013 Exhibitors” Artinfo.com
  • February 12, 2013: “Moving Image Announces Exhibiting Artists,” Michael H. Miller, GalleristNY.com
  • March 7, 2013: “Interview with Moving Image Artist, Sam Curtis,” Aesthetica Magazine
  • March 8, 2013: “Moving Image Gathers No Moss, as Video Art Fair Pushes the Medium’s Boundaries,” by Benjamin Sutton, Artinfo.com
  • March 8, 2013:  “Moving Image, A Fair With Purpose,” by Corinna Kirsch, ArtFCity.com
  • March 8, 2013:  “Old Favorites and New Surprises at Moving Image,” by Jillian Steinhauer, Hyperallergic.com
  • March 11, 2013: “Watch “Complaints Choir of Chicago,” the Moving Image Fair’s Funniest Video,” In the Air, artinfo.com
  • March 12, 2013: “Moving Image art fair sells first ever ‘Vine-art’” by Rachel Miller, The Guardian
  • March 15, 2013: “La première vidéo d’artiste réalisée avec l’application Vine vendue à New York” by Laura Heurteloup, Exponaute
  • March 18, 2013: “Armory Week: A Change is Gonna Come,” by Myriam Vanneschi, Art Berlin 
  • March 22, 2013: “Review: Moving Image NYC The Contemporary Video Art Fair,” by Max Goldman, FAD
  • /Nov 2012: “Moving Image: A Dealer’s Perspective -An Interview with Ed Winkleman and Murat Orozobekov,” James Hu, Li Yao, Art Gallery Magazine
  • October 13, 2012: “Moving Image Fair: Interview with Edward Winkleman,” Yvette Greslé, FAD
  • October 13, 2012: “Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck & Media Farzin receive inaugural Moving Image Award,” ArtDaily
  • October 11, 2012: “Taste for the anti-Frieze,” Rachel Spence, Financial Times
  • October 11, 2012: “Moving Image Award Announces Winner,” Samantha Tse, Artinfo.com
  • October 10, 2012: “If a Hirst breaks your budget, don’t despair,” Anny Shaw, The Independent
  • October 5, 2012: “Who Will Win the Moving Image Award?”  Corinna Kirsch, The L Magazine
  • September 28, 2012:  “Moving Image Fair’s Award Funds Donation to Tate Modern,” Samantha Tse, artinfo.com
  • September 19, 2012: “La foire Moving Image annonce ses participants,” Art Media Agency (AMA)
  • September 18, 2012: “Exhibitors Announced for Video Art Fair Moving Image’s London Edition During Frieze,” artinfo.com
  • September 18, 2012: “Moving Image Video Art Fair Announces List of Participants,”" Michael H. Miller, Gallerist NY
Moving Image
October 17–20, 2013
Oxo Tower Wharf
Bargehouse Street
South Bank
London SE1 9PH, UK
For more information about Moving Image, contact Ed or Murat at 212.643.3152 or email us at contact@moving-image.info. Or visit the Moving Image website.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Whatever Lola Wants | A Few More Thoughts on the Rash of Defections From the Art Market

In response to what seems a growing rejection of the current gallery model (see here, here, and here), a backlash of sorts has emerged on social networks, with a few people who are still committed to the model criticizing "the quitters" for everything from not being tough enough to not understanding the business they were in. On Facebook, one very innovative dealer, who I personally have greatly admired for many years, described the trend (if we can call it that) as dealers "bowing out from art for sentiments that could only be defined as anti-market." I've read similar responses in other places, and they share a theme: "the overall market is strong, so clearly there's nothing wrong with the market...there must be something wrong with these people rejecting the system."

That notion, though---if the overall market is strong, there must be nothing wrong with the market--warrants a closer look in my opinion. 

First of all, it seems to imply that "the market" is an absolute good and therefore whatever makes it stronger must be good. Whatever the market wants...the market should get. The thing is, though, the art market, like any market, is not a wholly self-contained, separate entity that works best for everyone when it's not interfered with (despite what some free-market fanatics might argue).  Every market is a human-created system designed to suit human needs and human priorities. We collectively regulate them (or not) according to our goals. They exist to serve us, not the other way around. So for the dealers who have decided the art market, as it has evolved, no longer suits their needs or priorities, rejecting it is simply logical.

Second of all, it's not particularly helpful in this context to discuss the "art market" as if it were one homogenous system. If that were true, a "strong market," like a rising tide, should lift all boats, but very different realities are facing dealers at different ends of the spectrum. As Shane Ferro recently wrote, "The Primary Market Is Immoderately Lopsided":
If you are a large dealer, last year was probably one of your best. The primary market has ticked slightly upward to 52 percent of the total art market, up from 50 percent last year. If not, you may be screwed. Inequality in the broader economy is increasingly apparent in the art world. However, much of the discussion (including here at ARTINFO) has been focused on the stagnation of the “middle market.” [Clare] McAndrew’s report, however, really highlights the plight of the lowest end of the market. While the middle may not be growing, commerce at the smallest galleries is actively shrinking. Consider these facts:
  • Dealers with sales under €500,000 in 2012 reported that average turnover fell by 17 percent year-on-year.
  • Dealers with sales of between €500,000 and €2 million reported a decline of one percent.
  • Those with sales between €2 million and €10 million also had a decline of two percent on average.
  • The top end of the market, where dealers generated sales of over €10 million, reported an average increase in turnover of 55 percent.
Third of all--and here's where I wish some of the folks criticizing "the quitters" would instead spend a few minutes reflecting on their stated rationales for leaving the business--the business has dramatically changed over the past ten years. Many of the reasons people started galleries 10, or 20, or 30 years ago are now to a large degree incompatible with being successful in the current system. Discovering new talent, making the gallery a casual place for the exchange of ideas, partnering with artists toward very long-term goals...these were all much more possible and rewarding only a decade ago than they are today. They have been made less possible by the relentless art fairs schedule (and many galleries cannot afford not to do them), the constant pressure to grow (or lose your artists to a gallery that has), the rampant poaching that's going on, and simply the limited number of hours in a day. I fully understand when someone says the business is no longer interesting to them. It's not the same business it used to be.  

Now I'm not at suggesting all hope is lost, and everyone who's not already a mega-gallery or well on their way to becoming one should throw in the towel. Rather, one of the notions that emerges from these social networks critiques of "the quitters," I happen to believe in myself. That is, innovation is the order of the day; it's the only way to respond to the change. The thing is, though, depending on their personal circumstances, not everyone who wishes to re-invent the model can do so while still running the current model [see note above re: number of hours in a day]. Some of the best minds in the industry probably should step back and approach it unencumbered by the daily grind and incredible overhead of a brick-and-mortar space. I truly hope they all come up with improvements we can all benefit from. 

More than that, I hope they come up with solutions that permit everyone to spend more time looking at and discussing art. I wouldn't mind if things were so exciting on that end of the industry that discussions about the business model became extremely rare.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Announcing A-Trade

Among the most dreaded of phrases my partner Murat can utter in the morning (shaking me from my morning grogginess and sending me into a mini panic at times) is "I have a new idea." As if we weren't already busy enough, this perpetually percolating plan-meister apparently spends all his dream time concocting new business ideas or enhancements to our current endeavors, and the one thing they all have in common generally is less sleep and more work for moi. 

Mind you, sometimes, Murat's ideas are great (as in many of the innovations we're implementing in Moving Image). Other times he is crestfallen to have a bit of research reveal that someone else is already doing what he was sure was a bold new concept.

Several months ago, though, he hit another one out of the park and today it gives me great pleasure to announce, after a fair bit of consultation with a generous group of our collectors with backgrounds in finance, our latest initiative: A-Trade: The Online Exchange for Contemporary Art Options. Like many of our ideas, this final platform arose out of a process of first identifying real needs in the art world. In other words, the pain points. In one simple, online solution, A-Trade is designed to address several art world pain points, including:
  1. Logistical costs and challenges in moving and storing fine art objects
  2. Volatility in the art market, especially among non-blue-chip artists' works
  3. Time constraints for would-be collectors who have the funds but not the extra hours to learn enough about contemporary art to trade confidently in its markets
Basically, A-Trade offers collectors another way to participate in the contemporary art market while transferring a certain amount of the inherent risk to another party. While we expect A-Trade's products to grow, at the launch we're focusing on a single  derivative: Artwork Options.

How Artwork Options Benefit Artists 
Purchasing an Artwork Option gives collectors the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a particular work of art at a set price by an expiration date. This has great benefits for artists, as they need not even make the artwork until the collector decides, but they get a share of the option purchase price, giving them much-needed funding, as well as free time to network at the world's most prestigious fairs and biennials, essentially building their name recognition through the socializing aspect of the art world rather than having to be back in their studios all the time producing work they're not sure anyone will buy. Artists can have smaller (less expensive) studios, as the only requirement for them to participate is to create a 800 pixel wide jpg of the proposed artwork. This "Virtual Studio" idea, where you can do most of your artistic explorations on your laptop from a beach somewhere, would require artists to return to actually physically create something ONLY if the collector calls the option.

How Artwork Options Benefit Collectors
For collectors, Artwork Options offer significant logistical advantages. No longer must they rent warehouses to store their acquisitions, only to later realize that artist isn't actually going to have a strong career. Moreover, because A-Trade also provides (for an additional fee) up-to-the-minute pricing information on each of the artists whose work is traded via our platform, collectors needn't bother themselves considering the aesthetic significance of the artworks whose options they purchase. They can base all their decisions on the numbers alone, giving them maximum confidence at minimal risk.

Within a few months of launching, A-Trade will also introduce Single Artwork Futures,  which is basically a contract to deliver an artwork in the long-term future for a set price today, essentially letting collectors lock in an artist's emerging prices once they're more well known. Again, this allows the collector to shift a significant amount of the risk they would otherwise take on by relying on their own eye and tastes. 

Obviously, we are very excited about the potential of this new online venture. The potential for all parties to spend less time engaged in the hard and risky aspects of creating or collecting art, and more time enjoying the financial rewards to be had, seems limitless to us. 

For more information about A-Trade's pricing structure and how you can participate (as an artist or as a collector), please visit the  A-Trade Beta site here. Your feedback, as always, is very welcome.