Thursday, June 27, 2013

Opening Tonight @ Winkleman Gallery, "Send Me the JPEG" and in the Curatorial Research Lab, OptikNerve, by Gary Petersen

Send Me the JPEG
Summer Group Exhibition

June 27-August 2, 2013
Opening: Thursday, June 27, 6-8 PM

Click image above for a brief reality check on the "ease" of online shopping.

In a recent survey by art industry analysts ArtTactic (conducted for art insurers Hiscox), 64% of contemporary art collectors reported having made the decision to purchase an artwork from digital images before actually seeing the artwork in person. While the survey’s report concedes, “Whether all areas of the art world will embrace online trading remains to be seen,” the findings have nonetheless been interpreted in a wide variety of ways: from “Contemporary art collectors are increasingly skipping the first-hand physical experience of viewing art in galleries, and buying ‘sight unseen’ through internet images” to “the online art trade will grow exponentially within the next five years.”

Winkleman Gallery is also very excited about the reach that digital opportunities offer to promote our artists outside the gallery space itself, but we’re a bit skeptical that the rise in the number of collectors who have purchased some art from JPEGs indicates any dramatic impact for the future of “the physical experience.” Rather, we’re convinced the secret to success in the digital age lies in finding the right balance between online presentations and those in person. It is with finding that balance in mind that we present  “Send Me the JPEG,” a summer group show opening June 27, 6-8 pm and running through August 2, 2013.

“Send Me the JPEG” will showcase works from gallery artists, including Cathy Begien, Janet Biggs, Jimbo Blachly, Jennifer Dalton, Rory Donaldson, Chris Dorland, Yevgeniy Fiks, Joy Garnett, Ulrich Gebert, Shane Hope, Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev, The Chadwicks, Leslie Thornton and Andy Yoder. However, no actual works of art will be on view. Rather digital images of the works will be displayed on large flat-screen monitors. The original artworks in the exhibition run the gamut, from room-sized installations to performance-based interventions, from paintings to prints, from sculpture to photographs. Everything except video, which ironically most online channels are still struggling with.

Obviously, this is a fantasy group exhibition. We could never actually present all these works in our space at the same time. The ability to “present” larger works or more works than our physical space permits is one of the advantages of online presentations. Among the limitations, however, is the ability to effectively communicate an artist’s carefully considered, site-determined decisions, or textures, or the impact of scale, or visual subtlties, or...etc. etc.

In short, “Send Me the JPEG” seeks to question what is gained and what is lost in this new era of collecting. The increase in accessibility and the flow of information has eliminated the formerly formidable geographic obstacles that made it difficult to disseminate images and ideas.  An attendant rise in the amount of capital being devoted to the production and display of contemporary art has made it possible for more artists than ever before to exist.  These have to be seen as positive.  By the same token, the basic relationship between viewer and object has been fractured. Indeed, in this new order, the way a work looks in a photograph (even if it is itself a photograph) trumps all other concerns, which has affected what is made, as well as how it is contextualized. "Disruptive technology" is well named, and one must adapt. Ultimately, though, we trust that “Send Me the JPEG” is an argument that there still is value in experiencing new work in person.

For more information please contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or


Gary Petersen

In collaboration with Doreen McCarthy
June 27-August 2, 2013
Opening: Thursday, June 27, 2013

In the Curatorial Research Lab, we are pleased to present OptikNerve, a wall painting by Gary Petersen, organized by Doreen McCarthy.  Petersen, a  painter who works on wood panels and paper activated by synthetic colored, geometric abstraction, has created two previous wall paintings including a large scale piece in Wall Works at The Painting Center (New York, 2011).  After the Wall Works exhibition, a discussion ensued between McCarthy, a sculptor, and Petersen regarding the  challenge of working in a fixed space where the artwork was both painting and installation. Wall painting as a medium has its origins in the very earliest history of painting from the caves of Lascaux to Medieval frescos as well as within the current purviews of graffiti, modernist muralists. The shift from a traditional support that is portable and intimate to an enlarged scale that is a temporary work in conversation with and transformation of the architecture of a unique space, was the impetus for Petersen and McCarthy to engage the Curatorial Reseach Lab. The radical enlarging of planes, angles, wedges, and areas of color in Petersen’s small paintings transform the visual experience of viewing an object d’art to entering into and experiencing the painting as a 3-dimensional environment.

Gary Petersen was born in Staten Island, New York. He holds a B.S. degree from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.F.A. from The School of Visual Arts. Awards have included The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, Space Program 2010-2011, in Brooklyn, New York, The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Painting Fellowship Award for 2011, 2002,1993 and the Visual Arts Fellowship Award, Edward F. Albee Foundation, 1988. His work has been exhibited widely in New York City and throughout the United States. He has had solo exhibitions at Michael Steinberg (New York), 2005; Fusebox (D.C.), 2004; Genovese/Sullivan Gallery (Boston), 2002 & 1999; White Columns (New York), 1992. Recent group exhibitions have included Jason McCoy Gallery, Theodore Art, Storefront Bushwick Gallery, Edward Thorp Gallery, Mckenzie Fine Art, Lori Bookstein Gallery, Allegra La Viola Gallery, The Painting Center, Sue Scott Gallery, The Bronx River Art Center. Past group exhibitions include Janet Kurnatowski, Lohin-Geduld, Geoffrey Young Gallery, Triple Candie, Plus/Ultra (Winkleman) Gallery, Nicole Klagsbrun, Diverse Works (TX), Newark Museum and The American Academy of Arts and Letters Invitational Exhibition in 1993. His work has been reviewed in Art in America (2012 and 2005), The Wall Street Journal, The New York Sun, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Partisan Review. He currently has a studio at The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York City and resides in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Doreen McCarthy is a sculptor based in New York. Her work has been exhibited  in  numerous group and solo projects in the United States and internationally in Europe and Japan.  In 2013 McCarthy had solo projects at Indiana University, Columbus, Indiana, Galerie Junger, Shanghai, China and a public project in the lobby of the 200 Friedrichstrasse, a Philip Johnson building in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin.

For more information, contact Ed Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Conversation with Elizabeth Dee on the Contemporary Art Gallery Model, Part II

Part I of this series, which took place before our panel discussion at Art Basel June 13 (see full video of the discussion with Josh Baer, Elizabeth Dee, and myself below), was an interview designed to set a foundation for the panel's topic: The Place of the Mid-Level Gallery in the Age of the Mega-Gallery. Here in Part II, Elizabeth and I offer summaries of the conversations we had with artists, collectors, dealers, and writers before and after the panel, as well as some of the conclusions we have come to from those conversations.

One of the things we have agreed on since the panel is that the term "mid-level" gallery is too problematic. In general we feel it suggests "second class" when in actuality there are smaller galleries with much stronger, more interesting programs than some of the "upper level" galleries, which is often more a designation of size and/or longevity than quality, per se. We think the terms "mid-career gallerist" or "mid-sized gallery" is more clear.

But first, the full Art Basel | Salon panel, moderated by Josh Baer:


I'd like to add a personal thank you to all the folks who attended the panel. The room was packed, and the questions were thoughtful. Merci, as they say in Basel (don't think I'll ever figure out when you're supposed to use German vs. French in Switzerland :-).

Forgoing the archaic tradition of ladies first, I'll start with my impressions and let Elizabeth have the last word here, although we both believe this is just the beginning of this conversation.

Winkleman:  Before and after the panel, quite a few dealers wanted to share their thoughts on this topic. Quite alarming and a bit disappointing for me were the number of younger galleries who were happy to talk off the record but were not at all interested in asking questions publicly at the panel. Also, a number of younger dealers cautioned me when we talked beforehand that I "shouldn't say that on the panel" (especially those from Berlin, I might add) and so, to be honest, I feel I was especially diplomatic while I talked on stage because of their appeals. Given my (let's call it) "passion" for this topic, that's probably not the worst thing that could have happened, of course, but in hindsight I feel it's important to flesh out some of the things that went unsaid.

I thought Josh Baer introduced another very useful distinction between "top-tier" galleries and "mega" galleries during the conversation. He used the example of Marian Goodman (seen by many people as one of the, if not THE, very best galleries in the world) as a "top tier" but not "mega" gallery because they have only two locations and a more "mom and pop" shop feel to the way they run their space than some of the galleries with 4-5, or more, locations and a more corporate feel to them. (I should note, that in my opinion, being seen as a "mom and pop" shop-style gallery is the very highest of compliments.)

Many of the more established dealers I spoke with before and after the panel tended to have little patience with the idea that it's harder for mid-career gallerists to rise today than it had been for them (unless you're talking about their relationship to the mega-galleries, in which case they sound quite a bit more like mid-sized galleries). The advice they tended to give mid-career dealers is that all it takes is to be "more determined" and "more ambitious." While I agree with that advice in general, I think it's also important to truly understand the landscape in which you're attempting to be "more determined." As the recent TEFAF Art Market Report by Clare McAndrew indicated, things have significantly changed since the current top-level galleries first clawed their way into their lofty positions. In 2012:

  • 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.
And, again, while "be more determined" may still be the best business advice you can give any mid-sized or smaller gallery, it's not very likely that an accurate interpretation of McAndrew's sales statistics is that all the top-tier and mega-galleries became that much slicker, or more competitive, or smarter in 2012 while all the mid-sized and emerging galleries became less ambitious or dumber. Unquestionably, something has fundamentally shifted in the contemporary art market that can't be explained away with adages on ambition.

And because something has fundamentally shifted, simply being "more determined" is probably not going to be enough to break through into the top tier. An understanding of why collectors are spending so much more at the top end of the market and so much less at the mid and lower end than they used to must be a central part of the new strategies that emerge. Moreover, innovation in the way mid-sized and emerging galleries operate would seem to be the order of the day.


“It’s an extremely complicated trade and you can very fast become a slave to your gallery,” -Emmanuelle Perrotin (The New York Times, June 11, 2013)
With the recent New York Times article on the widening gap between the mid-level gallery and the mega galleries, with dealers from Pace to Nicole Klagsbrun voicing publicly the contradictions required to sustain this current environment, an opportunity has presented itself to think about solutions. At Art Basel Conversations, we discussed a bifurcated system of specialization in gallery practice, breaking down the three zones of representation of artists: as a) the gallery as exhibition platform where curatorial/dealing takes place b) co-production of works for that platform or the museum platform, and c) artist management and agenting to venues. In this extraordinarily competitive environment with the mega gallery dealer big box model flourishing in front of us, to achieve and stay competitive means to move from a "gallerist" status to a "dealer" status, placing works aggressively in the market that can only then attain "legitimization and value".

In this environment for 99% of galleries, what is getting left behind is significant: co-production of work with artists (fair costs have eaten into the gallerists production abilities with a small booth at Basel at $50,000 for five days, equaling the average annual rent of a European emerging or mid level gallery space) and artist management (which is leaving artists increasingly frustrated at lack of opportunities for critique and dialog, risking commiditization with their own galleries that are designed to support them).

To preserve the "gallerist" concept, i.e. the entity that introduces and develops work holistically on a curatorial/market level that would be otherwise unknown, requires a commitment to that model, #1, and a realistic assumption that all three forms of gallerists work listed above that were once possible, are now are simply impossible or done less well because of a lack of time and capital.  This broader acknowledgement could yield an interesting solution and potentially preserve the important work that gallerists do that dealers do not. If gallerists explore the specialization possibilities of their practice, choosing between operating the platform/gallery/art fair, co-producing the works and exhibitions with the artist or alternatively to work as an artist's agent, there could be a working model or one way to simply divide the many roles gallerists have. With a balance between specializations, gallerists again have the potential to be dynamic and influential, a refreshing contrast from the lack of imagination we are seeing at this moment.


As always your thoughtful responses are appreciated. 


UPDATE 1: David Zwirner, whose gallery is recognized as one of the world's top mega-galleries (and who is known to have very generously donated to the ADAA Hurricane Sandy relief fund that helped save many smaller spaces, despite his own gallery sustaining quite serious damage), was interviewed recently by Josh Spero. The topic of the state of the mid-level/smaller galleries came up. I think there's a lot that could be said about his statements on the subject, but I will leave that for another post. For now, I'll just say  I'm very happy to see mega-galleries joining the conversation.

UPDATE 2: News out just today: Harris Lieberman, another excellent younger gallery makes the decision to close, with one of the founders choosing to work as a director at a more established gallery.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Understanding "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" or The Importance of Being Experienced

When I first read Joe Orton's first full-length play "Entertaining Mr. Sloane," I was in my early 20s. I knew from the jacket cover that it was a notorious script, full of oedipal transgressions, lecherous characters, death, abusive sexual coercion, etc., etc., but in my youth I found it somewhat difficult to fully understand just why it prompted so many Londoners to storm out of its early productions in a moral tizzy. Hadn't they read the play's reviews? Didn't they come knowing its basic premise? Sure it was outrageous, but that was the fun of it.

Years later I picked up the play for a reread.

This time I was completely scandalized. So many of the passages that I took at face value in my 20s now rang with a salacious double entendre. What the characters were saying (without actually saying it, as is often the case in an Orton play) was truly shocking. What the characters were doing was worse. They were still funny characters, but only because they were so thoroughly depraved, something I missed when I was younger and more intrigued by the play's structure and language.

Orton meant for the play to offend the sensibilities of England's bourgeoisie, if for no other reason than because he wanted them to face their own hypocrisies. Having spent time in prison for a silly crime (defacing library books), he emerged with no social standing at all among polite society, and so had nothing left to lose in holding up a mirror that highlighted the most grotesque of society's behaviors. The play was a very sophisticated skewering of the UK's mores and values in the early 1960's. That sophistication, particularly in his exquisite use of double entrendre and innuendo (such that his characters revealed their true intentions mostly by trying so hard to disguise them), is not only the genius of Orton's work in general, but something that I, in my youth, was not at all prepared to appreciate. It would take having my own youth fade, my own worldly experiences having greatly increased, indeed another 20 years of fully living, before most of what Orton was saying between the lines would become obvious.

I was reminded of my experience with the Orton play by a comment PE Sharpe posted on Facebook. In response to a quote by Hokusai
I have been mad about drawing since I was six years old. By the time I was fifty I had given the public a vast number of drawings, but nothing of what I did before my seventy-third year is worth mentioning. At about the age of seventy-three I had come to understand something of the true nature of animals, plants, fishes, and insects. It follows that by the age of eighty I shall have made further progress, by the age of ninety I shall see into the mystery of thins, and if I live to be one hundred and ten everything I do, even if it is no more than a stroke or a dot, will be alive.
PE wrote, "One can understand neither art nor philosophy in fullness until one has fully lived a life." 

Which isn't to say young artists cannot see and tell the rest of us important things, mind you. Orton wrote "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" at about age 30. But, through his prison experience, he had already experienced more of real life by then than many people twice his age.

It's also not to say there's no point in consuming art or philosophy in one's youth. I loved "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" the first time I read it. It changed my world view, and contributed to the fullness with which I was trying to live my life. It's simply that there was no way I could have appreciated some of its more subtle messages at that age, because I had no way yet to relate to them. 

In the end, perhaps, rather than interpreting this idea as some declaration of superiority of age or experience, which most older people would trade back at least a little for younger bodies, I think it's more an argument for revisiting great works of art and literature throughout one's life. I wouldn't trade the experience of having my jaw drop upon the later reading of "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" (when I realized not only how truly raunchy it was in parts but, more impressively and importantly,  how I had totally missed that in my first read) for anything. It was exhilarating.

It was also much, much funnier the second time around.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Spies Like Us

Something has been bugging me about the Edward Snowden case. I'm struggling to find the best words to describe it, but essentially it has to do with our paradoxical justifications of something we feel it's wrong for everyone except us to do. I'm thinking particularly of Snowden's revelations on how the US has been spying on other countries, more than how the US has been spying domestically. Ironically, this international revelation is the one that's causing Snowden's initial fans to pull back from supporting him now.

Now, no one loves an international spy thriller more than I do. I've watched the Jason Bourne films (mostly on airplanes) probably a total of 30 times, and will most likely watch them again. They're the ultimate, nearly mindless escape...superhuman powers (both physical and mental), exotic locations, daring escapes, extralegal shenanigans, and always some love interest. What's not to like? But I'm always aware when I'm enjoying a spy thriller that it's all just a game. And I don't just mean the Hollywood treatment of the subject, but the actual, real world spying. It's a game.

Not that spying doesn't entail real risk, mind you. Discovered spies are imprisoned or executed, and most nation's spy recruiting methods are so crude that often innocents get hurt. Spy agencies prey on people at their most vulnerable moments to turn them.

But spying is still a game in that nations pretend they're not doing it. It's a game in that nations act outraged when they catch someone else doing it. It's a game in that we actually defend our right to pretend we're not doing it. 

Which brings me back to the ironic response to Snowden's revelations. From The New York Times:

In the last few days, however, Mr. Snowden’s leaks have taken a questionable turn. He told the South China Morning Post that the United States had hacked into many Chinese computer systems, including those at universities and businesses. And yesterday he showed documents to the Guardian revealing that the N.S.A. and its British counterpart had spied on politicians from around the world who attended the 2009 G-20 summit in London.

These documents are of a different and more dubious order than the first ones. Like all leaks, their benefits have to be weighed against their potential harm, and in this case, it’s difficult to see what the benefits are. The N.S.A. was created to spy on overseas communications, and there is no serious debate about whether it should be doing so. Revealing that it was monitoring the computer traffic of foreign countries, and listening to their leaders, sheds no particularly useful light on the N.S.A.’s mission, or what most people believed its activities to be. [...]
In an online chat today with readers of the Guardian, Mr. Snowden expressed outrage that the United States would hack into civilian computers overseas, which he called “nakedly, aggressively criminal acts.” And he came up with an odd formulation for what the N.S.A. should and shouldn’t be doing overseas:

“Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries,” he wrote. “The majority of them are our allies, but without asking for public permission, N.S.A. is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people.”

So apparently he believes that the United States shouldn’t engage in spying except for countries with which it is at war. Of course, we’re not at war with any countries right now, only with Al Qaeda and its allies, so that would mean shutting down all non-terror spying activities. The idea that we should unilaterally discard a practice — however distasteful — used for centuries by virtually every country that can afford a spy service is naïve. Every industrialized country spies on every other, in part to learn just how much they are being spied on. What exactly was it he believed the intelligence world did when he first started making money by working for it?
I'm curious though if we might not be witnessing, through Snowden's eventual keen distaste for spying, an example of a sociological development I've been on the lookout for for quite some time. Let's call it a saturation point for enlightened false consciousness. Sloterdijk didn't believe it would ever come, but I always intuitively felt he had over-estimated human's capacity for swallowing bullshit. In Snowden's case, that saturation point may have been reached via the absurdity, in this digital age when information is so readily available and useable, of still pretending we're not spying on everyone everywhere all the time even though we argue they should all know we're spying on them everywhere all the time. 

Indeed, if, as the NYTimes suggests," Revealing that [NSA] was monitoring the computer traffic of foreign countries, and listening to their leaders, sheds no particularly useful light on the N.S.A.’s mission, or what most people believed its activities to be," then it can be argued that it actually does no harm either, no? 

Yeah, Yeah, I know, specifics are the supposed damage here, because they can be used by those we're spying on to plug holes and restructure their security measures, making the spying we're doing but not admitting to all the more difficult. 

But in general, if we know NSA is spying...then how is saying "NSA is spying" a problem? Moreover, if we're spying on countries who are not technically our "enemies," and obviously even some of our allies, we're sending so many mixed signals about collaboration and mutual trust, that the whole thing requires so much cognitive dissonance that eventually someone very close to it all was bound to say "enough!" Calling spying "distasteful" is not nearly accurate enough to account for how insane the whole game truly is. It makes for great movies, but it's not at all helpful in maintaining any degree of interpersonal or intellectual integrity. Perhaps we're reaching a post-Sloterdijk hunger for such things again.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

A Closer Look at Leslie Thornton's "Luna" and a Special Edition "Binocular" (Mandarin Duck)

Winkleman Gallery, in conjunction with GalleryLOG, are very pleased to share this Closer Look at Leslie Thornton's current exhibition, Luna, on view through June 22, 2013.
click image above to watch

Leslie Thornton

May 11 - June 22, 2013
More information
Review: Susan Silas on Leslie Thorton's "Luna" in Hyperallergic
New Special Edition in Leslie Thornton's Binocular series
In conjunction with her current exhibition, we are very pleased to introduce a special edition from Leslie Thornton's highly acclaimed Binocular series: "Mandarin Duck."
click image above to watch an excerpt
Leslie Thornton

Binocular (Mandarin Duck)
, 2013
Single-channel HD video
3:00 minutes loop
Edition of 12, plus 1 AP

Please contact Ed Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or for more information.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

An Interview with Elizabeth Dee about the Contemporary Art Gallery Model, Part I

The idea for the following interview emerged from a conversation Elizabeth Dee and I had recently about a panel we'll both be on with the very insightful Josh Baer at Art Basel next week. Here are the details (come on by if you can!):
Art | Salon
Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 1pm 

Art Market Talk | The place of mid-level galleries in the age of the mega-gallery

Elizabeth Dee, Founder and President, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, and President, Independent, New York
Edward Winkleman, Founder and President, Winkleman Gallery, New York, Co-Founder Moving Image Art Fair, New York, London
Moderator: Josh Baer, Publisher, Baer Faxt, and Art Advisor, New York
Elizabeth and I were discussing the panel's theme, "The place of mid-level galleries in the age of the mega-gallery" (yes, I know, even that title raises lots of questions), when it occurred to me that the old narrative about why people open galleries (what drove them to do so, what they hoped to achieve in doing so, how they measured their success, and why they choose to close when they do) seems to be shifting as we watch. 

The best example of what I mean by that is perhaps the surprising rationale behind Nicole Klagsbrun's decision to close her New York gallery after 30 years. In an interview with The Art Newspaper, Nicole summed up the sentiment that sits like the 800-lb gorilla in the room whenever I think about the upcoming panel's theme. Nicole said:

I’m not sick and I’m not broke. I just don’t want the gallery system anymore. The old school way was to be close to the artists and to the studios. Nowadays, it’s run like a corporation. After 30 years, this is not what I aspire to do. It is uninteresting.

There are other factors at play here too relating to the relationships between mid-level galleries and mega-galleries, but we'll save some of that for the panel.

About the gallery model in general, though, I should first say, no contemporary art dealer I know got into this business only for the money. It's not a fast or easy way to make money; you have the often-impossible task of keeping happy two sets of strong-willed clients (artists and collectors) with very different priorities (unlike other businesses in which you have only one set); and yet, yes, if you're among the lucky few in this world who feel passionate about your day job, your life isn't all that bad. 

Still, every time I talk with other dealers about the panel discussion, the question that keeps gnawing away at the back of my consciousness is "what is the realistic narrative that motivates any gallerist in the age of the mega-gallery"? 

The old answer to that question was a narrative something akin to what's known as "the Leo Castelli model": discover the best young artists you can, nurture their careers, carefully guide their markets (don't push their prices too high too quickly), and, if all goes well, you grow old and successful together. And it was realistic for quite some time. Moreover, implicit in that model was a task that seems to be central to the question of the role of the "mid-level gallery," which is to support artists through the years between their initial splash on the scene and their acceptance into the canon. For many artists, those can be frustrating or even anxious years, when they're watching younger artists come along and steal the spotlight, but they're not yet "blue chip" enough to ensure their place in the history books.


All of this came out in my discussion with Elizabeth. I got rather animated about it all, and, well, Elizabeth very graciously agreed to be interviewed as "the gallerist" in my desire to flesh out these issues in preparation for our panel set a foundation of where things stand in my own mind, if you will. As always, I hope you'll offer feedback!

Part I of the interview focuses on what the 21st Century contemporary art gallery model does/should look like.

Winkleman: Would you say the reasons you started your gallery in 2002 are the same reasons that motivate you today? If not, how have they changed?

Dee: I apprenticed in a 20th Century gallery system, working for other galleries where I was extremely fortunate early on to have a number of important mentors. I was raised professionally on a philosophy that the context for an artist’s work in a curatorially rich program is the essential base from which the recognition and business for an artist would be built. My own gallery began in this method—what I call
the 20th Century modelenvisioning that our artists would all be internationally recognized and be with us long term. With this future in mind, certain risks can be taken that otherwise would be un-economical. We created a family built on that shared philosophy at the gallerywe lived the life of our gallery artists completely and the vision for the gallery was a collective one. Faith in the artists and a vision for our own version of the Castelli model was what drove the post-9/11 generation of gallerists like me to sacrifice and risk everything for the program’s evolution in the early 2000s. It was an exciting time.

I love the creativity involved in playing a supportive role inside the studio as a strategist, agent, and dealer. I’m extremely fortunate to have this dynamic with many of the gallery artists today. I think this is how most gallerists became addicted early on to gallery life as a calling rather than a career decision.

Faith in this model began to erode for me after the gallery had established its first stars after 7+ years of work and countless sacrifices on the gallery’s part. In 2011, we painfully lost Ryan Trecartin, a central artist to our gallery. This situation was like many others in the field, and the issues were not unique. In retrospect, this indicated that the system was at odds with some real factors facing today’s artists. The new hyper-connected world is moving at a pace faster than we can maintain. This creates tremendous pressure for artists and galleries alike. We are all part of a system that isn’t working
which is a very unpopular topic but deserves to be addressed honestly.

The emergence of a 21st Century context has demanded gallerists and artists to professionalize and adapt, often to less personal, uncreative results with non-existent critique and no loyal commitments. Nicole Klagsbrun is right. It has led to transitions in the model that we are seeing in effect today. This model is more of a talent agency than the “Leo Castelli” gallerist model. I am very interested in the hybridity required to navigate the new environment, but I also find it problematic. It interests me see if we can make something new from this time. 

In 2012, we rewrote our gallery mission to reflect how we are working, which can be found our website. It establishes that now as a gallery, we represent “projects and ideas, joint venturing with artists and co-producing works and exhibitions, both in and outside the gallery." There are still a handful of artists who we represent in the 20th Century gallery model, and in our case, the majority of those artists are more established. These various forms work for the spectrum of artists we are collaborating with
we can tailor what representation means when certain milestones are reached.

The other change is that we now have contracts with artists even for short-term co-productions and exhibitions, which we hadn’t had previously. This had lead to more productive relationships. I find artists appreciate knowing what to expect from us and vice versa.

W: There's a bit of chatter online these days about the move away from the consideration/appreciation of "art" as an object into the realm of "art" as an experience (which parallels a cultural shift toward the elevation of the now above other more traditional and contemplative [i.e, time-consuming] arcs within narratives). Museums have recently made a big deal about their attempts to accommodate that shift for their visitors, but I haven't heard much about galleries systematically changing their model to do the same, at least not in a way that contributes to their bottom line. Your thoughts on how galleries respond to this?

D: This is an interesting question. Glenn Lowry recently said the 20th Century museum was about collections and the 21st Century museum is about experiences. Essentially, even MoMA has hopped on the event culture trend, spearheading a big top initiative and engaging artists as the cultural entertainment. The massive over-programming of the museum may help make museums relevant to popular culture, but with regard to their collaboration with contemporary artists to produce these events and offer this cultural content, the museums are fueling the fire of a “here and now” mentality which is having an adverse pressure on artists. For instance, if an artist is performing at MoMA, attending conferences, panels and lectures, going to benefits as a complimentary guest sitting next to their collectors, traveling to art fairs and biennials, it’s very hard for artists to gain perspective on their long-term career narrative.

Additionally, artists are increasingly overwhelmed by the risks/rewards of these “opportunities” and trapped by the politics of what to accept and the risks of saying no. As a committed gallerist, I find all of this a major threat to creativity and personal respect, not to mention building a sustainable model that supports the artist long-term in collections and makes a legitimate market. Don’t get me wrong, I like incorporating event culture strategically to ignite energy around major projects, and the social community is essential, but that energy needs to go into production of works that can be sustained by patrons. We cannot build practical sustainability by trading social trends or running a popularity contest. We’re not publicists.

Creativity is so important, and it requires time. As gallerists, our job is to protect and promote the possibility of creativity, both for our artists and ourselves, in order to deliver a quality program. Gallerists advocate and protect this for the artist so that they have the space they need to develop their work and ensure the quality remains high.

In nearly every instance at major museums, artists are not adequately paid for the intellectual property and social currency they are being “invited” to provide. Museums aren’t supporting these artists by inviting them to VIP dinners, asking for art donations for auctions, and not collecting their art. Curators are bewildered and overwhelmed about how to evolve from exhibition culture to event culture—with dwindling funding sources for both. Collectors are spending more time socializing with artists than engaging with the work in galleries, the studio, or in a context that truly supports the artist’s long-term practice. Many artists become known in the system but are not financially secure and living month to month. It’s a real problem masquerading as a very glamorous party.

W: Ahem...and Amen! But in this complex context, how do gallerists create productive solutions (plural, because it certainly doesn't look like it will be "one size fits all") for the representation model that are true to the gallery's belief of what is means to support artists but also remains flexible enough to adapt as artists' needs continue to evolve? 

D: As an artist becomes more successful, there needs to be space for them to explore their careers without some of the dynamics of a gallery. The mid-level gallery struggles with navigating this position. In the beginning, it’s an intimate working relationship: gallerists are coaching, advising, advocating, thinking and talking about the work and its place in the market and in the dialog. If that yields success and more projects, this leads to the professionalization of the studio; subsequently, as the artist builds a studio team, there are more people involved as well as more opinions, pressures, and confusion about roles. This is a very vulnerable transitional time for gallerists. A gallery has to adapt and initiate new models of working with the artist. An agent model could be developed, a producer model, or a hybrid approach that best accommodates the artist’s specific career path.

The way to give artists a sense that a gallery is not hindering their opportunities is to open up these types of conversation with artists in order to explore the nature of the dynamic as they grow, ultimately establishing milestones in the collaboration that generate a sense of independence and a narrative of progress. Giving such things before they are asked for is a good strategy and allows for gallerists to maintain a sense of balance with objectives that are about mutual contributions, rather than expectations that might be impossible to deliver. For instance, if something can be contributed reasonably in line with growth, the gallerist can be generous and proactive, encouraging an open discourse in tandem with the artists needs.

[Part II of the interview, which deals more with specifics on how artists and gallerists can better collaborate in the new landscape, will be posted later this week.]