Monday, January 27, 2014

You Must Be This Tall to Enter This Exhibition

Over the weekend I read the New York Times letters to the editor responding to Michael Kimmelman's critique of the Museum of Modern Art's expansion plans (by renown architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro). Kimmelman's piece is a blistering op-ed that takes on New York's architectural legacy at large, which is perhaps best summarized in my opinion by Kimmelman's phrase "the increasing monotony of glass towers." 

In general, however, the letters convinced me that razing the American Folk Art Museum building is only one of the issues that deserve thorough consideration here. (Indeed, as one letter writer noted, "Where was the outcry when the Folk Art Museum decided to tear down its lovely old townhouses and put up a building that was cold and uninviting and never had the charm or gallery space of the lovely old building?")

First among the other issues, for me, is the contemporary conception of architecture's purpose in general. In defending their plans to the Los Angeles Times, Elizabeth Diller noted, "We don’t monumentalize our projects. We don’t imagine that we are building for history. We imagine that we’re building for the occupants" [emphasis mine]. 

Now, you can count me among the New Yorkers who thoroughly loathe most of the buildings that have been designed and built during the past 20 years that I've lived here. And while hating New York buildings is perhaps second only to hating New York basketball teams in terms of hyperbolic (if justified) passions, it's a constant source of embarrassment to me when friends visiting from other cities see the phalanx of truly butt-ugly monstrosities being erected on nearly every square inch of Manhattan. To paraphrase the maxim about a boat owner's two happiest moments, the day they tear down most of those buildings will bring as much, if not more, civic celebration as the day they opened them.

But Diller's statement made me wonder: if not museums, what on earth would be built for history by today's architects? Have we culturally been so entirely absorbed by consumerism that even "the mother of all art" is now viewed as entirely disposable?

Second among the other issues, though, is the vision that MoMA explains is behind the expansion. Kimmelman dismissed it as "
all the same flimflam: flexible spaces to accommodate to-be-named programming, the logic of real estate developers hiding behind the magical thinking of those who claim cultural foresight. It almost never works."

MoMA Director,
Glenn D. Lowry's vision statement does indeed seem somewhat ambiguous and all-things-for-all-people, which I'm sure is partly necessary to be flexible enough to respond to art that even artists don't yet know they're going to make, but it includes the following, somewhat disheartening statement:
Enlivening and participatory, the new MoMA will be a place for people of all ages and experiences to share their thoughts and questions with each other. It is a place for conversation, and a place for many stories.

[To be fair, they've also phrased this goal as designed to "
provide an even more enlivening and participatory experience, a space for both contemplation and conversation." [emphasis mine]
The notion of the museum as a "place for conversation," though, raises memories of two of my most recent visits to MoMA. The first was, admittedly, a party, but the painful joke of the experience was that MoMA had invited so many people to an opening reception for Barbara London's last exhibition at the museum, "Soundings: A Contemporary Score," that you could barely hear any of the works in the show. Word had it that Barbara was forced to plead with the museum to limit the number of visitors trying to enter the galleries. Even outside the actual exhibition, the roar from the over-packed lobby and spaces leading up to the show was insane.

The other experience, though, remains the one that defines what MoMA has become in my mind. The friend I went to see the Isa Genzken show with also wanted to pop into the Magritte exhibition. Not since I last went to Six Flags have I enjoyed the type of "enlivening and participatory" conversation that the half hour of trudging back and forth through those retractable stanchions afforded me. Indeed, the lines at MoMA in general are so intense, even should you temporarily find your view of an actual artwork uninterrupted, you'll hardly be in a contemplative mood. (God help you if you're foolish enough to check your coat.)

Now I can imagine that expanding the gallery spaces and redesigning how visitors move through the space could help MoMA live up to their goal of becoming "
a place where you can enjoy art at your own pace," but I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a quiet, unjostled moment with any work of art in MoMA, and with their plans to open up more of the museum to lively and participatory conversation, I'm not sure I ever will again.

"So what would you propose instead?" you ask. "Raising the entrance fee even more?"

Nah, I doubt that would work. The families who flock into the museum can do the math and realize even if you doubled the entrance fee, it's still cheaper than taking the kids to a Broadway show, and it eats up nearly as much time, so I doubt raising the fee would do much more than keep out even more struggling artists who need to visit there.

"Discourage the general public from engaging with contemporary art?"

Well, to some degree, yes.  In defense of that seemingly snobbish position, I enter the following photo by gallerist Stephanie Theodore as evidence:

But I'm not actually interested in discouraging anyone who's truly interested in art, as much as I am in having museums send crystal clear signals that if you're in the galleries you simply must behave in a manner that permits other visitors to get their money's worth from their visit. The more they encourage undefined "participation" in other parts of the museum, though, the more they need to expect visitors will behave as they would in any other theme park. 

What that means is the museums must signal that visitors are expected to shut up or talk very quietly, watch out for others around them, actually look at the art or get the hell of out of the way of those who wish to, and seriously consider how intensely lame it is that anyone would take their photo in front of a work of art. Shooting the artwork itself is one thing, but using it as a backdrop for your selfie makes you an asshat. 

In short, it's not enough for MoMA to dream up new ways to engage an increasingly low-attention-spanned audience. If any part of their new vision takes seriously their responsibility to the artists whose work they acquire and/or exhibit and those sincerely interested in that work, they need to define more clearly how they intend to ensure it becomes a place where "you can enjoy art at your own pace." So far, the vision is lacking such definition, in my opinion.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Still Rad in Rehab : An Art World Appeal

Murat and I finally got around to watching Michael Haneke's Amour last night, the gorgeous Academy Award winning film about an elderly French couple living a perfectly charmed life until the wife has a stroke and everything beautiful about their world becomes more complex, at times horrendous and extremely painful. As the title suggests, it's a "love story,"  but it's also heartbreakingly honest and profound. I can't imagine anyone in the world watching it without automatically reaching over to touch the ones they love a bit more tenderly than usual. 

The struggle of the wife to maintain her dignity and independence was virtually unbearable. The freedom she gains via an automated wheelchair sets up this scene that makes mobility seem nothing short of miraculous, and the scene where she experiments with the wheelchair, clearly feeling a bit more in control of her life but ultimately nowhere near as liberated as she was accustomed to ultimately served as a reminder to enjoy the life you have while you have it, and more importantly to build and share all the memories with your loved ones while you can.

There's a letter circulating among the art community in New York that I can't help but think of in the context of such sentiments. An artist and his beautiful family had everything turned upside down last Thanksgiving in a terrible accident with a snowplow in a small upstate town we've always considered the epitome of tranquility. In the car were his wife, their five-year-old daughter, and the artist's 14-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

The five-year-old girl died in the accident. The 14-year-old, Ruby, will possibly spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Ruby, however, seems to be approaching this new challenge in her life with an inspiring degree of determination. Her amazing blog, "Still Rad in Rehab," is a testament to the support of her family and her own fighting spirit. 

Here's an excerpt from a recent post:
So, how I'm really feeling is this strange mix of emotions that I'm going to try to explain but it might just come out like blah. I'm obviously sad, and angry, and totally devastated. The accident ruined everything for us. I'm grieving the loss of my beautiful, beautiful sister, and the loss of my body. A body that I hated so much before this which was SO STUPID. I had an amazing body that worked and functioned and I despised it and I'm so, so angry at myself for that. Whenever I think of/hear a girl say "ugh I'm so fat" "I HATE my body" "I don't have a thigh gap. Kill me." it makes me want to shove a pencil through there ear because THEY HAVE A BODY. Yes, I know I have one too, but it isn't the same. I want to go on walks with my best friend Max and appreciate everything we pass. I want to run down eight flights of metal stairs with my best friend Danni trying to make the most noise imaginable. I want to go iceskating with Melanie and have dance parties with Lucy. I want to go to camp and do yoga and play gaga. I want to move and walk and run and dance and I may never have that. All my friends are like "You don't know that! You're getting better!!!!!! YOU WILL WALK! YOU WILL DANCE!!" And yeah. Maybe I will… but more likely I won't. Which is so suck. So, so suck.
Below is the letter circulating in the art world. Please have a read, visit the sites listed, and if you or anyone you know can help, please consider making a difference in this family's fortunes:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are writing to ask for your support for Ron Baron, a working artist with a 25 year career, SVA faculty member, and long-time Williamsburg resident, whose family has been devastated by a catastrophic car accident. As some of you know, Ron, his wife, Irit and their family were driving to join relatives on Thanksgiving eve when their car collided with a snowplow in Hillsdale, New York. Ron and Irit lost their 5-year old daughter Naomi. Ron’s 14-year old daughter Ruby suffered permanent damage to her spinal column.

Ron is a devoted father, and has always shared raising Ruby between her two blended families. Both households need help to accommodate their new challenges, and we want to ensure Ron's family also has the support they need to welcome Ruby home after several months in rehab. Ron and Irit must arrange a wheelchair accessible home, as well as purchase a handicap accessible car to share in Ruby’s transport.

Sadly, an insurance settlement will not cover their expenses, so we are dedicating a fund specifically for Ron &; Irit‘s immediate needs for Ruby’s care. Our goal is $75,000. You can help by donating to

Ruby's Return:

Please visit Ruby's wonderful blog STILL RAD IN REHAB:

Ron's website:

To contribute by mail, post to:
Ron Baron and Irit Baniel
582 Driggs Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
For more information contact Bill Schuck: 

Thank you for your support, 

Eve Sussman, Simon Lee, Joe Amrhein, Susan Swenson, Bruce Pearson, Kathleen Gilrain, Robin Perl, Itty S. Neuhaus and Bill Schuck, Mary Ziegler and Gregory Barsamian

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Critical Difference Between a Rock Star and an Art Star

I expect this post to go over like a lead balloon in some quarters. So be it.

A friend who works in a high-profile gallery talked with me the other day about an exhibition they had by an up-and-coming art star (who only recently joined their gallery) that had been soundly panned in the press and "on the street" in New York. I'm not naming names. There have been a handful of such exhibitions over the past two years, so take your pick. The response, though, was an embarrassment to the gallery and no doubt to the artist as well. 

I pushed this friend on what the gallery did or could have done to have brought about a different exhibition than the one they presented. Had the artist liaison failed to keep tabs on the work as it developed? Had the installation discussion not considered this or that alternative presentation? I've been in this industry long enough to know that if you ask the gallery, you'll get one set of explanations for such debacles (pointing the finger mostly at the studio), and if you ask the studio, you'll get another set of explanations (pointing the finger mostly at the gallery). In this instance, though, knowing people as I do in both the studio and the gallery, it strikes me that while the gallery might have delayed or cancelled the exhibition, overall the fault this time lies with the studio. (And make no mistake, the artist is responsible for what happens in their studio. Full stop.)

Indeed, like far too many young-ish artists in this one's position lately, the years and critical months leading up to the big exhibition were frittered away playing the rock star. With more focus on the trappings of stardom than on ensuring this big break was the single most carefully planned and executed exhibition in the history of humankind, the artist let themselves and everyone rooting for them down. The setback is certainly addressable. The artist is indeed an important voice of their generation. But this wasted opportunity to live up to the reputation that got the artist this show stands as an important cautionary tale about the difference between being a rock star and being an art star.

In the Q&A portion of the panel I participated in the at the 92nd Street Y the other day, a "seasoned" artist noted how after art school he choose to "live the life," hanging out in the studio, drinking beer, chasing women. It was part of the appeal of being an artist, and certainly as valid a life choice as any other in my opinion. So I'm not suggesting visual artists need to be as sensible as bankers or accountants. But unlike rock stars, who between writing new albums perform the same set of songs over and over again each night they have a show (and so have greater leeway to perhaps not only party a little hardier while they're "working" but also to let the accumulative quality of their tour stand as the measure of their artistic success), visual artists need to approach each new exhibition as if it were their MoMA retrospective. Exhibitions come too far apart. A rock star can overcome a particularly bad performance by bringing the house down the following evening. An art star doesn't have that same timely luxury.

The friend at the gallery, who was clearly frustrated by the studio's lack of commitment to the exhibition, couldn't help but compare the youngish artist with the more mature artists in the program. Those artists, this friend noted, were consummate professionals. Even with more exhibitions going on worldwide, they approached each aspect of each new show in the gallery with military precision.

Perhaps it was the realization that the older one gets, the less time there remains to bolster one's legacy. Perhaps it's merely that they've sown their wild oats and are more interested in the formal dialog within the art world than the casual, often sloppy one in the art world's watering holes and dinner parties. Or perhaps it's the simply accumulated experience with producing exhibitions that has taught them how to do it all more easily. 

Whatever it is, the gallery in question, burned badly, seems much less in love with this rock star wanna-be than they had been.

Another conversation I had at the Y (I apologize, but I can't recall whether it was part of the formal panel and Q&A or a conversation I had was all a blur), involved a young person who decided to get their MFA, get a gallery, make a ton of money, and then (once rich) set off to do what they really wanted to do with their lives. This completely absurd life plan (seriously, if money's the prerequisite to the freedom to do what you want to you with your life, get your MBA, not your MFA), struck me, though, as part of why a younger visual artist might approach an exhibition in a major gallery less seriously. They're not taking it seriously.

Indeed, this narrative (being an artist = being a rock star = "money for nothing, and your chicks for free") is worming its way into the mythology and setting a wide range of wildly unrealistic expectations. I'm not so worried about the rock-star-wanna-be's who have their fantasies dashed upon the rocks of real life. Silly goals meet silly ends. But for the BFA students out there debating whether or not to invest in an MFA, I think the industry as a whole owes them a much more realistic set of expectations. How on earth this young-ish artist at the big gallery thought they could essentially phone in their first exhibition at this major space astounds me. What signals were sent through the system to enable them to approach the show so lazily that they'd end up dropping the ball so badly? The spanking they got in the press will hopefully set this talented artist back on a more satisfying (for both us and the artist) career path.

In the meanwhile, party like a rock star in between shows...seriously, have a blast. But make damned sure you reserve the mental and emotional energy to approach each and every exhibition you have like it's the only time the public will ever see all your hard work. Unless you do, it just may be.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Opening Tonight! "The Wayland Rudd Collection," A project organized by Yevgeniy Fiks & "The Fire to Say: Comics as Poetry," Organized by Franklin Einspruch.

The Wayland Rudd Collection
A project organized by Yevgeniy Fiks
January 17 – February 15, 2014
Opening: Friday, January 17, 6-8 PM

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present The Wayland Rudd Collection, a collaborative project organized by Yevgeniy Fiks that focuses on the representation of Africans and African-Americans in Soviet visual culture. A point of departure for this project is Fiks’ collection of over 200 Soviet images (paintings, movie stills, posters, graphics, etc.) of Africans and African-Americans spanning from the 1920s to the 1980s. Fiks invited contemporary artists and academics to select one or more images from this collection and to respond to it, either via artwork or other forms. Some of the participants chose to react to Fiks' invitation with artworks that were already premade, but which reflect on the issues that are raised in Fiks' original call for participation.
Wayland Rudd was an American actor who began performing in the Hedgerow Theater in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania under the directorship of Jasper Deeter. Rudd first received critical acclaim for his performance in Eugene O'Neill's "Emperor Jones." Frustrated over racism in the entertainment industry, Rudd moved to the Soviet Union in 1932 where he began a successful career in Soviet Theater and Film including work with the famed Russian Director Vsevolod Meyerhold. He later received a degree from the Theatrical Art Institute in Moscow and worked at the Stanislavsky Opera and Drama Theater. Rudd died in Moscow in 1952.
During Wayland Rudd's twenty year-long career in the Soviet Union, he appeared in numerous films, theatrical performances, and plays. He was also used as a model for paintings, drawings, and propaganda posters and, in many respects, defined the image of the “Negro” for generations of Soviet people. Although only a small section of the assembled images in The Wayland Rudd Collection are of Wayland Rudd, the project is given his name to commemorate this American-Soviet actor's personal story as a case in point of the complex intersection of 20th century American-Soviet narrative.
The historical Soviet images present a very complex and often contradictory mapping of the intersection of race and Communism in the Soviet context. They present this issue as unresolved, revealing the Soviet legacy on race as a mix bag of internationalism, solidarity, humanism, Communist ideals as well as exoticization, otherness, racist stereotyping, and hypocrisy.
Artists in the exhibition: Ivan Brazhkin, Michael Paul Britto, Suzanne Broughel, Maria Buyondo, Zachary Fabri, Joy Garnett, Alexey Katalkin, Kara Lynch, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Nikolay Oleynikov and Arkadiy Kots Band, Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya (Gluklya), Jenny Polak, Dread Scott, and Haim Sokol
In conjunction with the exhibit, we are also very pleased to present the panel discussion:
“Moscow to the Rescue: U.S. Racism, European Colonialism and the Soviet Promise”
Wednesday, February 5th at 6:30 pm
Featuring Dr. Raquel Greene, Dr. Jonathan Shandell, and others.
Moderated by Dr. Maxim Matusevich
This exhibition will travel to First Floor Gallery Harare in Harare, Zimbabwe in Summer of 2014. Also, a book will be produced as the result of this project.
Yevgeniy Fiks thanks Daria Atlas for her help with research on this project.
Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the Post-Soviet dialog in the West, among them: “Ayn Rand in Illustration,” a series of drawing pairing descriptive text from Atlas Shrugged with uncannily complimentary Soviet Socialist Realism classic artworks; “Lenin for Your Library?” in which he mailed V.I. Lenin’s text “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” to one hundred global corporations as a donation for their corporate libraries; “Communist Party USA,” a series of portraits of current members of Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party’s national headquarters in New York City; and “Communist Guide to New York City,” a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement. Fiks’ work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman and Postmasters galleries (both in New York) Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon. His work has been included in the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005), Biennale of Sydney (2008) and Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007).
Images above: (top) Maria Buyondo, “Pushkin, Winter Morning,” 2011; (bottom) Soviet postage stamp featuring image of Nelson Mandela (1988).
For more information please contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or
The Fire to Say: Comics as Poetry
Kimball Anderson, Derik A. Badman, Warren Craghead, Julie Delporte, Oliver East, Franklin Einspruch, Jason Overby, Paul K. Tunis. Organized by Franklin Einspruch.

January 17 - February 15, 2014
Opening: January 17, 6 - 8 PM
A handful of artists have wandered away from mainstream comics only to find themselves at the periphery of poetry. Here, they bend and shove the vocabulary of comics to make the medium yield new effects. The results are original and surprising, and invite the reader to participate in experiments performed upon narrative, art, and language.
In 2012, Boston-based artist and writer Franklin Einspruch published an anthology of eight such artists entitled “Comics as Poetry.” It includes Kimball Anderson (Boston), Derik A. Badman (Philadelphia), Warren Craghead (Charlottesville, VA), Julie Delporte (Montreal), Oliver East (Leeds, UK), Jason Overby (Portland, OR), Paul K. Tunis (New York), and Einspruch himself. Acclaimed poet William Corbett contributed a foreword. The critical response was warm and roundly positive. “Comics as Poetry collects works that experiment with the forms of comics and poetry, inviting audiences to investigate spaces, silences and moments between the observer and the observed,” wrote Tamryn Bennett. Aaron Geiger said, “I strongly encourage you to support these poet-artists as they tread lightly to the side of the mainstream.” The Seattle Star called it “truly a lovely book.”
In “The Fire to Say,” organizer Franklin Einspruch will turn the Curatorial Research Lab of Winkleman Gallery into a combination of exhibition space and reading room that will feature recent art by the eight artists and a sampling of their publications. “Over the last few years there has been an increasing number of people working in combinations of images and words that don’t fit neatly into the worlds of art or publishing,” says Einspruch. “This interstice is immensely interesting, filled with do-it-yourselfers who admire what goes on in art, comics, and poetry and each of their histories, but are seeking to carve out their own forms of expression independently of them.”
Image above: Paul K. Tunis, page from “Leprosy,” from Comics as Poetry, © 2012 Paul K. Tunis and New Modern Press.
For more information, contact Edward Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moving Image Partners with ART21

(New York – January 15, 2014) – Moving Image is pleased to announce its exclusive partnership with ART21 ( for the 2014 edition of the fair, scheduled to take place March 6-9, 2014 at the Waterfront Tunnel in Chelsea.  ART21 will host the “ART21 Lounge”–a newly designated space–for all fairgoers to relax and view its latest documentary film series, ART21 Artist to Artist, and a selection of films and trailers from its series ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century, ART21 New York Close Up and ART21 Exclusive.
“We are delighted and honored to partner with ART21 for the fourth edition of Moving Image New York,” notes Moving Image co-founders Murat Orozobekov and Edward Winkleman.  “The quality of ART21 films and the organization’s success in bringing contemporary art to a much larger audience via these films is unparalleled. The “ART21 Lounge” is a logical extension for the fair, as it physically realizes our own mission: to show how the world, increasingly, connects via the moving image,” continues Orozobekov and Winkleman.
“Our partnership with Moving Image is an ideal platform, reaching avid collectors, film enthusiasts and those just curious about art in a democratic way. At the “ART21 Lounge” visitors can view first hand the breadth of ART21’s initiatives to educate and inspire creative thinking through contemporary art,” comments ART21 Executive Director, Susan Sollins.
Sponsored by Congruent Creative Workshop, the New York based event design and production company, the “ART21 Lounge” will be situated near the 11th Avenue entrance of the Waterfront Tunnel. Five television monitors will be artfully arranged in an intimate setting so that fairgoers can view ART21’s films at their leisure. The films will run continuously, providing visitors with ample opportunity to watch the most compelling films about contemporary artists working today.
In October 2013, ART21 introduced Artist to Artist, a short form documentary series that focuses on artists from around the world in candid conversation with one another. Each film follows a single artist/host as she engages with other artists in a shared art exhibition setting, exploring cultural events from the artists’ perspectives. The films featured at Moving Image will include artists Shahzia Sikander in Sharjah, UAE and Istanbul, Turkey and Diana Al-Hadid, in Venice, Italy, as guides to three exceptional biennials in those locations.
Artist Shahzia Sikander speaking with artist Thilo Frank about his installation “Infinite Rock” (2013) at Sharjah Biennial 11. Production still from the series Artist to Artist. © Art21, Inc. 2013. Cinematography by Ian Forster.
Throughout six seasons to date, the Peabody Award-winning series Art in the Twenty-First Century has captured the work and lives of 100 contemporary artists. Each program profiles three to five artists for an intimate view of their creative processes and sources of inspiration. On view at Moving Image will be trailers for all six seasons.
Glenn Ligon in his Brooklyn studio, 2011. Production still from the "Art in the Twenty-First Century" Season 6 episode, "History," 2012. © Art21, Inc. 2012.
Exclusive features new and archival footage and focuses on artists profiled in ART21’s flagship television series Art in the Twenty-First Century. These short films highlight singular aspects of an artist's process, significant individual works and exhibitions, provocative ideas, and biographical anecdotes. At Moving Image, ART21 will present new films made exclusively with recent original footage: “Ursula von Rydingsvard: Ona, featuring the artist’s permanently installed sculpture outside of Barclays Center in Brooklyn; James Turrell revisiting his installation Second Meeting (1989) at the home of private collectors in “James Turrell: Second Meeting”; and "Ann Hamilton: The Event of a Thread," where the artist discusses her installation at the Park Avenue Armory in 2012.
Artist James Turrell discussing his installation "Second Meeting" (1989) at the home of private collectors in Los Angeles, California. Production still from the series Exclusive. © Art21, Inc. 2013. Cinematography by Marc Levy.
New York Close Up, also a web-based series, documents artists in the first decade of their professional careers, living and working in New York City. “Daniel Gordon Gets Physical”, “Jacolby Satterwhite Dances with His Self”, and “Liz Magic Laser Talks To the Hand” are among the selected New York Close Up films to be shown at Moving Image.

Production still from the New York Close Up film Liz Magic Laser Talks to the Hand. © Art21, Inc. 2012

About ART21
ART21 ( is the leading not-for-profit dedicated to engaging audiences with contemporary visual art, inspiring creative thinking, and educating a new generation about artists working today. Since 2001, Art21 has used the power of digital media to introduce millions of people of all ages worldwide to contemporary artists through its Peabody Award-winning PBS broadcast series ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century; two popular ongoing web series – ART21 New York Close Up and ART21 Exclusive; public programs; teacher training; and multimedia online resources. All of Art21’s materials are available for free online at
About Congruent Creative Workshop
Congruent Creative Workshop is a high-end event and design company based in New York whose mission is to provide their clients with the most creative and innovative solutions. 375 Walton Avenue, Bronx, NY 10451 - Phone: 718.585.1802 Email: For more information, visit
About Moving Image
Moving Image was 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. Participation is by invitation only. The newly formed Moving Image Curatorial Advisory Committee for New York 2014 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.
Moving Image
March 6-9, 2014

Waterfront New York Tunnel
269 11th Avenue
Between 27th and 28th Streets
New York, NY 10001

Friday, January 10, 2014

Looking Past the Smoke and Mirrors: "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life"

I'm constantly still amazed at how much of how the art world truly works remains a mystery to so many people who wish to participate in it. Perhaps that's the same for most creative industries, but I feel I have a stronger sense of what it takes to break into show business or professional sports or other fields I'm not at all involved in than many young artists or wanna-be art dealers have about how the commercial gallery system operates.

Then again, perhaps I'm overstating that. Back in college I had an unpaid internship at a local TV station and (yes, this is now embarrassing) actually appeared on camera twice a week for an opinion segment (yes, I was as opinionated back then as I am now). As a struggling college student, though, I still had to work, waiting tables, to make ends meet. Customers at the restaurant would frequently recognize me from the program, and most expressed surprise that someone they saw on TV would need to work another job. I didn't want to tell them the position was unpaid....I liked being perceived as "successful" so I usually laughed it off by saying I was a workaholic (which is true) and asked to take their drink orders.

I recalled this mostly forgotten memory recently, while reading a passage from the collection of 40 essays by visual artists on "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life," edited by the indefatigable Sharon Louden (who has a show up at Guido Maus' awesome gallery, Beta Pictoris/Maus Contemporary Art in Birmingham, AL right now, if you're in that neck of the woods). The exact passage was by our very own Jennifer Dalton, who wrote in her essay:
I remember the first time someone told me that many artists with apparently thriving careers and gallery representation still had day jobs. It was the first of a very long series of realizations that the art world is at least 50% smoke and mirrors. At the time I felt an almost personal betrayal at the realization that artists I had already perceived as incredibly, unattainably successful still had to find another way to pay the bills. Many years later, I still haven’t really gotten over it! Tons of brilliant and well-known artists (and curators, and critics and art dealers) are utterly broke, working full-fledged outside jobs, relying on money from their families, or some combination of the above. The art world is a hard place.
Anyone on the inside will confirm that projecting a perception success is a huge part of the way one becomes successful (that's why when you ask a dealer how they did at this or that art fair, they'll usually sugar coat a bad experience). For artists, too, weak sales during an exhibition are not something you usually want to share with the wider art world. It cuts into the perception that you're reaching your goals.

This is such an interesting topic to me (what Jen terms the "smoke and mirrors" of the art world), that I could go on here for hours about it, but if you're in New York this coming Thursday afternoon, I'll invite you instead to come hear yours truly and a fantastic group of others share a few more thoughts on this, as well as all the aspects of Sharon's book, at a talk at the 92nd Street Y. Moderated by Sharon Louden herself, and including collector Werner H. Kramarsky and artist/co-curator of this year's upcoming Whitney Biennial, Michelle Grabner, the talk will focus on the reality of how an artist sustains a creative practice over time. Here are more details on the talk:  

Sharon Louden with Werner H. Kramarsky, Edward Winkleman and Michelle Grabner: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life 
Date: Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 12 pm 
Location: Lexington Avenue at 92nd St 
Venue: Classroom 
Price: from $21.00 

For more information visit

It will, of course, include a Q&A. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

To Earn That Uppercase "C"

What does it take to make someone a "Collector" (with an uppercase C) of contemporary art?

It's more than merely having enough disposable income that you're able to spend some of it on art. That makes you a shopper.

A Collector of contemporary art is a participant in the dialog. A patron of the visual arts, who has the same obligations to the quality of our collective legacy as do artists, curators, critics, and dealers.

And so it's also more than merely having enough disposable income that you're able to spend some of it on an art consultant who makes all your purchase decisions for you. That makes you a check writer.

No, to become a Collector of contemporary art, one must join in the conversation oneself. One must form opinions, share those opinions (if only via one's acquisitions), defend those opinions (if only via not flipping artwork like penny stocks), and put one's money and growing expertise where one's mouth is. 

It's not a game for the faint of heart. It's not a status you can buy with money alone. In fact, as many have proven (such as the Vogels), it need not require all that much money at all. 

In short, it's predominantly a commitment. It's a commitment to work toward the collective goal of ensuring that the best art of our generation is preserved for posterity. 

I'll write that again: ensuring that the best art of our generation is preserved for posterity. 

It's not about how hip or young or smart you look standing in front of some work by one of the Top 10 Rising Art Stars of 2014. It's not about the glamorous dinners you get invited to or the celebrities you get to take your photo with. It's not about checking off some trophy wishlist, or being seen by all the right people paying more than everyone else in the room at an auction house. In short, it's not about you. At least, it's not about your ego.

It is about the position you take on the art being made today. And to earn that uppercase C, you have to take a position. You have to look around, develop a pretty good sense of what contemporary artists are making and why they feel it's important, then look some more, use your noggin, think about the future, imagine your great, great grandchildren and their contemporaries judging you (YOU!) based on the art collection you left behind, and then support the art that you're convinced is important to preserve. You'll notice, none of those steps are possible using only your ears.

More importantly, to earn that uppercase C in the most meaningful way, you must be of your time. You must push yourself to see past fads or trends, past fleeting popularity, and gain insight into what makes some works of art more significant than all the others out there you might acquire. You must become an authority (again, if only voicing it via your acquisitions). 

It won't be easy. Nearly everyone out there will disagree with this or that opinion you develop. So what? If you reflect on that a moment, you'll see that you too will disagree with this or that opinion of everyone else out there as well. The point isn't to be 100% right all the time, but to be committed to the art you support for reasons you can defend to yourself, when you're alone, looking at it in your home, and no one else is there to see you... (except perhaps those clever great, great grandchildren of yours, who've invented a looking-back-in-time machine and are smiling at the quiet confidence with which you're able to enjoy the art you've supported, because you put some time and thought into why you would acquire it for yourself, for your family and for all posterity).

See, it's easy. Now, as you were...