Friday, January 30, 2009

alternative methods

Not long ago Charlie Finch posted a couple of pieces (here and here) in Artnet on the future of the art world and how a collective approach might be an answer to when you no longer have a gallery showing you. After the first piece, there was quite a conversation over at Edward Winckleman about it. I was sort of surprised at how many people did not believe in a collective model - or in artists doing other things besides making their art.

Just the idea that an artist would sit a gallery bugged some. Do they think this is the wrong way for an artist to dirty their hands? You still see that in Portland and I like running into them there. But I guess in NYC it became a sort of act of disgrace.

But why be so attached to The Grand Dealer as the only possible model? Even at its height and heyday, it does not work for everybody. There is more than one way to show or sell your work. What I often see here in Portland (and it’s probably the same everywhere else) and is that there are not only too many artists to fit them all into the gallery system, there are also types of artists and types of work that don’t work well there. I was one of them until I was almost 50 years old. And I still like doing art things, art ventures which are not about the gallery system, which do not take place there.

When I first moved to NYC, I showed with Colab a lot. I am not saying these were all the greatest of shows but I am glad they were there. You can look back at your rites of passage and see that some of the rough and tumble times were very good times. I think if I was just in the gallery system since 25 and that was my life, well, that could have been really boring. If you do spend some time in alternative methods, it can shape you for the rest of your life in positive ways.


CAP said...

I followed the Winkleman post as well. But I wasn’t surprised at the lack of enthusiasm for Finch’s suggestion for artists to receive stipends. It’s an attractive ideal obviously but I just don’t see that many galleries being able to afford it, even using exhibiting artists as gallery staff. The numbers would require a high volume of guaranteed sales.

Sure it’d be nice to work at art full-time but I think the reality is that most struggling artists still manage to produce excellent work juggling other jobs, although probably not as much of it. I don’t see Serra as much of a model in any case (given the scale and materials he uses) and Castelli was hardly your average gallery.

I think resistance to co-op models in NY is mainly because of the perceived modesty or insularity of the enterprise (there’s also a political or ideological undercurrent). I think it’s seen as bottom rung or beginner’s stuff. Because it’s such a big market I think artists there are looking for an expert middle-person/s to make the vital contacts, draw the influential collectors/critics/curators rather than rely on speculative foot traffic, an immediate social circle. With so many galleries there it’s a full-time job just to get noticed. An artist could do it, but wouldn’t have much time for anything else. EW makes no secret of the fact that networking is a huge part of his job (his blog a shrewd branding tool) and most of his readers/commenters buy into or aspire to that scene. So it’s no surprise a more low-level approach is shunned. They’re after the main prize!

I’ve shown in co-op spaces, rental spaces that have gone private after some success and a top private gallery. In every case it came down to personalities before payments – but maybe that’s because my stuff never really sold very well. I think even in hard times, there’ll still be people interested in collecting art but probably on a reduced scale. If the art world contracts like the rest of the economy (I think Saltz is predicting about 50 NYC galleries to close in 09) it might shed a lot of the hype and poseurs and get back to basics.

It is going to be difficult, but sort of exciting.

Anonymous said...

Hey CAP,
To be frank I am not wild about co-ops because consensus is not only difficult in art and art people, it can water down the work. But there are other ways to make something happen, like benevolent dictatorships...small but cozy... ;)