Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Boring Art, Art Fairs and the American Way

I was reading Caryn's blog while eating something in honor of today (after I voted) - something from a major American Fast Food vendor...a guilty pleasure every now and then. I only wish I had gotten the Coke too instead of the bottled water, which is just as American I suppose, at least in LA.
Caryn has posted the Jasper Johns painting "Flag" in honor of today:

My gallery desk with Caryn's blog on the monitor, and my magazine tear-out of Johns next to his "Flag" painting, 1955. Photo by Rauschenberg.

In response to her blog about ArtLA - a few points:
I think we're at a critical juncture here in the art world. The market has created a shift - its influence over artists, dealers, museums, and writers seems prevalent. Work is being made to cater to the market, collector's influence has gained monumentally, and we seem unable to discuss an art piece without immediately tying it to its monetary value. And while there's nothing wrong with there being a market for art, we would be naive to think we could exist without, there needs to be a strong push to correct this imbalance.

Ironically, just as I read this a distinguished yet arty older man came into the gallery..."Welcome", I said to him and shoved my potentially embarrassing American food-place bag under my desk.
"Just browsing...but you never know."
First of all, in the 4 years of the gallery, "just looking" has been said to me twice. Anyway, I gabbed with him like I always do and it ended with me giving him the card for the gallery and inviting him to stay informed about the artists we show.

One of the things that my artists tell me about is that they WANT their work to sell. We all have to tiptoe around and say "it's not about that" and WHY?
Every artist I work with wants to quit their other job and do art full time!!

It is bit of a catch 22 - Galleries show art that people can also buy.
People DO look at art and ask themselves if they would buy it or want to live with it forever.

Hopefully there are many galleries that Can talk about the work they show without talking about the price. But I have to say that people thank me each week that I have a wide range of pricing in the work that I show.

And I don't think that I cater to audiences - I still show work that I like, and work with artists that I feel are making a mark. If they also happen to be working in a genre that is "hot", well that is good for them.
Everything in due time - since I am a multi discipline gallery I would imagine that each artist I work with will have their day.

My deal is Accessible Art with Content.
That should not mean boring or middle of the road, though. I feel that it is work that draws you in rather than repels, and explains broadly, rather than narrowly.
And happens to be affordable also. By this I mean in the $600 - $4000 range, not $22,000 - $105,000+ range.

I do feel that art gets made first, then it takes off on the market....no one I work with makes art they think will sell. We want it to sell, but when we put selling first in making the art, it usually fails.

[while in Berlin] I saw (again) Paul McCarthy's "Chocolate Santa House" and "Meat Santa" that it hit me - why aren't emerging artists doing anything remotely this shocking, titilating, gross, sexy, and (key word here) smart? And if they are, why aren't they being given bigger platforms?"

There was a proposal to do a panel discussion for this very subject of Mc Carthy's Santa with Butt Plug Chocolate piece at one of the Los Angeles fairs and it was shot down. There were also no engaging lobby happenings as were last year's fair.

Why aren't emerging artists doing anything remotely this shocking, titilating, gross, sexy, and (key word here) smart? And if they are, why aren't they being given bigger platforms?
It'll start with artists taking risks in their works and galleries brave enough to show it.

Smart is the new buzz word for sure....hear that one a lot at the gallery. I also hear the words stunning, weird, hilarious, funny, saddening or amazing.
I like to show sexy art- Nothing against sexiness - sexy color, luscious shapes and innuendos, maybe some humor. I show gross art, but I don't like Shock for shock's sake. I do kinda/sorta hate porn art. That's just me.
I think I am being a pretty brave gallery by staying open on sales alone And showing interesting shows.

Mega-collectors should establish more grants for artists on both the local and national level to fund projects that would otherwise only exist in sketches or in theory.

Yes. There should be more of this.
And a lot of collectors/ art philanthropists have opened galleries...
Not to keep people from doing what they want to do, but now there is another imbalance being created. You can still be a part or supporter of the arts without doing one of 2 things: open a gallery or be an artist. It's getting weirdly saturated.

The creation of artwork will have to go beyond what is marketable to further ensure an artist's evolvement and institutional curators will have to have the foresight to give these artists an arena to project these projects.

Is pace and consistency boring then? Not evolved?
I change my hair all the time and boy is that rough in getting people to remember you....Several artists have told me that they have been expected by other galleries to be making totally different work after one year.
Galleries are supposed to be arenas for this experimentation also, the solo show being a perfect example. A debut of the artists new body of work, or a debut of the artists you are supposed to be watching, heck - maybe even artists whose work you should buy at $500 because within 2 years they will be represented by the gallery who sells their work for $22,000.
Artists get asked on the night of their show, "So what are you doing next?"....

One of my proposed answers to all of this: SLOW DOWN.
Everyone just slow down.

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