Specifics and links are on the sidebar, right, and I'll have a report from the front lines in early March . But here's the short of it:
Specifics and links are on the sidebar, right, and I'll have a report from the front lines in early March . But here's the short of it:
1.29.09: Update at the end of the post
The last thing I want to do is contribute to the doom and gloom, but sometimes reporting a story or passing along information is essential so that we understand the depth of the issue. Not too long ago I talked about The Downturn in Chelsea. More recently in Where's The Bailout for The Arts?, I talked about what happens when publishing wanes, galleries close and institutions retrench. It's happening. Just a few examples:
. Artnet has reported that the Seattle Post Intelligencer is closing, and that its longtime art critic, Regina Hackett, will be out of a job--a passing that bodes ill not only for Hacket but for coverage of the arts in Seattle. Here's an excerpt from Artnet:
Another month, another art critic shown the door by a major paper. This time it’s Regina Hackett, longtime correspondent for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A representative of Hearst Newspapers swung by the paper’s office Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, to tell the staff that, "Journalism is a fabulous profession, but it is a business," and that the paper would be shut down in 60 days, either to close forever or reopen as a greatly reduced online-only service (the heartbreaking footage of the announcement is available here) . . .Hackett told fellow Seattle critic Jen Graves, "I mean, there are no jobs for us."
. How's My Dealing's Deathwatch section posts the names of galleries that rumor has closing. (I recommend this blog with mixed feelings, but it does seem to have tapped into the art information network. Some of those rumors have been confimed, because I've gotten a number of the gallery press relaases myself.)
. And yesterday: The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University announced that it is closing its doors and selling its collection. (You can read reports and links in Geoff Edgers' Exhibitionist, Tyler's Modern Art Notes, and Carolina's C-Monster blog.) Here's the president's e-mail passed along by a friend:
From: President Jehuda Reinharz
Date: Mon, 26 Jan 2009
To: Brandeis University Community
Subject: Important Message Regarding the Rose Art Museum
The global financial crisis and deepening national economic recessionrequire Brandeis to formulate and execute decisive plans that will position the university to emerge stronger for the benefit of our students. To this end, our response to the crisis is to focus and sustain our core academic mission. I am writing to tell you that the Board of Trustees met today and voted to close the Rose Art Museum.The decision was difficult and was reached after a painstakingassessment of the university’s need to mobilize for the future andinitiate a strategy to replenish our financial assets.
The Rose has been a marvelous addition to the Fine Arts program, and we are grateful to everyone who expressed their love for art andadmiration for Brandeis’s academic mission by helping to create, build, and support the museum. Choosing between and among important and valued university assets is terrible, but our priority in theface of hard choices will always be the university’s core teachingand research mission. Today’s decision will set in motion a long-term plan to sell the art collection and convert the professional art facility to a teaching, studio, and gallery space for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.
Update: Read Hrag Vartanian's Art Market Recession Report in the NYFA Current
Rejection might seem like a downer of a way to start the Marketing Monday series, but the hope-dashing, nerve-breaking, thanks-but-no-thanks wall that stands between an artist and success is a looming constant. There’s no easy way to deal with it except to experience it, get over it and move on. Rejection is never pleasant, but until you get over it, you can never move on. Fortunately, you do develop a callus over the soft spot.
Here's my rejection story:
At the very beginning of my career--pretty much before I even had a career, actually--I had an appointment with a young dealer on 57th Street. When I arrived, an assistant instructed me to set up my work on the floor around the perimeter of the small carpeted viewing room. The dealer entered, took a cursory look at the work and, and without making eye contact said, “Thank you,” and walked out. I put my work back into my portfolio and left, stung by the curtness and impersonality of that 20-second encounter. (And did I mention that I'd made the trip down from upstate, rising at 4:45 am to catch the early train?)
The rejection became an enormous psychic scab as I picked at it endlessly. Surely she had seen something of interest in the work when she viewed the slides, hadn't she? Why, then, was she so uninterested in the work in person? Did I do something wrong? Was it me? I should have declined to put the work on the floor! I should have spoken up as she was leaving! I should have followed up with a note. The work isn't good; no wonder she didn't like it. I'll never have a career. Pick, pick, pick.
Over time, as small encouragements tempered that initial big rejection, and then small successes became more frequent, and then--hurrah!--there were bigger successes, I was able to let that rejection go. Actually, that rejection spurred me to get shown, get representation, get my career moving. That's why I could finally let it go. Eventually I again started to visit her gallery, which has followed the standard migration pattern of galleries in New York. In fact I admire the way she has stuck with her gallery all these years (not unlike my own dogged adhesiveness).
Out of the blue--well, because I put her on my e-mail list a few years ago--this dealer recently sent me a kind e-note praising the way I promote myself and my work via the Internet. "Believe me, I've seen it all," she said. She has no idea that I was a young artist she dismissed many years ago or the impression her brusque dismissal made on me. I'm not going to tell her, either. It's history. (But, you know, that note still felt good.)
Here's what I learned from that initial rejection:
. I allowed waaaay to much to ride on that one presentation. Talk about naive. I'd probably pinned all my career (such as it wasn't) hopes on that one visit
. I ceded her too much power. One person on one day saw a tiny slice of my oeuvre and found it not to her taste
. Consider who's rejecting you. My psychic slasher was a young dealer, probably as inexperienced in rejecting artists as I was receiving rejection. I'll bet she has gotten better at it over the years
. She was under no obligation to offer me a crit of my work. The fact that she responded so coolly was message enough that it was not to her taste. If she'd taken the time to speak with every artist at every presentation, she would never have had the time to build up her career
. I should not have capitulated to the request to put the work on the floor. Maybe it was her standard operating procedure, but if the work is meant for the wall, that's where it should be seen
Degrees of Rejection
"There are three kinds of rejection," says a curator at an art college in Maine. She calls them "levels." I'm paraphrasing here, but here's the gist of how she responds to presentation packages:
. Level One: a definite no. I respond with a short note that says, 'We feel your work is not right for the gallery. Thank you for thinking of us, and best of luck with your career.'
. Level Two: Although the work does not fit into the scheme of any exhibitions I have planned, I like what I see. I send the artist a note saying exactly that, asking them to stay in touch. If they do, a relationship begins. Who knows how it will culminate?
. Level Three: If I like what I see and think it might fit into the program, I ask to see more work. If the artist is nearby, I might call to schedule a studio visit. If distance is a factor, I would ask the artist to bring in some work so that I can see it in person and get to know the artist.
Many Reasons for a Rejection
Another dealer offers this insight (again, I'm paraphrasing): We can't have a conversation with each individual artist who sends us material, but here are some of the reasons we might reject an artist's work:
. We might love it but know that we don't have a collector base to support it. Much as we love to show art, we have to sell it to stay in business
. We might already represent an artist who fills that niche for us. We do want artists who fit our program, but if their work overlaps with what a represented artist does, we won't consider the applicant
. One of us might love it and one of us might not. [This is a common issue for business partners, I have learned]
. The price might be too high or too low for the gallery
No Means No--For Now
One dealer lives by the motto, "No means no--for now." Things change, she says:
. A new director comes in with new energy and ideas, stretching the parameters of the program
. An artist leaves the gallery and an appropriate 'slot' opens up on the roster
. An artist keeps us in his or her mailing list, and looking at a postcard image of the new work we see a breakthrough or a find that the new direction is right for us
Ball in your Court
"One thing I can tell you for sure," says the no-means-no-for-now dealer, "is that if we ask you to stay in touch with us, we mean it."
And how many artist have done that? I ask.
"A tiny percentage."
What's your rejection story?
And equally important: What have you learned from it? .What have you
This is the impetus for Marketing Mondays. Each Monday, starting on the 26th, I’ll address a topic or post a question that relates to the career issues we deal with as artists--from an artist's point of view. My expertise: I’ve been "in the life" for 30 years, gradually getting to the point where I've become a self-supporting studio artist (knocking wood for 2009). I even teach a career course to art students about to make the leap into the art world.
Over the years I’ve learned that making a career is very different from making art. Every part-time and full-time job has taught me something: how to organize my time, how to write about my work, how to make a presentation, how to negotiate for what I want. Here's what I learned while working for the largest women's magazine in the country, for instance: the importance of marketing and promotion. If a brand that's on the tip of 10 million tongues feels it needs to get out there and promote, promote, promote, who am I to think that my puny-ass career shouldn't get a nudge?
With every dealer I’ve worked with, I’m reminded that clarity of intent, decent manners, good record keeping and mutual respect do wonders to keep a business relationship flourishing—sometimes even growing into friendship. With artists, I’ve learned many things, chief among them that community is not optional; it’s as essential as air.
Following that last thought: We’re all in this together, whether we make art, sell it, curate it or write about it. I hope everyone reading will contribute to the Marketing Monday colloquy. I’m open any and all topic suggestions. If the weekly format gets to be too much to handle, I’ll take it monthly. But I will keep it going.
Monday's topic: Rejection. Get Over It. (Because if you can't get over it, you can't move on in your career.)
In the meantime, I've culled some recent and not-so-recent posts from JMAB that deal with the issues of getting your work out into the world:
. The Benefit of Your Wisdom
. What are You Doing About Prices?
. Where’s the Bailout for the Arts
. What Jobs Have You Had?
Experience and some professional success make experts of us all, so now I teach what it took me 30 years to learn. The course is not about “success” per se because you can be famous for your art and still not be able to pay your bills--or vice versa. Rather it’s about how to navigate an uphill terrain that has plenty of roads but few maps, where superhighways cross paths with barely marked trails, where there are high tolls, many forks in the road and more than a few dead ends.
Recently there have been some good posts offering advice to emerging artists:
. Dawoud Bey's Advice to a Young Artist
. Franklin Einspruch's Unsolicited Advice
My post today is a question:
What advice would you offer an art student who’s about to make the leap?
Morris Louis at Paul Kasmin Gallery, late 2007
Kate Beck, Naranga, 2006, oil on canvas, 84 x 60 inches
Joanne Mattera, Ciel Rouge, 2006, encaustic on panels, 48 x 67 inches
Natvar Bhavsar, Andhare, 2005, pure pigment on canvas, 75 x 68 inches
Part 1 here
Update Your Penis
Amend your problem of small dimension
Make it large and steady as a rock!
Express your masculinity better!
Boost your virility
Be admired for your true male merits:
A voluminous male package
A huge love tool
An immeasurable wand of pleasure
Let her call you a perfect lover!
Improbable things can really happen
Super dimension for your little soldier
You won’t believe! It’s incredible!
Male feature worthy of Casanova
Your happiness is much closer now
Satisfy her with your large
“What's everybody doing about pricing these days?"
Welcome to the club. A dealer I work with asked me recently, “What are your other dealers doing about pricing?” This dealer had already discussed the topic with her/his colleagues and wanted to know how galleries in other parts of the country were handling the issue.
Usually I bump up my prices at the start of each year, and I accept that a 10 percent “courtesy” will be given to collectors who request it if they’re purchasing my small paintings in multiple, or if they’re acquiring a larger work. I didn’t raise prices for 2009. And I’ve given my dealers the leeway they need with regard to discounts to complete a sale. We’re not giving it away, mind you, but we want my collectors to continue to acquire work. It's good business all around. Galleries need to stay in business. Me, too.
So let me ask the artists, dealers and collectors who are reading this post: What are you doing about pricing these days?
So the automakers and all those big banks are getting help from the government. My tax dollars, from income earned as an artist, are helping them out.
Where’s the bailout for the arts?
I’d been thinking about this ever since the banking industry began receiving some $700 billion in bailout money—and promptly started giving it away as multimillion-dollar bonuses to the guys who brought the industry to its knees in the first place. (And to think that the NEA was once upset over the "obscenity" of smeared chocolate on a naked body? Ha!)
So you can imagine my pleasure when I clicked on to Geoff Edgers’ Exhibitionist blog the other day and found this post: Secretary of the Arts? It seems the ever-inventive Quincy Jones has proposed that his friend, the soon-to-be President Obama, create just such a position. (You can sign the petition here.)
I love this idea! Because unlike a bailout for the arts, a cabinet position that acknowledges the creative economy is plausible, even possible. And I love that the importance of the creative community is being acknowledged.
The importance of the creative community
Acknowledging our work is the first step to actually supporting it. It’s not just autoworkers who are the backbone of this society. Perhaps because artists have usually worked for rock-bottom wages or for free—or because what we do has often gone unappreciated by the society at large—our contribution is overlooked. The uplifting effect of arts aside (as if that could ever be put “aside”) supporting the arts supports the economy. You see it in the Theater District, in the full restaurtants before and after a show. You see it during Fashion Week, or during Armory Time, when hordes of creative folks descend on Bryant Park or Pier 92 and the ancillary venues. Actually, in New York City you see it everywhere all the time.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but let’s look at our situation. Galleries are closing down or tightening up. Broadway shows are closing, 15 in the next weeks alone. Museums are hurting. And the non-profits are persevering valiantly in the face of ever-dwindling financial support. It's not only in New York City that the arts sustain the economy; it's true in every major metropolis and large city in this country.
What happens when the arts are not supported? It's happening now. This is not a journalistically researched post. It's emotional, based on observation and anecdotal information. Still I don't think I'm overstating when I say:
Museums, Galleries and Art Fairs Bring People into the City
Without them attendance is down. And without attendance, hours get cut back, employees get laid off, some venues shutter their doors.
Immediate damage: Fewer opportunities to see art, to show art. Artists and art-educated folks who work in those venues, sometimes in directorial jobs, other times behind the desk as assistants or associates, or as registrars or installers lose their jobs. It's happening already. Let’s not put the curators and dealers in a separate category. Many curators work for artist wages. And some dealers are hanging on just as tenuously as artists. Dealers have mortgaged their homes or apartments to keep their galleries running; some dealers don’t own homes. We’re all in the same boat.
Collateral damage: Art supply stores, framers, art handlers, printers, art consultants. These are traditional jobs for artists, many of whom are barely hanging on with two part-time jobs and no health benefits. And exhibiting artists!! More artists than ever have found representation in recent years. What happens when their galleries close down?
Theater and Dance
Equus, The Seagull, Grease, Young Frankenstein, Hairspray, Spamalot, Spring Awakening and other shows have recently closed or are about it. A theater district with dark theaters is, well, it's no longer a theater district.
Immediate damage: Actors and directors are out of a job. There’s the stage crew, the dressers, makeup and wardrobe people, and many more whose jobs I’m not aware of. And what’s going to sustain playwrights if there are no venues, producers if there are no audiences?
Collateral damage: The costume houses, the companies that supply clothing and shoes for dancers, musicians who play at those gigs. Add to this list the significant losses sustained by tax-paying restaurants, bars and parking garages in the theater district.
From big concert halls to intimate jazz clubs, if people aren’t coming, the performance schedule gets cut back.
Immediate damage: Musicians, musical directors; the chefs, bartenders and waitstaff, many of whom are artists and performers earning enough to pay the rent. The unseen custodial staff will lose jobs, too.
Collateral damage: Need a reed in a hurry? A drum skin? Sheet music? You can find them all in a couple of instrument stores in New York City. When they’re gone, where ya gonna go? Add sound equipment and lighting companies, the drivers and movers of the equipment, many of them musicians moonlighting to make ends meet.
Now add the fashion industry
Fashion is the largest single manufacturer in New York City.
The spring and fall collections in Bryant Park and elsewhere around the city bring in thousands of fashionistas and reporters twice a year from all over the world. Laugh all you want at those guys with the Pee Wee Herman suits, and the Manolo-wearing women who all wear the same "in" clothes, but they’re eating and drinking and shopping and taking taxis and staying in hotels, often on expense accounts.
Immediate damage: The designers and manufacturers and their collective staffs. (Do you know there are companies off Seventh Avenue in the 20s and 30s that still make felt hats by hand? That pleat fabric? That make gloves? That do hand beading?) It’s not all made in China.
Collateral damage: The production companies, publicists, and army of professionals who promote and run the events. Plus the modest creative businesses that you might have overlooked: the fabric and notions shops (you've glimpsed them on Project Runway), the ever-shrinking floral market, the caterers and small shops that feed the fashion industry at lunch and special events.
Let's add small retail shops and boutiques, as well as larger stores. You don't have to cry over the profits of Federated or other megaretailers, but consider the fashion directors, visual merchandisers, sales staffers whose jobs will be shaved away. And let's not forget the garment workers.
Architecture and Design
I don’t know much about these industries, but I know that the construction industry wouldn’t have anything to build without this group of creative people who conceive the buildings and then fill their rooms with the furniture and objects that make those spaces inviting, from hotel rooms to restaurants to conference centers to apartment buildings and homes. Life as we know it would be visually lifeless.
Immediate damage: Architects, interior designers, product designers; the builders and manufacturers of all the products of these imaginations
Collateral damage: Artists and galleries; art consultants; fabric and furniture companies
When the New York Times is in trouble, the fecal matter, my friends, has made contact with the fan. What keeps the publishing industry alive? Advertising. Cars, cosmetics, fashion, travel. When ads are down, the magazines get thinner than a 14-year-old model with bulimia. (January issues are traditionally undernourished; check them out this year.) The book publishers aren’t doing any better; companies are cutting back on the number of novels they acquire. At least one company that I know of has put a moratorium on acquiring anything new.
Immediate damage: Anna Wintour may still be livin large, but there’s a raft of editors and writers, of art directors, designers, photographers, stylists about to drop off the cliff. Art critics are being cut from the mastheads, and freelancers are getting less than chump change. Book editors and designers, novelists, agents are all affected.
Collateral damage: Publishing employs a raft of freelancers in all areas, often artists who use their talents and skills to support their own art. When they can’t get work, where exactly are they going to go?
I know I'm missing a lot of other creative industries: Cosmetics and beauty, for instance. And hospitality, which includes hotels and restaurants and the creative army of workers--from chefs and to publicists to food critics--who labor in it. Anyone want to add to my list?
The creative community is resourceful, inventive and hard working. We've always found ways to support ourselves. But prospects are looking bleak.
I saw a lot of art in 2008 and wrote about as much of it as I could. What follows is My Top 10, culled from what I posted. It's alphabetical because there's no way I could possibly quantify such a variety of artists, images and issues.
El Anatsui at Jack Shainman
Call them paintings, tapestries or sculptures. Strips of metal are pierced and held together with twisted wire, row-on-row, but the overall effect is one of fluidity and organic growth.
Bourgeois at the Guggenheim
This was the career retrospective of nearly 70 years of work by a woman who, had she been born Louis, would have been bigger than Picasso. I hate the ramps, but metaphorically this was the place to have had the show: Bourgeois's oeuvre is a towering achievement.
Image courtesy of The Guggenheim
Donovan at the ICA, Boston
I ended up writing just about her cubes in a twinned post with Jackie Winsor, but the whole show, from styrofoam cups to Mylar mounds to drinking straws was a marvel of, well, straw into gold.
Image from the Internet
Geo/Metric at MoMA
An under-the-radar gem that was heads above just about anything else MoMA showed this year. And because all the work was from the museum's collection, photography was allowed. I went overboard with four posts.
Foreground, Bridget Riley
Geometry and Color in General
. All Kinds of Geometry and Abstraction from Abts to Zox
. Acute Conditions, Part 1 and Part 2
. Thomas Nozkowski
. On the Geometric Trail Thomas Nozkowski at Pace Wildenstein
Heilmann at the New Museum
The perfect yin and yang of loose-limbed geometry and aggressive color in the best new white box in town.
Image courtesy of the museum
Kapoor at the ICA, Boston
That big red dome of gooey wax, continually slumping and being remade, was the existential showstopper at the ICA in Boston , but don't overlook two concurrent shows at Barbara Gladstone .
Image courtesy of the ICA
Material Color at the Hunterdon Art Museum
“While it is not the entire story, the idea of paint as a sub-stantial material is central in all of these works," says curator Mary Birmingham. (I'm one of the artists in this show.)
Detail of painting by Wil Jansen
Say what you will about the humongopalooza that takes place in December, but where else in the country can you see such a range of art in such a concentrated space for 12 hours a day--and bump into everyone you know while doing it?
Objects, Big and Black
The Armory fair and its satellites in March were full of menacing, mysterious, or quirky objets noirs.
Andy Yoder's licorice pipe, at the Winkleman Gallery booth
A Few Bests and Mosts
Best show that got no critical attention: No Chromophobia
Holland, Roberta, Ken, Jerry, where were you? Curator Rick Witter filled all six exhibitions spaces at OK Harris with paintings in which color, typically embodied via reductive geometry, was the unifying element. (If you left “Color Chart” at MoMA wondering where the other half of the art world was, it was here.)
That's Philippe Pettite on a cable strung between the Trade Towers on the morning of August 4, 1974. I posted it on 9/11.
Photo by Jean Louis Blondeau
Great discussion back in March but who knew that while they were talking, the banks were collapsing, the Dow was at the precipice, and the economy was about to tank? The Downturn in Chelsea became apparent
Best Blasts From the Past in the galleries
Morris Louis and Al Held at Paul Kasmin
Jackie Winsor Cubes at Paula Cooper, image left
Tadasky and Anuskiewicz at D. Wigmore Fine Art
Best 2007 show that continued into 2008: Martin Puryear at MoMA to January 14
Best Bargain of 2008 or any year: Visiting the galleries for free
Sharon Butler (Two Coats of Paint) and I had convened a similar event in Miami 2007 with a small (but lively) turnout, so imagine our surprise when you actually stepped away from the computer and headed over to this one. Thanks to George Billis of Red Dot for providing the space.
Image courtesy of Hrag Vartanian
And the Art Booger Goes to . . . . . MoMA's Color Chart: Reinventing Color 1950 to Today
The show was good, as far as it went. But let's get real. If color is being "reinvented" without women (6 artists out of 44) then it's really not being reinvented, is it?