December 18, 2009

Robert Storr on the talk circuit: Grueling


Robert Storr drinking champagne at The American University of Paris. Photo: Susie Hollands (www.ivyparis.com), courtesy The Artblog

In a report on the "trials and tribulations of the international lecture circuit" in the new issue of Frieze, Yale Art & Architecture Dean Robert Storr writes that the most dependable but generally least lucrative art world gig is as a ‘visiting artist/critic’. "It usually involves showing up in a place starved of information and contact with the wider world, giving a public slide presentation, a seminar and studio critiques – interrupted by breakfast, lunch and dinner – with local faculty, patrons and eager young artists. It can be fun if one savours the eccentricities of people and places as I do, but it is gruelling nevertheless. If one does not enjoy being ‘out there’ and, worse, if one is inclined to condescend to audiences assumed to be less sophisticated than those in big cities, then things can go very wrong. I have often been in the slipstream of certified Gotham players – the scold of a major daily paper, for example, or the gadfly of a glossy weekly – and listened to tales of their inattention to the hosts and their lazy performance of an overly familiar act, usually aggravated by glibness, snarkiness or outright arrogance. Roadshow hot-shots beware! Busy boom-towners flip through what you write and fear your power; out-of-towners read it and can quiz you on what you said and derisively repeat your shtick while ignoring the clout they’re sure you’ll never use to their advantage.

"Visiting artists who are welcome on the tour give good weight. Those who make a lasting impact give much more than expected. Plus, they have a sense of timing with regard to what they offer. I still remember Lynda Benglis at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, in the late 1970s ducking into virtually all of the studios after her lecture, and, a glass of Scotch in hand, spending most of the afternoon and much of the evening engaging one-on-one with every student who risked showing her their work. Nayland Blake did the same a few years later. Their insight and generosity changed lives." Read the entire report here.

2 comments:

It’s not a position I aspire to –but I can see why Storr excels. I’m not up for the kind of shit-fights (critical and administrative) that he clearly relishes, (although in art historical research I like to think I’d run him close). But there is a huge amount of tact as well as humility needed on this circuit, and then again shrewd enterprise. If you followed Storr’s account of staging his Venice Biennale and the lengths he went to, raising extra funds just to transport and install works his way; you can see why he got where he has, and why lesser curators are jealous.

Who hasn’t sat through celebrity artist/critic lectures only to have their worst suspicions about the art world confirmed? These days I tend to think this is actually one of the functions of art schools: to demonstrate just how narrow-minded, rude and stupid many luminaries really are. Students should experience this as soon as possible. On the other hand, when they do strike someone like Storr or the artists listed, one realizes that the cause is not hopeless. Even though the duds are in the majority, there are enough good guys to make the struggle worth continuing with.

Thanks for this; the Marina Abramovic quotes are jewels.