March 30, 2013

A death exaggerated


In the April 8 issue of New York Magazine: Jerry Saltz argues that gallery shows may no longer be relevant:
Artists and dealers are as passionate as ever about creating good shows, but fewer and fewer people are actually seeing them. Chelsea galleries used to hum with activity; now they’re often eerily empty. Sometimes I’m nearly alone. Even on some weekends, galleries are quiet, and that’s never been true in my 30 years here. (There are exceptions, such as Gagosian’s current blockbuster Basquiat survey.) Fewer ideas are being exchanged, fewer aesthetic arguments initiated. I can’t turn to the woman next to me and ask what she thinks, because there’s nobody there...

There used to be shared story lines of contemporary art: the way artists developed, exchanged ideas, caromed off each other’s work, engaged with their critics. Now no one knows the narrative; the thread has been lost. Shows go up but don’t seem to have consequences, other than sales or no sales.
I'd counter that most artists (the 99%) still want to show their work, engage with other artist's ideas, and respond to what they've seen (or read about). Saltz neglects to mention that some A-list artists appear to be losing interest in running on the global art fair treadmill, opting for smaller galleries with less rigorous production demands. Magda Sawon (Postmasters) suggests to Saltz that mid-level galleries are likely to "vanish from Chelsea," but, as she well knows, they aren't dying--just moving to other neighborhoods, like the Lower East Side.

Apparently a Los Angeles dealer scolded Saltz for not going to art fairs or following online ventures like Paddle8 and Artsy:
He said I “risked being out of touch with the art world,” and he was right. It got me down. As recently as four or five years ago, I could have crowed that because I see so many gallery shows every week, I know what’s going on. That’s slipping away, if it isn’t already gone. 
But whoever this guy was inhabits a different world than the one I know. All I have to do is look at the slew of images of overflowing openings on Facebook to know that gallery exhibitions are still as vital as ever. Saltz shouldn't feel obliged to put the brakes on art fair hyperbole and uncritical markets, but rather provide a window into the other art world that might help underfunded artists and less profitable galleries gain some traction. Rest assured that the conversation continues, just out of earshot of the members of the mega-global-superstar-auction artworld.

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Image at top: An evening of conversation with Gorky's Grandaughter at Pocket Utopia, January 2013. Pocket Utopia, 191 Henry Street, on the Lower East Side.

 
 


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6 comments:

As one of the participants in the event shown above, I couldn't agree with you more about the vibrancy of the gallery world here in New York. In fact, there is so very much to choose from that I wonder if some galleries are indeed emptier because people are trying to keep up with the many other galleries available to them.

you might also want to correct the typo in the title

Hi Nancy,
Thank you so much for your thoughts on what I wrote about galleries.
I need to ask you a question: Do the two grafs below sound like I do not STILL love going to art galleries? Or that I think that art galleries are dead?
I need to know this.
Thank you much,
Jerry

If the galleries are emptier, the limos gone, the art advisers taking meetings elsewhere, and the glitz offshore, the audience will have shrunk to something like it was well before the gigantic expansion of the art world. When I go to galleries, I now mainly see artists and a handful of committed diligent critics, collectors, curators, and the like. In this quiet environment, it may be possible for us to take back the conversation. Or at least have conversations. While the ultrarich will do their deals from 40,000 feet, we who are down at ground level will be engaging with the actual art—maybe not in Chelsea, where the rents are getting too high, but somewhere. That’s fine with me.

Looking, making, thinking, experiencing are our starting point. Art opens worlds, lets us see invisible things, creates new models for thinking, engages in cryptic rituals in public, invents cosmologies, explores consciousness, makes mental maps and taxonomies others can see, and isn’t only something to look at but is something that does things and sometimes makes the mysterious magic of the world palpable. Proust wrote, “Narrating events is like introducing people to opera via the libretto only.” Instead, he said, one should “endeavor to distinguish between the differing music of each successive day.” That’s what we do when we look at art, wherever we look at it, however much noise surrounds it. In galleries we try to discern “differing music,” and it’s still there right now. I love and long for it.

Hi Nancy,
(Sorry of this is a duplicate posting; I am not good at posting on other sites.)
Thank you for your thoughts about my gallery essay.
I would like to ask you a question: Do the below two grafs sound like I do not STILL love going to galleries or that I STILL see great things in galleries?
Thanks again,
Jerry

"If the galleries are emptier, the limos gone, the art advisers taking meetings elsewhere, and the glitz offshore, the audience will have shrunk to something like it was well before the gigantic expansion of the art world. When I go to galleries, I now mainly see artists and a handful of committed diligent critics, collectors, curators, and the like. In this quiet environment, it may be possible for us to take back the conversation. Or at least have conversations. While the ultrarich will do their deals from 40,000 feet, we who are down at ground level will be engaging with the actual art—maybe not in Chelsea, where the rents are getting too high, but somewhere. That’s fine with me.

Looking, making, thinking, experiencing are our starting point. Art opens worlds, lets us see invisible things, creates new models for thinking, engages in cryptic rituals in public, invents cosmologies, explores consciousness, makes mental maps and taxonomies others can see, and isn’t only something to look at but is something that does things and sometimes makes the mysterious magic of the world palpable. Proust wrote, “Narrating events is like introducing people to opera via the libretto only.” Instead, he said, one should “endeavor to distinguish between the differing music of each successive day.” That’s what we do when we look at art, wherever we look at it, however much noise surrounds it. In galleries we try to discern “differing music,” and it’s still there right now. I love and long for it.

No,Jerry, clearly you still love visiting galleries because that's where you see great things. The point is that we shouldn't let people like the LA dealer spook us into thinking that the other, super-mega version of the art world is the REAL artworld. They aren't interested in changing art history--just making money. That they aren't interested in the conversation is their loss.

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