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.
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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