Monday, November 29, 2010

On the Birth of the Contemporary Art Fair

In Christine Mehring's article, "Emerging Market" or "Christine Mehring on the birth of the Contemporary Art Fair", the first of the art fairs as we know them is examined as well as the path of its evolution. The first notable fair was opened on Sept. 13, 1967, in Cologne. KUNSTMARKT 67 was prompted into fruition during a time when the international art economy was hardly in motion anymore. Zwirner and his mentor Stunke devised the plans two years before the launch and received the permission to hold the fair. It was met with success, to say the least. A greater variety of visitors graced the show, and those that have never stepped into a gallery were met with art that compelled them to buy it. There were a few other fair-type deals that predated KUNSTMARKT 67, but they did not have the same appealing guidelines that eventually became a model for future fairs to come. KUNSTMARKT 67 was an exclusive fair, meaning that not just any exhibitor could show. It was a system established to guarantee quality and status. This earned the fair a few competitors in the form of counter-exhibitions. Art fairs became more numerous as a trend, for they attracted far more people than galleries did, but as a consequence, fewer fresh faces ever turn up at galleries. Instead, people wait for the fairs where they can look at tons of art at once, and buy if they feel like doing so, from booths like vendors on a street corner.

I find it odd that art fairs weren't developed sooner. I wonder, does it really matter if there are exceptions/exclusions or not? I know there was a complaint in the article that those who are refused risk their work and their names getting devalued. Is that really the case anymore? There's a ton of art fairs out there these days. In Miami, they have one practically every two or three months. Miami Basel's just one of the really big ones. Yet what I kind of want to know, with genuine curiosity, is what the difference is between an art FAIR and and art FESTIVAL. I remember volunteering for the Coconut Grove Art Festival in tenth or eleventh grade, and there were plenty of booths, but not all of them have art as we know it. And there were rides. And there was a DJ. And there were booths for kids to make arts and crafts in. Do these hurt or promote the idea of an art fair? Or the image of what is art in general? Because I know the point of the art fair, or one of the points, was to spark public interest in art and get people into galleries again. It did one, but it hindered the other. Meanwhile art festivals seem to just be sapping the heart and soul out of art. It's more like a family-friendly spectacle than an art show. So an art fair is essentially an art festival without the hand crafted jewelry, carnival rides, and spectacle. It's kind of like a marketplace with cheap art. They can't jack up the prices too high on the street; few art newbies will pay thousands of dollars to a vendor for a painting, even if it could be worth as much in a gallery.

If I had my work in an art fair, I'd either have the pieces remain NFS or just as expensive as they'd be outside of the fair. I don't believe in devaluing my work so some guy who thinks this or that piece would look nice in the living room but he doesn't want to pay 'art prices' for it buys it up. It's kind of an insult to me. I want to be paid what my pieces are worth and nothing less. Even if it means I have to keep them all and they'll never get sold, I am and have always been more than willing to make a living doing something else and make art as a hobby. That being said, I don't hate art fairs or anything. I don't hate what they stand for. If other people don't care what their piece is going for in the fair vs. in a gallery, then why should I care about them? I've passed by pieces at a fair and wished I had the money to buy them; so they're succeeding in making some cash if I did/could. And I like to look at a lot of art too--that's always a plus.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anti-Mainstream Museum's Mainstream Show

In Roberta Smith's article 'Anti-Mainstream Museum's Mainstream Show', written in March 2010, Smith criticizes The New Museum's exhibition of Dakis Joannou's collected artwork for being too mainstream for this particular museum. The show was called "Skin Fruit" by Jeff Koons, who is an old friend of Mr. Joannou's. It crowds up the museum's space, as it's a very vast collection of work, though for some of the larger pieces there might have been a better impact from them if they had more space to themselves. The work in this show comes from many blue-chip artists like Richard Prince, Maurizio Cattelan, Urs Fischer, Charles Ray, Chris Ofili, Takashi Murakami, and Ms. Sherman, but all these iconic artists and works brought together for one exhibition gives the show more of an air of being some auction display. There's little in common between all the pieces other than figurative quality, and the work is leaning towards older contemporary rather than newer work, which is what the New Museum was geared for. True, some of the pieces are powerful, but with many others crammed into the same place of the same epic nature, a lot of that energy is lost. It might have been a bad move on their part to host that kind of collection there.

I suppose the article makes a few good points, but was this simply an opportunity the New Museum couldn't afford to pass up? They were getting their hands on a fairly extensive collection, so are they supposed to just reject it if it doesn't match their values? Did they even consider rejecting it? And if they didn't or couldn't or wouldn't, couldn't they decide how much of that work is shown at a time so it's not crammed into the museum space? It sounds as if it could have still been a decent show if more editing was done.

Out of my own experience, I have little to say so far about my work and museums. I do have an exhibition coming up with two other artists, but I knew what sort of work they were doing beforehand. I can see how our work will relate to each others' and though we're not going to have a lot of work at our show, I think it might even be for the best. I've been to shows and exhibits that have overwhelmed me. In just a few weeks we're going to Art Basel where so much art is shown that you need to sneak in a camera to remember a fraction of the work you just saw. It takes the whole day to take all that in. It's incredibly overwhelming. Just after last year alone, I can't remember more than about fifteen pieces I encountered there, and I saw a hell of a lot more than fifteen pieces. And the fifteen I remember had a lot of space to themselves or commanded my attention based on my own personal interest. If I ever get work into a show, I wouldn't crowd the place even if I could. And since I'm no blue-chip artist and I likely might never be, the only museums or galleries that might collect my work would do so with their own creeds in mind. They'll be pickier.

A New Boss, and a Jolt of Real-World Expertise

In another article written on January 11th of this year by Roberta Smith titled 'A New Boss, and a Jolt of Real-World Expertise', Smith examines Jeffrey Deitch's current position as the latest director of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Before this well-known art dealer was hired for the job, the museum was not doing well. It was nearly about to fold and sell off until it was donated $30 million from a former chairman of the board named Eli Broad. Competitors were fairing better with their fresh, new directors, so the Contemporary Art museum finally took a hint and Deitch became director. Deitch has a lot of experience in the art world due to his former trade as an art dealer, so whereas he might not have as much experience as an administrator of a museum, he still has plenty of experience in dealing with art, artists, and business. Smith seems to believe that Deitch is fit for the task, as she continues to defend the new director for his experience with writing, organizing, collaborating, and vision. She mentions why his position faces criticism, mainly due to his lack of experience for this particular task. Still, Smith believes that the museum made the right choice in choosing someone like Deitch to change its dying image.

I've heard about this before, last semester. I read about him a bit more after reading this article since the article is a year old and I'm curious as to how he might have helped if he did. I'm still wondering why it gets so much attention. Isn't it beneficial to have someone with art dealing expertise run a museum? From what Smith had to say, it seems as if Deitch isn't guilty of anything except lacking a little experience. Nobody is /born/ with experience. He has to get some somehow. It's like applying for jobs that require you have previous work experience, but it's nothing someone who dropped out of high school couldn't do, so you can't just get experience from that job because nobody else hired you for likely the same reason. Or something like that. Deitch did give up his private galleries and such after taking the job. I believe someone who has worked with many artists is most fitting for the task he's been given. He wasn't bad at what he was doing either. He had enough professionalism about him to get noticed in the first place. The museum made a move, and they're doing fine now, whereas before they were in debt up to their eyeballs and fading fast. If anything though, wasn't it a brilliant bout of publicity to hire the guy? Even if it's a risk, the spotlight turned to the MOCA and hasn't died down since. People are curious about what this new, possibly outrageous museum director has to offer. People are going to read those articles in the Times and remember the name. But I wonder if hiring an art dealer as the museum director is such a big deal, then what sort of attention would a contemporary artist hired for the task attract? I'm not talking about something completely far-fetched. I mean what if this artist has a lot of business experience, has worked and collaborated with other artists, has written criticisms, and pretty much has done everything that Deitch has done, only being better known as an artist than an art dealer? It seems like Deitch alone has brought life back to the MOCA, whether or not he's had years of experience.

I'm not entirely sure how to apply this to my work. I suppose if directors have any say in what ends up in their museums, my work may or might not ever be in one. I'm still stuck on the idea that art goes to a museum to die. Not that it'd have any less value to me if I go there, but ever since that thought was pitched to me, I can't help but imagine works in a museum being preserved in that nasty smelling substance the biology labs would smell of on dissection days. But maybe a guy like Deitch, who apparent is capable of bring a new vision to an old museum, could change that. I only think it's appropriate that they bring such a guy to a contemporary art museum. It keeps the work there fresher--frozen rather than packed in a jar.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Who Needs a White Cube These Days?

In Roberta Smith's article "Who Needs a White Cube These Days?" {Jan. 2006}, Smith analyzes the answers to the question of what an art gallery is. Galleries are now in flux, adapting to the needs of our contemporary artists in response to the question of whether the space work is presented in presents it as a product or a state of mind. Smith cites several examples of 'alternative' galleries that have neglected the institutional 'white cube' aesthetic, such as the Wrong Gallery--which is essentially a one-foot deep doorway. Michele Maccarone has a three-story building that is hardly renovated and scarred by the constant building up and tearing down of work. A gallery with a fictitious owner is then mentioned, then Scorched Earth which is sort of fashioned to function as a publication center rather than an exhibition space. Then there's the Martha Rosler Library, which appears as a used bookstore in which nothing is for sale, but people are free to browse and take pictures and make photocopies if they wish.

I wonder, wouldn't it be easier for artists to take advantage of this trend and make galleries for their own work? I'm sure it's not easy to purchase space, or to get the word out, but it seems as if the people who know best about where their work is best presented are the artists. Some people make work while thinking about the space where it'll be shown in the future. Some people don't. Sometimes white walls are just what you need and sometimes they're detrimental. There's nothing wrong with having a selection. I'm glad people have devised alternative galleries. I loved the idea of a doorway being the maximum show space. But what about the foot traffic? When these alternative galleries are made, how do you get the right people to visit? How do you make it obvious that your space is showing art as a gallery and not as a cafe trying to be hip and modern with the decor? I mean, that's /if/ the owner wants to make it obvious, but the artist should be thought of as well. Art is often made to be seen, after all. I'm just hoping that these alternative galleries can attract the non-art savvy as well, because someday the current lot are going to get old and die and there should be other people in their places.

When I make my art, I think about the space I would present them in all the time. Sometimes I want to do something a little ambitious, like make a maze out of the gallery space, and other times I want to do something simple yet imposing. For my show coming up, I gave up on the idea of using props to accentuate my pieces. Not because it would take more time, but because I didn't think it was going to be necessary. I thought of a better way and though simpler, it should be effective. I can do this within the Crossley space, which in my opinion isn't far from a white cube itself, but it will take a few placement considerations and lighting adjustments. I believe that even a white cube can be manipulated by an artist who not only wants to use a space that people recognize as 'gallery space', but wants it to become something other than that when visitors step inside.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jack Burgess explains Contemporary Art

In the four minute video on Jack Burgess explaining contemporary art, he very briefly depicts how art has evolved, then describes how one must feel when encountering contemporary art for the first time, and finally what it is in order to better understand it and know what you're dealing with. He gives this explanation is a properly awkward manner, reflecting how one must feel when confronted with art they don't quite understand. It's amusing, getting a laugh or two out of me as I watched, and one could tell it was the aim of this short video to be both informative and entertaining.

I can't really think of any questions I have about it. It pretty much said everything it aimed to say in a short amount of time. I mean...can contemporary art be both intellectual and straightforward? It doesn't always have to seem like a different language, does it? I mean, if the symbols are practically universal and they're arranged in some obvious way, can it still be considered conceptual art if it makes sense right away? Okay, so maybe I had a few questions, but they weren't aimed towards the video exactly--just contemporary art in general.

I probably don't make contemporary art. I say 'probably' because I'm not sure how much of an influence that genre of art is having on my work lately. I'm making prints into sculpture, a possible stop motion video, and I want to present this in a 'fitting' environment {no white walls and bright lighting for me}. So taking all those things into consideration, is my manipulation o the environment and the position of these pieces influenced by the interactive nature found in contemporary art? I always thought of a gallery show as a perfect opportunity to make a set, like on stage. Whenever I imagined having my own show, I never wanted it to just be white walls with pieces tacked on to them and sculptures idling on white pedestals. I wanted the work to be present within the proper environments to enhance the experience they offer. I guess thinking about what could be done to best achieve this is a conceptual process. I don't know.

Either way, this was an entertaining watch. I wish more informational videos could be this amusing.