Thursday, July 22, 2004

One of my pet peeves about people who say that they write about the Washington visual art scene is the fact that some of them rarely immerse themselves in it. I believe that in order to really be qualified to write about Washington art galleries and Washington artists, then you need to spend a lot of time going to Washington art galleries and talking and meeting and kibitzing with people involved in the arts and artists.

This doesn’t mean just hanging around the three or four fave galleries, where you know the owner, and he/she knows you and greets you when you come in. This doesn’t mean focusing on just the museums and writing about the big names.

And above all, this doesn’t mean dismissing all the galleries that you never visit or perhaps then unfairly perceive as not relevant or interesting. The gall to dismiss art that you never see, or to evaluate a place that you’ve never set foot on, is not only short-sighted but downright unethical.

But it happens.

To write about Washington galleries one needs to spend a lot of time visiting galleries. Not just a handful here and there because you day job is so demanding on you, but 2-3 a week and all over the area – Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Alexandria, Bethesda, 7th Street area, Arlington, the universities, the various ethnic/embassy cultural centers and galleries, the non-profits in Rockville, Reston, etc. A lot of driving; a lot of time; a lot of viewing and digesting.

Being on the "inside" affords me some interesting views of the world of art. One of these views are of and about art critics and writers, most of whom are smart, eloquent, fair and intelligent symbiotic members of our art scene, and some of who operate under the mantle of being objective and fair and open minded, and yet carry hidden agendas, lazy gallery routes and unethical practices.

Let's discuss the latter.

They just don’t have the time, or desire, to see a lot of galleries. I don’t blame them – it’s not easy... but then don’t pretend that you then "cover the DC area."

Sigh... here it comes.

We are without a doubt one of the most reviewed galleries in the Greater Washington area – that is one thing for which we cannot complain (in fact, we have a small mention in today's Arts Beat column in the Post). All three major DC area newspapers (Post, Times and WCP) have been more than generous in reviewing our galleries over the years. Especially when one realizes how meager is the Post and Times’ printspace dedicated to the art galleries.

The one notable exception as far as printspace being the WCP, which under the guidance of its Arts Editor, Leonard Roberge, has taken the lead in reviewing and discussing the area’s visual art scene and delivers more reviews in a weekly format than the two dailies combined.

However, after dozens and dozens of reviews by the papers, national and international magazines, and even television. And after being around for over eight years, and having offered well over 100 art exhibitions… I still know of at least two widely published area art scribes who have never set foot in either of our galleries (at least as far as I know)… or in most other galleries in our area (I know because before I wrote this I talked to four gallery owners at random and asked them: "As far as you know, has fill-in-the-blank ever set foot in your gallery?"

The answer was no.

Interesting uh?