Monday, November 29, 2004

Teaser for tomorrow's DCARTNEWS

Tomorrow I will publish an open letter from a nationally published and respected art critic in response to Blake Gopnik's rootcanalization of Artomatic.

Y'all come back now...

Elyse Harrison's Top 10 Artomatic List

Elyse Harrison is the owner of Gallery Neptune in Bethesda and one of the area's hardest working artists and arts activists. Harrison not only walked Artomatic and sends in her top 10 list, but she has further decided to offer three of the artists (and possibly a fourth) in her list a show at her gallery. She will feature Jean Sheckler Beebe and Joyce Zipperer during October of next year and Scott Brooks will also be showing at Neptune in September 2005.

Scott Brooks
Joyce Zipperer
Jean Sheckler Beebe
Mat Sesow
Linda Hesh
Bridget Vath
Christopher Edmunds
Robert Weiner
Kirk Waldroff
Michael Ross

New Style editor at the WaPo

The "Galleries" column that is being reduced to twice a month is published in the Style section of the Washington Post. The Assistant Managing Editor for the Style section is Gene Robinson (who by the way is also the author of this terrific book).

Today it was announced by the Post that Deborah Heard will become Assistant Managing Editor for Style, succeeding Gene Robinson, on January 1, 2005. She has been with the Post for twenty years and a Deputy Assistant Managing Editor at Style since 1995.

DC Art News sends our congratulations to Ms. Heard.

I suspect that once John Pancake, the Post's Arts Editor returns in mid-January 2005, it will be Heard and Pancake making the decision as to what will happen to the "Galleries" column.

We should all immediately let Heard hear our voices (nice pun uh?) demanding that "Galleries" return to a weekly column status and that the Post further expand its anemic gallery coverage. Email her here.

Want an art job at Art Basel Miami Beach?

One of the Cuban artists whom we represent and hope to bring to a Washington, DC area audience in the near future is Cuban artist Tania Bruguera.

And the coming Art Basel Miami Beach brings a performance opportunity to work with Tania.

Eight to ten individuals are needed to perform during Art Basel for a performance piece by this renowned Cuban artist. The role involves walking around Art Basel in Miami Beach selling a Cuban newspaper. Individuals should speak Spanish. There will be an informational meeting held on Tuesday, November 30th at 6pm by the Miami Beach Convention Center, Entrance C. A small honorarium will be offered per day. If you are interested, call 773-230-7263 to get more details. If you cannot attend the meeting, please call for more information.

Wednesday, December 1st – 5pm-10pm
Thursday, December 2nd – 5pm-10pm
Friday, December 3rd –5pm-10pm
Saturday, December 4th – 5pm-10pm

You do not have to be available for each session, but for a minimum of two sessions.

As a pioneer installation and performance artist, Tania Bruguera exemplifies the alternative voices in Cuba who work from the artistic edge. Born in 1968, she earned her undergraduate degree at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana and her MFA at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1998, Bruguera was selected as a Guggenheim fellow and in 2000, she received the Prince Claus Award.

Bruguera has participated in numerous international exhibitions and biennials. Her work has been exhibited in several museums and collections around the world. Recently, she founded the Arte de Conducta (behavior art) department at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, the first performance art program at the university level in Latin America.

The book that saved my [art] life

Tom Wolfe, author, man-in-white, and social observer, as DCist points out, is in town to lecture and sign copies of his latest book.

It is however, Wolfe's 1975 book The Painted Word, the one that I consider the most influential book on art, nepotism, networking, manipulation and 20th century art history (OK, OK art observations), that I have ever read.

If you want to understand the true beginnings of what we now call "contemporary art" and the seminal birth of the elitist attitudes of many intelligent members of the high art apparatnik, then read this book.

"The painter," Wolfe writes, "had to dedicate himself to the quirky god Avant-Garde. He had to keep one devout eye peeled for the new edge on the blade of the wedge of the head on the latest pick thrust of the newest exploratory probe of this fall's avant-garde Breakthrough of the Century.... At the same time he had to keep his other eye cocked to see if anyone in le monde was watching."
I read it when I first started Art School and it saved my Art Life and it cemented the foundations of what has become my opinions, judgements and attitudes towards art.

Learn a lesson from NY Times readers

A while back I reported that the WaPo has decided to cut its galleries coverage by half - at least until January 2005, when a final decision will be made. I also suggested that readers write letters to the paper's editor asking Downie to cancel that decision (if he is even aware of it).

A while back, the New York Times decided to end its cultural listings section; not end or reduce their arts coverage, but just their cultural listings.

Daniel Okrent writes in the NY Times:

It landed on my desk a few weeks ago with an echoing thump that could have awakened Brooks Atkinson. On the cover it said "Save the Listings: Restore the 'Arts & Leisure Guide' to the Sunday New York Times." Inside, 615 pages carried 5,000 Internet-gathered signatures, many of them accompanied by bits of testimony variously beseeching, enraged or tearful.

Just a few weeks earlier, The Times had tossed the venerable columns of agate type that had filled so many pages of the Arts & Leisure section for so long, with as many as 300 cultural events acknowledged, however briefly, in a single edition.
Okrent then admits that:
Editors reacted to the petition, I soon learned, the way editors almost always react when readers rise against a long-planned, well-intended innovation: a little dumbfounded, a little defensive, a little dismissive.
And Okrent discusses editorial surprise at how upset readers were:
In this case, the editors had helped more than enough to earn the readers' disapproval. At a time when most American newspapers are slashing arts coverage (according to a study conducted by the National Arts Journalism Project at Columbia, from 1998 to 2003 the space given to cultural coverage in major American papers dropped by roughly 25 percent), The Times had gone in the opposite direction. The revamped cultural report now included more than seven additional pages per week. Twenty staff positions were created to produce the new content and improve the old. Full-time reporters had been put on the architecture, classical music and theater beats, and additional reporters will soon supplement the art, movie and television groups. Critics have been newly assigned to experimental arts, the Internet, and "nonart museums and exhibitions" (there must be a better phrase than that), and some lustrous new hires - notably Manohla Dargis on movies and Charles Isherwood on theater - have brought an added gleam to existing positions.
But he notes that still "all that the readers seemed to notice was what was gone." He adds:
There's an unfortunate tendency in the newspaper business to disparage a petition like this one as an "organized" effort, as if only random, disconnected cries of pain from despairing readers should be heeded. I've also heard this particular protest dismissed as "commercially inspired" by self-interested arts presenters and promoters who are worried that the box office will suffer, and have disingenuously conspired to rouse the masses.
I guess that would be me...

Result of the complaints:
Here's the good news, Listings Protesters of America: uncharacteristically for an institution that is slow to change and usually inflexible once it has done so, the editors are prepared to alter their course.
Read the whole NYT article here, and then read this and write the WaPo a letter.

Gopnik, Smith, Chelsea and Artomatic

How can all these issues be related you ask? Read and absorb:

My most recent walk through AOM, triggered by Chris Shott's article on the after effects and ripples of Blake Gopnik's rootcanalization of AOM, revealed a whole set of new works, comments and anti-Gopnik energy in the building. I still maintain that AOM artists should send Gopnik thank you notes, as his brutal review is the best gift that Gopnik could have delivered to AOM: it united a lot of voices, created a lot of interest in the show, and I am sure that it translated into a lot more people visiting AOM.

Roberta Smith, writing in the New York Times this Sunday has a very interesting piece on the Chelsification of art. Smith discusses that the 230 plus galleries now crammed into Chelsea "for art-world professionals, it is the place they love to loathe."

Degrees of separation: When John Pancake, the Washington Post's Arts Editor was hunting for a Chief Art Critic a while back, he first offered the job to Smith. She declined, but recommended Blake Gopnik, who at the time was writing for a Canadian newspaper.

Back to Smith's article. She writes:

"As a result of this explosion, the inevitable anti-Chelsea backlash has been on the rise, too. The rap against Chelsea is that it is too big, too commercial, too slick, too conservative and too homogenous, a monolith of art commerce tricked out in look-alike white boxes and shot through with kitsch. This litany is recited by visitors from Los Angeles and Europe, by dealers with galleries in other parts of Manhattan or in Brooklyn and often by Chelsea dealers themselves. As the Lower East Side gallerist Michele Maccarone put it recently in an interview: 'The Chelseafication of the art world has created a consensus of mediocrity and frivolousness.'"
Degrees of separation, part two: But is Gopnik advocating more towards the Chelsification of DC art when he writes?
"As things stand, too many local artists, as well as a few of our dealers, get attention they wouldn't get in any city where they faced some decent, savvy competition."
And as we know, Blake has also written eloquently and positively about Chelsea galleries (he has never written about DC area galleries) and submits that:
"This year the [Chelsea] scene seems to have grown, if that's possible. It now takes two full days, morning to night, to visit just the best-known Chelsea galleries. But for the first time that I can remember, doing the autumn rounds felt mostly worthwhile. There was real variety on view -- of medium, subject matter, approach, scale. More important, there were a few artists and works that didn't fit into convenient pigeonholes. There were shows that left questions hanging in the air."
Degrees of separation, part three: I know I'm stretching this, but isn't that same challenge (time required to visit 230 galleries, diversity and quality of artwork offered, etc.) some of the same issues Gopnik denigrates in his AOM piece. If one takes the time, then at AOM you will find "real variety on view -- of medium, subject matter, approach, scale. More important, there were a few artists and works that didn't fit into convenient pigeonholes."

One big, insurmountable problem with AOM in Blake's mindset: It is located in Washington, DC; not New York.

I for one, would love some "decent, savvy competition" (whatever "savvy" means). I still think that the best thing for art galleries is more art galleries. And although the Greater Washington area is one of the wealthiest areas in the world, it is incredibly hard for an art gallery to establish a foothold, develop a collector base and survive in our area.

Part of the blame is the fact that (unlike New York), galleries get very little coverage in our local press. I am still astounded as to how many Washingtonians come into Canal Square every day and say "I didn't know there were any galleries here."

And the link between decent media coverage and growth and recognition has been established and proven. The Washington Post has exceptional coverage of our area's many theatres; even theatres in Olney get great coverage! As a result, our area has now one of the most vibrant theatre scenes in the nation, probably second only to New York's and challenging Chicago's.

Meanwhile, the Post plans to cut their gallery coverage in half.