Sunday, October 28, 2007

Finch peck

Artnet's art critic Charlie Finch takes a massive peck at the art blogsphere with an odd article in Artnet magazine.

More on that later, but do read the article here.

Dawson on Bethesda

Even while I was in gorgeous Niagara Falls, the anguished cries from DC's not-Brooklyn have followed me via emails from people emailing me "have you seen what Dawson wrote about Bethesda's galleries?"

Hey, it's her opinion and her style. She has a right to express it and an editor to guide it.

In my opinion, Dawson has developed over the years into a naturally snarky writer, and never too deep in her writing to explain away her snarkyness - mostly I suspect because of lack of proper newsprint space to address such a subject as a wander through Bethesda's art scene.

Dawson's anti-comparison of Bethesda to Brooklyn is just odd. I was raised in Brooklyn, and knew it well, so it's a waste of space to open up a article by taking a dig at the Bethesda Urban Partnership's efforts to create a gallery scene in Bethesda with an anti-comparison to Brooklyn.

Why does everything and everyone in the art world have to be compared to New York's art world?

It doesn't.

She seems baffled when she states that "declaring an arts district is a rare move in a post-gallery art world." It isn't - there are several art districts in Maryland alone; in fact I think that Silver Spring is also a recent arts district. Dawson declaration that we're already living in a "post-gallery art world," meaning that as fairs and and Internet grow, galleries are in a death spiral, may be the reason for the WaPo's tiny and ever reducing art gallery coverage - now we know: the WaPo's freelance art critic tasked with reviewing local area galleries thinks that we're in a "post-gallery art world."

I'm not so sure... and by the way, Peter Schjeldahl has already predicted the end of art fairs as well; let's see who time will prove right. So soon we will be in a "post art fair world."

But if Dawson says that we're already in a post-gallery world, and Schjeldahl predicts the end of art fairs - what do we have left for an art scene? The Internet only?

Campello does not think so. In fact it should be clear to the most casual observer of any art scene that the future is probably a combination of the three ingredients. Like it is now.

But getting back to Bethesda, what Dawson does not tell you, is how successful the Bethesda Urban Partnership has been in accomplishing their goals; that would somehow destroy her thesis - but I will try to tell you.

Around 2002, when the whole move started to have the county or state declare Bethesda as an official "arts district" (a move that brings special dispensations for cultural organizations and tax breaks for developers, etc.), there were but a couple of "real" art galleries and cultural spaces in restaurant-rich Bethesda.

To clarify: there were plenty of stores that sold pretty wall decor and had the word "gallery" in their business name, but other than Creative Partners, Marin-Price, and Sally Hansen's Glass Gallery (unless my memory here in airportland fails me) there were no other "real" galleries in the area.

Osuna earlier on had a space in the area, but this seasoned DC area "other Cuban" art dealer had closed up shop around that time frame and departed the area. He has done that a couple of times during his long illustrious gallerist career.

Since those seminal efforts began, Fraser Gallery, Neptune Gallery, Heineman-Myers Contemporary, the Washington Photography School, Orchard Gallery, the Imagination Stage, St. Elmo's Gallery, Landmark Theatre, Round House Theatre, Bethesda Theatre and others that I am surely forgetting have all opened up in Bethesda; and Osuna came back. Also in those years, a couple of other galleries opened and failed and one moved to NYC.

And the Bethesda Fine Arts Festival brings around 120 artists from all over the nation, and 40,000 people to the streets of Bethesda each May. And the very generous Carol Trawick has institutionalized the Trawick Prize and the Bethesda Painting Awards.

So it would appear to me that some sort of "art scene" is very successfully developing there, in spite of the article's announcement about the end of galleries.

And I leave you with this line from the freelance art critic to the world's second most influential newspaper, as she describes Bethesda's Neptune Gallery on her first and only visit there:

The gallery shows local glass artists, figurative sculpture and painting -- art that means well but rarely matters.
A lesson that Ms. Dawson should have picked up from her art history classes on the history of Ukiyo-e: Art always matters.

Airborne again


And heading to Miami this time... unable to log in to my email account due to some "*.dll file corruption" which will have to wait until I get home for attention. More from flower land later...