Monday, April 20, 2009

Artists' Websites: Nina Glaser

Nina Glaser is a superbly talented young painter about to do her MFA exhibit this coming Friday at MICA (details on all of those Frida MFA shows later this week).
Nina Glaser

Alyssa. Oil by Nina Glaser. 36x24 inches.

Her work is not only superbly crafted (she's a painter's painter) but also has that hard-to-describe inner quality to it that adds a sense of depth and mystery to the work which immediately separates her from the pack of technically savvy painters. There is youth and narrative in her work, and more importantly, immense promise.

Nina Glaser postcard

Visit her website here. This is an artist which should be snatched by regional galleries now!

International Art Affairs 2009

Three Big Parties and five important Lectures + Wine Receptions...More on this later, but meanwhile click here.

Aqui Estamos comes to Philly

As I've written many times, as result of the decades-long Cuban embargo, the work of contemporary Cuban artists has been noticed for many years by many important museums and curators around the world, but often remains a mystery to American collectors and art enthusiasts. And those who write about the commoditization of art, such as the Wall Street Journal, have been telling art collectors who buy art in the hope those prices will rise, to buy contemporary Cuban art.

The WSJ wrote:

"With art from Asia and Russia in demand, some in the art world are betting on Cuba to be the next hot corner of the market. Prices for Cuban art are climbing at galleries and auction houses, and major museums are adding to their Cuban collections. In May, Sotheby's broke the auction record for a Cuban work when it sold Mario Carreño's modernist painting "Danza Afro-Cubana" for $2.6 million, triple its high estimate.

Now, with a new president in power and some hope emerging for looser travel and trade restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, American collectors and art investors are moving quickly to tap into the market. Some are getting into Cuba by setting up humanitarian missions and scouting art while they're there. Others are ordering works from Cuba based on email images and having them shipped.

The collectors are taking advantage of a little-known exception to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba: It is legal for Americans to buy Cuban art."
This suggestion and idea is simple, and has been proven recently by the super hot rise of Chinese artists: when a closed society is opened up a little, its top artists see a substantial rise in exposure and thus in demand, and of course, in prices!

And it makes sense (if you buy art as an investment strategy rather than love of art).

Generally speaking, when an artist is in certain major collections around the world, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Tate in London, and other such giants of the museum world, it attracts a certain level of collector interest, and it is almost always associated with a certain price range.

And there are many contemporary Cuban artists whose work has been in those and many other important museums around the world for a very long time, and whose work continues to attract curatorial, critical and savvy collector interest, but because of their lack of exposure to the American market in general (often created by their closed societies), their price range is not in par with their colleagues from other nations in the same level.

Several years ago, almost by accident, I became involved in the curatorial process of contemporary Cuban art, in an effort to help with fundraising efforts by the Havana Hebrew Community Center. Since then I have become an experienced curator in this genre and have acquired a wealth of good knowledge about the artists from that unfortunate and imprisoned island.

Aquí Estamos (Here We Are) is my latest curatorial project and after an initial showing in Norfolk, Virginia, it traveled to to H&F Fine Arts and the Greater Washington, DC region and now travels to Philadelphia's Projects Gallery with an exhibition of recent work by several important Cuban artists working out of Havana as well as Cuban artists from the Cuban Diaspora.

How can this be done?

It’s a brutal, labor intensive touch and go process, as although art and books are the only two items exempt from the Cuban embargo, the heavy hand of the Communist dictatorship that runs everything on that unfortunate nation touches all aspects of life, including the creation and destination of art. Bypassing and escaping the government is not easy, but it can be accomplished if the artist is willing to risk it.

In the works that you’ll see at Projects Gallery we find narratives and imagery that represent many of these artists’ historical dissidence to the stark issues of contemporary Cuban life. The works are images that offer a historical and visual sentence in the history of an island nation behind bars with a powerful world presence in the arts and events of world history.

Larva by Sandra RamosIn Sandra Ramos’ works we see one of the most important contemporary Cuban artists in the world continue to visit themes dealing with racism in her homeland, the physical and intellectual drain caused by mass migration, and other austere realities of daily Cuban life. Ramos uses her body and her figure in many of her paintings and mixed media etchings to narrate the daily issues that confront her life in Havana. In her drawing "Larva," Ramos anticipates a future Cuba where she may be allowed to spread her artistic wings to full capacity, without fear of how her visual imagery may be interpreted by her own government.

Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, who escaped from Cuba in the early 1990s, also uses her image and body to deliver powerful biographical and observational elements of the realities of being a black Cuban woman in America. She has been called “one of Boston’s most prominent artists,” and as evidence it has been submitted that the Cuban-born artist has shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center, the Smithsonian, the Venice Biennale, and many other prestigious venues around the world.

And last year the Indianapolis Museum of Art hosted “Everything Is Separated by Water,” a mid-career retrospective of Campos-Pons’ paintings, sculptures, photos, and installations. And as an Afro-Cuban woman, Campos-Pons has used her cultural and racial background as the initial key theme of her own work, with long ties to her Cuban homeland, but also with a powerful influence of her evolving Americanosity.
Cirenaica Moreira

"Consume preferably before age 30." Gelatin Silver Print. Cirenaica Moreira

Both Cirenaica Moreira and Marta Maria Perez Bravo also employ their bodies to become the canvas of their photographs, although in each case with a different goal. Moreira has been called “woman as vagina dentata” for the ferocity via which her images depict her themes of loss of freedom, feminism, and being a Cuban woman in a land of unabashed machismo.

Marta Maria Perez Bravo - Esta en sus ManosPerez Bravo is considered by many to be the preeminent Cuban female photographer in the world, and her work addresses the fabulous rituals and images of Santeria, the unique Cuban mixture of Catholicism and African religions brought to the island by African slaves.

Kcho (Alexis Leyva Machado) is also considered by many to be among the leading Cuban artists in the world, and he first attracted international attention by winning the grand prize at South Korea's Kwangju Biennial in 1995.

Other artists in the show include work by Alejandro Mendoza (winner of the Best in Show 2006. IX Exposición de Arte Latinoamericano y del Caribe, Museum of the Americas) and Alex Queral. Also Roberto Wong, whose powerful paintings develop intelligent ways to showcase ways in which freedom is restricted and Aimeé Garcia Marrero, considered by many to be among Cuba’s most talented new crop of painters. Her technical skills are married to intelligent interpretations of daily Cuban life and even the influences of the giant to the North.
Concavo by Aimee Garcia Marrero

"Concavo" Digital Print by Aimee Garcia Marrero

The opening, free and open to the public is on May 1st, 2009 from 6-9PM. Projects Gallery is located at 629 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123, tel: 267.303.9652 and on the web at The exhibition is open through May 29, 2009.

More on "Achilles Heel"

On my post Achilles Heel a few days ago, I noted the below comments by gallery owner Carrie Horejs:

"I often wonder how other galleries are dealing with artists who have gallery representation but continue to self-promote. I have been known to secret shop gallery represented artists. I contact them through their emails on their personal websites and inquire as to whether they have any studio pieces available. Not once has an artist directed me to his or her galleries for purchases.

I fear galleries will dry up if they don’t smarten up. Then where will collectors go to see art in person?”
The above from comments by gallery owner Carrie Horejs. Read them here.
My good friend and terrific DC area artist John M. Adams, whose show opens at the Greater Reston Arts Center on April 25 added some excellent comments on his blog:
"She has good point, but I have a few questions about her perspective.

I checked out the gallery website, and it is a "membership gallery" - where the more you pay per month, the more you get to show.

That doesn't seem to indicate that it is traditional commercial gallery representation, and yes you have to be accepted, but it does seem to be more of a vanity gallery.

Why would the "rules" of traditional gallery representation apply to them if it's a pay to show situation? As an artist, it seems strange to "pay" for exclusive gallery representation.

My first question is what does their artist contract look like? Does it state that once you join, that all work sold from any venue must include their commission? (It does look like that from their website) That does not seem like a good deal and far from the norm of most exhibition contracts.

In addition, they have over 100 artists on their site, so really how much effort are they putting forth to promote each artist, other than putting them on their website or hanging a piece of artwork in the corner of a jam packed gallery? That's not real promotion. Artists work incredibly hard to publicize their own work. In the bulk of the places I have shown, I brought in the crowds, They are my connections and patrons that have been following my work for quite some time. I have looked around the gallery and realized that 95% of the people there were people I emailed, sent postcards to , etc. These are the people who buy my work.

Now I don't undercut or by-pass the gallery that is showing my work, I want to sell it there. (my experience has mostly been with non-profits and art centers). Most Artists would love to have gallery representation with a Gallery that actually did all of that promotion, I would.

I can understand why she is ticked off and no doubt in a "traditional" gallery representation setting that kind of behavior is just wrong and undermines the artist/gallery relationship, but really, given the structure of her gallery, if someone actually found the person's work in another venue that has nothing to do with her gallery, would the artist be so far off base (once again, I would like to see the contract)?

I would never undermine a gallery owner if I had traditional representation, or created a bunch of work for a show at a venue but then sell the work behind their back, I would of course direct them to the gallery, it only makes sense. Any thoughts? "
John is of course, right on target.

Some comments of my own now... these only apply to the traditional and reputable commercial gallery model, not to vanity galleries, which are in a league of their own.

The key to all secrets here is the contract and how well artists and galleries communicate with each other.

The relationship between a gallery and its artists should always be a complimentary relationship: they both need to work together to ensure that both the gallery and the artist succeed.

An established artist who "hides" his established collector base from his gallery and the gallery which does not give the artist the name and contact info of new collectors who acquire the artist works are really saying to each other: "I don't trust you." The artist is saying "why should I pay you a 50% commission on a sale to a collector that I bring to you, when I can have him come directly to me and I keep the full 100% of the sale? The gallery is saying "why should I give you the name and address of the client that I sold your work to, when all you're going to do in the future is approach him directly to try to sell work to him and bypass me?"

That's a relationship doomed for failure and constant suspicion.

There are galleries which demand citywide, statewide or even worldwide representation of the artists' works. In return the artist should be able to ask the gallery: "what are you doing for me and my work in between the 2-3 years that I have a solo show with you?" The answer for most artists may be a combination of things, such as placement in group shows in other venues, web development, alternative marketing, taking the artist's work to art fairs, etc. For a small group of artists the answer may be that the solo show every 2-3 years does so well in sales, that it keeps the artist a wealthy and happy camper in the interim period.

I know many artists who voluntarily give their art galleries a 10% cut of all sales made by that artist, regardless of the gallery's involvement in that individual sale. In the positive angle for gathering the logic for this scenario is related to the excellent work that the gallery has done over the years in building up the artist's presence in the arts community, is adding to the artist's resume, in placing the artist's works in known collections and/or museums. The opposite would be a gallery which demands a 10% commission on all sales made by the artist, when that gallery does nothing to promote and disseminate the artist's work. See the difference?

That's why contracts and communications are important.

Imagine that you (the artist) gets picked up by the gallery and they offer you a solo show. The gallery then spends a considerable amount of time, effort and money (if they're doing their job right) in promoting your work and giving you and the art an opening reception and then manning the space for a month while your show is up, taking care of rent, salaries and continued communications and arm twisting with curators and newsmedia critics to come see the show. Let's further imagine that, especially in this austere fiscal environment in which we live these days, that nothing sells. At the end of the month, the artist walks away with all his work, and perhaps (if the stars have aligned and the gallery has spent a couple of golden bullets) with a review. In any event, the artist walks away with at least one more line in their resume. Plus all the "invisibles" that are so hard to account for, but also so important in developing an art career. Key amongst these invisibles is the exposure of the work to a diverse set of eyes which otherwise (had it not been for that gallery show), may not have been exposed to the work: collectors, writers, curators, etc.

The potential pay-off (a sale, a review, etc.) may still be years in the future, but the seed has been planted into what at first sight appears to be a failure of a solo. It is only a failure in sales; no solo show is a full failure; it is always in fact, a positive accomplishment - even one with a bad review.

Let's make the above scenario a bit more complex. Now let's say that a couple of months after the solo has closed, a client comes in to the gallery and is still interested in the artist's work, and so the gallery either refers him to the artist's studio or has the artist bring some work to the gallery in order to show it to the client. What happens as far as commissions in either of these two cases?

See what I mean about contracts and communications?

It gets more complex as the degrees of separation between the sale and the relationship between gallery and that sale spread, and that is why it is important for communications to be clear and constant, but more importantly trust.

Years ago, when I was a Sotheby's Associate Dealer, I managed a sale of a painting by a Louisiana artist to a collector in Texas. This all happened online and I never met the collector or even saw the painting in person, but the artist was under contract to my gallery and understood all the various parts of that contract.

Months later, someone visited the collector, saw the painting that I had sold, and liked it. He then contacted the artist directly and explained that he had seen the painting at the Texas' collector's home and was interested in seeing more work.

Question to the readers: If the artist makes a sale directly to this collector, would the artist owe me a commission?

Post some comments and thoughts and then I will tell you what happened and why.