Friday, July 9, 2010

Reasons to visit St Louis besides beer

I saw from Hyperallergic that the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts is putting on a show for Ann Hamilton. I love Ann. I was introduced to her by the brilliant Ren Weschler. Ren and I were bouncing ideas around for a show we did back in 2007 and he was like, "You know who you should call? Ann Hamilton." I think I said something like, "Uh. How?" To which Ren was like, "Oh, here's her phone number." Which, still, to this day, kind of blows my mind. That guy's iPhone is golden. He pretty much knows everyone in the art world. The best thing about Ren though, is that there is no pretention. He's just really, wildly, intensely interested in art and artists. Ren gets it in a way that artist's tend to get it, that is to say, he's not an artist but he thinks like one. And of course, he really is an artist when you consider his writing, so, there you go. I love Ren's series about Hockney's iPhone paintings. He's one of a handful of people that much on the inside to recieve directly this work and I love that he shares.

Anyway. Ren set up a panel discussion that year for the Chicago Humanities Festival with Ann Hamilton, Lucy Lippard, and Tara Donovan (whom we ended up showing - Donvan, that is) and Ann came to our opening night. Much like my experience with Judy Pfaff, Ann was someone I simply did not want to let go. She was intensely engaging without being overbearing. I simply wanted to keep talking with her. About anything. I hope I get down down to St Louis before next year to see her new work. I hope one day that we might show some of her work. It's tricky, though, as she does a lot of installation. You essentially have to get up-front funding to pull that off. I'm looking at you major investors in Chicagoland. Let's make this thing happen here!

Gallery Hop River North Friday or Saturday

Tonight is a good night to gallery hop in River North. Openings at Addington, Andrew Bae, Carl Hammer, Ann Nathan, Perimeter, Printworks, and Ken Saunders. (For the record - that oxford comma - that's for you Liora.) Also, if you're in my neighborhood, I highly recommend the Iceberg. A private space run by collector Dan Berger, Iceberg is really unique and thoroughly unmatched in terms of quaintness.

So Ann Nathan is opening and I'll stop by for that since our openings often coincide, I rarely make them. Ann is, well, Ann. There is totally no one like her. Over this last Art Chicago, I stopped in her booth just to check it out and Ann was showing a client some work by Rose Freymuth-Frazier. Ann's assistant (sorry, I forgot his name - but then again - they could have that info posted on their site, but don't so . . . anyway) Ann's assistant was busy with another client and couldn't help get the work out of their little storage area. Keep in mind, Ann is, like, 84 or something and Fraizer's artwork is (often) giant. So I was standing there and Ann is trying to yank this, like, six foot piece of work out of her racks, so I, being the gentleman that I am, said, "Ann, I can get that out for you." So Ann turns around and looks me up and down, like, sizing me up, giving me a little bit of a look that said, "And who the hell are you?" I forget what she actually said, which is too bad because I remember it being kind of funny, but not the kind of funny where I was supposed to be laughing out loud, so I had to try to keep a straight face, but it was along the lines of "Do you know how to handle artwork properly and who the hell are you?" So I showed her my badge and she let me help her get the piece out. I don't know if they sold it but I hope they did. That would make me feel good. As of several weeks ago though, they hadn't sold (or at least were still showing) Frazier's piece Hounded. Now, this isn't normally the kind of work I jump at, but there is just something so strange and arresting about this painting. I really like it. And remember, you can buy it.

Rose Freymuth-Frazier, Hounded, Oil on linen, 72x58, available at Ann Nathan Gallery

If you can't make it out tonight for hopping, feel free to join me tomorrow morning at 11am for a River North Gallery Tour that I will be leading. Every Saturday morning Chicago Gallery News hosts a gallery tour which visits 4 galleries in the district. With over 40 to choose from, each week there's something new to see. Plus, each tour is led by a gallery representative (often owners and/or directors) and at each stop a representative from that gallery gives the history and background on the current show. It's always enlightening and I often hear at the end of the tours that people are surprised that everyone was so nice to them. We get reputations for being bitches, but that's all misconception. I mean really, for sake of argument, Dan Addington and Ken Saunders are two of the most outgoing engaging people in all of Chicago. It's fun, I promise. This Saturday we'll meet, as always, at the Starbucks at 750 N Franklin (Chicago and Franklin) at 11am and visit, Habatat, Russell Bowman, Catherine Edelman and our very own David Weinberg Gallery. See you there.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Do you buy it?

I noticed the lovely Kathryn Born blogged that you should be reading my blog. Well, shit. I suppose that means I need to be writing more. I recently took a break from writing to think more carefully about what this whole thing represents. I am not only passionate about art, but I have a commitment to honesty. Now, it may sound like there's not any particular relationship there, or that if there is, it would be self-evident. But it's not that easy or pretty to be honest in this art world. If I could actually say what comes to mind sometimes, especially in those moments of passion, I would probably manage to get myself reprimanded at work (possibly for good cause) and I would certainly burn some bridges (intentionally and otherwise). This art world is small. So there is the struggle. What do you want to hear? And if I tell you, and it pisses someone off, does that matter?

Here's the deal though. Get ready for the truth. The real truth.

You need to buy artwork.

That's it. You need to buy artwork. I know that sounds self serving and to a degree I acknowledge that it is, but arts communities are not surviving and will not thrive the way they should without patrons. This is not to dismiss diy communities, since artists will always create them and innovation is going to happen with or without direct injections of cash. Art will find a way. But what does that mean for galleries? What does it mean for artists who are outside of those specific communities? How do artists find ways to support their creations while balancing their (often razor thin) finances?

I fundamentally believe that art is an integral part of our culture; of who and where we are in time. It's of staggering importance and lots of people overlook the fact that traditionally, historically, the arts is supported by wealth. Chicago is, even in this economy, rich with private wealth. But it is definitively not flowing to the arts as it should if you ask me.

I hear people say that great art succeeds no matter what. If it's bought or not. If it "shows" or not. But the reality is that sales make artists. Without sales, artists toil and struggle and make, but you won't know about it. Even great galleries can't help great artists if no one buys. I don't have enough fingers for the number of great galleries that have closed in Chicago - mainly due to lack of sales. And even right now, there are too many great galleries showing too much great artwork in relation to how much those galleries are selling.

This is not to say I know the books of my fellow gallerists. I don't. My sincerest, deepest hope is that they are all doing well. But I know all of them want to sell more. This isn't just some way to make money. Ask gallerists. It's a bad way to make money. We are all in this because we love art and we love artists. Our measure of success ultimately depends on your contribution.

So this is where I'm standing now. It's not new ground. It's the backbone of ArtLetter. Time and time again, Paul tells you to buy something. He's right. It is not just good for the artist, or the gallery or just for you. It's larger than that and you must, underline must, get involved. Gallery hop. Shake a gallerists hand. Hell, shake my hand and ask me how to get started. We want to get you involved. Not because we are dirty and capitalistic and money-hungry, but because you are the engine that keeps our passion moving. We want to share it, I promise you.

I was talking with Tamara English the other day about all this and I told her that I was thinking of just posting about what I'd buy. Keep in mind, I do buy, but I can't afford everything I want. But you can buy. You can just buy one. Or if you have the means, I suggest you buy a lot. It helps more than you know.

On that note, I effing love Adam Ekberg. Go buy his work at Thomas Robertello Gallery. Here's an example of a piece I saw as a postcard and it was the reason I fell in love.

Adam Ekberg, A splash in the middle of the ocean, Inkjet Print, 2006