How to Try and be OK with the Contemporary Art Market, 2014 by William Powhida. Part of the artist’s solo exhibition,Overculture, at Postmasters Gallery, opening Saturday at 5:30pm, in New York. (Courtesy of the artist and Postmasters. See it large.)
Spotted during the #CLASS tour of Chelsea with William Powhida. (Photo by C-M.)
Last Saturday, I joined a merciless gang of art nerds for a gallery tour of Chelsea led by artist William Powhida as part of the month-long series of events known as #CLASS at Winkleman Gallery. For the course of a couple of hours on a chilly afternoon, we inspected galleries all over Chelsea, looking not at the art, but at the galleries themselves. We studied spaces where the owner sat front and center, and others where management retreated to private offices beyond a partially-hidden elevator. Some galleries seemed downright residential (hello, couch art!), others felt like palatial mini-museums. We also analyzed how easily information was made available to the general public: as in, were price lists, press releases and artist statements front and center? Was there wall text? Or did viewers need to go begging for crumbs of information from a disaffected-looking gallerina? It was a fascinating anthropological expedition.
Afterwards, as I chatted with my fellow #CLASSmates (thank you, Barry), I realised that galleries bear an uncanny resemblance to an institutional space of a different nature: hospitals. The likeness, in fact, is downright unnerving.
Galleries and hospitals both…
…have lots of blank walls occasionally dotted with art of a questionable nature.
…are staffed by front desk employees who are willfully unhelpful until they’ve determined your ability to pay.
…are populated by individuals who look nervous and unsettled.
Ready to go all Ollie North on your art and other meaningful pieces of paper. (Image courtesy of Steve and Jaime at Brooklyn Street Art.)
There is all kinds of goodness going down at the #CLASS show at Winkleman Gallery in the coming week and I’m hoping you join us. On Saturday (as in tomorrow), William Powhida will be leading a gallery walk/slush in Chelsea, Mira Schor will be reading from her essay On Failure and Anonymity and blogbuds Barry Hoggard and James Wagner will be talking all about collecting. On Sunday, there will be hanging out, Battleship and artsy talk in Second Life. And, next Wednesday, at 2pm, I will be assisting my partner-in-crime, El Celso’s performance of Art Shred, in which he will dispose of several dozen works of art, meaningful love letters and one-of-a-kind family photos. If you haven’t submitted anything for shredding, no worries: walk-ins are welcome. I’ll personally be disposing of a raft of love letters from someone who I once had a kind of intense mind-meld with. Yes, it will be wrenching to see them destroyed.
Plus, a list of other #CLASS related projects and information:
William Powhida and Jennifer Dalton organize a month-long lab — and I’m part of it. (Image courtesy of Winkleman Gallery.)
Needless to say, the last few months in the art industry have been highly entertaining. There was William Powhida’s Brooklyn Rail cover last November, which picked apart the internecine machinations of a buncha high-powered types at the New Museum. Then, there was the announcement that a major commercial gallerist has been named director of a super mongo museum in L.A., an institution whose obscenely-rich trustees saw fit to spend its endowment into the ground. And then, of course, there’s Jerry Saltz’s Facebook, which is keeping the art establishment’s hairs on end wondering who the heck he’s gonna call a ‘dick’ next. In other words, there’s been a LOT going on. And most of it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Which means that #CLASS — a think-tank about the art industry — organized by artists Powhida and Jennifer Dalton and hosted by the Winkleman Gallery, couldn’t come at a better time. This special project will turn the city’s artistic gaze from its navel to the art industry through a month-long series of events that will include a raft of insightful happenings: guerrilla gallery tours, frank Q&As with established art dealers, work sessions, panels, beer-drinking, chalkboard-writing, art-shredding, motivational speaking and even art yoga (led by me). In other words, the plan is to terrorize Chelsea for a month. (I’m not positive that this is indeed the plan, but it’s certainly my plan.) The best part: anyone is welcome to be a part of this. And it’s all FREE.
You can find the entire schedule of events at the dedicated #CLASS website. But here is just a taste of what’s to come:
Sunday, Feb. 21, 4pm: The party gets rolling this weekend, so peel your ass off the couch and get down to Chelsea for the first official #CLASS social. An Xiao will serve as social media paparazzi paparazzo. :-p
Friday, Feb. 26, 6pm:A session on ‘Bad Curating‘ by Stamatina Gregory and Jovana Stokic. (I believe that attendance is required if you work at the New Museum.)
Sunday, Feb. 28, 5pm: Debbie Ainscoe leads a session in Second Life — from the UK. Nerdarrific!
Wednesday, March 3, 2pm:ART SHRED is an on-site shredding service that will help artists and other participants liberate themselves of important works of art, meaningful love letters and one-of-a-kind photographs. This session will be led by my partner-in-crime, Celso. If you have something of consequence that you would like to have shredded, e-mail him at celso[at]elcelso[dot]com. Walk-ins welcome.
Thursday, March 4th, 4pm:A discussion/rant/12-step program about art school and the ivory tower, organized by Sharon L. Butler.
Friday, March 5, 2pm:Art Yoga with C-Mon: Bow to the Art Industry. Get body and mind ready to navigate the hazards of the art world with a 75 minute yoga class geared at those who want to re-contextualize the nature of liminal space while remaining lithe enough to be considered for possible art/fashion spreads in T Magazine. Class will be led by yours truly, a certified yoga teacher (Om Yoga Center, class of 2003 — seriously). The session will begin with sun salutations to Marina Abramovic and quickly spiral downwards from there. Bring a mat and an open mind. Class capacity 18; first come first serve. Later that same evening, at 6pm, artist Nic Rad will present his ‘Celebritist Manifesto,’ a defense of celebrity culture that will make clear that James Franco is the most important artist of the decade.
Saturday, March 6, 6pm:Rod Verplanck, a motivational speaker who, among other things, will teach you that “the very smallness of your ideas is the key to wild success.” Sounds like a must-do. (Courtesy of Schroeder Romero.)
Wednesday, March 10:Again, all kinds of good happenings will occur on this day, including balloon-popping with Man Bartlett, a kindergarten class tour of Chelsea with Jennifer Dalton, a feminist tea party and a merciless ask-the-dealer session with Postmasters gallerist Magda Sawon in which she vows “to truthfully answer any and every question posed to her as long as it does not involve her weight, social security number or other people’s money.”
Wednesday, March 17, 4pm:Art World as High School. Which class of retainer-wearing nerd are you? Find out with this helpful and informative session.
Saturday, March 20th:Another full roster on this day, including art gift wrapping with Zoe Sheehan Saldaña, assessing assessments with important-sounding people from Princeton, and a closing-night event that’s all about ranting!!!
Brooklyn-based artist William Powhida takes down the New Museum‘s super cozy, highly-questionable relationships with some big-time collectors and gallerists in the upcoming cover of the November Brooklyn Rail. And C-Mon gets a passing mention for being “ethically outraged”!!! (In the future, Mr. Powhida, if you ever want to draw me, here’s what I look like. As you’ll see, I’ve got a much better rack than Tyler Green.)
Sorry I’m not in town for the NuMu pile-on (I’m working on cultivating a veritable constellation of bug bites here in Costa Rica), but you can read all about the brouhaha here, here, here and here. At posting time, I was waiting for the NY TimesArtsbeatblog to get on the case. C’mon dudes: this is home turf. Come out swingin’!!