Monday, March 06, 2006

Public/Private and Public Discourse and Private Grumblings

You've got choices this month. You can visit a small selection from the JPMorgan Chase Collection at the Arts Center or the Thompson Collection at Herron. I'll start by saying both are worth the cost of admission (both happen to be free). Both too contain a number of gems.

I'll start with the Chase Collection. As one would predict, there are no ground breaking works here but a couple of pieces are really strong. The little Agnes Martin is to die for. There is also a great (ok good) Kerry James Marshall and a Dan Graham I liked a lot. Misses include a bad early Isamu Noguchi and Thomas Struth (whose work I often enjoy), your typical Ansel Adams and a so-so Louise Bourgeois. Corporate collections are often very safe and this proved no exception. That being said, it was very nice to see this at the Art Center and I hope this marks the beginning of them bringing some more important shows to Indy.

I then went to Herron to see the Thompson collection. I love private collections. I like seeing them in the context of the collectors homes as well as in an exhibition space like the galleries at Herron. But, I'm obviously partial to contemporary work and this seemed to fall short a little. I was hoping to see Ellen Gallagher, Glenn Ligon or maybe William Pope L., and they just weren't there. What was there was a very nice little Jacob Lawrence from 1953, a couple of Romare Beardens (my favorite was Ritual You from 1970), and a Bearden inspired piece by Allen Stringfellow from 1993 that I liked a lot.

With all the buzz about collections going on in town, it was no surprise that someone would organize a talk, and a handful of us went to the Art Center last week for just such an occasion. There were interesting comments from everyone but I was disappointed none of the big-time contemporary collectors in town were represented. Huge thanks to Jim Ross for adding a comedic component to the panel. He also is an enormous wealth of knowledge on a genre (Hoosier School) I probably should know more about. I gained a little more knowledge about how Mark Ruschman operates his gallery which was interesting. And it was nice to hear from Lisa Erf who is the director of the JPMorgan Chase collection.

The rest of the discussion focused largely on how people love the $3 work on paper they got that was made by some 8th Grader that they're just sure is going to make it big sometime or about how someone had inherited all of these great paintings from their dead grandmother that they were sure were museum quality and just couldn't understand why the IMA or anyone else wasn't interested. I know there are more people in this town that feel the same way about their collection as I feel about my collection. We need to steer people away from student work and towards actual connoisseurship. Buying a piece by a student at the Arts Center does virtually nothing in moving the local arts community forward. We need more artists to open up exhibition spaces, we need more professional galleries, and we need collectors interested in moving artist's careers forward and not just decorating their walls. And, if I haven't said it enough, an MFA program at Herron.

8 Responses to “Public/Private and Public Discourse and Private Grumblings”

Anonymous said...
March 6, 2006 at 11:44 PM

When you get a chance could you fill those of us who missed the lecture in on the good points you learned more about. I would greatly appreciate it.


Christopher said...
March 7, 2006 at 9:14 AM

Quincy - I really don't think I exaggerated that much. A lot of the info from the panelists seemed to fit more into the catagory of decorating rather than collecting. It was a shame because it wasn't moderated at all. It was much more a Q&A format which gave the audience a little too much freedom. I think if someone would have been there to moderate, we could have had some much more interesting info. As it was, you probably know all that was said:
- buy what you love
- homeowners insurance covers up to a certain $ amount - check with your specific policy
- the internet is a great place to do research on artists or to look for auction histories
- buy from a reputable dealer with a relationship with the artist and it's much easier to later determine if the artist's work is going up in value or estimate value for insurance purposes.

Other interesting points:
-JPMorgan Chasing has a lot of multiples and many duplicates which they are selling off
-Tandem Press usually runs editions of 30. 10 pays for the production, 10 pays the artist, and the last 10 pays the company (I thought that was interesting since when I buy multiple I usually like to limit the edition to 5 or 10)

Scott and Casey were there too, maybe they got a little more out of it than I did.

Anonymous said...
March 11, 2006 at 9:26 PM

"(1.) We need more artists to open up exhibition spaces, (2.) We need more professional galleries, and (3.) we need collectors interested in moving artist's careers forward and not just decorating their walls." No shit? What a revelation! Wow, you've only been here 2 1/2 years and you already have the plan that will save this city. Or do you? Nothing you stated here hasn't been said a thousand times before. It is easy to sit back and pick out the existing problems in Indianapolis' visual arts community. The real challenge is figuring out a way to address each of these problems. So please allow me to refer to the above by number - #1 with what funds? Artists do not have the resources to open exhibition spaces, period. #2 No one is willing to risk the money they have on opening a professional gallery in a middleweight (maybe lightweight) town. Since you worked at a "Blue chip" and commercial gallery in SF, I don't expect you to know the budgetary aspects of running a small business yourself. If you calculate monthly expenses: Rent-$1000, Utilities -$400, Insurance-$100, exhibit production and reception -$600, Misc -$100. Total - $26,400 annually. Given a 50% agreement with artists, you would have to sell $52,800 before you could pay yourself anything let alone an assistant or gallery attendant. So let's add another $26,000 for your salary (isn't that what you made in SF?) and $15,000 for assistant. Now, let's also add the "Must Attend" Basel art fair - $8000 per 8'x8' booth (everyone knows that you have to have at the very minimum 2 spaces)=$16000. Now you have an annual operating cost of $83,400: your annual sales have to be at least $166,800 ($13,900/mo.). Please keep in mind that these are the "low-ball" estimates. #3 How do you propose this happens? #1 and #2 can't happen without #3, yet #3 requires the previous two. And oh yeah, saying that Herron needs a graduate program a million times won't make it happen. There are politics between IU and IUPUI that will make that a very long and difficult road.

Christopher said...
March 14, 2006 at 10:28 PM

So somehow in places like NY, LA, Chicago, SF, Miami (I could go on and on) artists and arts enthusiasts are able to open alternative spaces but it's impossible in Indy? That's kind of a sad and dismal stance you take...

anonymous2 said...
March 14, 2006 at 11:27 PM

Every five years or so a new wave comes in (or returns) to 'shake things up' in the Indianapolis art scene. I sincerely wish you the best, and things may be different now. Go for it.

Many others have a perhaps overly realistic pragmatism about the arts in Indianapolis. This is the secret about artists who stay and work in Indy (over decades, not a few years)....they make art for its own sake.

Indy's greatest asset, for artists, is the freedom it allows. It's relatively easy to live and work here (day job, of course) and since there is no real market, you really can paint unencumbered. This ease and lack of expectation easily leads to mediocre work, but it doesn't have to.

The greatest problem in the arts here is this mediocrity. The recent growth in exhibition spaces and open studios has created a depressing sea of blah. We need fewer galleries, until the level of work improves.

Artists here simply must do better, regardless of whether or not there is a market in place to support them as artists. It would be nice to have that, but we really can create meaningful art here without it.

*I am posting this because I care. Please be mature with any responses. Thank-you

liriodendron said...
March 15, 2006 at 6:59 AM

Interesting comments a2. I'm inclined to take them to heart. I love the freedom here, but will try to remember "Down with mediocrity!" (as I see it, of course. heh! )

Christopher said...
March 15, 2006 at 1:23 PM

a2 - really great comments and observations. You may be completely right. I guess I'm usually a half-full kind of guy, but in a few years I'm sure I could have a totally different opinion.

There is some really good work being made in Indy (and I'm even more encouraged after a weekend away looking at some truly horrible work) but no venues here that they want to show in. Yes it's going to be very hard to turn things around, but it seems to me we may be approaching a critical mass of people who ultimately want the same thing. But again, ask me again in a few years.

Christopher said...
March 15, 2006 at 11:55 PM

I forgot to mention, and if anyone is still reading these comments, a booth at Basel or the Armory will run between $50-$100,000. Not the aforementioned $16k that anon-1 spoke of. If that was the case, we could all get rich in this crazy art market.

But that's not to say there aren't other alternatives. One (especially a new gallery from Indiana) will not get into the big fairs but one could do more affordable options. Last weekend there were even galleries from other parts of the country renting spaces in Chelsea. I can't vouch for how well they did, but a little creativity could go a long way.

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