Episode 137: New York Art Fair Madness

April 13, 2008 · Print This Article

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We the Armory Show Rejects
This week, the New York Art Fair explosion.

John Waters v. Amanda Browder, Amanda and Tom get kicked out of Armory, Christopher Hudgens on mic. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED!!!

Amanda and Tom talk to just about everyone, well not really, but they do talk to loads of interesting collectors, gallerists, artists, Europeans, and other assorted folk as they barnstorm the fairs.

And the return of Amanda’s Mom wisecracks, no not really, but this show has an intro guaranteed to piss of Brian and Marc.

Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Episode_137-NYC_Art_fair_madness.mp3

89 Responses to “Episode 137: New York Art Fair Madness”

  1. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    I’ll say this for the Mart guys — this year’s Armory was very well run — there weren’t the crazy lines that happened in previous years — which often left the public waiting a half an hour before shelling out their 20 bucks — though this years ticket was a little more expensive– I heard very little bitching about it. Artfairs are weird propositions for me anymore — yeah — I butter my bread there — they’ve been good for me financially , but there is still this other-worldliness about being in the maw of the marketplace — my friend Fred Tomaselli says that being an artist at an art fair is like watching your parents have sex… its just creepy… I seem to remember these things being more fun… I used to love them, before the art started chasing the money as opposed to the other way around.
    I saw Amanda there — cracking her gum and looking for trouble.

    What I always ask myself at art fairs is ….who dresses these mother-fuckers?

    Especially the Hans and Franz crowd , with the orange shoes and the retard haircuts… and really… if you tip the scales at 300 lbs — don’t wear skin-tight clothing — you look like ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.

    and hey Europeans– take a shower– the soap is free– no shit.

    And just because your currency is big – shit right now — be a little nicer– no need to be a snotty douchebag AND have fucked -up teeth– talking to you England…

    more later…

  2. While we’re bitchin about Euros…, I’d like to say that that shitty-teeth thing always bothers me too. Or when they are super fat, but insist that “everyone knows” that Americans are fat and Europeans are not.

    Watch out for the dollar-diving effect. Several countries have tried to “usurp” NYC, and the Germans have repeatedly attempted it with Berlin and are snootily at it again. Many US Americans from outside NYC have commented to me that this is good — but I am deeply experienced in both and let me say that it is NOT progressive, it is primarily a nationalistic anti-Americanism at work, due to their “never having forgiven us for having taken away their God-given right to be the center of the universe” (that last sentence is partially quoted from a German political theorist). A real breakthrough would be multiple centers all respecting and battling each other, which would be real globalism instead of the consensus internationalism that now pretends to be globalism. These “hostile take over” attempts are anything but that.

  3. I think that for the artist art fairs are like watching sausage being made. the parents having sex thing is creepy for sure, but doesn’t communicate how long and fukn boring they are.

  4. Ten cool points to the person who can name the closing music.

  5. I wouldn’t say art fairs are boring. Art shows are just a collection of galleries, so if galleries are boring, then you’re saying that looking at art (commercial art) is boring. Then I would just say that galleries and shows aren’t a good match for you.

    For me, my eyes get tired and I get overloaded pretty fast. And yes, Tony, the people irk the shit out of me too. I feel like, “if this is my audience, I don’t want to make art for this market.”

    One thing that’s saved my ass a thousand times is sticking ear buds in my ears and blocking out the people. The art mixes with the music to give it a different experience, and it’s a much more personal and private viewing.

    Then again, no one knows me, so it’s not like people are trying to talk to me. So for more recognizable people, that wouldn’t work I guess.

    Take care all,
    Kathryn

  6. Art fairs are like quilts, unlike grad shows, which are like muted afghans.
    You get a space, either you’re loud or quiet, in conjuction to your neighbours. But one can’t look at so much without it turning into a pattern. Blech.
    When I get overloaded I look for certain german formalist conceptual landscape photographers. It’s like sticking your head in a refridgerator on a hot day. All that gray and green and white. ahhhhhhhhh.

  7. kathryn,

    i think that for artists involved in the fairs, they are incredibly boring. not that the art wouldn’t be very interesting in another context. but when you are in town with your gallery for a fair it can be very hard to get your mind off the business that is hopefully at hand. this looming pressure often makes it very hard to enjoy anything, least of which the art, because of preoccupation with one’s solvency for the next quarter or so. i have found that often the only way to get one’s mind off the commercial end of the fair is hit the bar, and after a few days sustained drunkeness i get extremely bored and am itching to get back in the studio.

  8. I agree Tom. Boring and creepy. I always have to take a long shower every day after having spent the day at the Basel Art Fair. I feel like I was just in a really creepy whore house, but I wasn’t a john, I was on the other end of the schtick.

  9. hi BAS, what a fun show….are you gonna post links to all the peeps amanda and tom spoke with? those happy international festival dudes were a trip. also, amanda sounds charmingly wasted and wiped out on her send off at the end.

    duncan come back to nyc soon….we wont stay out all night this time. or catch artopolis (i burned all my sheets and blankets).

  10. Well good Tony -perhaps now you can stop demonizing The Mart people -and understand they are businessmen/trade show operators -in need of an art world education. I’ve told them so in person. And you have recently as well I understand,- in a slightly less inflammatory haha! fashion….. They need to hear that going to the same putrid well -for art world legitimacy is the road to ruin. The Kirchners, Snodgrass- ‘The Ren’….these are the people who have lorded over the demise of the previous fair and of the art world here, their best thinking got us to where we are at now, “a receptor city”…..

    One can sympathize with their seeking out Kavi Gupta -Kavi knows next to nothing about art -but he is a good and ruthless businessman with the good sense to have reasonably art world/trend conversant people around him to keep his gallery clearly in the ‘hip factor’ ‘whats hot’ arena. Not, that any of this and good art are necessarily related.

    What is lacking in The Mart’s approach is a clear forward looking vision of where to take art fairs in the future -obviously the bling and glitz of Miami is going to fade -and clearly the market will at least to some extent, falter- we need to organize around the fair as a community and get them to build a smarter more nuanced construct. A Chicago construct that provides both local, and international access/infrastructure. We need to use them in a way that is symbiotic. I would suggest to you that being involved -attempting to influence and move this thing towards a better end is far more interesting $$$$$$, than picking up your marbles and going home. Glad to see you are hosting a Next after party that saturday night -ending just about the time we sharks burst from the depths below, taking out everything io our paths, with SHARKSTOCK 3!

  11. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    I’m hosting a party for the Allegoric group — not the Next fair– and I haven’t ‘demonized’ the mart group so much as disagreed with them on a point or two about the ‘Artists Project’….After Armory, I feel better about these guys… my frustration with them I think stems from the fact that they’re not ‘art guys’– they’re business guys– and I probably shouldn’t blame them for that … but the Artists Project has to change — it could be brilliant– Murakami has already made a viable template for this kind of fair — he is about half-way there — this would be good for everyone — even dealers — an artist that could be more proactive in their own career would make the dealers job infinitely easier…

  12. The Allegoric group – exhibiting at the Next fair not to quibble or split plankton or anything……..The Mart people: you demonized them……I’ve had to listen to it for the last year and a half -all the while TRYING to get you, to figure out that, to quote you, “the fact that they’re not ‘art guys’– they’re business guys–”…..where’d you get that from hmmmmmm?

    As exasperating as it can be, I have to realize that in the grand scheme of things, its only natural that the great white shark would get frustrated with a whale shark……you guys swim in slow motion! Look, just because you have all those weird, undulating polka dots all over you, wooOOOOoo!…….- the illusion isn’t happening, you swim like you are standing still!

    Seriously though -you are of course correct Tony -on the huge opportunity -thus far squandered when it comes to the artist project. On this point, we have always been in complete accord -and I am glad to see you involved where your considerable presence will be I believe, helpful in initiating change -just try and be a little quicker when it comes to coming around to my way of thinking in the future -and save us both a lot of grief …….sheeeeeeesh

    -and dont deny I have been saying just this to you since before the first Mart fair- just admit it! Now, lets attempt to get these people to see the potential that we both see.

  13. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    You see more potential than I do — at this point I kind of feel like an art-fair is an art-fair is an art-fair — and to be honest I’ve been to a lot more of them in the last few years than you have– and in truth — they all seen to be one blurry , market -driven animal. A couple of years ago , I got excited by Takashi Murakami’s idea for Gesai– which came down to artists representing themselves in this setting; being able to set up their own business models– and for once the art-fair model actually being more equitable for artists — instead of being about enriching dealers first and foremost–I also realized this model wasn’t feasible for ALL artists — some are best letting the dealer be their moms and not dealing with these kind of details , and that’s fine. But for those who are under-represented ( which I think is MOST of them) this could be a revolutionary step in the right direction. Consensus( one of your favorite words) is controlled by economics in the art world, or worse– fashion– or far worse, both of these. It seems like we don’t know what is at stake anymore . I don’t blame the Mart guys for this — what I do blame them for is not being able to see their way toward shaking off the models of the last century or two. this is 2008– and we shouldn’t be the economic chattel for dealers anymore — we should be, if we choose, independent contractors, or failing that, at least partners in these enterprises. The whole 50% model — fuck– the MOB doesn’t take 50%. this financial arrangement is feudal in its construction.

    If you’re losing me here take this example — and this is indicative of how it works in Chicago:

    Your everyday middle-of-the-pack art dealer can represent 15-20 artists, and make a fine living off of their efforts — fine– but how many of those artists can make a living off of the dealer’s efforts?… Who gains in this arrangement?
    What passes for representation? How , in this model can it become more equitable for the artist?– the answer is it can’t. In this circumstance– artists don’t really have any power to better their lot and I feel like it’s unfair and the deck is stacked — representation here is a sucker-bet.

    Since the internet — the idea of artists repping themselves is possible — and equitable– it also allows the artist to work more effectively with dealers by sending out their own jpegs and making sure their collectors , friends, and other galleries know what is going on with their work– it isn’t that hard– and to the enlightened dealer — one who is open to the idea of a partnership rather than a ‘lordship’– it makes their life easier as well . Murakmi sees this — the Gesai model — with a little more thought — could change the face of how artists are allowed to do business and free themselves of the economic servitude some must now observe . Free your ass and your mind will follow.

    When we first spoke to the mart guys — I thought this idea actually had some currency with them — I was encouraged when Chris Kennedy mentioned that he wished artists would also address the issues of human suffering in the world– I don’t think they are bad guys– but I do think they’ve listened WAY too much to art-dealers– and I feel like art-fairs have to be about WAY more than servicing the market. I’ve spent a lot of time in New Orleans in the last year– and the efforts of that creative community have touched me deeply– in the face of furious loss; it is that community that has held the city together– artists, musicians , writers , and community activists all banded together and made a powerful case for their cultural primacy — up here we have everything and nothing matters– down there thy have nothing and everything matters. We could learn much from that city.

  14. macgyver theme song?

  15. I agree that there seems (seemED ?) to be a lot of promise in the Artists’ Project, yet it came to little if anything. That’s why I personally am not involving myself with it this year. Been there. It needs more. They do seem like “nice well-intentioned” people from my talks with them, and I don’t know the Murakami model, but they really need some different approach involving Tony’s, and/or Wesley’s and/or a bunch of the ideas I compiled last year or the like. The dealer-as-pimp model is really dead.

  16. Tony, thanks for this: you at your best and most thoughtful…. which saddens me slightly as I have so much fun riling you up…..but there is nothing here to chomp on! Nothing I do not completely agree with.

    You and I have an interesting history in dealing with these issues -starting with The Real Deal Show with Ed Paschke -how outraged our respective dealers were that three artists DARED! do do a show on their own…….it is a feudal situation -mind numbing that artist just acquiesce to this kind of exploitive, one-sided relationship…….

    Its day are numbered. Its no accident that you and me, two of the most successful artists here in Chicago are neither represented nor seek to be, with any of the local art dealers- and why would we?

  17. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    I believe there are some really fine young dealers here… I think if they look at other models in other cities — they’ll be fine .

  18. I take it you are talking about this Tony:
    http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/reviews/robinson/robinson9-26-06.asp

    That IS pretty hot. Is that the sort of things you were proposing to them?

  19. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    100 bucks to anyone who stands outside the smelly European’s booth and yells ” Hey…. Yanni… Wash your balls”……..

    I kid our smelly allies….

  20. Speaking of Art Fairs, I figured it’d be nice to share.
    Here’s a link to Art Chicago/Atropolis passes for next weekend.
    Got more than two people? no Problem, just hit refresh on your browser and it’ll change the barcode so you can print a new one.
    I might stand outside the Mart and hand these out to people…

    http://www.exporeg.com/cgi-bin/art08.cgi

    Infinite Passes for All!

  21. Amy, good guess, you are in the neighborhood. It as much of the music used ties into the show, in my own record nerd sort of way.

  22. Escape from New York theme? I don’t know but I would have to guess that knowing how things went.

  23. Funny, Tony!

    And I’m going to make a “text piece” a la Lawrence Whiner, I mean Weiner, who the Euros love so much — a huge vinyl-pasted-on-wall text: “If you can afford expensive art, you can afford to fix your teeth too.”

  24. Oh and a Mini-News side note. In response to Richard & Amanda’s concern that Artropolis sounds like a STD the BBC has covered a recent study that can help? I think Tony expressed that this is something many galleries do on a daily basis anyway.

  25. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    I give you … the sublime… the funny… the Steven Colbert of BAS….Christopher Hudgens…… one funny bastard.

  26. DING DING DING, Give that man a ceeegar! It is indeed the Escape from New York Theme. John Carpenter a man who was so obsessed with micro management he even composed the crappy music for his movies.

  27. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Snake Plisken….. I heard you were dead….

    Issac Hayes

    Escape from New York

  28. i thought maybe you meant that by using a swiss army knife and duct tape you could prevent the art market from exploding into a fiery ball.

  29. Holy Shit. Isaac Hayes was in that movie! I need to rent it again.

    There was talk of a sequel. (well, another sequel)

  30. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Yeah — Isaac Hayes was the Duke of New York– until Donald Pleasence filled him full of lead… I love ‘Escape from New York’ and a few other John Carpenter movies…. including ‘ They Live’ with Rowdy Roddy Piper….. and Meg Foster who was my milf-crush back then…..

  31. “John Carpenter a man who was so obsessed with micro management he even composed the crappy music for his movies.”

    Are you kidding? Have you ever heard the soundtracks from Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween and The Fog? (He let Morricone handle The Thing.]

    Those are great great records, filled with creepy electronic menace. At the very least, the production values are far better than the average episode of Badatsports. [runs, ducks, grabs a club with nails sticking out of it].

  32. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Marc — I keep forgetting that Carpenter made ‘The Thing’– as good a horror film as has ever been made… and I agree with you about his talents for making music for his films — I think his sound is almost always appropriate to the films– he is a hugely underrated director…. also — where is Benedetto in this conversation?– If you get a chance — see ’30 Days of Night’– the best vampire movie of the last 10 years — it is set in Alaska and at one point a whole mess of vampires attack the whole town at once right out in the street– it is a bloody motherfucker– and immensely scary……

  33. Whatever we suck and don’t make action movies. Maybe we should. Richard could be trapped under a Kiefer painting and Meg and I will try and get him out while everyone else critiques our form, hudgens photographs it for the blog and Andrews works up the soundtrack.

    d.

  34. What a bizarrely impassioned defense of John Carpenter, but I’ll find the soundtrack and check it out. I’m not sure how BAS’s production ties into mediocre film music, as unlike John Carpenter we don’t actually make the sound cues on the show, but whatever. Maybe I’ll have Duncan sing all the cues to next weeks show.

  35. John Carpenter is great….The Fog is one of all time favorites. Classic beach town ghost story. Its worth watching just for John Houseman’s brief appearance telling the local legend of a lost boat out at sea. Check this out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMQXxRhRS6s

    its a short documentary with John Carpenter, David Cronenberg andJon Landis (due to the success of American Werewolf in London at the time this was filmed).

  36. Thanks for the link Coyle. Hearing David Cronenberg talk about anything is always a pleasure.

    Tony, I haven’t seen “30 Days of Night” yet but you make it sound pretty great. I’ll make a note to check it out.

    Vampire movies and art fairs have a lot in common. Both are populated by frightening black-clad monsters that suck the life’s blood out of everything they touch.

  37. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Well said…..

  38. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Richard– how many John Carpenter movies have you seen?… When he is on — he is well worth defending– The Thing– The Fog– Halloween (the original)– They Live– he has made some terrific films….

  39. I haven’t seen “30 Days” the movie, but the comic it’s based on (Steve Niles, illustrated by Ben Templesmit) is super dooper scary.

  40. i’d recommend the 70s version of salem’s lot with david soul and james mason for some vampire fun. its like three hours long. really good. i will check out 30 days now for sure too.

  41. Hell, lets see, (pauses to go to IMDB), Wow, I’ve seen a bunch of them. I had no idea he directed a Godzilla movie, and Ghosts of Mars, boy I recall that as a stinker. I’d forgotten about Big Trouble in Little China. I think there needs to be a Kurt Russell film festival, that guy is under appreciated.

  42. The thing is a masterpiece, certainly. Keep in mind I never bashed his film-making, just his laughable (but entertaining) film music.

  43. I heard the 30 days movie did not live up to the comic.

  44. the only movie with more hissing in it than 30 Days was Indiana Jones.
    30 Days audiences on the other hand might also have been on par, in my opinion.

  45. Love the vampire-art fair analogy, Marc. But art fairs are decided NOT Carpenteresque. Too “risk free” for that. I can hear Christopher Lee saying “Now they shall know why they are afraid of galleries, now they shall know why they fear the artworld….”

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  47. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    I’ve never seen the comic– but ’30 Days of Night’ as a movie is really fun and scary– and damned gory in the best way — the vampires are the best since ‘Near Dark’– the Kathryn Bigelow masterpiece from ’87– they don’t fuck around — once they figure out the sun is not coming up anytime soon– they treat the town like one big smorgasbord and kill everybody at once in one blood-slurping bacchanal — then they go skanking around town looking for any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystander types who might have had the brains to fucking hide from them…. Man ,,, it is SO good … with a straight-up creepy performance by Danny Huston as the head vampire. It’s on of those films where you pull for the vampires — the people in the town aren’t very interesting — they are in Alaska– so they’re just kind of ‘frozen hillbillies’ named ‘Homer’ or some shit — so you just want the vampires to put these boring geeks out of their misery …. it’s great.

  48. Brandl – Perhaps art fairs are more Romero-esque than Carpenter-esque? You know, with the slow moving zombies from Dawn of the Dead – except they somehow retain the ability to spend money and use cell phones. Art Chicago shoulda modified the tagline of the original Dawn:

    “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Merchandise Mart.”

  49. “They Live” is one of the funniest movie of it’s time. I watched it just last month, and it hasn’t lost a thing. Carpenter’s “The Thing” is great too, but “They Live” is a real indictment of modern American culture. The alley fight scene is one of the comedic highlights of the movie.

  50. Chatting with the collectors offered a moment or two of insight. That would make an interesting documentary, in the same vain as say a short about suburban bdsm -soccer moms and their dungeons ?…maybe not everyones cup of vodka.

  51. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Russell–

    The collectors,( most of them) aren’t really the problem……it’s a dealer thing.

  52. Marc — That “Dead” movie (I think No. 4?) where the zombies kill all the people in a mall is one of my favorites — and gives me an idea. I would love to see a sequell where zombies kill everyone in a fancy art fair — critics, collectors, dealers and yes even the artists, and the curators verrrrry nastily. Each killing and weapon a take-off on the type of person the victim is.

  53. Michael Workman Says:

    I recall when the Mart first gained ownership of Art Chicago, that June they flew to Art Basel Switzerland and saw the Art Unlimited section of the fair. For those who haven’t been to Basel Switzerland, the fair is divided up between a few halls, with the main section your typical gallery show–all booths and galleries–and Art Unlimited, an equally large space but dedicated to individual artist’s projects, all large-scale. I recall that the Mart came back from that experience and that the Artist’s Project was their answer to Art Unlimited, as much of what they’ve been trying to build in terms of their show structure is an answer to Art Basel.

    I think that the corporate culture of the Mart, however, limited their thinking to how they were going to make money on this section and the only thing they could come up with was to just charge the artists directly. I think I’ve seen the influence of their corporate culture time and time again, in how they worked with us, the handling of the Artists Project, the fact that MOMA–a beneficiary of Armory for years–dropped Armory the minute it was sold to the Mart. I’ve spoken with several prominent artists who backed out of engagements with the Armory because once the Mart came aboard, they started to feel as though they were just milking their names. I do think Armory is still largely a success, due entirely to Paul Morris.

    On a separate but related note, I went to the NFO XPO event last night and Ed Marszewski told me he’d been banned from the Mart property by Kavi and Kennedy because of his protest performance last year. It’s complete hearsay on my part, I’m nowhere near in possession of the facts, but I wonder if anybody else knows more about this?

    I guess the point of all this is that the Mart and its affiliates are quickly cementing a reputation for treating artists badly. And that’s just the kiss of death, because artists and the culture they foster are the soil upon which art fairs have sprung. Alienate artists and that culture and it’s as though you poured salt into the earth, nothing will grow there ever again. Fairs need to work strenuously to cultivate that culture, to help artists and to work as events that celebrate and move that artistic culture forward or they’ll be lost.

    I’d also like to point out the major differences between the Mart (and its parent company, Vornado Realty) and Art Basel (and its parent company Messe Schweiz http://www.messe.ch). As I understand it, Messe is essentially owned by the Swiss government–though Brandl can probably speak to the subtleties of this better than I can–and receives a great portion of its funding from Deutschebank, which funds the show as a point almost of national pride. Messe actually puts on other fairs as well, not unlike the Mart, but the model is radically different. It’s like Vornado versus the Swiss government, not ultimately a very competitive match-up. And anyways, it seems that Messe’s interest ultimately lay in enriching Swiss culture, while Vornado’s is typically bottom-line. One could even venture that the ultimate point of the Mart’s involvement with art fairs is to raise the value of their properties: a floor in the Mart that would usually sell for, what, 100k, during a fair sells for more than a million or two. And, ultimately, the vast majority involved with the Mart management are MBAs and real estate types, from Kavi to Falanga to Kennedy. My guess is that they largely just don’t get the idea of artistic concerns, but feel a sense of entitlement about the art culture in general. Anyway, that’s all purely speculative. Thoughts?

    M

  54. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    I really hope the story about Ed being banned is not true……

  55. The feelings can’t be all that hard … Version Fest is participating in Next, at least according to Time Out: http://www.timeout.com/chicago/articles/art-design/28524/alls-fair

  56. Michael Workman Says:

    Apparently, the ban was in response to this article in Time Out.

  57. I dunno — that picture of a decapitated Chris Kennedy probably didn’t sit well with a family who has, you know, a history of assasinations and untimely deaths….

  58. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Ed should speak up — was he banned or wasn’t he?…. if he was I will have very different feelings about this . …

  59. Well, the Basel Art Fair is kinda complicated. Switzerland is big on something akin to granted monopolies, or cartel arrangements. “Messe Schweiz” is a private company that runs the many many fairs in the Basel Mustermesse (Congress Centre), yet has not and allows not competition. Here’s its English Website: http://www.messe.ch/go/id/ss/lang/eng/
    It sure as hell ain’t just altruistic. It is one of the biggest money-making endeavours here. The Art Fair additionally gets tons of very directed, very VIP support from UBS, the biggest Swiss Bank (who had various “moral difficulties” a while back, if you’ll recall).

    In essence the Fair and Swiss support of the fair, as in much of European National support of art, is nationalistic. It wants the fair to be what it is — the biggest global player, particularly over and against the US and even more particularly NYC. It does not exist to further the Swiss artworld really, and most certainly not Swiss artists. It caters to the Biggest of the Big galleries, and such, giving them all they want, while charging horrendous fees. It is, like many of their other fairs (jewelry, autos etc.) a successful attempt to be a global player with no real direct interest in the field itself, much like the Swiss banks, or Wall Street for that matter, generally does business. So the Messe’s interest is also bottom-line, but in a realm far above that of mere mortals, in a far more “abstract” sense. The fair only barely tolerates satellite fairs, and has discussed actively blocking them. The Art Liste is, e.g., its very own “alternative fair” existing, as much as anything else, to allow them to be their own competition, so to speak. Their grandious power, goals and deep pockets are very very very deep. Art Unlimited is a way to do a fair-version of contemporary Kunsthalles like the Ren, getting galleries to pay EVEN more. It is in no way a service to artists. It is always top-o-the-pops (Paul McCarthy, etc.) in installations costing a fortune footed by Gago, Hauser and W, etc. Supplying yet another way to charge the super galleries another bill beyond their booths and the “Statement” booths, while nailing down the status quo of “Who is Important.”

    There is no way in hell Art Chicago or anybody could overtake Basel now. BUT — that was my point when I talked to the Chi people — they would have the possibility and should look to far more creative models — as Tony F and Michael W have suggested far more creatively than I have. If Vornado did that, they could be “the close second.” And a far more interesting one. Berlin did that last time — they are the model to look toward in my opinion. Basel is super super super big global business which makes a comparison to Art Chicago seem like comparing, well UBS to some small local, even if solid, Savings and Loan. Not only would creativity and a REALLY artist-oriented Art Unlimited idea be good for artists and the Chicago artworld, but good business for Art Chicago/Vornado, giving them a unique, rather than a simply down-scaled-seeming identity. I’m oversimplifying here, but I think you get my points.

  60. Michael Workman Says:

    Thanks so much, Mark. It’s fascinating stuff and so overly complex as to beggar belief, except that Art Basel has been running since ’69, so there’s a long history of cumulative building that organization to its present dominance. One clarification–when you refer to Berlin do you mean Art Forum Berlin or the Berlin Biennale? Even using this comparison, I’d argue that Berlin has one exceptional advantage over Chicago: ridiculously cheap space. You can rent an entire 3-bedroom house for something like 200euro a month right now, which is why Berlin is second in the number of galleries only to New York. It’s also why so many artists have migrated from the United States and elsewhere to Berlin, it’s so cheap to live there. That and the absolutely almost radical left way in which the government operates; after years of Soviet and U.S. occupation, the government’s cultural involvement has swung almost so far left as to invoke the Weimar era of artists and freethinkers. After a handful of visits, the best comparison I’ve heard is to something like Prague in the ’90s, which doesn’t near capture the degree of creative freedom on display randomly on the streets of Berlin right now. There are just sooo many artists and young people packed into that city. And I think Chicago doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling off anything resembling what Berlin has going on right now. We’ve killed off the street culture to the point where you can’t find a street performer, little less a newspaper stand anywhere, all the public art is sanctioned by city government, our various galleries and artistic communities have devolved from bitter, partisan internecine bickering into hardened, highly factionalized intellectual strongholds, and you can’t even stage a poetry reading without SWAT teams showing up in full riot gear. I think Chicago, sadly, has committed cultural suicide. I think it needs to rot in the ground awhile before we get together on any Lazarus act, but I agree that whatever eventually happens, it starts with respect first and foremost for artists and the artistic culture they inspire.

  61. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    Well said. …Chicago has the art-world it deserves.

  62. Michael Workman Says:

    Artnet had a piece today on the Chicago show: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/news/artnetnews/artnetnews4-21-08.asp. You’ll notice in the first paragraph, they describe Chicago as “stumbling.” You’ll also notice a few paragraphs later they say that it would be a great art fair, all they need now is collectors and sales. Ummm… Yeesh. I wonder, with over 700 exhibitors, how many will actually make any money? How about none? In the midst of a recession, you’d have thought they’d have gone leaner and meaner. Instead, the Mart is milking everybody. Sigh. I hate this. I hate what these people are doing to Chicago. They are not honorable people.

    Fuck it…who cares. Fuck Chicago. Somebody come have a drink with me.

  63. Michael — great response. Yeah, Berlin has it right now (I meant the Biennale, which was really a fair, where they involved everybody, used entire streets, people turned apartments into galleries etc.), it is due to cheap space, but as I have repeated mentioned, also due to the govt. pumping money and “allowance” into it in a decidedly anti-NYC attempt at a secret takeover. They have attempted this repeatedly.

    You are right that Chicago committed cultural suiicide. In my opinion it has done it repeatedly, MOSTLY due to “our various galleries and artistic communities have devolved from bitter, partisan internecine bickering into hardened, highly factionalized intellectual stronghold” as you state so well. The strongest and most vicious example, which really cut the plant off at the roots at a very promising time, was the faked “”JRK Neo-Con” junta in the 80s which Wesley rails against, but there have been more. I would like to not be too cynical, but perhaps that is simply Chicago’s heart, and Tony is right that then get what they deserve. I guess I didn’t help much, having abandoned the mess. I’ go for a drink next time you are in Europe!

  64. What makes me curious is how long is a resonable time to take a “at deaths door” art fair and turn it arround. It seemed to me that everyone expects everything to fall into place in the first year or two?

    I’ve seen fortune 500 businesses screw up a product release that people are clamering for and makes good profit. The art world on the other extreeme has little room for a second city art fair from the get go. Doesn’t the mere fact there is a year two something to be taken into consideration.

    Is it more the fear/fact that the Mart has no long term plan/goal of turning this into a top tier fair or more then a once a year art supermarket?

    What is the one thing (not bank breaking thing) that the Mart could best do to make year three apear to be on a larger road to sucess?

  65. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    I’d like to hold out the hope that Artropolis can revitalize this city culturally– but lets face it — a good deal more than servicing the market-place is needed here — and the thought that making things more profitable for art dealers is some kind of band-aid is wishful thinking at best. I hope this fair or fairs can attract the kind of collectorship they are in need of. Truthfully , Armory was a month ago– how were sales there?… I’ve heard good– I’ve heard not good– who knows?

    I wish there was a component at work here that actually empowered artists themselves — I feel like Next looks ambitious and progressive and forward-thinking — I am not a fan of Kavi Gupta’s — but giving credit where it is due — he has pulled it off — the line-up is an exciting one — and this fair looks bold and audacious and that is a good start . Good for them — against long odds they have made something salient.

    The Artist’s Project — feels like it is a mess — this should have been more carefully juried and put together with the same bold strokes that were lavished on projects like Next…

    I understand Michael’s frustration — but I don’t share the sentiment of ‘Fuck Chicago’– you’re better than this — and you don’t hate this place and neither do I — I despair of the squandered opportunities and the mediocrity that passes for leadership in this community…. but I do love this city — it deserves better than to have it’s cultural fortunes handed over the MBA and real-estate crowd– what’s needed here is a revolution …. it must start with artists and they must have the stomach for it… when they tire of table scraps– then change is possible. The art world got handed over to these guys because we allowed it — that is the bitter truth of this…

  66. Michael Workman Says:

    Thanks, Tony. I used to know a priest who enjoyed whiling away whole Saturday afternoons explaining in detail why, in theological studies, despair is considered a sin. I’d do well to remember that bit of wisdom.

    Christopher–top tier fairs are made by money. Unfortunately the only people making money so far in Chicago are the Mart. The only thing that will turn it around is if buyers in the international art market show up in Chicago and buy to their heart’s content and all those galleries, artists, antique dealers and whatever go home with sales and a bursting book of high-quality collector and curator contacts. Problem is, Chicago hasn’t been that kind of market for years now, it’s more fueled by local populism and civic pride. Instead of the Top 100 Collectors, you get mom, dad and kids out for something resembling a weekend visit to the Art Institute. While the aisles may be crowded, in the end it’s just the wrong kind of crowd.

    Really, the Mart has just inherited Thomas Blackman’s problems with Chicago as a sustainable market. So far, it seems there’s no solution in sight. How long can they keep it going on? As long as galleries keep signing up to come back, really. I think the Art Chicago list shows some real attrition of blue-chippers outside of Chicago, and Next galleries likely won’t return if they leave penniless this time, but there’s nothing to say that some B- and high C grade galleries won’t settle in and make a go of it to the less sophisticated upper-middle class buyers from the ‘burbs. There’s lots of evidence that’s the direction this whole enterprise is trending. So, to answer your question, I think in the end it’s just a matter of degrees and so long as it makes the Mart people money, I wouldn’t expect them to do away with it as a property. But neither will it be in any way competitive in the larger scheme of the now-global art market, having slid irretrievably down-market. The Wal-Mart of art fairs, if you will, a position almost diametrically antithetical to the whole purpose of art fairs as setting the status of a work of art.

  67. The Mart guys, it’s true, have seemed to place most of the emphasis on the dealers. This explains the problems with the first Artists Project (who could be in, who couldn’t be because of “affiliation”) and it seems to still hold true. They’ve certainly injected a hell of a lot more life (read money) into the thing since they took it over, but I still don’t see how any of it benefits artists.

    Remember sitting down with them, Tony – when you and I and Wesley went down there?
    they had a pretty big plan, but they didn’t seem to have the most essential piece in place – how to REALLY build culture here. Karmen and Rosen seemed to get it in pieces, I don’t know. I know that Wesley’s given them this advice in the past, and may very well be doing so still.

    Of course it can still happen, either in spite of or in parallel to them, but I’m not sure guys like that can be expected to understand the importance of supporting the individual artists. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, because I really think it could work:

    1. Don’t charge the artists to participate in the Artist’s Project – pay them. Hell, it doesn’t even need to be that much money.
    2. Jury them in a year in advance, and give them a stipend to create work for next year’s show.
    3. Select fewer artists, and put together a jury that knows the difference between art and fashion.
    4. Build an internet hub, a portal (just like we told them that day) that allows dealers to post their work and carve out a little niche for themselves (sort of like what artinfo’s doing) – every day a small block of the homepage would feature someone else.
    5. Build this hub the same way we built SF – ease-of-use for non-tech people, giving them investment and a bit of ownership. This would have two benefits – dealers would send people to the site, and they would gain exposure as well.
    6. Videotape the show each year, similar to the pieces they made last year with Jeff Zimmerman (and others I believe), and show that stuff before the show, helping to create buzz.
    7. And a stream from BAS and some of the other CHI. sites, including Steppenwolf, Lookinglass, SF, etc.
    8. Most importantly, the thing could be done for very little money, and the payoff could be huge.

    The only way they can make it work is if they can simultaneously bring the world to Chicago and Chicago to the world. The web provides such an aerodynamic vehicle that it’s astonishing they haven’t figured it out yet. Someone is going to do it, that’s for sure.

    We told them that day (and I bet others have too) – “don’t think of it as an event – think of it as culture.” I’m not sure we got the point across, but it was as much for their benefit as for Chicago’s.

    I’m hopeful, but my hope is on the couch. I really think they need an artist advising them on staff, full-time if they’re not already doing so. Otherwise it’s going to be increasingly seen as a trade show.

  68. Thanks Michael,

    Thats what I thought everyone was concerned about it is just often written about in the press as general complaining. In all of the art world the facet that I least understood and most wanted to was collectors. If Art Chicago is having a downward spiral based on quality gallery attrition then the natural next question would be what is the driving motive of collectors and what is their chain of interest. What leads one step to the next for them? As with animals for example: cheese-mouse-cat-wolf-bear… ect.

    You have a Market that fewer galleries want to pony up for since there are no collectors, the collectors stay away even more since fewer high level galleries are being represented and so on. To turn it arround do you loss lead? Give deals to blue chip galleries? I think a PR and media blitz answer is out of the question since the Mart can not seem to get off the fence of “is this an art audience they are advertising to or a general populace” as Michael said. We should be one of the cheaper expo’s vs NY or Miami? What other assets can be brought into leverage? Not that there are obvious answers but alway currious?

  69. Michael Workman Says:

    Mark–you’re in luck. I’ve plans to visit Zurich/Basel in mid-May. Good stuff in the works. Lets talk!

    Christopher–Collectors? Status. Investment. Some of them take it on themselves to find a circle of artists they believe in and make an effort to help them evolve and grow. Some acquire because of an impulse for beauty, for works that entertain, intellectual delectation…you get into human nature. Philanthropy. Causes. It’s all over the place.

    I think the Mart started out with a strong regional thought process, giving Rhona Hoffman such a dominant role on the selection committee, for instance. It’s why the blue-chippers they do have are from Chicago. Their slip is showing somewhat in this whole thing, the epistemological gap grown into a Grand Canyon. Again, the MBA/real estate mogul approach has limited their thinking and I think that’s the wall they’ve hit. Kavi, as Tony notes in the Next thread, is advancing the most progressive ideas of the whole bunch, of art fairs as having taken the place of museums. They want that “next” model of what an art fair can be–loosely modeled as offspring of the biennial model–but I think the outer reaches of their curatorial criteria is “you never bruised my ego, so you’re in/you can afford our fee and raise our financial bottom line, so you’re in.” Basically, it’s an overstock.com approach to the Mart’s big-box main show approach. I mean, the list is all over the place, who didn’t they let in? Like I said.

    I’m not getting paid to solve the Mart’s problems for them, so. I have my own art market challenges to contend with. But I think they need to start, as I said before, with the artists.

  70. Cool Michael! You’ve got my address, or can get it from Richard Holland or my website for that matter, call me! See you soon.

  71. David — great list of ideas. I’m not sure what I think. As you may remember, I compiled a list of suggestions last year from all the AP people, plus Wesley and Tony ideas. Many were similar to yours. Paul Klein gave them to the Mart people. As far as I can tell, they were ignored.

  72. Hi All,

    I agree with David’s list. From everything I’ve heard, the very higest levels of the Mart already know the artist’s project was a big failure this year. One juror had his name removed from the list. I don’t know how it will get fixed next year, but everyone is on the same page that it’s broken.

    I mean, I’ll weigh in with the same thing I’ve been saying for years. ART IS A COMMODITY. It’s a product. Everyone needs to sit down and have a good cry over that fact, and once they recover, and become ready to accept that reality, it’s all going to make more sense.

    So you have this product. A cultural product, and it can be sold by a smaller business or larger corpporation. No matter what the product, the dynamics are going to be the same. Big corporations can’t be cutting edge, agile, or have a grassroots following, and small businesses don’t have deep pockets and have to make tons of compromises. They both have their strengths. Tom Blackman was the first one to say that it was just really hard to do this as a small business.

    So I think we’re just demonizing a bit because we see art as something special. Becuase art is something special and it’s sad to see something pure through this lense. But these shows are the place where the art meets a marketplace. No one HAS to put their art into a marketplace, people can make art for friends and family, and never have to touch the dirty subject of money. But for those of us who are running in the race, we have to let go of romantic ideas.

    So my point is that Edmar, and what he symbolized last year… it just reminds me of how I saw the world when I was 14. And if Chris Kennedy is bad, so are iPhones, so are radio stations, Whole Foods, hybrid cars. I’m just weary of the whole idea that things are bad because they are beholden to the bottom line.

    To me, the art world is so elitist and corrupt and white and spoiled, that this is just one tiny slice of the problem.

    Kathryn

    P.S. I have free passes to the show for anyone who needs them. Kathryn@diamondlifecafe.com

  73. Kathryn,

    The problem is not that art is a commodity, nor that it probably has been almost forever. The problems arise when the value of that commodity seems to be predicted primarily on market dynamics and the capricious winds of fashion.

    The iPhone is a pretty good example – would anyone say that your iPhone is “worth what someone will pay for it?” The value of such commodities is established by demand in part, but that’s just one part. (bold statement of the obvious)

    My point is this – we live in a world where the valuation of art seems to have been commandeered by people who know more about business than esthetics. I’m a capitalist, but I’m also a humanist, and I don’t want to see such vulgarian criteria applied to the positive result of culture.

    The same can be said for the music industry. When considering the folly that was Wilco’s release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot we see what happens – a great record was thwarted by label idiots who were given the corporate directive to cut loose any band who didn’t sell more discs than in the previous financial cycle.

    My take on the fair is that we’re better off with one than without one, and I’ve got no problem with any of the parties involved. For all the problems it seemed to me that Tom Blackman did the best he could in a changing environment. Sure he made some mistakes – some whoppers from the sound of things – but it’s a tough gig.

    The Mart guys seemed really eager at the outset, and they busted their asses to learn as much as possible about the art market. Granted the emphasis seems to have been placed more on “market” than “art,” but who pays the bill? Taken in total the fair is not a philanthropic venture – like everyone else they want to make money.

    I always find it amusing when artists, every one of whom want to make money, decry the profits of the “others.” And I don’t know what to make of Edmar’s effigies last year, except to say that I’m almost always a fan of lampooning those in power – even those I support.

    I think it’s a tough fix, and a really complex and changing market. I still maintain that the answer is the net roots, which involves artists. The dealers and collectors are an essential component, but without the artists the whole thing is pointless.

  74. Tony Fitzpatrick Says:

    Well said Kathryn– if a little cynical — if I thought about it as a ‘product’ or worse, a ‘brand’– I think I’d blow my brains out … I’ve had converstions with Chris Kennedy lately and I don’t think he is bad at all — I think he is new to this and he is playing catch-up. I feel like the Mart guys understand business and politics really well — I think they’re still getting up to speed on art. For me these things have to be about more than ‘shopping’– I think what artists put forward are ideas– i feel like ideas are better monuments than cathedrals. In the past I’ve blamed these guys for being businessmen, and i regret that a bit — but , just a bit. They have a larger responsibility than retail now — Art traffics in ideas that push cultures forward– sometimes kicking and screaming– but forward none the less. Some of those ideas can be irksome , painful, and unpleasant– but that is the price of the ticket. The Mart guys would do well to exercise more latitude — to listen more– and not just to merchants.
    I think Kennedy is a fair guy– stubborn ? absolutely — but these are the guys who’ve saved the fair…. and kept Chicago culturally from becoming Cleveland.They deserve a measure of genuine gratitude for this– even from me.
    The Artists Project could be much better– but there are some really gifted people in it and they deserve some support — I wish they’d done this differently and maybe in the future, they might…. here’s hoping.

  75. Hey, thanks Tony. Well, to qualify, I am a jew. And that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but being jewish makes you think a lot about the images and associations we have with money, as so much anti-semitism attaches my tribe with the negative connotations of cash.

    Jewish history 101 is that in Europe, back in the day, Jews weren’t allowed to own land. AND Christians weren’t allowed to be bankers, so Jews got into banking and thus the connection with money. And from that perspective, I see the discomfort with money and commerce as having protestant origins. It’s a vestige of religious oppression, puritanical rules. Ha ha.

    So I think a more positive way to look at it is: Hey, it’s a product. Is that so bad? I make a Good. A packaged good. I’m a simple cultural tradesmen, no better or worse than a waitress or accountant.

    And I think all limits make it interesting. Can I plug my thing on Public Radio this morning? http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848.aspx- it’s the outsider art segment. I mean, the formula is so tight, I used to pull my hair out, but now… I’m kind of intrigued. I have 4 minutes and 20 seconds to spit out an idea. Every 30 seconds of me talking has to be followed by 20-35 seconds of someone else talking. Repeat. Maximum 4 voices. Those are the rules, no exceptions. Time all the contributors segments it if you don’t belive me. And I enjoy now doing the best I can within that formula. I enjoy the challenge of the constraint. And I enjoy the constraint of thinking about art that will have an audience, or get press, or will sell.

    Also, money makes my eyes sparkle. I used to be in sales. I was in a group show, and I came back from a break and saw a black BMW. I thought, whoever owns that car is going to buy one of my pieces. And they did. And I’m sad to admit that I have never sold a piece of art to someone that I spent less than 40 minutes talking with (ok, a couple exceptions to that). But I have hustled pieces out the door.

    So … yes.. let’s walk with Satan, everyone! And have fun doing it!! See you all at the big trade show this weekend!!

    Love Always,
    Kathryn

  76. So….I am out the door to visit the Artist Project. After reading all of your responses, you would think I should change my mind, and not go. However, I have at least 3 friends included in it this year, and maybe more, since they accepted so many. I will be there to support them, and talk art shit, and talk about what is next for them. I can guarantee I will not be talking about the commodification of themselves as a product of their art. I will not bring up the fact that they spent their last dollars getting into the damn fair. I will not ask if they sold anything, or if collectors, dealers, etc. are interested in their art. That’s for you guys. We are artists, and if can make a buck, great, but don’t create an art fair for unrepresented and underappreciated artists, and expect it to be glamorous, or edgy, or even successful.

    I can tell you, that for most of those Artist Project people, it is a bit of desparation just to be included with the Next and Art Chicago represented artists. We just want to get our name out there. And I HATE IT that they have to drop a grand or so each just to do it. Last year I was grateful I did not get accepted, because my art is more conceptual, and lacks even a whiff of being a commodity.

    Okay, so I guess I’ll see you at the fair. And I hope you guys are buying something, because I’m not. I usually just trade artwork with my friends.

  77. “money makes my eyes sparkle”

    The scariest thing I may have heard KB say, ever.

  78. You should go to the artist project but keep in mind what Paul said in the latest art letter. He was on the selection committee. They selected 50, and there are 250 in the show, I’d love to hear an explanation of that…

  79. Ha ha, Richard. Did you ever see the movie Casino, and there’s a scene with Sharon Stone in the safety deposit box room, holding a baby and playing with all her expensive jewelry.

    That’s the only scene from the movie I remember.

    Ok, no more posting on old shows, ha ha.

    K

  80. …and then I went to the Artists Project. They should have capped it at 50. But then they would be missing out on the extra $375,000.

  81. Hard to sneeze at 375K.

  82. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    There could be a great deal of possibility with the ‘Artists Project’ with a little more thought and some judicious editing….. it could be equitable for artists, the mart and the community… there is a way to do this right– they must lavish the same attention and planning on this element of the fair as they did on the others– more adds — some workshops, data base sharing, and a thematic unity would’ve gone a long way….

    this could have worked — could have been the smart-chip of the whole enterprise.

  83. I think it could STILL be the smart-chip of the whole deal — next time — if they will aim for an “ART Unlimited” -style “presence” but with ideas from the artists like Tony’s (and those I compiled, etc.)

  84. Well, next time, they should cut out the kitsch, and craft, unless it is truely intentional, such as being ironic. It looked like one of those street fairs, which are fine, if you want to buy candles, and listen to a band covering all the hits from the 80’s. I think I smelled incense coming from a booth! And everyone’s name on their booth looked like it was suppose to be their logo. If I saw one credit card machine, I was going to flip a table. Is this what it was initially to be? Could you get into the Artists Project without ever having walked into a West Loop gallery, or the MCA, or even listened to B.A.S. for that matter?

    I did, however, get to chat with a few nice artists, such as The Franks, and Jeremy Tubbs. Good Stuff.

  85. Just got back from walking the show and agree with the Artisit Project as having alot of potential and also missing the mark considerably at the same time.

    I agree with Chris Roberts in that we did also smell incense at one point and that was a bit stereotypical and annoying. Also the addition of many artists that obviously had no place there wasn’t so great. If you want my educated guess as to why there were 200 over the chosen 50 is that the Antiques show seemed much smaller than usual and they needed to fill empty space on that floor.

    The price being $1,500 per artist block as everyone said above that is nice quick cash, but don’t knock it many of them were selling seemingly more works than some of the floors above. There is the point of connecting with an audience.

    Such is Art & Business?

  86. I just heard from a Big Time International Gallerist Who Wishes to Remain Nameless that the “Big Boys” did extremely poorly in sales in Chicago. I heard the same from a “middle gallery.” That is bad news. For Chicago to advance the Mart needs to succeed — that menas galleries need to succeed financially — and then the Mart can branch out into more creative forms.

  87. Michael Workman Says:

    Poor sales was entirely predictable, and solutions certainly could have been devised. Unfortunately, I’d not look to these guys to size it up with any competence in the foreseeable future.

  88. tony fitzpatrick Says:

    In spite of all that they did RIGHT– and they did a lot right — this was extremely well-attended. These guys are not good listeners… nor are they particularly judicious about who they listen to. If one lets Chicago art-dealers become the guiding brain-trust of this enterprise… one is deeply screwed.

  89. i just ran across this episode, and i have to know: why does amanda “high five” laura higgins for sounding like a complete fucking idiot?
    i don’t have a particular affinity for sean raspet’s work, but one would think that a gallery rep would be able to describe an artist’s piece in terms that aren’t so transparently vacuous and meaninglessly obtuse.
    some people can effectively exploit allegedly theoretical terms like deconstruct/deconstruction in the service of at least sounding intelligent, but the vast majority just throw them around hoping they’ll stick and no one will press them any further.
    geez.

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